Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Paranormal in Black and White

Stephanie's post on the original Lycan hero, The Wolfman and the wonderful actor who portrayed him, Lon Chaney Jr. got me thinking. What was it about Lon Jr. that made him not only instantly recognizable but handsome in that strange sort of way? He wasn't technically handsome other than being tall and dark; he wasn't misunderstood except in the most literal way when he begs to be locked up before he kills again. Yet, we're glued to the screen, awash in his torment, unable and unwilling to look away. That's the key to Werewolf attraction—that torment: "There's something very tragic about that man…and I'm sure that nothing but harm will come to you through him" goes the line in the original 1941 movie and it sums up the lure of the animal.

Larry Talbot isn't a gorgeous hunk but he's…haunted. He's tormented and guilt-plagued. What woman could resist that? Especially when it's covered in real fur? Come on, you know you're headed for it like bees toward a perfumed hat. The guy's a real animal and yet he's sensitive…kinda'. Not in a wishy-washy way like Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind—he really pissed me off—but he's emotionally aware: he killed someone, even if by accident and even if someone else was in danger. He worries about doing it again in another blood crazed lust—ooh a beast with a conscience. You just want to scream out, "Hey bite ME Buddy!" with a big toothy grin of your own.

But if Lon Jr. owned and owns the Wolfman persona, he didn't do it all alone. The film is a classic because of numerous factors (also why Steph's books are classics) such as the incredibly romantic setting of old traditional Europe against modern life right down to the requisite Gypsy connection, fortune telling and even a poem (albeit created for the film) about wolf bane and the full moon. There's the fog, a must for romance and or terror, beautiful women and hard headed practical men folk who poo poo the idea of anything that can't be shot down with a medical dictionary.

Put it all together add Lon Chaney Jr. and his stressed out emotions, voice and expressions and you've got the prototype for all Werewolf movies to come!

Oh sure you can add twists and turns and all manner of technology but underneath it all there's still a big hairy dude waiting for ya'.

What can I say?

"Here boy!"

Growing up with the Wolf

Actor Lon Chaney Jr. as "The Wolf Man"

by: Stephanie Burkhart

Growing up as a young girl in the 1970's, Saturday afternoon was set aside for watching creature double feature. It fed my paranormal heart with inspiration and had me convinced there was a vampire under my bed.

Such classics on creature double feature included: Godzilla, Dracula and Frankenstein meets the Wolfman.

So who was the wolfman? Lon Chaney Jr.

For me, he's the king of paranormal monsters having played the wolfman, frankenstein, the mummy and the vampire son of Dracula.

I thought I'd share a couple of tidbits about Lon.

His real name was Creighten Tull Chaney. His father was a famous silent actor, Lon Chaney, Sr.

His parents had a troubled childhood and his mother attempted sucide in LA in 1913. He always thought she'd died, but she hadn't.

He received acclaim for his role in Of Mice and Men in 1939.

In 1941 he stared in "The Wolf Man."

His final film was Dracula vs. Frankenstein in 1971.

His father discouraged him to go into acting so Lon Jr. went to college. After his father, Lon pursed his true passion - acting.

Lon Chaney passed away in 1973, but I'll never forget his performances and his classic paranormal characters and how they inspired my paranormal heart.


Winner: Silver in the Reader's Favorites Contest, Romance: Sci-Fi/Fantasy category


"This is one of the best werewolf books I have ever read. If you enjoy the Werewolf legends, or just romantic relationships, The Count's Lair is a wonderful read."

LONG & SHORT REVIEWS, 5 Stars, Fennel
"Want a recipe for a great story? Take an awesome writer like Ms. Burkhart, stir in her intimate knowledge of Hungary, her innate ability to create wonderful characters, a book-full of suspense, mystery and passion and you get a book you can’t put down."

The Count’s Lair is filled with suspense, mystery, passion, and the paranormal.

Those who love paranormal romance with a dash of suspense and mystery will fall in love with The Count’s Lair.


Count Anton Varga is haunted by the curse of the moon. It tugs on his emotions, ravishing his soul. Anton abhors the beast he must learn to tame if he is to find peace. 

Lady Amelia Andrássy is an accomplished pianist, but her life in Budapest had been filled with heartache. When Amelia faints in the Duma's bookstore, it's Anton's strong arms that cradle her fall. His unusual indigo eyes spark with hers, replacing their individual loneliness with the promise of feral passion. 

After a two month separation, Anton is ready to walk into Amelia's life again, but is Amelia ready to fan the spark they shared into a flame? 

Count Varga looked like a tamed jackal. His hair was wind-tussled, and his overcoat accented his muscled physique. His scarf hung casually over his shoulders, too, as if it were just for show. She was completely disarmed by his full red lips, more vulnerable to his presence than she would have thought. Anton draped the cloak over her shoulders and snapped the front clasp. Sparks of warmth jumped off him, saturating her body. His smoldering sapphire eyes found hers. She adored his attention.

Bryant handed her a pair of gloves, her hat, and her scarf. She hung the scarf around her neck and put on her hat.

"Are you ready?" Anton asked.

She nodded, and he escorted her to his auto. The cold winter air nipped at her cheeks. It was only the first week of December, but Anton hadn't joked about the temperature.

They got in the back seat of his auto, and the driver took off. The auto was warm. Amelia put her gloves in her lap.

"Some people have set up a tent in the middle of the market and are selling goulash and warm apple wine. Do you mind having lunch there? I thought we'd take in the market's ambience."

"Not at all."

"I've missed you." He turned in the seat to look at her.

She smiled. "I've missed you, too."

"Did you get your invitation to the noble's ball?" he asked.

"Yes. I got it today."
"May I escort you?"

"I would like that," she replied. She'd like it a lot. Too much for her own good, but she wasn't prepared to admit that to him just yet. He already had unsettled her. It was exciting to be in the presence of a man so confident and secure. The last few weeks with Mikel, she'd thought he had avoided her because of the success of her piano concerts.












Monday, August 20, 2012

Stan Lee Rotted my Brain.

If you've been following this blog series, you must have figured out by now that I love comic books. Insert your very own duh here if you feel the need. Comics really have rotted my mind. Seriously, they haven't. Besides, teaching me the proper way to get bitten by a radioactive spider, they've taught me most of what I know about writing. That might sound funny to you considering that I don't write comics, but the fundamentals of writing is the same no matter what medium it might be in.

If anything comics give you a firm grip on some writing tools that normally wouldn't come so easily to a writer. The greatest of these is the cliffhanger. Nothing sucks worse than a really good cliffhanger. Then there's the chapter break cliffhanger. In my own warped mine I see chapters as issues of a comic. You start off either quiet, or in the middle of a buttload of trouble. Then by the end you slap down some OMG! Before kickstarting it all over again, until you get to the last issue, uh, I mean chapter.

That's just one trick, but who are these writers who trained me in the ways of writing? Did they know the trouble they'd be causing? Of course, not. I doubt that would have made them stop writing. Lord knows, it didn't stop people from selling me comics. Back to where this thing was heading. Comic writers who inspired me to write.

I'm going to kick this off with the writer who held me in his thrall the longest. Alan Moore is a British author who first found fame in America working on Swamp Thing for DC Comics. Single handedly he changed the face of comics. He turned them from a kid's genre to making the medium grow up. He took a so so horror comic and blew it up dragging the world kicking and screaming with him. He introduced John Constantine to readers, who to this day is one of the most popular characters in DC's Vertigo line. Revolutionizing Swamp Thing wasn't enough for him. He took on superheroes in the title Watchmen. Not only did he make readers turn a scrutinizing eye on what we thought we believed about our super heroes, but he addressed political issues that most writers would have shied away from. I could go on and on about this important figure in comics, but that would take more  blogs than I could write in a lifetime. Let me end this with a short list of movies made from his works. Constantine. From Hell. V for Vendetta. Watchmen. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Each of these movies are pale imitations of his genius. He must be read to be truly appreciated.

Neil Gaiman comes in next. Sandman is perhaps the best comic series ever conceived. Winner of a Bram Stoker Horror Award, Sandman made people outside comics sit up and take notice. The series follows Dream of the Endless as he frees himself from imprisonment on man's world. For over 75 issues Gaiman thrilled readers not with in your face horror, or super human storytelling. No, he made us face the truth about humanity through stories that rival anything you might have read in the pages of novels. It comes as no surprise that his novels are bestsellers.

John Byrne is an artist turned author that really had an affect on me. First with his art on X-men, then with his long run on Fantastic Four in the Eighties. Amazing stuff.

Paul Levitz's work on Legion of Super Heroes gave me the foundation for working with a lot of characters and keeping them straight in my head. Believe me, this comes in handy. His Great Darkness War is one of the finest storylines in comics.

Len Wein has literally worked on everything in comics. He helped create Swamp Thing and The New Uncanny X-men. Both books are among the best loved and longest lasting titles in comics. For that alone, he deserves to go into the hall of fame of genius.

Walt Simonson worked the same magic Byrne did on Thor. His run on the title made me fall in love with Norse Mythology and the thunder god. His artwork was almost as amazing as his writing. It does hurt that he created one of my all time favorite characters, Beta Ray Bill.

Marv Wolfman deserves the same. If it is a comic, he's  worked on it. Trying to list all his credits would be like trying to name every comic ever put out. For this though, if you want to see him at his best check out The New Teen Titans and Crisis on Infinite Earths, with amazing artwork from George Perez.

Frank Miller. Okay, this guy is so great that I'm only going to list the books his written. Daredevil. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. Batman: Year One. Sin City. 300. Elektra Assassin. Martha Washington. He along with Alan Moore are among the godfathers of comics. To bypass reading any of those books should be a crime.

Okay, you know who's next. Stan Lee is the ever loving man. Nuff Said! If you don't know who this man is, shame on you. In 1961 Stan Lee along with the artistic genius  of Jack Kirby rewrote the book on comics. Stan has created nearly every comic character you've spent  the last 10 years going to the movies to see. Fantastic Four. Spider-man. The Avengers. Iron Man. The Incredible Hulk. X-Men. Daredevil. The Mighty Thor. Black Panther. Silver Surfer. That's just the tip of the iceberg. There isn't enough room on this or five blogs to go into all the stuff that's exploded from his mind. Not to mention some of the greatest comic villains ever. Doctor Doom. Green Goblin. Galactus. Namor. The Lizard. Mole Man. The Red Skull. I mean this man's brain should be bronzed for prosperity. How could he not affect the growing mind of any beginning writer? He made me dream that I could fly, swing on spider webs, shoot lightning from my finger tips. More importantly, he made me believe enough in myself that I could create new worlds and characters would love as much as I did. Isn't that what any great mentor is supposed to do?

Granted I have never met any of these amazing writers, but through their works I feel like I have. Now, through me you have tasted a bit of their genius and what they meant to a boy who had more fun living in their worlds and his own rather than in the one outside his door. Now, if I could fly in that one, I'd be one happy camper, despite the fact I'm afraid of heights. Go figure. A super hero afraid of heights? Now that's a comic I can get my teeth into.

That's it for this week. Join me next week as I wrap this sucker up with a blog so mind blowing I can't get give you the title. Mainly, because I don't have one yet.

Can Jmo figure out a title?
Does he even know what he's going to write about?
Will the voices in his head take over and write a scathing blog about butterflies and unicorns?

Stay Tuned to find out in our next thrilling issue!

Monday, August 6, 2012

How'd they shove all that into so little Spandex?

Spandex, you know I love it. You can't read comics and not have a fondness for the stuff. In Romance, as in comics, your hero has to dress the part. Before we get into the Romance side of this, let's examine the dress code for heroes and heroines in the comic world.

Heroes typically are dressed in as skin tight an outfit as they can manage. Superman, Batman, and Spidey have the abs hugging costumes. Notice this definition did not extent to the crotch area, but comic readers have been saved from the sight of groinal definition, otherwise we'd have all gone blind a long time ago. Not sure why early comic artists felt the need to define everything under the threat of future latex appliances but they did. Then, you have the heroes with the uniforms that more or less go with what they do. DC's Green Arrow has the Robin Hood thing going on. Marvel's archer, Hawkeye has the same outfit only in purple. I smell copyright infringement but since DC let it slide, so did I. Another Marvel case of where did that purple come from is the Hulk. But torn purple pants isn't really a costume as much as it's a pathetic fashion statement. Iron Man has a tin can. Captain America the American flag. Yet, everyone knows them immediately because the costumes are ingrained in our American consciousness. I could go on and on, but it's time to move on.

Sexist! That's the first thing that pops into your head when you think about the female side of the super powered coin. And, basically you're right. Comics are geared toward a male readership. While boys, teenagers, dorky college men, and guys want their super heroes to be all manly and ripped, they want their super heroines as skimpily clad as possible. It's been that way since the beginning. I'm not going to lie. I fall smack dab into that category of male chauvinist pig, but seriously how can Wonder Woman fight crime without her goodies popping out? Depending on who's drawing her, sometimes you wonder why she fights it at all. If you threw me out there battling some super villain with nothing but a speedo on, I'd be too busy hiding behind the bushes to do anything. Wonder Woman isn't the only victim of this travesty. She Hulk probably suffers the most. She can't go through an issue without most of her wardrobe ending up on the wrong side of ripped to all get out. But, by far the worst case happens in the X-Men. It's like you have to sign an agreement to automatically dress like either a stripper or a dom just to get membership rights. I bet you wouldn't see Wolverine going for that crap. Though many of you would probably like to see Hugh Jackman wearing something from the leather thong Spring line. But, sadly for you the answer is no.

Honestly, you'd think that in this modern age where female writers and artists are breathing new life into these characters that would change, but it's happened slowly. Men are still the target audience. While the stories present a stronger, more self assured heroine, the costumes still scream stripper. I would apologize for this fact, but since I don't write comics, I can only apologize for keeping the comic companies in business.

Now, romance. Again, the outfit defines the hero. If we went by the covers instead of content, romance novels do the same things to men that comics do to women. I'm sorry but when I courted -- really dated term there -- my wife, not once did I pick her up in a big fluffy white shirt opened to the waist with my abs on display for the whole world to see. I didn't for two very important reasons. She would have laughed me out the door. Two, my abs are well hidden under a layer of year round winter fat, and nobody really wants to be forced to see that. Guys know as well as I do that as soon the words 'I do' are spoken by both parties we can safely unsuck-in that gut, and we do.

Romance novels on the other hand operate under a different set of rules. The hero must be dressed in one of three ways. The first is the above Fabio look. This usually only applies to Historicals, certain contemporary novels and the odd buckskin western. Yet, you know instantly who the hero is because he's the manly one not dressed in black with his man goodies on display for all to see.

Number two is the Fonzi look. Skin tight denim jeans. White or black t-shirt as ab hugging as the jeans. Optional leather jacket or battered duster. The last applies more to Vampires or wizards on the loose. 'Shit-kickers' or bulky boots complete the look. I'll freely admit that I like this look and have used it often. Why? Because, I grew up wanting to be the Fonz, James Dean and Marlon Brando. Why? Because, they looked deadly cool and got the girl. Apparently, by the enduring fascination with all three, women must love the look and the men behind it. In a Romance novel, if you see a brooding man stomping down a dark street, or sitting across the bar, that's the GUY! You know it. The heroine knows it. So the cliché works and is set firmly in place.

The last look? I like to call it the James Bond. Your hero comes walking into the room dressed in a tux with an aloof glare you know instantly what you've got. He could be wearing a suit or anything trending at the moment. The second your heroine sees him there's sparks. I'm not sure why. Because when I see this guy, I'm wondering if he's more worried about the stock market than romance. Maybe that's why women who read Romance go for him. You can tell he's a good provider, but otherwise he seems boring to me, at least. The whole workaholic thing kind of slips to the back burner. I'm not big on contemporary romance, so can't comment too much on how that all works, but it does. Nuff said.

I guess what I'm getting at is you have to know where you stand when it comes to heroes and heroines. I mean I seriously doubt if your Vampire hero showed up wearing a white button up shirt with a pocket protector, there'd be any romantic interest going on. Same goes for a businessman wearing something a Hell's Angel wouldn't be caught dead in. We as writers and readers are slaves to our preconceived notions of what our characters should look like.

If that's the case how can we, as writers, overcome the stereotypes to make the characters interesting and not so clichéd? That's where skill comes in. We have to strive to bring to life the person alive inside the stereotype. Sure, the hero might dress like James Dean, but can we make them as human as James Dean made himself in Rebel Without a Cause? He was that jacket, but once you got past the bad boy persona, he had his weaknesses. He was flawed and sensitive. Most importantly, he wanted someone to love him. That is the heart of romance. You have to create a character who is strong yet inside is human enough to make you care about him.

Whereas in comics the costume defines who the character is. Romance takes the costume and allows the person  inside to overwrite the image to make a character who he or she is. That takes skill and isn't as easy as it sounds. Next time you read either a comic or a romance, ask yourself, if I didn't see the outside first would I have stuck around to see what else was going on? Would I have delved beneath the spandex to find out if the man or woman inside the costume is worth the time I'm taking to finish this book? I hope the answer is yes, because just because he's dressed like a red and blue spider that doesn't mean you should break out the fly swatter, even if he is a man ho.

Next week we examine the Heroine in a blog I like to call, Stop looking at those while I'm kicking your butt. You can check it out and part two of this series over at my other blog, The Morgan Diaries.