Aug 8, 2016

Octocon 2016

I am thrilled to announce that I'm returning to Octocon as a guest this year!



Octocon is Ireland's national science fiction and fantasy convention, and my favourite event of the year. It's a packed weekend of panels, with a big party on the Saturday night. The theme of this year's theme is "Rebellion," and the panels are sure to cover a range of awesome topics related to it.

As you can see, this year's guests of honour are Diane Duane, Peter Morwood, and Rhianna Pratchett. That's a heck of a lineup!

On top of this, I'm launching Blackened Wings on the Friday night. If you're coming to the con, do stop by and join in the fun. You can RSVP here.

Jul 25, 2016

Who you gonna call?

I'm gonna talk about Ghostbusters. I've blogged about the franchise before, dedicating a Watch & Learn post to the original, and I made my feelings very clear on the negative reaction to the all-female cast for the new version. I've blogged frequently about the need for women to be the heroes of the story. I've spoken in interviews about how important this movie was going to be.

And then I saw *that* trailer. I won't share it here. It was awful. It made me want to not see the movie at all.

But then I listened to what women were saying after they'd seen the movie. And I got excited.



So this past weekend, my wife and I went to see it. And I felt like a kid again.

Let's get some things out of the way first. The movie had some flaws.

I cringed at the "sassy black woman" cliché, even though Patty, as a whole, is a wonderful character and had my wife's favourite line ("Room full of nightmares..."). This is not a great movie for racial diversity or representation. It's very, very white.

Then there was Bill Murray. Now, most of the original cast got a cameo (including the lovely bust of Harold Ramis at Columbia University, and the surprise appearance of Annie Potts). But Murray got a whole extra scene at the Ghostbusters' HQ. This scene killed the pace and added nothing to the story. It could have (should have) been cut, and literally nothing would have changed for the rest of the movie. Really, it smacked of Murray wanting more screen time, and being granted it because Bill Murray. I've never been a fan of him outside of Ghostbusters, and maybe Scrooged, and this extra scene felt like pure ego-stroking.

So with those issues firmly established, let's look at what's so important about this movie, and why it's so good.

As I watched, I was wary of a trap I've frequently fallen into, whereby I fake enjoying a movie that's actually really bad. I did it with Phantom Menace and Ghostrider. But it turned out that this time, my enjoyment was genuine. So why was I continually checking myself?

It was because I was seeing something I had never seen before.

The dialogue sounded strange. The characters use a lot of techno-jargon. It was all based in actual terminology used for the study of the paranormal, or on jargon from the original. And it was all well-delivered. The reason it sounded strange was because I'd never seen a sci fi action movie where multiple women were playing scientists. I'd never seen women have scientific discussions. How messed up is that?

There was never one mention of body issues or any of the team wanting to look sexy. The team didn't snipe at each other or try to one-up each other. They dressed appropriately for their work. They ate because they were hungry and didn't complain about being on a diet or start comparing their figures. They were there to do scientific research and to help people.

And then, it all went up to 11...


I love fight scenes. I could write for volumes on the meaning and purpose of fight scenes and their role in narrative. This was one of the most stunning and significant fight scenes I have ever witnessed.

No skin-tight or revealing clothing. No moves posed to make the character look sexier. No male character jumping in to save the day.

There is a standard by which most characters are portayed. I like to frame it as "I want to be that" vs "I want to fuck that," with men falling largely into the "I want to be that" category, and women being presented as "I want to fuck that."

In the cinema, I wanted to be Holtzman.

I'm not the only one to feel that this scene was so important, either,

This movie has broken new ground. It was exactly what I'd originally hoped an all-woman Ghostbusters movie would be like. Women, coming together by their own choice, using knowledge and skills only they have, to do good. To save the day, because only they can.

And that's why this movie is so important. That's why it needed to have an all-woman team. I've repeatedly said that diversity, in and of itself, will improve any story. And here is my proof. Imagine this movie with an all-male team, or even mixed gender. Would it have been fun? Sure. But it would not have been so incredibly significant.

The imagery of women saying "this happened to me!" and being disbelieved, torn down on the internet, and expected to happily endure their treatment.

Women faced with men who oppose them, undermine them, insult them, who treat them worse the more they insist on being treated with respect. Men who only allow them to operate untormented for as long as they can go without drawing attention to themselves.

A villain who is the epitome of the reactionary rejected male. Who thinks others have to suffer because he has had a hard time.

And women, standing together to save the world, and each other (power of friendship, yeah!!). Not fretting over boyfriends. Not jealous of one another. Women who got to be heroes wholly, and deservedly, in their own right.

Not only that, but the original Ghostbusters were running a business. They formed the team because they thought catching ghosts would make them rich.

2016's Ghostbusters set out to catch ghosts in order to study them, Their primary goal is research, the pursuit of knowledge. Sorry, boys, but these Ghostbusters are better scientists than the originals!

Can you remember the last major mainstream movie that featured an all-female lead cast?

It was Sex and the City 2, in 2010.

Do you know what challenges those characters faced? A failing libido. Fear that a husband would cheat with someone more attractive. Not getting jewellery as a present. And making it to the airport so they wouldn't have to fly home economy-class.

It's time for that to change.

I used to say that, when it comes to representation in stories, women get to fight each other, and men get to save the world.

This year, women got to save the world. Let's keep that going!

I used to think I wanted my daughters to watch the original Ghostbusters first. But now I'm not so sure. The movie I first saw as a kid was made for me. It taught me things that seven year-old me needed to learn.

My daughters have different things to learn. And this movie is for them. And every other little kid out there.

Light 'em up, ladies

Jul 21, 2016

Funded



Today's the day. A little under a month away from my 36th birthday, the IndieGoGo campaign for Blackened Wings has ended, 103% funded. This is enough to pay for my edits and formatting, as well as order the books and tshirts I need for the perks my backers will receive.

I'll be totally honest, when I started this, I wasn't sure I'd reach my goal. That's why I chose the flexible funding option, so I'd at least get something towards the book, in case it didn't reach the minimum goal.

It's interesting looking back at how my books have all been landmarks of certain life milestones.

This IndieGoGo campaign was the first major step in a new positive outlook for me. After life beating me down for a few years, it finally feels like I'm back on my feet. I'm happier, healthier, and excited to bring this new story to the world.

Now, those of you who missed the IndieGoGo, don't worry too much. Lady Raven and Red Skies are available through Amazon, and Blackened Wings will be joining them in October, following its launch at this year's Octocon.

Thank you to all of my backers, this book may not have happened with you!

Time to raise the colours and get ready for Cora Ravenell's next big adventure. Yo ho!

Jul 15, 2016

Health and Fitness

Those of you following me on Twitter and Facebook may have noticed my posts from a mobile app called Zombies, Run! This is part of a set of changes I've been making over the last several weeks to improve my health.

I figure, I'm almost 36. I eat okay - food that's not horribly unhealthy or particularly good for me - and I've mostly walked for about 40 minutes a day, five days a week, as part of my work commute.

But I'm not happy with my body image, and I can't run for more than a few seconds without wheezing at the end. I have a back injury that, as anyone who's hurt their back will know, could flare up at any time. And my tendons are so tight I've managed to strain the ones in my left leg while doing the exercises I needed to ease my back pain.

It's high time I did something more than just reduce my sugar intake and cut out coffee.

I've started exercising. It's a slow build, since I'm very unfit and have to make sure I don't over-work the tendons in my leg or put my back out again. I've majorly changed my diet, replacing my dependence on carbs and sugars with a load more protein.

This isn't about weight loss, so I won't be tracking how many pounds I lose or gain. It's about how I feel in my own skin and how much energy I have. If I'm going to talk and write about what it means to be a warrior and a hero, I have to feel the part.

Wish me luck!

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Also, there's less than a week left on the IndieGoGo campaign for Lady Raven Part 3: Blackened Wings. It's fully-funded so I can guarantee that everyone who backs it will receive their perks. Drop over and check out the perk levels. Raise the colours!

Jul 12, 2016

Holding on, and Letting Go

Yesterday was my son’s fifth birthday.

Losing Conor was the single most painful experience my wife and I have been through, and it definitely tested the strength of our relationship.

Every year since Conor was born, we would take his birthday off work and spend the day together, not committing to anything that would put a toll on us. We would pick up a helium-filled balloon from the card shop in Dundrum, and go to the beach in Bray, where we’d talk to Conor and, when we were ready, let the balloon go.

It was a cathartic, but exhausting, process. We’d dread it, a week or two beforehand. Get snappy at each other and at friends. Lose energy. Sleep badly. There is a special kind of discomfort from standing in a shop while the balloon gets filled, the staff naturally assuming you’re off to a kid’s birthday party, smiling as they serve you. The first time I was asked if the balloon was for a boy or a girl, I almost collapsed.

And the beach isn’t exactly a private place for two grieving parents. Your self-consciousness gives way to tears, but it’s yet another weight to bear.

Letting go was the worst; watching the balloon fly away over the sea. It was like saying goodbye to Conor all over again. We’d go home, in silence, spent from crying and holding each other. We’d order takeaway or cook something simple, then watch a movie and try to put ourselves back together for the next day.

Looking back, I think we needed this ritual. Whether due to guilt, or fear, or just wanting something to fill the empty hole where Conor should be. But somewhere along the way, it went from being a way to release the pain and sadness to a way to keep hurting. As If we’d forget Conor if we didn’t do it. It became time to change. To let go of letting Conor go.

This year, we didn’t get a balloon. We will always miss Conor, and want to know what he could have been, but he’s got three little sisters we have to look after, and we’ve got so much ahead of us. So much to be happy for. Conor wouldn’t want us putting ourselves through a painful ritual that had served its purpose. The change in each of us when we made the decision was instant. Weight lifted and we spent the rest of the day feeling more at peace than we have for a long time.

July is always going to be a hard month for us. And Conor’s birthday will always hurt. Only now, we’re letting it hurt a little less.


From now on, we’re holding on. Holding on to all the love and happiness that we have, and all that’s yet to come.

Jun 24, 2016

There's still some good in the world

2016 has hit us hard.

We've seen hate spill blood, constantly, and watched those in power do nothing to stop it. We've seen women and black and LGBTQ people literally beg to not be harmed, only to have it thrown in their faces. We've just watched fearmongering and racism dominate the UK, with who knows what consequences.

And to top it all off, we keep losing the icons we grew up with.

We keep losing our heroes.

But this isn't a post about how bad things are. Anyone will tell you, I'm a practical optimist. I believe good can win, but that we have to fight for it.

When the old heroes die, new ones have to step up.

It's your time. Your time to make a difference. Do something, anything, to bring some good into the world. You don't overcome fear and hate by wishing them away or quietly stewing. You do it by showing the rest of the world that you won't succumb to despair.

The world is begging for people to do great things. To end wars, cure diseases, change unfair laws, spread love. No matter who you are, there is something you can do to make the world a little bit better.

Become a doctor. Volunteer at a shelter or clinic. Give to charity. Join the police. Run for office. Vote, for the love of all, vote. Teach your kids love, compassion, and acceptance. Join the school board. Buy a meal for a homeless person. Sing. Hug a friend who needs comfort. Talk to people who are suffering the most, let them know they can count on you. Paint a picture. Make art. Write a book. Tell stories where the good guys win. Laugh. Start a business. Reach for something bigger than you are. Every one of you has had a dream at some point in your life. Go after it. Be relentless in your goals and let nothing stop you.

And while you do this, always be the best, kindest, person you can be. You might be a great success, you might fail. If you do, you can always get back up and start again. Do not let this hard world beat you to your knees. Because it will, if you let it.

Not everyone can be the biggest hero. But not all heroes are big. Some are small. All are important. And some day, somewhere, you will be the one somebody looks to at times like this, when the world needs heroes the most.

Those people will see you. They will hear you. They will need you.

Be a hero, even if it's just for one person.

Monsters can be beaten. Monsters must be beaten.

Jun 20, 2016

Auspices



This is an auspicious time. Today is the longest day of the year (though not the traditional Summer Solstice, which is tomorrow), and coincides with the Strawberry Moon, a full moon in June which signals the start of the strawberry season.

The Summer Solstice and the Strawberry Moon only coincide once every 70 years. This is something most of us will not live to see again.

And tomorrow, the 21st, the traditional solstice date, is my 8th wedding anniversary.

It is also the starting date for my IndieGoGo campaign to fund the publication of Blackened Wings, the third in the Lady Raven series. Watch out tomorrow for my post announcing the kick-off. It's going to run for 30 days, after which the money raised will go towards paying my editor (the awesome Amie McCracken), and fulfilling my backers' reward levels.

So tonight I'll be pouring a drink for the gods, and getting ready to see where this takes me.

Yo ho!

Jun 3, 2016

Storming the Castle

You might have seen some activity on my Facebook and Twitter feeds this past week, where I refer to "storming the castle." I thought it'd be nice to give some background to this.

As I'm sure most people will have guessed, "storming the castle" is a reference to one of the greatest movies ever made, The Princess Bride.


Way back when I was still working away on Locked Within, I reconnected, over Facebook, with an old friend from college, Ash, who is also a writer. It’s safe to say she’s one of my best friends, and we’ve supported each other through all the trials and tribulations that come with balancing writing with day jobs and, eventually, parenthood.

One day, I spotted she was talking about her work-in-progress, getting to the end of the book. She posted she was “Having fun storming the castle.” Being the shameless geek I am, I commented with the follow-up line “Do you think it’ll work?” Not missing a beat, she came right back with “It’ll take a miracle.”

Since then, it’s been a tradition of ours, when coming up to something big, to repeat that exchange. “Storming the castle” is now how I mark the moment when I start writing the climax of a novel, and without fail, Ash will be there to ask “Do you think it’ll work?”

The other day, I stormed the castle and finished the first draft of Blackened Wings

So here’s to storming the castle, and all the challenges we have yet to face. 

Do any of you have any similar traditions to mark the completion of large tasks?

May 26, 2016

Date With An Agent 2016

A couple of months ago I entered a competition to win a spot on this year's Date With An Agent. I was delighted to receive an email on April 7th, telling me I had been selected as one of 75 authors who would get to pitch their work to representatives from some of the most prestigious literary agencies in the business.

The big day is almost upon me. I'll be pitching Lady Raven. Just so you know, this in no way affects my plans for Blackened Wings. That book is nearly ready to go to my editor (and details for how you can help crowdfund it will be posted soon), and it will be released earlier this year.

What I'm hoping to gain from this is representation by an agency that can steer me towards a proper book deal, one that'll get my books into bookstores and supermarkets, and while I'm at it, bring me closer to the dream of a movie deal ;-)

I've taken tomorrow off work to do my last-minute prep. It's going to be an intensive weekend, because aside from my pitch session, there will be panels and discussions, and chances to meet agents face to face, and get to know more Irish authors, which is always rewarding.

Wish me luck!

PS: This is also a really good time to leave reviews on Amazon if you've read any of my books ;-)

May 23, 2016

Cover Reveal - Lady Raven Part 3: Blackened Wings

With mere days to go before I send the manuscript to my editor, and plans afoot for crowdfunding the release, I am pleased to reveal the cover for my latest novel, the third part of the Lady Raven saga, Blackened Wings.



Victory comes at a price. Cora Ravenell helps lead the growing rebellion in its efforts to spread dissent and rally more opposition to the Empire. For the first time since her father's funeral, Cora's life has focus and purpose. 

But retaliation is inevitable. 

The Empire reveals its latest weapon, shattering the heart of the rebellion's leadership and scattering its allies to the wind. On the run once more, Cora risks everything to find a way to stop this terrible threat. She and her crew set off on a mission to find the only people who can hold the answer; the last surviving master channellers. 

Laden Fell, now engaged to Princess Idella, pursues the White Raven. Surrounded by the horrors of war, he struggles to reconcile his sense of duty with his ever-weakening moral center. 

And all the while, the Emperor waits, eager to steer Cora and Laden closer to their final confrontation. A confrontation which may bring him within reach of the greatest power left in the world.