Another 5-star Review for Hard as Roxx

Yay! (I stole this from Amazon.com) Shhhh! Don’t tell them. 🙂 Thanks to Ann L. Newman for buying the paperback, reading the book, and leaving such a kind review.

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing futuristic world, October 5, 2013
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This review is from: Hard as Roxx (Paperback)

What I love best about this novel is the creative way this author has developed the societies of the future including the way that robots have impacted it, as well as effect of genetic engineering on the human species. Of course as a woman, I loved the topic of a young female with two children fleeing from a powerful man – one who has a position enabling him to kill her and her children with ease. There is a romance between the main character and another female which is very romantic and a direct result of the changes that society has undergone to that point. I would recommend this novel to lovers of science fiction,suspense, and novels with strong female characters.

This Week’s Rant Is About …

Screen Shot 2013-09-05 at 11.06.11 PMPerception is not the same as reality. That simple truth has been echoing through my head, after reading a “review” of Hard as Roxx. Now, all things considered, it wasn’t a bad review. And, I wouldn’t care if it was a bad review. I care that it wasn’t honest.

The review, you see, decided that my 360-page story was “lesbian literature” (whatever that is) because the primary romance in the story features two women. The reader was mad because he hadn’t been forewarned about the entire plot before spending his less-than $3. He, apparently, doesn’t care for LGBT storylines (tough sh*t) and gets annoyed whenever Sci Fi features sensuality or sexuality. His perception is that’s NOT Sci Fi.

Dude. Where the hell have you been?

Science Fiction has always been the cutting edge of the literary blade when it comes to social change. Goodreads’s listopia features one list of Sci Fi with LGBT characters that’s almost 500 books long. My “romance” which features zero explicit sex, was an homage to my favorite Sci Fi series, The Gaea Trilogy by John Varley. It fit, although my story is vastly different. I’d even planned on making Roxx a trilogy, with the last two books entitled Cool Like Jazz and The Outlaw Jessi James.) Book 2 is where you cry a lot. Book 3 is where the entire world goes to shit.)

I will almost certainly never write those books.

Why? Because I’m tired of dealing with stupid motherf*ckers people’s misperceptions. Let’s investigate. Roxx, according to some, has too much romance, and sex among gorgeous women (and a drunken threesome with a guy) is icky. Science Fiction should be about technology. There’s not enough action when you add icky s-e-x.

I estimate Roxx and her girls are responsible for killing around 40 people in the book. This doesn’t include a full-out war against a city full of robots. In fact, Roxx has a 1 on 7 battle in the very first town she encounters.

Roxx danced with the other six men, keeping her two daughters behind her. Her music was the Dead Men’s sounds of fear, the happy gurgles of Jessi’s laughter at her big sister who was playing peekaboo as the baby moved with her mother in the bloody dance, the cheers of the town’s womenfolk as one man, then the next, and, finally, the last, fell to the dirt. The men had touched her daughter. They had been Dead Men from that moment. It had simply taken Roxx seven minutes to instruct their hearts to stop beating. Those beats interfered with the music in the bitch’s head.

Now, with music stilled, and with death to be mopped up by she didn’t care whom, the bitch went back to sleep, and Roxx slumped into the chair in which once sat the group’s leader. She sat, watching the villagers, still on alert. After a time, she relaxed, convinced the village folk no more cared about the death of the men than she did.

Simply put, there’s more action in this book than any other book I’ve written, with the exception of Emprise. So what’s the real message? People are bristling because 1. Roxx isn’t a video game superheroine who dresses like a leatherclad whore, 2. She’s being “aggressively” pursued by a woman, which she kind of likes, and 3. She doesn’t like rapists, and is known to kill them. In commentary, a reviewer actually compared her “aggressive” female pursuer (her best friend) to a group of soldiers who rape a woman to death.

Um, that bit was based on a true story, you dumb, gay hating piece of sh*t.

As for technology, I defy you to find a Sci Fi book that has more. And, all of my technology is real, most in development. Spend a year in research, learn what I’ve learned, and get back to me with your commentary. Tech isn’t the main point of a scene. Technology should slip into the background. It’s scenery, not the story.

“Okay,” Roxx answered, smiling, “but remember, you asked for it.” She slid into the unmanned cab, her longs legs filling the open cabin. Trint climbed in, facing her.

It was a small cab, with the passenger cabin taking virtually all of the space, except for a small compartment for luggage. As it used the same conductive plastic as Jazz’s bike, there was no need for a traditional engine, exhaust system, or drivetrain. Instead, there were small batteries mounted on the wheels, as hubcaps, which powered the vehicle.  The cabs followed tracks embedded in the roadway that connected to an assembly on its chassis. Being computer controlled, it required no driver and hence no front seat. Instead, there were two plush bench seats, each facing the other, and nothing else.

“Nui Morocco,” Roxx commanded, and the cab glided into motion. “I’m suddenly feeling chiseled and elegant.”

I spent 2 years of my life creating a vivid world that’s just west of reality, in an apocalypse that could actually happen. And, people object, because my tall, strong, tough, feminine main character is bisexual.

Sorry, the world still isn’t the place I perceived it to be. The main misperception I object to, after all, is my own. I thought the world had moved onto the 21st century. It’s still 1954. People still skip over my books because 56% of my DNA is African. I am not willing to compromise what I want to write in order to accommodate stupid motherf*ckers judgmental people. However, neither am I willing to keep writing when people don’t buy my books, because I don’t write the same crap other people write.

At some point, you have to look in the mirror, and recognize Van Gogh’s shadow staring at you. Maybe in another life, people would want stories with actual people who live on earth. And LGBTQ characters? They’re in all my books, although they’re closeted in some. (In The Stream series, Charlie’s sister is gay, although it’s never mentioned in the books at all. Why? She would say it’s none of your business.)

Lesbian Lit. The sad thing? Lesbians would probably love Roxx. She would have made a killer movie. But, men would love her too, and she’d love them right back.

***

Kamal, fortunately, was not interested in fighting. “I am so sorry.” He met Roxx’s amused smile with a slight one of his own. “It’s just you are so …”

“Tall?” she asked. She liked being tall, but was quickly bored by the obvious.

Kamal frowned. “No, sculpted. You look absolutely chiseled and elegant. Y-you both look elegant,” he said, his head turning from Roxx to Trint.

Good save.

“I just assumed you must be a robot, because, well, I’ve never seen a human who looks like you.”

Now it was Trint’s turn to stare at Roxx with a look akin to mild fear. She stepped back, likely to avoid getting any of Kamal’s blood on her new blouse.

Roxx, however, was not considering violence.

That is the best compliment of me whole bleeding life.

She walked to the flinching Kamal, held him by both ears, and kissed him. Her eyes rolled back in her head and closed, as the first male tongue since Jace’s danced with her own. It was not as nimble as Trint’s tongue, but after years of abstinence, a new tongue was a delight. As the elevator door opened, she stepped back, and out. Kamal gasped, but remained there, mouth ajar and eyes closed.

“Cheers, darling,” Roxx said. “That was the best compliment, ever.” She turned to the pouting Trint and pulled one folded arm, leading her towards Kamal. He stood in the same spot, though his eyes were now open. “You should kiss him, Trint. He is an amazing kisser.”

Trint took a step toward Kamal, whom Roxx now feared could faint. “Wait. No. I’m not kissing you.”

***

Yeah, dude, you’re totally right. Romance screwed this book up, but good.

Doings

1. Hard as Roxx

I’ve spent most of the last couple of weeks finishing incorporating readers’ comments into Roxx. And, finally, I’m finished!! I’ll take a few days’ break from this, and then begin the tedious exciting publishing process. Roxx will be available in eBook form by 19 August 2013, and in paperback form in September 2013 (exact date TBD). Here’s the opening paragraph:

05 May 2137 – 8:00 a.m. Central Africasian time.

A bloody Rembrandt this guy, God.

It was the seventh dawn since their escape, and Roxx had yet to acclimate to the stark Saharan sunrise. As light crept over the arid landscape, she was momentarily disoriented, unable to distinguish one low hill from the next. They were somewhere south of the ends of the Earth, and her daughters were safe. For now, alive and well was enough. She glanced down, pushed a button, and the navigational readout on her modified 1940 Indian Chief motorcycle displayed fourteen degrees, forty-three minutes north by eighteen minutes east. That put her location well into the Chadian desert. She smiled, and with one hand pulled a scarf across her mouth, shielding her nose and lips against the harsh desert wind. The nights were frigid here, particularly for a slender woman bracing against the biting air on the back of a motorcycle. Before her, on the hardened sand that passed for a road, long shadows clutched at the undulating dunes; black and reddish hues painted the landscape ahead like a madman’s abstract.

2. Weekly Writing Prompts

I make no claims to be a writing instructor. In fact, it’s safe to say I’m self-taught with every artistic endeavor I’ve tried. Still, I am a coach, a mentor, and full of useless ideas. So, I will be putting together weekly writing prompts (some visual, some abstract, some concrete). These are actually for specific people, but I figured this would be as good a place for them as any. Feel free to use the ideas, when posted, or ignore them.

Not the final cover art.
Not the final cover art.

Influences

I don’t have literary influences. That is, simply, because I have read more non-fiction than fiction. Although I love a good book, I’ve always been far more a movie buff than literary aficionado. I suppose that is why the most common comment I receive concerning my writing is that it is “visual” and the reader can “easily picture it” in their heads. I have a secret: that isn’t talent.

I’m a visual thinker.

In short, I write entire chapters in my head, and they play out as movies. Most of the time, when I write, there is a music soundtrack that paints the work. When I write poetry, for instance, it is almost always to jazz music, which influences the rhythm and harmonics of the words. Book drafts are written over 3 months or so, and almost always to a single genre of music. I don’t pick the music, the book does. It’s in my head, and when I’m writing, the right piece of music allows the pictures to run and the book is written. After all, what is a movie without a soundtrack? For Emprise, I wrote all 160,000 words listening almost exclusively to new age and worldbeat music. The music was spiritual and so is the book.

For Roxx, it was written to Rock, which gave it the edge it needed, but the final product dances to an African beat. My latest work, Eddie Daley, required jazz. When I turned on any other kind of music, the characters refused to come on screen. And so it goes. We are influenced by what our subconscious seeks. It remembers bits it heard, or saw, and pushes us to put them together in a soup that only it knows the recipe to. We must comply, or the work will be ruined.

Only the dialog comes to me as words, and they’re spoken by the characters, not thought out in advance by me. When you think in pictures, it’s easy to describe them. Words, however, even in poems, are never born until I write them. I never have the words in advance, nor do I want to.

So, when I started writing Hard as Roxx, the idea of which came to me from a music video, it was easy to see the plot lines in terms of visuals from movies I’ve loved. Now, I’m not speaking literally when I say “visuals.” Rather, the concepts that stuck with me came from the movies and they reside in my memory as images. For example, Roxx herself.

She’s a combination of Clint Eastwood’s Man with No Name, Jessie J in her “Do It Like a Dude” video, and runway model. I have a concrete sense of her in my head, dressed smartly, feminine, except for her biker boots. She’s not a man with breasts, as so many action heroines are. Since she sees no weakness in femininity, she sees no reason to dress like a man. Conversely, since I didn’t write the book to appeal to adolescent males, I don’t dress her like a video-game character in the book (*cough, whore, *cough).

Her confidence, and that of her partner, Trint, is soft, unspoken, but unshakable. For that, I channeled Bruce Lee in his Dragon movies, with a bit of Charles Bronsonian swagger from Once Upon a Time in the West. If you cross Roxx, she’s not really against you, it’s just that you are in her way. So is trail dust. Big deal.

I’ve had fun channeling other distinctly science fiction themes into Roxx, blended together in a cohesive mix that doesn’t stray far from the main story line. After all, life is what happens when you are trying to figure out how to live. Such is as it is with Roxx. There’s a bit of Mad Max, a touch of Jurassic Park, a tablespoon of Thelma and Louise, some Earthbound hard sci-fi, two cups of hard reality, and even a dash of Dorothy Gale, trying to find her way home.

See, the strength of influences is not in trying to come up with your own version of their cooking, but to taste their work and develop a recipe of your own. I think I’ve done that with Roxx. It’s dystopian science fiction without the hopelessness; it is female-centered fiction starring two women who are the opposite of damsels in distress. It is my stew, and though it’s not for everyone, it’s certainly for someone.

And, as always, there is a closing theme. I can’t tell you what it is, because it won’t be written until I finish the sequel, Cool, Like Jazz, which I won’t even write for another year or two. But I can promise this – you’ll know it when you taste it. For now, here’s the closing music. Pretend you can see the credits as you allow your eyes to shut, and taste the Cayenne and bits of Turmeric. Jazz, like her mom, is a spicy little thing.

Predicting the Future Is a Small Matter of Imagination

I’ve always thought that people can predict the future. That was influenced to a great deal by my stint with IBM in the 1980s. They sent me to a “Strategic Planning” class that had as its main objective teaching us how to predict change and the reactions to that change. The future, they showed, was just a matter of predicting the small steps.

I’ve written about event wheels, which is a process used to predict these changes, so I don’t want to repeat that here. Instead, I want to point to a recent article in a TGDaily, which showed one piece of technology that I  included in my future stories using this method — driverless cars.
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Sure, it was an easy one to guess, but the trick in using this method is to guess the details. If you don’t need a driver, I assumed, you don’t need to configure cars the same way. Here’s how I envisioned the technology in my upcoming book, Hard as Roxx:

“It was a small cab, with the passenger cabin taking virtually all of the space, except for a small compartment for luggage. As it used the same conductive plastic as Jazz’s bike, there was no need for a traditional engine, exhaust system, or drivetrain. Instead, there were small batteries mounted on the wheels, as hubcaps, which powered the vehicle.  The cabs followed tracks embedded in the roadway that connected to an assembly on its chassis. Being computer controlled, it required no driver and hence no front seat. Instead, there were two plush bench seats, each facing the other, and nothing else.”

Not bad, right? I wrote that 2 years ago. You don’t have to know the future, you simply have to think about the problem that future technology is trying to address. Did you recognize the basic design concept of the car above? Tram cars. That’s right — basic automated cars in the future the same function as automated tram cars do now. Why wouldn’t they look the same? Sure, Google is testing driverless cars that look like, well, cars, but why should that matter? Once the power mechanism changes and large engines are no longer needed, cars will look vastly different than today.

After all, what is a car? It’s an engine compartment, a passenger cockpit, and a storage compartment. Who says you need all three?

In stretching your imagination, once you have the basic concept, it’s easy to bend the likely into the fun. Here’s an excerpt from Roxx, where I imagined how driverless cars — the ones that aren’t fleet vehicles — might be configured in a tourist town.

“By eight o’clock, chaos had ensued. The once-empty street was flooded with automated taxis, all painted green. Most were teardrop shaped, but a few resembled boats, driverless rickshaws, and even a dragon or two. There was a throng of people four blocks from the hotel strip, crowding a line of small shops and tents set up along both sides of the narrow street. The open-air market extended two to three kilometers in either direction, with every bit of sidewalk, and all but a narrow lane for a single line of taxis, taken up by humans and bearer robots. It was a tourist-shopping mecca on one side, and the best place for local goods and commerce on the other.”

Again, even in imaging the future, you can nail some predictions. That’s because those who design technology are using similar processes. I thought that with driverless cars, you’d need narrower streets and there’d be more room for people. Here’s what the New York Times article says about the technology: “Th(e) city of the future could have narrower streets because parking spots would no longer be necessary. And the air would be cleaner because people would drive less.”

Here’s another excerpt, this time from Emprise:

“Sidewalks were packed with pedestrians, and vehicles blazed by at incredible speed, most mere inches apart. Robin raised one arm, flagging a yellow, egg-shaped vehicle, which pulled to the curb with a dim, electronic buzz. … There was no driver.

Most of the vehicles that whizzed by looked like the one they were in: small and driverless. Because they were self-guided, their interiors were configured differently than the cars back home. The cars’ seats were oriented toward the interior of the vehicle. The front seats could swivel and slide on floor-mounted tracks that allowed passengers to face forward. Some cars were equipped with low tables that featured spaces for beverages, or portals for information devices. Others, like the hourly rental Robin had flagged down, offered limited comfort, with just enough room for four adults.”

Again, my vehicles are egg-shaped, because I assumed energy consumption is still a concern; therefore, aerodynamics would play into design. It’s easy to extend the same method to other technologies. For instance, what if scientists can harness sonic energy as a weapon? Could you envision a time when warfighters use swords equipped with sonic resonators that are capable of cutting through artificial robot armies? I could.

The future isn’t as hard to figure out as you might think. It’s really a small matter of allowing yourself to understand the problems, and then extending current trends to create imaginative solutions.

Next Up – Roxx

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I’ve finished the paperback version of The Juice and Other Stories, 2nd edition, and now all that is left is getting the proof and verifying that everything looks okay. Let’s hope so. It’s kind of a pain to pull together.

Now that it’s done, next on the publishing agenda is Hard as Roxx. My target publication date is 31 August 2013. Hopefully, I can pull it in by a couple of weeks, but I’m giving myself time since I’m already writing a web serial / detective novel, and start my next batch of short stories on Monday, 1 July.

Whereas Skip Tracer is developing into very much a “guy” story, Roxx is a science fiction novel targeted primarily for women. (Women who thought Mad Max would have been better if Max’s wife was the star.) I’m hoping men like it too, but feedback from early readers indicates my expected demographics are right. Roxanne Grail is a single mother who lives in 22nd-century Earth, in what used to be Zambia. It is now Africasia, home of as many descendants of Asian refugees as native Africans. Roxx herself is descendent of immigrants from the U.S. and the U.K. Roxx’s world is a complex mixture of post-apocalyptic poverty and astounding technology.

Think Mad Max meets the Planet of the hobots.

The Earth was ravaged by two 21st-century plagues, including the World Killer that almost wiped out the planet’s population. Humankind’s extinction was prevented only via genetic alterations that had the side effect of extending the genetically Enhanced populous by upwards of 150 years. It also spawned a brief, but violent, genetic war that left women — Enhanced and Unenhanced — the ability to have only one child. A second child, though long considered impossible, was a guaranteed death sentence for mother and child.

That is, until Roxx became pregnant with her 2nd daughter. Little Jessi James Grail, outlaw baby, is very much alive. Roxx intends to keep her that way, even if she has to leave a trail of blood across 3 continents to do it.

Roxx isn’t only about violence and sci-fi, however. It is at it’s core a love story, featuring Roxx and Trint, her new best friend, traveling partner, and 2nd mother figure to the girls. Trint fell for Roxx immediately. Roxx, as is typical of her, was far less cooperative.

Who is Roxx?

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She’s a little bit of this …
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A lot of this …
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and even of touch of this when she wants to show off.
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But inside, she’s a whole lot of that.

Trint is simpler.

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Basically, she’s this (plus a PhD at age 22 – but don’t tell anyone, she never talks about it.)
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and a head full of “clown hair” that Roxx secretly adores.

But don’t sell little Trint short — she’s tougher than she looks.

Well, off to another adventure. I’ve got to get my girls ready for their debut. It’s not easy to keep a 6’3″ bisexual Jeet Kune Do expert under wraps for too long. (Especially one with a penchant for 4-inch-heeled boots.) Roxx has been inside for 2 years, and she’s starting to get annoyed.

For more on Who is Roxx? Be sure to check out her Pinterest Page: Roxx’s Roost.