Marvel’s Ant-Man Makes Interesting Promises (and Apologies?) Regarding Female Superheroes

Ant Man Movie PosterFor such a small movie, Ant-Man carries a lot of weight.

As someone who grew up on a steady diet of Marvel comics in my younger years, it’s hard not to be a fan of the Marvel series of movies. The latest entry, Ant-Man, did not disappoint. In fact, it had all the light-hearted, actiony fun of Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney would be proud.

But as someone who enjoys (and writes) kick-ass heroines in my fiction, it’s hard not to be ticked off at Marvel (and DC, and Hollywood in general) for leaving the ladies on the back burner. Sure, Black Widow, Rogue, Storm, Gamora, Scarlet Witch, et al. are definitely included, and they do kick ass, but by now it’s blatantly obvious they are in supporting-roles-only, and they don’t get their own movies.

Fans have been begging DC for a Wonder Woman movie for over a decade now. Instead Warner Bros coughed up Catwoman. And Marvel isn’t helping.

Hey Marvel, where’s Dazzler?

Hey Marvel, where’s Zatanna? [Read more…]

Reflections on 4th Street Fantasy Convention 2015

Fourth Street Fantasy Convention 2015

Photo by Sean Berry

I’ve attended the 4th Street Fantasy Convention several times over the last five years, and I have to say, this year was the best year yet.

Topping the list of what makes 4th Street awesome is Janet Grouchy, (who actually only gets grouchy if you don’t pick up after yourself.) With several hundred people attending 4th Street, I don’t know how she manages to make me feel special every time I go, but she does. 4th Street is lucky to have such an awesome dose of Southern Hospitality in human form.

But there are many other things which make the 4th Street Fantasy Convention a must-go for writers of all types. [Read more…]

Dark Fiction Review – A Circus Of Brass And Bone

Calamity! Adventure! Steampunk! Apocalypse!

Full Disclosure: Abra Staffin-Wiebe is a fellow member of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers’ Group, and I made a contribution to her mothers treatment (see below for details) and in return Abra wrote a bit-character appearance of me into the story.

A Circus Of Brass And Bone Book CoverA Circus Of Brass And Bone is the first novel by author Abra Staffin-Wiebe, publishing under Abra SW. The story takes place in post-Civil War America, in a world without electricity. Rather, Fire Aether powers anything that isn’t run by the low tech of steam. This alternate reality is filled with strange and wonderful inventions like Bone aether (for healing wounds), and aether-powered-mechanical war elephants.

The Loyale Travelling Circus and Menagerie is at sea when they discover their ringmaster murdered, (by one of their own) which is the least of their problems. An apocalyptic aether storm rolls across the world, and the story begins with Chapter One: Everyone Dies. 

When the circus docks in Boston, they discover a third of the population has been wiped out, crops are tainted and most aether technology devices are ruined or unstable at best. People are showing symptoms of exposure to the aether storm and what exactly is making all that noise in the woods?

Crossing a steampunk (aetherpunk?) version of The Stand with Carnivàle, A Circus Of Brass And Bone is a rag-tag exploration and adventure by a cast of colorful circus characters in an alternate reality turned upside-down by calamity and devastation. 

“In such desperate times, what use is a circus?” [Read more…]

Email Security

Conrad Zero Tech Advice For AuthorsI thought everyone knew that email is NOT a secure method for transferring sensitive information.  Apparently not, because at Company X (where, by day, I’m the mild mannered Draconian I.T. Overlord) one of our employees hit the roof when Accounting asked him to verify sensitive account information… via email.

Could be worse – she could have asked him over the building P.A. System.

But honestly, email is not secure. Oh, I know you’re thinking, “But Zero, I’m using https for everything! I run Tor and Disconnect through a proxy service over my neighbor’s wifi! It can’t get any more secure than that, right?”

OK, so maybe you weren’t thinking that. Maybe you weren’t even understanding that. My point is, you can add all the security you like to your computer and your internet connection, but those are just pieces of the whole problem, and small ones at that.

Trouble is, after the mail leaves your email service provider, it bounces all over the bloody interwebs in what can best be described as a worldwide game of Marco Polo crossed with Chutes and Ladders before it arrives at the recipient’s inbox. During that trip, it’s trivial for any waypoint on the internet to snoop on the data en-route (called ‘sniffing’) or even make a copy to take offline and hack at later. There are programs ready-made to do this, so it doesn’t even take programming skills. (The programs are called scripts, and people who use them are called script kiddies, btw…)

So I thought it would be prudent to remind everyone of the postcard analogy: [Read more…]

New Dark Fiction – The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham


If you’re looking for a quick, dark, well-writ-read, look no further. My sister in darkness, Carole Lanham (USA Today Bestselling author of The Reading Lessons) is re-releasing her awesome collection of short stories – The Whisper Jar.

The revised version of The Whisper Jar includes creepy pictures and a new cover which out-creepifies the old cover, and that is no small task.

Review of The Whisper Jar

The following is an excerpt from my original review:

The Whisper Jar blends dark and sometimes paranormal situations into the really-real everyday world with clever writing, an Edgar Allen Poe sensibility, and a splash of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things. Carole Lanham writes in her own carefree but intuitive voice. Audiences will slip into these short stories as easily as they would a warm bath, only to be surprised at how quickly the waters deepen. Those looking for a variety of dark character studies, whimsical situations and disturbing relationship dynamics will enjoy The Whisper Jar.

Check out the full review here: Dark Fiction Review: The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

The Whisper Jar on

The Whisper Jar is available on in ebook format for only .99 so go check it out!

The Whisper Jar by Carole Lanham

The Critique Process

At the recent meetup of the Minnesota Speculative Fiction Writers Group, we talked about critique. The discussion was divided into three parts:

  • tips when giving critique to others
  • tips for receiving/processing critique, and using crit in your writing process
  • critique groups

Here are my notes and observations from the discussion, and you’ll find the full video of our discussion at the end of the this post.

Giving Critique To Others

There Are Different Types Of Critique You Can Provide

[Read more…]

Free Ebook – Social Media Secrets For Authors

Social_media_secrets_for_authors_coverWhile wandering the AWP Conference, I met Amy Quale from Wise Ink, a Minneapolis-based business offering creative and publishing services to independent authors.

One of the tools Wise Ink is using to promote their business is a beginners-level book titled “Social Media Secrets for Authors ” written by Wise Ink founders/editors Dara Beevas and Amy Quale. The book covers “The Big Four” of author social media: Blogging, Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. If you’re an author who is just starting out, and don’t have these four social mediums locked down, then I highly recommend this book. It has action plan checklists, ideas for blog posts, and is essential ‘Social Media 101′ for new authors.

You could buy the book on amazon, or you could sweet-talk Amy like I did, and get one for free. But if you’re not devilishly charming like me, well… I’ll let you in on a secret:

  • Did I mention they are giving the book “Social Media Secrets For Authors” away for FREE on their website?
  • Did I mention they have other great free author resources?
  • Did I mention these free author resources can be found at

I guess I just did. What can I say? I’m really generous with other peoples’ things.

While you’re enjoying all the great free wisdom Wise Ink has to offer, don’t forget to friend them up on Twitter and Facebook. . If you need help with Planning, Editing, Publishing or Marketing your work, check out their website:

You can also check out their blog at

What is a Drabble?

What Is A DrabbleDrabbles are growing more and more popular. I’m seeing more and more drabble compilations, and I’m seeing more and more publisher calls for drabble-format fiction.

So what is a Drabble anyway?

A Drabble is a 100-word fiction story. Exactly one hundred words. No more. No less.

I’ve had several drabbles published over the last year:

[Read more…]

Reflections on AWP 2015

The ‘Largest Literary Conference in North America’ comes to Minneapolis

AWP Conference 2015The Association of Writers and Writing Programs (or AWP) holds a conference each year in a different city. Minneapolis, MN was lucky enough to be chosen this year to host the ‘largest literary conference in North America.’ Approximately 13,000 people attended.

What’s the AWP you ask? Good question. From their website: [Read more…]

(Never Slept With) Diablo Cody

In 2008, a coworker brought me a copy of the local newspaper and pointed to the cover story. Diablo Cody had just won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Juno. In the article, she said how she wrote most of the screenplay at a Starbucks in Crystal MN.

“Isn’t that right by your house?” my coworker asked.

It was. Not only was it right by my house, and not only had I been there many times, but I had actually seen Diablo Cody there many times. But I had no idea who she was until that very moment, when I saw her picture on the front page, and connected the name with the face.

“So did you ever talk to her?”

I laughed. “I saw her there a lot, but I didn’t sleep with her.”

The Song Soon To Be Formerly Known As Diablo

2008 was “The Year of the Spiral” and Jagged Spiral was at the height of its career. We were working on a jam with the temporary title of “Disco Spiral.” The jam had been around for a while but I hadn’t come up with any lyrics yet. That evening at practice, Colin asked me what I thought the song was about and something in my head just clicked.

“It’s about how I never slept with Diablo Cody.”

The song became known as “Diablo” and I used that concept to write some lyrics. We played the song out several times, and there’s a rough youtube video of us playing at Station 4 where I’m still trying to lock down the lyrics.

Unfortunately, the song was cursed. Every time we played Diablo, bad things would happen, usually equipment failures. While recording tracks for Diablo, a computer crash wiped out an entire evenings worth of recordings. We were loading gear into Colin’s car, and Colin said the song might be cursed, because every time we played it…. Just then, the strap on his gig bag broke and the bag holding his pedal board dropped to the concrete.

It was official. Colin and Josh demanded that we never mention the “D-word” again.

So I changed the lyrics. Muted the original lyric tracks in the recording and re-recorded the new lines. Diablo Cody became Diablo the Devil. I added some angels and sexual innuendos. Colin proclaimed the song was now called “Prophet”  and you’ll see it listed that way on the Fire And Dice album. I’m not displeased with the new lyrics, but to be honest, I missed the original lyrics.

The Return of Diablo

Prophet was released on the Fire and Dice album in Dec 2013. In January 2014, I started to poke around the project file. Deleted the new lyrics and unmuted the original vocal tracks. Touched up a couple lines, and even managed to add in references to her more current projects, United States of Tara, Young Adult and Paradise. Replaced the drum kit with MIDI drums. Cut out a boring section of the song that we had intended to cover with solo guitar later but never did. I mixed and mastered the track and decided that I would give it to Diablo Cody as a Christmas gift.

This song is not intended as any kind of jab or insult. I have nothing but respect for Diablo Cody and hope she continues to write awesome screenplays.

I don’t know Diablo Cody, but she seems like the kind of person who would appreciate the sense of humor in this song. I hope she likes it.