Coming Soon – Gamers!

Most people play some form of video games.  From cell phones to consoles, with a few PC gamers still hanging on, we don’t have to be children to find the joy in them.  Not anymore.

When Riley’s parents died, she inherited the family horse farm.  Times are tough, and sales are non-existent, but she will not let their dream die because of her.  She doesn’t care what it takes, she’ll keep the farm going.

She’s spent her life flipping off the world, and now it’s coming back to bite her in the ass.  There’s only one thing she’s ever been good at: first person shooter video games.  Unfortunately, the professional gaming scene is a boy’s world.  Hopefully, that means they’ll never see her coming.  Seven years ago she tried to break into the scene – and it almost worked – until someone started spreading it around that she was sleeping her way to the top.

They say her gender has nothing to do with it.  They say it’s all about how many kills she gets.  So, Riley is ready to prove her point.  For years she’s been building a new reputation with a new character name.  When she goes head to head with the best FPS player in the scene, the last thing she expects is respect.  Even more shocking?  He invites her to the Professional League of Gamers Tournament.  If she can place well enough, then a professional contract – and paycheck – is hers.

Unfortunately, to get it, she’ll have to show her face.  They’ll all know she’s a girl, including Void, the man who rules the scene.  Will he be as impressed when he finds out that she’s not just one of the guys?  Can she really make a living doing something she loves?  Most importantly, is she willing to throw away everything in order to break down the glass ceiling that’s been holding her back for so long?

Challenge Accepted dives right into the world of hardcore gamers and the insanity of their lives.  In a virtual world, the friendships are still real, and often, they last through many lives.

Strong Female Characters

Have you ever noticed that a “strong” woman is one that’s almost as good as a man?  Oh, I’m not saying that women are the same as men, but equal doesn’t mean identical.  I’m a strong woman.  I can’t lift much more than 50 pounds at a time, but I can run my own business.  One is not better than the other, but both types of strength deserve to be valued for what they are.

I’m a voracious reader.  In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed an increase in the number of female leads.  The Hunger Games, Divergent, and so many more.  Angelina Jolie played Salt.  Ghost Busters is being redone with an all female cast.  Someone has figured out that women can actually do more than wear bikinis and be available for easy sex.  Oddly, that hasn’t resulted in a lot of STRONG female characters.

A lot of “not weak” ladies doesn’t mean they should be called strong.  Here’s how I see it:

A weak female character is the typical damsel in distress.  She’s picked up and held in the tower to further some man’s storyline.  She has no agency of her own.  She isn’t allowed to do anything that might have any effect on anything.  Her only job is to have some nice boobs and fall madly in love with the man who rescues her.  She’s a prop.  She’s no more human than a vase sitting on a shelf, but there’s a good chance that she’s awfully nice to look at.

Then we have today’s modern women characters.  Some people call them strong simply because they have agency.  These ladies can make up their mind and have unique ideas.  The problem is that they can’t do anything about them on their own.  When they are kidnapped and taken to the tower, they say, “I need to get out of here.”  The man in the cell beside them tells them how to do it, then proceeds to hold her hand the entire time.  Without HIM, she never would have managed to get a thing done.  Oh, she’s capable, but only as a part of a team.  She’s the ever present sidekick.  The Harley Quinn to their Joker.

After them are the Strong Female Characters.  These women get kidnapped and placed in the tower, work with the man to form the plan, and then do exactly as much good as him to get free.  They are strong.  They are capable.  Yet, they are never allowed to do a single thing BETTER than their partner.  She kills the exact same number of evil villains as he does.  She frees exactly the same number of people.  If he unlocks the door to their cell, she unlocks the door that gets them out of the tower.  I love reading/watching these ladies in modern stories.  To me, they are wonderful, strong, and such a refreshing change of pace.  But they aren’t MY strong ladies.

When I write stories, I like to make insanely strong female characters.  If the bad guy does kidnap them and lock them in the tower, she’ll be the one that breaks out the hottie in the cell beside her, probably making him worship her in the process.  Then, she’ll save all the slaves, show her boy toy how to get out, using the strength of the person most capable to do it, and send everyone off to live happily ever after – but she’s not done.  As soon as her friends are safe, she’ll blow up the tower, ride to the villain’s lair, kick his ass, get revenge for every wrong, and take part in not only overthrowing the corrupt government, but also instilling a new and better designed one.  After which she goes home to cry on her daddy’s shoulder, introduce the hottie to her mom, and maybe have a wonderful family.

In other words, I don’t think the ladies can never be better than the man.  Sometimes she’s the brain and he’s the brawn.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  Just like men can be the hero, so can the women.  You see, I grew up playing games, watching movies, and reading books, wishing that I could be bad ass, too.  The world told me I wasn’t pretty enough (no matter how pretty I was, it wasn’t enough), I couldn’t be smart enough unless I was pretty enough, and I would never ever be as good as a man in the same field – unless I wanted to specialize in raising babies.  Problem is, I kinda hate kids.

I would hate to see another generation of girls who grow up thinking that they are almost good enough to save the world.  My stories may not appeal to everyone, but if just one girl reads one and thinks, “Hey, if I put my mind to it, I can do it!” then I’ve done my job as an author.  If one boy reads my books and thinks, “Wow, women are just like me.” then I’ve changed the world – one mind at a time.

Being strong isn’t about how much a person can lift.  It’s about something so much deeper than that.  It’s the strength to fall down seven times and get up eight.  That’s it.

What’s in my Head

Some authors have another world living in their head.  I have a universe.

These range from contemporary romances, like One More Day, to flights of fancy, like Black and White.  I dwell in urban fantasies where djinni and undines mingle with earth elementals called humans, then move to ancient times where Roman-like  citizens learn they are the bastard children of gods.  From princess gladiators to science fiction corporate monarchies, I wallow in them all.

To me, they are all important.  I love strong female characters.  Not “men with boobs” but real women, with real women’s issues, who do real girly things (uh, whatever that is).  I write about ladies who kick ass and ladies who get their asses kicked.  I write about winners and losers, brave people and cowards.  My beta readers never know what will hit them next.  Sometimes they are good guys, and sometimes they aren’t.  It doesn’t matter.  All that matters is the way a story makes you feel when you reach the last line.

And I love them all.  From Riley to Khellian, my characters take on a life of their own, and I must help them tell the world their history.  For a moment in time, they live in my head, and I have to be true to them.

I never thought I’d be an author.  As a child I liked to draw.  As a teen I loved music and dance.  In college, I tried hard to do what I “should”, so studied biology.  I worked with animals and people.  I had jobs in offices and at home.  For the most part, I was never happy, until I started writing this stupid little story, just to get it out of my head.

And now, I can’t stop.  I typically manage between 4k and 15k words a day (average is about 10k, unless I need to do research).  I let the characters live, usually with a cat on my chest and a dog curled up at my feet, because this – telling their stories – is my job.

The joys of handling everything

Some call it self publishing.  Some call it independent publishing.  The name doesn’t matter.  What’s important is that more readers have more access to more books than ever before.  In today’s world, we can download a book for just a few bucks, and never worry about where to store it when we’re done.

As an author, it’s even better.  Some of my work just isn’t “main stream” enough to be picked up by a production business.  They have to weigh all of the risks vs. rewards.  If they know the market is buying up book type A as fast as it can hit the shelves, but has never seen a book like Z, why would they dump in hundreds of thousands (or more) into printing it?  That would be a very foolish business decision.

But I no longer have to worry about if my story is “mainstream” enough.  I just need to worry about things like plot, characterization, and a viable story.  Authors can focus on telling what they want to, and ignoring wondering how many people will read it, if it will make the best seller’s lists, and all of the “old style” way of doing things.  What matters are individual reviews, public perception, and knowing how to market to your niche in the book world.

Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about unicorn porn (yep, found that on kindle, eek!) or murder mysteries.  Every book out there has someone who could read it.  Today, we authors have to worry about professional covers, grammar and editing, as well as writing with a unique voice that sets us apart.  We have to build an audience, the appease their need for more.  Regurgitated story lines and transparent plot twists aren’t going to cut it in this world.  We need to be smarter, more inventive, and twice as creative – but it’s allowed.

You see, the gatekeepers for traditional publishing are doing their job.  I’m not opposed to that, and it makes perfect sense.  The number of people buying tangible books is down.  That means that each book published needs to be a sure thing.  They must hedge their bets, but that also means not taking a big risk.  The stories they like are the ones they know will sell.  Rulebreakers like Hemingway or Tolkien wouldn’t stand a chance.

But they would if they did it themselves.  The best way is to make a team.  I have mine.  Between my cover artist(s), my editor, my beta readers, and more, we have a herd of people invested in each and every book.  Remember that old saying about how it takes a village?  It’s true in indie publishing, but it’s worth it.  To see the cover I dreamed up, with the words I wrote, all sitting there, getting read by complete strangers?  There are no words for the feeling that stirs inside me.  It’s epic.

One More Day

The test results are back, and they say it’s cervical cancer. As if that isn’t bad enough, getting laid off from her job means Mackenzie can’t afford to pay her bills, including the medical ones! She’s convinced it’s the worst day of her life. Not even meeting that Super Hot Guy from the coffee shop can make it better.

Or can it?

Ryan has been trying to get the nerve to talk to her for months. Her art is amazing. It’s exactly the type of thing he’d like to ink onto his skin forever. For the first time, the beautiful artist wasn’t lost in her work. Nope, she was lost in something else. Something that brought tears to those gorgeous eyes. It’s the excuse he needs to finally get up the nerve and talk to her.

She needs a shoulder, and he’s more than willing to give it – plus a job that lets her use her art. Mackenzie never expected to be working in a tattoo parlor, but it will pay the bills, and being around Ryan is pretty nice. Maybe too nice. His shy smiles make her stomach flip, or that could be the chemo. It all comes back to the cancer, so why should she even try? The Super Hot Guy is her boss, and maybe this is as good as her life is going to get… because the cancer’s getting worse.

Mackenzie may want to protect him, but Ryan isn’t going to lose the girl. Not because he’s her boss, not because he’s too scared to make a move, and he’s certainly not going to let some disease screw this up. She thinks the cancer is going to win, but he has other plans. He just needs one more day to prove it, but she may not give him that option.