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Dear Reader Letter from MaryJanice Davidson on Undead and Underwater

Letter to my readers:

I love comic books. I love them like steak. I love them like Pink says she loves love. And like many great love stories, mine is complex and a little creepy. I discovered comics at my cousin's farm, devoured his entire collection of Teen Titans, began my own collection, and shrugged off what would be years of well-meant parental scorn: "Why are you reading those? You're wasting your money on crap. It's crap! And how is any of that stuff about people you've never met any of your business?" (Okay, my dad didn't care for the money I spent on comics or The National Inquirer. But he was only half right, dammit!)

As any psychiatric patient will tell you, the best way to get a teenager to cling to something with panicky strength is by making it forbidden fruit. So in no time I wasn't just gorging on Teen Titans and Batman and Wonder Woman, I broke my monogamous relationship with DC and went for Marvel's X-Men and The New Mutants. In my early twenties I got really slutty and went for Image's Gen-13 and Witchblade. Yep, I was giving money to three different comic book publishers. My dad's harping had fallen on totally deaf ears. (Flash forward: I'm still buying comic books except now they're a tax deduction. I harp on my kids, too: "When was the last time you read a comic book, young man? You close that Civics book right now and get your butt to The Source." So I say in all maturity to my father: Nyah-nyah-nyah!)

(I swear this is relevant to my new book and not another immature slash at my parents. Not just another slash.)

Anyone reading comics eventually runs across the name Stan Lee, who is to comics what God is to the universe: he practically created 'em. And I won't deny it's a little creepy how he keeps wrangling cameos in any film which is a) about superheroes he created, b) about superheroes in general, c) mentions superheroes however briefly, d) shows a graphic novel somewhere however briefly, e) is about anything. If you go to a movie a week, you'll see his face at least once a month. But I hail his genius, even as I question his choice in optical gear. Those glasses must weight a pound and a half.

One thing Mr. Lee is famous for is the superhero team-up. Because you demanded it, he'd scream in hysterical type on a comic book cover, and sometimes he'd repeat himself in case we didn't catch it: BECAUSE YOU DEMANDED IT!!!! And I'd be all, Stan! Will you kindly get a grip? I don't think I'm in a position to demand anything of you, so simmer.

Hysterical type was how the reader would find out there was a team-up of sorts. Wolverine teams up with The Thing for bake-off; Slaughters everyone. Batman and The Blob Take On The NRA. Superman sneezes and Los Angeles is GONE. Like that.

All this to explain how I came up with Undead and Underwater, with novellas featuring the Queen Betsy/Fred the Mermaid team-up, a superhero/HR executive living quietly in Savage, MN, and a story about the Wyndham Werewolves set twenty-five years into the future with a new Pack Leader.

BECAUSE NO ONE DEMANDED IT!

Yes, the shameful secret: this one was all me. My characters were going about their imaginative everyday lives minding their imaginary business when I decided to mess with them. You know what would be fun? Pairing Betsy with Fred. They'd hate each other. Instantly! Ah, the ideas that come to me when I'm head down in a sink trying to comb éclair custard out of my hair (a long story involving a dare I lost).

Once I had the idea, it held onto my brain with talons of barbed wire. Or I was getting a migraine…either way, the nice thing was other people thought it sounded great, too. "Sure, sounds fine, but I wish you'd quit talking so I can finish this root canal." Dunno what my dentist's problem was, he was all "Hold still or I could accidentally slash open your gums which would lead to a dangerous infection, blah-blah-blah." Maybe he doesn't like Stan Lee.

So in Undead And Underwater, because no one demanded it, you'll find a vampire and a mermaid reluctantly teaming up to shut down a doomsday device ("I'm sure your doomsday device will work. My issue with your doomsday device isn't that I think your doomsday device might not work. My issue with your doomsday device is that it's a doomsday device."). A Human Resources executive tries to put the human back in Human Resources while fighting crime ("Just fill out the form, please. Is that a siren? I have to leave. Back in half an hour. Or possibly ten hours. Just fill out the new hire forms, okay? It might be fifteen hours."). And the Wyndham werewolves get a new sheriff, so to speak. ("I feel bad," he said, looking down at the corpse. "I didn't get you anything.")

I don't have the words to tell readers how excited I am about this book, and how much fun it was to write; I've got my fingers crossed you'll like it, too. But either way, I can close with this:

Take that, Dad!

—MaryJanice Davidson

www.maryjanicedavidson.net