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A Russian-American with a passion for liberty and storytelling. Author of Chasing Freedom, a tale of geeks and outcasts vs. the oppressive government, and The Product, a dystopian novella published by Superversive Press.
Friday, January 27th 2017
Posted Fri Jan 27 2017 07:11
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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 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, December 20th 2016
Posted Tue Dec 20 2016 15:28
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Cross-posted from Marina's Musings********

I am very excited to announce that my new dystopian novellaThe Producthas been chosen as the first work to be published by Superversive Press. As a co-founder of Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance, I spent several years working to discover and promote high-quality, freedom-friendly fiction. While theSuperversive movementhas a somewhat different focus, I have been watching and admiring it from the sidelines for some time and am now honored to become a participant.

About the Publisher:

Superversive Press is a new small press that aims to publish

Superversive Fiction and is an outgrowth of the Superversive

Fiction movement that aims to tell stories that are uplifting

and enobling. Heroes that are heroic, beauty that is beautiful,

the transcendent that is transcending, stories that say virtue

is real and Civilization triumphs over barbarism.

All of the goings on with Superversive Fiction can be found at

Join us for a brighter, superversive future for story telling.

I can only hope that my novella comes close to meeting those expectations. And that, of course, is for my readers to decide. Many thanks to Jason Rennie for giving me this opportunity, Ben Zwycky for editing and help with revisions, and Cat Leonard for somehow guessing the cover concept I had in mind and bringing it to life.

And now, without further delay...

The Product will change your life. It will give you joy and confidence, make you more aware of the world around you. You will find new friends. You might even fall in love.

Few people know its name. Fewer still dare say it. It is, after all, illegal. Users are jailed. Dealers meet an ugly death. Yet the temptation is irresistible.
Kevin is a dealer. And he is about to get caught.

Now available on Amazon ine-bookandpaperback.

Sunday, October 30th 2016
Posted Sun Oct 30 2016 22:15
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Sometime in early September, I came across apostlamenting the state of conservative/pro-freedom storytelling in general and cinema in particular. Machine Trooper writes:

"How is it that smart, hardworking, independent thinkers are consistently outperformed at cinematic storytelling by the left-wing hive mind? Why do ourmovies always suffer poor story telling, cheesy dialog and generally inept suspension of disbelief?"

How, indeed. There are, after all, plenty of talented writers who share our views (even if many of them are still hiding their opinions in order to develop and/or preserve their careers). And there are certainly wealthy individuals out there willing to contribute money to what we loosely call pro-freedom causes. So if it's not the talent, and not the money, what then? If you scroll down in the comments, you will see my answer: lack of networking. The full solution is a bit more complicated because there is work still to be done on the writing side as well if we are to keep going long-term. We need to nurture pro-freedom writing talent, and then to connect our storytellers with those who can help them make the stories more accessible to the masses. And much as I love the written word, nowadays it also means the movies.

As luck would have it, only two days later after making that comment, I attended a kickoff party for Calliope Writers' Workshop, co-sponsored by Taliesin Nexus and Liberty Island I am happy to report that an effort so many of us have wished for does already exist, and picking up steam.

From Taliesin Nexuswebsite: "In order to encourage the creation of great stories, we serve as a nexus between up-and-coming filmmakers and experienced industry professionals who share a passion for a free society."

It was truly great to see that Liberty Island, an online magazine (and now a book publisher) that gave me a start and an inspiration for writing fiction, is also a part of this exciting venture.

And exciting really is the word. As I stood in that room at Crowne Plaza Hotel in NYC, surrounded by a buzzing crowd of creatives of all ages and those with vision to give them voice, I realized a few things. The time for complaining and wishing has passed. The time for stifling our creativity for the sake of acceptance has passed. We have the talent, the drive, and the energy to succeed. Combined with the infrastructure that is even now being built, piece by piece, one dedicated mentor, one generous investor, one contrarian marketing professional at a time, we will get there. Our voices will be heard, our stories read, our vision shared. Let's get to work, people. We have a culture to build.

Sunday, September 11th 2016
Posted Sun Sep 11 2016 21:56
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Dragon Awardsresultshave been announced, and there is already an abundance of blog posts and commentary available from people more eloquent than I, who are much more familiar with the some of the more intricate details.

Why, then, am I taking the time to write yet another post? I suppose for the same reason anyone writes anything: I believe that I do in fact have something different to say, coming as I am from several different perspectives.

As a nominee, I am of course both flattered and humbled thatmy debut novelhas touched enough fans to be placed in the company of some of the biggest names in fantasy and science fiction. My first reaction was that I didn't belong there, but then I realized that it was not, in fact, true. After all, the very point of a fan-driven award is that the fans decide who belongs, and their voice is not to be taken lightly. Those familiar with my views regarding other types of awards will know this opinion is not new to me, nor will it change depending on my personal success or lack thereof. Thus, I thank my fans as well as the fine folk at DragonCon for getting me to this point and giving me and other new indie authors an inspiration to carry on.

As a reader and a fan, I love to see quality writing publicized and rewarded for the simple, selfish reason that we are now likely to see more of it. Not that prolific authors like Correia and Wright and Butcher ever needed a reminder to hurry up and give us more books, but it works on a wider scale. Once authors realize that the doors to success and professional recognition are no longer guarded by the select few and access no longer filtered through a particular prism, more creativity will naturally result, to the delight of those of us always trying to find fresh fuel for our love of reading.

As a co-founder ofConservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance(join us! we have fun! and books!) I am gratified to see our members among both the nominees and the winners.Larry Correia,Nick ColeandBrian Neimeier(with credit to editorL. Jagi Lamplighter) won their respective categories.Declan Finn,Mark Wandrey,Dave FreerandGibson Michaelsreceived well-deserved nominations, and are no doubt are on the road to bigger and better things as a result.

Last but not least, as a minor culture warrior of the "home front and covering fire" variety, I must give special mention to a the authors whose wins have a special meaning to those of us concerned about the state of the culture in general and arts in particular.

Nick Cole had his now award-winning book was rejected by the publisher for openly political reasons, as previously covered in myCensorship post, forcing him to choose between artistic freedom and losing the publishing contract. Nick wisely put the art first, and clearly the fans approved.

John C. Wrightsome years ago joined a small but select group of authors (Andrew Klavan, Dean Koontz and David Mamet come to mind off the top of my head) who, after a period of critical acclaim, miraculously "lost their talent" after becoming vocal about their unapproved political views and/or religion. Or so all the "important" people would have you believe. Fans think otherwise, and fortunately it's the fans and not the now mostly ineffectual gatekeepers will always have the last word.

Why are the above examples important? Because they show to those of us occasionally hesitant to stay true to our beliefs that it can be done. You can succeed and be appreciated without the express approval or help of those who put their ideology above art and want to bend everyone to their will. Especially in a genre that is meant to thrive on imagination, freedom of thought is not a luxury. It's a requirement.

All in all, pathetic grumblings from the usual dark corners of the 'net notwithstanding, Sunday has been a great day for writers and fans alike, no matter what our genre preferences might be. Here is to many more years of great books, inspiration and above all FUN! Once again, many thanks to DragonCon organizers and everyone who played a part in making the awards happen.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have more reading to do.

Monday, September 5th 2016
Posted Mon Sep 5 2016 19:18
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Back in May (oh how the time flies!), I had a great time talking to S. Evan Townsend of Speculative Fiction Cantina online radio show. You can check out the podcasthere. Sadly, Ms. Pembroke Sinclair, whose photo appears in the slider, had an abrupt change of plans, so my intrepid host was stuck with yours truly for the full hour.

I have done several online radio appearances, but the flow of this one surprised me. We ended up speaking less of my novel, specifically, than of the general theme of freedom and how some people appreciate it more than others. While "don't know what you got till it's gone" is a cliche, like most cliches it became so for a reason, and it applies to freedom perhaps more than to other values.

During the interview, the closest analogy that popped into my head is that healthy individuals don't truly know what it's like to be chronically sick. They can understand it through research or being around the sick, but they never quite appreciate what a gift it is to be healthy, free of pain, with all of one's organs functioning as intended. I did touch on this in one of my earlier posts when I spoke of gratitude. We don't tend to be grateful for what we don't notice on a daily basis. Health is a given. As a cancer survivor, I can confirm that once recovery is complete, the temporary gratitude wears off and the little annoyances of life very quickly outweigh the simple joy of being alive, mobile and relatively whole.

So it is for Americans with freedom. I know we're all aware that our country has major issues on that front. But not only are we more free than nearly every other nation, we have inside us an ingrained assumption that this is a natural state of human existence. Even those eager to trade some of their freedom away in exchange for either tangible rewards or a promise of security come from the knowledge that freedom is theirs, something that belongs to them at the outset and something they can choose to diminish, as foolhardy as it might be.

As I pointed out to my host during our discussion, most of the world does not have that assumption. On the contrary, it is entirely foreign to them. Immigrants who come to this country, even those who seek not the promise of economic advancement but specifically an escape from oppression, have a hard time adjusting to the concept. A more common premise throughout the world, whether civilized or less so, is that freedom is something granted to you by the government (or your friendly warlord, as the case may be). You don't even have a chance to trade your freedom away. It is doled out in small pieces to those deemed deserving. There's a quote from V. I. Lenin somewhere on the 'net precisely to that effect. Which, of course, makes it something entirely different from freedom as we understand it.

I think the reason for the current proliferation of dystopian novels is that time is right for us to once again to start appreciating the baseline of what we have. Just as zombie and vampire novels allow us to work out our anxieties as to our safety and lack of trust in our fellow human beings (hey, that's a whole 'nother blog post right there, isn't it?), politically themed dystopias show us a "what if" of freedom lost so we can vicariously put ourselves into that situation and then come back to our normal life with a new appreciation of what we still have.

Since this was originally meant to be a self-promotional post (yeah, I'm not great at those), what I tried to do with my particular take on the genre is to not only scare us to the possibilities, for I believe the real world had already scared us enough. My main goal was to show that lost freedom can in fact come back, if sometimes at a terrible cost.

The problem freedom fighters across all times and societies face is that the more entrenched the forces of oppression, the less natural the instinct for freedom becomes. We as Americans are not yet at that point, but should keep that lesson in mind as we watch the world around us and make decisions, whether it's to choose a political leader or to speak up against censorship (looking at you, Facebook!). We should respond to any threat and refuse to give ground so that we, or our children, would never have to find out the cost of bringing back something that we had no business losing in the first place.
Saturday, June 25th 2016
Posted Sat Jun 25 2016 19:16
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Machine Trooper, a self described "Pop Culture Scrutineer Supreme from the Manosphere" gives his take on the Culture War using this real-world historical analogy:

For generations centrists and everyone right-of-center simply have not shown up for the culture wars. Predictably, the leftists have blitzed right through battlefields of opinion and ideas unopposed-like the Red Army rolling through eastern Poland in 1939-so that their monopoly on the flow of information, including creative expression, was ironclad.

And yet...

Marxists (cultural and otherwise) are not only vulnerable, they've become arrogant from never being challenged for so long, and prove to be weak, inept cowards when confronted by a smart, determined opposition. They are beatable. Very much so.

I have stated this many times, albeit with less flair, to my despairing friends in the loosely defined pro-freedom cultural movement. The reason the Left seems to have unbreakable dominance in culture is because our side has not been on the field. Oh sure, we get excited about this or that issue once in a while, make some noise, occasionally even win, BUT - and this is crucial - once the excitement dies out, we, to continue with the military theme "declare victory and go home," leaving the battlefield to those more determined (or those less preoccupied with the general business of life, such as family and day jobs, as the case might be).

The only way to win long term, to reclaim the hearts and minds of the people who have fallen under the siren song of the Left, is not with political gains, nor with more educational materials, although both have their place. The real answer lies in entertainment, and more specifically in storytelling. "The Narrative" is a popular expression nowadays, usually utilized in negative, politicized context, but it need not be so. Simply put, the side that tells the better story wins. And the more I look around at the amount of raw (and not-so-raw) talent in the pro-freedom movement, the more convinced I become that we can do this. We can win, handily, and have fun doing it.

It was with that goal in mind that a fellow authorKia Heavyand I formed Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance group on Facebook, and the response has been both enthusiastic and gratifying. Since Machine Trooper has done such an excellent job summarizing our purpose and progress to date, I suggest you read the rest of his posthere.Afterwards, I hope you follow his advice to check both ourwebsiteand theFacebook groupand join us in our battle to advance the cause of freedom through promoting high-quality fiction.

These are trying days for freedom lovers, but do not despair. Politics is transitory, but art endures. And because the best art is rooted in truth, this is the battle we will not lose. All we need to do is keep showing up.
Friday, May 27th 2016
Posted Fri May 27 2016 15:19
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**Cross-Posted from Marina's Musings**

This is a tough one. How to review a novel that doesn't play by the rules, that switches genres, tone and even characters without warning? (That last part might be overstating it, but not by much). I was almost prepared to take a coward's way out, put a one-liner "Great stuff! Buy it!" on Amazon and call it a day. But then I remembered the true purpose of a review. Aside, of course, from helping sales and visibility by its mere existence (yes, kids, authors need reviews,but that's another blog post) a review acts as a matchmaker between the book and the reader. Thus, itcould be done without excess reference to the particulars, but simply by describing what type of reader would enjoy the work. With this in mind, here comes the "Will you like this?" test.

You will enjoy this novel if:

You believe in the power of love in all its forms. Romantic love, sure, but also lovethat is inherent in deep, abiding friendship;a scholar's love of knowledge and a philosopher's love of truth; and ultimately, if you're a believer of any stripe,the Creator's love for this world and all its inhabitants. While the story is given its momentum with a simple hook of two lovers in an exceptionally difficult and strange predicament, it rises well above its humble beginnings by the time it's all over.

You are tired of bland, interchangeable characters that populate most modern fiction and are ready to meet real heroes and villains, characters who are more than they appear, subject to forces and passions of epic proportions, and who never cease to surprise you as you follow them on their journey.

You appreciate the plot that keeps building and revealing layer upon layer, making you climb along the twisted path until you arrive at the pinnacle of a perfectly satisfying ending. The novel bends and mixes virtually every genre, from romance to urban fantasy to heavy-duty mythology to horror, in a way very few authors attempt and fewer still succeed.

As for the reading experience itself, I would almost want to compare it to playing a video game, one where you finish a simple level and then go on to something more challenging. I am not a gamer, but I kept getting that feeling while moving from one chapter to the next. Each step brings more revelations, more complexity more demands on the reader's brainpower and attention span, and you come out on the other end having not justreadbutexperiencedsomething very special. This is a novel well worth your investment, both in time and effort. It will stick with you long after the last turn of the (virtual) page, and you will be the richer for it.

Purchase Iron Chamber of Memory on Amazon

Saturday, May 7th 2016
Posted Sat May 7 2016 17:55
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There has been much discussion over the last few years (probably longer, but I might have been too busy reading to pay attention) about Strong Female Characters. Yes, people usually capitalize the first letters of each word when using this term because it's So Very Important.

Part of the emphasis comes from troublemakers from both sides of the feminist/masculinist divide. There is a type of feminist who would never be satisfied until there are no male characters left in fiction except for killers and rapists; and there are certainly people on the other side who groan in disgust every time a trailer for female-fronted action flick pops up on the theater screen. The issue is in fact that divisive, and politically charged on top of that, even if most of us fall somewhere in the middle and want no part of the drama.

Scratch that last one. We most certainly do want drama. Storytelling drama. Excitement. Unpredictability. Surprise. And this is where some of the current trends fail us. It's a shame, really. Movies have more and better technology than ever, and book publishing is less and less constrained by the gatekeepers. Yet whether in an effort to adhere to new societal norms or simply to pander to the perceived demands of the market, our stories are swapping new tropes for the old and still leave many of us longing for something more.

To start, I will use an example everyone knows (or should, if I have any understanding of this blog's readers) even though there have been enough words written about that particular scene to fill several doorstopper-sized novels. In case you haven't yet guessed, I am going to bring up the semi-controversial scene in The Force Awakens where Rey fights off the bounty hunters while Finn, having realized his help is unnecessary, is watching in slack-jawed awe.

People smarter and more knowledgeable that I have already addressed the realism, or lack thereof, of that scene from the point of view of the physical interactions and fighting choreography. I have a different question for you, and please be honest.

Did you, at any point before or during the confrontation, expect Rey to lose?

Of course not. A woman surrounded by a group of burly thugs who fight for a living? How could she possibly lose? It just isn't done. Even Finn is apparently familiar with the way modern stories go because after that initial gallant impulse (which was intriguing, and I'd like to know how a Stormtrooper would have acquired it) he decides to just watch. Objectively speaking, the fight looked great. It should have been exciting. We should have worried about our spunky heroine. But we didn't, not really, because we know the Strong Female Character trope. So all we got to see was a really cool performance. Fireworks with no heat, if you will: great visuals with an unexciting story. If that sounds too familiar, you're right. And familiarity breeds, if not contempt, then at least boredom.

Mind you, there is an upside to an overplayed trope. A writer can easily set up a situation we think is familiar and have it play out differently. A great example, again from a popular movie: the Mad Max remake. As soon as I saw Furiosa and Max start swinging at each other during their first encounter, I just KNEW what was going to happen. I was already prepared to roll my eyes (especially considering how the early buzz had declared the movie some kind of feminist triumph) and then... whoa, what did I just see? A tough-as-nails heroine with a metal arm does not prevail against a guy who was just thrown from a moving vehicle? Are you kidding me? Did the writers not get the memo? Well, maybe they did, and then decided to give us something fresh instead. The movie was not exactly perfect, and got mixed reviews. Personally, I enjoyed it not even so much for the action as for the fact that, after that one scene, I knew the story would not go by the numbers, and I was mostly right.

To be fair, there are constraints on Hollywood. We as consumers demand to see beautiful people on screen, and the standard of beauty for women still tends to the thin, no matter what the body positivity movement will tell you. I'm not saying it's good or bad. It just is. As a result, the casting pool of leading ladies, with a few notable exceptions, is filled with women who don't ring true as realistic action heroes. (Male actors are not without their own problems. I could easily write a separate post on the ridiculousness of Tom Cruise as a slab-of-beef Jack Reacher, with some of the scenes obviously written with a larger man in mind. However, there are tricks to make an actor seem bigger on screen, and an obviously strong upper body certainly helps. There is a reason male movie heroes go shirtless so often, and it's not just to entice women into the theater. Actually seeing the muscles aids in our suspension of disbelief, so we can go along with the story. But I digress...)

What is the harm, you ask? After all, Hollywood, for the most part, sells us fantasy, whether wrapped in a love story, a hard-boiled action movie, or an over-the-top superhero production. Why expect realism in female characters when there is so little of it elsewhere?

Well, for one, as I pointed out earlier, adhering to the requirement that a woman, no matter how small and thin, must win the fight takes away any possible suspense in terms of storytelling. But there is also a bigger downside. No teenage boy will expect to single-handedly defeat a group of terrorists after watching Olympus Has Fallen (or its much better precursor, Die Hard). On the other hand, a young woman, when confronted by a predator in a dark alley, might very well believe that she could take down a larger man with a single punch to the jaw. After all, she's seen it countless times on TV and in movies. It seemed plausible enough. To be sure, there are ways to take down a larger opponent, none of them easy, with a firearm being the most reliable if less glamorous. But the false confidence created by unrealistic female action characters is as dangerous in real life as unrealistic body image, if not more so.

The sad part is, the solution to the dilemma, in pure storytelling terms, is laughably simple. One more movie example, if I may. The first Black Widow appearance in The Avengers. As a super-assassin, she probably could, in fact, outfight the group of Russian thugs any time. But she doesn't have to. She feigns utter helplessness, playing the perfect damsel in distress with no savior on the way, and then, when the time comes, takes them by surprise. In other words, she outsmarts them. Later on, she plays up her vulnerability again, and tricks none other than Loki into revealing his plan. Those scenes are much more memorable and suspenseful than most of her pure action sequences. Why? Because they show a heroine with a different skill set, and because there is an element of surprise that we as consumers so crave.

I find it interesting that while family movies and sitcoms over the last 20-some years have taught us that women are smarter and mentally tougher than men, we rarely see women outsmart, rather than outfight, their opponents. Whether it's lack of imagination or blind insistence on physical equality between men and women, too often the writers' choices end up diminishing both the female characters and the quality of the stories. It is high time we got past the tropes and moved on to different, and more exciting, possibilities.
Wednesday, May 4th 2016
Posted Wed May 4 2016 21:08
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********Cross Posted from Marina's Musings (*******

Alaska Hunt is marketed mostly as M/M romance due to the nature of its publisher, but to pigeonhole it that way would be to sell it short. It is primarily a mystery/psychological thriller that contains a strong romantic element. The setting in Alaska gives it a different feel from most mysteries, and the protagonist is not a professional detective, but someone who takes extra interest in the case partly for personal reasons. And then, predictably enough, it gets REALLY personal.

The romance subplot comes naturally enough within the story, not just the usual "let's throw in a love interest" trope. It is an M/M romance between adults, one of whom is fairly comfortable in his own skin and the other is still figuring out his sexual preferences, but beyond that both of them have to decide where they belong and what they want to do with their lives. There's mystery to solve, tragedy and loss to overcome, and all the while, mortal danger is just around the corner ... The writing style can be somewhat disorienting in its combination of highly descriptive, almost flowery prose with a decidedly hard-boiled, unabashedly masculine vibe (think Andrew Klavan meets Nora Roberts). But then again, that's what makes it interesting to a reader who is open to trying something new.

I liked the variety of intertwining themes of the novel: healthy respect vs. worship of nature; modern man's quest for fulfillment vs. individual responsibility; and the many facets of what constitutes romantic love.

The mystery itself gives plenty of clues to anyone paying attention (although there is a good reason for the protagonist to be slow on the uptake), and so the Big Reveal is not particularly shocking, but the extra-thrilling final confrontation is still a nail-biter, and the ending is satisfying on every level.

I recommend this novel to any avid reader looking for a change in their usual fair. No matter you normal reading preferences, you are likely to find something in here to appreciate. Read it for the mystery, or the "non-traditional" romance, or for the vicarious trip to Alaska that you get from the vivid prose. Whatever your particular reason, it's worth checking out.

Wednesday, April 6th 2016
Posted Wed Apr 6 2016 20:34
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The Conservative-Libertarian Fiction AllianceAnnounces Finalists for 2015 CLFA Book of the Year.

(April 5, 2016) - The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA), a network of authors, readers, editors, publishers, reviewers, artists, and cultural leaders who read, write, and promote pro-liberty fiction, has released the list of the ten Finalists for the 2015 CLFA Book of the Year award.They are (in alphabetical order by author's last name):

The Noticeby Daniella Bova

The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut's Windlassby Jim Butcher

Son of the Black Swordby Larry Correia

Honor at Stakeby Declan Finn

By the Hands of Men Book Two: Into the Flamesby Roy M. Griffis

The Devil's Dictum by Frederick-Heimbach

Amy Lynn, Golden Angelby Jack July

Amy Lynn, The Lady Of Castle Dunnby Jack July

Her Brother's Keeperby Mike Kupari

The Violet Crowby Michael Sheldon

To qualify, books had to be novel length (minimum 50k words) fiction first published in the calendar year 2015. Self-published, small press and traditionally published works are all eligible, including e-book and audio formats. Authors need not be members of the CLFA or even consider themselves to be politically aligned with the CLFA in order to be nominated and win. Books were nominated by members of the CLFA closed Facebook group. The top ten nominees are the finalists.

Voting to determine the winner will commence on June 1st via a Survey Monkey poll, which will be open to the general public. A link to the survey will be posted on the CLFA public Facebook page and at, and shared via other social media at that time. Voting will conclude on June 30, and winners will be announced shortly thereafter.

Good luck to all the nominees!

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