Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Short story: An "Out"-standing Chanukah

NOTE: This story (really flash fiction, length-wise) was originally published on Liberty Island website as an Honorable Mention in a Non-Traditional Holiday Story contest. Below is a somewhat cleaned up and expanded version. I made a choice to keep a reference that might already seem dated. Since the story set in the future, there is no telling which memories would survive to inspire the future generations, especially if our society takes a turn for the worse and parts of history get lost to time.


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An “Out”-standing Chanukah

I stand frozen in hesitation, staring at the door of Uncle Jay’s office. It is a standard  six-panel door, painted white, with an old-fashioned doorknob free of electronics, the kind you turn by hand. I raise my arm to knock, then lower it again.

What am I doing here? I am fooling myself. Clearly, this much indecision is a sign that I’m not ready. Maybe I should wait another year. I’d be in college by then, and—

No. I’m not going off to college without letting my family know the truth. It’s not fair, and besides, I don’t think I could hide it much longer.

I glance at a small white rectangular box mounted on the side of the doorway. It’s called a mezuzah. These are legal again to sell in stores, along with Christian crosses. I don’t know what a mezuzah is, exactly, or what it’s supposed to do, but the sight of it makes me feel better. I take a deep breath and knock on the door before I lose my nerve.

“Uncle Jay? Do you have a minute?”
“Sure, come on in.”

I open the door and poke my head inside. The room intimidates the heck out of me, even after all those years. It’s like some kind of museum, only I know the people in the photos so it’s… I can’t even explain it. Like something I have to live up to, but can’t.

Uncle Jay turns away from the photo collage above the bookcase, smiles and waves for me to enter.

“Hi, Eddie. Great to see you. What’s going on?”

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukah!

2016 has been a special year in many ways, not the least of which is a coincidence of the first day of Chanukah falling on Christmas Eve. I wish Merry Christmas to my Christian readers, Happy Chanukah to the Jews and a joyous season to all.

I link below the post from last year that contains my Chanukah poem. I can admit it now that the poem was written in 2012 after the Republican electoral defeat. It was particularly hard for me to take because I was involved with a local Tea Party at the time and the emotional effect on all of us was devastating. Aside from the story told in the poem, it is essentially a tribute to not giving up. 2016, for all its trials, is coming to an end on a hopeful note for many of us, but the message is still relevant.

Chanukah Reflections, 2015

P.S. Feel free to share with your friends and family members of a different political persuasion. There is too much despair going on in certain circles. It's amusing to watch online, but not from people we care about regardless of politics. Maybe a little perspective would help.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Book Review: Murphy's Law of Vampires by Declan Finn

Marco Catalano and Amanda Colt, you just vanquished the biggest, baddest vampire in New York City. What are you going to do now?

It appears the main characters of Finn's Love at First Bite series have never heard of a certain 90's commercial because they sure aren't going to Disneyland.

When writing to sequels, Finn obviously comes from the Terry Goodkind (of Sword of Truth fame) school of writing: the heroes solve a seemingly impossible problem in one book, only to face an even bigger obstacle in the next. Thus, Murphy's Law of Vampires. Since our heroes are well-equipped to fight vampires, as established in Book One, they must face someone(thing) new entirely. If you're only reading this review to find out if Book Two is just "more of the same," as sadly too many sequels are, I'll tell you right away: it isn't. Go buy it now. It's safe.

Still here? OK.

Aside from a different and mysterious villain, there are some new characters to meet. Marco ends up traveling to San Francisco, and much fun is had at the expense of the West Coast setting and the inhabitants. One can always count on Finn giving us a few extra-quirky characters, but when set in SanFran, the quirkiness actually feels organic (ha!) rather than a literary device. You love them one moment and want to smack them the next, but the point is, you care about them and want to know more.

Familiar characters don't get short shrift in development either. You get deeper inside their heads, understand them better, and some open questions from Book One get explored further or answered entirely. They become more complete, and they also learn and grow as the story goes on. Romance still moves at a snail's pace, but it's better than the alternative and more true to life in any case.

Action sequences are superb, with occasional over-the-top-violence as per usual with this author. All the characterization I mention above does not take away or interfere with action. There's plenty of space for both, and you won't be disappointed in that regard.

Altogether, even though I gave Honor at Stake (Book One) 5 stars on Amazon, I have to say Murphy's Law is better. I can't pinpoint exactly why as I am not a professional reviewer. It's possible that I have naturally lower expectations of sequels and this one surprised me. Or it could be that Finn is now producing a higher quality prose. Either way, it's highly recommended, and I can't wait to see what new challenges Marco, Amanda and their merry crew will face in the next and final installment.

Purchase Murphy's Law of Vampires on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Gratitude: a Necessity

When I started my blog a little over a year ago, my first post of substance was about gratitude. You can read the whole thing, but the gist of it was that it's not natural for us to be grateful. We tend to take for granted everything that goes right and spend most of our time trying to improve and fix the problems, whether real or imaginary. It's not bad, necessarily, because it motivates up to aim higher and work harder, but appreciation for what we do have is also a requirement for a truly fulfilling life.

There exists a type of person almost pathologically incapable of gratitude, and we seem to have more of them lately. From an overpaid feminist professor decrying the patriarchy to a successful musician disappointing his fans to make a political statement to an athlete denigrating the country that offered him fame and fortune, new examples appear on a nearly daily basis.

The phenomenon of ingratitude, of taking gifts for granted and spitting at those who provide them is far from recent and not unique to wealthy Western nations. It is, in fact, old and universal enough to have been immortalized by a Russian 19th Century poet in a tale of The Fisherman and the Golden Fish.

For those unwilling to struggle through the valiant yet clunky attempt at a translation, it's a story of a poor Fisherman who catches a magical golden fish. In exchange for sparing her life, the fish offers the man anything he desires. At first, being kindly and humble, he simply lets the fish go. However, his wife repeatedly forces him to make ever more extravagant demands, with predictable results.

On its face, the tale cautions against greed and pride. But the character of the Fisherman's Wife is all too familiar. Her first request is modest (a new wash-tub), and even the second is understandable (a nicer house). But the more she receives, the more unhappy, demanding, and cruel she becomes.

Why is that? Do the newfound material possessions make her dissatisfied? Does she subconsciously miss poverty? More likely, she simply didn't have the ability to appreciate what was given to her. Every new gift only brought on the thoughts of what she was still lacking, and she kept asking for more, meeting no resistance, no indication that there might be a limit.

But of course, whether in fairy tales or in life, there is always a limit. Whether it's a magical benefactor or luck or true productive ability, there is only so much tangible success available to us within a lifetime. On the other hand, the amount of satisfaction and joy we achieve is very much ours to decide. The difference between happiness and misery very often comes from appreciating what one already has.

Can gratitude be learned? Perhaps. As a counter-example to the tale above, there is a Jewish joke that has been a favorite in my family. It tells of a poor Jew who comes to the Rabbi to complain about his small house. The Rabbi tells the man to buy a goat and bring it inside for a month, then get rid of it. Needless to say, after the month is up, the man appreciates all the "extra" space in the house and stops complaining.

Most people experience something similar throughout their lives: an event so traumatic that normalcy seems like a gift. Cancer survivors know of what I speak, as does everyone who watched the towers collapse on 9/11. Just living seems enough. Having family and friends around feels like a luxury. Yet it doesn't last. After a while, we start taking it all for granted again and seek more. However, any time we start to feel low, we can look back and say, "Today is not so bad, for I had been through worse. And thank goodness for that."

That is one way to learn gratitude. Another is to look around and see those less fortunate than us, whether in this country or around the world, not to feel guilty and self-disgusted as some activists would have us do, but to appreciate how rare our "normal" really is. Another is through religion. As a relative newcomer to religion, I was quite surprised how many prayers center around thanks. After all we usually think of prayer as a request rather than an expression of gratitude, but clearly the two go together.

Whatever the path to gratitude, it is my hope that more people in this world find it, for is not just a societal convention we learn as children under the umbrella of good manners. It's more, even, than a form of repayment to those who help us as we face the challenges of life. Fundamentally, it's a key to lasting happiness, available to all just for the asking.

The choice for the appropriate music video was between Martina McBride and this. Sorry, Martina.






Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: Set to Kill by Declan Finn



Take an Agatha Christie murder mystery. Make it THREE murder mysteries.

Replace the middle-aged Inspector with a security expert who happens to be a martial arts guru/all-around killing machine still dealing with the aftermath of saving the world as we know it.

Replace upper-class Brits with a collection of endearingly and/or annoyingly (depending on your perspective) odd characters inspired by real-life players in the sci-fi publishing world.

Stick it into the naturally insane environment that is the world's largest Sci-Fi/Fantasy con (fictionally renamed WyvernCon).

Add 'splosions, hired killers and enough weapons to run a minor war.

Oh and also make it funny enough to qualify as satire.

OK, so maybe it's nothing like an Agatha Christie mystery after all. But it is a darn good read. The reason I was thinking of Christie is because, underneath all the fun and goofiness and inside-baseball sci-fi literary community references, there is a solid plot worthy of an old-fashioned detective novel. As with any good mystery, the final reveals were surprising yet backed up by clues sprinkled throughout the story.

The pacing is good, and while some sidetracks and background sections slow down the main story, they're still amusing enough to keep the reader entertained. The violence is not as plentiful as Declan Finn's fans might expect, but there's still sufficient to keep the adrenaline flowing. The fully fictional characters are well enough developed that you can go into the story cold and still care about what happens to them; and those inspired by real life are easily recognizable while changed up just enough to still fit into a satirical fiction environment.

I can't find anything particularly "wrong" with this book to explain why exactly I'm only giving it 4 stars on review sites. Perhaps Mr. Finn set my expectations for his work too high and I've become stingier with my stars. That having been said, it's still very much recommended, if only as a palate cleanser in between his more traditional novels because it's just so very different. Enjoy and as always, Happy Reading!

Purchase Set to Kill on Amazon


Monday, November 14, 2016

#GabWriters Interview with Everitt Foster

For those who haven't heard, Gab is the new and exciting alternative to Twitter that offers those of us who believe in free speech an opportunity to meet and socialize with the like-minded. Naturally, the site is fairly heavy on creative types, and a Everitt Foster was nice enough to include me in his series of #GabWriters interviews. Unlike most blog interviews, this one has personalized questions based on my biography and other internet data. Topics cover growing up in the Soviet Russia, politics, religion, writing, my newly released novella and I don't quite remember what else.

Please note that I wrote most of the answers while watching the Presidential Election, so emotions were running high and the brain-to-fingers filter was only marginally functional. Thus you get to see as close to real me as you'll probably ever get, and also, unfortunately, wild typos abound. Apologies in advance, and enter at your own risk!

Gab Interview with Marina Fontaine

Marina Fontaine is… not a French tennis player. So let’s not make that mistake, (Thanks Google and FaceBook for your screw-ups). She’s a writer, and Gabber and all around interesting person! Check our her books here on GoodReads, and here on Amazon, and she gabs at gab.ai/mashak99

  1. You grew up in Russia, what was it like for you and your family? What types of struggles did you endure?
I would hesitate to use the word “struggles” because the hardships of everyday life were so completely internalized. It only became obvious in retrospect, and by comparison with what is considered normal in the West, just how wrong the system was. I’m talking of the little things, like being able to get decent quality food, or reliable transportation to and from work, or hot water from the tap any time you turn it on, or medicine when you are sick. When you can’t rely on the basics always being there, it adds up, it takes up the mental and physical energy that could be spent elsewhere. Mind you, we were an equivalent of a middle-class family, living in one of the better-supplied cities. It wasn’t temporary. It wasn’t poverty. It was normal.

So you take people who already have trouble just getting to a physical comfort level, and then you add what most of us commonly think of as oppression. By the time I was growing up, the mass arrests and purges were already over. So pretty much keeping one’s head down was good enough. But what comes under that umbrella? Not asking questions. Not speaking your mind outside a very narrow circle of friends. Having very limited access to news and entertainment. There were ways around the last one (Voice of America was huge at the time, and samizdat books, and “unapproved” music), but again, that’s a lot of energy spent on something that should be taken for granted.

Also, just to get through life, more or less everyone had to break the law. The reason the country held as long as it did was from underground economy. So in theory, anyone could be jailed and any time. What better way to keep citizens in check?

I heard someone say not long ago that Americans move like free people, and it’s probably hard to understand unless you’ve seen how non-free people move. The day-to-day drudgery, the constant looking over one’s shoulder, being suspicious of strangers—it all adds up, and it does feel like physical weight. Or at least once it’s gone you realize it was there. I liken it to having a chronic health condition, being adjusted to it, and then having it fixed.

I suppose you can in fact calling this experience a struggle, just not the way people think of the word. It’s not glamorous or heroic or particularly interesting (unless you distill into a fictional story, and then it could be made interesting, in the right hands).

Read the rest of the interview here.

And as a bonus to my blog readers, since we're getting personal today, here's my favorite Russian song of all time. The fact that the first boy I ever kissed sang it to me might have something to do with it, but I also love the not-quite-Russian theme of holding on to light and hope no matter how dark it gets.




Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Plea for Perspective

I try to stay away form politics on this blog, except for occasions where politics intrudes on culture, and sometimes not even then. There is a proliferation of political blogs and new sites, and my motto is, "If you don't have anything new to say, be quiet." My readers' time is limited, and they don't need yet another post on their newsfeed repeating something they already know.

However, in light of the happenings this week, I do in fact feel the desire to weigh in. Escalation of rhetoric during a Presidential election is nothing new. Both sides throw around words meant to paint the opponent in the worst possible light, and in spite of all the complaints about negative ads and not focusing on the issues, fear and negativity are always weapons of choice because they are the weapons that work best. It's not even new to paint the supporters of the opposing candidate as somehow lacking in either intelligence or common decency. That's how you shame people into staying home on Election day, or at least into being quiet about their views so they don't influence their friends and neighbors in the direction you don't want.

It's different now. Why? In short, because so many of us have lost the distinction between words and actions. Disagreement equals hate equals threat equals violence. Is it so shocking that, having convinced certain segments of the population that a certain candidate's victory will cause them physical harm, we are now seeing them scream in terror and lash out at the nearest, often innocent, targets?

It's true that the worst of the violence we are seeing is not organic and spontaneous, but an orchestrated attempt by George Soros and others like him to break our system of government and replace it with a dark visions of their deranged dreams. But enough of the strife is real, and it can lead nowhere good.

Below is a link to a blog post from an online friend of mine who writes under the name of Dedicated Tenther. I'm sharing it in the hopes that his words might begin to bring down the temperature of our collective disagreements so that the country we all love so much doesn't go down in (possibly literal) flames. As we are nearing the Holiday season, it might be a good time to step back and appreciate what we do have here, as Americans, and how important it is to keep it.

Please consider…

I’ve been lectured and spoken at.  I’ve been told I’m insensitive.  I’ve been told that I just don’t understand.  Donald Trump was elected president, and now people have all these feelings and I’m not taking them seriously.
Believe me, I do.  I understand that you are hurting and scared.  I completely get that.  My problem is not with your feelings themselves.  My problem is two-fold.  
First, and most important for my friends and family, my problem is that your fear and pain is based on lies.  You have been fed a diet of lies for months, and you believe them.  Indeed, why wouldn’t you?  It’s not like anyone has been denying them.  Indeed, much of the supposedly Conservative media (which obviously means something different than I thought it did a year ago), is engaging in the lies just as much as the “mainstream media.”
Second, and less important personally, but more important from a practical standpoint, your engagement in this very public hysteria is dangerous.  Because good and decent people like you believe the lies, too, bad and dangerous people have the moral cover to do horrible things.



Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Catholic Geek Interview: Superversive Press and The Product



Below is the link to my appearance on The Catholic Geek radio show, originally aired on October 30th. Jason Rennie gives the background on the Superversive Press and why he chose to publish my novella. We also talk dystopian novels, the joys of living under Communism and the difficulty of creating fiction that makes sense when so much of reality doesn't. Enjoy!

Listen to the full podcast here.




Saturday, October 29, 2016

Guest Post by Henry (Hank) Brown: Peace on Earth, but Please, Not in Fiction



Hank Brown is a long-time online friend of mine, and one of the original members of my Goodreads Small Government Book Fans Club. So when I heard that he had a book to promote, I was happy to invite him to do a guest post on my blog.

It is my policy to allow my guest bloggers complete freedom as to the topic and style as long as it's related to either culture or writing. In this case, I can't overstate how much I like this post because it is very much in line my own feelings on the subject. I hope my readers agree, or at least find it a good subject for reflection and further discussion. Enjoy!

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PEACE ON EARTH, BUT PLEASE, NOT IN FICTION


By Henry (Hank) Brown

To hear people talk, whether at the United Nations or the Miss Universe Pageant, everybody wants world peace. Maybe most of us really do—I haven’t conducted that poll. But with the exception of the My Dinner With Andre fans out there, nobody finds peace very entertaining.

Let’s face it: peace is boring! When you watch a movie or read a book, you’ll tune out if you go too long without some form of conflict. It’s conflict that keeps us turning pages. It’s confrontation, and tension, and anticipation of the showdown that inspires us to hold our bladders until the next commercial break.

As any would-be creative writing teacher will quickly tell you, there are many forms of conflict. You can find a lot of these in the movie Rocky III: Internal; external; physical; emotional; psychological. The conflict pickings are a little slimmer in Gerry. What’s that? You’ve never heard of Gus Van Sant’s cinematic masterpiece, Gerry? Yeah, there’s a reason for that.

Here’s a rule you can apply generally to fiction: the more literary a novel is, the more internal and psychological the conflict. In chick-lit, for instance, the conflict may never get much more intense than a protagonist forced to choose between visiting her dying mother with Alzheimer’s, commiserating with her recently-divorced BFF, or taking her present romantic relationship to the next level.

The more that critics turn their noses up at a given genre, the more overt the conflict. Take bodice-rippers and Harlequin romances: the conflict is either romantic or sexual…or both, but there’s nothing subtle about it. They are the embarrassing crazy aunt of the publishing world. No, make that the embarrassing crazy cash cow. On the other side of the chromosome fence are the male counterparts: westerns; military fiction; heroic fantasy; hard-boiled…all of which either became extinct, or changed so drastically that they might as well be extinct.

Untold millions of men turned to videogames or sports and gave up reading altogether in the 1990s. And it shows—peruse any social network for more than a minute and you’ll find that most males of Generation X and younger are incapable of writing, or comprehending, a coherent sentence. Punctuation? Conjugation? Spelling? Forget it. Vocabulary is shrinking. Contestants on Jeopardy look like geniuses because they are not intimidated by words with more than two syllables. Reading is for weirdoes. Why look up something in the dictionary when you can just wait for the movie to come out? In fact, reading a book quietly is suspicious behavior (but I’m sure it can be treated with therapy and medication).

No doubt traditional publishers would claim they were just “putting out the trash.” Okay: to be honest, some of it was trash. Maybe even some of the stuff I loved, and remember fondly. But some of it was well-written, tightly plotted, thought-provoking, and defied formulaic constraints. Is it still to be looked down upon because it’s escapist in nature?

Hey, I need to escape, and on a regular basis.

Every bean counter in traditional publishing should be forced to watch Sullivan’s Travels at least once. In that Depression-era classic, a self-important film director who fancies himself a champion of the downtrodden masses learns via misadventure that the downtrodden masses don’t need to go to the movies to experience suffering. Nor do they want to. There’s more than enough suffering in real everyday life, thank you very much. At least for those of us who are not film directors or publishing moguls.

At roughly the same time I became a published author, I became a sort of crusader, as well. A knight-errant on a quest to restore the glory days of the forgotten genres listed above. An armchair Indiana Jones—that’s me: Henry Brown and the Lost Audience. I spanned the globe (or at least the Web), cherry-picking what few literary nuggets there were that could help us relive the glory days. When my searches proved fruitless, I turned to my private library, blew the dust off some of my old fond memories and gave them what publicity I could. I began adding one-liners to some of my own promotional copy like: “men’s adventure is coming back!” Lo and behold, some of my fellow revivalists began espousing variations on that theme.

I wanted to overcome the stigma associated with labels such as “men’s adventure” and “men’s fiction.” When people heard those terms, they conjured  images of alcoholic hack writers banging out uninspired, poorly-written, chauvinistic pap full of pointless violence and purple-prose graphic sex. Or is it purple-prose graphic violence and pointless sex? No matter. The point is, there were some guys riding Don Pendleton’s coat tails who fit that description, more or less, and everyone writing men’s adventure suffered guilt by association.

I came up with an alternate name for the umbrella all those resurrected genres could fit under: dude-lit. My intention was that the term would become household, used for fiction rife with overt, physical conflict, but well-written and devoid of those stigmatic stereotypes.

I began using the term. So did maybe a couple other uppity new authors I met and conversed with. I routinely checked Bing and Google to track how the term was catching on. That’s how I learned “dude-lit” had been coopted. Evidently it is now being used to describe fiction with male characters in which the conflict may never get much more intense than a protagonist forced to choose between visiting his dying mother with Alzheimer’s, commiserating with his recently-divorced BFF, or taking his present romantic relationship to the next level. Chick-lit that pees standing up, in other words.
I should have trademarked it.

So “men’s adventure” it is, and to blazes with the stigma.

My Retreads series is full of overt, physical conflict—chases, martial arts, firefights—but there’s a helping of internal conflict too. After Hell and Gone (the first one) there’s even a dash of sexual tension, to give the reader that warm, squishy feeling in between dollops of brutal violence. In that respect the series is a lot like my other published fiction.

True peace is a goal deserving of universality; but that doesn’t make it reality. Peace has to be won, then protected, or what you wind up with is not peace at all—just something labeled as such. It’s an age-old truth, and it makes for great fiction.

Reality sucks. There are too many wrongs and injustices to document, and society’s solutions to them are usually inept at best. At the core of most decent men is the hope that one man, or group of men, could act to change some aspect of the world for the better. Men’s adventure is an expression of that.

With that in mind, I predict there will always be a demand for such books, as long as there are men who know how to read.

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About the Author:

I've always been an action-adventure guy. Normal, well-adjusted people may have grown too mature for movies like Star Wars or The Road Warrior; or fictional heroes like Conan, Tarzan or Mack Bolan. Well, that stuff left a permanent mark on me.

So much for being normal and well-adjusted. (Or mature.)

My own real-life adventure began as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division, at 18 years old. OK, maybe it wasn't such a great adventure, but I'm proud to have served my country, and to kick off that service in an elite unit with such battlefield distinctions. My military escapades eventually led me through experiences in other corners of the US Army, as well as the USMC and Naval Reserve. My travels in life have taken me to the Caribbean; Central America; the Middle East; Alaska; Hawaii and all over the USA. I've traveled on trains, planes, automobiles, helicopters and ocean-going vessels. I've been trained in the use of rifles; bayonets; hand grenades; automatic rifles; machineguns; grenade launchers; anti-tank rockets and missiles. I even got to play with artillery and tanks. I also had plenty of opportunity to observe the behavior of my fellow human beings at their best and worst.


My aspirations now include a quiet civilian life spinning enough yarns to pay all the bills.

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Purchase Hell and Gone on Amazon, iTunes, in Kobo Store or on Barnes and Noble site
Visit the Hank Brown's book page on Virtual Pulp for more information. 

Saturday, October 22, 2016

(Belated) NY ComicCon Report

:Checks calendar in dismay: Yes, it has been two weeks since my single-day ComicCon visit, and I'm just now getting to write about it. It's been that kind of week. Make it two weeks. Anyhow...

This was my first visit to ComicCon, and it was pretty much as insane as I expected. The schedule was driven by two tween girls (my daughter and her friend), so we ended up spending the morning and early afternoon in two panels before moving on to the real fun on the floor.

First Panel: Gravity Falls.
My kids watched the show religiously, so my daughter insisted on attending the creators' panel. It was surprisingly interesting for me, even though I only heard of the show second hand. The writers and artists provided a lot of insight into the general creative process, both in storytelling and in bringing ideas to life in visual form. One of the longer discussions that stuck with me as a writer was the difficulty of ending a complex, emotionally charged story in a satisfying way. Do you tie up all the loose ends, or do you leave some of the answers to the fans' imagination? How much information is too much? One of the examples they gave was the ending of the Harry Potter series. On the one hand, it's good to know exactly how everything worked out for the characters, but did we really care about Harry's adult job, or how many children he had? Would we be better off filling the blanks with our own suppositions? Maybe, maybe not. I do remember agonizing over just this question when I settled on the ending to my own novel, choosing to leave the world and the characters before all the problems had been solved. To hear accomplished creators, working in a different medium, address a similar dilemma was fascinating, and frankly much more than I expected to find in a panel about a TV show I had never seen.

Second Panel: RWBY
This one was less a creative discussion and more of a combination of new season reveal and merchandise promotions. Also, although the audience was mostly underage, the panelists were too foul-mouthed even for my grown-up taste. However, the fans were ecstatic about the sneak peek trailer, and as someone completely unfamiliar with the show, I have to say it looks good. If I had more time, I might even consider watching. So from that point of view, I guess the panel achieved what it set out to do.

At that point, having decided not to spend an hour sitting on the floor to wait for another panel, we headed out in search of food. Long story short: next time, bring your own. $5 Snapples and $10 pre-packaged cold cut sandwiches were pathetic offerings for such an esteemed venue. They would've been better off with putting up a bunch of well-stocked vending machines. Fortunately for our wallets, the girls were too excited to eat so we grabbed some drinks and kept going.

The Floor:
Maybe it was a function of the event being in New York City, or maybe it's just how all cons work, but it was fairly impossible to find any information or directions from staff. So we ended up pestering random fans until we got the general idea of the setup. Yes, there are maps online, but they don't give a good representation of the architecture of the building. Nevertheless, we did somehow manage to find all we needed, which luckily wasn't that much. My daughter is now a proud owner of an autographed Gravity Falls Journal 3 (a huge deal to hardcore fans, and I was pretty shocked at the reasonable pricing of about $20 for a very elaborate hardcover) and some RWBY plushes. As for me... Yeah, it was a good day.



In case you're wondering, I was culturally appropriating Zoe from Firefly: brown coat, leather pants and a broken toy shotgun that I fixed up with masking tape. Hey, it's the thought that counts.

Conclusion: A fun experience that would've been better with preparation. You really need to plan it out if you want to hit more than just a couple of spots. I'm guessing repeat visits (or visits with a friend who had gone before) are more productive and less stressful, but anyone can enjoy spending at least a day there.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Product is Published by Superversive Press

I am very excited to announce that my new dystopian novella The Product has been chosen as the first work to be published by Superversive Press. As a co-founder of Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance, I spent several years working to discover and promote high-quality, freedom-friendly fiction. While the Superversive movement has a somewhat different focus, I have been watching and admiring it from the sidelines for some time and am now honored to become a participant.

About the Publisher:

Superversive Press is a new small press that aims to publish
Superversive Fiction and is an outgrowth of the Superversive
Fiction movement that aims to tell stories that are uplifting
and enobling. Heroes that are heroic, beauty that is beautiful,
the transcendent that is transcending, stories that say virtue
is real and Civilization triumphs over barbarism.

All of the goings on with Superversive Fiction can be found at

Join us for a brighter, superversive future for story telling.

I can only hope that my novella comes close to meeting those expectations. And that, of course, is for my readers to decide. Many thanks to Jason Rennie for giving me this opportunity, Ben Zwycky for editing and help with revisions, and Cat Leonard for somehow guessing the cover concept I had in mind and bringing it to life.

And now, without further delay...


The Product will change your life. It will give you joy and confidence, make you more aware of the world around you. You will find new friends. You might even fall in love.

Few people know its name. Fewer still dare say it. It is, after all, illegal. Users are jailed. Dealers meet an ugly death. Yet the temptation is irresistible.
Kevin is a dealer. And he is about to get caught.

Now available on Amazon in e-book and paperback.




Saturday, October 8, 2016

On Censorship: An Update.

Those who have followed my blog for a while might remember this post, from back in February, where I discuss and give examples of different types of censorship, and the effect it has on diminishing both public and private freedom of expression.

There have been some developments since then, both for better and for worse, some surprising and some as predictable as the sun rising in the East.

First, as to the victims of Non-Governmental Censorship mentioned in the original post: on the whole, they have done well. I would, in fact, go as far as to say that the publicity they received as a result of being censored might have worked in their favor in the long run.

Nick Cole's book Ctrl-Alt-Revolt!, denied a publishing contract for using a controversial issue as a starting plot point, has been picked up by a new publisher and received a 2016 Dragon Award for Best Apocalyptic Novel.

Milo Yiannopolous (seriously, spellcheck, how do you still not recognize that name?) is in the middle of the second round of his college tours, among other things, meeting progressively (HA!) more resistance and only acquiring more fame as a result. And oh yes, he went from being unverified on Twitter at the time of my last post to getting his account permanently suspended. #FreeMilo is still a fairly active hashtag. If you still have an account, you know what to do.

Robert Stacy McCain is still banned from Twitter, but his blog is active as ever and very much worth a read.

Brendan Eich is reportedly having much success with his new browser Brave, which is highly recommended by my techie friends. I haven't tried it myself, but that's only because I don't trust my ancient Mac not to explode if I try to download yet another program into its outdated OS.

And now, for the new and exciting:

Scott Adams, creator of  the wildly successful Dilbert strip, who also writes extensively on the power of persuasion, has been shadowbanned on Twitter for speaking favorably of Donald Trump. Adams has also reported being disinvited from speaking engagements and since he started his series of posts regarding Trump's skill at persuasion. As far as I know, he is neither a Republican nor particularly conservative. He has come out unequivocally in support of Trump only very recently, more as an anti-Hillary stance than anything else, and the main focus of his writing is still the art of persuasion rather than politics. But neither fame nor fortune nor a lifetime of writing popular bi-partisan satire and commentary protects one from the new breed of speech police.

Vox Day had his Twitter account suspended and his blog url has been flagged as spam/malicious site by Twitter and banned from getting linked by Twitter users.

Ricky Vaughn, a right wing activist and Trump supporter had his account suspended last week (#FreeRicky is the relevant hashtag).

Glen Reynolds of Instapundit was suspended on Twitter because of a single tweet regarding the Black Lives Matter rioters, but reinstated shortly after. Considering Twitter's pattern, I would be shocked if this was the end of it. Once people get on Twitter's radar, they usually end up banned sooner or later. He has also faced other retaliation, including USA Today suspending his column for a month and calls for him to be fired from his position at University of Tennessee.

On the bright side, the new site Gab.ai has been created as an alternative to Twitter and possibly Facebook.  The only problem is that getting on requires being placed on the wait list (80K+ last I checked). Some people get on immediately or within a day while some, like yours truly, still haven't heard back after weeks-long wait. I have a feeling that once the folks running the site get their act together and let in more users, it just might become the next great thing.

You will notice that I focus almost exclusively on Twitter happenings, and with good reason. Twitter as a platform has always claimed dedication to free speech until, in a spectacularly suicidal move, they decided to get with the Progressive program and created a dedicated censorship committee. And if you follow the business news even slightly, you will know that "suicidal" is not an overstatement. Yes, there are solid business reasons as to why the company is failing, but certainly reneging on its basic promise to users and losing massive numbers of users as a result could not be ignored as one of the causes.

Which brings me to the final point. What to do? Unlike with the current political situation, when it comes to defending our freedom of expression, the solution is simple. Don't give up. Refuse to be muzzled. That's not an invitation to become a martyr if you work in an SJW-infested environment, but everyone can do their part to an extent possible. Patronize writers and bloggers who are on the front lines of this fight (yes, even those whose views you occasionally find unpalatable can and should be supported when they get it right). I truly believe that no matter who prevails in the Presidential contest, in the long run the future of our country is tied to the right of free expression. Politics is downstream from culture, and the success or failure of our side in the culture war depends on our unwavering opposition to censorship in all its forms.

Let's be heard. Let's help others be heard. And remember, if you stay silent, you will never find out that you might, in fact, not be as alone as your thought.

And now, something appropriate for my rock-loving friends.


Monday, September 26, 2016

CLFA Booknado: Great Books, No Sharks!

From Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance website:



Raging across a darkened land, the CLFA Booknado rips out stale, lefty establishment fiction by the roots and blasts in the new, the positive, and the bargain-priced! Batten down the hatches; the long-suppressed winds of culture change are blowing free in a whirlwind of fresh air!

CLFA's newly renamed monthly promotion highlights eight new releases and two bargain (1.99 or less) books from the group's members. Please visit the website for the full list, and while you're there, feel free to check out the latest news, events and our updated Book collections. Every purchase you make through CLFA website contributes to the growth of our pro-freedom creative counterculture. Have fun, and as usual, Happy Reading!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Guest Post: Karina Fabian on Rocking the Bechdel Test (with Nuns)




Karina Fabian is a friend and a talented science fiction and fantasy author, who spends her free time helping others improve their writing craft and marketing strategies. As part of a promotional tour for her new novel Discovery featuring nuns as space explorers (yes, you read that right), please enjoy her fun and informative blog post.




Want to Rock the Bechdel Test? Have Nuns as Your Main Characters!

Many readers may have heard of the Bechdel test. This three-question quiz is supposed to evaluate how well you represent women in your fiction, be it a movie or a book. Essentially you need
1. Two or more named female characters (named characters being a recent addition)
2. Sharing a conversation
3. That is not about a man.
This test was popularized in Alison Bechdel’s comic, Dykes to Watch Out For, and has taken on a life of its own. There are whole websites devoted to which movies pass the Bechdel test, and a study was done of the latest Dr. Who reboot (Doctors 10-13) and how their episode meet the test, broken down by companion and writer. (Ironicaly, the River Song episodes fail).
The test itself is not always the end-all of how women are portrayed in a story. For example, the 2013 SF hit, Gravity, fails the test (despite a very brief scene where the shuttle pilot and the astronaut share a couple of lines about the shuttle arm), but there are only three main characters. If we were to apply it to my DragonEye books, they’d all fail, because the stories are written first person through the viewpoint of Vern. (Although he says there’s some grounds for dispute because as an androgynous dragon, “he” is only uses a male designation because Pope Pius thought Vern d’Wyvern was a cute name for a dragon.)
However, I can say this: if you want to rock the Bechdel test, then just make nuns your main characters!
Discovery is my first Rescue Sisters novel. In it Sisters Rita, Ann and Thomas (“Tommie”) join the crew of the Edwina Taggert to explore the first ever discovered evidence of alien life – a crashed ship in the Kuiper belt. They are in charge of training the crew for EVA exploration and of the overall safety of the mission. It’s a serious undertaking, especially when they find an artifact onboard that can tap into the subconscious and show people the needs of their own souls.
This is actually a good candidate for the Bechdel test because the cast of characters is huge – nuns, academics, asteroid miners (to free the ship) and the crew of the ET herself. Thirteen named females and fifteen named males. The test only requires a single conversation to be female-to-female and not about a man, but that just seemed too easy, especially with a cast so large, so I checked the conversations. Here’s what I found:
Total Conversations: 390
Conversations of mixed genders: 317 (I didn’t count, but I’d guesstimate 25% - 35% were romantic or relationship in nature)
Female-only conversations: 50
·       # not about a man: 42
·       # about a man: 4
·       # about God or where a male saint was quoted, which I wasn’t sure counted: 4
·       % about personnel or the mission: 60%
Male-only conversations: 23
·       # not about a woman: 18
·       # about a woman: 5
·       % that were about mission or personnel: 50%
Definitely rocks the Bechdel test. In fact, in some ways, it underrepresents the men, but then again, the top two characters are nuns. (Sister Tommie has a supporting role.)

The Bechdel test and so many others like it are not the end-all of literary merit or fairness to the sexes in literature. So much depends on story. However, it does make an interesting exercise for evaluating the strengths of your story and perhaps uncovering something you hadn’t noticed.

_________________________________________________________________________

For those of my visitors who can never have enough books (that would be most of them!), I will mention that Karina has also written stories about zombie hunters, a dragon detective and a telepath who talks to aliens, all available on Amazon. Happy reading!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Calliope Writers' Workshop: Turning Wishing Into Doing

Last week, I came across a post lamenting the state of conservative/pro-freedom storytelling in general and cinema in particular. Machine Trooper writes:

How is it that smart, hardworking, independent thinkers are consistently outperformed at cinematic storytelling by the left-wing hive mind? Why do our movies always suffer poor story telling, cheesy dialog and generally inept suspension of disbelief?

How, indeed. There are, after all, plenty of talented writers who share our views (even if many of them are still hiding their opinions in order to develop and/or preserve their careers). And there are certainly wealthy individuals out there willing to contribute money to what we loosely call pro-freedom causes. So if it's not the talent, and not the money, what then? If you scroll down in the comments, you will see my answer: lack of networking. The full solution is a bit more complicated because there is work still to be done on the writing side as well if we are to keep going long-term. We need to nurture pro-freedom writing talent, and then to connect our storytellers with those who can help them make the stories more accessible to the masses. And much as I love the written word, nowadays it also means the movies.

As luck would have it, only two days later after making that comment, I attended a kickoff party for Calliope Writers' Worksop, co-sponsored by Taliesin Nexus and Liberty Island. I am happy to report that an effort so many of us have wished for does already exist, and picking up steam.

From Taliesin Nexus website:In order to encourage the creation of great stories, we serve as a nexus between up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society.

It was truly great to see that Liberty Island, an online magazine (and now a book publisher) that gave me a start and an inspiration for writing fiction, is also a part of this exciting venture.

And exciting really is the word. As I stood in that room at Crowne Plaza Hotel in NYC, surrounded by a buzzing crowd of creatives of all ages and those with vision to give them voice, I realized a few things. The time for complaining and wishing has passed. The time for stifling our creativity for the sake of acceptance has passed. We have the talent, the drive, and the energy to succeed. Combined with the infrastructure that is even now being built, piece by piece, one dedicated mentor, one generous investor, one contrarian marketing professional at a time, we will get there. Our voices will be heard, our stories read, our vision shared. Let's get to work, people. We have a culture to build.


Now, for the fun part. The pictures!!!!

With my friend, co-conspirator and fellow author Kia Heavey



Kia and I with Liberty Island honcho David Bernstein



Kia with Robert Bidinotto, author of the Dylan Hunter thriller series



With sci-fi/fantasy author, blogger, and mentor to indie authors (did I forget anything?) Sarah A. Hoyt, who was very gracious about my fangirl behavior.



And last but not least, with Karina Fabian, a multi-genre author and writing mentor. Watch out for Karina's guest blog post right here on September 20th.



Sarah and Karina deserve special thanks for flying out all the way to New York City to mentor the workshop participants. Hats off to you, ladies!

Special shout-out to fellow CLFA members Adam Bellow (who led the main presentation of the evening), Keith Korman, Curtis Edmonds, and Richard Walch, as well as long-time online friend Matthew Souders, all of whom I met at the party but was unable to capture on camera.

Thanks to everyone who made this possible, and hope to see even more familiar faces, at a much bigger event, next year!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Dragon Awards: A Personal View



Dragon Awards results were announced on Sunday, and there is already an abundance of blog posts and commentary available from people more eloquent than I, who are much more familiar with the some of the more intricate details.

Why, then, am I taking the time to write yet another post? I suppose for the same reason anyone writes anything: I believe that I do in fact have something different to say, coming as I am from several different perspectives.

As a nominee, I am of course both flattered and humbled that my debut novel has touched enough fans to be placed in the company of some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction. My first reaction was that I didn't belong there, but then I realized that it was not, in fact, true. After all, the very point of a fan-driven award is that the fans decide who belongs, and their voice is not to be taken lightly. Those familiar with my views regarding other types of awards will know this opinion is not new to me, nor will it change depending on my personal success or lack thereof. Thus, I thank my fans as well as the fine folk at DragonCon for getting me to this point and giving me and other new indie authors an inspiration to carry on.

As a reader and a fan, I love to see quality writing publicized and rewarded for the simple, selfish reason that we are now likely to see more of it. Not that prolific authors like Correia and Wright and Butcher ever needed a reminder to hurry up and give us more books, but it works on a wider scale. Once authors realize that the doors to success and professional recognition are no longer guarded by the select few and access no longer filtered through a particular prism, more creativity will naturally result, to the delight of those of us always trying to find fresh fuel for our love of reading.

As a co-founder of Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (join us! we have fun! and books!) I am gratified to see our members among both the nominees and the winners. Larry Correia, Nick Cole and Brian Neimeier (with credit to editor L. Jagi Lamplighter ) won their respective categories. Declan Finn, Mark Wandrey, Dave Freer and Gibson Michaels received well-deserved nominations, and are no doubt are on the road to bigger and better things as a result.

Last but not least, as a minor culture warrior of the "home front and covering fire" variety, I must give special mention to a the authors whose wins have a special meaning to those of us concerned about the state of the culture in general and arts in particular.

Nick Cole had his now award-winning book was rejected by the publisher for openly political reasons, as previously covered in my Censorship post, forcing him to choose between artistic freedom and losing the publishing contract. Nick wisely put the art first, and clearly the fans approved.

John C. Wright some years ago joined a small but select group of authors (Andrew Klavan, Dean Koontz and David Mamet come to mind off the top of my head) who, after a period of critical acclaim, miraculously "lost their talent" after becoming vocal about their unapproved political views and/or religion. Or so all the "important" people would have you believe. Fans think otherwise, and fortunately it's the fans and not the now mostly ineffectual gatekeepers will always have the last word.

Why are the above examples important? Because they show to those of us occasionally hesitant to stay true to our beliefs that it can be done. You can succeed and be appreciated without the express approval or help of those who put their ideology above art and want to bend everyone to their will. Especially in a genre that is meant to thrive on imagination, freedom of thought is not a luxury. It's a requirement.

All in all, pathetic grumblings from the usual dark corners of the 'net notwithstanding, Sunday has been a great day for writers and fans alike, no matter what our genre preferences might be. Here is to many more years of great books, inspiration and above all FUN! Once again, many thanks to DragonCon organizers and everyone who played a part in making the awards happen.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more reading to do. For more fun, Declan Finn has a post that includes a video of the presentation. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Book Review Two-For-One: A Ben Zwycky's Special

Apologies for the long absence. As luck would have it, my family's long-ago-planned trip to Disney World (which might end up as a subject of a separate blog post), followed immediately by dropping off my oldest at college in Atlanta (cry, sniff) kept me away from my regular blogging schedule.

On the bright side, one advantage of travel, especially by plane, is an opportunity to catch up on reading. Thank you, Delta Airlines, for giving me those extra four hours at the airport. In fairness, weather in NYC was to blame, but you get the idea.

Be that as it may I am now in a position to review two of Ben Zwycky's novels at once. Short version for the impatient: you better learn how to spell that name because you're likely to be looking him up on Amazon in the future in search of new releases.



Nobility Among Us

The novel is nominally an alternative-history dystopia, set in a word where modern and futuristic technology co-exist with a feudal social structure and oppressive political system. At its heart, though, it's an adult fairy tale with a strong Christian flavor (Christianity is not specifically named, but it is clear which religion plays a pivotal role in the story). My initial reaction was to compare it to C.S. Lewis, but I always dislike authors and reviewers touting "Book X" for being "the Next Book Y." I do, however, think that it will attract the same type of reader, so the mention is appropriate.

The main plot line centers around a nobleman, guided and assisted by his wife (who came from a humble background but has more to offer than meets the eye), trying to bring justice and economic reforms into the society where tradition has not been challenged in a meaningful way for hundreds of years. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with those in power, and the struggle that follows will go well beyond normal court intrigue and military clashes of typical fantasy offerings.

It is an unusual choice to place a happily married couple, with young children, at the center of such story, and the plot does indeed proceed along a different path than would be expected. The main characters' decisions and actions drive the plot and influence the world around them, but they remain essentially unchanged throughout their many trials. Interesting character arcs are instead reserved for the secondary protagonists, and this is where the quality of writing rises to another level, covering many of my favorite themes, from redemption to mature romantic love to the true definition of duty and honor. Twists and surprises abound, some strongly foreshadowed, some coming seemingly out of nowhere (at least until you think about it some more, and then it makes sense). There a few points towards the end where I was sure the author wrote himself into the corner and there was no way for everything to resolve in a coherent way, but then it did, which was probably the biggest surprise of them all.



Beyond the Mist

Remember how I said I don't like saying "this book is just like <fill in the blank>"? Well, I still don't. Except this one positively screams "John C. Wright" and not just because he wrote the Foreword. The cover, the wording of the blurb, and the promise of addressing the Big Issues are sure to attract most Wright fans. That, of course, comes with a downside of too-high expectations and greater potential for disappointment, but all in all it's a good problem for an author to have.

The central premise/question is as simple as it gets, and the beauty of sci-fi as a genre is that it allows us to address the basics in settings that strip out the distractions and complexities of the real world. At first glance, our nameless protagonists finds himself in a state of perfection. Floating in the mysterious mist requires no effort; there is no pain, no hunger or thirst; the sensation is, in fact, quite pleasant. When his mind rebels and starts asking questions, voices tell him to be content, to enjoy this freedom from want and pain, to be grateful. A single voice, however, offers something different: a way out, into the unknown.

It's not a spoiler to say which path the protagonist would choose; the title of the novel, after all, provides the answer. What would he find "beyond"? Will his worst fears be realized? Will the knowledge he seeks end up destroying him? I won't give away the answers except to say that unlike in most of today's gimmicky setups that leave readers scratching their heads in disappointment, clear and substantial answers are, in fact, found.

The last section of the novel does switch gears and becomes more of a traditional mystery (which, as it happened, was too easy for this Agatha Christie fan to solve). It probably could have been saved for the upcoming sequel, but I also felt that the protagonist, and the reader, having found resolution to the Big Question, should not be left in complete ignorance about all the rest. Thus, more searching, more answers, and while there is a definite setup fro a sequel, the ending is quite satisfying.

In case you haven't figured it out yet, both novels are highly recommended. Purchase links in the titles above. Happy reading!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dragon Awards: Chasing Freedom Nominated for Best Apocalyptic Novel



Picture this for a moment. I come back to the hotel after a killer day at Disney, borrow my husband's laptop just to check my Facebook notifications, and suddenly discover everyone is tagging me in their Dragon Awards posts. I'm thinking, "Cool, the nominations must have come out, and my friends are thanking me because I voted for them."

Nope.

Let's just say after I clicked on one of the links, some words left my mouth that may not be suitable for the Disney target audience. Before you get too excited, I kept it to PG-13, but still.

After that, I had to explain to the family about DragonCon and their first ever Dragon Awards. What I could not explain is how exactly my debut novel ended up in such rarefied company. In fact, I did not nominate my own work. But apparently there are some fans of mine out there, and so here I am, asking for your vote in the finals.

You can register to vote here (click the Register to Vote tab to proceed). Unlike with the Award-That-Will-Not-Be-Named (really, WorldCon? $50 to vote?), it costs nothing to sign up, and authors are encouraged to campaign. It truly is a fan-driven award, as proven by the number of self-published and small-press authors among the nominees.

Congratulations and best of luck to my fellow nominees, including the following CLFA members:

Larry Correia (Son of the Black Sword)
Dave Freer (Changeling's Island)
Declan Finn (Honor at Stake)
Brian Niemeier (Souldancer)
Nick Cole (Ctrl Alt Revolt!)*
Mark H. Wandrey (A Time to Die)*

*Nick and Mark are my competitors in the Apocalyptic Novel category and supremely worthy opponents.

On the bright side, I am not competing against John C. Wright (Somewhither), or I just might have been forced to vote against myself.

The full ballot is here (I'm linking to Locus Online because it has live links to all the nominees). Once you confirm your registration, you will receive a private ballot e-mailed to you. Voting closes September 1st and the winners will be announced at DragonCon in Atlanta in the first week of September.

Once again, many thanks to all my supporters, and may the best works win!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Youtube Interview: Story Time with Megan Fox

Here is my first ever live appearance on Youtube. For those burning with curiosity as to what I look like, here is your chance. For the rest, check it out anyway for an in-depth conversation about culture, SJW takeover of the arts, Hollywood's Epic Fail at accurately portraying both male and female characters, and the reason why both creatives and minorities should get off the Progressive train while the going's still good.

Oh yes, we're also discussing my book, Chasing Freedom. Believe it or not, all of the topics above are relevant. Enjoy!

The link to the interview is here. Shares and likes are appreciated. 

For those who don't know Megan herself is a writer. You can check out her (non-fiction) book here.


Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Book Bomb Time!

It's that time of the year when book store and libraries put out their Beach Reads recommendations, so Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance decided to get in on the action. Of course, cultural contrarians that the CLFA-ers are, as the old ad for a now-defunct car goes, "this is not your father's" (or mother's) beach reads. We've got historical fiction and fantasy, thrillers and satire, dystopias and alternate history, among others, and these novels will stay with you long after your swimwear and flip flops are packed away for another year. So before you put on that sunscreen and head to your favorite vacation spot, even if it's the one in your own backyard, be sure to stock up on some of the most exciting new fiction out there that is guaranteed to make your summer even more memorable.


The full Book Bomb list is here. Please read responsibly and re-apply sunscreen as needed. Have a great summer everyone!


Note: Not every author on this list is a member of CLFA. While most of the novels are written by members, some were chosen on the basis of simply being quality fiction that fits into our general mold. Enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2016

On Winners and Sore Losers (CLFA Book of the Year Awards Wrap-up)

First things First: We have a winner!



From Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance News Release:

First Place went to action favorite and Sad Puppy extraordinaire Larry Correia for his novel Son of the Black Sword (Saga of the Forgotten Warrior Book 1).
In second place, the winner is Michael Sheldon with his debut novel The Violet Crow: A Bruno X Psychic Detective Mystery.
Jack July took third place with the second in his contemporary warrior series Amy Lynn: Golden Angel.
It was especially gratifying to see the variety of novels in competition this year, everything from thriller to military sci-fi to dystopia, with self-published authors holding their own against some of the biggest names in genre fiction. And that, of course, is how it should be. What we as readers want is great stories above all, and authors who produce them deserve recognition, both tangible (sales) and intangible (complimentary reviews and awards).
I also want to congratulate the rest of the nominees for making it into the Top 10 and encourage the readers to add those novels to their (no doubt over-grown) To-Be-Read list. 
Who were the losers, you ask? Good question. One would think that both writers and readers everywhere, no matter their political persuasion or literary preferences, would be happy to see quality novels get some love. One would, of course, be wrong.
Fueled by resentment of those whose views don't match their own, in combination with truly bizarre grudge against this year's winner, the usual suspects have engaged in laughably petty hate-fest against both CLFA and the winning novel. And these, my friends, are the true losers, no matter how much money or accolades some of them might have earned, no matter how prestigious they consider their position in the industry, no matter how many sycophant journalists they have at their disposal.
If you come across a group of fellow readers and writers celebrating the kind of art they happen to enjoy, and your first reaction is to denigrate, mock and search for reasons to complain, then YOU are the loser, not only at your craft but at life. I'd like to feel resentment towards this type of person because their venom is in fact directed at me as those I consider friends, but all I can muster at the moment is pity. Contrary to their ever more strident protestations, they are the past, and their world is small and dark, getting more so at time goes on. They are not worth our attention and energy. Let them have their little corner. We have too much work to do in the real world, and we have only just begun.
Happy 4th of July to all!