Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I am excited to announce that I have been nominated by Yolanda I. Washington to participate in The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. For those of you who don't know about it (and don't feel bad, this was the first I had heard of it, also), The NBTBH is, essentially, a pay-it-forward blog hop for writers, wherein each nominee nominates two other authors to participate. We pass on a series of ten questions to answer about an upcoming book, and post our answers to our blogs.

In the pay-it-forward spirit of everything, I'm nominating J.S. Chancellor and Jeremy C. Shipp.

 So, without any further ado, here are my ten answers, about my upcoming book Deucalion, Book 9 of The Noricin Chronicles (don't worry, my answers are fairly spoiler-free if you haven't read the first eight books).

1. What is the working title of your book?
 Deucalion: The Fallen Angel of Vengeance (The Noricin Chronicles #9)
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
Well, this is the ninth book in my series, The Noricin Chronicles. The entire series stemmed from basically a conglomerate of ideas that all kind of suddenly came together about seven years ago to form this one, epic story. While the primary idea from that conglomerate does relate directly to this installment, I can't really talk about it without completely spoiling the first eight books in the series, so I'll focus on the idea that became the first eight books, which at its essence was a dark version of Harry Potter, combined with the X-Men and The DaVinci Code. If you can picture that admittedly eclectic mashup of thematic elements, then you should fit right into the Noricin world.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
Primarily science-fiction, although it does have some crossover elements from horror and fantasy, as well.
4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
The primary character in this installment is Deucalion, who is a very complex character that has to play many different angles of his personality throughout the series as a whole, and in this installment in particular. He's sort of the Darth Vader of the series - we go through most of the books hating him, but here we get to see his origins and what made him into the villain he later became - and even, hopefully, feel a bit of pity for him on occasion. As such, the actor to play him really needs to be extremely versatile - someone who can one minute make you quiver in  your boots with fear, and the next cry for him. Due to that duality, my top pick for him was Michael Clark Duncan, prior to his death, of course. My second pick would probably be Michael Fassbender (his Magneto performance in X-Men sold me), and third would be Daniel Craig.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? 
In this, the ninth installment of Mark Sheldon’s epic Noricin Chronicles saga, journey back to the very beginning and witness the origins of the madman who, after a life of societal rejection, would go on to become the most dangerous sociopath the world has ever known: the Scorpion.
6. What is the longer synopsis of your book?
The Norcinites, a secret race of super-humans, have been hiding in the shadows of civilization for over a hundred years. No one knows how the first of the Norcinites, Steven Noricin, came upon his powers, but they all fear what would happen if the Old Race - the Commen - were to learn of their existence. In the 1960's and 1970's, the Norcinite world was torn apart by a genocidal maniac known only as the Scorpion. The Scorpion was defeated in 1979 by Nevar Loeren, but his spirit - unbeknownst to the Norcinites - endured. Now, twelve years after the fall of the Scorpion, the warlord is regaining strength and it appears as if the fates of the Old and New Races rest on the shoulders of one twelve year-old boy, Daniel Regal, an orphan who shares a mysterious bond with the dreaded Scorpion.
7. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
For now, I am a self-published author.
8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
I spent about three years drafting out the detailed plots of all twelve books in the series. Once that groundwork was completed, it took me about a year to complete the first drafts for all twelve. My team of editors and I have been going through each book and editing prior to the publication of each installment.
9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?
I have often said that if JK Rowling, Dean Koontz, and Dan Brown were to get together in a time machine, and travel back to early 1982 in order to have an impassioned night of drunken recklessness with Douglas Adams, that it is entirely possible that I might have been the lovechild result of such a coming together of literary minds.
10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I often tell people that if you're an older reader who is a fan of book series like Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, etc., and want to find a new series to get into that's targeted at a slightly more mature audience than those series, then The Noricin Chronicles is the series for you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The " " Word

First off, I apologize for not maintaining these blogs on a more regular basis, and further for coming back after such a long hiatus with such a sensitive and controversial topic, but there you have it. This is the first time in a long while where I've been moved to the point where I felt like I needed to write something more extended than my usual little short, Facebook/Twitter comments and asides, so I followed the Muse where she led.

After the last presidential debate, as many of you are probably aware, Sarah Palin did what she does best: spark national (and probably international) controversy by opening her mouth. She called President Obama a retard, and since then I've seen numerous backlashes from various groups, many of which are calling for a banning of the word "retard," insisting that it hitherto be referred to as the "r" word, and that movement bothers me greatly.

Now, I absolutely detest the prospect of taking  Palin's side on anything, so let me make this clear: I am not defending what she said. I am not even really defending her right to free speech. What I am protesting is the banning of words - any word, no matter how offensive some people may find it, and regardless of who it was that said it.

When you ban a word, you do not take away its power. Quite the contrary. When you ban a word, you increase its power tenfold, and it becomes even more harmful than it had been in the first place. To paraphrase one J.K. Rowling, "Fear of the [word] only increases fear of the thing itself."

Look at the word "nigger." I use the actual word here, and not "The N Word," not to cause offense, but to illustrate my point (also, it would be rather hypocritical for me to argue against the banning of words and still submit to the banning of this word, no matter how sensitive it may be. That said, I will use it as little as possible). After the civil rights movement, this word was, for all intents and purposes, banned, hitherto to only be referred to as "The N Word."

The reason for the banning of this particular word is no mystery. Thanks to slavery and the events that followed leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, we all should know why the word was banned. And I do not disagree with the intention behind the act of banning it. It is the same as the intention behind the movement to ban the word "retard," and it is a well-meaning (though, in my opinion, ill-advised) intention.

The problem is, that by banning the word, society only made it that much more powerful and harmful - far moreso than it was even before it was banned. I have only used it once (twice more to come), and yet it stands out on the screen above all the other words that accompany it, like a punch in the gut or a slap in the face. It even hurt me just to write it. And this is in the context of a non-violent, non-racist, peaceful discussion. As much power and harm that one little word has in this context, just think about how much power it would have if I were actually sputtering racist hate and filth. No word should be given that much power, especially words such as "nigger" (twice) and "retard."

The reason why it holds so much power now is not because of its history, but because of its banishment. The fact that it is so rare to be heard (except by rappers and racists) only makes it a thousand times more shocking - and painful - to hear it when it is uttered.  This is the danger and power of banishing words.

If we convert "retard" into "The R Word," we will have done the same thing. Instead of weakening the word, we will only have made it that much more powerful, which will only give the bigots of the world that much more ability to hurt with their choice of words.

George R.R. Martin  summed up the heart of what I'm getting at eloquently and succinctly through the voice of Tyrion Lannister in A Game of Thrones:

"Let Me give you some advice, bastard: Never forget what you are. The rest of the world will not. Wear it like armor, and it can never be used to hurt you."
Tyrion was speaking to John Snow, who was the bastard son of Eddard Stark, and he was speaking of the power of words, and the fact that it is each person's individual choice whether to let those words hurt or or not.

Tyrion knew a thing or two about this subject, as he was a midget (or "little person," as is the current PC dictum), and his entire life he had grown up with epithets being thrown at him, such as "Imp," "Dwarf," etc. But rather than letting these hurtful words be weapons against him, he utilized them. Accepted them. He wore the words like armor, and they could not hurt him, regardless of who tried to use them against him. Once John Snow adopted Tyrion's advice, he also could no longer be hurt by people calling him "bastard."

By creating "The N Word" we in effect turned it into the atomic bomb of all words. Banning "retard" will only do the same. We don't need any more atomic bombs in the dictionary.

As much as I personally dislike rap music and its culture, one thing it has done well for society, in my opinion, is that it has turned "nigger" (third and last), or it's modern descendant "nigga," from a weapon into armor. While many people criticize rappers and their following community for that, I applaud them.

What Sarah Palin said was, yes, insensitive and inexcusable. But let's face it, probably the only reason she said it was because she felt like she'd been out of the spotlight for too long. And the world and media bought into it, hook, line and sinker.

But rather than blowing over the top about it, banning the word completely from all usage whatsoever, we need to look at this rationally (rationality being the very antithesis of Palin and her cronies).

Language evolves. Language changes. The meaning and intention of words change. We need to look at the context and intent when offensive words are used, before we fly off the handle at people. When Palin called the President a retard, yes, in that instance she was using the word intentionally to be offensive and obscene. But fortunately, most of the world is not like Sarah Palin. Nowadays, the word is almost never used to directly reflect upon the mentally handicapped. Yes, it used to be, and that is why it causes so much pain to those who have mentally handicapped loved ones. I understand that and empathize with their reaction, but banning the word is not the answer.

The same goes for using "gay" in a negative fashion, as in "that's gay." Wanda Sykes and several other celebrities have recently been running ads on TV discouraging people from saying "that's gay." While I understand where they are all coming from, I think it would be far more effective if, instead of telling people "don't say that," to turn the meaning of the phrase around completely - so that people say "that's gay" to mean "that's awesome" instead of "that's stupid." Wanda Sykes, as a well-known comedian and celebrity, actually has the power to do that.

The P.C. war over saying potentially offensive things is, to an extent, a pointless battle to fight, as the list of potentially offensive things is infinite. Sooner or later somebody's going to say that saying "that's dumb" is offensive to mute people, or that "that's stupid/idiotic" is offensive to people who are intellectually challenged. We could go on and on forever and ever in this P.C. war to the point where you can't say anything, because someone, somewhere might be offended by it. Somewhere in the world, there is someone who is offended by the "Why did the chicken cross the road" joke, because when they were a child their beloved pet chicken was run over by a car.

Instead of flying off the handle every time someone uses a word that's offensive to us, we should step back for a moment, follow the advice of Tyrion Lannister, and use that word as our armor, instead of allowing others to use it as a weapon against us. Others can only harm us with words if we let them.

Sarah Palin is an insensitive, bigoted twit, but don't let her win. By banning words or phrases, you let the bigots win, because you give them even more ability to hurt you. Let's not fall into Palin's seductive trap any further by giving her and her ilk even more power to use words to harm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Some Sort of "Turning Signal" Mechanism

Have you ever wished that cars came with some sort of easy-to-use mechanism that would allow you and other drivers to somehow communicate and signal to other cars on the road that you are going to turn or merge into another lane? The car industry really should work on standardizing such a mechanism so that every driver has this ability to communicate their intentions to other drivers. Oh, wait...

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Note to Certain Hunger Games Fans

To the very small percentage of Hunger Games fans who are outraged at how different the movie is from the book, I hereby appoint you with the following homework assignment:

1) Read Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.

2) Watch Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief.

3) Read The Golden Compass.

4) Watch The Golden Compass.

5) Read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

6) Watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Once you have completed your assignment, if you still have complaints about The Hunger Games movie, then we can talk.

I'm not even going to bother addressing the even smaller percentage of "fans" who are claiming that Rue, Thresh, and Cinna being black ruined the movie for them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Freedom of Speech and Religion

In light of yesterday's supreme court ruling, I would like to take a moment to pontificate further on a brief status update I posted on Facebook. In that post, I said:

"Anytime you vote in favor of something that effects the way other people can live their lives, remember that regardless of your personal opinions about the matter at hand, you are not expressing your right to free speech and belief, but in fact you are prohibiting others of those rights."
To take that same line of thinking from a different angle, voting against any such legislation - such as gay marriage, abortion, gun rights, etc. - does not necessarily mean that you approve of the issue at hand, just that you recognize that neither you nor the government has the right to dictate how others can live their lives, based on your personal beliefs.

For example, I personally will never own a gun (due to my moral beliefs and a personal history that I am not about to go into here). But I would never vote in favor of any legislation that would restrict another American's right to make that choice for themselves.

There is a huge difference between exercising your right to free speech, and restricting others of that same right. If you are opposed to gay marriage, or abortion, or gun rights, or pink lawn flamingos wearing Hawaiian grass skirts, you are entitled to that opinion, and you have the right to express that opinion publicly. You do not, however, have the right to restrict others of their right to their opinion or belief.

On the gay marriage issue, people argue that they believe that marriage is defined by the Bible as being between solely a man and a woman. Okay. Fine. That is their religious belief and opinion. They are entitled to that belief. The problem is that there are just as many good, faithful Christians who believe that marriage is more about love than what resides between peoples' legs. 

When the first example (Christian A) goes and votes against legalizing gay marriage, they are no longer saying, "These are my beliefs and I am entitled to them." They are now saying, "These are my beliefs, and they are right, so you are not entitled to yours." 

On the flip side, when the second example (Christian B) goes and votes in favor of legalizing gay marriage, they are not saying, "You are not entitled to your personal beliefs," but simply saying, "We may have differing opinions on this matter, but it is not our place, or the place of the government, to impose our opinions on anyone else."

The difference between the two is that Christian A has voted against Christian B's right to their opinion, whereas Christian B has voted in favor of both of their rights. If more people came to understand this subtle distinction, I guarantee that there would be a lot less fighting and arguing over these issues.

Anyone who follows my writing most likely will have already heard me say that the only thing I refuse to tolerate is intolerance. I've had many people try to argue that there is a difference between tolerating and condoning. We could go around in circles arguing about the semantics of the definition of tolerance (I personally believe that tolerance is free of judgment, but that is a separate debate), but the simple fact of the matter is that by voting in favor of legislation which bans anything such as gay marriage, abortion, or guns, you are being anything but tolerant, because you are discarding other people's right to make their own decisions and hold their own beliefs that are different from yours.

On the complete opposite side of the coin, forcing a specific church to go against their beliefs and allow same-sex weddings within their walls is just as intolerant. Being a victim of intolerance is not justification for becoming a perpetrator of intolerance, yet history has proven time and time again that the oppressed of yesterday will become the oppressors of tomorrow.

Is it discrimination on the part of these churches? Yes, but unfortunately when it's a choice between discrimination and forcing someone to change their beliefs, I think it's more important that we maintain the fact that we should all have the right to our beliefs and opinions, even if those beliefs and opinions may lead to discriminatory practices. There are enough churches and wedding ministers out there who will not discriminate, that it's really not necessary to go to the extreme of forcing all churches and ministers to go against their beliefs.

Do you still have the right to vote in favor of these various legislations? Yes, of course you do. I'm not telling anyone what they can or can't do. I'm just urging people to think more carefully about what it is that they are actually voting for or against, and not to turn around and tell me that you are tolerant, when you just voted against my right to have my own opinion and belief.