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I Get To Be Scholarly All Over The Radio

Talking about these guys.

Sometimes in the name of promoting my work, I get to do really cool things. Including talking about stuff I love. 

Because I wrote an essay for The Comics of Joss Whedon, I went on my local NPR affiliate, Ozarks At Large to talk about Avengers. 

Part of the discussion veered into the history of comics, in which I pointed out that comics weren’t always as squeaky clean as we thought they were.  Before the Comics Code, comic books grew out of pulp fiction.  superman had roots in John Carter of Mars.  Batman has more than a passing resemblance to The Shadow (albeit without guns and with pointy ears instead of a fedora).  It was great to delve into some of the material that I touch on in my essay. 

My only moment of drain brammage was when Kyle Kellams asked me about my other recent work.  I was able to talk about Alternate Hilarities:Vampires Suck.  But because he asked me about recent work, I completely blanked on mentioning that I have a book series out!  So yeah, I meant to menton Tranquility, and completely forgot about it.  

If you want to hear my interview, it will be out tomorrow (Wednesday) on Ozarks at Large at Noon and 7:00 P.M.


Eta: due to the multiple elections in the area, my story got pushed out.  Actual news does that from time to time.  But it should air sometime soon.  I’ll post the time when I Know it. 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.


 You have to feel sorry for Anna Jarvis.  All she wanted to do was honor her mother.  Instead she ended up creating her worst nightmare. 

Like all of us, Anna had a mom, and her mother had big ideas.  Anna’s mother, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis believed that mothers had the power to make the world a better place. 

As Anna grew up, she watched Ann form social clubs to improve health, medicine and sanitation for children.  During the Civil War, she had the mothers in her clubs pledge to remain friends no matter what side of the conflict they were on.  After the war, she organized a Mother’s Friendship Day to reconcile those divided families. 

When Ann passed on, Anna wanted to honor her.  Her mother had hoped for a day honoring mothers, and Anna thought it was a fitting tribute.  

The first year, Anna had a few friends over to observe the day her mother passed away.  Within six years, President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday called Mother’s Day.

Then Anna watched it all go sour. 

She’d intended for the holiday to be an inexpensive observance.  She wanted people to spend time with their mothers, and write letters of thanks.  Instead they started buying cards and candy.  People were making money off of her holiday.  

There is a story in the Bible that Jesus saw businessmen profiteering off of the Temple.  He became so enraged that he flipped over their tables and drove them out. “How dare you turn my father’s house into a den of thieves.”  

 Anna must have felt the same way: how dare you turn my mother’s holiday into a day to make money.

And although Anna had no children of her own, this mother of Mother’s Day started attacking her own “child.”  She filed a lawsuit to stop at least one Mother’s Day festival, and was arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mother’s convention where women sold carnations to raise money.  

In later years, Anna told reporters that she wished she had never started Mother’s Day.  And in a bittersweet ending, she spent her final years in nursing care surrounded by the cards and flowers she hated.  All sent from fans who wanted to thank her for starting Mother’s Day.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Travelogue : Beware the Evil Oil


Quapaw Bathhouse

This weekend, for Hubby’s birthday we went to Hot Springs for a day out without the kiddos.  

I’ve been down to Hot Springs maybe a handful of times in my life.  Hubby lived there for two years while he went to the Arkansas School of Math and Sciences (and the arts) (I like to joke that he went to Special School).  

The town is built over a series of – say it with me now – hot springs.  It’s known for it’s bathhouses, and a racetrack that’s all that is left from a time when Hot Springs was the mob-controlled precursor to Las Vegas.  You can literally walk down the street and see water flowing out of the ground in places.  Some of the fountains where it flows actually put out steam in summer. 

We stayed at a Bed and Breakfast known as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was located in a log home on secluded acreage with a front porch, porch swing and hummingbirds.  Hubby and I checked in and sat on the swing watching the hummingbirds all afternoon.  Then we found a Cajun restaurant  for dinner out on Lake Hamilton called Cajun Boiler.

DeGray Lake

DeGray Lake

There are several lakes in the region. The next day we drove over to DeGray lake and rented bycicles from the lodge.  We biked all afternoon, then headed into town for dinner. 

Unlike Branson or Vegas, there aren’t a lot of big entertainment shows.  But there is a magic show – Maxwell Blade.  We bought tickets to see him, then looked around the bathhouse row district.  

We went into one of those flavored olive oil places.  This one was called Evil O (olive spelled backwards).  We went in and sampled some of their products, which included food rubs and marinades.  Most of them were excellent, and we might have bought something if not for what I did next. 

I’m not a big fan of spicy things, but hubby gave me a chipotle oil to try.  He tried it first to make sure it wouldn’t be too hot for me. And it wasn’t.  At first. 

Then I swallowed it. 

Jesus wept, ya’ll.  It was bad. 

The Buckstaff Bathhouse


I don’t know if I got capsaicin on my vocal chords or what, but it burned.  And then I coughed, and the burning spread all over my throat.  By the third cough, the insides of my ears were on fire.  I stumbled out of the store and my husband and the owner followed, trying to get me to drink water and eat bread.  

Neither helped.  The oil caused the peppery stuff to stick – much like I imagine napalm sticks to things. The water just spread it.  And now it mixed with my mucus.  So just when the fire seemed to be dying down, I’d cough again and unleash a new furry hell on my throat. 

By now, hubby figured that he’d better move me, because seeing me out front of the oil business might drive customers away.  If it did, I’m sorry.  

There was a famous cupcake place next door called Fat Bottom Girls.  (At least, they were on food network).  I asked hubby to get me some milk please.  Did I want a cupcake with that? 

Nosirree Bob.  

Hubby says that’s how he knew I was in a bad way.  I didn’t want a cupcake.  

I drank a 16 oz glass.  It took the whole thing to quench that fire. And for hours after that, I had flare ups if I coughed.  And I was so keyed up that I just wanted to go somewhere and cry for some weird reason.  

Bates Motel

The Bates Motel?

We window shopped a bit longer, then wandered over to Deluca’s pizza, which is located near a motor inn that looks – I swear to Bob – like the Bates Motel. 

If anyone knows what’s up with that, please drop me a note.  

We walked off dinner in the park behind the bathhouses until time for the magic show.  

Hubby was ready to head back, but I wanted Ice Cream (wouldn’t you after a day like that?). We stumbled on Dolce Gelato.  This was my first experience with Gelato.  I’m going to have to pull out the ice cream mixer and experiment. 

We were in a hurry to get back and pick up the kids Sunday, but we made a point to stop at Burl’s Smokehouse in Crystal Springs.  It’s a great place to get sandwiches to go. Particularly on homemade bread. 



Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Just in Time for the Avengers!

This is ironic. My last post was about how I don’t watch much TV, and now here I am blogging about a media tie-in project.  Maybe I shouldn’t have stated that I don’t watch much TV.  Instead I’m selective about what I watch.  Yeah. That’s the ticket.

Because Of that sweet, sweet tie in money Avengers coming out, I have a very important announcement ™.  An essay that I wrote comparing and contrasting Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog with Watchmen  will be in The Comics of Joss Whedon: Critical Essays. 

My paper is titled “Joss Whedon, Alan Moore and the Whole Horrible Future.”  The collection will be out in the fall from McFarland.  

The details are here:

I don’t typically think of myself as an academic, but this is the third pop culture analysis essay that I’ve had published.  The other two were on the shows Alias and Supernatural for Smart Pop books.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

These shows all seem to  have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

These shows all seem to have something in common. Could it be the marketing?

I was one of those kids who grew up with a TV on in the house all the time.  So I remember things most people my age don’t, like Carter being president.

So it’s a little surprising that I don’t watch TV.  Not much anyway (if you wave a Marvel superhero in front of me, you can usually get my attention).

By contrast, my husband’s family watches TV all the time.  All. The. Time.  Like, that’s what they do at family gatherings.  Christmas this year was an excuse to binge watch Turn (which is great).

It’s a little ironic, too.  Because my husband is more hypervigilant about how many hours of screen time our kids get.  I’m all: meh.  I have vacuuming to do.  Here child: watch more My Little Pony.

Maybe my lack of TV enthusiasm comes from knowing what my choices are.  The odds that something is on are good, but the goods are a bit odd.

Here is my interpretation of the major networks.

CW: Wangst! Young, hot sexy Wangst!

SyFy: we hate science fiction!

HBO and AMC: we don’t!

SyFy: well dang!

FOX: we’re sorry we killed Firefly! Really, really sorry! If we gave you another season of X-files, would you forgive us?

ABC: think of us as the Disney Channel for grownups.

Disney: We’re basically one big commercial!  Filled with more commercials! How Meta is that?

CBS: get off my lawn you dang kids!

History Channel (circa 1990): that H logo? Stands for Hitler. All Hitler, all the time.

History Channel (today): what history? Have some pawn shops and alligators.

Lifetime: we like to show movies of abused women.  Because that’s empowering.

PBS: Come for Sesame Street, stay for Dr. Who


I’d like to have commented on more, but as I mentioned before, I don’t watch that much TV.


Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Engraved Portrait Of John Paul JonesSome of the stories around the American Revolution almost have the ring of tall tale legend to them.  One of these was that when John Paul Jones came under fire from the British on the High Seas, they demanded that he surrender. Outmanned and outgunned, he supposedly said: I have not yet begun to fight. 

His life makes for interesting stories, but what happened to John Paul Jones after he died is just as interesting.

In a pickle

After the American Revolution, John Paul Jones served the Russians under Catherine the Great before returning to Paris to once again work with the Americans.  Before he could take up his post – negotiating for the freedom of Americans taken prisoner by Algerian Pirates – he died face down in his bed from kidney failure.

At the time, France was in the midst of the revolution.  Although the French king had yet to be deposed, he and the rest of the aristocracy weren’t very popular.

In this turbulent time, The American minister to France, Gouverneur Morris (no relation to me) didn’t want to draw attention with an elaborate public funeral.  So he asked Jones’s landlord to bury him quietly for as little as possible.

But the commissary whom they applied to for a burial permit was a fan of Jones.  So he offered to pay Jones’s funeral. For a charity funeral in revolutionary France, the commissary paid a princely sum: 462 francs. Approximately three times the cost of an average funeral. 

With this fee, the commissary paid for an expensive lead coffin, and a large quantity of alcohol.  The alcohol essentially pickled Jones’s body, just in case the Americans might ever want to come get it.  

113 years later, the Americans finally decided to do just that. 

The Bored Ambassador

Horace Porter was as close to American aristocracy as one came to in 1897.  His grandfather had been a colonel in the American Revolution, and a founding member of the society of Cincinatti.  His father had been a Governer of Pennsylvania.  

Horace had an Ivy League education, followed by a distinguished military career.  He served under Grant in the Civil war.  Robert E. Lee borrowed his pencil to make notes on his terms of surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.  He was invited by President Lincolon to attend the play at Ford’s theatre in the presidential box (Mary Todd Lincolon was his cousin), but he declined.  (He did a lot of other astounding things, but for the sake of brevity, I won’t touch on them.  Look him up!)

In 1897, president McKinley appointed him as America’s first full ambassador to France. As a foreigner in a strange country, he no doubt needed something to fill the hours in between  state dinners, signing paperwork and reading dispatches.  So when he realized John Paul Jones was buried in Paris, he decided to visit the grave.  (Horace had been the driving force behind finishing Grant’s tomb – and presumably he knew firsthand that grant was buried there).

Except, there was no grave.

The Hunt

When Jones was buried, his few friends in predominantly catholic, Revolutionary France put him in a cemetery for Protestant foreigners.  Then they failed to properly fill out the paperwork.

At the time, the land was the property of the crown.  Sometime later, the French government sold the land.  It became a vegetable garden, then a place for animal fighting matches.  And a dumping ground.  Now the cemetery had a grocery store, laundry and apartments on the land, as well as several wells.

All Horace Porter had to go on was information in a letter sent to Jones’s  family.  It took him six years to find the property.  Then the owners wanted to charge him to dig for the body, figuring that the wealthy US government would pay.  Eventually, Teddy Roosevelt stepped in, securing funds from congress. 

The Find

Workers had to excavate the cemetery working underground – below the buildings.  The work was hot and gruesome.  Workers eventually uncovered five lead coffins.  The third of which was the best made.  This one proved to be Jones’s.  When workers removed the lead, they discovered that the body was so well preserved that the face was still recognizable.  Morticians made a positive ID by comparing the corpse to a life-sized bust of Jones.  **

The Second Funeral

John Paul Jones died a sad, ignoble death.  Most of his friends gave him the brush off.  He died alone and few people went to the funeral.

By contrast, his second funeral would put the more recent funeral of Richard III to shame.  France accorded him full military honors and an escort across the ocean to America.  There multiple cities argued over the right to inter him.  Eventually he was laid to rest in Annapolis, Maryland.  There president Theodore Roosevelt eulogized him.

And at long last, a man who is considered by many to be one of the fathers of the U.S. navy was laid to rest at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.

And in a strange twist of karma, Gouverneur Morris also died ignobly –  from internal injuries after trying to clear his urinary tract with a piece of whalebone.  He’s buried in an easy to find grave at St. Ann’s church in the Bronx. 


** you can actually see photos of his preserved body online if you Google them.  It’s no more graphic than a photo of a mummy in a National Geographic article.  But I won’t post them here, just in case there are kids, or people eating, or kids eating.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

Have We Learned Nothing From Jurassic Park

The other day I read that scientists are putting genes from an extinct woolly mammoth into elephant cells to recreate the long-extinct species.  Because? Science! I guess. 

The scientists doing the research say that they hope to expand the territory of existing elephants out of reach of humans so that they don’t go extinct.  Then maybe bring back woolly mammoths.  They weren’t really clear on how that is supposed to work. 

I’m a bit skeptical for two reasons:

1. I’m not really clear on how this counts as bringing back an extinct species, since they aren’t recreating an entire woolly mammoth, so much as they are giving an elephant short ears and a woolly coat. Would this thing actually be a mammoth, or a created new species.

2. Whenever a creature is introduced into a non-native environment where it has no natural checks on it’s growth, it usually upsets the environment. Look at the havok zebra muscles are wreaking on inland freshwater lakes in the United States, lion fish in the Caribbean, rabbits in Austrailia and gray squirrels in England. 

There are other ethical questions that some scientists and biologists are asking, but I don’t feel qualified to comment.  Needless to say, I’m just glad that we haven’t found any Velociraptor DNA yet. 

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

 More Super Heroes than a DC Reboot 

Midsouthcon is one of the first conventions that I ever went to along with Rockcon in Little Rock.  Rockcon is gone, but Midsouthcon is still going strong.  


I’m more familiar with literary conventions in Oklahoma and Texas.  Midsouthcon has quite a bit more competitive, high-caliber costuming.  The hall costumes are amazing and the masquerade costumes are even more amazing. 



But I didn’t see as many familiar faces this year, because apparently the convention was scheduled at the same time as Gulf Wars. 

I did see Melinda LeFevers, who has a new book coming out from Yard Dog Press next year.  It’s going to be called Memoirs of a Hoarder.  Sounds intriguing. 

I also ran into an old fencing buddy, Leif Hassell, one of my favorite members of the Darrell Awards jury members Tim Gatewood (I promise I’m not sucking up) and famous Arkansas Restaurant Blogger Kat Robinson. Her daughter is not a baby anymore. And had the most creative Rainbow Dash costume out of many, many Rainbow Dash costumes at the convention this weekend.  Buy her book Arkansas Pie.  Because pie.  

The trip home went quickly as well.  I was even able to get home in time to spend time with my favorite two super heroes, Princess Batgirl and Prince Superbaby.


Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

It looks like Wonder Woman is getting yet another new costume change.


But not everyone is happy about things.  Some comics creators are out there giving us their humble opinions about why the costume dosen’t work for them.

First up: J Scott Campbell, who wrote: “ gotta say, shoulder pads, especially big bulky metal ones NEVER look good on women. Everything about them is unfeminine and lacks style. No grace to this approach at all.” 

To get some idea of what Campbell thinks is stylish and feminine, this is his tribute to the wizard of Oz.

Does Dorothy keep her internal organs in a pocket demension?  Or is she built like a TARDIS?

Also weighing in is Erik J. Larsen, who draws women like this:

Please note that her thigh is bigger than her waist.

Larsen tweeted:

I’m tired of the big two placating a vocal minority at the expense of the rest of the paying audience by making more practical women outfits

Simply put–these aren’t very good costumes. They’re bulky and clumsy and unattractive.

Largely the arguments are either “Nobody would dress like that” (to which I point to the thousands of cosplayers who clearly disagree)…


… or “That costume is impractical” (to which I point to the many athletes who participate in sports and wear considerably less…


… because bulky clothes actually hinder movement). 

I guess, having been a Wonder Woman fan since the 70’s TV show, as well as a cosplayer, former ballerina and SCAdian, I’m as qualified as any woman to offer a rebuttal.  


1.  Those unfeminine shoulder pads?  They’re called spaulders.  People who actually fight in armor with with swords actually use them.  


2. Nobody would dress like that.  But cosplayer do. 

Yeah, but I’ve heard of cosplayers wearing nothing but a jar of peanut butter.  Would you call that a good costume?

3. Many athletes wear less.

It depends on the sport. When I danced, it was usually in a leotard.  However, part of the point of ballet is to exhibit the dancer’s physique. And I never had to worry about my personal safety.   Wonder Woman is going into battle, not dancing swan lake.

You want to know what athletes wear when they go into battle?


Her armor does not hinder her movement any more than a police officer’s Kevlar or a soldier’s flack jacket (or Batman’s Kevlar uniform) would.

And  also?  I want to be her when I grow up.

The thing is, women aren’t a vocal minority.  Statistically, we’re about half the people buying comics in the shrinking market these days.  And we want to be able to see ourselves in our heroes, just the same as the guys do.

We’re more likely to do that when the heroines we read look less like cheesecake, and more like someone who could take on the bad guys.

Just a thought.


Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

We’ve Lost the Mark Twain of our Time.

My Facebook feed is blowing up with memorials to Terry Pratchett (or Sir PTerry as his fans like to call him.) Unsurprising, since I know a lot of fantasy and scifi authors.

Many stories are recycling some of his best quotes. They remind me of things Will Rogers, Mark Twain and Ben Franklin said. I hope somewhere in the afterlife there is a place for people like that to gather. I bet if there is, then Terry is there too.

I’ve been turning over in my mind what to say about him since I found out that he passed away on Wednesday. Partially because I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said so well elsewhere.

It’s a little surprising to me that we never met. So many of my writer friends, and so many of my fannish friends knew (or had at least met) Terry. But it seems like the years that Terry visited North American conventions always coincided with years that I’d taken a break, so it was never meant to be.

I’m told by friends that his speaking style and wit were exactly like his writing style. I’m sorry never to have been able to know that for myself.

I was “introduced” to Terry in 1999. I lived, about as miserably as one can possibly live, by working the night shift for the census bureau in Kentucky. There a coworker handed me Interesting Times and told me that I would enjoy it.

Terry’s work made me laugh, which I needed. But more than that, I connected with the sharp observations that were hidden under the wit like thorns under a rose.

Neil Gaiman recently wrote about how Terry had anger inside of him. I understood that anger because everything in my life made me angry back then.

But more than that, I loved the Discworld books because they were fun. Pleasure reading is something writers don’t often get to do. Too frequently, we’re trying to peek behind the curtains and see how the show is put together. Here were a set of books that I could just read and enjoy without looking for the seams.

In one summer I blew through Terry’s considerable backlist. I suppose that the books were my escape. When I hated life, I could open up a book-sized door into the Discworld and live there with Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind and Commander Vimes for a while. Who needed happy pills? I had Ankh-Morpork.

I haven’t read the newer books, though I need to. Life has been good to me this last decade. I suppose I haven’t needed to visit Discworld now the way I did then.

Perhaps I won’t read them. As long as I haven’t read them, there will always be one more great reading adventure.

But I suspect an unread book is like an uneaten heart-shaped box of truffels: the longer you wait to enjoy it, the more the actual experience pales in comparison to the way you imagined it would be.

I wish I had some kind of Pratchettesque way of saying that. But I’m no Terry Pratchett.

Originally published at Tracy S. Morris. You can comment here or there.

About Me

I'm the author of the Tranquility series, which is a series of urban, rural, urban fantasy mysteries that aren't really urban.

Think Green Acres meet The Hardy Boys, Jeff Foxworthy meets The X-Files or Eureka meets The Beverly Hillbillies.

The latest in the series, Bride of Tranquility is a murder mystery set in a haunted hotel during a Renaissance wedding.

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May 2015


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