Now Available: BREAKING SILVER, THE COMPLETE COLLECTION

BSCCcoverppb

From Jade Crawford, the author of ROUGH MAGIC and AMMA, comes BREAKING SILVER, a serialized retelling of the events leading up to L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” BREAKING SILVER explores rural America through the eyes of the Gales, a family of outcasts haunted by demons within and demons without. Here we meet Tip, the gifted son of a drifting misfit. By the age of five, Tip struggles with questions of identity, chief among them his obscured past and gender identity. As the Gales dive deeper into their own history, the witches of Oz take steps to shield themselves and their homeland from a prophesied storm of mythic proportions.

Originally released as seven serialized episodes, Breaking Silver is my retelling of the events leading up to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.  Parts 1 and 2 are available together in paperback and a 99 cent digital edition. The series wrapped in January, 2018, with a two part finale.  The collected edition is now available in paperback.

Advertisements

BREAKING SILVER: COLLECTED EDITION, Available 2.13.18

WEDNESDAY: The Complete Collection of “Breaking Silver,” my serialized retelling of the events leading up to
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” arrives in paperback.

“From Jade Crawford, the author of “Rough Magic,” and “Amma,” comes “Breaking Silver,” a serialized retelling of the events leading up to L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

BREAKING SILVER explores rural America through the eyes of the Gales, a family of outcasts haunted by demons within and demons without. Here we meet Tip, the gifted son of a drifting misfit. By the age of five, Tip struggles with questions of identity, chief among them his obscured past and gender identity. As the Gales dive deeper into their own history, the witches of Oz take steps to shield themselves and their homeland from a prophesied storm of mythic proportions.”

13119966_578104662353843_4280493699352552076_o

Assuming the Position: A Memoir of Hustling, by Rick Whitaker (Book Review)

assuming

Recently, I reread Rick Whitaker’s harrowing memoir, Assuming the Position.  When I last crossed paths with this book, I was in my early twenties and identifying, loosely, as a gay male.  Today I’m four days short of thirty one, and more or less pegged as a genderfluid, femme leaning transperson.  Much has changed for me, especially the ways I relate to my male side.  Reading gay nonfiction has helped, but its rare I find a narrative I resonate with as much as Whitaker’s.

What Worked For Me

Assuming the Position recounts the author’s tenure as a male prostitute in New York City.  He could have written a direct, linear chronicle of his dates and erotic adventures.  But I don’t think that’s in Whitaker’s nature.  Instead, he delves into those memories while examining the impulses that lead him to that decision.  It’s a thematically charged book, but subtle enough to make for quick reading.

I’d forgotten the author grew up, like me, in Ohio.  I especially liked the examination of those years.  I assume that section of the book took time and care to weave through the over arching narrative.  A less skilled author might have made it feel shoe-horned.

francois-hoang-85060

I connected to the author’s growing distaste for acclimating himself in nine-to-five society, and his affinity for working outside of the law.  Given his experiences, it’s understandable, and Whitaker never came across as a naive kid going through an empty caloric, “fuck the establishment” phase. His book is a sometimes crushing, sometimes cathartic account of life on a different wavelength.

Ultimately, the author’s reasons for quitting prostitution are made clear, and they’re not only sensible, but thoughtful.  Whitaker felt he had grow reactive, moving from dates, to an after bar, to a score and back again.  He felt he had become an animal in some sense, and inelegant.  Self aware deductions like Whitaker’s tend to pull a book together for me.

RW

WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME

In my review of Call Me By Your Name, by Andre Aciman, I said that the author made me “supremely uncomfortable,” at least twice.  I came to the conclusion that whatever qualms I had with the book would always be trumped by the fact that the writer managed to get “under my skin.”  This is even more true for Whitaker’s book, being a memoir, and it makes the inclusion of said moments important to the narrative; and quite brave of him, I have to say.  Whitaker gave himself to this book.

OVERALL

Every so often, I finish a book that became such a part of my routine, that I go through a process like mourning after.  Assuming the Position was that kind of book for me.  It connected with pivotal but separate aspects of my past, present, and probably my future.  There was a kind of magic mirror for me in Whitaker’s narrative.  I don’t think I’ll be able to read it again for another ten years, but I’m grateful I revisited it.  5 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

samuel-holt-335104(1)

 

 

Divatox (Featured Fatales)

If I could describe the antagonist of Power Rangers Turbo in one word, it be “irreverent.”  Cunning but careless, resourceful yet indolent, Divatox commanded a gang of mutant pirates, cyborgs and mercenary monsters.  Her tenure spanned two years of Power Rangers history, and she was the first female villain to receive an action figure.

Divatox

Divatox was first utilized by the unsuccessful film Turbo: a Power Rangers Movie, sometime between the fourth and fifth seasons of the parent show.  While the movie was a commercial failure (it nearly bankrupted the franchise as a whole), Hilary Shepard’s portrayal of the villainess was memorable.  She didn’t take herself as seriously as a Rita, Machina, or even a Scorpina might; but she managed to overplay her wardrobe and sarcastic demeanor to a level Power Rangers hadn’t seen before.  The cleavage was, let’s face it, ridiculous.  It was in very poor taste and was ultimately a sad product if its time (See my entry on Jim Balent’s Catowman from the ’90s), but I think it was somewhat organic to the character.  This was a villainess who flaunted every aspect of her personality, and Hilary Shepard (then Shepard-Turner) has said that she ad libbed much of the character’s personality.  I would argue that Shepard herself was the co-creator of Divatox.  And she often played the Rangers’ nemesis as a loose cannon.

DivatoxThrone

Here’s something else that set Divatox apart from her predecessors: When she first appeared in Turbo, it was made abundantly clear that the new villainess was a career criminal; a pirate captain, specifically.  She wasn’t out to conquer the world and she boasted no empire or thousand-year backstory.  Elgar, her so-called nephew, made a comment about wanting to go back to “pillaging” and “plundering.”  Divatox, whose goal in the film was to forge a partnership with the “demon-like” heavyweight Maligore, said she wanted to “use his powers to raid all the riches in the universe.”  That’s not to say she didn’t progress and re-asses her goals as the story evolved.  For myself, it made Divatox a more enjoyable character.

Speaking of change, Hilary Shepard went on maternity leave when the Turbo story line continued on the small screen.  For the first half of the fifth season, Power Rangers Turbo, the arch-villain was played by Carol Hoyt.  Hoyt portrayed Divatox markedly different, but I think it was understandable.  She chose to accentuate the character’s tactful, cerebral side, underplaying her spastic aspect.  Hoyt was fun to watch, and I’m glad she didn’t try to channel or mimic Shepard’s take on the character.

Concerning her agenda during the Turbo season, Divatox simply wanted revenge.  “The ruination of my plans,” she said in the first episode, “must not go unpunished!” To which she was referring to the death of Maligore at the end of the movie.  Divatox initially tries to spoil the Rangers’ high school graduation.  When the plan failed, she repeatedly focused on destroying Angel Grove–rather indirectly.  More often than not, her rinse, lather, repeat strategies included the planting of unsuccessful “detonators” (you couldn’t say “bomb” on children’s television) and the deployment of a comical monster.  She grew increasingly frustrated as the season progressed, eventually settling in to her old loose canon temperament when Hilary Shepard returned.

It should also be mentioned that Carol Hoyt played two roles during Power Rangers Turbo; seeing as the second role tied directly into Divatox’s character arc.  By the end of the three part premiere of season five, the Rangers’ mentor Zordon was replaced by a female phantom called Dimitria of Inquiris.  Dimitria was basically Carol Hoyt’s Divatox in a white gown and veil.  It was implied several times that the two women were twin sisters.  In fact, an entire episode is dedicated to a message from Dimitria’s home planet which stated that her birth records have been “tampered with.” The messenger, Visceron, did not know the identity of the missing twin, but a later episode (“The Millennium Message”) implied Divatox may actually be conscious of her relation to Dimitria.

DivaDim

Before Dimitria formally arrives on Earth, Divatox is conscious of her.  She does everything she can to block the sage’s impending arrival, showing real fear and panic at the prospect.  When Elgar questions her about her hatred of Dimitria, Divatox declares, “This planet is only big enough for one of us!”  Or something like that.  Maybe she said “galaxy.” This show was so on the nose.  Either way, she decided Dimitria would have to be “eliminated.”  While the “mysterious” identity of Dimitria’s twin sister is never spelled out in certain terms, it does serve to deepen Divatox as a character and open some doors for her backstory.

Divatox, we can discern, was abducted as an infant by a family of space pirates, chief among them an unnamed “Pop” and a sea hag dubbed “Mama D.”  She has at least one unnamed sibling in this adopted family and a brother known as General Havoc.  Havoc and Mama D both make guest appearances.  Mama is characterized as a pushy, unloving matriarch with an Endora meets Medusa theme.  General Havoc is cordial, and is dedicated or at least fond of his sister enough to spend a hundred years building a “Space Base” near Earth’s moon for her.

DivatoxSubcraft

Divatox relocated her sub-craft (the piranha themed vessel she is seen tooling around in through the Turbo installments) to a docking port within the Space Base near the halfway point of season five.  From there she dedicated her time to building “Divazords” to match the Rangers’ own Zords and generally making their lives difficult.  She cultivated a particularly strong grudge against their new allie, the masked Phantom Ranger, and even managed to pilot a Divazord herself.

As the difficult season reached its end, the pirate queen grew resourceful.  During the final two episodes, her tenacity paid off.  Divatox utterly destroyed the Rangers’ Megazords and essential artillery.  Her crowning achievement was a full scale assault following the discovery of the Power Chamber.  The Chamber and the Turbo powers themselves were obliterated during an explosion.

DivatoxRita2

She would have destroyed the Rangers too, had she not been summoned to the Cimmerian Planet by an envoy from the Dark Specter, leader of the United Alliance of Evil; of which Divatox was at least affiliated with.  The Cimmerian Planet played host to the “Grand Monarch of Evil’s” celebratory banquet following his conquest of the Planet Eltar and its sage, Zordon.  Outgoing Blue Ranger Justin called Eltar “the source of all our powers.”

Divatox joined the banquet where she was reacquainted with her frienemy Rita Repulsa.  While we’ll likely never know the full extent of their history, we can assume they were acquainted through their mutual affiliation with Dark Specter’s alliance.  It is curious to note that flashback scenes, set at least a year before the events of Power Rangers In Space (the season following Turbo), feature Divatox’s Piranhatron foot soldiers attacking space colony KO-35 alongside the new arch villain’s Quantrons.

Divatox and Rita both angle (humorously) for command of Dark Specter’s interstellar craft the Dark Fortress and its mission to eliminate the Space Rangers, but the office is given to fresh faced Astronema, the “Princess of all Evil.”  Astronema becomes Divatox’s rival and the two of them cross paths at least twice more onscreen.  Divatox is relegated to the role of Zordon’s roving jailer, to which she quips in passing, “Why don’t I get any of the good gigs anymore?”  Though she does see some action, including a scuffle with the Phantom Ranger.

“Countdown to Destruction,” the two part finale of Power Rangers In Space was originally intended to end the six year franchise.  As such, closed endings were written for all of the recurring characters; including Divatox.  She was last seen conquering the planet Gratha.  When Zordon of Eltar died on the Dark Fortress, the resulting wave of energy vaporized most of Dark Specter’s forces.  While the likes of Elgar and Rygog were eliminated, Divatox was presumably cleansed of the evil introduced to her by her adoptive family.  When the light cleared, Divatox was shown to be a healthy brunette woman in a wavy white gown.  She was essentially dressed as Dimitria, more or less confirming their status as sisters.  The last frame we have of Divatox shows her rejoicing.  “I’m alive!” she declared.

She walked a similar path to Rita, all things considered.  While Repulsa later appeared as the wise Mystic Mother on Power Rangers Mystic Force, Divatox has never returned to Power Rangers, save for a recap episode of Dino Thunder.  But if Rita’s fate was any indication, we could assume she donned a mentor or “kindly sage” role as well.  My boyfriend recently pointed out the resemblance of  Princess Shayla from Power Rangers Wild Force to Dimitra and cleansed Divatox.

Fans of Power Rangers are divided when it comes to Divatox.  She polarizes people; I get that.  Turbo was poorly received, as a movie and a season.  She’s often criticized as cartoony and bratty.  But she was also marketable enough to warrant an action figure, unlike Rita and Scorpina.  She may not have been as powerful as Rita, but she was ultimately more industrious.  If she was bratty she was certainly less so than Trakeena, who succeeded her after the Zordon-era.  But Trakeena was undoubtedly more sober than the pirate queen or any of the arch-villainesses who preceded her; so Divatox was quite a dichotomy.  I think that’s what’s made her so endearing to fans through the years.

DivatoxRita

Will we see Divatox again?  I hope so; whether as a part of the continuing series or a version from another media.  Kyle Higgins, writer of the ongoing Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers series from BOOM! Studios could do great things with her.  Hilary Shepard, meanwhile, pointed out the resemblance between Divatox and Rita from the 2017 Power Rangers movie on her Facebook (she’s lots of fun if you’re not following her, by the way), so she remains in people’s consciousness.  I would bet we’ll see her again.  In the meantime; thanks for the memories, Divatox.

Beyond Breaking Silver: Collected Edition and Forthcoming Sequel

Breaking Silver, my serialized novel chronicling the events leading up to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, may be finished but its legacy continues in February with a collected edition and the promise of a future sequel.

breaking_silver_promo1

On Tuesday, February 13th, Breaking Silver will receive a new edition collecting all seven episodes.  The complete story will be priced at 8.99 in paperback with a bargain price of 5.99 for digital readers.  In the not too distant future, I will return to Oz for a sequel exploring…

  • The fate of the Gale family, following the devastating tornado.
  • The aftermath of Queen Pastoria’s assault on Castle Gilikin.
  • The whereabouts of Glinda, Bride of the Southern Pylon.
  • Nick Chopper’s mercenary mission in Wingus Country.

…among other plot threats.  Thank you to everyone who supported the journey!  Hope to see you in February!

 

On Bast

We live in a vast universe. The spirits of Ancient Egypt, skilled in Shamanism, are perfectly equipped to navigate it. Their anthropomorphic natures give them inherent skills and highly evolved senses human beings lack. The Egyptians, who were excellent observers of nature, witnessed these spirits in an animistic universe. The Egyptian pantheon as we call it, offered their services as protectors, farmers, embalming experts and artisans. Bast, like many a goddess named the Eye of Ra, was regarded as the avenging, offensive hand of the imperial sun. Her protection extended to Lower Egypt, as the northern counterpart of Sekhemet. She was not a less feral, sated version of the aforementioned lioness. It was Artemis, after all, the cunning,  solitary huntress, who the Greeks associated with Bast (and by extension, the Italio-Roman witch queen Diana, I suppose).

baststatue3

Bast is a keenly realized deity whose bright eyes are always observing me. She is clear and crisp as peppermint. Though I don’t mean this in an amorous context (Bast is, after all, not considered a patron of sexual or romantic love), there is a romantic side to Bast. It’s in her refined, displaced nature, like the aloof desert cat or strays I met in Albuquerque. She also has the ability to change her shape, as the Ancients Egyptians discovered. Even after she became represented as a woman with a cat’s face, she held in her hands an aegis bearing the face of an angry lioness.

It should be noted that Bast is still a mystery to us in the modern day. What little information survives from the ancient world comes from pyramid and wall texts. There are no prayers from these bygone days preserved to Bast. Much of her past related to her relationships with the pharaoh, the state and Ra. We do know that the Egyptian people prayed to her and that countless cat statues were offered to her by everyday people. She and Sekhemet were similar in prominence to Uadjet and Nekhebet, the transcendent bird /snake goddesses found in countless artistic renderings and the pharaoh’s crown. For my part, I felt Bast’s presence gradually, but when I finally acknowledged her, she produced vivid omens and audible responses.  In the end, only Bast can teach you about Bast.

Bast can help us travail new Shamanic depths. If you feel endangered or that someone wishes you ill, Bast can defend you. If you feel you’ve been cursed, if you lack good fortune, Bast may be able to help you. She can rip away negative energy and associations. Hexes are no match for her. Bast is also a provider who can teach you how to access the universe’s abundant nature. I have known Bast to attend her totem animals, and return them if they’ve wandered off from home; though she is not strictly the “Goddess of Cats.” She responds favorably to chanting and drumming, like the lwa of Vodou and African Diaspora. Offer Bast fresh water, flowers, incense, bars of chocolate and jewelry.   More information on Bast can be found in S.D. Cass’s stellar essay, and Ellen Cannon Reed’s book, Circle of Isis.

Bastlioness2

Breaking Silver Parts 6 and 7, On Sale Now

Breaking Silver, my serialized re-imagining of the events leading up to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is now complete. Parts 6 and 7 can now be ordered together in paperback.  Or, for instant gratification, you can download the ninety-nine cent digital edition!

https://www.amazon.com/Breaking-Silver-Parts-6-7-ebook/dp/B0792HVMJ9/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1516207924&sr=1-4

The harrowing finale introduces Una Pastoria, the former Queen of Oz. Better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, the Widow Pastoria wages war upon Castle Gilikin. And before the final curtain, Tip will come face to face with the Men in Black, Tasha’s killer and the fabled cyclone we’ve all been waiting for.

Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes (Deck and Book Review)

There are some decks we resist at first.  Perhaps it’s because our interest has to incubate.  Perhaps it’s because we’re not “there” yet as readers.  Both were true for me when it came to Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes. 

tumblr_inline_nip5yjidQ61t5r41m
Let me preface by stating I was looking to break into Gypsy decks, being a Tarot and Lenormand reader already–the later being somewhat of a cousin to the Gypsy family of cartomantic decks.  My gut is always abuzz when I see playing card-themed or Gypsy-styled decks.  So why did I resist initially? Especially when it was right before my eyes and I was eager for a Gypsy deck?  Probably because I had my heart set on the Piatnik deck I kept spotting online. But months passed, and I didn’t buy the Piatnik deck.  I kept using my Lenormand and Tarot de Marseilles for daily readings. I kept bookmarking web pages that sold the Piatnik Gypsy deck.  Eventually, time and chance got the better of me. I received a gift card for BAM and purchased a copy one afternoon.

The deck itself is lovely. The overall packaging is close to perfect: a hard cover book jacket which opens up to a hollowed square for the card pack on the left, and the book itself on the right. 


If I were to describe the cards themselves in a word it would be, “friendly.”  The cards are easy to follow and they have a very pleasing soul. Even the negative cards have a pleasant feel about them.  You don’t see that in the Tarot or even the somewhat neutral, semantic Lenormand decks.  This is a deck your mom would like.

While most of the artwork is subtle, there are a handful of cards with multiple layers of imagery.  The Pig, The Mice and the Ring come to mind.  Usually this is essential to the spirit and hallmark of the deck.  Other times it greatly reduces the thoughtful minimalism.  I think the positive side of this argument is best captured by the Pig, in which we see the totemic animal in the center (pretty self-explanatory; a hefty pig representing abundance) and a semi-nude, floating woman alluding to the World Tarot trump.  The World Woman, as I’m going to call her, is present to remind us of totality, prosperity and unity. 

four

This brings me to the book itself. The author begins with a brief history of the Lenormand and Gypsy decks. She highlights a few simple spreads and goes on to commentate each of the cards.  My biggest quip with the product is that the author seeks to over-parallel the work to the Tarot.  One of the things I like best about Lenormand cards is that they are not Tarot. They are Lenormand.  You do not read the Lenormand cards as you would the Tarot.  Granted, the Gypsy decks are not Lenormand either, but they are similar in that they are each meant to be read as simplistic, semantic pictographs. I suppose creative license has to be accounted for, but it robs the deck of part of its free spirit. 

Overall, I love this deck. I’ll probably be using it fifteen years from now.  It’s one of the more gorgeous packs I own, down to the book–even if I do prefer the faded, Period images of the Tarot de Marseilles and Blue Owl Lenormand.  Lady Lorelei’s Gypsy Fortunes is a 4.5 out of 5 in my book.

11412227_465040296993614_6804067115739754967_o.jpg

Carmen Sandiego (Featured Fatales)

Among my favorite antiheroines is Carmen Sandiego.  Enigmatic, archetypal and utterly elusive…I somehow go months without thinking of her.

CSDSNES

As a child, Carmen existed on the fringes of my consciousness.  I was aware of her.  I was aware she belonged to the realm of gaming, but I was a Super Nintendo, platformer kid, and Sandiego was originally a desktop, PC villainess.  This seemed to add to the allure over time.  She represented everything I was drawn to, but remained consistently unavailable.  We weren’t much of a computer family in the 90’s, so initially, all of my experiences with the games were second hand.  I’d go to a friend’s house who owned the game and watched as more skilled players talked me through the adventures.  PBS had their surreal game show, but I was never sure what time it was supposed to be on.  It always seemed like Carmen Sandiego was two steps ahead of me.

CSDChief

The late Lynne Thigpen and…uh…I don’t know who that guy was.

So I began to piece together Carmen’s mythology from various sources.  She was a master detective turned double agent; she was the founder of a global crime ring; she was a hobbyist or “gentleman thief” who stole for fun and mental fitness.  Basically, she was Catwoman on a larger scale.  Despite her commitment to organized crime, she was pretty amiable.  Carmen had scruples.  She didn’t kill and she didn’t steal from anyone who would miss their property.  That’s not to say Carmen Sandiego was an angel.  As I learned from the game show, the agents of Carmen’s organization, VILE, were largely expendable.  Often times they served as distractions, buying the master thief time to secure a daring heist or, failing that, an escape.

CS.jpg

The Emmy Award-winning animated series debuted just as I was caught up in Carmen fever.  It was fresh and intelligent, but like all of the franchise’s television adaptations, there was something slightly obnoxious about it.  I think, for me, it was the theme song, and the Only-Funny-if-it’s-the-90’s version of Chief with his disembodied head.  I felt the way about these elements as I did the unsavory acapella group from the live-action game show.

That being said, I thought I could find Carmen through a slightly less pop-cultural lens.  I had to study or get my hands on the source material.  I never managed to obtain the original games, even when an SNES version was released.  But I did dork out with Wendy’s, when the Carmen Sandiego Kid’s Meal was released.  For a while, I collected the artwork from the greasy, salt-marred bags, and I held on to the gear for a couple years.  I remember the Carmen passport specifically, which I kept in the locker for the balance of third grade.  Because the artwork wasn’t equipped with cheesy voice actors, I felt like I finally met the official Carmen, and I found that I loved her world of glamor, intrigue and freedom.

 

And then I forgot about Sandiego, like the rest of us, for ages.  I catch a glimpse of her occasionally, and the overarching feeling when I spot my old friend is gratitude.  I’m grateful to Carmen for getting my through a rough few years of configuring my gender identity and social norms, and reminding me I didn’t need to be anyone but myself.

CSDDesktop

“Breaking Silver” Draws a Deadly Curtain on 1.17.18

breaking_s_cover_parts_6_7

“The harrowing finale introduces Una Pastoria, the former Queen of Oz.  Better known as the Wicked Witch of the West, the Widow Pastoria wages war upon Castle Gilikin.  And before the final curtain, Tip will come face to face with the Men in Black, Tasha’s killer and the fabled cyclone we’ve all been waiting for.  On sale Wednesday, January 17.”