$200 per cover design! Less for simpler ones!
Author: Zita Harrison
“I am Woman, Hear me Roar.” – Cruella de Vil
She’s bold, she’s wildly creative, she’s unstoppable, and she loves who she is. She is Cruella.
This is not the loathsome Disney villain who preys on dalmatian puppies to make furs out of their hides. Ok, it’s supposedly the prequel to that, but it’s hard to imagine this Cruella as the one we all know and hate.
It’s the story of a brilliant woman abandoned as a child, kept down by unfortunate circumstances. But she never loses sight of who she is, what she’s capable of, and what she wants from life. Though sometimes downright unlikeable, as geniuses can be, in the end she proves to be a badass with heart.
We root for her because perhaps she’s what many of us wish we had the courage to be. Maybe deep down inside we all have ambitions to conquer. But as Rick Yancey, the author of the Sci-Fi novel, The Last Star says so eloquently: “To conquer, you must endure not just your own suffering but the suffering of others. Indifference is the ultimate evolutionary achievement, the highest rung on nature’s ladder.”
Of course, if anyone in the real world bore that attitude, they would be ostracized and friendless, and probably jobless as well. Who would want to work with someone like that? Unless you’re a self-made, billionaire business mogul, maybe. But this kind of attitude can only triumph in a movie, and what are movies for if not to allow us to live out fantasies through the characters on screen?
Then there’s the stunning cinematography. Scenes feel choreographed as though for a dance, and a dance it is. Cruella’s dance of conquest. A dance of brilliant reds, blacks, and whites swirling, gyrating, billowing from start to end.
And OMG the music. As Cruella goes about conquering the world, we are dancing in our seats to a playlist of rock, R&B, pop and punk. “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’,” by Nancy Sinatra; “Stone Cold Crazy,” by Queen; “One Way or Another,” by Blondie; “Hush,” by Deep Purple; “The Wizard,” by Black Sabbath; and more.
And of course, the acting. Emma Stone is phenomenal in her portrayal of this Cruella. I have a newfound respect for her. And Emma Thompson, one of my all-time favorite actors, is as always brilliant.
A scintillating work of Art, it was so much fun. Can’t wait to see it again.
Enjoy this trailer if you haven’t already seen it.
Life is not a formula
This quote by Idowu Koyenikan (Wealth for All: Living a Life of Success at the Edge of Your Ability) might seem obvious, but it took me many years of growth and shedding baggage to reach this point.
Everyone tells you what to be, how to be, what to do, what not to do. It starts with parents, who come with the notion that you are a mini version of them, and when you turn out different, they’re so disappointed. It continues with friends, colleagues, employers, etc., etc. And we crave acceptance, approval.
At some point, we need to stop listening, stop needing the acceptance and approval. That point for me was when I was trying to understand and cope with a hormonal, teenage son, who was also recovering from the violent death of his best friend. Other mothers advocated “tough love”. “He’s faking the trauma,” they said. “He’s using you,” they said. I was told to kick him out, show him who’s boss. As I struggled with this advice, it suddenly felt wrong in every pore in my being.
I had brought this soul into the world. Was it not my responsibility to be there for him during hard times? What message would it give him if I kicked him out? It was an epiphany when I realized others were wrong.
Because life is not a formula.
Every person’s life experience, which is what makes them who they are, is different. And not everything works for everybody.
I stuck by my son every agonizing step of the way, letting him know I disagreed and would not support the bad choices, setting boundaries. But I also let him know that I would always love him no matter what because he was a part of me and I couldn’t not. Even when I was furious with him, I told him I loved him. Others shook their heads, made judgmental comments, gave advice according to their formula.
My son made it through his trials. He now works hard, maintains a successful job, and is valued and respected by friends and colleagues. He is better adjusted at his age than I was, a child of parents whose love was conditional.
We are stronger than ever. I trust my own instincts. It feels amazing.
“Swing Low” Stunning performance and amazing score by Zoe Keating, cellist.
“Inspired by the powerful American spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” choreographer Chanel DaSilva creates a visceral narrative work for five men that investigates the supernatural majesty of angels and the many complexities of what it means to be human. Set to the music of avant-garde cellist Zoë Keating. The performance streams through July 11.”
Book Review: Operation Bluebird, by Harry Old
Right from the beginning, we are given a secret, a deception, possibly a betrayal. “It isn’t true,” she says, leaving us with questions – what isn’t true? Carrie is in the hospital while her family rushes to her. What happened? Why?
The story is one of addiction and the accompanying delusions. The temptation, the trial, the enjoyment, the complete surrender, and finally the denial, because to admit would be to go mad. Carrie goes undercover as Cara to infiltrate the world of a Korean crime lord/casino owner and his sons. She is eager to prove herself and to seek revenge for a woman thought to have been murdered by them. But as time goes on, she begins to lose herself in the glamor, even falling in love with the degenerate son ridiculed by everyone. It’s the classic attraction to the “bad boy,” the need to change them, and in the process perhaps validate oneself. A part of her might even identify with this man and his desperate need for approval.
I was engrossed from beginning to end. The author skillfully builds up the tension between what is real and what is not, the struggle between Carrie and Cara, leaving the reader wondering if she will ever come out of it. All the while we are immersed in detailed, almost poetic descriptions “a Dorian Gray of a building that hid its twisted heart behind a glamorous façade” (LOVE IT!) that spark the imagination. Every character is well-developed with distinct, multi-layered personalities. Sometimes you hate them and sometimes you feel for them. The plot is full of surprises and twists that make us question whether Carrie/Cara is doing the right thing or not, culminating in the tragic ending which brings us back to the beginning.
Great read. Highly recommended.
Author Inspired Artwork: Mary Shelley
Searching for Sarah by Phillip Vega
The sudden death of Tom Ruiz’s sister, Nina, leads him to the discovery that she was gay. Having been under the impression they were close, he is dumbfounded. Her last instructions are for Tom and her girlfriend, Sarah, to have a non-traditional funeral for the woman who led a non-traditional life. But Sarah is nowhere to be found.
Tom begins to read Nina’s journal in an attempt to get to know the sister he thought he already knew, and find the mysterious Sarah. The journal takes us back in time to when Nina first found she was attracted to women and the sexual adventures that followed.
The premise of the story was intriguing, which was well maintained throughout the book. I had not read an LGBTQ novel before and was eager to see where it went.
I was a little disappointed, however. The characters of Tom and Nina are well developed, but I found their ongoing melodrama a little tiresome. Tom goes on for too long about his grief at the death of his sister in the beginning, and again when he finds out she was gay, to a point where I started skipping over it. One doesn’t need to read pages and pages of the same thought to get the picture. The same with Nina’s first-time attraction to a girl and the ones that followed.
Nina’s relationship with Sarah was described mostly in terms of them jumping into bed together and left me feeling it was all about sex. There was nothing about the deep understanding that can exist between people of any gender, soul mates. I felt we never really got to know Sarah. She was described as the love of Nina’s life, but we never really went past her looks and her prowess in bed.
Good twist at the end. All in all an enjoyable read.
All Around the Watchtower – a short story by Ben Haskett
Creepy and enthralling like any
good sci-fi thriller!
A spaceship crew of 4 are jolted out of a long hibernation on their way back home by a collision warning from the vessel’s computer. What is presumed to be a “watchtower” looms before them, potentially “eyeballing” planets. The tower, though obviously created by someone or something, seems to have a life and character of its own. What follows is a clash of personalities and dire consequences as the more inquisitive risk unknown dangers to investigate despite the warnings of the more cautious. For this thing seems to be telling them something they can’t ignore. Something that alters the course of their journey, leaving us with the message “I hoped I’d made the right choice.”
I found the story gripping. Both creepy and enthralling, like any good sci-fi thriller, it almost reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar.” If it had continued, it might have turned into something like that. The author’s detailed descriptions paint vivid images, placing us alongside the crew, and their different reactions make us feel the fear, the curiosity, the panic and anxiety. Surprisingly, for such a short story, I found the characters well developed in their distinct personalities and relationships to one another.
My only complaint was I wanted to read more and was disappointed when it ended. But like a riveting episode of a good series, it left me eagerly hoping there will be a next one!
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Excerpt from Owl Manor – Abigail:
“The wind howled and raged the night Abigail Moore returned to Owl Manor, spinning the November snow into wild gusts, painting the windowpanes white. When the knocker on the front door resounded repeatedly, Patty hurried to answer it, wondering who it could be. They had just finished dinner and were not expecting anyone. Many of the staff had left since Gilbert had passed away, and those who remained had been biding their time until they received instructions as to what to do. The flame from Patty’s candle dashed from side to side, sending frightened flickers up the walls as she reached the door. It opened with a creak, and Patty gasped. Dark hair blowing around a pale face in the swirling snow, it could have been the spirit of the woman who had died at Owl Manor twelve years ago. The woman who had been chased by ghosts. But, of course, Patty knew at whom she stared. It was Abigail, the daughter.”
Find out what lies ahead for Abigail!
FLIT, a science fiction documentary by Ed Morawski
At first, I was expecting a novel with a beginning, conflict, ending, and well developed, engaging characters. Then I realized it was more of a fictional documentary of sorts. As such, even though the idea of an “Instantaneous Transport Portal” is not new, it was fascinating. The ITP, named FLIT is, in essence, the main character. We get to know it more than any human character.
In the beginning, we see FLIT repressed due to concerns about how such a production could devour all other forms of transportation, from trucks to cars, to planes. Then it is rediscovered by heartless capitalists whose drive to make billions rides roughshod over the masses who will face unemployment if FLIT is allowed to flourish.
And does FLIT ever flourish. From small distances to transatlantic destinations, it grows and travels through the world, devouring all other forms of transportation, and cleansing the atmosphere of years of built-up pollution. It is built in various sizes, ranging from large enough to transport massive freight trucks to smaller sizes for personal use by those who can afford it. What starts as “interesting” becomes mind-boggling and yes, frightening. Although I can appreciate the convenience – who wouldn’t want to “flit” to Paris or Rome in minutes instead of sitting on the plane for hours – the power of this thing was a little disturbing, like some monster taking over the world.
What was most interesting to me was the time factor. It seemed that time was being cheated, or sped up by using these things. But time reasserted itself in the form of jet lag, despite the four-minute journeys, and early aging – which makes sense, right? If you speed up time, you also speed up aging.
The novelty wears off by the last quarter of the book. The author goes on about FLIT’s conquests to the point where it starts to drag. The little excerpts on where the characters were at the end also did nothing for me. They were not developed enough to care about, and were eclipsed by the main character, the ITP.
Overall, though, a very interesting read that I think could have ended sooner.