Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Guest Promotion: Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Krysten Lindsay Hager is a fellow author I "met" through Clean Indie Reads Facebook group. While I don't limit myself to reading strictly clean fiction, I think it's important to give readers a variety of choices. Clean fiction, once used limited mostly to Christian publishers, it's beginning to gain traction in the mainstream. There are plenty of great stories out there without excessive violence or explicit sex, and I'm happy to do my small part to help them get read. (Full disclosure: my own novel Chasing Freedom has been accepted for listing on Clean Indie Reads website and will be linked there within the next couple of weeks).

And now, for Krysten's new offering:




Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager
YA contemporary romance
Published by Clean Reads

Blurb:
Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator's son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon's world and it doesn't help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you're dating the it guy.


Short Excerpt:
“By the way, did you hear Lauren got into Senator Agretti’s old school?”
“Seriously? I wonder if she applied there because Brendon did,” I said.
Margaux snorted. “Duh, of course. Seriously, she might as well just pee on him to mark her territory.”
“Margaux, shut up,” Kylie said.
“Whatever. Anyway, the important thing is if Brendon knew she was applying there,” Margaux said. “Em, do you think he knew?”
I hoped Lauren was just trying to follow Brendon, but what if they had planned this whole thing while they were dating? What if he convinced her to apply there so they could go to college together, wear matching American flag sweaters with big scarves while drinking hot chocolate, and jump into leaf piles just like a preppy clothing catalog. At least now I didn’t have to worry about them reciting poetry to one another in South Bend, but still, what if they had made plans to go to school together?
“Don’t worry about it,” Kylie said. “She was probably trying to follow him—like she always does. She’s so pathetic.”
Kylie was trying to make me feel better, but Lauren was far from pathetic. After all, she was pretty much the “Most Likely to Succeed” poster girl. While she was out overachieving and saving the world without messing up her perfect, bouncy hair, I was trying to get through each day. I tried to push away the image of Lauren and Brendon holding hands and drinking hot chocolate under a stadium blanket.

Purchase:
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/2m5y9OC


 Follow Krysten

Bio: Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, ​Krysten is a also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes young adult, middle grade, new adult, and adult fiction as well as humor essays. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in southwestern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows (she's addicted to American Dad to the point where she quotes episodes on a daily basis and also loves Girl Meets World). She's also a third generation Detroit Lions fan.
Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends...Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, and Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2). Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten's work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Praise for Dating the It Guy:
“A sweet, endearing story—you’ll fall in love with Emme just like I did!” --Kimber Leigh Wheaton, YA/NA author

"Hager's authentic characters will resonate with readers of all ages as they are immersed in the story  - complete with teen drama and angst, but also the relationships which make it all worthwhile." --  Leslie L. McKee, book reviewer, Edits and Reviews by Leslie

Friday, March 17, 2017

Netflix Review: Downfall



Downfall is a strangely compelling film. Not only do we know the ending, and the fate of all major characters, before we start, but we also have no heroes to root for, and the villains... well, we really couldn't hate them any more, could we?

And yet, unlike so many yawn-inducing historical dramas, this one holds our rapt attention throughout, and leaves us with much food for thought afterwards. Why is that? Are we still so fascinated with all things Hitler? Do we find satisfaction in seeing evil men and their immediate enablers get their due? Does the girl-next-door character of Traudl Junge provide enough of a different perspective to make us care--something impossible to do with the more important historical figures?

I suppose all of the above are true, but there's more depth to this particular version of the well-known story. The claustrophobic setup, both in the physical location and in the sense of immediate, inevitable doom, allows us to see all the players as we perhaps had not seen them before, at least outside of obscure historical documents.

The elephant in the room, of course, is the claim that Downfall humanizes Hitler. Some would even say he is shown as sympathetic. I admit there are moments where, having been accustomed to think of him as an abstraction, a stand-in for "monster," the viewer is surprised that he is, after all, just a man. He is kind to his employees. He clearly loves Eva. He personally makes sure his dog dies a quick death rather than starve in the ruins of Berlin or be shot by a passerby. It's almost tempting, especially considering his many temper tantrums, the best of which has been turned into a Youtube sensation, to attribute the horrors he inflicted on the world to insanity.

That, however, would be a lie. After all, the movie provides us enough moments of Hitler, perfectly relaxed and coherent, casually dismissing compassion as weakness; refusing to grant mercy to his former associates and German people alike; and counting the destruction of Jews as his crowning achievement. He might be delusional in some ways, particularly in his insistence during the first half of the movie that a military victory is still possible. But he isn't insane. If anything, while most of his underlings (and his lover, for that matter) spend their remaining time drinking themselves into oblivion, Hitler doesn't as much as break his dietary restrictions. His very last meal is vegetarian, and he makes a point to thank the cook after he is finished.

Nor is Hitler alone in this duality. Martha Goebbels is at once a proud mother and a cold-blooded killer. She also is sane, at least by legal definition, choosing loyalty to her lost cause over life itself. In perhaps the best demonstration of the power that evil ideals can have over seemingly normal human beings, she methodically poisons her children in their sleep. If the future is not the way she had envisioned, then it's not worth having. In her mind, it's as simple and logical as that.

Mind you, there are a few sympathetic characters sprinkled in: a father trying to convince his last remaining child to come home from the street fighting; doctors trying to save lives in the midst of carnage; even one of Hitler's close associates risking his life in coming back to Berlin in the last-ditch attempt to convince the boss to give up on the needless destruction. And then, of course, there is our nominal protagonist Traudl Junge, a young secretary who is so clueless of her surroundings that she takes the appearance of the Goebbels children in the bunker as a sign of hope rather than a harbinger of doom. The scene when she finally understands the truth is one of the more heartbreaking moments because we realize just how very innocent she is.

Except... as the older, wiser Traudl reminds us at the conclusion of the story, youth is no excuse, and it wasn't a case of true innocence, but willful ignorance. At the age of twenty-two, this smart, poised woman went to work for one of the most evil men in history and ended up providing a measure of comfort to him in his last days. As sins go, it's a minor one, but it's easy to understand why she spent her life feeling guilty for not choosing a different path.

I think in the end, Traudl is the character who discovers the lesson of the movie, and the reason it's so fascinating to watch. Fantastical creatures, cackling hags and monsters under the bed make for great fiction because storytellers are able to distill evil to its essence. But in real life it's very likely to appear only as a middle-aged man with funny hair who loves his dog and eats his spinach. As the last line of the movie reminds us, it's possible to find out the truth. All we can hope for in our own lives is to see the truth before it's too late.

Highly recommended.

Purchase Downfall on Amazon

Traudl Junge's memoir on Amazon

Thursday, March 2, 2017

CLFA 2017 Book of the Year Voting is now Open!

No obnoxiously over-priced gowns. No celebrities telling you how unworthy you really are. No falling props or envelope malfunctions. Just great books by freedom-loving authors, and you decide who gets the award! My novel Chasing Freedom is among the finalists.

From Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance website:

The nominations are in and counted, and the CLFA is thrilled to present our ten finalists for the CLFA Book of the Year 2017!
Beginning in January 2017, CLFA members have been hard at work, compiling a list of our favorite 2016 releases. We ran several rounds of voting to refine the list to the top ten in the survey. For the final winner, we always open up voting to the public.
Click here and follow the big red button to vote. Good luck to all and may the best book win!









Tuesday, February 28, 2017

New Blog Reviews for Chasing Freedom

Yesterday, I was delighted to receive two glowing reviews on my novel.

From Jagi Lamplighter Wright of Superversivesf:

Chasing Freedom is a lovely tale in the tradition of the old distopias–Brave New World, Animal Farm, We. Unlike nearly every other distopia, Chasing Freedom starts in a world that is practically our own and shows the disintegration of a world in the grips of bureaucratic tyranny and the rise of a new resistance full of hope and willing to bear the terrible price...
A chilling yet inspiring tale beautifully told.

From Daniel Humphreys, author of A Place Outside the Wild and Fade:

This is no ‘Red Dawn’ or ‘Equilibrium’. Yes, while the freedom fighters are more than willing to use force and violence to achieve their means, it’s not the preferred method. In a sense, this answers the question, and quite well — how would one put a nation back together again, should it come to arms? 

Read more of the review here. By the way, Mr. Humphreys gets instant cred from yours truly for even knowing what Equilibrium is, let alone referring to it in proper context. Personally, I enjoyed the movie very much, but was always bothered by an abrupt "we won, now what?" kind of ending. It's not uncommon to dystopias, and is definitely something I wanted to avoid in my novel. It sounds like I succeeded, at least in that regard. 

And now, to quote Scott Adams, "Buy my book! It has words!"

Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Day in the Life of Joe (Blue State Edition)

***Cross-posted from Superversivesf.com***

NOTE: The following is a response to “A Day in the Life of Joe Republican,” meant to demonstrate the usefulness of Progressive policies in everyday life. The original is in italics, and my “re-write” is in bold.


Joe gets up at 6 a.m. and fills his coffeepot with water to prepare his morning coffee.
Joe gets up at 6 a.m. to prepare his morning coffee. Then he remembers that he doesn’t have any real coffee. All the coffee beans are now Free Trade and Organic, so he can’t afford to buy them anymore. He measures out the instant coffee powder into his mug and fills it with water.

The water is clean and good because some tree-hugging liberal fought for minimum water-quality standards.
The water trickles very slowly into the mug because his kitchen is equipped with low-flow faucets, as per the new regulations. After a couple of minutes, the mug is full and he heats the coffee in the microwave.

With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. His medications are safe to take because some stupid commie liberal fought to insure their safety and that they work as advertised.
With his first swallow of coffee, he takes his daily medication. It’s not as effective as the one he used to take, but FDA banned the medication that worked for him because it could cause miscarriages. Joe tried to explain to his doctor that he was not in danger of a miscarriage, but there was nothing to be done.

All but $10 of his medications are paid for by his employer's medical plan because some liberal union workers fought their employers for paid medical insurance - now Joe gets it too.
The medication used to only have a $10 co-pay, but now Joe has to pay $50 because the union negotiated the new insurance plan that covers in-vitro fertilization for female employees, and the cost had to be made up by reducing pharmacy coverage.

He prepares his morning breakfast, bacon and eggs. Joe's bacon is safe to eat because some girly-man liberal fought for laws to regulate the meat packing industry.

He prepares his morning breakfast, a bowl of organic oatmeal. He misses his eggs and bacon, but a carton of eggs is $10 at his local supermarket because the eggs came from free range chickens who only eat organic corn. Bacon is illegal in his town because it offends his Muslim neighbors.

In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. His bottle is properly labeled with each ingredient and its amount in the total contents because some crybaby liberal fought for his right to know what he was putting on his body and how much it contained.
In the morning shower, Joe reaches for his shampoo. It doesn’t clean his hair very well, but it’s made of bio-degradable vegetable based ingredients that are safe for the local wildlife. He takes care to finish the shower after 2 minutes to comply with the city water restrictions.

Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. The air he breathes is clean because some environmentalist wacko liberal fought for laws to stop industries from polluting our air.
Joe dresses, walks outside and takes a deep breath. He coughs from inhaling the car exhaust fumes. His street is now much more crowded with cars because one of the two lanes is reserved for bikes. It’s the middle of winter so no one is riding a bike, but the law still applies.

He walks to the subway station for his government-subsidized ride to work. It saves him considerable money in parking and transportation fees because some fancy-pants liberal fought for affordable public transportation, which gives everyone the opportunity to be a contributor.
He walks to the subway station and sticks the Metro Card into the slot. It’s rejected because the fare just went up again and he needs to re-charge the card more often. Luckily, he has plenty of time because the loudspeaker just said something about a delay, and judging by the crowd on the platform, he may not even get into the next train anyway. Joe had to give up his car last year because the new 35% parking tax at the garage. At least he doesn’t have to worry about gas prices going up. The thought energizes him enough to push his way through the crowd and make it inside the train just before the doors slide shut.

Joe begins his work day. He has a good job with excellent pay, medical benefits, retirement, paid holidays and vacation because some lazy liberal union members fought and died for these working standards. Joe's employer pays these standards because Joe's employer doesn't want his employees to call the union.
Joe begins his work day. He’s an excellent worker, but only received a 2% increase last year because he reached the top of his pay grade and can now only get inflation adjustments. His usual partner has been on paid leave for the last week to take care of a sick pet. The union fought very hard for that concession, and Joe was happy when they won. Now he’s not very happy because he needs to cover the station on with a less experienced employee, but it’s worth it to have the union benefits for everyone.

Joe is home from work… He turns on a radio talk show. The radio host keeps saying that liberals are bad and conservatives are good. He doesn't mention that the beloved Republicans have fought against every protection and benefit Joe enjoys throughout his day.
Joe is home from work. He turns on the evening news. The news anchor keeps saying that conservatives are bad and liberals are good. He doesn’t mention that the beloved Democrats have passed laws and regulations that caused many of the difficulties and sacrifices Joe faces throughout the day.

Joe agrees: "We don't need those big-government liberals ruining our lives! After all, I'm a self-made man who believes everyone should take care of themselves, just like I have."

Joe agrees: “It’s a good thing we don’t have those free-market conservatives in charge! After all, I’m just a regular man who believes the government should make everyone’s lives easier, just like they’ve done for me.”

Friday, February 24, 2017

Heroes. We Keep Using that Word...

Here it comes. My obligatory Milo post. The Internet is full of them. Here are a few of my favorites that I think cover the situation very well. If your first inclination is to run away screaming, you probably need to read at least a a couple before moving on to the rest of the blog.

____________________________________

To start, one of the the more level-headed articles from Dystopic. A good summary of facts, including the actual video. A short piece from John C. Wright is a good companion because it explains more about the mechanics of the editing that was done to the original source. (More from Wright below).

Here are a couple of posts talking about the wider implications, for those who care about the culture war (less level-headed, but on point):

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance
Brian Neimeier

Still don't care? Sarah Hoyt tells you why you should.

Finally, Moira Greyland Peat offers a unique perspective. A hard one to read because of the subject matter, but necessary.

_____________________________________

Assuming you're still here, a few thoughts that have been bouncing around my head for, oh, a few months now.

As much of a political junkie as I am, my other passion is for storytelling, as per the tagline of my blog. During the Presidential election, something started bugging me and has now, with the Milo revelations and the fallout, coalesced into a two-part question:

Why does modern storytelling standard demand the heroes to be flawed?

And if that is the case, should we not be more tolerant of flawed heroes in real life?

The answer to the first is many-fold:

Flawed heroes are generally more interesting, in part because they're more likely to fail and thus provide us with more suspense.

Since we the readers are also flawed, and since we have been conditioned to seek out fictional heroes who are "more like us," most of us have developed this preference.

A redemption-based story arc, that by definition demands a flawed protagonist, is one of the most enduring, and shows no sign of falling out of fashion.

On a more disturbing side, both Hollywood and traditional book/comic publishing have become enamored with undercutting the traditional hero archetype, bringing us anything from Superman the Deadbeat Dad to the "terrible people doing terrible things" story lines, of which The Game of Thrones is perhaps the most successful.

The second question is more puzzling.

If our artistic preferences indicate that we have internalized the fact that no perfect heroes exist, and art is supposed to represent the Truth, why are we so blind to it in real life?

For that matter, why are we so quick to make heroes out of athletes and celebrities, but overlook those who are actually working, and taking risks, to make a difference?

I think the rather tragic truth is that we're desperate for true heroes. But we have been told over and over they don't exist. So in one of those cruel ironies beloved by storytellers, we eagerly fill the void with remote and glamorous celebrities, while gleefully tearing down those among us who might be admirable but are proven on close inspection to be imperfect. It confirms our pre-conceived notions. We tell ourselves there wasn't much worth appreciating in the first place, and we go on our no-so-merry way on the road that leads, not to finding better ideas and people to admire, but to the dead end of nihilism.

To be sure, real heroes are not immediately obvious. Sometimes it takes years, even generations, to see the full extent of a person's sacrifice and achievement, if that ever happens at all. But what I ask is, when you do see a spark of the heroic, even when it's wrapped inside a less than stellar package, do take time to notice and appreciate it, even if only for a while. Disappointment is always a risk, in fact almost an inevitability. Yet the alternative of retreating into a permanent state of cynical dismissal, of accepting that the days of heroes are forever behind us, is not one worth contemplating.

_______________________________________

And now as promised, more from John C. Wright. The quote below had me giggling throughout the day, but it's not a happy laughter. There are some people who need to read this one and realize that this is exactly how they come across. It isn't pretty.

Is he [Milo] a shameful and terrible spokesman for our beautiful Church? Yes, indeed, I fear he is. When I get to heaven, I will certainly chide Saint Mary Magdalene the whore and St. Matthew the tax-gathering collaborator, wag my finger under their noses, and demand to know why persons of doubtful morals speak up for Christ, embarrassing the righteous and the just.

Read the whole thing here.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Culture War and the Cost of Silence: a Sequel.

Only a couple of days after a blog post regarding the choices we on the Right have to make about speaking up in a potentially hostile environment, I came across this article in New York Post.

At first glance, the story of Chadwick Moore, a gay journalist who saw his life fall apart as a result of, essentially, doing his job too well, is tragic. Losing friends over politics is hard enough, as many on both sides of the left/right divide had discovered over the last several months. How much harder must it be for someone whose social circle is already limited? In this case the circle in question is the gay community in New York City, but the particulars are almost irrelevant.

In this day and age, politics invades every part of life. As the saying goes, you may not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you, and boy oh boy, is it ever. Whether you're a gay man who just wants to grab some drinks with a friend, a geek author looking forward to attending a con, or a suburban mother trying to have fun on a Girls' Night Out -- the danger of being condemned and shunned for a single show of non-conformity seems to lurk around every corner.

But wait, you might ask, doesn't the article, and many similar, less newsworthy examples, argue precisely for the silence, not against it? After all, who wants to suffer such terrible fate?

Ah, but if you read to the end of the story, you will discover that it has as much of a happy ending as one might expect outside of a feel-good Hollywood movie. I know, those are hard to find nowadays, but stick with me here. Having been forcibly ejected from his comfortable bubble of "friends" who liked only their perception of him, not who he really was, Mr. Chadwick had to look beyond. He opened up to new ideas (Ann Coulter, of all people?), re-connected with his Iowa farmer father, and even, in defiance of a strange post-election phenomenon among Leftists, started dating again. A Republican construction worker. No matter what your views are on homosexuality, this has to make you smile, just a little.

And so, to expand on my prior comments about the cost of silence, there is one that I overlooked. The biggest cost, when it comes down to it, is ignorance. My husband, upon reading the story, compared Mr. Chadwick's experience to that of someone taking the red pill in The Matrix. Believe it or not, unlike myself or other politically inclined Internet dwellers, he had never heard of "re-pilling" being a popular expression in certain circles. It truly just came to him as the best analogy, and he is, of course, correct.

To be clear, I don't encourage anyone to endanger their livelihood. Heck, nowadays even physical safety is not a given, what with the Soros thug brigades prowling the streets looking for "Nazis" to assault. But IF you can, WHEN you can, it might be a good idea to find out which parts of your life are solid, which of your friends are real, and what else could possibly be out there. Otherwise, you're just stuck in an artificial world, vaguely wondering why you can't sleep at night and everything seems to taste like chicken.