Articles, Reviews, & BloSamples
By Alice Liu
Magazine Book Review Section
(download pdf)


by Bill Burr, Joe DeRosa, Robert Kelly
I I love an honest man, and you don't get any more honest than Burr, DeRosa, and Kelly do in Cheat: "Do you wanna get your dick wet or not?  Then stop being a pussy."  A lot of thought and accumulated penile wisdom went into this fascinatingly well-researched guide on how to cheat without getting caught. The authors delve into the science behind cheating, point to historical role models, and even offer psychological advice on dealing with the guilt. The crux of their argument centers on the fact that the penis is stupid and becomes a dangerous weapon if you listen to it.  They cover all the bases of the how, why, where, and to whom. They even go so far as to profile the different kinds of cheaters, acknowledging different needs and approaches.  What made me laugh most was the advice on what to do if you find your woman cheating on you.  First, many women cheat with the intention of getting caught because nothing is funnier than a mad dick.  Second, cheating is the one area in life where women are statistically catching up to men, and I'd wager that a book called Cheat: A Woman's Guide to Infidelity would outsell the male version because penises don't read.  Overall, Cheat offers unfaithful men sound but ultimately irrelevant knowledge because, gentlemen, a woman always knows.

"Above the East China Sea"
by Sarah Bird
(historical fiction/contempory YA/parnormal)
Half of "Above the East China Sea" is historical fiction chock full of Okinawan folklore, and centers around Tamiko, an Okinawan girl living during WWII. The other half is a YA (Young Adult) social situation story about Luz James, an army brat in present day Okinawa. Add an additional element that readers will probably describe as either paranormal or spiritual, and the result is a complex, lush journey that reveals that when we heal our ancestors, we also heal ourselves.

Though alternating viewpoints, we see how Luz is cut off from a sense of home, identity, and belonging. It is during her suicide attempt that she awakens an energetic (spiritual, quantum, karmic) connection to the long deceased Tamiko. The story that Sarah Bird spins from here reveals the depth and complexity of Luz's life as it has been molded through the wounds of generations. Tamiko's life is told from her watery grave and reveals the way that Japanese culture imbued a kind of self-hatred among the Okinawans, and how that was used against them. The Japanese pride-filled propaganda machine rivaled American bombs in destructiveness, as it robbed the Okinawans of the ability to make wise choices and led them toward sure annihilation.

What was most interesting to me, however, was the experience of women during war and in its aftermath. Ironically, we learn most of the sordidly truthful things from a rather crass, indifferent old man. I also appreciated the brief acknowledgement of Korean comfort women. Amazingly, Sarah Bird brings Luz and Tamiko's stories together into a tight, serendipitous conclusion. I'm kind of surprised that this was not released as a YA book. I think its cross-genre nature would fit well into the huge YA fantasy market, while exposing young readers to the historical at the same time. Epic read!

"Strange Country"
by Deborah Coates
(supernatural mystery)
Strange Country is a supernatural murder mystery with horror undertones. As a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, Hallie Michaels brings some interesting skills to bear in her odd situation in West Prarie City. Death has asked her to replace him, she has died and yet come back alive, and she has proven herself capable of dealing with unearthly dangers. But now someone with a plain old gun is causing murder and mayhem. I love how Hallie taps into her military skills to deal with danger as well as with her fear. However, the story is not bogged down by her military past. It is as if that were a separate life altogether, and the memory of those survival skills drive her. That is really where Coates excels: She evokes the complexities of emotions, uncertainties, and even the denials that we tell ourselves in our inner monologue. And Coates does this all through her mastery of language. Strange Country is not only suspenseful and eerie, but beautiful as well...a sheer pleasure.

"The Black Count"
by Tom Reiss
There is something profoundly important in Tom Reiss' The Black Count" that relates to how we define our personal stories and the stories of our collective consciousness. The Black Count details the life of Alex Dumas, father of Alexandre Dumas the author of the Count of Monte Cristo. Born to a titled white father and slave mother, Dumas was both sold into and bought out of slavery by his father. When Dumas joined the military, he eschewed the higher rank that was his birthright and entered as a common soldier, taking on his slave mother's name. He quickly earned his way up the ranks. What we can all learn from his experience is that he did not hold on to the wound of his slave experience: He allowed his personal history to define his values, but chose not to allow it to define him as a man. Reiss details the birth of race-based slavery as a relatively new phenomenon when viewed within the annals of all of human history, showing that it was based out of commercial expediency rather than racial superiority. He even gives mention to the fact that the chain of ownership began with black Africans, a fact almost always left out of the slavery discussion. I only mention this because this is a wound that needs closing. Is there racism? Most definitely. Should we stand up against it? Absolutely. But that does not mean people need to define themselves by it. Doing so creates a kind of self-imposed slavery, limiting what a person believes is possible for him/herself. With a good three quarters of black children in America living without a present father figure, Alex Dumas serves as a role model of what kind of person they can be and how powerful the concept of choice is in what they will believe about themselves.

The other thing that Reiss does in The Black Count is to make intricate connections between historical fact and everyday life. There is a tendency these days to reduce complex situations into simplistic rhetoric. When terms like "collateral damage" replace the concept of human tragedy, campaigns are built on "don't you love America," and illegal war are begun over "bringing the evil-doers to justice," we desperately need a different way to understand the world we live in. Instead of interspersing dry historical fact within the Dumas story and expecting the reader to make his/her own connections, Reiss explains the context and consequences with the deftness of a great novelist. The result is that the reader sees the complexities of human history at every level and understands that life cannot be reduced to black and white, dichotomous thinking. Our society needs a paradigm shift into this more "wholistic" way of thinking, where we understand that all our choices have multiple, interconnected consequences. The Black Count is more than just history, it reflects a lesson back to us about our own personal stories and public dialogue.

Magic Rises
by Ilona Andrews
(urban fantasy)

I became upset quite early on when I realized Kate and company were getting involved in situation overseas that could not end well. Throughout the book, my hopes for relief from my tension and anxiety kept getting dashed by the number of pages still left until the end. What is beautiful about Magic Rises is the lengths that people will go for children, even for those that are not their own. Even the most ornery of the Weres jumped at the chance to join in what was an obvious trap. Kate becomes more accepted by the pack than ever, but Curran's political machinations, and the assassination attempts by foreign Weres who have no appreciation for her human status, makes her feel more alone than ever. It is quite heart wrenching to go through this with Kate. She really asks for so little for herself. Her concern for the greater good is what makes her an Alpha equal (in addition to her kick ass fighting skills). But it is also her ability to put things aside through small acts of kindness that puts her above the crowd...and turns what is an outright loss into an ultimate win. This book is unrelenting in its intensity and my kudos to the duo of Ilona Andrews for always throwing in twists that I could not anticipate. Loss is experienced in many different ways, but it forges stronger connections at the same time. My one complaint is that I wanted to read something really colorful about what happened to Lorelei. Perhaps the next book can provide that color with a nice juicy reference to her fate?!? (hint, hint).

"All Spell Breaks Loose"
by Lisa Shearin
(urban fantasy)

I love that Lisa Shearin writes stories that revolve around politics and power, but are not political stories. They are more the undoing of politics, accomplished when each of her characters find ways to their own true strengths work for them, which involves a lot of trust by everyone involved. In this last (?) of the series, Raine's magic is gone and now she has to fight not only for her life, but all of elfdom, Mid, and the world as she knows it while magically crippled. It seems impossible until Raine is able to reach back and remember her own true strengths. She began her original journey with virtually no magic. But she was a great seeker with many useful "pirating" skills, and she is reminded that the power comes from within can never be taken away. The entire theme for the "good guys" is flexibility, and no one is more flexible than Raine when she comes full circle and reacquaints with her old problem-solving self. If this is indeed the last book of the series, then it is a fitting end to bring Raine back to where she began...when she can begin life anew. However, Shearin has left room for more stories that I hope will come to fruition as well.

"Cold Days"
by Jim Butcher
(urban fantasy)

Holy crap...Butcher is unrelenting. I need an "I survived Cold Days" T-shirt!

"The Raven Boys"
by Maggie Stiefvater
(young adult fiction)

Raven Boys was so many things that I'm not sure I can do it nearly any justice in a review. This is the story of Blue, a girl from a family of psychics whose own power is to amplify energy. It is foretold that she will kiss, and thus kill, a boy who is her true love. Simple enough, right? Hah! As we get to know Gansey, the "boy" and his friends, Ronan, Adam, and Noah, we see that it is very much about people's relationship to power. For the characters, power seems to be about money and control - who has it, who doesn't, and how it is used. But then we find that power is so much more: The power of our histories, of how we define ourselves, and of the choices that we make...even the power of the earth and its choices. (The way Stiefvater portrays the earth and trees as conscious beings reminds me of a storm in a town near me that brought down several 100+ year-old tress on just one property. A psychic later said that the trees got fed up and
chose to go.) Raven Boys is deep, powerful (there's that word again), and beautifully crafted. It is, in fact, powerful in ways that I am still trying to process. The characters are unpredictable, not because of any innate fickleness, but because they get called into their individual and collective destinies, fates that either uncover them or compel them to choose a "third" road.

"The Darkest Minds"
by Alexandra Bracken
(young adult fiction)

"The darkest minds tend to hide behind the most unlikely faces." These words perfectly describe Ruby's world. Detained at age ten because she contracted a disease that caused supernatural abilities, Ruby learned to hide her skills from everyone, including the other child detainees. Especially since her abilities rated level Orange, the most feared and despised of all. There are plenty of monsters in Ruby's world: Children who would abuse their abilities to cause harm; adults who would kill them; and organizations who would use these skills for their political ends. Dark minds, indeed. However, perhaps the darkest minds are those trusted individuals (parents, teachers, friends) who taught Ruby to believe that children with these skills are monsters - darkest because they hide behind the unlikeliest faces of all.

Ruby struggles to survive while all the while believing she is a monster. Her own fear causes her to do monstrous things - letting a friend take the fall for her, and then some. But that is that world Ruby lives in: Fear begets hate begets fear. In Ruby's case, the hate is self-hatred, and it prevents her from being able to use her skills effectively until she is rescued by a renegade gang of children and is compelled to do and be better for them, if not for herself. This is a moving and gripping book with lots of twists and action. What makes it stand out is how Ruby and her friends learn and grow through courage, sacrifice, and hard choices. It's a pleasure to read a book where the characters fully "earn" their position as protagonists.

"Say It Haint So"
by Maureen Hardegree
(children's middle reader fiction)

Kudos to Hardegree for not shying away from sibling cruelty. In the previous books, it was painful to see Heather Tildy's suffering at the hands of her sister Audrey...especially when she so desperately wanted approval. In Say It Haint So, Heather is evolving and learning to manage the relationship. But, there are no easy answers, as the ghost of her deceased grandpa would attest. She also flounders in the relationship game with three...yes, THREE boys, unable to read the social cues or find anyone who can give her sane advice. Heather, I feel your pain! A fun, smart read.

"A Taste for Red"
by Lewis Harris
(children's fiction)

Self-named and self-proclaimed, Svetlana Grimm is a charming and clever girl who believes she is a vampire. Consequently, she can only eat red things...or white, because white is neutral. What makes Lewis Harris' "A Taste for Red" stand out is that the funny parts come out of Svetlans's compulsions and idiosyncrasies, rather than merely out of snarkiness. The story begins on Svetlana's first day in public school after having been home-schooled her entire life. At first, it's hard to tell if she really is a vampire or if her behavior is a result of her insecurities about being at school - either way...VERY FUNNY. Her superior intelligence, a result of the home-schooling shows in her everyday observations, such as when her father wipes his brow (glandular problems). This is a wonderful book for young readers, featuring a funny, inquisitive, and ultimately courageous girl.

"Before I Wake"
by Rachel Vincent
(young adult fiction)

Where did I put that pesky dagger?:  I love the series but I was a little frustrated with Kaylee in this book because her actions were not in sync with what she kept thinking she needed to do. Her friends and family were in danger from the Hellion Avari who had found a way of crossing into the human realm. Kaylee was given back a Hellion-forged dagger, which could oust Avari from possessing a soul and recover the soul at the same time. With imminent danger looming, Kaylee would want to keep that dagger with her at all times, right? Sigh (from me), she left it in the car. Sigh, she left it on the picnic table. Sigh, it's in her room. Sigh, she has to call someone to give it back to her. When a friend is in immediate danger, she takes time to text for help because she doesn't like talking to the person. Hmm, I wonder if she'll get there in time. When a friend dies, the parents gather everyone together for a cookout at the lake for Kaylee's birthday and also under the guise of there being "safety in numbers." Immediately, the kids break up into pairs and get as far away from everyone as possible so they can make out. So much for safety in numbers...but nothing could go wrong, right? Right.

What I did like about the book is that it read a bit like a murder mystery. Kaylee is trying to solve murders by working out who the different players are, all while getting used to her undead status. The ending reveals a very different Kaylee, one who would not leave the all important dagger in her car. I liked
that Kaylee and look forward to the next book. Her earlier character was understandably overwhelmed and a bit in denial till the end, but I needed to see more acknowledgment of that from Kaylee...maybe more conflict in how she wanted to protect her family and friends, but was finding it hard to keep herself up for the task. It would have explained some of her more lackadaisical choices.


"Cinderfella, Interrupted"
(download pdf)

Back in my rock 'n' roll days, after seeing my self-produced music video, a young musician asked me what my budget had been.  When I told him, he said, "That's what I want to hear.  When can you make mine?"

Enter Cinderfella.  It wasn't so much that this young man wanted me to produce his video when he only knew me as another musician.  It wasn't even that I had never even offered my services.  It was that he expected me to do it for him.  He was looking for someone to do the hard work for him…to "save" him.  This is the "you do it for me" mentality of the modern Cinderfella.

Another Cinderfella (as differentiated from the hard working, fairy tale Cinderella) I know is a tech deficient woman who once spent several hours on the phone trying to bully me into making an hour commute so I could help her send an email with an attachment.  When I offered to walk her through it over the phone, she became belligerent, claiming "it's so much easier for you to just do it for me."  It was also, in her mind, much easier for me to travel to her house than for her to bring her small laptop to me.  If a person makes it more important for you to do something for them, than for them to try to do it for themselves, you are most likely dealing with a Cinderfella.

Though the Cinderella Complex, first described by Colette Dowling, is an unconscious desire to be saved by someone else, it has evolved into a "Cinderfella" Syndrome of many variations.  Examples are:  Screenwriters who are waiting for someone to fund their film before they actually write their first script; People who never work because they are waiting for a job important enough to suit them; and Artists who believe it is their right, rather than a privilege, to make a living in the arts.  Their beliefs are borne of childhood myths (fairy tales) that have failed to mature and adjust to reality.

Fairy Tale:  You are the best and the brightest
Children being told that they are the best and the brightest when they haven't earned that distinction become overconfident.  A study of students in developed countries found that those with the most confidence also scored the lowest in standardized testing.  Americans were the most confident and scored the lowest, followed closely by Australians.  Japanese were the humblest and scored highest.

Fairy Tale:  Life is supposed to be fair
Life is about as fair as Santa Clause is real.  Yet many people cling to concepts like, "bad things don't happen to good people."  Barry Scheck's Innocence Project provides DNA testing for low-income inmates and has found that a large percentage of people on Death Row are actually innocent.  I've also known people to walk into courtroom without a shred of supporting evidence, believing that their good word alone will protect them.

Sometimes our concept of fairness goes too far and results in competitiveness and comparing:  A Max Bazerman study at Harvard found that workers are happier if both they and their co-worker are getting $7 an hour, than if they get $8 and their coworker gets $10.

Fairy Tale:  Hollywood fairy tales are harmless fun
In the Ken Burns documentary, War, viewers were encouraged to interview their relatives about their experiences in WWI and WWII.  One veteran said that the most dangerous thing about war were the Hollywood movies because they gave young men a completely false sense of what war was really like, leaving them unprepared.

Another study found that children exposed to fictional violence in television and movies became more violent, whereas children exposed to the horror of actual violence became less violent.

Creating a fairy tale when none exists can keep you stuck on stupid.  I once complimented a covers musician after his set at a local bar.  He gave me a pitying look and said, "I'm so flattered, but I'm really not interested in having sex with you."  His fairy tale could not differentiate between a compliment and a come on.

(When good things happen to bad people.)
Several years ago, I looked at the financial statements of the Screen Actors Guild ("SAG") Health Fund and found discrepancies numbering in the six figures.  When I had the opportunity, I told the newly elected SAG President about the discrepancies and showed him where to look.  I must have had a fever or been momentarily infected with the Cinderella Syndrome:  Expecting a knight in shining armor, I was sorely disappointed.  This President turned glassy eyed and dismissive when he didn't receive his usual accolades.  My story failed to fit his fairy tale image of himself as King…er…President of a Happily-Ever-After SAG kingdom.

The thing they never show you in fairy tales is what happens afterwards…after you've "arrived."  Living a fairy tale life is an action-a journey-where you direct your life actively.  The arrival is not the goal:  It is just the beginning.  It is where the hard work really begins, differing from earlier struggles in that it has meaning and purpose.

What the SAG President forgot was that he had work to do in his role as king.  Instead of fulfilling his kingly responsibilities by investigating weaknesses in his kingdom, he focused on his arrival.  "I have arrived.  Where are my perks?"  This Cinderfella forgot that Cinderella worked her ass off.  She "cleaned house" and earned a larger life.

Newsflash:  "Feds Investigate Screen Actors Guild's Pension & Health Fund"

Fast forward a few years and we find a whistleblower and an embezzlement probe of the SAG P&H funds.  Cinderfella had a chance to be a hero and clean up his own house.  Instead, he opted to play the role of princess, looking pretty on his throne, in his pretty castle, choosing facts that suited his pretty dream.  Let no fact interfere with the knowledge that he had "Arrived."

Surprisingly, many lottery winners also view their arrival as the end of the fairy tale (and ergo the beginning of the Happily-Ever-After) rather than the first step of a new life.  In a survey conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research, lottery winners go bankrupt at the rate of seventy-five percent per year.

(Look, the Emperor has no clothes!)
Our SAG story doesn't just end with the naked, impotent king.  In this real life scenario, the minions have run amok with wishful thinking.

Background:  The investigation into the SAG P&H fund began at a time when the union was voting on a merger agreement with AFTRA (American Federation of Television & Radio Artists).  There were heated arguments for and against merger.  Part of the anti-merger concern was, and continues to be, that although SAG (the union) is supposed to be a separate entity from SAG P&H, it is not.  And as long as there is an investigation, merger would be inappropriate.  Continuing on this subject, below are examples of fantastical Cinderfella thinking regarding the P&H investigation, a whistleblower, and the merger.  (* Note:  Quotes are taken from actual online "Comments.")

Skeptical:  "Obviously this is just a baseless claim by a disgruntled ex-employee [whistleblower] who is trying to create problems for his ex-employer out of spite…If he was fired, how would he have any idea as to what the Trustees have or have not done?"

Allow me to interrupt:  Notice the disdain without specific evidence backing his claim.  The whistleblower's complaints and the fact that he has testified before the FBI, Department of Justice, S.E.C. and Department of Labor cannot possibly thwart this Cinderfella's fantastical thinking.  Even logic eludes him as Anonymous points out, "From what I've read, [the whistleblower] was disgruntled BECAUSE of this shit and was THEN fired because he wouldn't comply with illegal requests."

member-at-large:  "Don't you understand transparency?  The actions of the SAG P&H trustees are NOT controlled by the SAG Board."

Allow me to interrupt: 
Member-at-large is basing his reality on a fairy tale of how pension plans are "supposed" to be administered (because Enron never happened).  Whereas former executive directors on the SAG side are now trustees with SAG P&H and, as of this writing, the SAG Board of Directors voted to remove a SAG P&H trustee who was against merger (Variety, March 27, 2012).  Additionally, Paul E. points out that "SAG and SAG P&H, although separate entities, are closely intertwined…three of SAG's legal team…are also trustees of SAG P&H."

Elevate:  "Who are these complaining [anti-merger] actors?  Everyone knows that merger of two actors unions only empowers the actors.  These cannot be professional actors."

Allow me to interrupt:  Really?  When was the last time two actors unions merged?  Hmm?  The Screen Extras Guild ("SEG") was essentially absorbed (not really merged) by SAG in 1992 after they went bankrupt.  SEG had no jurisdiction in New York and former SEG background actors subsequently earned lower wages in SAG.

When a person's main argument is his disgust rather than facts, you are dealing with a Cinderfella.  When a person's opinions are based on emotions, on whether he likes or dislikes something, you are dealing with a Cinderfella.  When a person is unable or unwilling to put his own preferences aside to get a neutral read on what is really happening, you are dealing with a Cinderfella.

In Zen it is said that when you desire something, you do your very best to try to achieve it and then you let go of the outcome.

In life, we are never guaranteed the outcome, we are only guaranteed the process.  A Cinderfella focusing only on an outcome can become frustrated and resentful.  But, a Cinderella who can focus on enjoying the process can build confidence, skills, and a work ethic that can lead to a larger life.  A fairy tale, if you will.  If you're an artist, it means doing your art whether or not someone is paying you…and doing it well.  It's the difference between expecting a savior and finding a mentor.  It's the difference between grasping for the Happily-Ever-After and viewing life as an adventure.

I'd like to think that Cinderella went on to live an adventure.  Though, she never did live happily ever after.  In a gross mistranslation, the story originally read, "and they lived happily in the Ever After."  Sounds like an adventure to me.

Magazine Book Review Section

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The Comic Bible Magazine

NY Comic Con
"Grab & Swag"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 3 )
Is it really swag if  you have to put it in the bag yourself?

Pet Peeves
"Cinderfella, Interrupted"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 4 )
"Inside Jokes"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 3 )

Anne-Marie Johnson
(Actress & Screen Actors Guild, National First VP)
"SAG-AFTRA Merger: The Invisible Debate"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 4 )

Scooter McCrae
(Indie Horror Movie Writer/Director/Expert)
"The Horrorble State of Horror"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 4 )

Marcus Bishop-Wright
(Improv Puppeteer & Coach)
"From the Trenches: World Domination"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 4 )

Scott "Muddy" Kaseta
(Comedian/Head Writer, VH1's That Metal Show
Head Writer, Nick@Nite's Home Court)
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 3)

Phil Nee
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue 4)

"15: Instant Vaudeville"
(The Comic Bible - Vol 4, Issue 4 )
"Kudos to the New PMS Players"
(The Comic Bible back issue)

Reality Check
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue )
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue 2)
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue 3)
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue 3)
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue 5)
(The Comic Bible - Vol 1, Issue )



Production Resume

The Mighty Gwin
(television pilot script)
The Hunter (book)
Other pilot scripts 
Bubba (comic book)




Oodles of Doodles

Creature Feature

Music Credits

Music Reviews

Song Lyrics

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for Team:
Ontological Paradox Loves Mish-Chief Managed
in Misha Collins'
The Queen is dead.  A conundrum for Misha Collins, pseudonym for the angel Castiel, as he was tasked by said dead Queen of England to acquire the services of the mythical Elopus.  "Nothing short of peace on Earth is at stake," the Queen had reminded Misha.  Perhaps, Misha thought, he should inform the murdered matriarch of her untimely demise, but as specters lack short term memory, she would just continually repeat the request.  And, after all, it was her acquiescence to corporate conglomerates during her lifetime that had allowed unfettered genetically modified runoff into Earth's oceans, resulting in an evolutionary quickening and the Elopus - clever, sentient beings who never forget.   "Yes, the greatest secret weapon of all time," the Queen continued.  "We shall demand peace."  Misha smiled ruefully at the reach of the Queen's postmortem influence.  Long live the Queen!