Coming March 2017

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I am very excited to be a part of this upcoming boxed set! Click on the pic for more information. Shhhhh! I can’t reveal too much yet. You’ll have to click the link for more info!

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Max Fragg V.P.I.

Tucked between the shadows and the night, standing in a darkened corner of the room, Maxx Fragg watched the young couple huddled on the couch. They had no idea what he had in store for them. He almost felt sorry. Almost. He watched as Travis stroked Debbie’s hand and whispered something in her ear. Maxx locked eyes with her as he moved across the apartment. He saw the desperation mixed with fear in her eyes and he grinned. He liked it that way. Pulling a pair of gloves from his belt, Maxx cinched them tight around his wrists. The rush of adrenaline rose up from his chest. This was far from his first job but he still got a thrill each time. He clicked off the lamp and the room went black.

Debbie gasped. “Can’t we leave a few lights on?”

“I prefer to work in the dark. It helps me concentrate,” Maxx said. It really didn’t matter but he felt it intensified the experience.

“I think I’d rather see what’s coming.” Travis pulled a cushion on his lap, clutching the fabric.

“Why? You expecting a pillow fight?” Maxx dropped the equipment bag slung over his shoulder.

Debbie jumped. “What are you going to do with that?”

“What I’m being paid to do. My job.” Maxx nodded across the room to his partner, who shook his head in disapproval. Bending next to the couch, Maxx slowly unzipped the bag. He was close enough to see the goose bumps on Debbie’s arm rise with each click.

“I don’t care what it takes. Just get that thing out of my house,” Travis said.

“Don’t worry. You’ll be ghost free in no time.” Maxx knew his clients needed to believe he could make it better, take away their fears. If only it was that simple. Everyone wanted to name the night, put a label on their personal horrors. He wished someone could shut the door to the monsters in his own closet.

pasted image 0 (1)Maxx Fragg, V.P.I.
S.A. Check
Genre: Young Adult / Sci-fi / Paranormal
Release Date:09/03/15
Publisher Ink Smith Publishing

Cover Designer: Macy Stom

When Maxx lost his brother in a car accident, his world fell apart.  It didn’t help he was driving the car when it happened.  Finding an escape inside the virtual world of Other Syde, Maxx runs the Maxx Fragg Virtual Paranormal Investigative Agency with his best friend, Tane. But in a world where dreams become reality, can nightmares be far behind?
When a real ghost attacks Maxx inside the program, he’s saved by the last person he ever expected to see again, his brother. Risking everything for a chance to say he’s sorry, Maxx, Tane, and Maxx’s almost-girlfriend Emi, need to figure out why real ghosts are haunting a virtual world while on the run from a murderous cyber-geist, high-tech security guards, a corrupt corporation with their own plans for the technology, the recluse genius who created the program, and Maxx’s own demons.
About the Author

 

Reader Meet Writer

1072683_599862616712713_677350003_o (1)Join me at the Reader Meet Writer Author’s fair at the Thomas County Public Library on Saturday, August 17 from 10 to noon. I’ll be signing copies of SOVRAN’S PAWN. I look forward to seeing you there!

Thomas County Public Library
201 N Madison St
Thomasville, Georgia

(229) 225-5252

Feminism, Initials, JK Rowling, and Me

533642_552932778076373_588861722_nA writer friend posted this picture on Facebook this morning and invited my comment. You really don’t do that unless you mean it. I don’t like to get political and I don’t really like the term “feminism.” I’ve always joked that women who seek to be equal to men are underachievers.

The fact of the matter is that I strongly believe that each gender has its strengths and both male and female should support and encourage each other. The traditionally “male” role complements the traditionally “female” role and one is neither superior nor inferior to the other. I also believe that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and my gender has less to do with it than my determination and skill.

I believe that the term “feminism” is insulting to me. It implies that women cannot gain true equality to men without the help of enlightened men making adjustments and setting the bar lower so we poor, weak creatures can reach it. That’s not equality. It’s condescension.

Growing up in a home with three brothers and eight male cousins, there was very little doll-playing going on. When playing with my brothers, I crawled on my belly taking the beaches of Normandy with my stick rifle across my forearms along with everyone else. The taunt of “You can’t because you’re a girl” always resulted in “Watch me!” followed by my doing just what their friends said I couldn’t.

Of course my accomplishments were declared a fluke and I was shoved aside and told to go play with dolls while they went off to do “important” boy things.

My mother once told me that boys didn’t like when girls beat them, so I needed to let the boys win.

Screw that!

No power in the verseWhy should I hide who I am or pretend to be less than I am to make someone else feel better about themselves? By the same token, why should I expect someone else to lower the bar so I can reach it. If I want it badly enough, ‘no power in the ‘verse can stop me’ regardless of how high it sits.

I’ve been called a “femi-nazi” an “Amazon” and several obscenities that my brothers would have decked them for using. I knew going in what I was in-for by working in a male-dominated industry. Some men are intimidated by women and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better.

Buffy_CheerleaderI’ve got news for you, some women are intimidated by strong women who don’t fit into the typical cheerleader mold and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better, too.

I don’t feel that’s an issue that falls under feminism. That’s an issue that falls under some-people-who-have-a-sense-of-power-over-others-fear-those-who-will-not-fall-in-line-with-their-world-view. That’s not being a feminist. That’s being a free-thinking, intelligent human being. If there is an obstacle in the way of my goals, I will overcome it on my own, thanks. I don’t need a group of condescending men and women in power legislating it away for me.

Whether we like it or not, prejudice against women writers is alive and well. I see it with SF more so than with Fantasy, mostly because I’m most active in that genre. The stereotype of the SF fan being primarily male, between the ages of 13 and 30, socially awkward, living in his parents’ basement is still strong, but oh-so-outdated.

Recent scandals of sexual bias and harassment have rocked the SFWA. Women in the genre are marginalized and often vilified. Unless one is writing SF Erotica or SFR, having a feminine name on the cover does reduce sales.

When it first came out in my town that I’m a novelist, the local editor/owner for the free newspaper asked if I wrote about “trips to the grocery store.”

upwords-board-730x485Rather than start beating my chest and crying over the unfairness of it, I considered the source. He’s a condescending blowhard with few friends in town who is still angry over the fact that I beat him like a red-headed step child the one and only time he challenged me to a game of “Upwords.” I tried to warn him that I play cutthroat Scrabble and tend to make my opponents cry, but he just had to challenge me.

In case you’re wondering, I looked at him in disgust, told him to stop being an ass and said I was writing a SF series filled with political intrigue following a military officer wanted for treason while she tries to find her kidnapped father, clear her name, and prevent an assassination plot that will plunge the galaxy into civil war. I doubted she had much time for grocery shopping.

Women and girls are less likely to care about the gender of the author. Men and boys have preconceived ideas of what women write. It may not be right, but the fact remains that it *IS*.

We can stubbornly stick our given names on the covers of our books and whine about pathetic sales and wonder why men don’t buy them. We can also suffer the ridicule of males threatened by intelligent women while we’re tilting windmills over it.

ChewieMen in power are like wookiees, they don’t like to lose and tend to get upset and pull people’s arms out of their sockets. Let’s face it, it’s not about prejudice as much as it is about a group of people in power over an industry who are loathe to relinquish said power.

For now, that is the nature of the industry. Ideas do not change overnight. In the decades that I’ve been writing, I’ve seen many, many changes within society and within the industry. When I first began, the strong, kick butt heroine was anathema and completely unheard of. She was the kiss of death for a manuscript.

Xena Thanks to Xena, Buffy, and Charmed, or rather Sam Raimi, Joss Whedon, and Aaron Spelling, the female action hero is no longer a thing of the past, although I doubt without the male of the species putting his weight behind the notion, women writing and producing these characters would ever have gotten past the elevator pitch. Right or wrong, it’s the nature of the industry.charmed_season_1_promo-2

Feminist? Perhaps. Capitalistic? Certainly. I’d be willing to bet that these men who produced these cutting edge women saw the potential fan-base for strong female characters in the rising numbers of young men of the 90’s having grown up in single parent households and tended to view their mother as provider and protector.

I’m jaded enough to attribute their choices to dollar signs rather than any sense of social justice or feminist responsibility.

The gatekeepers of the industry can’t argue with sales. While the traditional SF/F publishers are less inclined to give shelf space to women writing in the genre, it *is* a business and sales are the bottom line. When the sales of female authors match or outstrip the male of the species, you’ll see change. To first get those sales at this point in time, one must play the game.

For the time being, women using initials or a male pseudonym in order to be taken seriously in a male-dominated genre is simply the way things are done. In time, with networking, the rise of self and indie publishers more inclined to take a chance on women writers, that will change.

Our daughters and granddaughters will thank our initialed nom de plumes for paving the way for them to use their own names on their own SF/F covers.

Big Damn Heroes

Repost from March 26, 2012:
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love nothing better than a real, honest-to-goodness hero. There is just something about a larger-than-life, two-fisted, rootin’ tootin’ good guy who beats up the baddies and rescues the girl that appeals to me on a primal level. I’ve got my favorite heroes from film, television, and literature and there are several qualities they all have in common.

Unconventional
My favorite heroes are men who follow their own star. While some, like Indiana Jones, may superficially appear to conform to societal standards (Archaeology Professor) they have a rebellious streak. You realize that, while they appear to conform, they have found their own way to gain acceptance within the system while operating outside its constraints. Another favorite hero who fit into this mold was Fox Mulder from the X-Files. He was a brilliant FBI profiler whose obsession with the paranormal landed him in the basement of the J.Edgar Hoover Building.

Others openly flout convention, like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Hawkeye from Last of the Mohicans. He is the adopted son of Chingachgook, and though white, he eschews the ways of the white settlers in favor of living off the land like his father’s people. Paul Newman and Robert Redford brilliantly portrayed this kind of hero in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Still others are forced from their conventional lives, like Errol Flynn’s Peter Blood in Captain Blood, or Robin Hood, or Russell Crowe’s Gladiator, or the Science Fiction icons Han Solo (Star Wars) and Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly). These heroes are usually princes among thieves, men of honor and integrity who are forced into a society devoid of these things, and as such, they rise above their circumstances, holding to their own code and earning the respect (and often animosity) of those around them.

Which brings me to the next quality of a Big Damn Hero…

Integrity
No matter the mores of the society in which they operate, the Hero will always hold to his own code of ethics which is often in conflict with that of his society, but inviolate. Once the hero decides that something is “wrong” it’s wrong and nothing can force him to compromise his values. This often keeps the hero from finding success by the standards of his society, but he measures success differently.

Rugged Individualist
It only goes to reason that the unconventional man with integrity tends to be self-reliant and not in need of validation from others.

Resourceful
One of my favorite things about the Big Damn Hero is the creative ways he finds to save the day. I don’t care if it’s reprogramming the Kobiyashi Moru, raising an army of the dead, using himself as a diversion, floating away with the garbage, or setting his ship to self-destruct while he and his crew make their getaway in the bad guy’s War Bird, the hero is clever under fire. He is ready to sacrifice himself, and the things that mean the most to him, in order to save the day.

Invincible
Okay, maybe not really invincible, because Superman leaves me cold. It’s more the attitude than the actual invincibility that I love. One of my favorite lines comes from Galaxy Quest. “Never give up, never surrender.” That’s the attitude of a hero. No matter how bad things get, the Big Damn Hero never sees failure as an option. He’ll rescue the girl, save the world, stop the bad guy or die trying. I think that’s why I never saw Luke Skywalker as a true hero. He gave up too easily. Han Solo was the one who never stopped looking for a solution, a way out of whatever intergalactic pickle he’d landed in.

That’s one of the draws of Doctor Who for me. The Doctor isn’t invincible, but he is clever and resourceful and he never stops looking for the solution. He knows it’s there, he just has to find it before he runs out of time.


Impeccable Sense of Timing
The Big Damn Hero doesn’t save the day when trouble starts. He shines at the darkest moment when all hope is fading. The swashbuckling hero will burst onto the scene, swinging in on a rope from the rigging, swooping in from out of nowhere, with guns blazing and a heroic fanfare with lots of staccato strings and the entire brass and woodwinds section of the London Symphony Orchestra.

He’s got a determined glint in his eye and a crooked smile that asks the audience, “Did you miss me?” As he so handily manages the bad guys and the disaster with a quip and a flourish, I usually feel like batting my eyelashes, clasping my hands together. “My HERO!”

Heroes Gallery

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Girls Don’t Like Sci-Fi! Do They?

Sometimes it’s hard to remember how far we’ve come until you look back at where we’ve been.

When I was a kid, growing up on STAR TREK, WONDER WOMAN, SPACE 1999, THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN, THE BIONIC WOMAN and BUCK ROGERS women were still pretty much objects to be kidnapped, tied up, held for ransom and eventually rescued by the big strong man. While women and girls were fans of science fiction, it wasn’t really written for us, with us in mind. The general consensus was that science fiction fans were primarily male, intelligent, between the ages of 12 and 40 and virgins living in their parents’ basement.

I was frustrated that there was precious little out there that depicted kick-ass women as heroic figures. So I started writing my own. That’s how Bo Barron was born. Even then, I realized that it would be impossible to find a market in the male-dominated science fiction market. I was ready to give up the idea and bow to pressure to go to college to be an English teacher. Fortunately, I found the Rissa Kerguelen series of books by F.M. Busby and held fast to my original plan.

Until I sat down to write this post, I’d pretty much forgotten those books, which is a shame, considering how many times I read and re-read them in high school. It was 1984, Bo was already cutting a wide swath through my friends who clamored for more of her adventures. It was a stinky boy who told me no one would ever buy a science fiction book about a girl warrior. College loomed. I had to declare a major. While browsing in a bookstore I found Rissa. She was so different from Bo and while I tried to really like her, something about her fell flat. I later came to realize that was because she was written by a man, from a man’s perspective. But what kept me going was knowing that here was a character who had a lot in common with my own. If she could see the light of day, so could Bo.

Over the years, I heard over and over that “women just don’t read science fiction” and “women aren’t into science fiction.” I did and I was. What was I? Chopped liver? I would argue with whoever held still long enough that the reason more women weren’t into science fiction was because men were writing science fiction for men. If more women wrote science fiction, more women would read it. But it was the 1980’s and gender lines were still clearly drawn.

The movie ALIEN started things changing. Ripley was a kick-ass heroine that men loved and women related to. It was a slow process, but by the 1990’s, the sub-genre of Science Fiction Romance was on the rise and traditional romance publishers were taking a chance on it. However, the mainstream SF publishers still didn’t want anything to do with it. Hard SF, cyberpunk and technothriller were all they wanted to see. Space Opera? Forget it.

The stereotype of the awkward, but brilliant male adolescent SF fan living in his parents’ basement was still the target market of SF publishers. Funny, but during that time Romance sales soared and SF sales did not. Film and television tapped into the female market with shows showing women in heroic roles like SPACE: ABOVE AND BEYOND and BABYLON 5 and STARSHIP TROOPERS. In fantasy and other genres there was XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS, NIKITA, and even the X-FILES, which switched the gender roles with the skeptical scientist played by Gillian Anderson and the wild-eyed paranormal expert played by David Duchovny.

Fast forward to the 21st Century. SF Romance still struggles to find a market as Romance publishers are reluctant to deviate from their formula and require Happily Ever After endings or at least Happy For Now, and Science Fiction publishers are more reluctant than ever to sully their reputations with that tripe. Of course, the beautiful thing is, SF authors are no longer dependent on the hallowed halls of traditional publishers to get their work in the hands of eager readers. There is an awful lot of self- small- and indie-published SF out there, a lot of it Space Opera and SF Romance.

You see, the nasty little secret that mainstream SF publishers never realized is that no matter the situation, be it war, politics, or business, no matter how complicated it is at the outset, all you have to do to really screw it up is to throw a woman and romantic element into the mix. It doesn’t necessarily make it a romance, but it does complicate your story nicely. That’s the kind of thing women love to read. Even Homer understood how women can complicate and cloud the issue. After all, he told the story of the Trojan War, which, according to Homer, was all for the love of a beautiful woman.

As for women being fans of Science Fiction, just take a look at current trends in cosplay.

Yeah. Women love SF. Women love a good story. Women don’t necessarily need a Happily Ever After. If we did, GONE WITH THE WIND wouldn’t have sold so many copies and CASABLANCA wouldn’t be considered one of the most romantic films EV-AR!!

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What do you think? Are girls into SF? Has traditional Science Fiction publishing met the needs of female fans? Or are they hopelessly still operating on an outdated business model?

SOVRAN’S PAWN Cover Art – Hot or Not?

Nothing is what it seems…

FINALLY!! An election EVERYONE can agree on! SOVRAN’S PAWN is  entry #15 in You Gotta Read Website’s Cover Art contest for August! Voting begins August 21 and runs through August 26. Get your voting fingers ready to click!! You’ve all told me now stunning the cover is, help me (and the delightful artist who created this cover) by voting and taking a friend or two to the polls along with you!
http://yougottaread.com/august-entry-15-sovrans-pawn/