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Systems Within Systems + Loud & Queer

Yesterday was a pretty eventful day in my little published world.  To start out with, an excerpt of Pale Winter Sun has been published in this month’s issue of Loud & Queer.  This is an arts and letters magazine focusing on works from, you guessed it, the queer community.  There is some seriously amazing art in this issue and I am pleased, as I can possibly be, to have a piece of PWS in its pages.  Which part of the book did I choose to excerpt?  I guess you’ll just have to get a copy for yourself and find out.

https://loudandqueerzine.wixsite.com/loudandqueer

 

Next up: My short story has been included in Shadows & Light Anthology 2017.  ‘Systems Within Systems’, a biomechanical history of the future, is nestled in with the works of other fantastic authors.  While I doubt I’ll get my next novel published this year, this will be my reminder to the world that I’m still here and still creating.  Wanna taste?  Sure you do.

 

‘The first child born with biomechanical parts caused an uproar the likes of which history had not often seen.  It did little good by that point though; we had gone too far for that.  After so long adding and grafting bionic devices to ourselves, nature took over. Simple things like auditory and ocular implants started it.  Then we went with fully robotic limbs and organs. Some did it to overcome deformities, for ease of use, or simply to get an advantage they felt somehow justified over others. It had become a rite of passage to get your first implant or robotic appendage. At one point it wasn’t simply unfashionable to lack cybernetics; people would take offence if you didn’t have at least a little something.

History is long but memory is short.  Bionics became second nature for so long that an unaltered person remained only in bored lessons from the past.  I’d like to say that it created new and differing complications for the human experience, but it didn’t.  Really they were the same complications in a different medium. Sure we had grown used to seeing people with cybernetic enhancements.  But they were elective, a decision. I suppose, in their own way, the practice could be seen as a mockery of humanity.  What we have now is humanity, or a new humanity, at least.  Instead of a mockery of it, it’s a mockery of what humanity had done to themselves.’

 

Read the rest by picking up a copy of Shadows & Light.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1975950631/
https://www.createspace.com/7523449

Remember kids: stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and support your locals arts.

#putalittleloveinyourheart weekend

-Update- Promotion is over.  Thanks to all those that supported it.

As part of the #putalittleloveinyourheart weekend, myself and other authors, are putting a title up for free.  This way we all have a chance to take a break, read a book, and regroup.  It’s been a rough few months, so why not? I’ve put Pale Winter Sun up for free this weekend.  Just put the hashtag in Facebook or Twitter to find other authors who are doing the same.  

Here is a list of the other participating authors.

Christian (The Protectors Book 1), L. Ann Marie – Pen Page http://a.co/74J1d0C        

Cupcakes & Kisses, Barbi Barnard http://mybook.to/C                

Collecting Scars, Tee Smith

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01HAXHNWM        

Burning Suns: Conflagration (Book One), Lisa Wylie (Wyles77 Writes) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/681292        

Swole: Chest Day, Author Golden Czermak http://myBook.to/Swole1        

Quiet Country (Satan’s Sinners M.C. Book 2), Author Colbie Kay http://amzn.com/B00YJW0G72        

With My Whole Heart, MariaLisa deMora http://getBook.at/WithMyWholeHeart        

Rocking Fate (Hells Fire MC Book 1), Author Erin Trejo http://amzn.to/2voYyL8        

Love Me Like You Do (Love Me Series Book 1), Jaime Russell, Author http://amzn.to/2xdW0ld        

Savage Fire #2, Savage Angels MC, Author Kathleen Kelly http://apple.co/1bUfYW8        

To Russia With Love: A Romantic Suspense Novel in the Countermeasure Series, Chris Almeida and Cecilia Aubrey https://www.amazon.com/dp/B008ND8EVI/        

Leaps of Faith, A. M. Leibowitz https://www.books2read.com/u/b5M2Zp        

Choose the eBook of your choice!, S. H. Pratt http://shpratt701.wixsite.com/books-by-s-h-pratt/books

Review – Cigarettes & Wine by J. E. Sumerau

Imagine the terror and exhilaration of a first sexual experience in a church where you could be caught at any moment. In Cigarettes & Wine, this is where we meet an unnamed teenage narrator in a small southern town trying to make sense of their own bisexuality, gender variance, and emerging adulthood. When our narrator leaves the church, we watch their teen years unfold alongside one first love wrestling with his own sexuality and his desire for a relationship with God, and another first love seeking to find herself as she moves away from town. Through the narrator’s eyes, we also encounter a newly arrived neighbor who appears to be an all American boy, but has secrets and pain hidden behind his charming smile and athletic ability, and their oldest friend who is on the verge of romantic, artistic, and sexual transformations of her own. Along the way, these friends confront questions about gender and sexuality, violence and substance abuse, and the intricacies of love and selfhood in the shadow of churches, families, and a small southern town in the 1990’s. Alongside academic and media portrayals that generally only acknowledge binary sexual and gender options, Cigarettes & Wine offers an illustration of non-binary sexual and gender experience, and provides a first person view of the ways the people, places, and narratives we encounter shape who we become. While fictional, Cigarettes & Wine is loosely grounded in hundreds of formal and informal interviews with LGBTQ people in the south as well as years of research into intersections of sexualities, gender, religion, and health. Cigarettes & Wine can be read purely for pleasure or used as supplemental reading in a variety of courses in sexualities, gender, relationships, families, religion, the life course, narratives, the American south, identities, culture, intersectionality, and arts-based research.

For those of us who lived in the 90’s, for those of us who came from smaller towns, for those of us that felt constricted with the need to hide our ‘strangeness’ from others, Cigarettes & Wine puts you right back there, ready or not. Our unnamed protagonist navigates their teen years dealing with love, friendship, sex, and growing up.

Nothing about adolescence is cut and dried, despite what we might think at the time.  It’s like stepping on eggshells in a minefield. Adding in issues of gender and identity only make it more difficult. Our narrator is unapologitic for who he is, which I think is putting a positive example out there for any youths reading this book. There is no sugar coating here: drinking, smoking, and sex happen; also heartbreak, elation, fear, and happiness.  These are all things that happen, and I think it’s an excellent thing to see portrayed honestly, and not demonized or glorified.  It’s also good to see the topic of poly relationships pop up.

The storytelling is solid and the narrative flows well. It definitely kept me interested. The fact that it is also a part of the Social Fictions Series, crafted from interviews and research, back it with authenticity.  I appreciated the fact that it also had topics of discussion and assignments for a classroom setting. It’s not just dealing with ‘LGBTQ+ subjects’ it’s dealing with people in all their various forms in different ways that can be gleaned from this story and its characters. Overall, Cigarettes & Wine is an enjoyable and thought provoking story that I highly recommend.

Buy here==>

https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/social-fictions-series/cigarettes-and-wine/

https://www.amazon.com/Cigarettes-Wine-Social-Fictions-24/dp/9463009272/

 

Save Money – Buy Books!

(Updated – The kindle edition is now permanently $1.  I feel strong about this story and I want it easy to acquire by those who could benefit from it.)

For a limited time, get Pale Winter Sun on sale.  Just dropped the price of both Kindle and Paperback.  Also, fyi, if you buy the paperback, you can get the ebook for only a buck!

Lessons learned from a positive review

I’d like to post a review I received a while back and then discuss it for a moment.

(Reprinted with permission)


  •  Pale Winter Sun

    Intriguing, unique, distinctive

    4.4 stars

    Mick Collins’ book Pale Winter Sun synopsis from Good reads:

    Isolation in the cold of winter. That’s all Mark Jensen has as he fights to survive.

    Living in the small Mormon community of Grason, Idaho, Mark and his best

    friend Trevor have no one but themselves. Both are shunned from their families

    for simply trying to live open and honestly as homosexual. Cold and queer, the

    boys make do with what little they can, counting on no one but themselves in

    the stark Idaho countryside.

    Mark’s struggles increase when he becomes afraid of confiding in his last

    friend. The growing realization that he is bisexual confuses and conflicts him.

    It leaves him feeling more alone than ever. Friendships are redefined and

    stretched to the limit as the two young men scratch by and they ask

    themselves; can they survive each other?

     

    It is very rare to read a book that strays from the normal plotline. Collins’ book

    was definitely different from what I normally read, but it was a breath of fresh

    air. The daily struggles the characters face places ideas in a new perspective.

  • People in similar situations as the characters share the same feelings and

    conflicts. To be able to experience that through the characters was intriguing.

    For the most part, people do not realize the struggle that comes for being a

    homosexual. Collins’ was able to show the internal conflict not only between

    the character relationships, but also the individual themselves. The atmosphere

    of the book (winter, cold, isolation) compares with the feelings of the two main

    characters. They are considered queer, people are cold toward them, and they

    feel isolated from their community. The storyline was unique and it made it

    stand out. Mark was a strong character in the book. He stayed true to himself

    and it stood out throughout the book.

    The reason it did not get 5 stars was due to the writing itself. The writing style

    was not as refined as some other books, but there is emotion and the message

    is clear. If the writing style was more fine-tuned, then the book would have

    been even more captivating.

    Emma Hall (The Kindle Book Review)

    The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an

    independent, fair, and honest review. We are not associated with the

    author or Amazon.


Ms. Hall wasn’t able to post this to Amazon because it someone from the Kindle Book Review already posted one, apparently.  Amazon (wisely) won’t let me post it under my own name, so I am posting it here. Which does kinda suck, because I lost a few reviews when I uploaded a new edition a couple months ago.

(Updated – the review has been posted to Amazon.  Thanks to G.W. Wright for showing me what to do)

Sales haven’t been great, especially since the new edition came out, and that is partially my fault.  I haven’t been pushing it much, mainly due to work and trying to get over this damned cold. But then again, sales for books, especially self pubs, are down anyway. I have already put in some time to find new and exciting ways to get the word out, but that takes time and money.  I am stock piling both so I can do it right. That includes a push to get the book into libraries and local stores in Allentown.  I’ll keep you fine folks posted on that as developments happen.

Back to the review:
This review is indicative of a common thread I have come across with Pale Winter Sun.  The message, the story, and the characters are engaging and on point. The narrative isn’t typical to the genre and the overall feel of the story is of isolation. Mark and Trevor’s struggle are not trivialized, and Mark’s journey especially, is clear.

This is what I wanted.  I wanted the points to be clear, non-cliched, and the story to be interesting.  I feel that is mission accomplished.  Go me!

….but…

The other common thread is that the writing lacks.  I had hoped that getting it edited again would relieve that particular problem.  And while it was much needed and certainly helped immensely, it didn’t solve it completely.  And if you know writers, a ship full of compliments can sink with one tiny raft of critisism.  We writers are an emotionally unstable and touchy lot.  So yeah, the last bit kinda bummed me out.  I try not to stay down long, or dwell on the negative, despite my proclivity to so exactly that.  Hell, if a lifetime of battling depression has taught me one thing it is DON’T FEED THE BEAST.

I stood back and looked at this review, and other feedback I’ve received, and put it into perspective. When I wrote PWS, it was message driven.  I had a point to make, dammit, and I was going to make it.  Well that’s great, but in doing so, I let my writing of said message suffer. Another thing I realized; I have only published two books and a few short stories.  Night Shall Overtake was picked up by the first publisher I sent it to. To be honest, I didn’t really expect it to get published in the first place.  Really, I decided to test the field with it while trying to hammer out another project.  While amazing and awesome, it also spoiled me.  Thankful as I am, I’m sure there would have been lessons to learn had I needed to work at getting it published more than I did.  PWS being self published, I think those lack of lessons hurt in terms of the strength of how it is written.

Being the pragmatist that I am, I had to think about what I was going to do about all this. PWS will probably not go though a third edition any time soon.  I’ve too many other projects on the burner right now.  And honestly, I haven’t the heart to rip it apart one more time. (and maybe I’m just a little bit lazy, too) If my writing lacks a little, but the story still holds up, I’ll take it and go with that for now.  I still think it’s a book that can help kids, and parents, dealing with gender, identity, sexuality, and all the components that make up a family.

If PWS is staying put, then where am I employing these learned lessons? The future of course, or really, the present.  Current projects are under severe scrutiny and retooling.  I am still trying to find my voice and become a better writer.  A task that will never end, most likely.  If I focused too much on story, and not enough on style, then I will work hard to get my style down.  Hopping genres probably didn’t help the issue either.  My next novel, A Geography of Purgatory(working title), is back to the dark and gritty and I think it’s the perfect chance to really find myself as the writer I can be. As someone who takes such things seriously, I owe it to myself.  I also feel that I owe it to anyone who decides to take a chance on one of my books.  There is a godawful amount to stuff to read out there, if they do pick up something of mine, I want to make damned sure it’s worth their time.

In case you are wondering: I have no time lines on Geography as it’s still out to the beta readers, but I’ll keep you posted. Going to try the standard publisher route again, then if that doesn’t pan out, I’ll self pub. At least that’s the current plan.

tl;dr – Writer gets a good review, then whines about it.  In the end he learns a very important lesson.

Remember kids: Stay in school, don’t drink and drive, and mistakes are good as long as you learn something from it.