An early Christmas present: Santa’s Odyssey

2017 was, in many ways, the roughest year of my life.

I went through two life-changing events within ten days of each other: the loss of my mother, and learning that I was going to be a father. Either of these things can turn your life upside-down. Both of them happening on top of each other threw me into an emotional spiral that took me quite some time to get out of. In some ways, I still haven’t — and probably never will.

When Christmas came that year, I struggled with writing my annual Christmas short story. I wasn’t even entirely certain I had it in me. Then, against all my better judgment, I decided instead to tackle an idea I’d had percolating for years: a 12-month experiment in storytelling in which Santa Claus would, once a month, come face to face with the Icons of the other holidays on the calendar. It’s a strange story, and one I look back on now and realize I used to work out a lot of things I was dealing with. And I serialized each chapter here, on my blog.

As Christmas 2022 approaches, I’m going to spotlight some of my older holiday-themed works, and so I’ve put together a little PDF of this story. This is the story as it appeared between Christmas Eve 2017 and New Year’s Eve 2018, complete and with only minor edits. If I ever decide to do an “official” publication, there will no doubt be more substantial edits, but I present it to you here as a sort of time capsule of the only sustained writing I managed to do during the most tumultuous period of my entire life. I hope you enjoy it.

SANTA’S ODYSSEY

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I Rank the Universal Monsters

Today I watched The Invisible Man’s Revenge from 1944, and with that, I have FINALLY watched EVERY movie featuring one of the classic Universal Monsters. I have no excuse for the fact that it has taken so long. I have deep, deep shame. But hey, I did it! And now that I’ve FINALLY absorbed every film in their assorted franchises, I’m going to rank them from my favorite to least favorite. Absolutely nobody will care about this ranking except me, but I’m going to share it anyway:

1: Frankenstein. Not a surprise, I’m sure. Everyone knows how much I love Boris Karloff as the monster. Many people probably also know that I consider Bride of Frankenstein to be Universal’s finest monster movie. And anybody who has ever talked to me for more than 17 seconds has probably heard me ramble on about the fact that Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein is one of my five favorite movies of all time. Of course this was going to be on top.

2. The Wolf-Man. Lon Chaney Jr. only got one solo film as the Wolf-Man, but he went on to play the character in several “monster rally” films. He’s the only Universal Monster to have a consistent performer throughout the entire franchise, and he’s a wonderfully tragic figure at that. He’s just such a great character.

3. The Invisible Man. Pound for pound, the Invisible Man films are really entertaining, and the special effects are wonderful for the time period. The franchise is hurt a bit by the fact that there is NO consistency in the performer, that most of the films make no attempt at continuity with one another, and that two of them (The Invisible Woman and The Invisible Agent) make no pretense at being monster movies at all, but rather a romantic comedy and a World War II action movie, respectively. But the ones that are good (that would be the original, The Invisible Man Returns, and The Invisible Man’s Revenge) are REALLY good.

4. Dracula. This series would be higher than the Invisible Man if I was only judging by Bela Lugosi’s performance, but Lugosi only played the count twice: in the original and in the aforementioned Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The other actors who played the Count in the other films (even the beloved Lon Chaney Jr.) were…lacking. However, the franchise does get bonus points for the other 1931 Dracula film – the Spanish language version that was made on the same sets as the Lugosi movie at night after director Tod Browning wrapped for the day. The Spanish crew watched Browning’s dailies and made adjustments, often improvements, when filming their own scenes. The resultant film is not as well-known as the Lugosi movie, but may be even better.

5. The Mummy. I must stress here, I am ONLY speaking about the original series from the 1930s and 40s, not the Brendan Fraser series. That would be higher. But while The Mummy series started well, it got very repetitive very fast. The writers also got lazy after a while, not really trying to keep the films consistent with one another. For example, the Mummy rises from the grave after “decades” in two subsequent films, yet they still all took place in the 1940s. Then there was poor Lon Chaney Jr., who played the Mummy in the final few films and, frankly, was sleepwalking through them.

6. The Creature From the Black Lagoon. I should tell you, in case there is any question, that there is no Universal Monster I actually dislike, but somebody’s gotta come in last. The Creature’s trilogy is a fun burst of energy from Universal in the 50s, one last success at creating an iconic character long after the other franchises had been put to bed, but it was never as compelling to me as the others. The Creature comes across as more mindless, driven by pure instinct. It’s neither a beast driven by anguish or anger, and as such, I never really felt for him. It wasn’t until The Shape of Water (not an official Creature film, but come on, we all know) that this archetype really hit for me.


So that’s what I think about these guys. I love ‘em all, I do, and I’m terribly sad that Universal’s various attempts to bring them back in recent years have all fallen flat. I’m going to say it again: the best thing to do would be to bring back Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz as the O’Connells and use them as the cornerstone of a new Universal Monsterverse. But what do I know? All I did was watch all the dang things.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure seriesOther People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. There are ghosts in it, if you like that kind of thing.

The Hardest Part

If you have a minute, I’d like to explain to you the hard thing about writing.

The hard thing about writing is not, as so many non-writers often assume, coming up with ideas. Ideas are easy. Ideas crop up like acne, shower you like a late summer rainfall in Louisiana, burst from your mind like a field full of dandelions. They’re not all great ideas, admittedly, but they’re not all terrible either. The bulk of them lie in that vast gulf in-between, an area of ideas which have potential, if only you have the time and inclination to pick out the best and cultivate them into something. Sometimes you have so many that you simply can’t figure out which one deserves your care and attention at the time. In those periods where I have been unproductive as a writer, this has sometimes been the culprit. I have no evidence, but if a writer came up with the term, I’m certain the phrase “a dime a dozen” was coined in reference to coming up with ideas. 

So coming up with an idea is not the hard part. Nor is writing the first draft. Well…relatively speaking, anyway. Writing a first draft IS hard. Looking at a blank page, as so many writers before me have observed, is intimidating as hell. The blank page is a vacuum demanding to be filled, and you’ve got to conquer your own demons of insecurity and self-doubt long enough to produce something to fill it. The blank page is an enemy that must be conquered, but sometimes you’re Rocky and sometimes you’re Apollo Creed. (In the first movie, that is. On good days, it’s more like Rocky II, and sometimes you’re Rocky and sometimes you’re Apollo Creed.) 

So writing a first draft is hard, but it’s not THE hard part. Nor is the revision process. Compared to a first draft, revision is easy. It’s taking what’s already there and making something out of it. First drafts are taking a chunk of marble and chipping it away into something recognizable. Revision is taking that chunk and polishing it, sanding it, and doing the detail work. It’s still work, but it’s not as exhausting or terrifying as the chipping away part, where at any moment you’re afraid you’re going to break it in the wrong place or crack what you’ve been chiseling for hours, days, weeks, and ruining the whole thing. It’s also,  in my experience anyway, less susceptible to being abandoned than that chunk of marble. Once you’ve gone this far it’s almost an insult NOT to go in and do the polishing work. Leaving it uncleaned is unthinkable. It’s a compulsion. It MUST be done.

The hard part of writing is the last part. Getting someone to read it.

There are thousands of books published every year. Millions of existing books fill the libraries and bookstores. Every single one of them is competition. How do I (and by “I”, I’m referring to all hypothetical writers in the world) convince you (and by “you,” I mean the person reading this with an Amazon tab open a page away) to read MY book?

Publishers are not necessarily the answer to this question. It’s true that they have greater resources than a self-publishing writer like myself, but it’s also true that they often decline to USE them. Except for celebrity writers or people who have already proven themselves capable of selling a million copies, publishers often simply slide the bulk of their authors into a pulsating mass of backlist, concentrating on that person on that reality show that was super popular last season and for some reason has decided they want to write a cookbook. 

So most writers are left trying to find the audience on their own, and that is not easy. If anything, it’s become more difficult than ever.

“But Blake,” you say, oblivious to the fact that you’re talking out loud to your computer or your phone or perhaps to some stranger on the bus depending on where you are when you read this, “doesn’t the existence of the internet make it easier? There are more avenues than ever, more places to spread your message, more ways to get your voice out there.”

Well sure there are, absolutely. And those avenues exist for everyone. Which is exactly the problem. More ways to get your voice out there has led to an exponential increase in voices attempting to be heard. There are millions of voices shouting for attention now, millions of people with something to say, and millions of people deserving the chance to say it. But no reader can possibly find them ALL, there are just too many. How do you stand out in the crowd?

If you’ve read this far expecting me to reveal the answer, to pull the sheet back from the table with a flourish, putting the solution to this problem on display, I’m sorry to disappoint you. That’s not what I’m doing here. The reason I’m writing this is because I don’t KNOW what the answer is. Writing this is a little exercise in therapy for me, trying to explain my feelings on this problem, knowing full well I don’t have an answer.

In a way, I envy those writers who have no desire to publish. There are a great many of them out there, I know. I see them in writer’s groups on Facebook, on writing subreddits, in a thousand other places talking about their WIP (work in progress), their FIC (fiction – often fanfiction, actually), their MCs (main characters) and their thousand stories they’ve begun and abandoned as soon as the next one of those oh-so-ubiquitous IDEAS has clawed its way into their skulls. And for them, it’s OKAY if the work never goes any further than their hard drive. I know they exist, I share memes about them on Wednesdays. They’re happy, it seems, just to create and leave their creation in a bubble. I do not understand this mindset, but I envy it, because these people seem to be satisfied with their station in the literary universe.

For people like me, that’s not enough. I want other people to read my work. I want people to tell me what they think. I want to hear from strangers about what I’ve done, I want to know that somebody enjoyed what I’ve been bleeding into my keyboard all these months. I don’t need to change the world. I don’t need someone to tell me my books are their reason for living. I don’t want people to name their children after my characters (although if you do, I guarantee you that your little tot will be the only “Malefactory” in their grade). I just want to know someone liked it.

This is why writers plead with you for reviews and shares. The websites that sell books (mostly Amazon, but they’re not the only one) all use one of those funky fresh “algorithm” things to decide what gets promoted and, similar to the publishers I mentioned before, they give more weight to those writers who are already popular and need less help. Getting sales, obviously, boosts your presence in the algorithm. But so does getting reviews. When a writer asks you to go on Amazon and review their work, it’s not because we desperately need that ego boost of someone telling the world we’re the reincarnation of Hemingway, it’s because we know that if you DON’T do it, no one else will hear about our work AT ALL.

So if you really like a book, if you really enjoy the story that some poor writer has spent countless hours carving out of a block of solid marble, the absolute best thing you can do is go online (Amazon or wherever you bought it, or even both) and write just a few quick sentences telling the rest of the world that you thought it was good. The second best thing is to buy several thousand copies, but most of us will settle for the first one. If you’ve got the time – and here in the U.S. it’s Labor Day, so I know a lot of you have the day off – pick up those last two or three books you really enjoyed, cruise over to Amazon, and leave a review. 

Your favorite writer will thank you.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. Reviews welcome.

Happy Anniversary, Little Stars!

July 15, 2021. It is a date destined to go down as one of the most incredible days in the history of world literature. It is the day I first unveiled OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS to the world. That’s right – one year of Andi Vargas, Tony Gardner, and Shooting Star. A year of reconnecting with old friends from Siegel City and meeting many new ones. A year of adventure, surprises, mysteries, questions answered, and still more questions raised. A whole-ass year of fun. And with this anniversary, I’m here to ask you guys for a little bit of help.

Bear with me, I’ll get to it.

OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS is a serial adventure, with a new chapter appearing every Wednesday. It is set in the world of my novels OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES and THE PYRITE WAR (as well as numerous short stories), and it incorporates characters and elements from those earlier works, but it stands alone for people who haven’t read the other stuff as well. It is, of course, still a work in progress, but it’s been a remarkable year in the lives of Andi Vargas and her friends. A year ago, Andi was a normal girl whose mother happened to be one of the most beloved superheroes in Siegel City. A year ago, nobody KNEW her mother was one of those heroes, but as readers know, that’s what kicked off the story. A year ago, she could still pretend to be “normal.” A year ago, she didn’t know that she would travel through time. A year ago, she had never been to outer space. A year ago, none of our heroes knew that ghosts were real.

Interestingly, these elements of the story are all things that were planned from the very beginning. But other things – things that may shock you – were not. Keriyon Hall didn’t exist a year ago, not even in my imagination, and if I’m going to be honest with you, he’s become my favorite character in the story. (The same thing happened with Sheila Reynolds in the original OPH – she makes a cameo in LITTLE STARS, and it was fun to see her again.) The Rubies of Byrel didn’t exit either. Nor did Daystalker. But these were characters and elements I discovered along the way and, as is always the case when you’re writing a good story, you learn that these things were really there all along, but the silly writer just hadn’t unearthed them yet. Other things have not gone the way I expected – Blip, for instance, was originally expected to play a much bigger role in the story than he has turned out to have – but that’s okay too. You need to follow the story the way it unfolds.

So here, on what is kind of the birthday for Andi and Tony and Lita and Draugr, I’m going to ask you guys to give them a present. Y’see, I’ve still got a ways to go before this story reaches its conclusion, and I’ve always believed the more the merrier. I would like to have more people following along with this story – but that’s not going to happen if they don’t know about it. So first of all, if you know people who like superheroes or coming-of-age stories or long, sprawling epics, tell them about it! 

But that’s not all. LITTLE STARS is (currently at least) exclusive to Kindle Vella, which means that the Amazon Algorithm gets to decide how many people can stumble across it. And for that to happen, it needs reviews on Amazon. Even a quick one, even one sentence would be ENORMOUSLY helpful and boost the story’s profile. And while you’re at it, go back and make sure you’ve hit the “thumbs-up” button at the end of each chapter you’ve read. (Honestly, I’m not sure how those work with Amazon’s algorithm, but they sure as hell can’t hurt.)

And if you happen to be someone with a blog or a podcast or one of those Ticky Tocky things the kids like so much and wouldn’t mind giving a review to a larger audience, that would be pretty swell. Please, let me know about it if you do.

Finally, if you have absolutely NO idea what I’m talking about…well, you’re in the majority. If you haven’t read any of OTHER PEOPLE’S HEROES: LITTLE STARS, head over to Amazon and check it out. The first three chapters are always free, and each subsequent chapter costs literally pennies (between 30 and 40, depending on how long that particular chapter is). Then once you’ve met Andi and her friends, hopefully you’ll want to stick around and see where they wind up.

Shoot, I’M still anxious to see where they wind up.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. You know. In case he hadn’t made that abundantly clear.

Dadding: Not All Kids Are Cute

Nobody wants to admit it, but the truth is, not all kids are cute. Let’s be frank here: YOUR kids are cute. And when I say “your,” I don’t necessarily mean only the ones that sprang from your loins. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, any kid you have a personal connection to is adorable. Until they learn the skills that keep us alive, such as fishing or filing an expense report (neither of which I can do), cuteness is their primary survival trait. But the truth is that for most adults, this benefit is limited when it comes to children not within our immediate sphere of community. The rest of them are a crapshoot, and most of them may as well be an uncooked meatloaf in the cute department. 

If you think I’m exaggerating, I invite you to go to a dance recital some time. The hall will be packed to the gills, but every single person in the audience is there to see exactly one kid. The other kids are just people who may potentially be standing in front of your little darling when the time comes, the asshole. The only people who care about more than one kid are families with multiple children in the show, and these are easily spotted outside the hall begging for gas money once they’ve finished paying for the lessons.

Dance recitals are one of America’s biggest rackets, after insurance companies. Think about this: parents give these studios hundreds of dollars — perfectly good dollars, dollars they could use to buy their children food, or meth. In return, the studio spends the entire school year taking the kid for an hour a week and teaching them the same three dance moves. (Those moves, in order of performance, are the hula hoop, the toe tap, and the walk off the stage waving.) After ten months of intensive training, you get to watch your kid do this for six minutes, then sit for three hours through everybody else’s children doing the same thing. Granted, I am speaking mainly of the younger children here. Older students get more intricate dance moves, such as the alternating toe tap and the gyrating hips of a nature that got Netflix in trouble because eight-year-olds were doing it. Eventually, the ones who don’t quit dancing because a new game came out for the Switch may reach a level of legitimate performance, even of — dare I say it? Art. Unfortunately, by the time these older students take the stage, the audience has seen so many hula hoops and toe taps that they have completely checked out and are thinking about what the score of the game is, because for some damn reason they always do these things during the finals. 

This is not to imply I have any sort of moral superiority here, of course. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I am a complete whore when it comes to talking about my kid, because unlike all these wieners on stage I’ve never even heard of before, my kid is awesome. It’s that survival trait I mentioned before. Parents are biologically predisposed to believing their own children are the most amazing thing that has ever been placed on the Earth, which is fortunate because otherwise we would yeet them out the window the first time they somehow manage to take the bathroom door off its hinges. Parenthood is, in fact, a sexually transmitted disease that carries with it a mild mental disorder: not a dangerous one, just one that inclines you to be more charitable when your child stares at your bowl as if he doesn’t have a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios from the same damn box, so why does he want to shove his filthy hands into yours?

I cannot tell you how many nights I have gazed upon my sleeping child and said to my wife, “He’s beautiful. He’s perfect.” It’s as if I have completely forgotten that two hours ago I was embroiled in a bitter argument with him because he has learned to spell the word “B-L-U-E,” which is great, but now he is taking violent exception to my collection of Blu-Rays for failing to live up to his standards. 

The good news is that this is a social contract most of us have cheerfully agreed to abide by. When a parent shows us a picture of a child who has utterly failed to properly place spaghetti in their mouth instead of all over their face, we smile and say, “Aw, that’s so cute!” instead of what we’re actually thinking, which is “Aw, he’s FOURTEEN.” So as a parent, I would like to publicly thank all other decent human beings for pretending to be interested when I begin to wax poetic about how awesome my kid is, even though I know a large percentage of people could not possibly care less. In exchange, I promise to continue to do the same when you tell me about your kids, and I won’t even bring up the fact that my kid can read The Monster at the End of This Book out loud (he does a great Grover impression, by the way), whereas your husband can’t even do that. This is the way that we will survive as a society. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. He had to tell his son to stop climbing the windowsill four times during the composition of this piece. 

Screw It, Let’s See What Happens

There is a school of thought that says writers (fiction writers, at least) fall into two categories: the architects and the gardeners. The architects must plan everything meticulously. Every plot point, every character beat, every theme and turn must be prepared and calculated ahead of time, and when the actual writing starts all that’s left to do is the installation. The gardeners, on the other hand, don’t plan much more than where they’re planting the seeds and what they hope to reap from the crop in the end. Gardeners tend to the ideas like flowers or vegetables, nurturing them, coaxing them out of the ground, but often not actually knowing exactly what the final garden will look like. Plants are alive, you see, and difficult to conquer. It’s better to simply help them find their most beautiful form.

I’m a gardener. I tend to start with a concept (what if a reporter found out that the superheroes he wrote about were frauds?) or an idea that won’t get out of my head (there’s a little bald guy in my closet holding an ice pick and I don’t know who he is but he is FREAKING ME OUT). I’ll add in some characters I find interesting, and I’ll think about where the characters and the concept might end up if I put them together. And then I start. 

Now to be fair, very often the answer to where they might end up is “nowhere.” Sometimes the combination doesn’t work, the marriage doesn’t last, and I end up with yet another orphaned story opening. (So many orphans. I’m really quite ashamed of myself. Lucien from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman could have an entire damn wing of his library devoted to me.) But when it DOES work, and it DOES come together, this storytelling alchemy frequently brings me to a place that leaves me unable to imagine it any other way.

This feeling is at its most powerful when I hit a point I refer to as “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” You see, sometimes it feels like something in a story is not right, like a character is fighting against your plan, like you’re trying to find flimsy justifications to make them do something (or stop them from doing something) that they don’t want. And often, it turns out the reason for this is because the characters are smarter than you are and realize that your plan is actually wrong, and you should just let them do what they so clearly want to do, and figure out how it’s all supposed to fit together later. That’s when, as a writer, you should say, “Screw it, let’s see what happens.” And damn if that can’t be great.

I’m going to give an example that spoils several of the more recent chapters of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, so if you’re not up to date, you may want to go catch up and come back. (I mean, you should do that anyway. It’s a good time.) 

When I started the Meta-Crisis arc, you may notice that Keriyon Hall does not appear at first. In fact, he hadn’t appeared for quite some time, which was making me sad because he’s become one of my favorite characters in the story (even though he wasn’t in the original outline – he’s that flower that you didn’t actually plant in your garden but that turns out to be the loveliest one). So I thought, “Well, the crisis is affecting the entire city. I should just check in on him and see how he’s dealing with it.”

As it turned out, the way he was dealing with it was trying to figure out what Andi and Tony would do in his situation, and do that same thing. Which was perfect, it’s exactly the way Keriyon thinks, but that led me to a problem. He was SO good at predicting what Andi and Tony would do that he wound up arriving at the same hideout as they did, even though he wasn’t supposed to be there.

Well, screw it. Let’s see what happens.

And as he’s there and starts to meet some of the other characters in the story, I realize that Andi is having a very difficult time talking to Keriyon, because she’s dancing around the fact that Keriyon didn’t know about Tony and Vic’s powers. And while they were dancing, Andi kind of informed me that she likes Keriyon, she trusts Keriyon, and considering all the crazy shit that was happening all around them, keeping her friends’ powers a secret wasn’t even ON her list of priorities, let alone at the top.

Screw it. Let’s see what happens.

So she told him the truth and Keriyon, being the unshakably loyal and positive person that he is, not only took it in stride, but decided to gear up and join them on the quest. And when we got to the end of the arc, and the “Young LightCorps” was revealed to the world, all of a sudden Keriyon Hall was in the picture with them. A character who was never supposed to be th– no, wait, that’s not right. He was never intended to be there. But he was most certainly supposed to be there.The stuff I’ve written since then (that you haven’t read yet) has convinced me of that. 

“Screw it, let’s see what happens” is recommended by eight out of nine muses. Ask Oneiros if “Screw it, let’s see what happens” is right for you. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If you haven’t read it yet… well, you’ve got no one to blame but yourself for the spoilers. 

Free Comic Book Day: The Return

My favorite day of the year hasn’t really happened since 2019.

I know, favorite days are supposed to happen annually, but if you think about what the state of the world has been since March of 2020, it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what exactly has gone wrong. Among the many, many things that we lost because of Covidpalooza was a day I look forward to every year, a day that makes me tingle with anticipation, tremble with excitement, and quiver with bodily reactions I should probably stop referring to metaphorically. But it’s back. It’s here. It’s Saturday.

It’s Free Comic Book Day 2022!

For many years now, the comic book publishers, distributors, and shops of North America have celebrated the first Saturday in May as Free Comic Book Day, an event where special free comics are given out at stores across the land. The better stores (such as my local shop, BSI Comics in Metairie, Louisiana) have gone even further, expanding from simply handing out books to turning the event into something of a mini-convention full of games, cosplay, and sales, as well as hosting writers and artists hoping to sell some of their wares and meet the fans. In 2020, when the pandemic was still fresh, the event was canceled entirely, with the books (most of which had already been printed) given out piecemeal through a “Free Comic Book Summer” which didn’t really scratch the same itch. You see, it’s not just about the freebies, it’s about the EXPERIENCE. It was like getting a late Christmas present in mid-January… it’s not really the same, is it? Then in 2021, a new wave pushed the event back from its usual May home to August, and another wave – at least in my area – curtailed the event dramatically.

Saturday, it’s back in full force.

For a long time now – first as a podcaster and now as a writer – I’ve manned a table at BSI Comics for FCBD, and I couldn’t look forward to it more. It’s not about the free stuff (although let’s face it, we all love free stuff), but it’s about a chance to celebrate an art form I love dearly. Comic books are a unique form of entertainment, and while they’re finally starting to garner a little bit of the respect they deserve from the public at large, for too many people they’re still looked upon as disposable entertainment, kids’ stuff (as if there’s something wrong with that) or just an IP to be exploited for movies.And yeah, they can be all of those things, but they can also be so much more. Comics are an art form, and a unique one. They’re a blend of words and pictures that doesn’t exist in the same way in any other form of storytelling, and that’s a kind of magic. I love FCBD as a chance to show off to people who maybe don’t view comics this way, or who don’t know where to find them, or who have incorrect assumptions about the art form – take these people and show them what comics are capable of.

But that’s not the only thing. As I said, I’ve been sitting at my table at BSI for several years now, and in that time I’ve befriended a lot of people – local fans, other local creators, people whose work I respect and admire and whose company I enjoy. But, like those relatives you only get a chance to see at Christmas and Thanksgiving, a lot of these are people I don’t often get to hang around with except at comic book conventions and FCBD. This isn’t just a chance to peddle a couple of books or get a couple of free comics — it’s a chance to hang out with some friends. 

Free Comic Book Day is a chance – a sadly rare chance for me – to spend a day around people I like, to meet new people who like the things that I do, and to celebrate those wonderful, beautiful, gloriously geeky things we have in common. And if I happen to sell a few books in the process, even better. Quick sales pitch: I’ll be there selling copies of all four of my novels as well as my humor book, Everything You Need to Know to Survive English Class. I’ve also unearthed a box of my first (and to date only) comic book credit, the short story “Ryan and Radar,” with art by Matt Weldon and published in Tales From the Plex #4, so there’ll be copies of that as well. Plus I’ll be giving out free bookmarks and fist bumps all day long. I also know local writer Kurt Amacker and comic creator and children’s book author Vernon Smith will be there too, among other confirmed guests. 

So if you’re in the New Orleans area, come down to BSI and say hello. If you’re not in New Orleans, go to www.freecomicbookday.com and look for a local participating shop. And while you’re there, remember, the comics are free to YOU, but not to the store – so shop around and see if there’s anything you’d like to pick up while you’re there. 

See you in the shop!

Adverbs

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Stephen King said that, or something damn close to it, and I find it an interesting piece of advice. Adverbs, after all, are a tool, and tools are neither bad nor good, they can simply be used for bad or good things. So like a lot of the pieces of writing advice that are out there, I think it’s useful to pick it apart and think about what it actually MEANS.

King doesn’t mean that you should never, ever use an adverb in your writing. Pick up any of his books, you’ll see that they’re loaded with ’em. On the other hand, it’s important to decide if an adverb is the BEST way to communicate an idea. Great writing is succinct, and it’s important not to use two words when one will suffice, especially if the one is a better word. Adverbs are traditionally used to modify verbs… but what if you can replace the Adverb+Verb combo with a single verb that carries the same meaning? Not only is it more succinct, but it’s also often more evocative.

Quickly moved? Try “hustled” instead.

Nervously shook? How about “shuddered”?

Or the sentence I was working on when I decided to write this post: I had written the dreary word combo “slowly walked,” and it occurred to me that “crept” was a much better word to use.

So there ya go, friends: a piece of advice from a master like King, a piece of probably unnecessary exposition of that advice from an amateur like me, and most importantly, this allowed me to procrastinate a little while I should actually have been working on my story. And that’s what writers all live for.

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. Okay, that’s about all the procrastination he can get away with right now.

How I would handle Universal’s “Dark Universe”

Universal doesn’t seem to know what it wants to do with its classic monsters. And while many would argue that we don’t really need a “Dark Universe” connecting them all, the monster rally movies did the shared universe before it was cool, and damn it, I want to see them do it again. So as often seems to happen, I’ve spent too much time thinking about how I would write stories for a property I do not own and could never officially write, and what the hell, I may as well share the ideas with you. 

First of all, you don’t start from scratch. You go back to what has already worked. And that means we gotta start with Brendan Fraser. Because everybody loves him and his Mummy movies are the best use of the Universal Monsters since the Creature From the Black Lagoon’s first splash. We canonize his films, as well as the Hugh Jackman Van Helsing, which had the same director and planned for them to be connected in the first place. 

So here’s what we do. It’s 1953. Rick O’Connell has long since retired. He and Evie are living a good life somewhere quiet, with a library for her to tend, their family to enjoy, and most importantly… no mummies.

Until the day a tour of artifacts from the Egyptian museum comes to town. 

Rick is reluctant, but Evie convinces him it would be fun to go and look at the artifacts for old times’ sake. As they do so, their young granddaughter Elsa happens across some hieroglyphics that have thus far evaded translation. The youngest O’Connell, however, has inherited both her grandmother’s brilliance and her grandfather’s recklessness, and quickly solves the inscription. As she does so, the mummy traveling as part of the exhibit awakens. The O’Connells flee, barely making it out alive and rushing back to Evie’s library to try to figure out exactly what little Elsa said. When they arrive, however, they find a young woman, packed to the gills with weapons and arcane artifacts, has broken into their home and is waiting for them.

Her name, she says, is Van Helsing. She is the latest in a long line of monster-slayers, and they’ve been keeping an eye on the O’Connells ever since that business with Imhotep. This new Mummy, like Imhotep, was a high priest. However, he found something far more powerful than anything Imhotep ever touched upon… the power of belief. The arcane and supernatural forces in the world are fueled by the belief that humans have in them – the more people who believe in them, the more powerful they grow. And the newest Mummy, awakened by Elsa’s careless words, has woken up to a world in which a new form of communication is in ascendance… television.

The Mummy visits a local carnival and manipulates the belief in the freakshow to bring two new acolytes to life: a wolfman and a gillman. Together, they take over a television station, preparing for that night’s big broadcast of the most popular television program of the age, I Love Lucy. The Mummy’s plan is to force someone at the network to break into the show with live footage of the monsters, showing millions of people the truth of their existence at once. The O’Connells and Van Helsing have to chase them down, having an adventure across the city fighting monsters of all types, trying to get to the broadcast headquarters before the truth of the monsters’ existence becomes so widespread that it will be impossible to get it back into the bottle. 

But they’re too late.

The broadcast goes out and, as people at home see the terrifying power of the Mummy and his minions, their power begins to grow. All over the world we see glimpses of creatures waking up – an enormous golem-like corpse in Eastern Europe begins moving, a malformed creature in France begins softly singing, the heir to the Griffin family finds traces of his ancestor’s legendary formula. All is lost.

Until Elsa commandeers the camera, reading off the cue cards to begin the planned live commercial for the evening. As she does so, people at home start to laugh at their own fear, realizing that they’ve just been watching a TV show, none of it is real. As they do so, the Mummy’s power fades, collapses, until the O’Connells and Van Helsing manage to slay the monsters in a triumphant finish. 

The world is safe again.

Until we see a tall, thin man watching the broadcast from somewhere else. He is as fiendishly handsome as he is evil-looking, and as he watches, he strokes his chin, pondering the possibilities of what he has witnessed. After planning all night, he notices that the sun is about to rise, and so he slips into his coffin, and closes the lid. 

Blake M. Petit is a writer, teacher, and dad from Ama, Louisiana. His current writing project is the superhero adventure series Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars, a new episode of which is available every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. If anyone reading this happens to be an executive for Universal Studios, you should know that he will work cheap.

A new way to read Little Stars!

Guys. I have got THE BEST NEWS.

For months now, I’ve been dutifully sharing a new episode of Other People’s Heroes: Little Stars every Wednesday on Amazon’s Kindle Vella platform. And it’s an amazing adventure! A young woman has her life completely turned upside-down when her mother is revealed to be the world’s most popular superhero! We’ve got teen drama, action, comedy, time travel, ghosts – pretty much everything you love in a superhero universe all rolled up into one weekly package. PLUS, it features several of your old pals from my novel Other People’s Heroes!

HOWEVER… up until now there’s been one major obstacle. Vella series weren’t native in every Kindle App! You could get it on iOS, but if you have any other device (even Amazon’s own Kindle device), the only way to read a Vella book is to open it up in a web browser. And boy, can that be a pain in the butt, right?

But now, in case you hadn’t heard, Amazon has expanded Vella support to Android as well! So that means if you’ve got an Android device with the Amazon Kindle app, you can read all 27 episodes (so far!) of OPH: Little Stars right now! And if that wasn’t enough to convince you, the first three episodes are free!

So if you haven’t joined the multitude of fans out there enjoying Little Stars week after week, now’s the time to jump in and do it! 

As for those of you with other types of devices or in markets outside of the USA… I really want the story to get to you guys too, but ultimately, I’ve got no control over that. Your best bet is to shoot a message to Amazon and let ‘em know that you’re waiting. 

So click here to check out the first few episodes. Read them, love them, click the “thumbs-up” button at the end and drop a review. Then keep going and read the other 24 while you’re at it. Thanks!