A Howlin’ Good Time at the Library

Growing up, my favorite fictional character was Remus Lupin (from Harry Potter). He was a werewolf, and that meant that I automatically loved anything related to werewolves.

The Werewolf by Night comics? I searched for them every time we went to a flea market.

Warren Zevon’s one-hit wonder “Werewolves of London?” You bet I downloaded that and burned it to a mix CD. (And yes, I’m old enough that I made mix CDs.)

The Stephen King movie Silver Bullet? You know I watched it!

Of course, most other werewolves weren’t as lovable as Professor Lupin, but that didn’t stop me from devouring any lupine story I could find.

And it’s little wonder that one of my favorite animals quickly became the wolf.

Majestic and misunderstood and utterly beautiful…. What’s not to love about wolves?

And this week…. We had two wolves visit our library! (And you know I have to share.)

Review: The Midnight Library

From Goodreads.com

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


One of the best books I’ve read this year. The whole concept of parallel universes absolutely fascinates me, so if you take that idea and shine it through a very philosophical lens, you get this wonderfully thought-provoking story that is also perfectly summarizes what it means to be alive: It means to love and be loved, but also to hurt and be hurt; it means success and failure; it means mundanity and turbulence–it means experiencing the entire spectrum of emotions. No matter what choices you make in life, you will feel it all, good and bad. This book is about all of that–about learning to accept and move past regrets, and about the road not travelled–and about, ultimately, how that untraveled road may not matter as much as the road we, ourselves, are actually on. A beautiful book that I couldn’t put down and that I don’t want to say any more about: You just have to visit the Midnight Library yourself.



View all my reviews

How’d the To-Do List Go?

It’s been a few days, and now that I’ve returned to work, I can look back and see how productive my time off really was.

And… not bad. I didn’t get everything done, but I definitely made headway. I didn’t get to the query letter revisions like I’d hoped, but I did: (1) Write 5,000 words, and (2) Write a script for my Word-Maleerie video and start filming it.

Plus, I worked on some personal goals—exercising and reading some books from my to-read pile. Self-care is important too. I can’t expect to write anything decent if my head is all stressed and befuddled.

I also took time to have some fun. I saw the newest Venom movie (which was an absolute blast!), and I went to Halloween Haunt at Kings Island.

And yes, I absolutely have pictures from the latter.

In all, my mini-vacation was equal parts productive, fun, and relaxing—and really, I can’t complain about that.

Being a Rebel….

By reading banned books!

I know what you’re thinking: What’s so rebellious about reading? Well, given how book banning is still alive and well today…. Pass me a leather jacket.

And what’s truly surprising is how many people don’t realize how prevalent banning still is. You don’t have to live in a 1984-esque state or a long ago, ultra-conservative society for censorship to be alive and well.

Last week was Banned Books Week, and our library was fortunate enough to receive a grant to celebrate it. (Shout-out to the Freedom to Read Foundation—THANK YOU!)

We had activities every day culminating in a Banned Books Discussion and Dinner and a drawing for five book-themed gift baskets. We also had displays and decorations—basically, we turned our library into Banned Books Central.

In the past, I’ve been lucky to get one person to attend a Banned Books event. But this year… I had people coming to each daily activity and a grand total of 9 patrons at the dinner. (I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I live in a small, rural community, and there was also a cruise-in going on that day and the homecoming football game. Nine people is HUGE!)

And what’s even better is that everyone who came—including kids and teens—had honest, real conversations about censorship. Whether it was during the dinner or just a patron passing by, glancing at a display, we were constantly discussing book banning: Why are books banned? Should they be banned? Do we have any favorite books which also happen to be banned? How does all of that make us feel?

As both a writer and as a librarian, it was pretty magical. Banned Books Week is all about celebrating our right to read, and last week… we certainly did exactly that.

Another big thank you to the Freedom to Read Foundation and to my library for letting me embrace my inner rebel all last week!

Do you have a favorite banned book? Tell me about it in the comments! (Mine is a toss-up among Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Looking for Alaska.)

Updates!

As you can probably see…. Word-Maleerie is changing quite a bit. I’m working on getting everything a bit more organized and streamlined, and hopefully ending up with a “cleaner” look.

My main goal right now is trying to figure out if each post can have a “preview” rather than just the whole post itself. Right now, there’s A LOT of scrolling if, say, you want to staring reading Forthcoming from chapter one.

I’m also hoping to add a video to the homepage as a more proper introduction to the site. (And hopefully, as a way to introduce myself to publishers/agents beyond a query letter. Fingers crossed!)

Another feature I’m thinking about is linking my Goodreads to Word-Maleerie. I write quick little reviews of everything I read—mostly so I can keep track of what happens in each story (which is very helpful when you power through around 200 graphic novels a year….)—but I thought it might also be fun to add those reviews here.

At least, That all is the plan so far. It will take a lot of time… but anything is doable with a check list!

Wish me luck!

A Forthcoming End: Sneak Peek

Like I’ve said during my Friday posts: I’ve been busy at work planning for Summer Reading. What does that mean? It means I don’t have a lot of time to write–at least, not write chapters in my current stories that I think are up to the quality they should be. And yet it is story day on the schedule, so… quite a dilemma. But then I thought it might be fun to try my hand at some “flash fiction.” It would be a good writing exercise for me and still (hopefully) provide an enjoyable read. So I found a prompt and challenged myself to write that story in only 500 words or less.


As per the prompt, I decided to head back to Todd Everett the crazy world of spies and prophecies. To read the first story in the Forthcoming series, start here.

Prompt: Write a “sneak peek” of a story that you haven’t worked on in a while.

It wasn’t simply raining–torrents were lashing against the window, streaking along the glass like clear snakes across black sand.  The view outside the window was dark.  The trees that surrounded the small house were invisible to the storm outside–the only evidence that they even existed were the sounds of branches thrashing in the wind.  Nothing could be seen save for the reflection of the man staring fervently at the glass.  He was a rough man, with a beard as coarse as the thoughts racing through his mind. 

Henbane eyed his reflection, though he was hardly taking any notice of it.  He numbly realized that his blonde tresses were longer than he liked; some of the bristles were actually beginning to resemble hair.

            But time had been a precious commodity lately, and personal grooming was among the lowest of his priorities.  The highest priority, however, was the cell phone placed carefully on the table in front of him.  He refused to look at it, unsure of what sort of news he was really wanting–he knew what he was expecting.

            And what he was expecting would surely be a good report.

            For Cyrus, at least.

            Henbane turned his head slightly.  The image in the window copied the action, displaying the black patch that was placed over his eye.  Golden thread was finely woven into the material, but the elegance of the fabric did not detract from what it hid–a gaping hole where his eye used to be.  Henbane’s jaw clenched at the memory.

            Losing an eye was dramatic.  But a person was supposed to lose it because a bomb exploded, sending shards of glass into the retina.  Or a stray bullet struck the iris.  Heck, Henbane would’ve even settled for a bee-bee gun accident.

            He glowered, his fingers tightening reflexively into a fist.  It wasn’t the injury itself, it was how he’d gotten it–a pen shoved right into the socket.  Not dramatic at all. Not spectacular.  In fact, it was comedic. 

            Henbane didn’t do comedic.

            But, of course, there are some people that laugh at everything.  People who make jokes to hide their insecurities.

            Henbane thought this made those insecurities all the more visible; it was like putting a building in front of a neon sign–it might be concealed, but the sign’s light can still be seen, flashing dangerously below the surface.

            Henbane preferred fighting–there was no way anyone could doubt how he was feeling if his fist was connecting with someone’s jaw.

            He grinned.  Some people only feigned control over their emotions–and by “some people” he meant the exact person responsible for his missing eye.  Henbane breathed deeply.  That certain person (he thought each syllable with venom) had slipped past him too many times.  His luck was bound to wear out soon.

            Henbane would make certain of that.


Copyright Sarah Davidson 2021

Is Anything Scarier than Human Nature?

When I started to make this list, I realized something kind of important: I haven’t read a ton of scary books. I mean, I’ve read my fair share, but a vast majority of them are by Stephen King. And, even though I’m a fan, I didn’t want this countdown to become a King-apalooza. So I had to go through my Goodreads and really ask myself what makes a story scary. I’ve read plenty of books that had me eagerly turning the pages, but were they actually scary? After some consideration, I narrowed it down to the four I needed. Agree? Disagree? Tell me more in the comments!

4) Lord of the Flies by William Golding

From Goodreads.com

Why this book?

For anyone who doesn’t know, this story *spoiler alert* is basically about a bunch of kids who get stranded on an island and slowly devolve into barbarians. Violence reigns supreme in this dark tale of human nature. And that right there is why this is number four in my countdown: Ghosts and monsters are scary, sure. But you know what’s really scary? Our basest desires–humanity at its very worst, stripped of conscience and compassion. And the question: Exactly how much (or how little) does it take to drive us to that point?

Scary Quote

“Maybe there is a beast… maybe it’s only us.”


Sources:

Book cover and quote from Goodreads.com. Lord of the Flies written by William Golding.

I Miss High-Fives (and 19 Other Things I’ll Appreciate Even More After 2020)

Last week, I made a list of the 20 things I discussed how “bogged down” 2020 can feel; so to lighten that feeling, I reminded myself of all the things I was still able to do. This week, I thought I would take some time to make a list of things that I miss, things that I realize now might have been taken for granted, and things that I will feel blessed to again have as a part of my life. (I’m also going to knock on a lot of wood; I’m not writing this list to jinx anything, I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate those things that maybe I didn’t appreciate enough prior to this year.)

Last week’s list helped to put life in perspective, but this week’s list is more like a reminder in optimism: If history has taught us anything, it’s that hard times don’t last. *knocking on even more wood* So let’s take a look at what isn’t a part of our lives right now and remember, when they come back, to appreciate them all the more.

20 Things We’ll Appreciate More

(20) Hanging out with friends. Skype has been a great tool and solid substitute, but it will be nice to actually be with people again. Bring on the movie marathons! The epic game nights!

(19) Hugs and high-fives. I’ve never realized before that my knee-jerk reaction for a job well-done is a high-five. And air high-fives just aren’t the same….

(18) Going out to eat.

This delectable dish came from Bubba Gump’s in Gatlinburg.

(17) Vacations and day trips.

St. Augustine, last year.

(16) Not thinking about germs 24/7. When was the last time I sanitized? Did I already wipe my phone down today? Should I do it again? I will not miss these incessant thoughts.

(15) Nerdy Camaraderie. This year, the Cincinnati Comic Expo was cancelled…. This massive event is a veritable “nerdvana” of fun that I’ve attended for the last several years. While I always have fun, I’ll relish it even more next year.

Cincy Comic Expo. Any other Blue Beetle fans out there?

(14) Theme Parks. *sigh* I miss roller coasters….

Universal Studios, last year. I was the only one brave enough to tackle this coaster! Now just going out takes a different kind of bravery.

(13) Trying on clothes rather than just guessing if they’ll fit.

(12) Going to the movies. There’s just something magical about being at a movie theater, especially if its with other fans. The last movie we saw before the pandemic was My Hero Academia: Two Heroes. Many moviegoers came dressed in costume. Everyone laughed at the same time, cheered at the same time. You just can’t get that sense of togetherness from streaming.

(11) Sending food to a friend who is sick or who has lost a loved one. This is a big tradition out here in the country. But, right now, with everyone worried about sharing germs, the best we can do are fast food gift cards or pre-made treats from the store–neither of which have as much love as your family’s famous homemade lasagna.

(10) Programming. As a librarian, I miss being able to do programs. In the past, my library has held “comic cons,” murder mystery parties, and has even featured live animals. We all miss seeing our patrons have fun!

(9) Flea markets. Buying things previously owned by someone else and touched by who-knows how many people before you purchase it? Yeah… that’s not a thing we’re doing right now. And that means countless treasures are being left undiscovered.

Found this “blast from the past” at a flea market last March. Obviously, this March was spent a little differently.

(8) Trying new things. Let’s face it… you can only be so adventurous at home.

A couple months before the quarantine, my husband and I tried a local Japanese restaurant. I’m eagerly awaiting the next adventure–culinary or otherwise.

(7) Being spontaneous. This goes hand-in-hand with the last one. But I miss waking up one day and doing something completely random. Last year, for instance, my family and I visited the Mothman Museum.

The Mothman Museum. A weird little treasure we have here in Ohio.

(6) Buying brands that you want–especially with toilet paper and paper towels–rather than just what’s available.

(5) Visiting family and friends in nursing homes and hospitals.

(4) Having a choice of hand sanitizer. I miss the scent of “tangerine dream”… though I’m getting used to “assault-your-nose alcohol.”

(3) Sporting events. I don’t even like sports, but I do miss seeing my dad and brother get excited about going to games.

(2) Any type of gathering. I already discussed the Comic Expo, but there are tons of other ways to get together and share in a sense of community: Festivals, fairs, graduations, weddings, Proms, birthday parties. Like everyone else, I miss these… a lot.

(1) Smiles. Masks are playing an important role right now, but I’ll be happy to see smiles again (and to smile back, too!)

The phrase “new normal,” has become prevalent, but remember this: Today is not normal. If you want to see normal, look back to the past or think ahead to the future.

Stay positive. Sending lots of love to everyone!

Is there something you’re looking forward to doing in the future? Share in the comments!

Welcome to the Wonderful(ly Insane) World of Comics

So… you’ve decided to start reading comics.

Ha.

Haha. Haha

HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Welcome to insanity, my friend. You have over 80 years of material spanning various continuities in universes where science and magic coexist and death is like a common cold.

It’s a wild ride that will have you confused, frustrated, lost, angry, and a million other emotions….

And you’re going to love it.

Seriously, you will never run out of reading material. You’ll see favorite characters grow and evolve. You’ll learn about humanity in a way that could only be exposed in the outlandish plots of super-antics. You’ll develop preferences for certain styles and gain a real appreciation for this perfect marriage between words and art.

Plus, if you don’t like how a story is going, just wait long enough and either: (A) A new writer will take the reins, or (B) The universe will reset.

In short, reading comics is like when Ron tried to read Harry’s tea leaves in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: “You’re gonna suffer, but you’re gonna be happy about it.”

Wise words, Mr. Weasley.

But where to start? Like I said, there’s over 80 years of material. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to read everything. Comics in the ’40s, while good for nostalgia, aren’t exactly riveting.

If you want exciting stories that have equal parts action and character development, then you’re going to want to start with something more recent. Of, course, with comics, that means since about the ’80s (give or take). Personal taste will vary.

But, where to start? Here are some tips:

(1) #1s

I’m talking more about graphic novels here, which are several comic issues bound together. I recommend these because you can get an entire story arc in one sitting. Keep in mind, these #1s are not like first books in a series. For example, if you get started with Harry Potter, reading Sorcerer’s Stone is where you start, period. There’s nothing before or after. But, like I said, these characters have been around for decades. #1s represent a good starting point for a new “chapter” in these characters’ lives. Events and relationships that happened in the past will be referenced, but you’ll get some exposition along with it.

(2) Crisis Events

These tie directly into #1s. One of the reasons graphic novels may start over is because a crisis event is taking the universe in a new direction. (Other reasons may be more internal within the comic industry. But I’m sticking with more story-based restarts.) A “crisis event” is exactly what it sounds like. A terrible, universe-shaking something happens and the repercussions of it will shape all stories going forward. Here’s an example: DC’s New 52 started after the Flashpoint story line (during which the Flash royally messes up the timeline and then attempts to fix it). From then on, the next volumes were the result of the changes in the timeline. If you start at a crisis event and then go forward, you’ll have a pretty fluid story. (And these events are nothing new–Crisis on Infinite Earths is one of the most famous and it was published from 1985-1986.)

(3) Iconic/Hallmark Issues

Of course, there are some stories that, regardless of where you are in the continuity, will always be referenced. These issues or story arcs are ones that were historic in the comic community–whether because they tackled a serious, real-world issue, or because the stories deeply impacted how fans viewed the characters and their worlds. A few examples of these include:

Batman: “A Death in the Family”

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: “Snowbirds Don’t Fly”

Iron Man: “Demon in a Bottle”

Batman: “The Killing Joke”

Teen Titans: “The Judas Contract”

X-Men: “Days of Future Past”

Warning: These comics do tend to be heavy reads. If you want a crash course in how comics can be just as intense as a traditional novel, with psychological or societal themes,then these are solid places to start.

Alright… now you know what to look for, and while that criteria certainly narrows your options, you still have a veritable ocean of comics left. So now it’s time to start thinking critically. Ask yourself these questions:

(1) What characters do you want to read?

You can’t read everything. Believe me, I’ve tried. You have to figure out what characters most catch your interest. Start out with a few, and then, as become more comfortable with the format and world of comics, add some more. (Believe me, you’ll end up finding favorites you never thought you would. For me, Green Lantern ended up being a very happy surprise.)

(2) How involved do you want to be in the universe?

So, now you know what characters you want to read… but how involved in their world do you want to be? How tied into the overall universe? One of the many cool things about comics is that everything is connected. You might decide you want to focus on Spider-Man, but I guarantee you he’s going to cross paths with the Fantastic Four. Does that mean you start reading FF, too? Maybe. You might find out you like the team. (Johnny Storm and Spidey actually have a pretty funny friendship.) Or maybe you just stay a Spidey purist and just enjoy the FF when they show up. Either way is totally fine. But it can get a little more complicated than that… what about the rest of the Spiders? Miles Morales Spider-man? Spider-Gwen? Venom? Their stories will often directly affect what’s happening with good ole Peter Parker, or at least add interesting layers to who the Spidey character is. Honestly… there’s not right or wrong way to do it. Like with traveling, there’s nothing wrong with exploring one corner of the world and then adventuring outward as you get more comfortable. Maybe you start with visiting different places in your state, then you start taking road trips, then you try traveling abroad. Similarly, you can start with Spider-man titles (because there are multiple: Amazing Spider-Man, Peter Parker, Spectacular Spider-man, Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man, etc.), and then maybe you decide you’re going to read more of the “Spider Family.” And then maybe you branch out into some of Spidey’s other super-friends. Of course, if you decide to just stick with the original, that’s perfectly fine, too–you’ll certainly never run out of stories and adventures with everyone’s favorite wall-crawler. Above all, just remember: This is supposed to be fun.

(3) Are you more of a DC fan or a Marvel fan? Or do you prefer independent comics?

Now, this third tip is up to personal preference; it might not apply to you at all. It is totally possible to love all comics equally–Marvel, DC, and independent titles. But chances are, the more you read, you’ll start to develop a preference. I’m more of a DC fan. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have my Marvel comics I check out as soon as they hit the shelves. (Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four, and Spidey are all favorites.) If you do find, however, that you prefer the characters, worlds, or writing styles of one company over another, that will actually help. Continuities, parallel universes, clones, etc.–this all all happens within both Marvel and DC. It’s easier to be “dedicated” to one or the other. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to keep it all straight (the more you read, the easier it will be to balance all the many, many stories), but if you’re starting out, it’s helpful to have a focus. It’s kind of like picking a concentration for a major. If you’re majoring in communications, studying both journalism and media production will probably make your brain explode. But if you choose one, you can really dive into it. (Of course that, doesn’t mean you can take an elective or two in the other course–or you know, read certain comics from the other company.)

Remember: All of these tips are just general. I’ve been reading comics “seriously” for about five years now, and these are all things I wish someone would have told me. I didn’t know much going in except: (1) I like the MCU movies, and (2) Batman is cool. Honestly, picking books felt a bit like being plopped down in a foreign city and just having to choose streets at random.

My hope is that, if you’re new to comics, these tips will give you a bit of a map.

After all, you’ve got one fun journey ahead of you–and it’s full of people who love to share it! (Are there trolls? Yes. But most of us just like to “nerd out” over our favorite characters.)

So… dive in, find what you love, and then spread some love in the comic community. We’re excited to welcome you to this wild, crazy world.