And the award goes to…

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I attended the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference this past weekend, and I return with some pretty darn amazing news.

The City of Seven Gods won a Silver Falchion for Best Book of the Year, Horror and Fantasy!!!

I’ll remember the awards dinner forever, sweating it out as the program approached my category, the surreality of the announcement with my book on the big video screen, sharing the moment with my fantastically supportive husband, and adlibbing a short acceptance speech, which I really should have given more thought to!

Here’s what the Silver Falchion looks like.

And here’s what I looked like up at the podium.

Photo courtesy of my hubby Genaro Cruz

Since 2008, the Silver Falchion awards recognize outstanding new titles by authors whose work incorporates elements of suspense, thriller, and mystery. Some of the other winners this year include Kathyrn Lane (Waking Up in Medellin) for Best Fiction Book of the Year, J.A. Jance (Clawback) for Best Adult Thriller, and Randall Reneau (The Medinandi License) for Best Action Adventure. The 2017 awards program also featured the presentation of the John Seigenthaler Award to graphic novelist and author Max Allan Collins (Road to Perdition).

I’ve described The City of Seven Gods as somewhat of an adult companion piece to my young adult Atlantis series (The Seventh Pleiade, Banished Sons of Poseidon) in that it explores the same sort of ancient world mythology and folklore but takes on some grittier themes. All of my titles are special to me, though in some ways, the recognition The City of Seven Gods has received is particularly meaningful. I took some chances with portraying sensitive themes like temple prostitution and slavery and really pushed myself in developing the two main characters’ voices, Kelemun and Ja’bar. I’m so happy that the result has been well-received, and I thank Bold Strokes Books for believing in the book, my super editor Jerry Wheeler for helping to make the manuscript shine, and to my family, friends and readers for believing in me as well.

And here I am with the Silver Falchion when I got back to NYC on Sunday.

The event was a quick trip for me by necessity, and I had a great time on Saturday as a panelist for the morning session: “Go There: Writing Protagonists Who Bring It,” as well as attending the lunch program featuring Max Allan Collins and the afternoon breakout sessions. I met some really fabulous people, and I have to give a shoutout to Joseph Terrell (author of the Harrison Weaver mysteries) and January Kerr (The Patriarchy Project) who I really enjoyed getting to know.

I’m basking in the glory for a short while. Genaro and I are also taking a trip to one of my favorite cities Montréal this upcoming Labor Day weekend as a sort of awards and birthday celebration. But I expect to be back to work on the follow up to The City of Seven Gods really soon.

Come see me at the Killer Nashville International Writers’ Conference!

Retrieved from Killer Nashville’s website

I’m headed out to Nashville this weekend for the first time. That’s because The City of Seven Gods is a finalist for Killer Nashville’s 2017 Silver Falchion award: Best Novel (Horror/Fantasy)!

So yeah, I’m pretty excited about that. The book has gotten some great reviews, some nice buzz, garnering a finalist spot for Book of the Year in the 2016 Foreword INDIES awards earlier in the year.

Killer Nashville’s International Writers Conference and awards program is the premier forum for writers in the areas of mystery, thrillers, crime novels and suspense. Since their founding in 2006, they have expanded to include fantasy and sci fi that incorporates those elements, which of course I’m always glad to see. The conference takes place August 24th – August 27th at Embassy Suites South Nashville/Cool Springs. You can find information about registration and the conference schedule here.

On Saturday, August 26th, I’ll be on a 9:20 am panel entitled: Go There: Writing Protagonists Who Will Bring It, moderated by mystery author Joseph Terrell and including panelists Cate Holahan (The Widowers Wife), Howard Owens (the Willie Black mysteries), Kerry Peresta (The Hunting), and Reavis Worthham (The Sonny Hawke and Red River series). I’m also scheduled for book signings at 11:20 – 11:40 am and 1:20 – 1:40 pm that day, so stop by and say hello!

The awards dinner is at 7:00 pm if you want to have a nice meal and cheer on my book. I’m really looking forward to meeting authors and readers and checking out the panels and workshops throughout the day!

 

 

On protests and being an ally

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Every now and again, I chime in on current events, mostly social justice issues. I write stories that are not overtly politcal or educational, but I’m always aware of the two-way connection between literature (culture) and politics. Literature can deepen understanding of cultural diversity, or strengthen, even create harmful beliefs and attitudes. Beyond that, I’ve always cared a lot about social justice, in part because of my upbringing and later when I confronted stigma and prejudice quite personally as a gay man. Though my platform as an author is small, I’ll gladly use it to denounce bigotry and boost the signal of individuals and groups who are fighting the good fight.

There’s a lot to say about the White Nationalist “Unite the Right” rally, the deadly violence, and the counter-protest that happened in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend. As the country moves forward by removing statues of “confederate heroes” that were installed across the South as symbols of white supremacy, a response to black progress in the Reconstruction Era and de-segregation in the 1950s and 1960s, it is sad though not surprising we are witnessing a backlash from whites. We don’t have to look to archived, black and white photos, grainy camera reel from a much earlier era, to see what mobs of White Nationalists look like. Their images – carrying torches, rifles, ugly placards – their sounds – reclaiming America, they’re everywhere in social media and daily newscasts, and a frightening reminder that social change does not come easily.

There’s also a lot to say about President Trump’s incitement of white nationalism during his campaign and continuing through his presidency. His speeches have been polluted with racist propaganda, sometimes remarkably overt in the case of his defamation of Mexicans, his calls for violence against media outlets and his political rivals, which dare to characterize him as racist. His slogan: Make America Great Again, is easily decoded as: Make America White Again, by both his supporters and his opponents. He foments distrust, fear, hatred of brown-skinned foreigners, Muslims in particular, with fake news narratives about the threat to white American safety.

Trump’s reaction to the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville and the anti-racist protestors who bravely met them there (bad behavior “on both sides”) shows once again whose interests he represents. He defends the cause of preserving confederate statues, says the anti-racist, anti-fascist counterprotestors had no right being there, suggests they got what they deserved. It is not acceptable. The Resistance must fight even harder to oppose what I call an anti-human agenda because it encompasses so much, is targeted so widely: anti-black, anti-Hispanic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-transgender, anti-women, anti-poor, among others.

All of these things are important to talk about, and what’s on my mind the most are the courageous counter-protestors, one of whom Heather Heyer made the ultimate sacrifice. Those counter-protestors were black and white, and mostly white according to participants. That’s likely due to many factors such as the composition of the college town and the privilege of white folks to protest without the fear of police brutality (at least a lessened fear, without historical precedent). White anti-racist activists are no more righteous than black anti-racist activists, and by elevating their courage, their herocism, I mean in no way to suggest that, or to move focus away from the core of the “Unite the Right’s” intention, which was to terrorize people of color, to “put them in their place.”

Movements need allies, and that’s exactly who Heather Heyer was, an anti-racism ally. I hear this discussion a lot from friends and colleagues who are people of color. It’s time for white people to stand up, take responsibility for racism in our own community. Anti-racist work is hard. It’s sometimes deadly. Black people cannot do it on their own, nor can Muslim-Americans, nor transgender people. At times like this, I evaluate myself as an ally. I talk the talk, but do I walk the walk as much as I could? I confront racism when I hear it spoken, most recently in conversation with the owner of a newstand (which also led to deciding to buy my midday soda and snack at a different newstand). I have participated in Black Lives Matter protests and helped students use photography to promote anti-racist messages. I could do more. There’s no question about it.

This is one thing I had to do today: to honor Heather Heyer along with all of the counter-protestors from Charlottesville. They are national heroes.

Heather Heyer Memorial

Retrieved from cnbc.com

 

#TransgenderRightsAreHumanRights

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In light of President Trump’s vow earlier this week to ban transgender people from serving in the military...

And in light of voices of support for such a move by congressional Republicans, feebly and disingenously cloaked as a cost-saving measure for medical costs…

And in light of Christian political groups seizing on the issue to foment fear and hatred of transgender people…

And in light of the U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, mobilizing a legal strategy to enable bigots to refuse employment and services to LGBT people

And in light of mainstream media coverage that frames these issues as a reaction to Democratic “culture wars” and “identity politics” (how come transgender civil rights are “identity politics” while endless coverage of the forgotten, white male Midwestern factory worker is just “news?”)…

I decided not to write about all the reasons these people are wrong-headed and ignorant and basically akin to a rusted drain pipe spewing chemical waste into our drinking water. Instead, I wanted to share some stories. Some real life stories about transgender people serving in the military.

I don’t have personal stories. I retrieved these from various media. And at the risk of belaboring what’s probably an obvious point, I chose stories about servicemen and women because that’s been the national conversation this week. Obviously, every transgender person — military or otherwise — has a valuable story to be told, and their legal status is fragile across many contexts. We need to tell and listen to transgender stories every day, not just when they are under attack by our government, though probably, especially so then. That’s what I’m getting at.

Oh, and I do have one personal story. I’m reading Daniel Heath Justice’s “Indigenous fantasy epic” The Way of Thorn and Thunder, and it includes non-binary gendered characters, refered to as zhe and hir. I haven’t come by a lot of transgender fantasy fiction, but that’s something I’m making a priority to read more of.

So here are some transgender military stories I really like. The fight to realize human rights continues!

From Buzzfeed: The First Out Transgender Active Duty U.S. Army Officer

 

Transgender, at War and in Love

This short documentary shares the challenges of a transgender military couple, who are banned from serving openly.

 

Transgender military couple fears future after tweets from President Trump

DALLAS – A transgender couple with North Texas ties who’ve both served their country say they’re unnerved by President Trump’s call to ban transgender service members. Laila Ireland served the Army for 12 years. Her husband Logan is a Staff Sergeant, active duty with the Air Force, and a stream of tweets from the Commander in Chief put all their dreams in jeopardy.

Transgender In The Military: The Story Behind Their Camouflaged Identity | TIME

An estimated 15,000 transgender troops currently serve in the U.S. military. Each has risked dismissal from military service for revealing their identity. Directors Gillian Laub and Shaul Schwarz follow the stories of Maya Martinez, Landon Wilson, and Jamie Ewing.

Get started on the Werecat series for free!

About a month ago, The Rearing (Werecat, Book 1) went permafree at Amazon, BN.com, iTunes, and Kobo. It was a strategy I talked about with the publisher in order to give the series a boost, also coinciding with the release of the fourth and final installment The Sim Ru Prophecy.

That free e-book of The Rearing has a link inside to download The Glaring (Werecat, Book 2) for free as well when you sign up for the publisher’s fantasy and sci fi mailing list. And, you can also get the second book for free directly when you sign up for that list: https://mybookcave.com/d/991f2695

After that, I’m afraid you’re on your own, though you can pick up the third installment The Fugitive for just $1.99 at e-retailers, and the e-book of the fourth book is just $3.99 (it’s novel length). If you want to spread the word about the series, leave a rating or review at the place where you downloaded or purchased the books, and/or Goodreads or wherever you like to discuss books. That helps tremendously and earns my undying gratitude. 🙂

I mentioned previously the some exciting things happened when The Rearing first went permafree. It skyrocketed on Amazon’s sales ranking charts, going as high as #3 in its category (gay fiction) and staying in the top ten since then.

The permafree strategy seems to be paying off. I just found out from my publisher that The Rearing has had over 2,000 downloads on Amazon in the past month and gave a nice spike of sales of Books 2 and 3. The free book has also received four new reviews at Amazon and eight new reviews at Goodreads. The later books have garned a good number of new readers at Goodreads as well as a handful of reviews there.

Meanwhile, I’m working hard to promote The Sim Ru Prophecy in the blogosphere, and I’m grateful to Queer Sci Fi and Dawn’s Reading Nook for featuring the title earlier this month. The Trilogy and The Sim Ru Prophecy got awesome reviews at Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words (big thanks to Melanie!). In the coming weeks, there will be reviews coming out from The Hopeless Bibliophile Blog and Out in Print, and hopefully more!

Werecat: The Glaring