Honey and Salt
by David Perlmutter
Genre: YA Fantasy
Honey and Salt is a superhero novella that will draw you in the just fight of a few super heroines. The story is packed with action and humor.
Their quest against evil superheroes and against their own weaknesses is refreshing. You can identify with them and embrace their battles.
Rousing fantasy action with amazing young girls ready to fight for justice and for the oppressed.
If you enjoy a good action with an unusual plot, then this is the book for you.
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Muscle Girl only called one of them, it seemed, and the others found out about it through their internal grapevine. That was all it took. Those five ladies must have some kind of second sight or ESP when it comes to each other. That would explain why they work so well as a team. Though probably not why they fight with each other so much over stupid things.
In any event, each of them made a triumphant entrance into Winnipeg from an entirely different geographic direction. I felt like a kid in a candy store watching them come in.
The Brat came from the North, right from outer space. Breaking the sound barrier as she did, which is what all of them can do when they fly, and displaying her unstoppable courage on her face completely. Her blonde-haired toddler’s appearance, and the clothing related to it- blue sweater open to reveal a white T shirt with a giant “B” on it, white skirt and boots-was as effective as disguising her true abilities as Gerda’s civilian identity. And both of them delighted in defanging anyone who was deluded enough to think of them as a “mere” or “helpless” girl. Especially in the Brat’s case, because, unlike Gerda, she was actually an adult alien.
Then Power Bunny came up from the South, from business in the United States. The light blue shirt and skirt she wore contrasted sharply with the feminine pink tones of her fur. Cheerful optimism, and her trademark humor, seemed to pour out of her, given the broad grin she had on her face. But that was a given, considering she was a denizen of the marvelous realm of Anthropomorph, where all of the creatures known pejoratively as “cartoon characters”, whom we see in the movies and television as mere 2D and 3D images, are living, breathing, full dimensional beings like humans are here. So the physical limitations of our universe mean nothing to her, and she can use the unique abilities of her race to their full advantage here. Although she also has more traditional super powers, thanks to an encounter with a runaway meteorite doing her day job as a journalist, to go along with them as backup. Making her even more formidable than the ones of her kind who don’t have that in their arsenal.
Cerberus was next, coming out from the West. She was and is a magnificent specimen of canine womanhood, despite being in the permanent physical position of being a big-eared, big-eyed and runty looking Dalmatian puppy. She was the product of a union between a normal Earth dog and a member of an alien, superpower laden species of same, the Perros, based around Sirius, the Dog Star. So, as she puts it, she got her dad’s powers and her mom’s good looks in one bargain. Once again, a very deceptive looking package able to pack a punch at the right moments. As she flew in, with a series of lusty yips and an earth-shaking howl, it seemed I could see every single black spot on her white fur coat gleam. Even the ones her monogrammed white T actually obscured.
Finally, from the East, came Candy Girl, the Titan of Teens herself. A red-haired, black-eyed goddess in appearance, as tall as a WNBA or women’s college basketball player, with the muscles, the speed and the moves to match. She managed to look drop dead gorgeous despite her largely utilitarian uniform of purple monogrammed sweatshirt, purple sweatpants, red belt and yellow work boots. Her emerald ring, the source of all of her mighty powers, gleamed like a beacon from the ring finger of her right hand. It had been given to her by a boy named Cantus, actually an intergalactic policeman-type of some note, after she had rescued him from drowning while on duty as a lifeguard. After he tragically died soon afterwards, he bequeathed the ring and all the responsibilities related to it to her. And, as he was the first one she truly loved- and possibly the only one, by her own estimation- she was not in any sort of position to refuse. It took her some time to discover the magnitude of her position, though, especially when many of Cantus’ old enemies started gunning for her instead. But she’s managed to very good at her job, in spite of, among other things, her short temper. Having a younger brother with genius-level intelligence to confide in at difficult times helps as well. And she has to confide in him more than you think. Her brain is afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome, that particular subgroup of Autism that makes those with it frequently zig when others think they should zag. This comes about frequently in the person of her sudden and unexpected losses of confidence in herself and her abilities, which can often come at the worst of possible times. But her triumphs over her enemies are far sweeter for this reason alone than they would be otherwise.
Alas, Candy- who is more likely than the others, for some reason, to have the wind taken out of her sails unexpectedly, and for seemingly and entirely capricious reasons- was humiliated coming down out of the air as they were not. A sudden and unexpected gust of wind blew her off course from her intended landing place- along with the others near MG and me- and directly towards the reflecting pool of water around most of Millennium Library Park. Where she landed with a yell- and an undignified splash.
Needless to say, she wasn’t pleased.
That was made clear by the first words I heard any of them utter in my presence.
In a sandpaper-rough tone completely and unexpectedly at odds with her angelic physical appearance, Candy swore profusely in the most unprintable language imaginable.
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I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I was diagnosed at a very young age. I wouldn’t classify it as a disability, but as a mild mental disorder, since I am still capable of doing most things other people can. I may do them in a slightly different way, but they still get done.
What are some of your pet peeves?
Loud noises that are not music, people using their cell phones and ignoring other people in public, and people saying and doing things that are wrong while believing incorrectly that are right.
Where were you born/grew up at?
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. I haven’t lived anywhere else in my life, which I suspect is rarer than it used to be. Originally I lived in the West End on Sherbrook Street, then moved to Somerville Avenue in Fort Garry, then lived 28 (!) years on Montrose Street in River Heights, and now live with my parents in a condo on Victor Lewis Drive in Lindenwoods.
If you knew you'd die tomorrow, how would you spend your last day?
Quietly, at home, waiting for the end to come, preferably in my sleep.
Who is your hero and why?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of the most thoughtful and compassionate men who ever lived, and one of history’s greatest orators. In a terrible and violent time in American history, he seemed to be the sole voice of reason, especially looking at him now. If he had not been assassinated, I suspect his influence on the world would be even greater than it is now, and we would all be living in better circumstances because of that..
What kind of world ruler would you be?
Benevolent, fair, just and kind. The best ones in all of history had those qualities.
What are you passionate about these days?
What I’ve always been passionate about: animation, music, literature, movies and TV. Particularly in trying to show how others how important they are through my own non-fiction and fiction writing, because some people still don’t get that about any of them.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Listen to the radio (chiefly the CBC) and music, mostly.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less!
Eager to please.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always knew writing was going to play a role in something I did professionally, but it wasn’t really until I sold my first story in 2009 that I knew it could be a career for me, even just a part-time one.
Do you have a favorite movie?
Yes. “Blazing Saddles”. I thought it was brilliant the first time I saw it, and I still think that it’s one of the funniest and most audacious comedies ever made in Hollywood. Mel Brooks is one of the few people in the world I can truly say that I idolize, and I have always tried to follow the example he set for me in that movie with what I write now.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Any of them, but they would have to be animated for them to really work; in live-action they’d look stilted and fake. But I’d have to write the scripts, if they’d let me, for them to be truly authentic.
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
I can’t really say I have gone on any, yet. It’s hard to do that when your literary idols all live- or lived- very far away from where you live. But, before I die, I want to pay tribute to the man who really turned me on to reading fictional prose in junior high- Jack London- by visiting his home town, Oakland, California, and seeing if there are still traces of the impoverished 19th century world he grew up in and escaped there.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
The animal I have written about most in my work so far: a dog.
What inspired you to write this book?
I have always loved superhero stories, comic, dramatic, or halfway in between, in any media. At their best, they are tales told by the old-fashioned standard of good and evil, without many complications in terms of plotting or deeper hidden meanings, which means you don’t have to have an English lit degree to understand and appreciate them. Lately, however, with the transference of the heroic DC and Marvel gang to live-action films, I have felt that the overall genre has become stuck in a very large storytelling rut. To their credit, both companies have introduced more characters that reflect the gender and racial realities of the world today, but they still have to play by the rules of a “universe” being controlled from afar by a select cabal of writers, the way they all are now. Maybe that was all right in the days of Stan Lee and Gardner Fox, when comic book writing really was a closed shop and a specialized field, but now it just limits the potential for what could possibly be achieved in the genre.
The only solution, I felt, was to create a universe of my own that truly reflected my values, my politics and my vision of the world. Maybe I wouldn’t get rich doing it, but at least I would try to provide an alternative to the corporation comics. Or, at least, that readers, if I got any, would see my work as such.
I followed the examples of my more illustrious predecessors and built up a group of admirable figures from groups in our society who are not easily understood or comprehended, and made them superheroes, by choice or fate or otherwise. They were all female, because the ones I love and respect most of all are as well, and because there’s still less of them, although the tide is starting to turn. They are all responsible and humble about themselves and their powers, and rarely arrogant. And, like most fictional characters, they are reflections of the person or people who created them. In the case of “Honey and Salt”, they reflect not only the values I personally admire, but those I despise. And, in particular, they are attempt to reflect the true diversity and strength apparent within the country I was born and raised in, which America in particular easily dismisses as unimportant.
You may notice in the story oblique references to a certain animated television program that has heroines similar to mine. That was intentional. Through a group of unlikely heroines and a fantastic setting, Craig McCracken created a brilliant television program that I greatly admired, and, unfortunately, was dishonored recently with a bad remake. In a sense, I am trying to continue the vision for super-heroics of the future he set forward there in my own way.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am awaiting the publication of my first novel, “Orthicon”, which has been locked up in the vaults of the publisher I sold it to a couple of years ago for a while now, but they assure me it will be published soon. I also intend to continue writing and publishing new non-fiction and fiction. Recently, I joined Curious Fictions, and have started publishing things I can’t sell anywhere else there, and I hope to put things from my back catalogue up there as well. Readers interested in my stuff can follow me there, as well as on my social media accounts (provided).
Can you tell us a little bit about the characters in Honey and Salt?
The central character is Olivia Thrift, who lives in the town of Headingley, which is on the outskirts of my home town, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Through watching TV, she discovers a way to make her dreams come true, which results in her being able to turn into the super-heroine Captain Fantastic and back at will. I wrote one piece about her before this, but this is her real “coming out party”. She gets accepted into the Canadian association for super-heroines, and is able to meet with her idol, Muscle Girl (the first heroine of this universe I created), who lives further north in the Interlake area. The group is interrupted by an attack on the place where they are meeting, which turns out to be by one of Captain Fantastic’s enemies. In a rage, Captain Fantastic attacks her enemy, but, in the middle of the fight, loses her powers, and is nearly beaten to death until Muscle Girl intervenes. They discover that a mysterious cabal known as the Merch, which is trying to turn everything and everyone in the world into a salable capitalist product, has designs on them and their friends. Muscle Girl calls in her colleagues from the leading superhero group she belongs to, the International League of Girls With Guns (as in muscles, not firearms), and they and Olivia combat the Merch. In the process, Olivia is able to regain her Captain Fantastic identity and powers, in a new and much improved form, but also discovers that she is more than capable of being a responsible, ethical and thoughtful human person without them.
How did you come up with name of this book?
It was borrowed from the great American poet and historian Carl Sandburg, who wrote a book with that as the title. Sandburg was a man who valued and respected the lives and work of the “little people” in the world, as his writings show, and he is a writer whose example I try to follow. But I also found in the contrast between the sweet and the bitter exhibited there a perfect metaphor for what all superheroes, including mine, have to deal with. They have to deal sometimes with prejudice and hatred simply for being what they are (“salt”), but they also get to have many occasions where they triumph over their enemies and set things right (“honey”). So that seemed like the right title in my mind.
What is your favorite part of this book and why?
The climax. It was cathartic writing it in a way I never felt before. And everybody likes to see the tables turned on the bad guys at the end, don’t they?
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
The villains were all inspired by people who are real, and that I don’t like. Several Canadian politicians, who were involved in a Canadian version of Watergate a couple of years ago, are portrayed a roman a clef style. Ditto for the current President (although he wasn’t such when I wrote this), and certain members of his party, and some people in the corporate world who did stuff they shouldn’t have recently, and some of whom (in real life) got caught doing it. These are the kind of people I can’t stand, and I know a lot of other people don’t, either. And since the common denominator between all of them is money (either making it, stealing it or studying the way people make and spend money), it seemed logical for them to all be together in the same room like that.
Some of the heroines have their origins in similar characters I encountered in my beloved television animation, but which I made sure to cast in my own image. Muscle Girl and Captain Fantastic are less inspired by specific characters and are more composites. The ladies in the Consortium are my best attempt to create characters that reflect the uniqueness of the various parts of Canada in terms of life experience, personality and speech. But I still suspect somebody who comes from those areas or are part of those groups being portrayed will somehow say I got something wrong.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
The overall plot is always kept well in hand, but I let the characters have free reign in terms of what they say, and sometimes they surprise me.
Convince us why you feel your book is a must read.
It’s not very long, and I’ve tried to make it as entertaining as possible. Which is more than can be said for a lot of books these days.
What did you edit out of this book?
Profanity. Some of my editors have told me that, the younger your characters are, the less acceptable it will be to have them swear. So, since so many of my lead characters are below voting age, I try to limit their curses to the near-beer variety (i.e. “darn”) and leave the genuine stuff for the more “adult” characters. Although, even then, this is done only when it helps move the story along, and not, as is often the case now, for the joy of doing it.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors?
My top ten writers are, in no particular order: Jack London, Robert Bloch, Frederik Pohl, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edmund Wilson, Northrop Frye and G.K. Chesterton.
What book do you think everyone should read?
“Patriotic Gore” by Edmund Wilson. The Civil War as told by the people who lived through it. You’ll never look at those times and those people the same way again.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write?
It never comes completely at once. Things evolve as I write about them. That’s why I keep going back to my main stable of characters- to flesh them out and be able to tell more fully developed stories about them.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book?
Extensive. I spend much more time doing research than writing, to make sure I get things right.
Do you see writing as a career?
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre?
Yes. Science Fiction, Fiction and Horror. Especially the old masters and mistresses, who did it so much better than I possibly could.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?
I put music on and let it rip. It really stimulates my imagination.
Pen or type writer or computer?
Usually, pen first, then computer, to work out and eliminate the kinks so I don’t have to spend so much type. Occasionally, if I’m pressed for time, direct to computer.
Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
Buck, the protagonist of Jack London’s “The Call Of The Wild”, the book that made me want to write novels. What he goes through no self-respecting dog should, but the fact that he survives it all intact is even more remarkable. It’s a real feat to write a book without a human being as a protagonist, and London did it so brilliantly. Besides, he was up in the Klondike for the Gold Rush himself, so he had absolutely no problem getting the setting and characters just right.
Advice they would give new authors?
What my half-namesake Davy Crockett is said to have had his motto: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Trying to write more than 40,000 words in one piece. Do you know some publishers won’t even read something you write unless it’s at least twice that? They need to try bring it back to the basic novel word count if they want something short, simple and accessible.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
Half of one, and half the other.
What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
Fearing that the people of that sex will reject my writing about them just because you aren’t one of “them”. Which is dumb, because the best writers can make a character believable regardless of their gender. But, in my case, there are still a lot of man-haters who think women are the only ones capable of “really” writing about women, and there probably always will be.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Certainly. It goes hand in glove with depression, which I have suffered from many times in my life. You get thinking that you can never come with anything original because it’s all been done before. But what’s all been done before, really, is the stereotypes, the false and imagined expectations of readers, and the recalcitrance of certain publishers to try anything “new”. If you write something that you really have faith in, and you can convince yourself (and then a publisher) that it has some merit, then you really can’t go wrong.
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