A computer game about a teenage girl coming to terms with her sexuality

I just finished playing an indie game from The Fullbright Company called Gone Home and it’s worth mentioning on this blog, because of the subject matter.  Basically, you (the main character — Katie) come home in the middle of the night from a trip to Europe.  You’ve been gone a year.  You discover the house locked up and nobody home, with an ominous note from your younger sister, Sam, stuck to the front door warning you not to tell anybody what you find inside.

As you make your way through the house, you discover more notes, pictures, receipts, music tapes, and sticky notes from your sister and your parents that eventually help you piece together what happened not only during the past year, but also during the years you were away at college.  The atmosphere is creepy and you keep expecting to find a corpse or something equally horrifying in one of the rooms.

I don’t want to give too much away, but what you find is basically a love story between Sam and her female best friend in high school, as they discover how they really feel about each other.  The parents are less than understanding, and there are problems at school, among other things trying to pull them apart.  There is a sense of foreboding as you wind your way through to uncover the final outcome, hidden behind the locked attic door….

This doesn’t really meet my definition of a game.  It’s interactive — you pick up things and examine them, and you uncover combinations to locked cabinets, and find keys to locked rooms — but you’re a ghost (figuratively) in the house.  You can’t change anything that’s happened.  You’re just uncovering it.  And you can’t affect the outcome of the “game.”

So it’s more of an interactive story.  This has sparked outrage among gamers, especially those delightfully misogynistic gamers who think the entire idea of Gone Home is stupid and pointless.  My favorite recurring quote is “It’s been done better.”

Really?  Where?

On the other hand, I’ve come across an accusation that the game is kind of a “bait and switch,” and that does have some validity.  I think the biggest problem is that everything is just too creepy.  The designers played that aspect up a lot and it builds expectations the game really doesn’t deliver on.  You stumble across journal entries about a ghost in the house, about the possibility that the previous owner went insane.  You find ouija boards and other occult paraphernalia.  The father seems to have been struggling with his writing career, and you wonder just how stable the guy was. All of these things lead you to expect some kind of horrific revelation, and… well, you might be disappointed in that regard.

However, as a story, I would still recommend the game.  It’s short, and people have pointed out that it probably isn’t worth $20 for the amount of game play.  So perhaps it would be good to wait for the price to drop.

You can purchase the game through Steam or the game website:  http://www.gonehomegame.com/

What I’m working on now: Martian Born

It’s been a few months since the release of Gods.  And for a short time, I had no idea what my next YA novel would be.  I had a few ideas, but nothing was really grabbing my interest.  But I’ve finally begun work on a novel called Martian Born.

541357_348120215250387_100001572338413_925791_325767953_nMartian Born is about a young man named Dylan Rivera, who has the distinction of being the first human being born on Mars.  By the time the story starts, Dylan is seventeen, and the colony has been on the planet for twenty years.  The picture I’ve linked to at the top of this post is actually a concept painting for the Mars One project, a non-profit endeavor to place a human colony on Mars within the next twenty years.  My story isn’t based on Mars One, and it isn’t about the early days of establishing the colony—a fascinating story in itself—and Dylan’s colony doesn’t look like the picture.  But the picture gives the right impression.

In Dylan’s world, there are two colonies, established by different political entities on Earth who have a very tense relationship.  Due to this, the colonies are forbidden to communicate with each other.

However, a group of teenagers from the rival colony, led by a youth named Timur Krasnov, attempt to steal equipment from Anvesaka Colony.  Dylan and his friends stop them, but this incident causes the colonies to finally come into contact.  And when Dylan uncovers the truth about conditions at Huozhing Colony, and how close they are to collapse, he convinces Timur that they need to work together to stave off disaster, despite Earth politics.

Of course, there is also a romance thread between Dylan and Timur.

iYmta2AWBJ9k3When I was a teenager, I devoured the YA novels (at the time, they were called “juveniles”) written by Robert Anson Heinlein.  They were a bit preachy by today’s standards, full of his political ideals and morality.  As an adult, I find myself questioning a lot of his assumptions, but still respecting Heinlein’s intelligence, and overall decency.  He also made an attempt—unusual for a science fiction author of his generation—to acknowledge homosexuality and not pass judgement on gays.  (In a side note, Heinlein was a proponent of nudism and polyamory, though of course these concepts didn’t appear in his young adult novels.)

The juveniles were full of adventure and the joy of scientific discovery.  I’ve been re-reading some of them: Have Spacesuit—Will Travel, Red Planet, Citizen of the Galaxy.  And also what I consider to be his most brilliant adult novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.  I see Martian Born as a tribute to these novels, hearkening back to the days when science fiction depicted a hopeful future, instead of a future that gives us nightmares as it approaches.  I also find science fascinating, and hope to instill in this novel some of the wonder I found in the Heinlein novels.

So far, at about 10k words, the novel is a bit top-heavy with explanations of how the colonists go about their daily lives.  I may have to move some of this around to get the plot moving a bit faster in the beginning.  Though this has to be balanced with the fact that readers will be mostly unfamiliar with the setting.

But I’m having a great time with it!

“Dreams” wins Best LGBT Young Adult at the Rainbow Awards!

WinnerMDThe Rainbow Awards winners were announced last weekend, and to my surprise and delight, the first novel of my Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy—DreamsWON in the Best LGBT Young Adult category!

I consider this novel, and the other two in the trilogy to be among my best work, so I’m thrilled by this news.  The Rainbow Awards were huge this year, with hundreds of submissions, and Dreams was up against a lot of fantastic books.

This is what some of the judges had to say about it:

Oh, this one was a pure pleasure to read. I would gladly place this book in the hands of any young person, and urge them to lay aside all else to fill their hearts, minds, and souls with the beauty of James Erich’s Dreams. (Cherie)


Dreams was absolutely an outstanding read for me. This is the first book in a trilogy and without doubt I shall buy the next two installments to this story. (Rosie)


Wow, this one came as a surprise because although I enjoyed fantasy when I was young – it isn’t my go to genre as an adult. I thought the writing and story very engaging. (Janet)

So onward and upward!  Dreams of Fire and Gods is now completely finished and available through Dreamspinner, Amazon, and other resellers.  So if you’ve heard horrible things about what I put my characters through in Fire (the second book), rest assured that it all turns out well—and unpredictably, if I do say so myself—in the final book, Gods!

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Harmony Ink Young Author Challenge

This is a notice that just came out from my publisher Harmony Ink Press.  It’s aimed at young authors between the ages of 14 and 21!

Harmony Ink Young Author Challenge

Edited by Anne Regan

Harmony Ink Press is looking for young authors writing in the LGBT genre! As part of our anniversary celebration, we are inviting young writers to submit short stories for our first Young Author Challenge.

Submissions between 2,000 – 10,000 words will be considered. Main characters should be 14 – 18 years old and can be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or still in the process of working out their sexual/gender identity. The story should portray positive LGBT characters who grow or change for the better in some way. See the general Harmony Ink submission guidelines for more information.

Authors can be between the ages of 14 – 21. If the author is 17 or younger, a parent or legal guardian will have to sign the publication contract should a story be accepted.

Selected stories will be published in an anthology to be released in both paperback and eBook formats. Winners will be announced as part of the Harmony Ink anniversary celebration in March 2014. Accepted authors will be paid a flat rate based on story length. Payments will range from $25 – $55. Feedback from at least one published author will be provided for all submissions.

Submission Deadline: March 15, 2014

Publication Date: July 2014

Send all submissions to anneregan@harmonyinkpress.com. Please include “Young Author Challenge Submission” in the subject line of the e-mail.

Omorphi by C. Kennedy from Harmony Ink Press

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Blurb:

High school senior Michael Sattler leads a charmed life. He’s a star athlete, has great friends, and parents who love him just the way he is. What’s missing from his life is a boyfriend. That’s a problem because he’s out only to his parents and best friend. When Michael accidentally bumps into Christy Castle at school, his life changes in ways he never imagined. Christy is Michael’s dream guy: smart, pretty, and sexy. But nothing could have prepared Michael for what being Christy’s boyfriend would entail.

Christy needs to heal after years of abuse and knows he needs help to do it. After the death of his notorious father, he leaves his native Greece and settles in upstate New York. Alone, afraid, and left without a voice, Christy hides the myriad scars of his abuse. He desperately wants to be loved and when he meets Michael, he dares to hope that day has arrived. When one of Michael’s team-mates becomes an enemy and an abuser from Christy’s past seeks to return him to a life of slavery, only Michael and Christy’s combined strength and unwavering determination can save them from the violence that threatens to destroy their future together.

Purchase Omorphi from   Harmony Ink Press    Amazon    Barnes & Noble   ARe/OmniLit

Omorphi-200x300About Cody:

Raised on the mean streets and back lots of Hollywood by a Yoda-look-alike grandfather, Cody Kennedy doesn’t conform, doesn’t fit in, is epic awkward and lives to perfect a deep-seated oppositional defiance disorder. In a constant state of fascination with the trivial, Cody contemplates such weighty questions as: If time and space are curved, then where do all the straight people come from? When not writing, Cody can be found taming waves on western shores, pondering the nutritional value of sunsets, appreciating the much maligned dandelion, unhooking guide ropes from stanchions, and marveling at all things ordinary.

Find Cody: Facebook    Goodreads    Twitter @CodyKAuthor
Cody’s Blog – http://www.ckennedyauthor.blogspot.com/
Cody’s Free Serial Story, Fairy – http://www.fairybycodykennedy.blogspot.com/p/about-fairy.html
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/CodyKennedyAuthor?ref=hl
Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5816900.C_Kennedy
Twitter @CodyKAuthor

Follow Omorphi’s blog tour for three chances to win an ebook copy of Omorphi! http://ckennedyauthor.blogspot.com/2013/09/let-omorphis-blog-tour-begin.html

The cover for “Gods” has been finalized!

GodsFSHere is the cover for my new YA fantasy novel, Gods, designed by the fabulous cover artist, Paul Richmond!  (Paul designed the first two in the trilogy, as well.)  This is the third and final installment in the Dreams of Fire and Gods trilogy.

One of the things that jumps out immediately, if you’ve seen the first two covers in the series, is how misty and blue it looks, compared to the others.  That’s because the valley of Harleh, in which much of the story takes place, is enveloped in a mysterious bluish cloud cover.

The novel is scheduled for release on October 17th!  I also have a chat scheduled for that day.  I’ll post about that again when it rolls around.

Book three of the “Dreams of Fire and Gods” trilogy is in final edits!

Dreams of Fire and Gods: DreamsOr perhaps you’d say it’s done with the final edits.  I turned my last edits in yesterday, so all that remains is for Dreamspinner to put together the galley proof and me to go over it.  Then it will be done!  Look for a release date in about six weeks (mid October)!

I’m very excited about this!  The trilogy ended with a much bigger bang than I could have anticipated when I began writing Dreams two years ago. Each subsequent book expands upon the one before, adding more viewpoint characters (this one has four — I didn’t go completely insane) from different areas of the culture in the Kingdom of Dasak, so we now see what life is like for nobles (represented by Sael), peasants (Koreh), assassins (Donegh), and priests (Gonim).

We also finally talk directly with the gods (the Stronni and the Taaweh) and learn more about what motivates them and where they live.  We see the Great Hall!  We get more detail about life in the city of Harleh and we finally meet the emperor in the imperial palace!

I’m psyched!

 

 

Win a free copy of “Seidman” today at 5pm EST!

SeidmanIf you follow Harmony Ink Press on Twitter ( https://twitter.com/HarmonyInkPress ), they’ll be giving away a free copy of my first YA novel about Vikings and sorcery, Seidman, tonight at 5pm EST!

Make sure to grab it quickly—the tweetaway only lasts 20 minutes!

If you’re not familiar with the novel, here’s the blurb and an excerpt:

BLURB:

In Viking Age Iceland, where boys are expected to grow into strong farmers and skilled warriors, there is little place for a sickly twelve-year-old boy like Kol until he catches the eye of a seið-woman—a sorceress—and becomes her apprentice. Kol travels to the sorceress’s home, where her grandson, Thorbrand, takes Kol under his wing. Before long Kol discovers something else about himself that is different—something else that sets him apart as unmanly: Kol has fallen in love with another boy. 

But the world is changing in ways that threaten those who practice the ancient arts. As Kol’s new life takes him across the Norse lands, he finds that a new religion is sweeping through them, and King Olaf Tryggvason is hunting down and executing sorcerers. When a decades-old feud forces Thorbrand to choose between Kol and his duty to his kinsman, Kol finds himself cast adrift with only the cryptic messages of an ancient goddess to guide him to his destiny—and possibly to his death.

EXCERPT:

After more than a week of this isolation, Kol finally reached the point where he couldn’t stand it anymore. So, late in the night when he was certain everyone in the hall was sleeping, he got up and crept to Thorbrand’s bed. He thought his friend was asleep and reached out to touch him gently, but then he heard the young man whisper, “What are you doing?”

Startled, Kol pulled his hand back. “I just wanted to see you,” he said, his voice sounding pathetic even to his own ears.

“I know what you want,” Thorbrand said harshly. “But you’re out of your mind if you think I’m going to….” They had never given a word to what they’d done together in the bathhouse, and he balked at naming it now.

“Not in my father’s bed.”

“I just wanted—”

“Go back to your own bed, Kol.”

Stung, Kol turned and slipped away. But he didn’t return to his bed—he couldn’t. He wasn’t sure what to do, but his throat was constricted and his eyes threatened to brim over. The last thing he needed was for the others to wake up and catch him sobbing. He grabbed his cloak and threw it over his naked shoulders. Then, trying not to make any noise, he opened the door of the longhouse just a crack and slipped outside.

The night air was bitter cold and the ground nearly frozen. He hadn’t thought to put his boots on, and it wasn’t long before his bare feet grew numb. He clutched the cloak to his body, shivering as an icy drizzle fell upon him.

But it was too late to turn back. The tears had overflowed and he couldn’t stop them from streaming down his face.

The sensible thing might be to go to the bathhouse. At least it would be warm there. But it would just remind him of Alfdis’s death and the fact that Thorbrand wasn’t with him. So instead, he climbed a small hill not far from the longhouse and sat down on the damp grass. At least this way he could tuck his feet into the folds of his cloak while he tried to make sense of things.

Thorbrand was chieftain now. And he was being forced to take on immense responsibilities. Kol understood that. But it seemed more had changed than he’d realized. He’d thought Thorbrand might be missing him, needing him. That he would welcome Kol holding him, if just for a short time. But….

“You idiot,” Thorbrand’s irritated voice cut through his gloomy thoughts.

Startled, Kol looked up to see a shadowy figure climbing the hill toward him. Unlike Kol, Thorbrand had had the sense to at least throw on a tunic and some boots, though he’d left his cloak behind.

“What in Hel are you doing out here?” Thorbrand growled. “It’s freezing!”

“Nothing,” Kol replied, struggling to keep his voice even.

Thorbrand snorted as he plopped down on the grass beside him, reminding Kol for a moment of Alfdis. “Nothing. Just sitting on cold, wet grass in the dark, crying like a girl. Some great sorcerer you are!”

This was too much. It was bad enough for Thorbrand to shove him away, but to come after Kol just to make fun of him!

Kol wanted to lash out at him, but before he could do or say anything, Thorbrand had pulled him close and was kissing him hard on the mouth. And it was all there, in that kiss—everything Kol feared had gone away. All the longing; all the tenderness.

When Thorbrand finally broke the kiss, keeping their foreheads touching so that Kol could still feel his hot breath against his lips, Thorbrand said, “Do you think I haven’t been going out of my mind too? I hate sleeping alone, not being able to hold you. But what am I supposed to do about it?”

“I don’t know….”

“I’m a chieftain now,” Thorbrand went on. “Or at least I’m trying to be. We’re not kids anymore, Kol.”

“What does that mean?”

Thorbrand gritted his teeth in frustration, unable to pull away. “Men don’t… want this.”

Kol looked back at him defiantly, watching while the stern resolution in Thorbrand’s eyes gradually gave way to desire. At last, Thorbrand pulled him close again, brushing Kol’s ear with his lips as he said, “Come on, then.”

He led Kol to the bathhouse, where they stayed until the lightening sky forced them to return to the longhouse. Fortunately, nobody had awoken yet, and they were able to sneak back to their separate beds without being discovered.