AMBER LOVE 14-JULY-2015 Okay, so maybe you’ve never heard of #CaicoCon. In August of 2014, I had already been feeling envious of everyone traveling to the many comic cons around the world including places like Atlanta, San Diego, Seattle, Baltimore, and Europe. During Dragon*Con, a show I always think I can save up for and have never managed to get there, I decided to have an in-house “stay-cation” (I kind of hate that I just used that word) with my cat Caico. Since we sit around a lot watching TV and reading, I used the week in a mockumentary style to tweet about what I was doing. This year, I decided to put some thought behind it and planned to have CaicoCon while everyone else was in San Diego.


For a change, the New Jersey weather isn’t as awful as it could be. That means in the mornings, it’s quite nice and the suffocating humidity doesn’t settle in until afternoon. I’ve only use the air conditioning overnight a handful of times and that’s remarkable. However, because I’m going through some things, I’m not even spending time out on the porch with Caico which is something we like to do.

If you’ve followed along with my personal tribulations, it’s not a surprise to you that I’m avoiding sitting outside. That’s my ego assuming more than one person has read my updates. Here’s what’s going on in a nutshell: since January, my anxiety has been so extreme that I broke out in hives which launched my already bad allergy/histamine reactions into overdrive; basically I only need to be near certain things and I feel like clawing off my skin. Those things include pretty much everything that can’t be avoided like insects which are everywhere, unknown foods which sometimes bother me and sometimes don’t, grass, and even fabric. Yes - Fabric. All my favorite blankets have been painful for me to use and as I said, this problem has gone back to winter. I kind of needed blankets.

But now, to delve into my house-bound activities!

Between massive efforts of cleaning, I would plop down and usually watch Netflix. I had been on a good blast of reading a couple months ago and then it just died out. This week, with everyone else talking about Comic Con International (how “international” is it when it’s in California?), I wanted to participate in my own way and see how much of my reading backlog I could get through. Which titles did I feel were most important to discuss? Which books do I have press access to read? Are any titles low on the radar that I feel people might want to know about if only someone like me points them out? And remember, have a comfortable spot to sit with good lighting.

CaicoCon reading lamp


Besides reading comics, I had a couple other books that I’ve never gotten to or started but haven’t finished.

CaicoCon LawrenceBlock

1. I don’t know why, but for some reason, I had never finished the last few pages of Chuck Wendig’s “500 Way to be a Better Writer”. Wendig ascended to a demigod of writer status and his presence at SDCC is being celebrated because of some new deal with STAR WARS. I admit I wasn’t paying much attention to that part. He’s come under fire from me lately for one thing and by other women for something else entirely. I respect him. I love his TerribleMinds blog. He’s great to hear as a public speaker. But, none of that means writers like him and Neil Gaiman or Anne Rice don’t say things that piss people off. That demigod status means they fall from greater heights.

Anyway, in regards to the writing advice Wendig gives, I normally find it fun to read. In this particular book, all I really had to do was skim through it. If you’ve never read his blog, I can only describe it as littered with vulgar metaphors. That’s something he’s good at, but it can get in the way of saying something quite simple. Appendix #2 is filled with writing prompts and exercises. Here are my favorites:

“Write the cover copy of a book that doesn’t yet exist. Your book? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m not the boss of you.”

“Transcribe an interview with a mythic figure — the Devil, an archangel, Hephaestus, your deceased parent, the Burger King, whoever tickles your pineal gland.”

lawrence block caicocon

2. Lawrence Block’s “Telling Lies for Fun and Profit” is a book I picked up a couple years ago. Block has gone through the effort of updating it for modern times of publishing. I’m not that far into it, but I like how his words feel like he’s talking to you directly in a classroom. In fact, he approaches the section as if this was one of his classes. A question is posed by figment-students and he goes into the reply. I’m guessing it’s because he’s spent so long in classrooms and interviews that he can adeptly predict what questions he’ll be asked to field. Here’s an excerpt I found particularly interesting because it opposes everything else I’ve heard from mentor authors:

“Foremost of these [arguments] is that the short story is infinitely more difficult to sell than the novel. The market for short fiction was minuscule when I was starting out twenty years ago. Since then it has consistently shrunk to the point of invisibility.”

3. The only novel I’m reading at the moment is Patricia Parks’ “Re Jane” which I admit, I didn’t even know how to say the title until I got a few chapters into it. I thought it was “Re” as in Regarding, but it’s not. It’s about the life of a Korean-American girl looking for her first job after graduating college and her name is in the American first name, last name style “Jane Re,” but in Korean, the surname goes first so “Re Jane.” And it’s pronounced “Ree”.


CaicoCon CashCarrie

I started out with the short, easy read CASH + CARRIE by the creative team of Shawn Pryor, Giulie Speziani, and artist “Penny!”. Shawn and I are old friends and he’ll be a guest on this week’s Vodka O’Clock to talk about this comic and where he’s moved on in the industry.


CASH + CARRIE is about Dallas Cash and Inez Carrie, a couple of seventh graders at Mason Middle School who investigate cases much like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. This issue begins the story of Cash and Carrie solving the mystery of who took the Danville High School goat mascot and why. Cash is the technology guru who checks the security camera feeds and sees that the data has been edited. When the mascot is anonymously returned, it doesn’t mean that the mystery is over. They leave off with a sinister cliffhanger after the brief 12 pages with a lot of extra content including a 4-page backup and pinup art.

It’s great for young readers. The tone is cheery, not too dark. The colors feature a lot of soft pastels. I hope CASH + CARRIE finds success in the kids’ comic market.

For fans of: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, Teen Titans Go!, Lumberjanes


AERO-GIRL is about a teenager named Jackie who is her dad’s heroic sidekick. She thinks she’s ready to go into crimefighting battles solo, but her mother is against it. The creative team (Feenstra, Eneas, Riebeling, Hernández, Wollet) does a great job moving the story along with dynamic art and appropriate colors to shift the mood of each scene.

Like a lot of superhero comics, AERO-GIRL starts off with action, has a traumatic event, then the titular character moves through stages of depression and rebounding to become strong and vital. Through the narration, readers learn about the force called the “battle spirit” which is believed to be transferred from one hero to another upon death. During the first two issues, that battle spirit takes a surprising turn and embodies a nearby gorilla during a scene at the zoo. The gorilla and Jackie become friends and crimefighting partners.

Jackie’s skills come from her gymnastics training which she only takes in school to make herself a better superhero. Plus her father owns some kind of manufacturing company which makes their cool jetpacks and gear.

For fans of: Batgirl, Batman & Robin, Ms. Marvel, Static Shock


I feel terrible that I know how talented the team of Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko are, but I’ve never taken the time to read their comics. I follow them on Twitter and I’m big fan of Hardman’s heavily inked, noir style I see in sketches. Plus, they’re nice people who save kittens!

The latest project from Bechko/Hardman is INVISIBLE REPUBLIC. I was wary about it. I have to be in the right mood for political thrillers. Issue 1 did not disappoint or put me off in any way. Jordan Boyd’s coloring is spectacular! There are a few color artists I can think of to pair with Hardman’s style, and I didn’t know Boyd’s work at all. This was a great opportunity for me to get to know someone else’s work and see it used in such a sound way.

A manifesto is discovered by a journalist. It was written by the cousin of a dictator and recounts their earlier life on the moon, Avalon when they were poor and living off the land. What we learn in this issue is that he rose to power and the regime eventually crumbles leaving everyone in a dystopian world where only certain people can leave the planets for better places. INVISIBLE REPUBLIC is from the point of view of the journalist that finds the diary and then flashbacks of the events. It’s from Image Comics and I believe the first trade paperback will be out in August, collecting #1-5.

For fans of: Lazarus, Letter 44, The Nightly News, Dawn of Planet of the Apes

Other comics read this week:

CaicoCon Bunker

THE BUNKER volume 1

RAT QUEENS volume 2

GRONK volume 1

ODDLY NORMAL issues 6 & 7


AIRBOY issues 1 & 2

CaicoCon OddlyNormal


It’s sad yet true that I’m a total couch potato these days. My physical activity plummeted after losing my full time job. And of course winter had me happily housebound anyway. Regardless of the various reasons and my mental health, I’ve watched a lot of Netflix, mostly repeating things once I know I like them.

Plus, #CaicoCon coincided with #SharkWeek this year and based on the tweets I saw, it seems like Discovery Channel did keep to their promise of improving and ditching all the fake documentaries. They ran repeats, so unfortunately a lot of the sensationalized and less-then-truthful segments were still aired, but the new content showed a couple of female marine biologists when there had been none last year; and there were some shows that were about other things besides Great White bites. Not a lot of improvement, but it was a baby step in the right direction.

CaicoCon SharkWeek (2)

CaicoCon SharkWeek (1)

New things that I’ve watched:

THE OFFICE, the American one, for some reason Gervais was too annoying for me to watch the British one.

CEDAR COVE based on the Debbie Macomber novels of which there are 15 books. Very white, small town setting. Not that it’s filled with great stories or drama, but I like to watch shows where the towns are cute.

THE GLADES, a Florida-set detective show with very little of the police procedural tone leaning more towards a romance with police stuff in it.

LONGMIRE new episodes came out! Based on the Craig Johnson novels of which there are 12 books so far. Hey, did you know there’s a con for this? I didn’t! And it’s happening this month! http://buffalowyo.com/longmire.html

CHASING LIFE about a twenty-something reporter who gets cancer while making her way through the newspaper ranks. I think the end of the first season could have made a decent show finale, but I saw on ABC Family’s Twitter that a new season is coming.

SENSE8 an exceptionally slow show as far as plot goes. The genius of J. Michael Stracynski and the Wachowskis (with stellar theme by Tom Tykwer) has a racially- and gender diverse cast set around the world in magnificent places; these people are “Sense 8’s” and can enter each other’s worlds while simultaneously being in two places at once. It’s extremely confusing. But there are some fun parts like when an Asian woman, Sun, who secretly is a “fight club” champion when not running her family’s company steps into the body/mind of an African man, VanDamme, to beat down a gang of criminals. It has great sexuality and gender differences that are handled better than most shows. However, it’s still a cast “pretty people”. There’s lots of hot sex too. I never even finished watching it because it’s not that compelling. I’ll put it on when I feel like seeing far off cities I’ll never visit, but otherwise, it’s like gender-diverse softcore porn which I need to be in the mood for.

Often rewatching to find a happy place: MURDER, SHE WROTE, PSYCH, PARKS & REC, 30 ROCK, UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT

watching netflix Kimmy Schmidt


I did leave the house on a couple of occasions. A couple of times because I had to for things like letting the exterminator fumigate again or going shopping to replace all the things in the house that may have allergens. But then I got an email inviting me to a day in New York City to go to a Harry Potter event at the Met. Caico had company while I was out, but I missed her.

I am no fan of NYC, but that’s where things are. I can’t help that. I’m also too broke to travel into NYC because it costs me around $50 just to get there not including doing anything once there, easily $100/day. So a friend had an extra ticket and then offered to cover my train expense. Despite my Guilt of Poverty, I said yes because it sounded like fun. Of course it’s hot and I still feel the need to cover up my skin, plus I hurt myself in typical old fart fashion carrying laundry up the stairs; but I got my hot mess self out of the house for day. Since there are so many pictures of the Met, that’ll be a separate post.


Speaking of Caico, she’s been practically glued to me for months. But during the weeks of tearing apart my bedroom and slowly getting through each closet to clean/reorganize, she shocked me. She has always walked a little funny for as long as I’ve had her (since she was 5) and lately I can even hear her joints creak when I pick her up. She has never ever been athletic. She would take small jumps on whatever kind of tiers should could find before directly leaping up onto a shelf or furniture. And lately, she’s has a harder time getting up onto the bed and the desk (which is why I have the pet stairs or leave my chair so she can get up on that first). Well, Friday I was on the floor and sorting through comics to donate. The mattress is standing up on its side, balancing in the middle of the room. Caico jumped up on the bench which she never started going on until all this cleaning began; and then leapt all the way up to the edge of the mattress! She even jumped down by herself. It was a miracle it didn’t topple over.


After a long day on my feet in New York, this is what home had waiting for me:


Of course I absolutely had to finish off my night with a viewing of PSYCH, Season 2 Episode 16, “Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead” where they investigate a missing mummy!

Psych at the museum

Subscribe to my newsletter

Avoid those algorithms! Get news delivered to your inbox. You'll also receive a free short story when you subscribe!

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.