Why I Cried at Beauty And The Beast

emma belleMy son had turned one when Disney released its original Beauty And The Beast in 1991. I was enthralled with the fact that Belle – the main character in a mainstream animated movie – was intelligent. In fact, it was her primary characteristic! It gave me hope that my son would grow up in a different world than mine. in my world, my first boyfriend dumped me because my grades were higher than his, the biggest hope my parents had for their head-in-the-clouds daughter was to marry someone to take care of me, and bonuses and raises I earned through hard work and being smart in my former legal career were allocated to my male counterparts. In the world I had lived in, being intelligent, as a woman, had no value.

Andrew is now twenty-six and, unfortunately, incidents like those and a thousand others still frequently occur. Yet, it isn’t the same world as the one I birthed him into. In that world, we remained silent to avoid being driven out of our careers, marriages, and social connections. It was a man’s world and women were to be grateful for mere existence. That has changed. Now, women and men can speak of the unfairness, the injustice, and the counterproductiveness of treating women as lesser than men. And for those who remain voiceless, others have stepped up to speak for them – people like Emma Watson and her HeforShe campaign advancing gender equality.

So why did I cry as I watched Ms. Watson reprise the role of Belle? Because this Belle wasn’t simply an echo of the animation. Both by script and Ms. Watson’s portrayal, Belle has more depth: she is fearless and in control. Her father respects who she is and does not suggest she marry Gaston as did the animated Maurice. The story, of course, remains a romance, but this Belle’s adventures do not end with finding her prince. This Belle will seek out challenges in the “great wide somewhere” and now has an ally to cheer her on. Thank you, Disney, for the updated Belle.

Yet modern Belle, alone, didn’t bring me to tears. It’s just fiction, after all. It isn’t real. Yet I sat in a theater and watched this character brought to life by someone who has fearlessly used her intelligence and leveraged her status to speak for those who are not heard and advance the causes of social justice. That moved me more than my tear ducts could handle. Animated Belle revealed a potential for the world to be different, more accepting, less petty. Now fearless Belle and the actor who played her say nothing can stop that world from becoming a reality. Thank you, Ms. Watson.

And so I cried as I watched the new Beauty and the Beast. Of course, I loved the movie, just as I loved its animated precursor. Then again, “I want so much more than they’ve got planned” has been the refrain for my life. But that’s another story …

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The Complete Rothston Series

Rothston stripWith the release of Common Ground – Book 4 – the Rothston Series, chronicling the battles of Kinzie Nicolosi, who was raised believing she was a common only to discover her powerful adept skills. The series starts with Kinzie entering college as a naive and sheltered young woman and ends with an understanding of how selfless and dangerous anyone can be – even herself.

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Common Ground – 7 days

7 days til Common Ground

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Common Ground is almost here!

The long-awaited final installment of The Rothston Series will be released February 29, 2016. I will miss some of the characters who have become like family over the course of writing the series, but I’m pleased to send them on their way in the best novel I’ve written to date. If you want to be among the first to read Common Ground, you can preorder from Amazon for e-delivery on the 29th. CG Cover image

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Make a Difference Now

We enter this season of thankfulness for all that we have, in the midst of cries of “Not in my back yard.” No matter where you stand on accepting Syrian refugees into your area, they desperately need your help. This is a link to a list of vetted charities assisting Syrians in need. Some organizations provide resources for families to stay in Syria. Others provide assistance in the places where they flee, having nothing left behind them.

Words of concern and outrage are cheap. It is time to put your money where your mouth is. This holiday season, I will be making donations on behalf of my children to the organizations of their choosing. I ask that you consider doing the same.

We CAN make a difference.




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Each moment is an opportunity

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That’s Important!?!

Today, a begins once-a-week blog series of quick quips of people, places, events, or items that, serious or not, are important to me. I’ll kick it off with a quote in honor of missing my first deadline on the novel I’m currently writing.

I love deadlines 2

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Origins, Book 3 of The Rothston Series

Origins ISBN 9781937979126 Print Pages: 373

ISBN 9781937979126
Print Pages: 373

Now on Amazon, Google Play store, and Kobo.com

With her enemies out of commission, Kinzie Nicolosi wants nothing more than to bury herself in her studies and prepare for a future of protecting humankind through the Rothston Institute. But a new menace rises up, forcing her on a quest for a mysterious stone of old that unified adept efforts across the globe, believed to have been destroyed long ago. Her search is hampered by the ghosts in her head, dogging her every step, and beating them may be the toughest challenge she’ll ever face.

Kinzie’s adventures continue in Origins, Book 3 of the Rothston Series.

Origins, Book 3 in the science fantasy Rothston Series that the Midwest Book review called “unfailingly enjoyable from beginning to end.” Pre-order the ebook now using the links above for automatic delivery on November 20th.


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Catching up with Author Michael Williams

I’m on vacation this week, taking a well-deserved break while awaiting the release of Origins, the third book in the Rothston Series, which comes out later this month. It’s been a hectic summer, followed by an even more hectic fall, so this vacation gives me an opportunity to sit back and catch up with friends. This morning, I’ve ran into one of my favorites, author Michael Williams, who agreed to an interview so that I can learn a bit more about his writing.

HeadshotGood morning, Michael!  How are you?

I’m doing well, thanks, but evidently not as good as you—wrapping up the third novel! congratulations!   I always get sick—no kidding, physically sick—upon finishing a book.  It’s as though some kind of pent-up bad juba is released all of a sudden. I hope you don’t suffer the authorial psychosomatics, and that you’ll enjoy better health in the hiatus. I understand there’s a fourth in the offing.

We met at a writer’s event about three years ago, and I remember thinking, “Wow, this guy is a serious author.” Since then, I’ve read some of your novels and am amazed by your poetic use of language in creating settings and mood. I’d say you don’t write for the bubble-gum crowd.

Early on I realized no bubble gum would be dispensed. I had a reviewer observe once that my most recent book, Vine: An Urban Legend, was “not for the casual reader.”  He meant it as description rather than as an evaluation, but I took it as something accurate, in ways a badge of honor. 

Vine coverI enjoyed Vine and agree with that observation. It made me actively think while I read, but at the same time, the settings are very accessible. I hate being pinned down to a specific genre, but we have to be able to describe our novels, I’m going to ask you the question I dread: how do you describe the type of novel you write?

I suppose what I do is a kind of old-school magical realism.  Familiar places, realistically imagined and presented, but with an interweaving of mythology and the supernatural.  I use the magic both literally and metaphorically in the stories, because I’m convinced that the gods (and what they meant) still move beneath and around the surface of things. 

Sort of like how I use “adept attributes” in the Rothston Series as a fairly explicit metaphor for the effect individuals have on each other, but you use those techniques in a much more subtle and intricate manner.

Since things happen “beneath and around the surface” of the stories, I tend to trust that my readers will be sharp, attentive, and in love with the idea of looking at a story from a number of sides, facets, angles, in order to dwell with the possibility that the tale tells several things at once.  I also love a reader who sees the alchemy of everyday things—how the poetry in each person’s consciousness transmutes base metal into gold.

You know, I demand novels that have more to them than just a romping story. If the superficial story is all there is, the novel doesn’t hold my interest. So, am I the kind of reader you write for?

I hear most writers talk about their “duty to the reader,” and it is important (if not a little sanctimonious now and then—‘fess up that you write because you love words and characters and stories, for god’s sake, because there are a number of ways to help people that are more vital and immediate than simply giving them a good read).  But your duty to the readers shouldn’t necessarily end with giving them what they want: it should involve going with them on a journey of exploration and expansion of the world you all see—you and your readers, all traveling together.  In the words of George Clinton, visionary leader of Parliament Funkadelic, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.”  I like a story that starts me in places I either know or can recognize, then transports me into the rich and strange, the unfamiliar, puts my back on my heels so that I can regard the new place both as fact and as metaphor, so that I can read the world around me with an eye to its mystery and depth and intricacy.  So I can read the world as poem.

I agree that authors should write what moves them, but after I wrote Foreseen, agents and publishers told me to place the characters in high school even though the story would be more than far-fetched. Others said I needed to keep the affection between the characters on a superficial (and expressly physical) romance level. Having been told that writers need to do whatever their publishers and agents tell them to do, I actually tried those changes, only to find that I couldn’t stand reading it! It became trite – not at all what I was trying to convey – and so I reworked it back to what I had wanted originally. I’ve burned and deleted those altered drafts, but another author had her mystery series picked up by Penguin on the condition that she rewrite them to include a ghost as a main character. You’ve been interacting with the publishing world much longer than I have. Is this a change or have they always tried to change what the author wanted to write?

It’s not so much a change in the publishing world.  At least not in my time or with the publishing houses I’ve moved through. They’ve always been businesses, of course.  Still…I think there was a time, though, when publishers felt more of a duty to present good writing to their readers, and that has changed much more toward simply making money.  Nowadays I can’t imagine too many major publishers saying, “Let’s take a chance on this one.”  Small presses are the venue nowadays for the books that push the envelope, but ironically the small presses are understandably struggling to stay alive, so many of them tend toward easy reading that gives readers what they expect, like 90% of the young adult fiction, other books like 50 Shades, or all those Twilight knockoffs.  If you try to write something other than what’s readily marketable, expect a much more difficult (but interesting) road.

I have to admit that having to rewrite Foreseen to reincorporate the elements I wanted improved it, and, since that was my first novel, I learned a lot in the process. Of course, I’d say I’d learned a lot about writing through each novel since, as well.

Don’t stop learning from your work, even from what seem like disaster in the process. Back in the mid-1990s I was working on a novel called Allamanda and midway through the first draft.  It was when I was more stupid about computers and when computers were more stupid.  A virus crashed my whole damned apparatus and I lost 80 pages of a draft.  80 pages.  I know some people do that in a couple of days, but that was at least 2 weeks work for me back then (now I write even more slowly).  I was in a terrible state, lamenting the demise of the novel as I knew it, until my wife said to me that I’d just have to write another 80 pages better than the ones I’d lost. 

I think I did write better pages.  I wrote them longhand, which was something I hadn’t done in ages, and it was more like touching the words, feeling them come to life at the end of a pencil.  So I learned about varying the method when you face a setback or come to an impasse, but I learned something more: nothing I write is etched in stone.  The words and the story can always change.  Writing is, bottom line, layer after layer of revision, until you reach a point that your judgment or intuition or experience tells you not that it’s finished nor even as good as you can make it (because “good as you can make it” would take to the end of your days) but it’s simply reached a point where it’s time to let it go.  Hope for the next set of eyes to be creative and forgiving.  But never think the job was done.

The last part of Origins (the prologue) was written on a series of 3×6 note paper during a rather dull meeting. The timing, the paper, and the long-hand all played a role in getting it right.

There’s something about longhand, isn’t there?  Maybe it’s just writer’s cramp, but it does indeed shift your relationship to the words you put on the page. And sometimes radical shifts spark your thoughts, help you see what you’re doing from a different angle, and thereby make the book better.

trajan's arch coverHaving read Vine and Trajan’s Arch, I’m very interested in what you’re working on now. It’s related to the other two novels, right?

It is. Vine and Trajan’s Arch are set in the same Midwest American town, and some of the same characters slip from one book to the other.  The novel I’m working on, Ghost Month, brings together characters from both the previous books, building another story through which they can move.  It’s not the third book in a trilogy, which to me implies a story arc that covers three volumes, but the third in a triad—self-contained stories that find common ground by a relation of characters, settings, and incidents. 

This past year, you also did some traveling and blogged your experiences. I enjoyed your descriptions of life in Italy, and loved the description of the fittingly Kafka-esque adventure in Prague attempting to get to the Kafka museum. You have more travel writing planned, don’t you?

I am also working on a book of travel writing, covering a number of European trips and pilgrimages (more literary pilgrimages than spiritual, though I’ve never been able to disconnect the two). Another trip to Italy is in the offing, and again with a number of side roads I intend to write about. If all goes well, I expect the book’s release in 2015.

You and I could talk for hours – come to think of it, we’ve done that on more than a few occasions!  Nevertheless, you have students to teach, and I have a vacation to get on with. Thanks for talking on my blog this morning. Give your wonderful wife a hug for me, and I want to read the new book – write faster! (That was facetious – write as long as it takes, but no longer.) Thanks!


Follow Michael Williams and find out more at:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Through-Trajans-Arch-The-Michael-Williams-Page/128713900543978
Blog:  Mythical Realism (michaellwilliams.blogspot.com)

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Interview with Fantasy Author Iscah

This morning, another author stopped by for an interview. Meet Iscah, the writer of fantasy stories.

Good morning, Iscah!  I’ve already mentioned that you write fantasy, but that’s a bit simplistic to describe your work, isn’t it?

I write in many genres, but a majority of what I’m working on now is some level of fantasy.  Though the specific flavor will vary from fable to adventure to epic to surreal to you only think this fantasy but actually it’s something else entirely.

My hope is to appeal to a broad audience and reader demographic.  I want the person who’s never picked up a fantasy novel to enjoy the story as much the hardcore fantasy fan.  I also try to set up the story in layers.  There’s the “ride” where you can just sit back and enjoy the surface adventure.  But there’s also metaphor and Easter eggs to discover if you’re looking for them.  My fans seems to be pretty balanced gender wise, and I like that.

It sounds like our fan-bases have a lot in common, although I would describe my current series as more supernatural thriller than fantasy or science fiction which is how it’s often labeled. But then again, I find the standard genres too confining for me. I take it you do as well.

I genre jump because I bore easily.  Some writers write with sort of a jazz formula, same basic plot but with a few surprising yet comfortable variations, and I very much enjoy reading some of those.  But I’m an Indie pop, classical, folkrock sort of writer who’s quite willing to experiment with a little rap and reggae and see what happens.

I like the music analogy. Some great music has come from mixing things up. You current have Seventh Night and a prequel called Before the Fairytale: The Girl With No Name available on Amazon, and you have another prequel, Horse Feathers available online at no cost for a few more days. Tell us more about Seventh Night.

Seventh Night is a romantic, comic, action, adventure fantasy.  Writer H. David Blalock described it as The Princess Bride meets The Last Unicorn.  Here’s the description:

SNHBCoverForWebOnce, a boy fell in love with a girl not long before a princess married a charming prince, and if the boy had been the prince or the girl had not been the princess, this might have been a simple fairytale romance.

But he wasn’t, and she was.  So things were complicated.  And then there were the bandits and the poison and the kidnapping and the secrets and the betrayal and the monsters and the magic, the journey across the desert and the journey across the sea, and of course that tax issue.

In a land where unicorns are commonplace, life can start resembling a storybook.  Everyone wants a happily ever after, but sometimes true love requires sacrifices…


Most writers have stories about trip-ups along the way to creating a novel – even if some want their readers to believe the process was smooth as silk. Do you have any stories you want to share?

Originally Seventh Night was going to be called The Magician’s Apprentice and focused on Phillip as the main character, but then I found a book with that title in the store.  Many of my favorite fairytales are named after the princess, and I went with that idea.  However my title character was unconscious for over half the book, so I revised her section, gave her stuff to do, and like the story much better for it.  It’s really an ensemble adventure now.

Let’s give the readers links to follow you and find out more about upcoming books and appearances.

Amazon Author Page




horse_feathers_journey_map_by_kayiscah-d61hmj8I noticed you also have a Deviant Art page that includes a map for the Horse Feathers’ journey.

I want to thank you for stopping by and telling us about your writing. Before you go, is there any news you want to share?

In November, I’ll be starting a new serial.

That’s great! You’ll have to come back and tell us about it when it’s ready.


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