Check out this Interview With A Monster. The contest is over, but Michael, of “Running Through A Dark Place,” still compels.
“RUNNING THROUGH A DARK PLACE” IS HERE!
Running Through A Dark Place – the first of four sequels to Children of the Knight that will complete the story is available NOW from Amazon. This book is bigger and more daring than the first, and still just the beginning of an epic and controversial crusade to transform the country and give more rights to kids. A fable, yes. But it would be so cool if it wasn’t, and America would be a far better place if she truly valued her children, instead of just saying she does.
One reviewer who read the pre-release copy had this to say:
“From the moment I opened Michael Bowler’s Running Through a Dark Place, I didn’t want to stop reading. Alas, I was periodically required to halt; Nature, of course, periodically called my name and, more overwhelmingly, I experienced a frequent compulsion to pause long enough to share my delight—to text my sister, “I’m reading an epic tale”, or to message a Facebook friend, “Michael Bowler is a genius with plot twists”, or to scribble furious notes on a nearby scrap paper, detailing the message of choice and change in the name of equality for children. Give in to the urge, as I did, to read Bowler’s compelling story of modern-day King Arthur and his youthful Knights of the Round Table, as they crusade for justice. And I strongly suggest you keep paper and pen, as well as fortifying snacks and drinks, close by your side. You are going to need them.” – Kris
Here’s the back cover blurb and a snippet of the amazing Foreword by author Mia Kerick:
King Arthur and his extraordinary young Knights used ‘might’ for ‘right’ to create a new Camelot in the City of Angels. They rallied the populace around their cause, while simultaneously putting the detached politicians in check. But now they must move forward to even greater heights, despite what appears to be an insurmountable tragedy.
Their new goal is lofty: give equality to kids fourteen and older who are presently considered adults only when they break the law. Arthur’s crusade seeks to give them real rights such as voting, driving, trading high school for work, and sitting as jurors for their peers charged with criminal behavior.
Understanding that the adults of California will likely be against them, Arthur and his Knights must determine how best to win them over.
However, before the king can even contemplate these matters, he finds himself face to face with an ally from the past, one who proves that everything isn’t always what it seems – even life and death.
The Knight Cycle Continues…
“By virtue of its very title, Running Through a Dark Place is a testament to change and second chances. The process of growing and changing and finding oneself can be dark and terrifying. It holds potential to make a human being feel as if he is scrambling—terrified and alone— through a dimly lit city street, in fear of his life. But Bowler understands that when you have successfully run through the dark place, having been given as many chances as you need to arrive at the light on the other side, you will acquire redemption. You will find what is right.” — Mia Kerick, Young Adult Author
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to read Children of the Knight (this second one will make little sense if you don’t), BE WARNED not to read the “Look Inside” or Kindle preview on Amazon. This book picks up exactly where the first one ended, and there will be MAJOR Spoilers revealed.
Here are the Amazon links:
MIA KERICK’S INTERVIEW WITH LANCE SEPULVEDA, MC OF CHILDREN OF THE KNIGHT AND COMMENTS ON THE SERIES
(sitting in the rented grey Chevy Malibu, parked on the street perpendicular to Eucalyptus Park, palms sweating slightly while clutching the steering wheel)
Mia: (says aloud to self) I never get nervous before a character interview… maybe it’s just that I’m across the country from home. And I’m waiting here alone—in a neighborhood I don’t know—for a boy I’ve never met. Yeah…that’s got to be it.
Mia: (pulling phone from pocket of jeans, finds text message in three separate long sections sent around dinner time from Lance Sepulveda, the boy to be interviewed) I’ll just brush up on Lance’s story. That should make this whole process a bit easier.
Hi, Lady Mia. Here’s my sorry-ass story:
I’m Lance Sepulveda. Least that’s what they called me in Children’s Services when I was a baby. On the streets today they call me “Pretty Boy” ’cuz I’m Mexican with long-ass hair and wicked green eyes. Basically, my life sucks and it’s always sucked. Never met my dad – that jerk split before I’s born. My mom, well let’s not even go there. I grew up in foster homes or the streets my whole life. How I made it to fourteen I’ll never know. Especially after . . . well, after what happened. Anyway, I don’t trust no one. I got no friends and I don’t want none, either.
School sucks big time. Not that I’m not smart – I’m hella smart. All my teachers said so since first grade. It’s just that everybody gots to do the same thing and the stupid schools act like everybody wants to go to college. Hell, everybody don’t wanna go to college and everybody don’t need it, either. What if a kid wants to be a mechanic or something? There aren’t no classes like that. I figured out long ago that the system isn’t about us kids, it’s just about the grownups and what they want and what they can get for themselves. I got one cool teacher at Mark Twain High named Ms. McMullen. She’s real pretty and seems like somebody I could trust if I needed to. But then, I don’t usually need to ’cuz I run my own, and I miss a lot of school, anyway.
Why? Cuz I skate. That’s what I do. That’s who I am. Right now I’m on the run from Children’s Services ’cuz I’m sick and tired of people using me or . . . , well, doing worse stuff, too. Much worse. That’s another system s’posed to be for kids and it’s the grownups who get everything out of it. Us kids don’t get jack! In fact, the whole city, no the whole country, is all about what grownups want and not what kids need. That’s why everything’s so messed up. So me, I just skate. I’m the best street skater around, and I’m goin’ to the X-Games one day and I’m gonna win a gold medal. Hell, a bunch ’a gold medals! At least, those were my plans. Until I met Arthur.
When I first met him, it was like, the baddest thing I ever seen. Here was this crazy knight on a horse. A horse! In ghetto Lennox! And an armored-up dude carrying the biggest-ass sword I ever saw! That caught my eye for sure. Like I said, I don’t trust no one, and didn’t trust him at first, neither. But something about the guy made me listen to his crazy-ass ideas. And yeah, they were the craziest I ever heard in my sorry life, but the most exciting, too. Something about a crusade, a children’s crusade, here in Los Angeles, a crusade to help all the throwaway kids like me. Hell, my so-called life wasn’t going nowhere at the moment anyway, so I figured, why not? Might be fun. So I joined up. And man, did everything change after that, and now I know sure that nothing will ever be the same.
Mia: (gets out of car) Well, that is really quite the bio…and he’s only fourteen years old.
Mia: (crosses street and walks to back side of skate park) This is where I’m supposed to meet him. But it’s ten at night and dark and…well, shoot, I’m talking aloud to my self again. If he hears, he’s going to wonder about me.)
Mia: (walks right up to fence and places hands on bars, looks in at what resembles an empty shallow swimming pool, by the light of the stars… watches the only boy, clad in a white tunic with long dark hair flying behind him in the breeze, skate around the empty park)
Mia: Uhh!! (gasps as the boy kicks and powers his board up a fairly steep ramp and sails into the air like a bird)
Mia: Oh, jeez! Please be careful!! (actually shouts this as he flies through mid-air)
Oh…um, hello. (sees she has caught his attention, watches as he lands clean and screeches to a stop, glancing in her direction warily)
Mia: “Um…Hi, there, Lance. I’m Mia Kerick…you know, the author friend of Helen’s. We texted each other earlier today? (points to her phone)
Lance: (walks slowly toward the fence, still extremely wary) Hello, ma’am.
Mia: I watched you on your skateboard for a while. You’re pretty awesome.
Lance: (his voice tinged with pride) Thank you, Lady Mia.
Mia: So, where would you feel comfortable talking? (very concerned that Lance might just bolt away into the night)
Lance: (pointing through the fence at a swing set nearby) Over there.
Mia: (wondering if this entire interview is going to be like pulling teeth, wipes moist palms on jeans) Sounds perfect.
Lance: (sticks skateboard though fence, then steps back and easily scales the high fence, dropping to his feet with the agility of a cat)
Mia: Well, I must say, I’m once again quite impressed. (is tempted to pick up Lance’s skateboard from the ground, but suspecting it would not be appreciated)
Lance: (grabs board and steps in front of her, but not so that his back is ever completely presented) This way.
Mia: (stays a few feet to his side, as Lance refuses to allow her any closer)
Thanks for agreeing to meet me here tonight, Lance. (breathing heavily, trying to keep up)
Lance: (stopping in front of a swing set and nodding toward the middle seat) You can sit here, Lady Mia. (steps over to swing to the right—on the edge, Mia suspects so he could make an easy getaway, if need be) I’ll sit here.
Mia: (glancing over at Lance, who is sitting still on the swing, one hand on the chain, one hand draped over the skateboard on his lap) So, I’m curious…why did you pick this place to talk?
Lance: (in a quiet voice) I love this place at night. It’s peaceful.
Mia: Arthur told me that you taught him to ride the swings here.
Lance: (breaks into the first smile I have seen yet, and it is so captivating that I gasp a bit) That was the most amazing time I ever had here. I always loved these swings at night cuz there be nobody around and I could just fly high in the sky and feel free. But with Arthur that time, it just felt . . . I dunno. Better. Not lonely no more, you know?
Mia: (nods and smiles) He said he loved it.
Lance: (still smiling) It was perfect.
Mia: (pulling a small pad of paper and a pencil out of her tote bag, along with her glasses that she puts on) Well, let’s start with this: Could you tell me about your earliest memory?
Lance: (looks over at me for clarification) You mean before I met Arthur?
Mia: (recalling his bio, she realizes that meeting Arthur was when Lance must consider his life having really begun) Yes, Lance. Tell me about your first memory in life.
Lance: (stares in front of him into the night) I ’member asking my foster mom for seconds at dinner and she slapped my hand and told me not to be so greedy. I didn’t even know what that word meant. Just knew I was still hungry. I was, like, three or four.
Mia: (frowning a bit, but jotting down the answer) Wow. I’m sorry. (pauses) How about a fun question—if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Lance: (without hesitation) I would be invisible fer sure. I always, like, felt like that anyway, and when one of my moods hits me, it’d be so dope to just disappear, you know, till I got myself together. (looks somber and thoughtful for a moment) ’Course, if I had that power no one wouldda ever hurt me like they done, cuz I couldda just got away easy. Too bad there ain’t no such thing, huh?
Mia: It sounds like you’d really prefer being invisible even now—but now you’re in the spotlight all the time, aren’t you? Like a celebrity… Is there anything you like about being in the spotlight? Or anything you really hate about it?
Lance: Um, dunno. I never wanted to be noticed much ’cept for my skating, so being in the spotlight, like you said, is mostly weird and makes me nervous. I believe in what we be tryin’ to do out here, and it’s cool being First Knight cuz that means Arthur believes in me, but seeing my face all over the Internet and stuff is kinda creepy. I guess the worst thing is that everybody’s looking at me all the time and I feel like they can see my secrets, you know, all the stuff I never want anyone to find out. (glances over in an attempt to establish eye contact)
Mia: (knowing Lance is still wary, but trying hard to stay engaged in conversation, smiles and returns his gaze) So, it seems that you are really dedicating yourself to this “crusade” with Arthur. Can you tell me about your current goals as First Knight?
Lance: We’re gonna make things better for kids, Lady Mia, kids like me who been treated like shit, my bad, like crap, kids like Mark and Jack who got kicked out by their folks just cuz they’re gay. (glances down, looking slightly embarrassed, and then back up) That kinda stuff, Lady Mia, it’s pura paja and I’m gonna help change it.
Mia: (looks confused) Pura paja? What does that mean?
Lance: (eyes her sheepishly) Spanish for ‘pure bullshit’. Sorry, Lady Mia, for cussing, but what grownups do to kids in this country is pure bullshit and Arthur and me and the others, we’re gonna stop it.
Mia: (nods admiringly and smiles to assure him his cussing isn’t a problem) Don’t worry about swearing, Lance. If you check out my books, you’ll see that my characters swear all the time… And, besides, I agree with you. Ready for another question?
Mia: Friends are usually very important to kids. You said in your bio you didn’t have any. Is that really true?
Lance: (kicking at the dirt with his beaten up black and white skate shoes) Yup. I’m a loner.
Mia: (surprised) No friends at all?
Lance: (shakes his head, his gaze focused on the silent skate park in front of him)
Mia: Well, how about this: if you could be any animal, what would it be?
Lance: (without hesitation) I’d be a wolf cuz then nobody would mess with me. I’d rip out their throats if they tried.
Mia: (coughing a bit from surprise) Kind of like a lone wolf? That’s how you grew up?
Lance: (nods, but doesn’t turn to look at her. He seems lost in memories of his dark childhood)
Mia: (clears throat and he finally looks over; the sadness on his face touches her) But you aren’t a lone wolf anymore, right? Now you have a group of other knights that are close to you.
Lance: (nods silently, biting his lower lip thoughtfully)
Mia: (smiles warmly) Let’s play a game. I will say someone’s name, and you say the first thing that comes to mind, okay?
Lance: (nods again)
Lance: buff as hell
Lance: first friend
Mia: Lady Jenny
Mia: (slightly out of breath) That certainly was rapid fire!! You’re very good at this game. You’re Arthur’s number one knight. So, of all the kids in this crusade, who would you say is your biggest supporter?
Lance: Chris is my biggest supporter cuz he, like, really loves me. Thinks I’m some kinda superhero or something. (laughs self-consciously) But so does Mark. I never had friends before and it’s hard for me. But Mark lets me in, you know, shares stuff with me, and makes me feel special cuz he does that. And he has my back. Jack does too. At first, Jack made me nervous, but now that I got to know him, he’s pretty amazing. But Mark is the first friend I ever really had, so I guess he’s my biggest supporter right now. But all three are there for me 24/7.
Mia: Chris is the youngest, right? Do you have any particular hopes for Chris’s life?
Lance: (faraway eyes) I wanna protect him, ya know, so he don’t gotta go through what I did. I wanna give him everything, an’ I just wanna hug him a lot cuz I never got any. But mostly I wanna see him stay innocent, ya know? I know I can’t do that forever, but it’d be cool to keep him that way for a long minute, wouldn’t it?
Mia: Yes, it certainly would be nice to be able to let children be children for as long as possible. I think maybe you will be his biggest role model in life. Who is your role model?
Lance: (looks back at me intently; I know he is serious about what he is going to say)
Arthur. He’s everything I wanna be when I grow up. He’s strong and real confident, but gentle, too, when he’s gotta be. Most of the men I been meeting my whole life are, like, whatever when it comes to kids. But Arthur listens to me. Most ’a the time, anyways. He’s been super busy these days with the crusade and all. But he’s a good man and I hope I can be like that too.
Mia: Thank you, Lance. Great answer! (frantically scribbling notes in notepad) Here are a couple of different kinds of questions, and they involve everything we have talked about so far. What does the word “family” mean to you?
Lance: (still staring into my eyes) Arthur and Chris and Mark and, well, the whole Round Table. Only family I ever had. Blood don’t make family, Lady Mia, love does.
Mia: (nods in agreement) And home? What does the word “home” mean to you?
Lance: It used to mean anywhere I could lay down my head. But now it means anywhere Arthur is.
Mia: (reaching in her bag for tissues) Well, that was a very sweet answer to a very sensitive question. And I think I’d like to ask you some more…well, personal, types of questions, at this point. Would you be willing to answer them?
Lance: (leans back on swing, his tone instantly cautious) Depends on the question.
Mia: (dabbing at eyes with tissue) Can I try?
Lance: (nods and swings just a little bit, as if he needs to distract himself) Okay.
Mia: (suddenly gets up off of swing, needs a break before personal questions…sees Lance jump back defensively) Oh, I’m sorry! Lance, I didn’t mean to startle you.
Lance: (eyes her cautiously before slowly sinking back down on the swing)
Mia: Would you care for a drink? (reaches in bag and pulls out two bottles of water, hands one to Lance)
Lance: (takes one and examines bottle cap carefully for evidence of tampering) Thanks.
Mia: Now for the personal questions. Let’s start with things you hate.
Lance: I hate school cuz it’s boring and never seems to be about real life, ya know? I hate crowded places like malls. I hate Children’s Services. I hate all my foster parents, especially . . . (stops then, refuses to go on.) Can we go to the next question, please?
Mia: (uncertain, but still hopeful he won’t shut down) What has been the most satisfying thing to have ever happened to you?
Lance: (speaking clearly, confident in this answer) Meeting Arthur. ’Fore him, my life was shitty. Sorry, crappy. When I told him the truth about me one night and he didn’t push me away like I thought he would, that was, like, the most amazing thing. I started to think I might really be worth something and not just trash like everybody always said.
Mia: (jots down a few notes and then places pencil behind ear) This one might be harder, so get ready. Do you believe in God?
Lance: (looks thoughtful a moment as he considers his answer) I never thought much about God till I met my, I mean, Arthur. He believes, so I guess I’m trying to. Some of my foster parents talked about believing in God when they were stealing my money and locking me in closets ‘for my own good’. That didn’t seem like something God would want and I figured if that was what believing in God meant, then I wouldn’t. But Arthur’s different. He says God is good and wants us to be good. And Arthur’s good, so maybe God is up there, after all.
Mia: This “personal” part is going very well, I think.
Lance: Uh, yeah, I guess, sure. (tries for that disarming smile he’s become known for)
Mia: Can you tell me about your biggest disappointment?
Lance: That I had no life till now. I never even got to be a kid, Lady Mia. Does that suck balls or what? (looks embarrassed) Oh, sorry.
Mia: Don’t worry, it is quite all right. I know just what you mean. I’m really very interested in how you see yourself. Can you tell me what you LIKE about yourself?
Lance: (fidgets uncomfortably) I’m a kick-ass skater. No BS, Lady Mia, that’s just truth. I like my hair. I guess that’s it.
Mia: And on the flipside, what do you NOT LIKE about yourself?
Lance: (sighs and looks out at the skate park again) Everything else.
Mia: (surprised) Really?
Lance: (nods silently, refuses to look at her)
Mia: (sensing that Lance is avoiding something very personal) Do you think that a person can hide from himself, Lance?
Lance: (squirms nervously and still refuses to make eye contact at all) Not sure I like that question, Lady Mia. If you be meaning stuff I hate about myself, then yeah, I do. Cuz I want to. I have to. Can we go to another question, please?
Mia: (certain now that she has overstepped Lance’s comfort zone, thus, the interview is, for all intents and purposes, over, studies the stricken look on Lance’s face and the way he is looking toward the ground) Well, then, on a positive note, let’s end our interview with this question: If everything went just right, where do you want to be one year from now?
Lance: (takes a deep breath, clearly relieved that the interview is almost over) Still with Arthur, running the crusade, helping kids like me and the others against the grownups who don’t care. All I used to want was to win the X Games cuz that’s all I ever thought I was, a skater. But now I know I can do somethin’ for real out here an’ I jus wanna keeping going, you know, see how far we can get. So Chris and other little kids can have a real life, you know?
Mia: I think it is only fair, since you answered my questions with such honesty, that you have a chance to ask one of me.
Lance: (looks over at her with a steady gaze) You been reading about me on the news and seeing me on TV, I know, cuz everybody has. So now that you got to meet me for real, whadda you think?
Mia: (wiping her eyes one more time with a crumpled tissue and smiling) I think that you are everything a boy should be. You are brave—or you would not have shown up to answer my questions—and smart—seeing as you answered them so completely. But you are kind and sensitive, too. You’ve opened up your heart to love a family you have chosen, and you act every day as a generous brother to the others, as well as a courageous knight. But what I am most impressed with is that you are able to care about the kids you cannot even see—just random kids you know are out there, suffering, and you are willing to sacrifice to give them a better life. That, Lance, is what I think.
Lance: (standing up, facing Mia) Thank you, Lady Mia. (pauses a moment, looking like he might tear up) That was the coolest thing anyone ever said to me. (bows to her in a courtly way)
Mia: (blushing, never having been bowed to so chivalrously) And I meant every word. Well, I suppose I should get back to the hotel now… I have an interview to write up.
Lance: It’s not real safe out here at night. I’ll walk you to your car.
Mia: (blushing again, impressed by the excellent manners of this 14-year-old boy) That is very sweet of you.
Lance: (walks to the rental car, this time close beside Mia, watches as she gets in) You’re a nice lady and I’m glad I met you.
Mia: (rolls window down) Thank you, Lance for your openness and honesty. I really hope that someday we will meet again.
Lance: (smiles again) That would be way cool. Drive careful, Lady Mia. The people out here be crazy-ass drivers. (laughs and holds up a hand in farewell)
Mia: (returns the smile) I’ll be careful. ‘Night, Lance.
Lance: (watches as Mia Kerick drives away… turns and ambles off down the dark city street clutching his board in one hand and the bottle of water in the other)
What an amazing interview, but I cannot take the credit for it. The character Lance is created by Michael Bowler, a very talented YA author, who knows what he writes about, as he works with kids from challenging backgrounds every day of his life.
Before I post more about Children of the Knight, which is only book I in a series of action/adventure/romance/coming-of-age novels written by Michael Bowler, I will encourage you to begin your own personal journey NOW, before Book II, Running Through a Dark Place, is released. This is a series that is epic in every sense–NOT TO BE MISSED by those who love classics! Take it from me, an author, yes, but also beta reader for the remainder of the Children of the Knight series, this series is utterly captivating. Here is a direct quotation from a PRIVATE conversation between Michael Bowler and me.
My words describing my reaction to the conclusion of Book III in the series:
“I would say that my eyes were full of tears…
my heart beat differently…
and I forgot to swallow…
That is how I get when I am captivated…
and I was on a high…
I had to message you…
The time is NOW to read Children of the Knight so that you will be ready to read Running Through a Dark Place when it is released!!
Now THIS NEXT PART IS BIG NEWS!!! Leave a comment or a question for author Michael Bowler and you will be entered into a raffle to win the prize pack below, along with an ebook of Children of the Knight:
SECRET HINT FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO STUCK BY TILL THE BITTER END!!!
Go to Mia Kerick’s blog at http://miakerick.com/blog/ to enter for another chance at winning a very similar (AWESOME) prize pack!!!!
Children of the Knight II Is Almost Here!
“Running Through A Dark Place” (Children of the Knight II) releases in May and continues the saga of King Arthur in the 21st Century and his ever-growing army of disgruntled youth who are tired of having no rights in this society. As their crusade moves forward, they fight against the foolish and criminal mentality in California who want kids treated as adults when they do something wrong, but not when they do something right. It’s an epic struggle that fans out in later books to encompass the entire country. This is Book II of V, and all of them will be released this year. If you haven’t read Children of the Knight yet, jump on board now for an expansive and emotional roller coaster ride you won’t likely forget. Check out the amazing cover art by Reese Dante for book II, and the back cover blurb image created by Beckey White. And Beckey even made a killer movie trailer for the book. Onward and upward. The Knight Cycle continues…
Here’s the link for the Book Trailer. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqI81HYodQI
MICHAEL BOWLER IS IN MIA’S GUEST ROOM…IN THE FLESH!!! (And I redecorated!!)
Check out my guest post on best-selling author Mia Kerick’s blog about how bullying has become institutionalized in America. You might find it enlightening or it might make you angry. Truth can do both.
“What is Normal?” – Guest Post From Author Mia Kerick
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.
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
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.
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.
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