Kids Need Hope More Than Fear

 

Hope EnduresWants versus needs. We humans seem to want everything, but actually need very little. Children need love, safety, security, shelter, clothing, and food. They need to be engaged in character-building activities. They need to be taught how to be decent human beings who accept as an axiom that all life is sacred. They need to be taught that life doesn’t revolve around them, that they are part of a larger world – family, neighborhood, community, city, country, planet – and that they are not entitled to have everything they want. Healthy fear is also a need. It helps protect us from making dangerous choices. However, scaring kids is never a good idea. Irrational “the sky is falling,” “we are doomed,” kind of fear is unhealthy and leads to destructive, rather than constructive, behaviors in kids.

 

Years ago, many states instituted “Scared Straight” programs as a result of a famous documentary wherein wayward teens were taken to a maximum security prison and threatened by the inmates. They were told horrible things would happen to them should they end up in prison. Several of those teens later ended up incarcerated, one for twenty-five to life in the very same prison where the documentary was filmed. The “scared straight” program didn’t work anywhere it was tried in the country and often proved harmful, likely because it created a self-fulfilling prophesy in the minds of kids who’d already been labeled “bad.” Those kids needed hope, but they were given fear. And it didn’t work.

 

In some cities, teens are taken to the morgue to view the corpses of drunk driving victims in the hope that they will be scared enough to avoid driving drunk or riding with someone who had been drinking. These programs also proved ineffective, as did all the “Red Asphalt” videos shown to kids in driver’s education classes. Across the board, adults think that scaring kids, and sometimes each other, is the best way to generate positive results. But how can a negative lead to a positive? They are opposites, after all. Kids at all stages of their development need hope much more than they need fear. And so do adults.

 

Which brings me to the environmental movement, the backdrop of my novel, Warrior Kids. Our careless destruction of the environment and its ancillary effects – climate change – are immense areas encompassing all walks of human life. There’s shifting climate patterns, GMOs, poisoned water, fracking, land fills, oil spills, air pollution, CO2 levels – the list goes on and on. Too often, the environmental movement is about doom and gloom – the sky is falling and we need to act now by donating money to this group or that one. Almost every non-profit involved in the environmental arena says to give money to them because they have the inside track and all the answers. Sadly, people are profiting off of environmental destruction, and I don’t mean the obvious beneficiaries – fossil fuel companies, paper mills, coal producers, natural gas extractors and other industries. I mean people supposedly on the “right” side of the issue. They’re making bank, too, and scaring people in the process.

 

Climate changes fueled by our abuse of the environment could be the defining issue of the millennium, but just this year a new poll indicated that one-third of Americans don’t think there is any climate change at all, and even if it is happening, they don’t believe anything serious will affect them during their lifetime so they don’t care. It’s the usual selfish, shortsighted aspect of human nature that is the root of all human problems – putting “me” over “we.” And in the case of environmental abuse, adults are putting themselves and their personal comfort zones over the needs of their children and grandchildren. It’s disheartening to say the least, but real solutions seldom come from the generation that created the problem. Real solutions come from the generation inheriting the problem. In our time, it’s the millennial generation stepping up to defend and restore the planet. Worldwide, kids are standing up for the environment and their generation. But we need to engage and encourage more young people to take an interest in the big picture. We can only do this by giving them hope, not fear.

 

Kids need to know the sky isn’t falling. They need to know they can help ensure a better future for themselves and their own children yet to be born. This is the message of my novel. The book presents facts about environmental abuse and pollution, presents tangible solutions to some of the issues, and empowers kids to take real action in their homes, schools, communities, and on a national level by mobilizing via social media.

 

My goal as a lifelong youth leader, mentor, teacher, coach, volunteer has always been to empower kids, to give them hope for a better future, one they can help bring about by their own choices and actions. Scaring kids with environmental tales of doom and gloom over climate change will just paralyze them and lead many to seek out destructive, self-absorbed hedonism because they figure, why not? The world is crumbling and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I might as well have self-serving fun, right? Wrong. There’s plenty kids and adults can do. The most significant action adults can take is to lead by example, to show kids what real power they have, and give them hope, ideas, and motivation to step up and be leaders in their own right.

 

Kids rule social media. If they wanted, they could crash the congressional servers with demands for action. They can work within their schools to make them more environmentally friendly. They can do the same in their communities. They can petition their mayors and city council people to take real action on issues that affect them now and will impact them in the future.

 

Youth have an innate capacity for hope. I’ve worked with so many kids over the years whose childhoods have been hell on earth. You wouldn’t wish their lives on the most evil of humans. And yet they still have hope that the future can be better, that they can still have happy, productive lives. They continually remind me that life is sacred and all life is a gift. Hope needs to be nurtured in children and teens, not scared out of them because adults have an agenda they want to push or profit from. Even when the motives of adults are pure, if the methodology is wrong, the adult is wrong. Period.

 

It comes back to wants versus needs. Too many people want to be celebrities and be famous. Some are using the environmental crisis as a springboard to fame and self-aggrandizement. Conversely, many in the environmental arena are genuinely concerned and seek not to profit from the problem, nor become famous as a result of it. But people need to closely examine each organization they consider supporting, especially where their kids are concerned. Parents should make sure that their kids are not following “It’s all about me” environmentalists or they will lose even more hope because they’ll see selfishness and greed that isn’t any different from that exhibited by big industry and big government. Hypocrisy in arenas that impact the lives of children is beyond disturbing, but sadly it exists across the board. Between the self-absorbed environmentalists and the fear-mongering ones, kids can feel overwhelmed and paralyzed and hopeless.

 

Parents and honorable adults must lead by example and direct kids toward real solutions to all of life’s problems. In my fictional story, the adults do this – they lead by example, they model “we” over “me” thinking, and they refuse to allow the “cause” to be all about them. As a result, the millions of children and teens who follow them do the same. It’s not difficult to choose “we” over “me,” but it might take daily practice to shift one’s consciousness in that direction.

 

Try this experiment for yourself and your family: commit to one day per week – the same day every week – during which you will consciously choose “we” over “me” from the moment you wake up until you go to sleep that night. In other words, throughout that day look for every opportunity to serve the needs of others in some fashion. This could translate into being more focused on recycling, not using Styrofoam cups, not throwing away food or useful items – all of these and every other environmentally friendly action clearly helps other people by helping the planet. Or you could commit to helping individual people in some way – people in the community, school, or the workplace. There is always someone who has less than we do and always someone who needs assistance of some kind. For you kids, it could be reaching out to that student who is super shy, or even super annoying, and extending a hand of friendship. The possibilities are endless. If everyone on the planet adopted this idea – to not self-obsess one day per week – can you envision how much better the world would become overnight? It would be transformative. Please try this out for yourself. Commit to this experiment for one month. My guess is that you will find such innate joy and hope in choosing “we” over “me” that you will continue well beyond that month. And I predict you will add more days of “we” over “me” to your weekly schedule.

 

Hope. It comes in many forms and from many sources. It is the cornerstone of a positive, productive life. It is an essential ingredient for all of us, especially kids. Adults must model it. Adults must share it. Adults must embrace it. I have always done my best to share hope with even the most damaged kids I know. And they continue to share their hope with me. It’s that “we” over “me” mentality. When we look out for the needs of each other, everybody wins.

Earth Warriors Red BG

Why I Write Diverse Books That Are Outside-The-Box

The Boys of SPINNER

As an urban high school teacher for twenty-five years, I primarily taught kids of color. And yet, in the books and stories we read, almost all of the characters were Caucasian, and most with reasonably stable home lives. I decided as an author to write about the kids I knew best – kids of color, gay kids, marginalized kids, poor kids, kids with disabilities, gang members, and incarcerated kids – because I want all youth to see themselves represented in a positive light within the pages of teen literature.

To that end, I crafted a five-book series called The Children of the Knight Cycle that takes a fantasy concept – King Arthur in modern-day Los Angeles – and uses it to showcase a laundry list of crimes this society perpetrates against kids who don’t “fit the norm,” or won’t be shoehorned into the “one size fits all” mentality of public education, or don’t want to be a mini-me version of their parents. Virtually all the main characters in my series are teens of color, including Native Americans. Some of them are gay. But all are dynamic, memorable individuals that readers can relate to. Every day in America such kids are kicked to the curb. We don’t want them in our homes or classrooms or in our books. We’d rather they just disappear. In recent decades, we’ve decided we like putting them in prison. A staggering number of states arrest children aged ten (and younger) and charge them as adults for imitating the anti-social examples of adults, or for copying illicit behaviors popular media models every day.

I present these kids as real human beings with the same hopes, fears, needs, and wants as everyone else. My characters benefit from adults who choose to love them no matter what and who show them how to do what’s right, rather than what’s easy. The kids learn that every one of them can make a positive difference in this world, and that’s a message the students in my urban, working-class high school seldom got from the books I was forced to teach them. In those books, only “white” kids succeeded.

In my teen horror thriller, Spinner, I highlight the other forgotten kids I taught for many years – those with disabilities. These kids tend to be the most overlooked of all high schoolers because it is “assumed” by adults that they will never amount to much in life. Kids with physical or learning disabilities are no different from those without them – they can learn and achieve, but maybe not in the same cookie-cutter fashion school systems like to employ. I know what I’m talking about because I have a disability of my own – hearing loss. I’ve lived with a severe sensorineural hearing impairment my whole life, and did not have access to hearing aids until I was in college.

I also didn’t know anyone with hearing loss until after graduate school. I was the only kid like me, and that kind of singularity can be isolating. Even though people don’t always mean to be insensitive, not a single day went by that I wasn’t made to feel “different” because of my disability. On the plus side, my isolated childhood gave me true empathy for every youngster who was “different” in some way, and likely directed me to seek out such kids and work with them. After graduate school, I joined the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, wherein adults mentor kids with no father in the home. I was matched to a 14-year-old boy with hearing loss, and the experience was revelatory. Even as an adult, the relief that I felt to finally know someone who grew up with hearing loss was palpable. Imagine what it’s like for kids like me to see themselves in books they read, to understand that they aren’t alone or broken or crippled, to see hope for their lives because they see others like them achieving greatness. We all need to know that being different is not wrong. In fact, being apart from the norm is most often a net positive. But, my disability never defined me, and I want kids to see that theirs don’t define them, either.

I think publishers are skittish about books like mine that mash up various genres and focus on outside-the-box characters, stories that don’t fit an established pattern that can be “pitched” easily, and can’t be described as “the next Hunger Games” or something of that nature. Children of the Knight was released by an indie publisher that seemingly lost faith in the project because there was no visible attempt to promote it to the target audience. They even labeled it a romance on Amazon and it’s not a romance. I made a big push with Spinner to engage the interest of an agent or larger publisher and got nowhere with either. An indie publisher, YoungDudes Publishing, saw potential in the book and chose to release it. As a startup, they have no budget for promotion, but they are awesome people and working with them has been wonderful. But without the marketing arm of a big publisher, without those necessary journal reviews, like School Library Journal, nobody knows the book exists. This is the dilemma every writer must face, especially if, like me, you write outside the box and outside the genre mold.

Having said that, I would not change what I write to fit those molds or to make my books more “white,” assuming that is the goal with publishers. The main character in Spinner is Caucasian, but his friends are kids of color and they all have various disabilities. I took an interesting class last year about cover art on books for teens and children, and learned that even if the main character in those books was a child of color, the cover had been whitewashed in some fashion so the race or ethnicity was obscured. That class opened my eyes to how the publishing industry works and maybe showed me that, just as I never did in life, I might never fit into their predetermined “molds.”

One reviewer of my Children of the Knight series applauded me for breaking the teen hero mold by presenting a strong teen boy who is conflicted about his sexual orientation: “Lance is the hero around which the action pivots. Not many authors would have given such a character the heartthrob role. But Bowler takes a chance, fashioning something completely different by having such a key figure question his sexuality.”

I suspect a major publisher would have told me to “make him straight” like every other teen boy hero. I never had the chance to make such a choice, but I hope I would have said no. Lance is far more interesting and real for his inner turmoil, and for his desire to “fit in” the way society says he must in order to be a “real” boy.

No matter what we look like or how much money we have or how smart we are; no matter our race, ethnicity, gender, or orientation; no matter our abilities or disabilities – at the end of every day we’re all the same. We’re all human. We’re human first, and everything else second. We spend way too much time in this country focusing on what we perceive to be the weaknesses or differences in others. The teen characters in my books prove that our strengths always outweigh our weaknesses, and our diversity, i.e. our differentness, is to be celebrated, not hidden away. If more adults would focus on the natural talents and gifts of kids instead of always trying to make everyone “fit in,” then all children would have a real chance to soar. As a writer of teen lit, my goal is to empower every kid, not just the ones most Americans “look like” or even “act like.”

The Children of the Knight

 

Lance Statement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why the Genre Term “Young Adult Literature” is Dangerous

Young Adult

I hate the term “Young Adult Literature.” Teens and children are NOT young adults and they never will be young adults. Twelve and under are children or kids. Thirteen to eighteen are teens or adolescents. Eighteen years old is the beginning of young adulthood in America, and the adult brain isn’t fully formed until age twenty-one plus. That’s real science, not my opinion.

I point this out because it’s a major theme in my writing. America seems bound and determined to rob children of their childhood. Even on such supposedly safe channels as Nickelodeon and Disney, shows often depict kids as young as ten or eleven pursuing romantic relationships.

These storylines put ideas into the heads of kids at home that there must be something wrong with them if they don’t want a boyfriend or girlfriend in elementary or middle school. Kids that age should NOT be pursuing such complicated and stressful relationships. They should be building friendships that are strong and binding. Developmentally, they are figuring out who they are as individuals and don’t need the pressures of a “relationship” they can’t fully understand and don’t actually want. I talked to an eleven-year-old recently who said he wanted a girlfriend. When I asked why, he didn’t have an answer. I know the answer – it’s because the media keeps pushing that idea and kids always want to “fit in” with whatever is the current trend. Why the media pushes romantic, and by extension sexual, relationships on children is a disturbing question to ponder. No good can come of such poisoning of children’s minds and souls in this fashion, and yet we as a society allow it to happen. That’s scary.

There’s another, even more insidious aspect to labeling kids “young adults.” Children today are exposed to more and more adult behaviors, usually bad ones, and when they copy those behaviors they are expelled from school or arrested. If the behaviors are really serious and somebody gets hurt, these children are put into adult court and sentenced to prison. I know a large number of them personally. I’ve spent time with seven and eight year olds in juvenile hall. Children reflect the society in which they grow up, and America is teaching them how to be self-absorbed consumers with little regard for others. Maybe that’s the plan – keep them self-absorbed with “me” centered behaviors and they won’t challenge the status quo. If kids, i.e. the next generation, don’t challenge the status quo, corruption and greed win every time.

Young children can be tried as adults in many states and the media always labels these kids “young men” or “young women.” Why? Because readers or viewers won’t feel sorry for them and think of them as the damaged children they actually are. Even when children do something positive, they are still referred to with those factually and morally misleading terms “young men” and “young women.” It’s clearly an agenda designed to benefit adults. There’s no other explanation. If society decides children are “little adults,” then anything goes with those kids, right? They can be put into prison, used sexually, or forced to work so parents or guardians can make money off of them.

My Children of the Knight series explores these themes in depth. My young characters rebel against societal brainwashing and use social media to galvanize their peers across the country to do the same. A revolution ensues that continues in the latest installment, Warrior Kids: A Tale of New Camelot. Children and teens are the only ones who can make society better because they will run it some day. Brainwashing them to obsess over themselves – as though kids don’t do this enough already – is the easiest way to ensure that those in power across the board won’t be challenged. Sadly, the tactic seems to be working. It’s my hope that kids who read my books will come to the same awareness as my characters about what is really going on and feel empowered to rise up and stop it.

Vigilant parents keep their kids away from media, and screen everything, within reason, that kids watch or read. And allow their children to grow developmentally along natural milestones. Rushing children to “behave” like adults is a net negative. Far too many adults are poor role models. These adults don’t want to make the world better for kids because they personally benefit from how it is now. I don’t want my children copying the behaviors of most “famous” people, or even characters in so much of what passes for children’s entertainment these days, because then my kids will become part of the problem, not the solution.

So yes, I decry the term “Young Adult” applied to children and teen lit. It’s just an excuse to distract kids by putting more adult material into their books, mostly sexual material, and get away with it because the books are for “young adults.” No, they’re not. These books are for kids who are still developing and are not young adults and never will be young adults until they actually grow into young adults. I write books for teens and tweens that can be enjoyed by adults of all ages. Now I just have to convince the rest of the industry to call teen lit what it is – teen lit. If more parents complained on a grass roots level and emailed publishers and Amazon to replace that “Young Adult” moniker, we could seriously challenge the status quo. Or we could just succumb to the brainwashing and do nothing. I prefer to challenge. And then go after Disney and Nickelodeon.

Anyone with me?

WarriorKids-Facebook V2

Michael J. Bowler

Michael J. Bowler Amazon Page

“What is Normal?” – Guest Post From Author Mia Kerick

Bryan the hero

Mia Kerick is a best-selling author I had heard a lot about on Facebook, and our paths often crossed in commenting on the same pictures or articles. As she points out below, because I saw her name so often I thought we were already FB friends and was startled when she sent me a friend request and I realized we were not. That has been corrected, much to my delight. She is an amazing lady filled with compassion, boundless energy, enthusiasm, the ability to multi-task so well that I’m envious, and she’s a terrific and successful writer.

To celebrate the unfurling of her newest, and already a best-seller, book for young adults, The Red Sheet, I offered to host Mia on my blog because she and I are very much on the same page. Be sure to check out the links to her book and (YES!) there are giveaways at the rafflecopter link. I have not yet read The Red Sheet, but it is on order and I will dig in as soon as it arrives.

Mia’s post is about the definition of “normal,” a subject I address in my own trilogy of books that began with Children of the Knight. I’m going to add my own little spin to what she said and then you will hear from this great lady yourself. Having worked with special education students for most of my life, and being one myself in the sense that I have always been hearing impaired, I sought  to make a distinction for my kids. They always felt abnormal, as did the gay kids I worked with in the Gay Straight Alliance, because people kept telling them that, often their own parents, siblings, or relatives. I would  tell them to keep this in mind: people who are hard of hearing or visually impaired or gay or learning disabled or physically disabled or whatever are not “the norm” in life because “the norm” would be considered what is standard or typical. But they, and myself, are completely normal because these things are part of how we were born and are thus “normal.”  Everyone one of us is normal because every human being is unique and special, even the ones who think they are perfect because they fit the arbitrary “norms” society has created. The bottom line is, people need to stop trying to make everyone exactly like them and accept inherent differentiations from “the norm” as normal. There, that’s my little soapbox to piggyback on Mia’s post. So without further adieu, I bring you the one, the only, the magical Mia Kerick! Yea!

Hello and thanks for inviting me over…

I recently “met” Michael Bowler during a Facebook conversation about YA books. I must admit, I tried to tag him and I couldn’t. We weren’t friends! Well, not in the FB “official” sense of the word, which came as a surprise to me. We quickly remedied the not-friends thing, and since then we have very quickly come to be real friends. We certainly have a lot to talk about.

So I would like to thank Michael for allowing me to post on his blog, and I don’t think he’ll be too surprised by what I say.

Anybody have a soapbox I can stand on? I think I’m gonna need one.

What makes something seem “normal” to us? Well, first of all, let’s take a look at the word “normal”. (I love examining definitions!)

For the most part, I trust Merriam-Webster, do you?

Here’s what MW had to say:

1nor•mal adjective \ˈnȯr-məl\

: usual or ordinary : not strange

: mentally and physically healthy

Synonyms can tell you a lot about a word’s meaning. Here is Merriam-Webster’s list of synonyms for the word normal:

average, common, commonplace, cut-and-dried (also cut-and-dry), everyday

But do you want to know what can tell you even MORE about a word? What it is not. In other words, a word’s antonyms. (Also very informative!)

MW’s list of antonyms for the word normal:

abnormal, exceptional, extraordinary, odd, out-of-the-way, strange, unusual

And these “Near Antonyms” further illustrate the point I plan to make:

Near antonyms for the word normal include:

curious, funny, peculiar, quaint, queer; aberrant, anomalous, atypical, irregular, untypical; rare, recherché, scarce; fantastic (also fantastical), phenomenal; bizarre, far-out, Kafkaesque, outrageous, outré, wacky (also whacky), way-out, weird, wild; eccentric, idiosyncratic, kooky (also kookie), nonconformist, oddball, offbeat, unconventional, unorthodox; freak, freakish

There were a lot more…

So, can we agree for the sake of argument that the word normal refers to that which is usual? That which is ordinary? Something that is not strange. And for something to be considered ordinary, we must see it a lot. Cheeseburgers are ordinary. You can get one (or two-who’s counting?) at every fast food store and cookout you attend. You never stop and stare when you see a guy eating a burger. It is NOT a strange sight; you see it every day.

But chowing down on a Witchetty grub? I can tell you this much: if you stand on the corner of Main and Maple streets, and sink your teeth into an oversized, juicy white moth larvae, you might solicit some strange looks. A fair amount of staring would be directed your way. Let’s admit it: in the United States of America the consumption of Witchetty grubs is unusual. Bordering on peculiar.

Dare I say abnormal? Yes, I dare. Eating grubs is abnormal behavior in our neck of the woods.

SO now that we have a working definition of the word normal, let’s apply it to an important topic: relationships. What constitutes a conventional romantic relationship? A normal, ordinary, garden-variety love affair… We should start with a boy and a girl, right? You see standard M/F couples like this absolutely everywhere in real life—and also in fiction—including in movies, television, books. The more you see and read about the boy and the girl—entwined on a hammock, holding hands on a beach, kissing on a sidewalk—the more commonplace it becomes. So normal.

Let’s, for today’s purposes, focus on reading material, though. Would it be fair to say that almost every time we crack open a book, from the age of infancy (“that’s a mommy and that’s a daddy”) to school age (Fun with Dick and Jane) to high school (much less fun with Romeo and Juliet) to YA parent-approved free reading books (Twilight’s Edward and Bella), all kids see is the “conventional” male-female couple. And thus, this pairing becomes “normal” to us. Usual. And somehow, usual morphs into acceptable.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I never came across two boys kissing in any of my middle school English literature books. I never had the option of choosing a novel about a girl discovering her feelings of attraction to other girls in my high school summer reading book options. Were there books covering those topics? I didn’t know.  I never thought of that. I never thought of them. “Them” being gay and lesbian young people. Bisexuals and transgenders? Huh? Books about trans-what certainly weren’t on the Young Adult shelf of my local town library.

I never read about these kinds of relationships. Seeing a gay couple, up-close, live and in-person was rare for me, as well as for most of the kids I knew. Reading about them in any of the literature to which I had access was practically unheard of.  It is not a very far leap from rare and unheard of to weird and strange. And from weird and strange, it is a mere hop, skip, and jump to abnormal.

I have illustrated that due to the fact that preteens and teens rarely have exposure to LGBT young adults and their love relationships, it has become widely considered NOT NORMAL to be LGBT and in a same-sex relationship. (Hold the applause… there’s more.)

NOT NORMAL= odd, bizarre, funny, aberrant, freakish. Hmm….

Now, just say you are an LGBT young adult.  How does feeling peculiar, weird, and abnormal—simply for being who you were born to be—affect your emotional growth and development? Your ability to form relationships with friends as well as with possible romantic partners? Not positively, I’d wager. People who feel weird and abnormal tend to hide or act out because being who they are is, in its very essence, wrong.

Next, say you are not an LGBT young adult. When you see a student you suspect is gay, or a gay couple, how do you react? Well, you stop and stare, never having had much exposure to this unconventional type. You giggle because it is funny and peculiar. You become uncomfortable because what you see in this person or couple is freakish. Because this sight is not NORMAL to you.

See where I’m going with this?

For something to be normal to us, we must be exposed to it. We must allow our youth to be exposed to it. We, as adults, must offer to young adults a wide range of fiction and nonfiction, showing protagonists and heroes, lovers and friends, saints and sinners, lovers and enemies, in all of the sexual diversity that exists in the real world.

We must integrate LGBT literature into Young Adult literature.

Mainstream LGBT literature in school and libraries and everywhere.

Because LGBT IS normal.

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One October morning, high school junior Bryan Dennison wakes up a different person—helpful, generous, and chivalrous—a person whose new admirable qualities he doesn’t recognize. Stranger still is the urge to tie a red sheet around his neck like a cape.

Bryan soon realizes this compulsion to wear a red cape is accompanied by more unusual behavior. He can’t hold back from retrieving kittens from tall trees, helping little old ladies cross busy streets, and defending innocence anywhere he finds it.
Shockingly, at school, he realizes he used to be a bully. He’s attracted to the former victim of his bullying, Scott Beckett, though he has no memory of Scott from before “the change.” Where he’d been lazy in academics, overly aggressive in sports, and socially insecure, he’s a new person. And although he can recall behaving egotistically, he cannot remember his motivations.
Everyone, from his mother to his teachers to his “superjock” former pals, is shocked by his dramatic transformation. However, Scott Beckett is not impressed by Bryan’s newfound virtue. And convincing Scott he’s genuinely changed and improved, hopefully gaining Scott’s trust and maybe even his love, becomes Bryan’s obsession.

With a foreword by C. Kennedy

Book Links:

Dreamspinner  Ι  Goodreads

Excerpt:

I was back to being the very same guy I had been before the change—

insecure, lazy, selfish, uncharitable—

a guy I didn’t like….

and a guy I didn’t want to be….

but here he was again.

Looking at the world with his frightened and egotistical eyes.

And that’s when it hit me. I popped up off my bed and walked rather hurriedly over to the dresser. I gazed into the mirror that hung above it, and I saw Bryan Dennison.

I reached out my hand and placed my fingertips lightly on the image of the person looking back at me—the vulnerability in his eyes revealed how very lost he was. The person who looked back at me, my very own reflection, had absolutely no direction in his life. None whatsoever.

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Mia Kerick is the mother of four exceptional children—all named after saints—and five non-pedigreed cats—all named after the next best thing to saints, Boston Red Sox players. Her husband of twenty years has been told by many that he has the patience of Job, but don’t ask Mia about that, as it is a sensitive subject.

Mia focuses her stories on the emotional growth of troubled men and their relationships, and she believes that sex has a place in a love story, but not until it is firmly established as a love story. As a teen, Mia filled spiral-bound notebooks with romantic tales of tortured heroes (most of whom happened to strongly resemble lead vocalists of 1980s big-hair bands) and stuffed them under her mattress for safekeeping. She is thankful to Dreamspinner Press for providing her with an alternate place to stash her stories.

Mia is proud of her involvement with the Human Rights Campaign and cheers for each and every victory made in the name of marital equality. Her only major regret: never having taken typing or computer class in school, destining her to a life consumed with two-fingered pecking and constant prayer to the Gods of Technology.

My themes I always write about:

Sweetness. Unconventional love, tortured/damaged heroes- only love can save them.

Author Links:

http://miakerick.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mia.kerick

http://www.amazon.com/Mia-Kerick/e/B009KSTG9E/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1389575652&sr=1-1

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Have We Lost the Ability to Communicate?

One of the main themes of my new novel, Children of the Knight, is the dearth of real human expression between people in this overly technological 21st Century. As a man from the distant past, King Arthur only knows how to communicate face-to-face, or through the use of human messengers. Despite his initial reticence about even using modern technology, Arthur soon finds himself slipping into the same trap as virtually everyone else in this era––use of texting to try and communicate feelings because that method is so quick and painless. In so doing, he tragically forgets that people need face-to-face interactions, and children, in particular, need personal affirmations of love and support. A text message just doesn’t cut it.

Are kids today too removed from real human feelings because they do all their talking through texting or Facebook? It’s easier to communicate in these ways because the other person can’t gauge your sincerity or honesty by looking into your eyes or even hearing the tone of your voice. So if you want to shine somebody on, technology provides the perfect resource. But surely sending someone you love a smiley face can’t hold a candle to actually holding that person’s hand and seeing the smile that basic human contact elicits, can it?

And what about the emotion within the human face and voice? Seriously, do all caps really tell you someone is shouting and indicate the tone of that shouting? OF COURSE NOT! Most of how we communicate is through language, but the tone of voice can take the same words and fill them with love or contempt. And what of body language and facial expression? What about looking someone right in the eye? If you get a text that says, “I love you more than life itself,” does that mean anything? If someone tells you that face to face and you’re looking right into his or her eyes when the words are spoken, are you more likely to gauge their sincerity correctly? Of course you are.

So much goes wrong for Arthur and his kids in this story because of miscommunication, not only missed text messages, but also because of the reticence of the characters to share their feelings with those they care about. The things we don’t say to each other in life are often the most important, and sometimes in the course of events the opportunity to say something important may only arise once and never again. Or situational circumstances can spiral out of control and there ends up being no time to say those words you wanted to say until it’s far too late.

The characters in Children of the Knight learn this lesson in some very harsh, unforgiving ways, and it’s likely been at times a painful reality for many of us, too. I think instant messages and texting are great for communicating insignificant information like what time you plan to meet someone at the gym. But saying “I love you” to somebody for the first time via text or message loses everything valuable those words convey, including the tone, the eye contact, the shy tilt of the mouth into a smile of endearment, everything that makes us human.

Likewise, arguing or insulting somebody via text or messaging is idiotic and counterproductive. When we have an issue with someone we need to confront that person and talk it out and reach a resolution, one that both parties can read on the other’s face and in the other’s eyes. We’re not machines yet, so shouldn’t we stop acting like them?

As Arthur tells Lance in Children of the Knight, “In this era you have found so many ways to communicate you have forgotten the most important-–face to face.” This sentiment should be taken to heart by all of us, and the resulting society will become far more . . . human.

 

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Does Our Modern Media Onslaught Teach Kids Bad Behaviors?

In Children of the Knight, King Arthur, a man from medieval Britain transplanted to 21st Century Los Angeles, is appalled and fascinated by the television programs and music of modern America, and even more astonished to learn that most of it is aimed at children and teens.

He sees kids on TV using drugs in such a way that makes the activity look like a must-do for every viewer. He observes teens “hooking up” for causal sex, and others engaging in violent, often abusive behaviors. When he asks Lance about these “entertainments” and is told they’re mostly created for kids his age to watch, Arthur posits a question: “And if you or others your age engage in these behaviors, are you punished by thine elders or those in power?”

Lance suddenly realizes, as do Esteban and the other street kids later on, that all the anti-social behaviors modeled for them in music, movies and TV shows are exactly the same behaviors they get punished for on a regular basis, even though most of them grew up watching these kinds of shows and witnessing their older siblings (or even a parent) engaging in the same! The hypocrisy of a society that in every way possible teaches its young to be anti-social and self-absorbed and then punishes those youngsters for learning the lessons too well is staggering.

Hollywood and the music industry push the envelope further and further every year regardless of the damage they are doing to the children of this country. We’re a capitalist nation and I have no problem with companies making honest money. However, it would be really cool if these companies would exercise some restraint in the material they release, but restraint is sort of like self-discipline these days––a dirty word. The purveyors of this kind of material will always say it’s the parents’ job to shelter their kids from adult-oriented material, but that has become increasingly more difficult with newer and more efficient technology that make shielding kids virtually impossible, especially when the “adult-oriented” material is marketed straight at them!

Take the “F” word, for example. For kids today, that former obscenity is a noun, verb, or adjective depending upon how it’s used, and has become part and partial of daily conversation, among adults, too. This wasn’t a conscious decision on the part of society to expand the use of that word into every aspect of our lives because the country determined it would benefit everyone to do so. No, its use was incrementally increased over the years by Hollywood and the music industry until adults became so inured to hearing the word they don’t even blink anymore when their kids say it as a matter of course. Is this a good development for society and civilized behavior? Arthur doesn’t think so and he teaches his young knights civility and chivalry, two areas sorely lacking in America today. He recognizes that changing the overall behavior of these damaged children must begin with the small things, like use of language and how they address one another. Even calling each other “fool” is disdained by the king.

Can he successfully civilize these children that society has purposely made uncivilized and turn their collective might into something positive? Read Children of the Knight to find out.

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