Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Promotion: Freedom's Light Anthology

The following is not quite a book review because this anthology from CLFA authors and friends includes my story. However, since there are many other stories alongside mine, and since this is a charity anthology to benefit the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), I decided that it would be appropriate to share my thoughts on my own blog. The stories are reviewed in the order they appear.

1. The Tenth Righteous Man by Nitay Arbel. If you think this story has basis in the real world, you would be right, but you have to read and find out the specific source of reference for yourself. First-person narration is used for great effect here, and the ending, plus the final reveal, surprised me. If I have any criticisms, the style seems a bit dry considering how emotionally charged the story actually is. Very different, and a great start for a freedom-themed collection.

2. Martian Sunrise by Matthew Souders. In spite of the otherworldly setting, this is probably the most literary entry. It's also the least political, and is more about facing one's demons and the fact that sometimes the worst prison of all is the one we create for ourselves. Lovely and touching without crossing into the maudlin territory, which it easily could have done.

3. Backwater by Lori Janeski. A solid demonstration of the oft-repeated truth: "You might not be interested in politics, but politics is interested in you." It's set on a colony planet where most of the residents think themselves safe from government overreach, and find out the hard way it's not the case. The story is a setup for another work, so the ending is intentionally incomplete, which might bother some readers more than others.

4. The Birthday Party by Daniella Bova. Unlike the many dystopian entries in this collection, Ms. Bova's story takes us back to the past (some of the incidents are in fact connected to the author's family history). It makes us appreciate how far we've come as a country, both in terms of civil rights and just general tolerance towards those different and less fortunate. As we continuously strive to promote freedom and preserve out rights, it helps once in a while to step back and appreciate the progress we've made.

5. Dollars on the Nightstand by Bokerah Brumley. Although set firmly in the real world, this story is similar in its message to Ms. Janeski's Backwater. The government, left unchecked, will eventually overreach and make criminals out of citizens who just want to be left alone. The "crime" revealed at the end is, in fact, already a crime in some parts of the country, so even though the premise seems ridiculous, we're only a step away from it being true.

6. The City by A.G. Wallace. Here we get firmly into the dystopian territory, although the society presented seems entirely benign. This is very reminiscent of The Giver and the Matched trilogy, where all seems well until one finds out the cost of keeping up the apparent utopia. I appreciate the fact that the author acknowledges that a society of this type will need an escape valve to deal with those who don't wish to comply, without resorting to mass murder. The ending is abrupt, but in a way that makes one want to know more rather than leaving the reader frustrated.

7. Nomod by Henry Vogel. Another not-quite-dystopia showing the logical conclusion to the dreams of a perfect society achieved through bio-engineering. Although predictable, it's a fun read and not at all dark. Honestly, I would have preferred  it in the form of a full novel or at least a novella, to allow for events at the end to actually unfold before our eyes rather than be described.

8. Sara by Chris Donahue. I think I now understand why some authors write in shared worlds. The setup described is pretty much next door to the world of my novella The Product, although there are differences. The reveal happens early on, which allows the author to really get into the details of what drives those who choose to defy the society's norms, and how they manage to stay safe from the all-powerful government. I won't discuss the ending, except that I absolutely loved it.

9. Room to Breathe! This story is set in the world of my novel Chasing Freedom. For those who enjoyed the novel, but want to see a little more of the world, this is a backstory for one of the side protagonists. It is entirely self-contained and is meant as a tribute to free artistic expression in an oppressive environment.

10. Victory Garden by Tom Rogneby. A very low-key dystopia that shows the world ruled, essentially, by an HOA on steroids. Neighbor spies on neighbor and corruption abounds (which is why it all seems so low-key: pay off the right people and you'll be fine).  The ending surprised me by bringing in some new elements that hint at more possible stories in this world. Or at the very lease it points to potential start of serious resistance. It's a good balance of closure and leaving the reader wanting more.

11. The Unsent Letter by Brad Torgersen. A military fiction story that surprisingly has no military action. It focuses more on the military as an eternal brotherhood of people dedicated to a worthy cause. A worthy inclusion in a freedom-themed collection that reminds us of those who protect our freedoms on a daily basis, often at a terrible cost.

12. Credo Man by Carol Kean. A true genre bender that starts as a small town family drama, turns into a whodunit mystery, and adds a sci-fi plot twist seemingly out of nowhere. Does it work? I think so, but you have to accept the quirky turns and just go with it. The author's German heritage adds authenticity to the sometimes over-the-top tale.

And speaking of quirky...

13. The Fighting Beagles and the Attack at Dawn by Nick Cole. This has all the makings of satire, with all the ridiculous character names and fictional battlegrounds. In the end, though, it leaves you with a very earnest appreciation of both the absurdity of war and, more interestingly, of true old-fashioned manhood. At least that's what I got out of it; it's quite possible If the author meant something entirely different. In any case, it's a wild ride of a tale.

14. Shirt Story by Arlan Andrews. With all the talk of the New Civil War and the irreparable ideological split in this country, this story is perhaps the most timely of all as it shows a potential logical conclusion if we continue on this path. It's disturbing in a way different from most dystopias because the concept seems ridiculous, yet at the same time we're THIS close to already living it even without the technological aids envisioned by the author. I think it attempts to be satirical, but for me cuts to close to the truth to be funny. Be that as it may, the story is well done.

15. Polk's Prophetic Property by W.J. Hayes. Probably the strangest story of 'em all. A businessman works to convince Cthulhu (yep, you read it right) to leave his land alone and go wreak havoc elsewhere by quoting from the American founding documents. 'Nuff said.

Obviously, as a CLFA co-founder and one of the contributors, I am biased, but hopefully this extended review will give you more of an idea of what you find within this volume. It truly does have something for everyone, and I hope you find it an enjoyable read.

Purchase Freedom's Light on Amazon

Link to the FIRE website

Link to the CLFA website

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Guest Post by Amie Gibbons: A Novel Is a Seduction

When I was finishing up my Accounting degree, there was a rumor of a CPA prep course where the instructor helped the students understand and/or memorize crucial sections of the material by using analogies to sex. Aah, those were the days... Anyway, I couldn't afford the class and decided not to take the CPA exam, but I always wondered about the technique. Now I see it can be done, at least when it comes to writing. (Sorry, CPA hopefuls, you're still on your own!)

And now, for the main event:


A Novel Is A Seduction

Here’s what I’ve noticed while trying to write out my climax.  (Younger readers, some of this is dirty and probably crosses the line into Not Suitable For Minors.  Under 18?  Don’t read this.) Writer over 18?  Read this.  Male over 18 at any level of experience?  Definitely read this   I got this idea mostly because of the word climax, a novel is like seducing your reader and having a romp of (hopefully) good sex.

No really, think about it.  It’s dirty but that word climax is not a coincidence.  Now, I’m going to be describing this in terms of seducing “her” because in my mind, the man is the seducer.  I’m sorry if this offends anyone’s modern sensibilities but I’m the girl who likes to be seduced and you really can’t take all the ol’ fashioned Utah out of the girl.

First up, you get the reader’s attention.  Either you look damn good and they pick you up off the shelf and turn you over to read your back, or you go up to them (advertising) and make them want to talk to you without going too overboard and annoying them.  This is the fine art of the approach and no one has it down pat.  Usually you take the shotgun approach, get attention and smile at the entire room in the hopes that one out of a hundred likes your type.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Speculative Fiction Cantina: Writing, Dystopia and Making Friends

On January 6, I had appeared once again on a Speculative Fiction Cantina podcast with host S. Evan Townsend. Evan was nice enough to book my friend and fellow dystopian writer Daniella Bova for the same show. This resulted in a very productive discussion since we're both indie writers specializing in a dystopian genre. We talk writing (of course!), the difficulty of crafting a dystopia in a world that unfortunately keeps outpacing some of our imaginary setups, and being a conservative pro-freedom author in an environment still dominated by the left. Dramatic readings from our works are included!

You can listen to the archived podcast here.

The interview included various mentions and shout-outs, which I will link below for the curious:

Goodreads Small Government Book Fan Club
Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance on Facebook group and website
Superversive Press website/blog

Foundation for Individual Right in Education (FIRE)

And last but not least, book links:

My Amazon Author Page

Daniella's Storms of Transformation Trilogy on Amazon

Freedom's Light Anthology

Many thanks to Evan for having me over and for Daniella for agreeing to appear with me to make the show even more fun!

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016: Year In Review

To (badly) translate a line of Russian poetry, the longer we live the shorter the years. It seems only yesterday everyone in my social circle was toasting the end of the horribleness that was 2015. And here I was, all of last week, wading through post after post about 2016 being The Worst Year Ever. The proper response, even from those of us willing for the moment to ignore history, is not to tempt fate, for the same reason that it's a bad idea to ask "What's the worst that can happen?" (Answer: "Let's not find out.") My general attitude towards New Year celebrations is the same as towards birthdays: "Yay! I made it another year. Cool." No more, no less.

Not that there is anything wrong with acknowledging milestones, or with using a specific date, whatever it happens to be, as an excuse to look back, re-assess, and make decisions for the future. And so it is in that spirit that I offer my version of 2016: Year in Review.

Personal News:

I would say my oldest getting into the college of his choice was probably the biggest even in my life. Sending him off to live on his own was much harder than I thought, and although he has come to visit since, and might move closer to home after graduation the separation is irreversible. He is now his own man, making his own choices on a day to day basis. No matter how connected we are, how accepting he is (so far) of our advice, or how ready we are to step in and help should he need us, the relationship has changed. It's a good thing, and a necessary process, but it's also on the scary side, at least for me as a parent. The young tend to be fearless, and that's also how it should be.

Creative News:

2016 has been an amazing year for me in that respect. In January, I published my first novel, Chasing Freedom, which was nominated for a Dragon Award in the summer. I didn't win, but the thought of having enough fans to even have my name mentioned among some many wonderfully talented authors was a mind-blowing experience.

Sometime over the summer, I also had the privilege to get connected with the fine folks at SuperversiveSF and to have my novella The Product picked up by their newly created publishing division (Superversive Press). It was a very different experience from doing it alone, and I learned a lot from going through the process. I also got to work with a professional editor, who not only helped make my story better, but also gave me some pointers on writing that I am using even now while working on completely new material.