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Monday, January 27, 2020

Challengers Blue Opens Their Doors

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Challengers Blue Opens Their Doors

​(CHICAGO, IL-January 27, 2020) – Challengers Comics + Conversation today announced the opening of their second comic book retail location at 750 N. Franklin St, Suite #103, in Chicago’s River North neighborhood.

Already open for just shy of 12 years in Bucktown, Challengers owners Patrick Brower and W. Dal Bush feel the time is right for expansion. “Comic books and graphic novels are better now than they’ve ever been, and the subject matter is so diverse that reading a ‘comic book’ is now an everyday occurrence for more people than ever before,” says Brower. “Having started Challengers in Chicago and seeing so many people buy their first comic is such an amazing feeling that we want to do more of it"

W. Dal Bush is a life-long comic book fan and a long-time comic book retailer. “Patrick has been selling comics for over 29 years, and I’m coming up on 28,” says Bush, “But every day still feels new and exciting with the quality of material that is being created today.”

Challengers is a comic book store, not a collectibles store. They don’t sell priceless artifacts; they don’t sell investments. They sell reading material; and, in their opinion, today’s comics and graphic novels are the best form of entertainment available.  Since opening their first location Challengers Red in March 2008, Challengers has received “Best Of” awards from the Chicago Reader, Chicago Magazine and Newcity, and was awarded the comic book industry’s version of the Academy Award in the form of the Will Eisner “Spirit of Comics” Retail Award.

"Our family's been in River North for 60 years. I'm thrilled to have Challengers as a neighbor. Good guys, great brick and mortar business and more foot traffic," said Guido Nardini, co-owner of Club Lago restaurant and bar. “Can't wait to raise a glass to their arrival. Did I mention my brother and I are their customers? Our commute just got very convenient...”

“I've been going to Challengers since they first opened,” said James VanOsdol, long-time Chicago on-air personality (WKQX, WLUP, WGN, WXRT). “The vibe is always welcoming, and I completely trust Patrick and Dal to help me find titles I'm going to love. Their enthusiasm for comics is undeniable.”

For continuing news on events, new releases and more from Challengers, stay tuned to and follow @Challengers on Twitter.

About Challengers Comics + Conversation

Will Eisner “Spirit of Comics” Retailer Award recipient (Jul 13), named “Best Place to Buy Comics Minus the Comic Book Guy” (Chicago Reader, Jun 13), “Best Comic Book Shop” (Newcity, Nov 12), “Best Comics Shop” (Chicago Reader, Jun 10) and “Best New Comic Book Store” (Chicago Magazine, Aug 09), Challengers Comics + Conversation strives to prove that the best thing about being in a comic book store, is being in a comic book store. With a combined 50+ years of comic retail experience, owners Patrick Brower and W. Dal Bush endeavor to bring Chicago a full-service, technologically interactive comic store that has the same level of wonder and enjoyment as the comics they sell. And read. And talk about. And champion.


Monday, January 13, 2020

Dystopias, first the comics, now in novels and films

As I recently covered 4 great Dystopia Comics I was thereafter asked by a reader to give a similar account to the best books, and if I could films.  The main control point that I was aiming at is the dystopia doesn't come from the disaster or war humans face, but the government that is creating the dystopia by its actions.  Books however, have taken aim at the subject so often, in such detail it would take me a lifetime to write about.


Brave New World
The Machine Stops
Moscow 2042
Love Among the Ruins
Fahrenheit 451
A Clockwork Orange
This Perfect Day
The Children of Men
Never Let Me Go
The Handmaid's Tale
The Sleeper Awakes
The Iron Heel
Stand on Zanzibar
Make Room! Make Room!
A Scanner Darkly
The City and the City
Infinite Jest
Paris in the 20th Century
The Giver
Snow Crash
The Man in High Castle
Slaughterhouse Five
The Lathe of Heaven
The Trial
The Hunger Games

The common theme of these works is not heroic main character good protagonists or evil antagonists.  The enemy is rarely so defined.  In dystopia you find a enemy now and then, but what sets these works apart from the rest is that the setting itself is the real problem.  I've been writing a story and have been for decades where the government is trying to save mankind by its controls and efforts.  But, the reason it has taken so long to write, is that isn't an easy to portray world.  But what makes ever dystopia powerful to read, is watching the steps taken that establish the worlds the characters, good and evil, have to live within.  Utopia stories generally speak to the attempt to create it, or tear it down.  Dystopias are much different.  You can show the depravity of the human condition through life in a fallen state of human society.  You can show the rebellious rise against such.  But the thing that stands out for me, is how we can see the roots of the problems in our own world today.  

I think these are famous enough that you might pursue them and find it quick to acquire, and engrossing to read.  But beyond that, while there are various great dystopias, these are examples of how society will crumble with every grab by government of freedom.  We might think that we are so very important and free, but the truth of government is, any opportunity to steal our freedom, it will, and we become less free with each act.  And then ask yourself, have you ever seen government give back power or control once it has taken it?  The answer is no.


THX 1138
Soylent Green
Blade Runner 
The Matrix
The Hunger Games
12 Monkeys
La Cite des Enfants Perdus
Mad Max

There are far more dystopias to discover, but if you watch these movies and read all the books you'll have enough for a lifetime.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Entertainment Deadly Sins

I had a long conversation with someone about the purpose of art, and from that all forms of entertainment.  He felt that I'd mistaken the depths of desire in people, being a poet, but writing about higher forms of literature (comics included), that I didn't know what people really want.  Well, I can tell you that I see decay.  I see societal trends that suggest we are expecting less and less of people, and we cut the arts from education, focusing upon directly relatable future skills in employment.  I see our society growing into the debased form of society that prefers less thought, and more pleasure.  I harken back to the comments by the Roman writer, Juvenal.

Bread and Circus

"Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses."  Juvenal

Over the centuries different forms of entertainment have been presented by the creators of such, to the readers/viewers/listeners with numerous different goals.  To exalt the human soul, music, plays, literature all were created to reveal a deeper reason to ascend, to glory in our purpose from the gods, or to be more than the simple origins of the species.

Entertainment was presented to allow others to enjoy themselves in a mindless fashion.  Slapstick humor, ribald comedy, parody and satire mocking those in high places all presented a world less than perfect, and thereby allowing the one watching the entertainment to feel comforted and confirmed in their worth.

And there were bread and circus.  Gluttony in the form of food, violence, lust was offered to appease the deeply ingrained sensitivities of the people.  That is, the purpose was to appeal to the lowest forms of thought, emotion, pleasure or desire. 

Most people think that the highest minded works are created by people somehow divorced from reality of common people.  But for every work that Mozart created, that was of the highest mind, there are those works such as the Magic Flute that are just as enlightened, but aimed at the common person.  That is, I think it limits the human soul's ability to be inspired to think that the creators of the highest entertainments are mutants, unable to perceive what people wish to be entertained by.  For every person I know who wrote or created the highest peaks of society, I've been aware that there is in that creator a love of forms of entertainment like the races, boxing, football, or Three Stooges.  Mozart was known to love scatological humor, that is, poop jokes.  His was a talent that could not be bettered, perhaps equaled but never bettered.

I believe our mind needs to nurtured and fed by highest culture, and I think our deepest visceral experiences are attracted to entertainment far from the highest brow.  Violence, broad humor, romance or sex, are not in themselves evil.  They are aspects of the human condition.  Perhaps it is the preference for them over anything else that leads to them being less than healthy in viewing or experiencing.

In the present there are many forms of entertainment and the highest forms have the fewest viewers or listeners or readers, and there is a growing body of entertainment that appeals to the most base desires possible.  Am I saying the UFC or boxing are wrong?  No.  But violence is a problem.  Entertainment through it is not necessarily evil, but if that alone is your entertainment?  Yeah that might indicate a problem.  Is porn immoral?  Well you can make your own decisions there, but I can tell you that sex between consulting adults is absolutely legal and shouldn't be treated as intrinsically bad, without it we'd not reproduce out species.

So we need to learn more about every aspect of our being, but perhaps not focus on the lower forms of entertainment all of the time.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Interview: Author of Children of the Ankh Kim Cormack

(All Images are copyright to Kim Cormack and/or owners of said copyright... 2020).

I've been fortunate to interact and experience the presence of numerous writers on twitter, facebook, instagram.  And I really do like many of them, but few of them move me to wish to read their work, and even fewer for their life as a writer. My experience with Kim Cormack's twitter feed made me appreciate her spirit, feel allied with her work's goals, and am really moved by her energy to write in the face of having MS.  I am happy to present this exchange with her, Kim Cormack, writer.

Hi Kim, welcome to the interview.  To begin with, tell me if you will  a bit about you, where are you from, dogs or cats, kids, family?

I'm from the Alberni Valley on Vancouver Island. I have a Twenty-four-year-old daughter in University and a son in high school. We have two cats in our family. Stormageddon is named after a character on Doctor Who, and Winchester got his name from Supernatural. I also have a breeding tank of carnivorous guppies. If I buy a pretty fish for the tank, they gang up and eat it. After a while, I gave up. It just felt like I was sacrificing fancy fish to a tank of inbred guppies.

I'm someone married to a person from Vancouver BC, so I am aware of the epic beauty of your locale.  Does that plethora of natural beauty and awe inspire your work or just surround your everyday life?

My characters spend a lot of time on the road camping, enjoying the natural beauty. There are scenes about towering trees and warm rays of light filtering through the branches, swimming in lakes etc. Everything beautiful I've always had in my life I use in my books. Sweet Sleep takes place in my hometown. In Enlightenment, they have to keep moving so they don't lose the new Clan Ankh to Trinity or Triad. They can be stolen at random until their 18th birthday when they become sealed to their Clan of immortals. In book two, they travel all over North America, even to another world.

How did you go about becoming an author, was it a native born talent, or did you decide to make it your craft and develop the skill through effort and intention?

I used to write music and sing. I made a rather funny country demo twenty years ago. I became busy with being a mom and ended up letting it go. I still wrote lyrics when whenever I felt compelled to. Jan 28th, 2009 at 1;30 am, I woke up and texted a children's book into my cellphone. I had a dream about holding a baby chick when I was four. I didn't know I'd written it until I took a look through the files before switching to a new phone. Being Four was book one, and it came at the perfect time. This was the year I found out I had m.s. After sixteen years as an Early Childhood Educator, I was given a new path to help me survive in a dream. I wrote Shark Boots on B.C Ferries in April of that year and was all in on the Children's books until I was diagnosed with m.s. I had a nightmare in October that altered my direction again. From the slightly open front door in Sweet Sleep to the creepy lullaby, it was all a terrifying nightmare I wrote down in the middle of the night. I haven't left the universe I created to help myself fight, since.

If a person has a burning desire to write what would you tell them to allow them to seek their goal of becoming a writer?  Is it possible to do it all on your own, or do college or other sorts of training courses make you better aimed as a professional writer?

I took a university English course with my E.C.E training, but that was twenty-six years go, and it hasn't applied to anything. If you have an amazing imagination, you know who you are. Just do it. Write a book. Having a PhD doesn't give you the ability to see the world as an artist does. Anything I needed to know about formatting or marketing I found on youtube. Message me on my website I'll point you in the right direction. 

What life experiences go into your various works, is it easier to be inspired by your interests, or does life's capricious whims teach you more?

When I look back on those first books, the theme is, stand back up, and when you can't stand on the outside, you must stand on the inside. Sweet Sleep is tragic, funny and beautiful. I ugly cried every day until I couldn't see writing this book. Snot nosed, swollen shut eyes, sobbing like a baby. It's all about acceptance, and I had a lot to process in my life. In Enlightenment, you are dropped into an Immortal Testing. It's like a thousand ways to die with dark comedy and scenes that will make you blush. There also may be cannibalism, dinosaurs, rat spiders, tar lizards and stone lions that hack up ice loogies. Your strength on the outside means nothing in the Immortal Testing; it's about your strength on the inside. You must strengthen the bonds with those by your side during the journey and realise each version of your demise is unavoidable.

Truthfully, everything figuratively mirrors my life in a creepy way. As I was writing Enlightenment, I finished each day with shock and awe. Wild Thing came before the third book in Kayn's series. Wild Thing took bravery as an author and a human being. I was exhuming a traumatic past and owning it. I could have altered Lexy's age but chose to write free of boundaries. The whole book is like striking a match and letting my inner Wild Thing burn as freely as it needed to. Every book in each series follows the evolution of the characters.

How difficult is it, as an author or in general as a creative person telling stories, to create from nothing and make them become an actual something?  Do you find such a process more difficult from a perspective of creating unique quality, or are you equally or more interested in following the muse where ever it takes you, i.e. a familiar subject in any particular genre.

I just sit down and write. My imagination takes off by itself and I try to keep up. I listen to music sometimes.

Who do you write for, the readers or yourself?  I am sure that you love the subject, so when you write or create, does the prospect of a sale or new reader compel you to write, or, absent a need to sell what you do, would you do it regardless?

I have little to no control over what I write. I have a base idea of where I'd like the storyline to go. I start writing at nine am and set the alarm for when my son gets home. It usually goes off in what feels like half an hour. I've had requests for pairings or name to use, and sometimes it lingers in my subconscious and ends up in there. On occasion, I'll use a friend or reader's name from a funny email. I get a hilarious amount of emails from people who want to be murdered during a Correction.

Comic book writer Alan Moore said writers perform magic, similar to God, in that, they create something from nothing.  But is that really true?  How much of what you do as a writer comes from internal structures and artistic energy combining, telling a new version of the journey, and how much is purely new?

Sometimes, I have an idea of where I'd like my writing day to go, but it doesn't always work out as I'd planned. My Fitbit thinks I'm sleeping pulse rate wise so I'd assume it's a dreamlike state. I try to stick with what I wrote and often that takes guts. My imagination travels into dark places and comes out with a lesson. My characters make remarkably sketchy choices while dealing with the aftermath of trauma. At times, it's a raw, brutal experience but my series has three Clans of immortals who were given a second chance as sacrificial lambs for the greater good, so it's not going to be a light-hearted walk in the park. They stretch their partially mortal brains and hearts to the limit, and on occasion, they snap. That's how Dragon's a formed in my series. There are green scaly dragons, but often that word is a reference to a state of mind.

When I write I find it comforting, being able to express what is inside my mind, which has generally not been the case.  True, when I say things I've had people say, Only Alex would say that, not unfairly, I am a direct person who sometimes misses the cues.  Is writing for you more about the rush of telling your own story for others, or is the writing itself the journey for you?

My writing journey took off as a way to deal with my illness, I see it clearly in the rearview mirror. For me, it's an escape from the box m.s put me in. I only go trail running in my imagination now. That used to be one of my favourite things to do. I usually write for six-hour spurts, and it feels like half an hour has passed. I'll have to actually force my myself to stop because I'm so lost in what's happening.

Does the creative artist owe anyone anything as a proper way to share the gift? I.E., people get pissed at members of the 27 club for dying, being unwilling by their misdeeds to make sure their gift goes on for a full lifetime.  I'd argue we try to tame the creatives of society (for instance, I know film professors who say the construction of certain films are brilliant, but the fans of various franchises want to have a say in how or what story is told.) If any of this is true, what is your reply to the question, do you owe anything to others due to you having a great talent?

People with pimped out imaginations tend to live colourful lives. They spend their childhood stuck in a box, unable to pay attention in boring situations because their imagination is always trying to lure them away into an extraordinary world. I'd love to believe future generations of children with wild imaginations will be seen as having a remarkable ability and treated as such, instead of being shoved into a box they aren't capable of fitting in. In this day in age, the artists of the world have paid their dues in being misunderstood. Artistic brains are different on an MRI. We are unique people who have always been told to act a certain way or behave ourselves because our light was disrupting the others.

As far as readers go, we do owe them something for joining us in the universe we've created. We should be thankful they've bought a ticket for our warped and wild ride. I always take the time to respond to fan mail or messages from readers. On occasion, I'll slip in a name or a pairing request will come to mind while I'm down the rabbit hole.

What does the future hold for books?  Will they die off?  Will my giant library of reference and fiction books be considered as foolish as my old 8 track tape collection?

I heard paperbacks were making a comeback.

Do you think self publishing limits your audience, or, do you think having product in hand to show people is a valuable tool, even if your future goals are not self publishing?

A small publisher can't do much for you. Really do your research before you sign with anyone. I have my own small Canadian press label, just as authentic as any of the others out there. I have too much in my imagination to sit there and send out thousands of emails per day, for what? I write what I want with no boundaries. Create your universe and readers will come. My Field Of Dreams has naughty immortals in it. When your series takes off, there's nobody else with rights to your work. My advice to anyone taking back work back from a publisher is, rewrite those books from before they went there and save daily rewrite files. If a movie deal shows up, nobody can mess it up but you.

As a young adult I bought an ankh at a fair, and would still wear it if I could find it.  As the sigil of life I found it to be comforting.  With knowing why I am moved by it, why did you choose it as such a visible part of the Children of the Ankh series you are writing?  Was it for religious reasons, for symbolic reasons, or otherwise?

I wish I could tell you why I chose the symbol of Ankh. I picked the names of the Clans in a dreamlike state writing. I debated switching the names out and spoke to friends about different ideas. When all was said and done, instinct told me to let it ride. The spiritual brand of Ankh as a key to heaven prohibiting entry to the hall of souls giving the Clans time to heal their mortal shells each time they die, fit like finishing a puzzle.

Your books have many five star reviews on amazon for them, do you believe that Amazon reviews help especially, or are you just happy they liked it?  I ask because there is a woman who wrote a good book I know who sent out about 50 copies and asked people to leave a review.  Since the margins of profit for some works are so narrow, I wondered the wisdom of that.

I've sent out thousands of review e-books and more paperbacks than I care to admit to sources. Sadly, that's not even a stretch. Amazon erases legitimate reviews so often, I've stopped caring. I had hundreds of reviews erased. For a long time, It felt like a personal attack. Now, I shrug and sigh. I have scathing reviews out there from reviewers, we all do. Most legitimate review sources don't bother posting if they can't give a book at least three stars.

If a three-star review has both positive and negative comments take it as constructive criticism. Learn from it and move on. As human beings, we don't always enjoy the same things. Brutal one-star reviews usually come from trolls. Look at the reviewer's account, if they've posted thousands and almost none are liked, you know they're just a troll. Now, trolls serve a purpose. Bad press is still going to draw attention to your book. If you go look at a famous author's account, they have tons of ridiculously harsh reviews. My advice for any new author would be to check the source. Never engage, do not respond, they'll follow you around to every format to mess with you.

What in particular makes the Children of the Ankh aimed most at Young Adults?  Do you have to think young, or is it in the subject matter?  I can still read my two favorite books from youth, sooo soooo long ago, and enjoy them, (From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Mouse and the Motorcycle) so I am not suggesting quality is why, but the particular question is, how does it work as a writer to aim at a certain group of readers. Your press copy for Sweet Sleep says this is not a fairy tale, this is a nightmare.  As a writer do you try to bend genres so to get the reader to have expectations and then deftly switch gears or directions to add impact of the work?  I've almost never sold any large amount of copies of books, so, I am not asking because I think it is wrong, just that I am curious the goal.

The young Adult Genre isn't like it was when we were younger. If there is YA subject matter and it's pg 13, it's YA. Violence doesn't shift a genre anymore, graphic sexuality bumps it up to New Adult. Sweet Sleep is YA, Enlightenment is YA, but at Let There Be Dragons the series crosses over to New Adult. It's a natural progression in a universe of characters. They've grown-up, and readers have been waiting for certain characters to get together since the first book. With my mix of genres, I'm dealing with a sophisticated audience that expects more, they crave out of the ordinary and want to be challenged emotionally. Spoiler alert...I kill off the main character by the end of chapter one in a brutal, unexpected way but all heroes are born out of embers that linger from the fire of great tragedy, aren't they?

If you were to suggest you have a goal for Children of the Ankh, what would it be, and why that?

Emails from people the series has touched, truly make my day. Those messages make it all worth the endless hours. We're starting a new decade with full paperback distribution, so it's poised to take off. You never know, maybe it will.

What books are on the horizon for you in 2020 and beyond?

I'm currently writing book 5 in Kayn's series, Tragic Fools. This book is so much fun to write.

Children Of Ankh Series Universe (YA Crossover)
Sweet Sleep
Let There Be Dragons
Handlers of Dragons
Tragic Fools   (Coming in 2020)

COA Series (New Adult)
Wild Thing
Wicked Thing
Deplorable Me

Children Of Ankh Universe Middle-Grade Novella Series
Bring Out Your Dead

I have a middle-grade old school sci-fi book, Mythomedia Press may release as an extra treat this year, The Repopulation Project.

What words, if any, of advice have guided you through your writing life?

It's a marathon, not a sprint. Nothing happens overnight. I'm glad it didn't, I've matured as an author in so many ways over this last decade.

Write with you filter off and be brave. Write about what scares you. Be true to your imagination. I could have dialled the trauma these characters face back or changed Lexy's age at the beginning of Wild Thing to make everyone comfortable but opted to stay true to my imagination. I have an excellent review describing Lexy's character as Unapologetically Feral. I was beyond proud. That is precisely what I was going for. Every piece of the puzzle serves a higher purpose. There's a series quote, Someone has to go into the dark to lead the others out. If not me...who?

I'm in a cover contest. Vote for Sweet Sleep here.


Just a few series twitter accounts it’s a long list