Monday, May 18, 2015

A GUEST POST by the spectacular C. Bryan Brown

Why I Need Strong Women

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about diversity in storytelling. There’s not enough LGBT characters, non-white characters, or strong female characters in our fiction. For that reason I’m quite nervous. My newest novel, “They Are Among Us,” features a strong, female protagonist.

Now, I’m not going to go all Melvin Udall and say that strong women make me want to be a better man. Instead, I’m going to take it a step further and tell you strong women make me a better man just by being who they are. They make me think more, react differently, and best of all, see the world with different eyes. Strong women elevate me, not by bending their backs so I can step on or over them, but by taking my hand and leading me on a multitude of journeys I’d otherwise never make.

But I’m not a strong woman.

In fact, I’m an extra-large, corn-fed Midwestern man. Still, writing about a strong woman only seemed natural to me. This wasn’t done by any conscious decision on my part (the first draft of this book was written years ago, before the gender gap in fiction became a thing), but because I’ve always been surrounded, and shaped by, these strong women from my grandmothers to my mom, my aunts, my sister and my wife, down to my women friends. I don’t always agree with them, and we often have robust (sometimes even rancorous) discussions, but that’s par for the course. I’m like that with anyone I respect.

I can’t speak for everyone, so I’ll speak for myself and admit that I need these strong women. Not only in my life, but in my fiction. Fiction is supposed to challenge our perceptions, show us people and places and situations we might not normally encounter; fiction creates empathy for others, and expands a reader’s emotional base. I’m quite proud to join the ranks of authors who’ve written strong women, and hope that anyone who reads “They Are Among Us” finds inspiration and education from Alexandria.

But that doesn’t stop my aforementioned nerves from rattling.

Why? Because I want the women in my life to be proud of how I’ve portrayed them in my novel. I want them to say that Alexandria Maxell is a good example of how women should be written in fiction. I want them to give my book to their daughters (age appropriately, of course) and say, “You can be anything you want, including an F.B.I. agent that helps shape the world.”

Women don’t have to be perfect, no one is. And it’s those imperfections that make people stronger, more so women than men, because they have to fight for what’s right and humane, instead of having it handed to them over a penis. Since there’s an obvious disparity in how women are portrayed in current fiction, writing strong, determined, and kick ass females is empowering, not only for the author, but for women. The more writers that illuminate women in engaging, thoughtful, frightening, and dramatic roles, will continue help bridge this gap between women and men in our society, until finally, they’re where they belong, which is side by side with every man. I know my side is where I want the women in my life to be. Holding my hand, guiding me, helping me, and letting me do the very same thing for them.

Women deserve that, and so much more, from any author that writes them into a book.

About the Author

C. Bryan Brown has been hit in the face with a dirty plunger, run over with his own car, and even lived in a haunted house. Now he's in corporate America with debt up to his ears and he's happy to be living the dream with his wife, kids, and grandkids. He writes to avoid going to jail and keep his sanity, though he'd love for you to add to his paranoia and stalk him at

His latest novel, They Are Among Us, was released on April 14th by Post Mortem Press. You can purchase a paperback or Kindle copy by clicking here!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PLEASE! Stop destroying my childhood!

It was bad enough that they remade (and destroyed) Footloose and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but Hollywood does not seem to be stopping there. The new trailer for Jem and the Holograms has sparked more backlash and outrage than I could have imagined. Rumors have surfaced that there are plans to remake The Craft, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Drop Dead Fred, Soapdish, and Neverending Story, just to name a few. Such attempts are truly outrageous - and not in the good way.

The new trailer for Jem and the Holograms - see it here: JEM and the HOLOGRAMS trailer - is a travesty at best. For anybody who watched the series there are so many red flags I don't even know where to start my diatribe! I suppose I will have to manage so, in no particular order, my initial complaints with the Jem trailer. Oh, and I'm going to use some awesome pics from the show to illustrate my point....I do not own these images, all of the rights belong to the amazingly awesome people who created Jem and brought her to TV for all of us 80s kids to enjoy.

1. NO MISFITS! How can you have a Jem and the Holograms movie sans the Misfits? Who is the villain? Who drives Jerrica to become Jem in the first place?

2. NO SYNERGY! Seriously? One little nod to the holographic entity does not bring her to life, does not do justice to Synergy. Not in the slightest. Who didn't love seeing Jerrica say "It's showtime Synergy" and transform into the pink-haired wonder, Jem????

3. This brings me to my next point. Where is Jem's signature pink hair? The purple star earrings Jerrica uses to contact Synergy? Jem's iconic look has been dumbed down and washed out in a pathetic attempt to modernize it. Part of the draw of a live action Jem SHOULD HAVE been the awesome 80s rock/punk style.

4. Rio. Yes, this cute little actor is likely to make young teens giggle and blush, he does not have purple hair or any real style at all. He may as well be another studio exec in a suit. BORING.

5. How come Jerrica does not own Starlight? Isn't that the point? She inherited it from her father and has to fight Eric Raymond for control.

6. NO JEM THEME SONG!!! Really? A One Direction song? How can they not even be using the Jem theme song for JEM?!?!?!

There are sure to be more issues as more information is released but even my 9 year old daughter is outraged at the ridiculously watered down version of Jem we are being shown. I remember the first time we watched an episode of Jem and the Holograms with my sister (who incidentally named her bike Synergy in tribute to our love of the show) and how excited my daughter was. We've been planning to see it together since we heard it would be made into a live action film. I don't think my kiddo could be more disappointed. I know I couldn't be. And sadly, it does not seem that Hollywood intends to stop with Jem and the Holograms. Must they warp and destroy every character from my childhood?

I'm not saying all reboots are fodder but the track record is not good. The new Turtles barely resemble amphibians. The updated Clash of the Titans could have been incredible - if they had stuck with the original story line. Every time I get excited for a reboot I find myself incredibly disappointed by the tripe that makes its way to the big screen.

So again, I say, PLEASE stop destroying my childhood.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Please extend a warm welcome to my friend from across the pond, Ann Troup

It is my pleasure to introduce the lovely and talented Ann Troup who has taken time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about being a writer and her new release, The Lost Child. I am personally very excited about this one and count myself lucky to host her on my blog today!

VP: What is your inspiration? What helps you through writer's block?
Ann: My inspiration usually comes from situations, people and overheard snippets of conversation, it develops from asking the question what if? I am fascinated by human behaviour and why people are motivated to do the things they do. I used to believe that the older I became the more I would understand, not so. What makes us tick provides an endless source of inspiration.
Consequently I rarely suffer from writers block, but I am a huge procrastinator. This is probably a good thing in some ways, without those periods my house would never get cleaned! If I do hit a wall, I usually step away from the keyboard, do something else and let the characters tell me what they want to do next. If I’ve pasted them into a corner, they usually voice their objections and dictate their next move whether I like it or not – it’s quite an experience to find that your decisions are dictated by figments of your own imagination.

VP: Do you listen to music when you write? Have a completely silent space?
Ann: I normally listen to the radio when I’m writing, but strictly speech radio. Music is such a mood changer for me, it can really influence where I take things, which is not always a good thing. Silence isn’t an option either. I live near the sea in a very busy tourist area so there is no such thing as silence. Much as I love the grockles (as us Devonshire people call our visitors) they are too much of a distraction and I rely on good old Radio 4 to tune them out. I have discovered that there is no cure for seagulls, nothing drowns them out!

VP: Who inspires you? What authors do you look up to? Why?
Ann: My number one writerly inspiration would be John Steinbeck, but there are so many others, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Hilary Mantel, Jane Gardam, Harper Lee…I could clog your blog by going on. I admire their beautiful writing and their ability to acutely observe humanity and illustrate it in such a way that they blur the lines of right and wrong, good and bad. They make me think and they make me want to learn. There are some writers who can change you on a fundamental level; it takes extraordinary skill and mastery of the craft to achieve that.

VP: When did you first start writing? What genre do you prefer?
Ann: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t scribbling some rubbish on some scrap of paper. I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen, the usual dark and soul wrenching ego trip. I’m glad to say that I don’t still have it – if I read it now I would be mortified and want to go back and slap myself upside the head!
I don’t really have a preferred genre, but I do binge read. I am currently favouring Urban Fantasy, but may need to stop imagining what might live on the fringes of my reality soon… It’s easier to state what I don’t often read which would be high fantasy, my son adores it and though I admire all that world building and the who begat who of it, my poor addled brain just can’t cope with remembering characters who have names that lack vowels, let alone whole dynasties of them. On the whole if it’s well written and a good story I’ll read it – I’ll read the back of a shampoo bottle in preference to reading nothing!

VP: If you had to choose another genre to write, what would it be? Why?
Ann: Ooooh –this one is tricky. One of the biggest problems I have as a writer is aligning my books with a specific genre. They are a mixed bag of mystery, crime, life, romance, preternatural anomalous experiences…so it’s hard to know, I can’t decide as it stands! If I were forced to choose I’d like to write fiction for children and be part of opening up fascinating new worlds for enquiring minds. A child quietly reading a book is a beautiful thing to observe – I’d like to be part of that and give a little back for all that I gained from writers when I was a child. I’d like to spread the magic.

VP: What is your favorite book (or who is your favorite author) and why?
Ann: At last count we have over 2,000 books in the house. I culled over 1, 000 last year, I only kept my favourites – does that answer the question? If I really have to nail it, there is one and it’s a favourite for a mixed bag of reasons, it’s a YA book written in the 1960’s by Ruth. M. Arthur titled A Candle in her Room. It’s spooky, haunting, emotional and beautifully written. I remember getting it out of the library incessantly as a kid and rereading it again and again. I love that book, not only for itself but because it brings back lovely memories of childhood. It’s long out of print, but I managed to track a copy down and it’s the one book no one is allowed to borrow, they can read it, but it doesn’t leave the house.

VP: Do you have another job and if so, what is it?
Ann: I am in the luxurious and enviable position of being able to write full time. I used to own a small art gallery and still work on commissions for ceramic art and book sculptures ( sorry book peeps, I have been known to chop up a book and make art from it, but usually only damaged unloved ones that would otherwise be pulped or trashed). I do occasionally give some of my sculptures away on my blog and Facebook page and my giveaways are worldwide – I’m not stingy on postage.

VP: Tell about your first book and how long it took you to write the first draft.
Ann: My first (self) published book was The Philosophy of Disgrace – a dark and twisted thriller about three sisters and nasty familial shenanigans. It took four years in total to write the first draft, but that was very on and off. I love the story, and on the whole it got a good reception but in fairness it needed the eye of a good editor and someone far more objective than me. I took it down from sale a few years back and it has languished in a folder ever since. It is now getting a new lease of life with the help of an excellent editor and I may be offering it as a freebie to blog subscribers in the near future.

VP:  Now for a little bit about your books, could you list all of your titles with a one sentence synopsis of each.
Ann:  My new title The Lost Child (Carina UK 19/5/15) is the story of Mandy, who disappeared aged three and the people who need her to stay dead, buried and forgotten for their own ends.

VP: Who is your favorite character? Why?
Ann: My favourite character has to be Brodie Miller, she’s a feisty teen who often acts and speaks before she thinks. In the story she acts as a catalyst for many events and finds that she is a magnet for trouble.

VP: Who is your least favorite character? Why?
Ann: My least favourite is Fern Miller, she embodies the worst traits of humanity, she is a narcissist bordering on sociopath – she was fun to write, but if I met her in real life you would see me in the distance closely followed by a cloud of dust.

VP: Which character was most difficult to write?
Ann: Hardest to write was Esther, as she can’t speak due to a devastating stroke she has to communicate through facial expression, mood and gestures. However, she holds the key to the truth so it’s important that we hear from her. I think she is a great character, but a tough one to write.

VP: What scenes are most difficult to write?
Ann: I’m a dreadful old cynic these days and find love scenes hard to write. I love a bit of romance though and it’s difficult to write anyone’s story without it cropping up somewhere. I do feel it’s important that human beings can be redeemed through what they are prepared to do for others, so love is fundamental on every level – but smoochy romance is my writerly nemesis. But, it’s in there, I did it and it was one of the scenes my editor was most happy with (phew).

VP: Do you see yourself in any of your characters?
Ann: In all honesty not really. Some aspects of Elaine’s character are familiar, her anxiety and self-doubt I can identify with, but very little of me is in any of my characters. I’d love to be badass like Brodie, courageous like Derry and as forgiving and sanguine as Miriam, but I am hopelessly fallible and really quite boring so I guess the less there is of me in a book the better.

VP: Indie pub or trad pub?
Ann: Carina is a digital first imprint of Harlequin (Harper Collins), so trad pub in ebook first with all the might of the big gun behind me. With a bit of luck and goodly sales the book will go to print later.

VP: What is your favorite scene? Why?
Ann: My favourite scene is the first scene in the book when Elaine first meets Brodie. Brodie inadvertently receives a face full of Elaine’s dead mother’s ashes via an incident involving a dead badger and a loose-lidded urn. This very thing actually happened to me and it was most unpleasant and undignified (I’m sure bits of my poor, long passed MIL still inhabit my smart black coat – despite the best efforts of the dry cleaner).

VP: Give a one sentence summary of your book.
Ann: Once sentence summary? Sheesh, it’s as bad as twitter! (why be brief when you can use 100, 000 words?) OK, here goes… A haunting and emotional story of loss, need and identity.

VP: How about a few questions just for fun? If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Ann: Can I be really soppy here? My father. He died when I was 18 and I just didn’t get time to learn enough from him. He fostered my love of reading and learning and was the most generous, honest and honourable man. He had his faults, but owned them and if I am anything like him that’ll do for me. Other than that I’d quite like to whip across the pond and have a beer or two with you, I think we’d have a blast. (I’m not much of a celeb fangirl – I like real honest to goodness folk who tell it like it is).

VP: If you could take the place of one of your characters, which one would you choose and why?
Ann: Honestly? None of them really, they all have flaws. If I absolutely had to choose it would be Albert – he’s away with the fairies and it sounds like quite a nice way to be sometimes.

VP: If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?
Ann: I would tour all the capital cities of Europe, I’ve done a few but never for long enough. I would just walk, look, people watch, sit and drink coffee rinse and repeat. Absolute bliss!

VP: What is your favorite TV show/movie from childhood? What is it now?
Ann: Would it surprise you to hear that as a kid I loved Dr Who and still do? These days I don’t watch much TV but will drop everything for the Walking Dead ;)

Barnes & Noble:

Want to know more about Ann? Catch up with her here:
Facebook : Ann Troup
Twitter :@TroupAnn