Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Alphahole Conundrum

My books! Spotted in the wild at George R.R. Martin's Beastly Books.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Sex on the Beach & Sand in the Wrong Places: What's your favorite bit of pop-culture fiction doesn't work well in reality?"

For the record, I'm going to put out there that you CAN totally have sex on the beach without getting sand in the wrong places. It's not even that difficult. Are these other people rolling around in the sand with sticky parts first?? I can't even.


I don't spend a lot of time thinking about fiction vs. reality. It's pretty clear to me - as I think it is for almost everyone - that stories aren't the same as real life. We want different things from our stories than we do in life. The fact that people even ask about it, like the perennial question about whether readers understand that romance in books isn't the same as in real life, is a head scratcher to me.

Um, yes. We DO understand that fictional romance is different. That's why it's called FICTION.

Every time someone complains about how there should be more awkward, terrible sex in romances I want to ask if they didn't get enough of that in their own lives. Really, that's what you want to read about for entertainment? Okay...

Anyway, one disconnect between fiction and reality is the domineering romance hero. He's broody. He's quick to anger and deliciously sexy when he loses his shit. He's protective, obsessed with the heroine to the point of suffocation. He's powerful, ruthless, and an irresistible force of nature.

We love this guy!

We would never in a million years want one in real life.

The term "alphahole" is often applied to this kind of hero, though I don't much care for it. I think most Romance readers use it for this kind of hero who goes too far into asshole jerk territory. And, pedantic types who seem unable to distinguish fiction from reality, will go on about all the behavioral red flags madly flapping here.

True enough. Like I said, we don't want this guy in real life. It's about the fantasy.

What is it about the fantasy that works here? I dunno. Could be an atavistic thing where that silverback gorilla still wows us and makes us feel safe and fertile. The herd buck is majestic and thrilling, no doubt. Also, I think power is interesting to us, no matter what form it takes.

Really, it's no conundrum at all.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Happy 4th of July!

Stay safe from fireworks and COVID19....

From the Author's Collection

Friday, July 3, 2020

Surrender Boxes

Surrender Boxes

Note: This post is NSFW. Or much else, really.

Now is the pandemic of our discontent made glorious treasonous activities by our 'acting' government; And the blade racism and brutality lour'd upon our Black and Brown siblings in the broad light of day now in our bosoms buried.

So not doing this for an entire blog post. I'm sure my main point is clear. 2020 sucks so far and if I could go full-on Karen and speak to the manager, I'd return this nonsense and get my money back. No. Y'know what? Keep the money. Just. Take back the covidiots and murder hornets. The rest might be manageable. Maybe. Instead, I'm stuck inside, working from home, with elderly, frail parents under my roof in a state where precious few people seem to have two brain cells to rub together to keep warm. Most especially about science. But okay. So I'm a little rage-y and angsty and anxiety ridden these days. Between the news and doom scrolling, who isn't? Honestly. I'm tired enough at this point that ending up like Richard the III, buried beneath someone's car park, doesn't sound all that bad.

The problem is, we're all emotionally exhausted, but few of us can sleep. Let me introduce you to Surrender Boxes. Surrender boxes can be actual physical boxes you use (search, you'll find all the New Age-y type boxes available). The notion is simple. You write down what's bugging you and you drop that into the surrender box, close the lid and walk away. Stupidly simple right? Well. It gets simpler. You don't need a physical box or to write anything if (also like me) you're uber lazy. Build a mental one. Gather up all the crap rolling around in your head. Mentally stuff it in the box, close the lid, tell yourself there's nothing that can be done about those issues right this second, anyway, and that's it. Go to sleep. The kicker is that it's effective. There are a few psychology articles available but for the most part they skate uncomfortably close to religions that are not mine that I prefer not to link them.

It's a great exercise to be tossing and turning in bed with a thousand worries and thoughts racing, then to gather those all up in a great mental armful and chuck them into cold storage. I'm in bed. What the hell am I going to do about those issues *right at that moment* anyway? That's right. Nothing. So surrender them. Pick them up in the morning. They're still in the box. Only. They'll have shifted and transformed.

That's the beauty of surrender boxes. They change things. I have a short vampire novel fast drafted. Beta readers all hit me on one major part of the story. I finally said, "I don't have the time or the chops to fix this." But it BUGGED me. Stuffed it in a surrender box last night. This morning, it emerged. Fixed.

Here's how someone else used their surrender box to build a sublime piece of art and The Official Theme Song for 2020:

Thursday, July 2, 2020

The World Needs Hope

Let’s see…let’s see, what’s been on my mind? Honestly, not a lot because the world’s a dumpster fire and I’ve been fighting a bug. Naps and tea are my friend. 

Since writing’s difficult right now I’ve been trying to get some reading in. There are a lot of books out that were written to shed light on the misdeeds of mankind, the horrors we commit against one another, the real, honest side of life. And while I agree that it’s important to have stories that reflect our pain and suffering, I believe it’s even more important for our stories to have hope. 

I believe you reap what you sow, that you get back what you put in, and that every story changes a person. 

In real life it’s not always easy to choose kindness and positivity. I fail at times, and when I fall short I tell myself to do better next time. But what about our writing? What are we saying with our words?

I want to both read and write about the kind of hope that’s prevalent in the Lord of the Rings and Salvation Day by Kali Wallace. In LotR, Frodo’s surrounded by a group of varied individuals that come together because they share the same hope; to free Middle Earth from Sauron’s rule and therefore ensure freewill for all. In Salvation Day, enemies must come together because they know if they fail, space won’t be big enough to protect mankind. 

Fantasy, sci-fi, it doesn’t matter what genre, what matters is the message we put out there. Is there hope for the present? Is there hope for the future? Is there faith in something bigger than ourselves?

Hope can surprise you, can be stronger than first appears, and can redeem us. That’s what I want to put out into the world, hope.  

I want people to look up to the sun. I want people to see the beautiful fighting for space between the darkness. I want people to read my stories and be uplifted…by hope. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

As 2020 says, Hold my beer

Ask anyone and they'll likely tell you 2020 is the most whacked, chaos-filled, if-a-zombie-apocalypse-is-gonna-happen-this-is-the-time-for-it year in the history of humans keeping track of years. We've had pandemic, market collapse, quarantine, toilet paper shortages, proof of UFOs, racial justice uprisings, murder hornets, earthquakes, wildfires, weird early-season North Atlantic tropical storms, and remote learning. If somebody pitched 2020 as a story idea, nobody would buy this crap.

My brain is much like the world in 2020.

As a result, when a topic like "whatever is on your mind" comes up, I have no idea what to tell you. So, here's what I'm thinking, in no particular order:

- The Hamilton livestream on Disney+ is gonna have to save the July 4th holiday this year. That's a lot of pressure for a musical.

- The books I'm reading (KU) and listening to (audiobook) right now are both about terrible people being terrible to each other, and I just can't with that anymore. Need to take a step back from all the negativity, no matter how good the writing is. Plz rec reading material that will bring extreme joy.

- Gillian Anderson in 1996 was luminously beautiful. Consider my crush revived. The fam and I are rewatching all of X-Files, and that's one thing that really stuck out to me. Also how unrelentingly white the cast is.

- I'm writing a story right now that's best described as badass Mary Poppins in space, and I luff her. It. Them. Whatever.

- Why is it taking so long for BioWare to give me Dragon Age 4?

- I wouldn't call myself a farmer, per se, but man, the oregano, mint, and strawberries are having all the parties in my back yard. I'm sure there's a cocktail in that.

- Shh, politics. See above: terrible people being terrible physically hurts. Stop it.

- My high school bestie created an art installation to honor the Black folks killed while in police custody in the U.S. I helped a little, and ooof. All those names were people. God. Click here to see what 1,960 looks like.

-  We're getting a taste of this right now with the masks, but what if we had to wear full pressure suits and helmets every time we went out of our houses? Would physical beauty cease to be the thing that makes people notice each other? Or would we have to develop actual personalities and/or talents? Would we sell advertising space on our oxygen tanks? Could we broadcast our voices to each other with backing soundtracks?

- Why don't my dogs go hoarse when they bark for hours on end?

- What can I do with the 17 bananas accidentally purchased via curbside oops? Have made banana bread, smoothies, banana-and-Nutella hors d'oeuvres, and squashed up banana with blue sugar sprinkles. Ideas welcome.

 - This is probably the best time in history to be an introvert. Parts of me are really digging the solitude, but also there isn't much solitude in a little house with three other people extroverts and some pets.

- I think my car misses me. Might take her for a drive around the neighborhood later.

- I miss reality, but I think it's broken right now. The sign says, Come Back Later. Maybe in 2021.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

New Fantasy Romance Release: THE LOST PRINCESS RETURNS by @JeffeKennedy

Our Sunday powerhouse writer Jeffe Kennedy released her latest in the award-winning Uncharted Realms Fantasy Romance series:


More than two decades have gone by since Imperial Princess Jenna, broken in heart and body, fled her brutal marriage—and the land of her birth. She’s since become Ivariel: warrior, priestess of Danu, trainer of elephants, wife and mother. Wiser, stronger, happier, Ivariel has been content to live in her new country, to rest her battered self, and to recover from the trauma of what happened to her when she was barely more than a girl.

But magic has returned to the world—abruptly and with frightening force—and Ivariel takes that profound change as a sign that it’s time to keep a promise she made to the sisters she left behind. Ivariel must leave the safety she’s found and return to face the horrors she fled.

As Ivariel emerges from hiding, she discovers that her vicious brother is now Emperor of Dasnaria, and her much-hated mother, the Dowager Empress Hulda, is aiding him in his reign of terror. Worse, it seems that Hulda’s resurrection of the tainted god Deyrr came about as a direct result of Jenna’s flight long ago.

It’s up to Ivariel—and the girl she stopped being long ago—to defeat the people who cruelly betrayed her, and to finally liberate her sisters. Determined to cleanse her homeland of the evil that nearly destroyed her, Ivariel at last returns to face the past.

But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms.

BUY IT NOW: AmazonBN | Kobo |  Direct from the Author

New to the series? Here's the Reading Order.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Censorship: The Pros and cons

Want to see a magic trick? I've got one.

It's called pissing off everyone without even meaning to.

This week on Sff7 we're to discuss whatever is on our minds, and one that has been bothering me a lot lately in censorship.

See? I haven't even started and I bet some people are getting riled up.

According to Merriam-Webster as directly relates to this post; 1
a:      the institution, system, or practice of censoringThey oppose government censorship.
Censorship. It's pretty straightforward. Growing up I heard the almost weekly kerfluffle of one or more books being censored by school districts, states, counties, et. al. Huckleberry Finn was bad for schools because the name of one of the characters was "Ni**er Jim." (this one is censored by me, personally, because I'm not fond of the word.) The purpose of the censorship was the use of the word itself, not how it was used in the story. Part of me could always understand that, but I was also a bit annoyed because while the N-word is employed, it was written when the word was commonplace and it was written to portray the character in a positive light. It stood for exactly the opposite of what many people used the word for at that time. 
Now, let's be honest, there's a lot of gray shades in the English language. Not really around the N-Word. Not for a very long time. I can see the sides of this coin. My answer? Long before I would consider taking one of Twain's works out of print in a school district, if I was worried about offending, I'd have simply removed the word itself and replaced it. 
That's a bit easier than some cases. 
A similar issue was found (and still is) with Joel Chandler Harris's SONG OF THE SOUTH and the nearly mystically legendary movie by the same name. Legendary? Yes, as in legendarily hard to find for decades. Why Because Disney did all they could to suppress it, because there was a lot of bad blood of the portrayals in the story.
Which is interesting because the tales were told to Harris by ex-slaves and their descendants and distilled into form by the man. If you want to follow that particular rabbit hole to see more of the origins and controversy, here's a link for you. It is only the very tip of the iceberg.
In the US a LOT of the censorship came from the segregation of races. I have to say, for a country that has often touted itself as a melting pot of cultures and ideas, we sure do have a history of mucking yo the river's flow. 
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee is another example that dates back a ways. The portrayal of racial tensions in the book and in the movie alike have caused endless troubles and, ironically, admiration, over the years. currently there are some interesting takes on that censorship. For example in Minnesota schools, the books have been removed from class syllabuses but kept in libraries. This is at least a nice change of pace from outright book burnings. 
I'm going to skip merrily past the other books for a moment and look at an incident from the distant past that has always blown me out of the water. Back when the Beatles first came to the USA (I want to say February 1962, but honestly I'm too busy/lazy to look it up) they were OVERWHELMED by the crowd reactions. Those lads from Liverpool had spent years on the road and in Germany playing small clubs, just to come over to the States and meet with massive crowds waiting for them at the airport, and along the sidewalks of their hotels. Hysterical young women and men drying and screaming their adoration for the Fab Four. It must have been a truly staggering experience.
Somewhere along the way, when they were asked how they felt about it. John Lennon (again, I think: It might have been Ringo) said, in a dazed voice, We're bigger than Jesus Christ." and it got recorded, heard, and immediately sent out as a sound bite by the press. 
Now let's take a second here. First, the offending party apologized as quickly as he realized offense had been taken. Second, it wasn't bragging: It was pure, hard shock. You didn't have the internet back then and Beatlemania was really just a vague concept to the Beatles. They knew they were popular, but they had no idea they had become icons. Had the response been "We're bigger than McDonald's" no one would have cared, forgiving the analogy being off by a decade or so on the Big Mac's rise to infamy.
The response in a land of God Fearing Christians? The immediate demand to burn all Beatles Albums and never ply them again. There were bonfires, people. Almost immediate and very, very large bonfires.
Again they apologized and the Ruffled Feathers Brigade decided the boys could be allowed one mistake. 
on my personal favorite example: Comic Books. One Frederick Wertham decided that comic books were the cause of children going psychotic. One of the charges brought into this was that Batman and other comics where a sidekick was included were designed to lead to homosexuality and pedophilia. His proof? The lurid covers of a few E.C. Comics. The end result? The Comics Code Authority, which forbade the use of zombies, vampires, werewolves and, I believe, demons. There were other rules. Excessive violence was a no-no. Makes sense, you say? Kids shouldn't be exposed? The authority came around as self-censorship. It was that or continue the Senate Hearings brought into focus to crucify those foul-minded commies who were trying to ruin our children. There is a lot of material to study. The link above takes you to the Wikipedia link. 
My point is that for a country that be;ieves in Freedom of the Press and Free Speech (excluding out POTUS, who only wants those things for himself from what I've seen) we sure do like to censor stuff, don't we?
My mother always said that censorship belonged at home. Parents should decide what kids could or could not read. (During the Senate Subcommittee meetings, one senator was OUTRAGED by the thought that parents should have to work that hard and carry that sort of massive responsibility simply because they wanted to bring young lives into this world.  The mind boggles)
So now we have today. 
Just off the top of my head, H.P. Lovecraft, a racist who died in 1937, decades before any sort of civil rights movement, has been declared a racist. There's evidence to support that fact. There is also evidence (more debatably) that he was moving away from that earlier philosophy before he died. The point is moot. At least at one point during his college years, he wrote a truly, epically racist poem. You want to know about it? Look it up. It uses that word I don't like. 
The resulting tumult when this was "discovered" 70 odd years after his death, continues on today. I agree with some of it and not with other parts. Change the World Fantasy Award to it doesn't offer up the face of a racist? Absolutely. Take his books out of print or try to make certain I can't read them. No, thanks. 
Isaac Asimov has been discovered as a pitcher of female bums and a letch at conventions. It was common knowledge as I understand. It amused him. Yeah. Him and half the men walking around in the 60s as I understand it. Was it right? No. Was it considered "acceptable" back then? Sadly, yes. 
Little anecdote for you. Back in 1977 when I was a wee lad, my mother worked for the Baton Rouge Hilton. Every day she had meetings with the other executives there and because she was  on her feet and walked easily five miles a day at the hotel (she used a pedometer once and clocked 11.3 miles, I believe) she always wore slacks. One day her general manager came up to her and told her she would have to were skirts. She objected, tried to explain that the chafing of her thighs (six kids, folks, you're gonna have some chafing) would be nearly crippling. He did not care. his response, "When you can grow a mustache, you can wear slacks."
She approached work the next day with a new mustache carefully spirit gummed to her face, and said not a word. When the meeting was almost done the man took a look at her face and promptly laughed himself half senseless. The entire meeting he had not noticed the cause of several other people snickering and whispering. 
He said the words. "You win, Inge." and that was the end of it. 
There are all kinds of way to win a fight, I suppose. 
My point is, censorship STILL belongs at home. 
Now the flame wars can begin properly:
We are, thank GOD, slowly going through social changes. When I was thirteen or so I saw my first ever interracial couple and I was HORRIFIED. I find;t give a good damn about a black teen and a white teen together. I was just afraid the poor guy was going to get himself lynched. You see I was raised in the SOUTH, and that just did not happen. I was in Maryland, which at that point (and probably today) was a bit more socially enlightened than some parts of Georgia and surrounding states. Your mileage may vary, of course. Nothing happened that I know of. Four years later, back in Georgia, there were grumbles but a lot less automatic hatred was shown to interracial couples, Amen. 
Forty years ago homosexuality was a death sentence in a lot of places. It still happens, but, happily, not as often. That it happens at all is a tragedy, but you know what? Same-Sex Marriage is now a part of the LAW in this country, no matter he much that pisses some people off. And again, I say, AMEN!\
Guess what? I don't care about your gender preference. You're a guy who's int guys? Good for you. You're a girl who likes other girls? Cool. Somewhere in the middle? cool. Not at all interested? Cool. YOUR sex life is your sex life. I have no vested interest. I respect your choices as much as I respect all choices in this matter. 
Not sure what else I can say about that. But there have been plenty of authors who had (or have) a problem with it. And I don't care. They are entitled to their opinions. They're wrong, but that's okay. That's their right. 
Don't want to read them? Okay. Don't want them published and shown in schools? Sorry. Censorship belongs at home. Always has, always will. 
One more, the official fuse to this mess: J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame, a woman who literally built herself up from homeless to billionaire, is a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist). 
There. It's out in the open, Sher does not see transgender females as female. I do not agree with her. Trans-women ar women. Trans-men are men. It's that easy for me. Listen, this is a NO-BRAINER. If you identify as male. you are male. If you identify as female, you are female. If you identify as atheist, you are an atheist. If you identify as Christian, there might be a few arguments depending on your practice, but that's another debate. Same for Muslims. 
Once again, I simply do not care. You decision harms me not at all. 
The only MINOR logical argument I've heard involves transgendered men in female-dominated sports and you know what? I'll leave that one to the courts. 
I DO NOT AGREE WITH J.K. ROWLING. I know that her actions have left a lot of trans-folk truly devastated, especially when her writings in many cases helped them through truly troubling times.  But I believe in her right to have an opinion that does not affect her career beyond the obvious sales drop caused by potentially losing fans. That's on her. Her books shouldn't be excluded from schools or libraries based on the assumptions or hurt feelings of a few. 
Books that actively promote hatred? We have laws for that here. Take 'em off the shelves, by all means. Books that want to separate people due to their race, religion, sexual orientation or gender beliefs are crap to me. I won't read them. By all means, get rid of every derivative of MEIN KAMPF promoted by white supremacists. Keep the original around as a reminder of how someone who is small-minded and ignorant (Cough POTUS Cough) can too easily gain power. 
but don't try to tell us what we can read, because you don't like the author's personal opinion. That isn't what this country is about. Or, please God, not what it's supposed to be about. 
By the way. I've never read J.K. Rowling, and I'm not in a hurry to, but I DO ADMIRE her for giving millions and millions of dollars to charity. I've never been in the position to even consider that sort of generosity. 

Okay, let me have it. 
Until next week, I'm still James A. Moore.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Staycations and Refilling the Well

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is whatever is on our minds.

And I'm thinking... what IS on my mind? It's kind of a blank, in truth.

But I think that's a good thing. This last week my folks have been visiting. They're staying in a VRBO in a fun, historic part of town, and we've been doing touristy things every day. You know how it is when you live in a tourist destination: you never really go do all those fun things until out of town guests arrive. So, this last week has been like a staycation. I haven't been writing, just keeping up with business in general. Otherwise we've been savoring life and the window of opportunity to enjoy the outside world and each other's company again.

It's been lovely.

But I do feel mushy-brained. I haven't been on social media much, but I'm aware of the troubles this week in the land of SFF - mostly because I'm on the SFWA Board and we've been discussing measures and taking steps.

The upside of emptying out the mind is that new stuff flows in. A new idea came to me this morning for a fantasy story. (I know, I know - like I need new ideas, but still! This one is pretty exciting.) I'm feeling the itch to get to work, which is always welcome.

Has anyone else ever tried a staycation? How did it work out?

Also, today is the last day to preorder THE LOST PRINCESS RETURNS at the lower sale price! The print version is also now available!

More than two decades have gone by since Imperial Princess Jenna, broken in heart and body, fled her brutal marriage—and the land of her birth. She’s since become Ivariel: warrior, priestess of Danu, trainer of elephants, wife and mother. Wiser, stronger, happier, Ivariel has been content to live in her new country, to rest her battered self, and to recover from the trauma of what happened to her when she was barely more than a girl. 

But magic has returned to the world—abruptly and with frightening force—and Ivariel takes that profound change as a sign that it’s time to keep a promise she made to the sisters she left behind. Ivariel must leave the safety she’s found and return to face the horrors she fled.

 As Ivariel emerges from hiding, she discovers that her vicious brother is now Emperor of Dasnaria, and her much-hated mother, the Dowager Empress Hulda, is aiding him in his reign of terror. Worse, it seems that Hulda’s resurrection of the tainted god Deyrr came about as a direct result of Jenna’s flight long ago.

It’s up to Ivariel—and the girl she stopped being long ago—to defeat the people who cruelly betrayed her, and to finally liberate her sisters. Determined to cleanse her homeland of the evil that nearly destroyed her, Ivariel at last returns to face the past.

 But this time, she’ll do it on her own terms.

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