Privilege and Prejudice

By: Mike Oct 20, 2014

As our regular readers know, we live on a little horse farm. Back when I used to used to play lots of Dungeons and Dragons, one of my friends noted that horses are treated sort of like golf carts with saddles —a nice, interchangable and mostly boring means of transport. And, for those who have only ridden the occasional horse at a pony-ride or dude ranch, that may be mostly true. However, most horses aren't like that.

Our horses have likes and dislikes, and a surprisingly-complex social structure. It's like a combination of Peyton Place and Days of Our Lives, all played by middle-school actors. The usual script runs something like, "Well, Shaquana was talking over the fence with Snappy, and he says that Barbara Ann is getting fat. And she said that Barb is not fat, she's pregnant. And Snappy said that she's just fat, and that's why they moved her out with the other fat mares, 'cause mares are all fat. And then Shaquana said that all those mares were pregnant, and called Snappy an insensitive clod. Then Snappy bit her in the butt, and now they're grazing all the way across the pasture and won't look at one another, even though Snappy secretly has a crush on her."

OK, I'm guessing at the conversation, but it's easy to tell who's had their feelings hurt, and who's best friends, and which horses are ticked off with one another. So, among our various special snowflakes, one of the standouts is an aging grey gelding named R. A. Spectacular, though we just call him Speck. He's a lovely horse, and might have been a stallion if not for his personality. Speck, I suspect, may be the inspiration for Ben — he's cranky, far smarter than any horse should ever be, and often a bully. Patty's often said, "If that horse had thumbs he'd rule the world, and he would not be a kind ruler."

Because he doesn't get along with other horses well, he's usually kept in a small pen by himself. Because I hate to see a horse in a small pen, I often let him wander during the day. We've reached an understanding: I'll let him out of horsey-prison if he agrees to parole himself to the farm, stay out the grain bins, and generally behave like a gentleman. He mostly struts up and down in front of all the other horses like a general surveying his troops, just to show them that he is a special horse, and he doesn't have to stay in a stupid pasture like they do, and he gets to go graze on the forbidden grass of the front yard, which is the greenest grass of all and far better than whatever-grows-in-your-pasture loser-pony!

Saturday, while Patty and Ann were attending the Bellingham ComicCon (which was a smashing success; Patty said she signed hundreds of books), I was home getting over a flu. Earlier in the week I came down suddenly ill, and within a day or so I was considering calling our contractor and having a second toilet installed in the bathroom. I figured I needed one to sit on, and a second to throw up in, and it would be convenient to not need to change positions. Anyway, by Saturday I was feeling almost human. Saturday afternoon I heard a THUMP on the house. We live in the middle of nowhere, so what goes THUMP in the middle of the day?

I edged around the back of the house and there was Speck, up on the porch, staring intently into the back windows. I called, and he looked at me, and went back to staring into the house.

Speck Staring in the Windows
Speck, staring into the back window.
Whatever was in there had him pretty upset. He was shaking his head and pinning his ears, which is the equine equivalent of "Hey You, I'm the boss, you're a punk. Now say it. Say you're a punk, and I'm the boss, or I'm going to bite you on the butt!" (Speck uses that line a lot.)

Pony of Privilege
The Pony of Privilege.

I walked over to look in the window beside him, and this is what I saw. This spring, when we were at the Scottsdale Arabian show, Patty found a cute little ride-on-pony in the dealer's room. Because we have a cute little grandson, she bought the toy horse, and brought it home. Usually, it's kept out of sight up by the living room, but today it had gotten left by the porch door.

Speck was furious. He is the special horse, the one who gets to wander free while lesser horses are captive in their pastures. The one who grazes on the front lawns. Not only different from other horses, but better than lesser equines. Now he's discovered that there's an even more privileged horse: one that actually gets to live in the house. Not only that, but this rude little horse simply ignored all his dominance displays. The little git isn't even afraid of Mr. Speck.

I led Speck away from the window before he decided to attack the little pony, and Speck was indignant. So now he wasn't even allowed to beat some manners into the little upstart? Stupid golden-pony. He kept his ears pinned, swished his tail, and stomped like a petulant two-year-old all the way way back to his pen. He's been sullen and resentful all day. Apparently, it sucks to find out you're not the only special snowflake in the world!


Mercy Is Back in Comics

By: Mike Aug 14, 2014

A few years ago we launched a series of Mercy Thompson comic books. The series launched with an origin story called Homecoming that was eventually released as a graphic novel, and then we tried to adapt the a couple of the Mercy and Alpha and Omega novels to the comic book format. We got to work with some very talented people, and it was fun to see the stories in graphic form, but there was something missing.

Almost two years ago, we called Nick Barruchi, the president of Dynamite, with a feeling of dread in our stomachs. We carefully explained that while we enjoyed working with him and his crew, we felt that final product was slightly lackluster, and that we would not be continuing. Much to our amazement, instead of anger and blame, Nick agreed with our assessment. He carefully explained that re-hashing the novels meant that we were playing to a limited audience. That meant production costs had to be controlled, which affected how much time the artists and writers could spend, which obviously affects the final product. Then he made us an offer — if Patty would come up with an original story idea, something that she would be comfortable basing a novel on, and let him base a graphic novel on it, he would do his best to blow her away.

We thought it over, and decided to take a chance. Patty thought up a creepy story that might have made a good novel, and sent it to Nick. Frankly, our expectations weren't too high. Then we saw the story draft, and it was good. We began to hope. The first art rolled in, Patty asked for a few corrections, and they were made promptly and the revised panels showed a great deal of promise. We got more excited. Then we saw the colored versions, and we have to admit that Nick has kept his word. This is a comic we're proud to be part of.

The original plan was to skip the comic medium, and publish this as a stand alone graphic novel, but after seeing the first dozen or so pages, it was decided to release it in comic form first. So, the first eposide of Mercy Thomposon: Hopcross Jilly will be available in October. You can find more information on Dynamite.com.