Why It Matters

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“I’m not homophic, but I just don’t get why people keep shoving LGBT characters in my face!”

“Does everyone have to be gay nowadays?”

“Why do I need to know a character’s sexuality? It doesn’t matter! This isn’t romance!”

 

The above statements are all things I have heard or seen in response to articles and blog posts about representation of LGBT+ characters in books, television and film. The number of people I have had lodge complaints to me about this very subject, especially concerning Hellbent Halo, has increased with the release of the third book.

As I sat down to start working on the 4th book in the series, it occurred to me that I could and should address the question. I’m in a unique position to do so as someone who is a part of the LGBT community, and as an author who does not write romance or reverse harem.

Why does genre fiction—horror, science fiction, and fantasy specifically—need one more LGBT character?

My gut response it to ask…Why do we need another cisgender straight hero? Going back, western literary tradition is chock full of straight white men falling in love with women. Every aspect of western storytelling has literally thousands of examples of cis hetero relationships, from film to books to oral traditions. As a friend of mine put it on Facebook, “Imagine if I stopped reading books about straight people. I’d never have anything to read.”

To be honest, it’s actually fairly easy to find lesbian or gay fiction outside of romance in 2019. There are lesbian and gay couples everywhere. I’ve been able to have same-sex romances in most of my video games for several years now. Gay themes and gay coming out stories are everywhere.

But what about the bisexuals?

The B in the LGBT is so often overlooked when it comes to representation in the media, but that’s especially true outside of romance. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to see more bisexuals being represented in niche genres like reverse harem, but something about that just makes me a little uncomfortable too. It’s as if bisexual characters are only allowed to be bisexual in a sexual setting. None of these stories—at least none of the ones I’ve picked up—have talked about the bisexual experience, coming out as bi, and the unique challenges and struggles of bisexuals in a world that’s sometimes very binary.

Sadly, this is particularly true in the indie urban fantasy market, which is painfully full of toxic masculinity tropes, and where I’ve put down far too many series for making fun of anyone who doesn’t conform to the gender and sexual norms.

When I started writing Hellbent Halo, there were other authors actively discouraging me from writing in what one reviewer called “the unnecessary gay element” of Josiah’s past relationship with a man. Even the reviewer got it wrong. It’s not a gay element. It’s a bisexual element. We are invisible even to our readers, even when we put characters like us right in front of them.

But I’m not offended. I didn’t write Josiah as a homoromantic bisexual for them. I wrote it for me and people like me who didn’t grow up knowing bisexuality existed, for readers who grew up without an open dialogue, or who felt like they had to hide their attractions because they didn’t fit in a prescribed binary. Growing up, I often felt like a rectangular peg trying to fit in either a circular or square socket. If I twisted just the right way, I could fit in with one side, but that still meant being squished, contorted. Unhappy.

We need more bisexual characters in non-sexualized roles. More bisexual stories. More representation. It’s not an unnecessary element, it’s stories that haven’t been told, voices that have yet to be heard. Voices that should not be silenced because they make others uncomfortable.

Why do we need more LGBT characters in genre fiction outside of romance? Because we exist and we have all sorts of stories yet to tell.

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Josiah Quinn is the lead character in the Hellbent Halo series. You can read the books for free with Kindle Unlimited by clicking below:

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On Signing with a Publisher

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I’m excited to announce I recently signed a 21-book deal with LMBPN Publishing! That means The Judah Black Novels, Hellbent Halo, and The Lazarus Codex all have a new home.

When I first started publishing in 2016, I decided to indie publish my books for a variety of reasons. Urban fantasy was a hard sell in traditional markets, partly because a few big names were dominating the playing field, and agents/publishers just weren’t taking on new books in that area. As an indie published author, I also got to keep a much larger chunk of my book royalties and have 100% control over my publishing schedule, brand, and advertising. After talking to several authors on both sides—traditionally published and indie published—I decided that’s what I wanted to do.

I learned very quickly that it was more involved than I expected. When book sales started picking up with the publication of Death Rites, I was quickly overwhelmed. I was putting in 16- and 18-hour days and frequently working myself sick. You see, aside from all the writing, production of a book also requires spending a lot of time talking to designers, formatters, other authors for promotion, learning ads and marketing, editors. It was being “on” all the time, which is genuinely difficult for me, even if I enjoyed it.

At the same time all that was going on, I was involved in a child custody case with one of my stepchildren. The case dredged up some repressed memories and I found myself sitting in a doctor’s office while she explained complex post-traumatic stress disorder to me. The legal battle and the c-ptsd diagnosis affected me deeply late last year and I buried myself further in my work.

The downward spiral eventually meant I hit burn-out in November of 2018. I was so sick, mentally and physically, I couldn’t get out of bed for a week. At that point, I knew something had to change.

As much as I wanted to be in total control of my publishing empire, I knew I wasn’t doing a good job. In addition to the slow down in my publishing schedule, I brought on a personal assistant who took over a lot of the background work, saving me a TON of time. Working with Grace, I discovered giving up some control wasn’t a bad thing.

When a friend introduced me virtually to Michael Anderle at LMBPN publishing, I was skeptical. I was making a decent income. Signing with a publisher meant reduced royalties for me and I had just broken into making a livable income.

But working with a publisher also means I don’t have to shoulder the burden of publishing alone. It also meant having the backing of a powerhouse like LMBPN. I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve been able to invest very little in advertising on my own. I don’t come from means. I jokingly call myself the Cinderella of indie publishing since I literally started doing this with negatives in my bank account. I can’t always pay for the multiple passes of editing and proofreading that the books need to be their best, or get the covers I think my books really need. I’m operating on a shoestring budget that hinders my reach as an author. I hope signing with LMBPN will help change all that for the better.

I have promised my readers from the beginning that I won’t ever put my name on a book that isn’t my absolute best work. That means every book I publish must meet minimum quality standards. That will continue to be the case. I will continue to write and publish the best books I possibly can for my readers. I firmly believe that my new relationship with LMBPN publishing will further those goals, and allow me to create a better work-life balance for myself and my family.

Thank you for supporting me and my publishing journey so far!

 

If you have any questions about the changeover, feel free to post them below or email me at eacopen@eacopen.com. There will also be more posts coming on the subject. 😊

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Fractured Souls: Change in Release Date

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Life is stressful. Deadlines are stressful. Having a life and writing on a deadline? Insanely stressful.

As an independently published author, I didn’t used to use deadlines. I didn’t like the idea of being boxed in by having a date to meet. It felt like added pressure and the very idea scared the hell out of me. When I started using them, however, my productivity jumped from only putting out 4 books a year to releasing 10 last year and completing two more. I tripled the number of books I completed per year with one simple tool.

Deadlines.

Basically, I started out releasing Death Rites, Organ Grind, and Shallow Grave a month apart. That meant I had to have really tight scheduling and not miss any deadlines. I was writing books in 21 days. Was it stressful? Oh, you bet. But the payoff was worth it.

Eventually, I decided I couldn’t keep that up because of some personal things going on—family stress, moving, etc—and I spaced the book releases out to one every 60 days instead of one every 30.

Right now, however, The Lazarus Codex books are coming out even slower at one every 90 days. That’s because all that wonderful productivity ground to a halt when I moved from Ohio to Kentucky. I was blindsided by a serious bout of depression. As the work piled up, the darkness around me only seemed to multiply and I found it near impossible to get out of bed every day, let alone get to the keyboard and churn out thousands of words. From the date the move was confirmed in October 2018 until halfway through February of 2019, I wrote one book, Dark Revel. It took me 4 months to complete an 80,000 word novel where it used to take me just days.

By the time Dark Revel came out, I was feeling much better. I had my depression under control, and I was settling into life in Kentucky.
However, I was hopelessly behind. Turns out writing thousands of words a day wasn’t something I can just sit down and do after not doing it for 4 months. I fell out of practice. Concentrating for long periods was even more difficult. More days crept by where I didn’t get as many words down as I wanted.

I got overwhelmed trying to play catch up, both with my writing and all the other aspects of running my own business. There were taxes to take care of, people to email back, plans to set in motion.

So when it came time to set a release date for the very first book in my new spin-off series, Hellbent Halo, I sort of just picked a date and went with it. It felt like April was a really long way away.

Then, yesterday, while I was looking at a countdown to Avengers: Endgame I realized I’d set Fractured Souls to release the same day as Endgame! Since it’s basically going to be the cinema event of the year among my geeky core fanbase, that was a BIG mistake! Rather than push it back a week, I moved the release date up to the 19th.

Sadly, I’m still not caught up and it’s leaving me scrambling a bit. No fear, however. I’ll get it done in time. It just means some 12 and 14-hour work days between now and then. But that’s the life of an independent author, isn’t it?

I’m hoping to settle back into a routine soon that allows me to get back to writing more impressive word counts like I used to, and completing a book in 3 weeks or less. That’s going to take time. It also means there won’t be another Lazarus book out until June, since Dark Horse was actually supposed to be done in February. As of April 10th, it’s not even half done, but getting there in record time.

After Dark Horse, I’ll be starting work on the second Hellbent Halo book, due out in July. That should put me back on schedule to get a book out every month the second half of this year.

I want to thank my readers for their patience and understanding. I know it’s not easy to wait on books. I just finished a book (Grave Destiny by Kalayna Price) and now have to wait a good while until book 7 is out, so I know the feeling! But I love the Grave Witch books and I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait, as I hope the rest of The Lazarus Codex books will be for my readers.

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A rogue wizard. A reckless mission. Who knew rescuing the devil’s daughter would raise holy hell?

Click the cover below to reserve your copy of Fractured Souls for release day!

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5 Urban Fantasy Series You Need to Read This Year

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Book hangovers are real and the only cure is finding your next great read. If you’re looking for your next favorite urban fantasy series, here are a few recommendations to get you started. I tried to include some lesser-known urban fantasy. (We all know about The Dresden Files and Mercy Thompson, right? If not, go read them!) These aren’t in any particular order.

Click the picture to the left to visit the book page on Amazon.

If you have a favorite, be sure you mention it in the comments section!

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Kate Daniels by Ilona Andrews

With the series conclusion coming out in just a few days, there’s never been a better time to pick this series up. I started reading them about two months ago and flew through the first few in a matter of days.

 

Why this series?

While there are lots of urban fantasy heroines out there, very few can manage the level of badass that Kate does, especially with such an extensive and colorful cast of side characters. As much as I love Kate though, she’s not the main reason you should pick up Kate Daniels. Ilona Andrews uses some lesser-known mythologies and shifters and the team writing these books really does their research. As I’ve been reading, I spend a little time looking up the names, places, and creatures that get a mention. The world built in these books is absolutely stunning and the characters are like old friends. I’ll be sad to say goodbye.

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Alex Craft by Kalayna Price

This series veers a little more toward paranormal romance, but if that’s not your cup of tea, don’t pass on it. Alex Craft is a grave witch, a paranormal investigator who raises the dead for a fee. Most of the time, she’s working with the police, but she gets tangled up in fae politics a lot too. Normally, I’m put off by love triangles (why choose?), but these books made me root for both guys even when I hated them!

 

Why this series?

This series has a really unique take on fae and fae court politics. They’re out to the world, but only sort of. Most humans don’t get to interact with them quite like Alex does, and boy does she. I love a book with a heavy dose of political intrigue. The sexy but conflicted winter knight and federal agent, Falin Andrews, is also worth a mention here. I love the complexities of his character and his relationship with Alex. The fact that Death himself is also a love interest is also intriguing.

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The Templar Chronicles by Joe Nassise

Since my last recommendation was heavy on the romance, how about a series that veers away from that angle? Non-romantic urban fantasy? Say what? I was all over this series when I found out about it, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. It’s a little action-heavy and the characters take a while to grow on you, but the story is strong and they’re easy page turners.

 

Why this series?

Simply put, Mr. Nassise knows how to spin a good yarn. Sometimes the stories get a little dark. Sometimes you want to smack Cade for the decisions he makes. The one thing you’ll never want to do with these books is put them down.

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Note: Cry Wolf is the first full-length novel, but it’s not where this story begins. Clicking the link will take you to the novella, Alpha and Omega which you should read first.

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Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs

I’m always surprised by the number of Mercy Thompson fans that haven’t read Briggs’ Alpha and Omega books. In this reader’s opinion, the A&O books are superior. I love Mercy, but with such a huge cast of characters and complex plots, her personal relationships and inner thoughts and feelings often take a back seat. In the A&O books, Charles’ and Anna’s relationships are the drivers of the series. Every plot feels personal and the smaller cast of characters makes the world feel more intimate. You also get a fuller picture of the Mercyverse with A&O than you would without these books.

 

Why this series?

I have never had such a love-hate relationship with characters as I have with some of the side characters in the Mercyverse, but Charles really takes the cake. An enforcer, he’s feared by everyone. Unless you read these books, you never get to see the world from his perspective OR how deeply that job affects him. This series is told in alternating close third person perspectives, which allows the readers to explore the world in a way you don’t see in Mercy’s books since everything we see and hear is filtered through Mercy’s point of view (and occasionally Adam’s). This is a series that presents the reader with morally gray characters and doesn’t tell you how to feel about them, but rather trusts the readers to be smart enough to form their own conclusions.

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*This book is NOT young adult and may not be appropriate for all children in this age group. The books contain cursing and violence, but are relatively clean for urban fantasy.  

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The Grave Report by R.R. Virdi

This is a series still in its infancy with only three books out, but it’s definitely one worth picking up. The main character, Vincent Graves, is a man of many faces…literally. He’s a soul who inhabits the bodies of those recently killed by the supernatural and solves their murders. Every book so far has had a killer opening, but the third book, Grave Dealings, was phenomenal. I laughed and cried throughout the book because of how well it manages to hit that emotional resonance. Sometimes, Graves’ snark gets to be a bit much, but he’s always balanced out by his sidekicks.

 

Why this series?

Aside from the gut punch to the feels and the stellar in media res openings, this really is a series with heart and soul, pun intended. It’s also a series I feel comfortable letting my 10-year-old read.* These books stay with you. While there are lots of fluffy, feel good urban fantasy books out there, this series dares to dig deeper and ask you to consider the good, the bad, and all the ugly about being human.

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