Category: News

Female Empowerment: Reminding Myself I Know Nothing

When I started writing the Children of Nostradamus Series, I knew my cast would be dominated by women. My goal, do justice to my female characters on behalf of my female readers. I’ve learned exactly one thing: What I know about the female gender means nothing.

Me with my Grandmother, Gloria “MiMi” Cowing

I grew up in a in a matriarchy. My father was a Marine, and for my formative years, he served the greater good overseas. My mother and grandmother were the heads of the household. From role models, to neighbors to peers, I was surrounded with feminine energy. Few if any of these women upheld the mystical and misguided definition of what a “true” woman is. This eventually became the the archetypes for the women in my writing.

The first error had been made before I even wrote the title of the book.

Jasmine was the first female I started to write. She’s the Ellen Ripley of my book, a hard as nails (literally and figuratively) woman who plays a boys game and does it better than any of them. I wanted to empower the character and make her better than the boys, stronger, smarter, faster, and really let it be shown that a woman can be at the top of the food chain. This is what it meant to give women their just dues, they could play the boys game and be a champion. Right?

Twenty-Seven (Samantha) was late to the story, a character who was written into the plot on the last draft. Her back story is tragic. Emotionally and physically abused by her spouse of two decades, she wrangles control when she finally kills the scum. A woman takes back her destiny by destroying the evil in her life. Female empowerment, right?

My error started when I gave powerful as the singular definition the female gender as powerful. I made them powerful, but not by empowering them. They competed in a man’s game, and by making them win in a man’s game, I neutered their complexity and multiple dimensions. This realization had me rethink all my characters and how I allowed a singular element define their existence. On the surface, we may observe this in people, but the truth is, nobody hosts a single dimension.

I had to take a breather and ask myself a series of questions. These women might play in a world dominated by men, but they wouldn’t win by being “the bigger man.” Even Ripley had a moment where, despite being strong and able to hold her own in a do or die situation, it’s the tender moments with Newt that aid in our understanding of her identity. When the final confrontation comes about, her power isn’t from being the biggest badass, it’s from her motherly role with Newt. If Ripley can be brave, scared, determined, persistent, angry I had to examine my own definitions. Is empowering women allowing them to be women?

No. Not allowing, respecting them so they can define their own definitions.

Jasmine lives in a world where she’s expected to bottle her emotions and show no weakness. Her teammates question her humanity and after snapping the neck of her usurper, she finds herself crumbling. My love for the character is in the moments when she questions her own identity and through her, I started a journey. Meanwhile, Samantha whose identity is that of the victim, puts cuts off her past and emerges as Twenty-Seven, a survivor, a soldier, and eventually a leader. While she grows confident in her new identity, only then does she open the door to her past. For me, these two fictional women have been a guide as I try to empower my female characters.

In the second season of Jessica Jones (really, any reason to discuss this show) we have 13 episodes directed by 13 different female directors. Critics of the show complained of the wandering plots of wish-washy character actions. The eloquence of the characters in this season are the transitions of women from one role to the next and back again. I believe what people misconstrued as “wish washy” is a more accurate portrayal of women (of mankind in general.) A decision does not need to be absolute, and the path to a destination is not a straight line. While serial storytelling does require singular traits to stand above others, the mixture, swirling, and whirlwind of traits was wonderfully displayed.

I thought being a gay man gave me a leg up, a better understanding for the female characters in my books, but a dear friend once said, “You can empathize, but you will never understand.” That phrase has forced me to drop my preconceived notions and start fresh. Then drop them again. Start again. So on, and so forth. Because there is no rule book to follow. The most I can do now is stop, listen, and set aside my ego to ask uncomfortable questions (uncomfortable for me that is.) And when I’m given information that contradicts what I think I know, I admit I know nothing.

As I wrap up Night Covenants, I am excited to start plotting out a new trilogy. There will be no team to hide behind, a single female character will take center stage. Eleanor, a woman we watched demonstrate elegance and grace with the resolve to meet an untimely fate will be the main character. Once again, I will throw out all my expectations and investigate the layers of identity as they build into a complex woman, one of many I plan to write in the future.

During March and beyond, celebrate women, all women.


A New Generation of Creativity is Coming

I get a random message from Kate Conway, “Want to be on a panel at this teen conference?” I haven’t done much in the way of cons or panels this year. But she’s energetic, it’s for teens, so I say sure.

Best possible decision.

The teens are working on presentation boards of their literary masterpieces and as I wander through checking them out, I can’t help but think, “Damn, these are good.” It’s always awkward being the old guy in the room, even more so when you decide at lunch to go sit with a group of teenagers. Pro Tip: Find the brightest colored hair and the kids with unusual hats. They’re always the most fun. It started awkward, but by the end, we were discussing gender politics, trans representation, and wielding teen angst as a powerful storytelling device. I happily read a lot of young adult by adults, but it’s always missing something unique. Listening to this group of four talk about their stories, it was apparent that teens themselves need to tell their stories.

The Cape Cod Teen Writer’s Conference was ran like a well oiled machine (No matter how much Kate Conway argues.) The panel had amazing questions, both thought-provoking and honest. I was happy to sit among K.R. Conway, Natasha Friend, Mick Carlon, Kathryn Knight, Katie Bareyl, Jim Hill, and Kristine Carlson Asselin. We talked about motivation, love of our characters, and what keeps us writing. The range from jazz inspired novels to erotica was discussed openly and truthfully. We didn’t talk genre politics, marketing, or publishing. It was a return to what turned us from writers to authors. I have to admit, it’s rare to see adults have that conversation with young people. I left energized and ready to go be a creator.

Listening to stories about alien superheroes and universe hopping explorers, I can say there is a wave of creators coming who have found new spins on stories to tell. If a young person in your life is interested in writing, foster this. School will steadily beat the creativity out of them and leave with a hatred for reading and writing. In such a heated world, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and those feelings need to be directed somewhere.

With all that being said, I’m back to writing. We have new audio in the Children of Nostradamus Series on the way, a new release with Night Legions and steadily working on Night Covenants. This series is going to end with a bang. I’m already choked up and I’ve barely gotten into the story. Stay tuned folks, it’s going to be a rollercoaster!


Children of Nostradamus Release Today

Children of Nostradamus
Morning Sun (Prequel)
Nighthawks
Night Shadows
Night Legions

I’m excited to announce that the newest book in the Children of Nostradamus Series, Night Legions, is now available on all major eBook retailers. This book will lead into the final chapter of the saga. Fans have spoken and the last book of this story arc will be titled, “Night Covenants,” and is expected to be released in the spring of 2019.

What is different about Night Legions from earlier books in the series?

Things have gotten dark for our heroes. Eleanor has been influencing the world up to this point and finally we start seeing her involvement come to a head. Forces join together and we get a glimpse at the cast as an ensemble for the first time. However, despite a minor victory in the story, each of the characters is forced to come to grips with their own mortality. A war has been brewing behind the scenes and now it’s come front and center and our heroes decide it is time to stop reacting and turn proactive.

How does the story change the Children of Nostradamus world?

Up to this point we’ve seen a war tearing apart the United States thanks to underhanded dealings by President Cecilia Joyce. For the first time we see the outward ripple. We meet important characters from Canada and are confronted by the global ramifications presented by this war. it also changes the very structure of the United States which will leave open a lot of possibilities for future stories. While it won’t be explored in the Children of Nostradamus, there are spin-off novels that will delve into this global world.

Were there any difficult moments writing this book? (Light Spoiler)

There were several moments in this novel that forced me to step away from the laptop. I’ve spent decades with some of these characters and for the first time, I realized not all of them are going to make it out alive. I joke about killing everybody in the book, but when death comes around, I was left feeling like I just got punched in the chest. The characters each represent a little piece of me, and while a death is inevitable in a series like this, it’s the remaining character’s reactions that I find most difficult. It’s like consoling the living at a funeral. The worst part is knowing some of the characters won’t recover.

Are there any new players we should be excited for?

My writing group had a thorough conversation about telepaths. Can two telepaths who speak different languages speak to one another? Would somebody who can read your thoughts let you speak or carry on a one-sided conversation? This conundrum allowed me to develop Azacca, a man with the ability to receive “radio” signals from people equipped with a transmitter. While he connects each of their minds into a hive mind, he is sometimes their collective voice, and other times his cohorts speak from them all. It required coming up with a way to explain his speech patterns and relate how he views the world. The uses for his abilities are vast and play strongly into the story.

Where do we go from here?

That is the question everybody is asking. We have all the answers and we know all the characters. Now it’s time to push through personal baggage and reach for the end goal. The grand loop that has been building is about to come full circle and we’ll finally see how the past and the present have been aligned in a way that will bring closure, but at what cost?

Fans of the story won’t have to wait long, the conclusion of the Children of Nostradamus will come about early next year. And for those who want more, no worries, another series set in the same world is in the works and will launch late next year. Character we’ve only started to discover will have much bigger plots and even grander tales. From the United Kingdom to Canada, the Children of Nostradamus are nowhere near being gone.


Let’s Talk about Sex (in Writing)

April is the first time this year I’ve had a moment to pause and breath. The world behind the scenes for this author have been busy and productive (more busy it seems.) I’m one of a trio putting together an anthology with the New England Speculative Writers and while it’s extremely rewarding, nobody warned us how much work it would take. Along with that I released the   of Suburban Zombie High and much to my surprise, it blew away my expectations. And now my attention has been firmly set on finishing books two and three of the Children of Nostradamus. But enough of the boring stuff, let’s get to the fun stuff.

Let’s talk about sex.

If you’ve read my books, you know I’m anything but a prude. My characters get into fights, wade through puddles of blood, and have no problem severing a head. However, in all my books, there has been a consistent lack of low-light turn up the Barry White sexy time. In Suburban Zombie, even the busty school nurse and her male play thing only do the nasty behind closed (extremely thick) doors. In the Children of Nostradamus, it’s been hard to give my characters down time have some “get down” time. Writing novels in a condensed time frame (each of my books takes place in two or three days) and you’re being chased by bad guys, typically survival is more important than doing the horizontal mambo. However, in Night Shadows, we get jiggy with it. The two characters decide surviving isn’t enough, they let off some steam of the naked variety.

Fade to black.

I make the joke that eventually I’ll write some sort of smut. But here’s my dirty secret, I have performance anxiety when my characters get bumping and grinding. In Night Legions it gets a bit more explicit. As the stakes are risen, tension is at its worst, I decided to have another go at it. The showers are steamy, the characters are naked, and it the mood is perfect. Fade to black? What the hell? Yet again, I wuss out.

I’ve read numerous novels in which there is sex, but most often I find it’s an indulgent fantasy completely unnecessary to the story. Even at times when the sex is essential to the plot, it gets clunky. The author has done a great job at creating these characters and being candid with their responses, and then sexy time language comes into play. Who, and I mean who in their entire life, has referred to “their manhood” or “nether regions?” And how sexy is it to refer to human anatomy by their actual names? That leaves a lot of slang which requires some porno music and a shag carpet.

My beta readers are pouring over the rough manuscript right now. They’ve been asked to gauge my character’s need for stress relief. We’ll see what makes it into the book and what drops to the cutting room floor. Death? No problem. Cannibalism? Sure! Soul theft? All the time. Sex? Whoa, slow down.

So how do you like sex handled in your novels? Turn up the steam or close the blinds?


2018: A Plan Executed in 365 Days

For the past three years, at the suggestion of fellow author C.L. Alden, I’ve picked a word to help guide my year. Unlike a resolution, it’s not about doing or not doing, but giving yourself some guidance when shit hits the fan and a pat on the back when it pans out. In 2016, I decided to ABDICATE by cleaning a list of tasks off my plate to make room for new adventures. For 2017, I focused on the word EMERGE, and with co-founding the New England Speculative Writers with C.L Alden, releasing five books and a short story, I definitely made a splash.But what will 2018 hold?

In 2018 I want to resolve a list of outstanding “chores” on my todo list. Most of these are bringing to fruition a years worth of planning, and it will let me complete projects. For the last year, I’ve taken some tiny steps (though they seemed like leaps at the time) to lay the groundwork for this year. It’s time to make it happen. Some of the items on the list:

  • Release the Suburban Zombie High Box Set
  • Complete Book Three in the Children of Nostradamus Series
  • Complete Book Four in the Children of Nostradamus Series
  • Translate Nighthawks into German
  • Continue to Connect with Readers
  • Complete Anthology with the New England Speculative Writers
  • Submit Short Story for an Anthology

Not all of this is time intensive, nor overly difficult. However, they are things sitting on the table that need to be finished so new projects can begin. With stand alone novel brewing and a cyberpunk series manifesting, it turns into a situation where there are more ideas than time. I’m excited to see where this goes and how the business behind the writing expands.

What are your goals for the new year?

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