Posted on February 24, 2014
(Walking down the hall in the direction of the guest room, holding a tray filled with “healthy” stuff)
“Hello, to my wonderful followers, and anyone else who may have wandered in here off the street… Michael Bowler is in my guest room this morning. He arrived late last night because he was volunteering his time at the local juvenile hall. (I know, what a guy!! Kinda in awe, myself!!) Michael mentioned to me last night while he was drinking his Guava juice at the kitchen table, that he is very opposed to the one-size-must-fit-all mentality that society has in regard to children. He feels it is the bullying of children by adults in their lives. I agree with him fully.”
(Stops in the hall beside the guest room door)
“Michael is my new friend. And I’ll put it this way: I fell head over heels into friendship with him!!”
(Pushes door to guest room open with the tray and glances in)
“You noticed!! I redecorated. I thought this would be more fitting for Michael—I mean, whimsical worked for Raine O’Tierney, but feast your eyes on this—and, no, I’m not referring to Michael, himself!! As you can see, he sleeps in only his workout shorts and well, he works out a lot. Rumor has it 7.5% body fat…yeah, I know…”
“Oops, sidetracked!! Feast your eyes on my newly decorated guest room. Cool, huh?”
(Seeing Michael is still asleep steps back into the hall)
“Michael is a lot of things I’d like to be. He is brave and bold, as you will see when he addresses you, and he is extremely intelligent. (Not that I’m less-than-intelligent.) We’ve talked a lot—late night chats on Facebook and even on the phone—I needed concrete proof that he was real.”
“He is. Real, that is….you all saw him with your own eyes.”
(Tiptoes into the guest room and places the tray on the table made out of a tree limb. Whispering now)
“It was difficult to get that tree in here, let me tell you. Anyways, my friend Michael is better than real. He is a world class volunteer; from what he’s told me, he has spent years donating his time as a Big Brother and, for thirty years, volunteering in the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles. A passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens—that’s my friend Mike.”
“Good morning, sleepy head. Rise and shine.”
“Oh, sure, I’ll pass you your T-shirt, but there’s no need to be shy—I have lots of guests!”
(Steps closer to the bed and passes Michael his shirt)
“You liked the mosquito netting? I thought it would set the mood…you are rather a natural sort.”
(Glancing at Michael’s arms, but trying not to stare)
“My, my… you have very prominent veins on your forearms, just saying.”
(Blushes and retrieves tray)
“I made you your favorite: Heritage Flakes with almond milk…I mixed in some protein powder, like you asked.”
(Wrinkles nose in distaste, thinking about donuts. Places tray beside Michael on the bedspread)
“How about if you eat the cereal, and I tell our friends a bit about you?”
“Here’s a little blurb about Michael’s book, Children of the Knight… Shall I read it?”
According to legend, King Arthur is supposed to return when Britain needs him most. So why does a man claiming to be the once and future king suddenly appear in modern-day Los Angeles?
This charismatic young Arthur creates a new Camelot within the City of Angels to lead a crusade of unwanted kids against an adult society that discards and ignores them. Under his banner of equality, every needy child is welcome, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or gang affiliation.
With the help of his amazing First Knight, homeless fourteen-year-old Lance, Arthur transforms this ragtag band of rejected children and teens into a well-trained army—the Children of the Knight––where even gay boys and gangsters work side by side. Through his intervention, they win the hearts and minds of the populace at large, and gain a truer understanding of themselves and their worth to society. But seeking more rights for kids pits Arthur and his children squarely against the rich, the influential, and the self-satisfied politicians who want nothing more than to maintain the status quo.
Can right truly overcome might? Arthur’s hopeful young knights are about to find out, and the City of Angels will never be the same.
The Knight Cycle begins . . .
(pulls napkin from bathrobe pocket and hands to Michael)
“No need to gobble it down, dear, you might choke!! I have more things to show them, so while Mike slowly eats his banana, check these out…”
Runner Up (Eighth Place): Best LGBT Books for Young Adults
Finalist under Best Books for Teenagers
“I must say, Mr. Bowler, I’m experiencing a tad of jealousy…”
“Do I have a soap box you can stand on? Why, no, but there’s a stepping stool in the corner… Will that work?”
(Picks up stool and places it beside the bed. Watches as Michael steps up)
“So, you are going to address the readers from up there? No…no…it’s not a problem at all… but be careful not to fall…it isn’t very steady.”
(Pushes aside mosquito netting and drops down onto the bed. Looks up at Mike)
“And without any further ado, please focus your attention on Michael Bowler.”
One Size Does NOT Fit All,
(Or Why Bullying Has Become Institutionalized in America)
America doesn’t just permit bullying – America encourages it. There, I said it. This is a sad, but very real truth that mars an otherwise in-so-many-ways great country. Every day we hear more and more horrific tales about kids bullied ceaselessly in school or on the Internet, some to the point that they can take no more and commit suicide. Was there bullying when I was a kid? Yes, and I was a victim in elementary and middle school. Has it gotten exponentially worse, and not simply commensurate with population growth? Yes. And based on my observations, here are a few of the reasons.
First off, what constitutes bullying? Is it always the kid being kicked or punched or called names or mocked or who has his stuff stolen or his lunch tray upended in the cafeteria? No, though these are common examples. But these and so many more abuses are the symptoms, not the disease. They are learned behaviors taught to children by the adults around them, and the media, and our politicians, and our school system, and our justice system and our sports teams, and, well, just about every institution in America. So let’s look at the continuum of bullying from where it all begins – in the home.
Do some parents intentionally bully their kids? Yup. Disturbing, but true, and these stories pop up every day on the news, especially parents who bully their children for being gay and either drive them from the home or blatantly kick them out. I’ve personally known kids like this, and it happens all the time. Very often parent-run organizations like the Boy Scouts of America engage in forms of marginalization and bullying. Only this year did the BSA remove a ban on gay boys being scouts. For all the years before, the impressionable BSA membership was taught that gay kids were bad, or dirty, or somehow less than human, and that’s why they couldn’t be scouts (and were kicked out if their “dangerous” nature was uncovered.) If that’s not a flat-out recipe for bullying explicitly taught by parents to their kids, I don’t know what is. And the BSA is only one parent-led organization. There are hundreds out there that teach the same. When adults make anyone in the population sub-human in the eyes of other kids, bullying results. After all, “those” kids are not “real” humans like me, right? See how easy it is to think like a Nazi?
These are overt examples. Are there also many ways parents unintentionally bully their kids or model it for them? Yes, and in large part it’s due to that “one-size-must-fit-all mentality” dominating the country. If parents don’t like a certain sport, football, for example, and have a son who does, those parents will say whatever they can to belittle his ambitions in that arena because they don’t like it. Or if a boy wants to be a dancer and his parents tell him that’s not for boys, or a girl wants to play rough sports like wrestling and the parents keep insisting that’s not for girls, or, or, or . . . The list can be endless.
Parents all too often think their children should be exactly like them in every way, or that their children must fit the “norm” in order to be successful in life. A kid may want to be a teacher because he or she wants to give back to the community and work with kids, but parents will often try to force him or her to be a doctor or lawyer or banker because those are more lucrative professions, and more money always makes people happier, right? Wrong. None of us are ever truly happy unless we can be who we are, not who others think is better or more “normal.” Period. Sadly, all of this “bullying” stems from thinking of kids as part of a group first and as individuals second, when it should always be the other way around.
Some parents pimp their kids out as models or entertainers so they can make money off them, whether the kids actually want to do those things for themselves or not. That’s a form of bullying all too common these days given the prodigious amounts of money that can be made in entertainment or sports. I’ve known many kids forced to do sports they didn’t like or play an instrument they weren’t interested in or follow a career path completely against their own wishes, all because one or both parents wanted to brag about them and, to a large extent, control them. A rose by any other name is still a rose, and so is a bully. But since it’s parents, it’s okay? Shouldn’t be.
In my Children of the Knight Trilogy, institutionalized, as well as personal bullying, is brought into the light of day in a quest to gain more human and civil rights for kids in America. As my main teen character tells an important group of adults in Book III, “Your kids aren’t little mini-me’s. We’re real people, different from you, with likes and wants and opinions of our own. We don’t need to be brainwashed to be successful. All we really need is for you to show us how to think, not what to think, and how to make good choices, so we can grow into good adults. How hard is that for grownups?” Apparently in America today, it’s very hard. And make no mistake, brainwashing kids to be copies of adults is a major form of bullying. How can it not be? You’re essentially telling a child he or she isn’t good enough the way he or she is, that he or she must be like you to be of value. Wow. That’s crazy.
Since children spend huge portions of each day at school, this is the most fertile ground for bullying. This is where kids who’ve learned the techniques modeled by their parents at home actually get to put them into practice. Do schools condone it? Not officially, but since the “one-size-must-fit-all mentality” is the driving force of education in this country, bullying is permitted. It helps keep the riff raff in line, the kids who dare to be different, who have the affront not to fit the norm, like those Goth kids and those emo kids and those heavy metal kids and those annoying-as-hell skaters and, of course, everyone’s favorite target, those kids who dared to be born gay. Sadly, too many adults turn up their noses at kids like these, or openly disdain them. I saw it first hand where I taught high school. Hell, those were the kids I loved the most, and they were quite often the most creative and innovative in their thinking. But no, that’s wrong according to the education system. Everyone must be rote, must memorize the same common information, must learn exactly the same way, must think inside the box – if they’re allowed to think at all. This is institutional bullying at its most disgusting.
Look at the standardized testing the kids must endure, all of which tells little about the ability of an individual child except his ability to memorize information or, in the case of the SAT, regurgitate that info within a set period of minutes (as though success in college is determined by speed.) Those tests don’t allow students to analyze, or more importantly, synthesize what they have learned, and every student as an individual will do these things in his or her own unique way if encouraged to do so. Variety of thought and expression should be celebrated in education – instead it’s bullied out of kids starting in the first grade when everyone must conform or else.
Here’s another brief moment from And the Children Shall lead, Book 3 of my Knight Cycle: “Ricky described some of the crimes against children that had been sent to them from all across the fifty states. Some were seemingly small, like parents browbeating their son to participate in a girl’s quincienera against his will, even though that commitment required him to give up all of his free time for two straight months. Others were downright preposterous, like a school suspending a first grader because he bit his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, or the middle school boy who’d been suspended for dying his hair green and the school ordered him to go back to his natural color or he’d remain on suspension, or the first grader suspended for kissing a little girl’s hand.
Other episodes would be clear violations of the First Amendment if the accused had been an adult, like the case of some American kids in a California school who got suspended for wearing American flag shirts because the principal was afraid it would offend the immigrant students. There was a middle school in Florida that went to court to stop students from starting a Gay Straight Alliance – a public school actually using the court system to bully kids. There were stories from children who’d been beaten or abused in foster homes or government-run group homes, kids who were bullied nonstop at school for being gay and the school would only “talk” to the bullies; there were kids who got punished by their parents for listening to “the wrong music,” and even kids in high school who got suspended for bringing their own lunch from home because they were required to eat the school food.”
Just recently, an international student from China whom I train at the gym told me he accidentally violated a school rule he didn’t know about – he was eating food in the student common area. An unfamiliar teacher saw the infraction, marched him down to his counselor, and pointed at him like he was Adolf Hitler, saying, “This one was eating in the common room. Take care of it.” She wanted the boy disciplined by the counselor, who then proceeded to chew him out for breaking the rules. Couldn’t this have just been handled with a simple explanation by the teacher that eating wasn’t allowed and thus he needed to take his food outside? But no. The boy was presumed guilty of willfully violating a school policy and bullied by both the teacher and the counselor. Welcome to America, my friend, land of the free and home of the bullied.
And of course, in the fall of 2013 there was this egregious, inexcusable bullying by a school principal of a boy who did a stupid, childish prank:
“A popular 15-year-old student has committed suicide after he reportedly faced expulsion and could have been placed on the sex offenders’ register simply for streaking at a high school football game.
Christian Adamek, from Huntsville, Alabama, hanged himself on October 2, a week after he was arrested for running naked across the Sparkman High football field during a game. Sparkman High Principal Michael Campbell told WHNT a day before the suicide attempt that the teen could face major repercussions because of his actions.
‘There’s the legal complications,’ Campbell said. ‘Public lewdness and court consequences outside of school with the legal system, as well as the school consequences that the school system has set up.’ Campbell added that that the incident was not just a prank and needed to be treated seriously.
Sparkman High administrators even recommended that Adamek face a hearing in the Madison County court system to determine if formal charges would be filed, WHNT reported.”
The principal had Christian arrested, and so frightened the “A” student with the fear he would have a criminal record for the rest of his life that the boy panicked and killed himself. Schools bully kids every single day with their zero tolerance policies toward any behaviors they don’t like, behaviors that pretty much define why kids are kids and not yet adults. I met a middle school boy in juvenile hall who’d given a small pocketknife to a friend of his on the school bus and forgot about it. The friend got caught with the knife at school, told administrators who he got it from, and now this quiet fourteen-year-old learning disabled boy with no criminal record sat with me in juvenile hall facing adult felony charges for handing off a “weapon” to another student. In California, he could be prosecuted in adult court and sent to prison for that “offense.” Insane!
And for the record, that principal in Alabama should have, at the very least, been fired and at the most banned from any future job involving kids. He’s the sex offender here, the real criminal, not Christian. And so is the principal of the school that had the fourteen-year-old I met arrested. Shameful.
America needs to wake up and face the war it’s waging against her children. Look at our juvenile justice system. I spent twenty-five years in the public school system, and thirty within juvenile justice, and kids are bullied, denied rights, forced by cops to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, assigned attorneys who do nothing to defend them and just allow overzealous district attorneys to ram their cases through and send them to prison. This is institutional bullying at its most despicable, and always because there’s money and prestige to be accrued with incarceration and long sentences meted out.
Where’s the media in all this? The media is supposed to have our backs, right? Sadly, it actually encourages the demonization and bullying of kids. All the kids I know who’ve gotten arrested and appeared in the newspaper were labeled “monsters” and declared guilty by virtue of having been arrested, rather than being considered innocent until proven guilty. Why? Because the cops and the D.A. said they were guilty.
Which brings us to bullying by omission, something the media, schools, and adults in general are very much engaged in. Why are kids who get in trouble with the law so vilified by a public that doesn’t know any of them personally? Because the media allows the bullies in law enforcement and the district attorneys offices to malign those kids, and there is no effort made to get the full story out to the public. Reporters simply repeat what is told to them, print or broadcast it like it was fact, wallow in their ratings for being as lurid as possible, and as a result, often innocent kids, or kids for whom there were many extenuating circumstances, are now tarnished for life, despised by a general public that knows nothing of substance, and then sent to prison for life to be forgotten. I depict this form of bullying, and that of the railroading justice system, rather vividly (I hope) in Book II of The Knight Cycle, Running Through a Dark Place.
And while we’re talking sins of omission, why does bullying occur with such frequency on school campuses? Because teachers, administrators, coaches, and even campus security officers are so caught up in their own little worlds that they ignore what’s right in front of them, or maybe even privately condone it. My Gay Straight Alliance kids would tell me how often they or someone else would be called “faggot” in class within earshot of the teacher, and the teacher would simply ignore it. “That’s so gay” was flung about with frequency, or kids were called stupid or fat or retarded, all of which was ignored by the adult in charge. By disregarding these behaviors, the teacher, or any adult within range, has given tacit approval that the behaviors are acceptable. The only way to stop such behaviors is to confront them head on. Ignoring empowers, and empowerment means the behaviors will increase.
Parents do the same thing by not standing up for everyone’s right to have respect simply by virtue of being human, even famous people or politicians. One can, and should, talk to their kids about inappropriate behaviors people do, behaviors that hurt others, so their kids can learn how not to act. That’s fine. But because we might disagree on someone’s political point of view we often lash out and demonize that person’s very humanity, and our children pick up on these attitudes. There are some people in this world that can rightly be called evil, but that is a super strong word and should not be bandied about carelessly. Most politicians or celebrities we dislike are not evil – they may be dumb or misguided or just flat out wrong, but not evil.
Even such throwaway comments exchanged between adults such as this one I saw on Facebook teach children to bully: “Same sex couples shouldn’t be able to adopt because their kids will get bullied for having two moms and two dads.” What did the parent who said this just teach his child: If you know kids with two moms or dads at school they are fair game for bullying. Sadly, the most narrow-minded parents are the ones who spout off in front of their kids the most, and then the next generation of bullies is created.
Children take all their cues from adults who surround them, starting with their parents and teachers and coaches. If we want to truly reduce or eliminate bullying among the young, we the adults have to model the right behaviors, not once in awhile, and not just with people we like, but always and toward every human being. And all of us adults must do this, from the poorest to the richest, from the most famous to the least famous. We need to keep our own prejudices to ourselves when in the presence of children, or better yet, grow up and realize that all prejudice is stupid and, as history has repeatedly shown, always leads to acts of evil.
We cannot stand by and watch anyone being bullied. It doesn’t matter if the victim is a total stranger or our own child. Telling kids to “man-up” in the face of victimization is the height of stupidity. Kids need to be empowered, not mocked or ridiculed. And the bullies need to be called on their behavior every single time. As a teacher, this was often a daily battle because the name-calling was so omnipresent. If that means we have to stop what we’re doing to address it, that’s what we do. Human beings and their mental health had better take precedence over any subject we might be teaching because if they don’t, we have already failed.
My Knight Cycle Trilogy doesn’t explicitly deal with one-on-one bullying, but does show the long-lasting trauma of parental and governmental bullying of children, both gay and non-gay. The series attempts to illustrate the points I make in this blog, that in America’s now obsessive quest to make every child fit into the same exact mold, we as a country have collectively become “The Bully.” Children who grow up in fear will not do a good job running the country. Teach them basic human values and let the deeper stuff come with age. Teach them to respect everyone no matter how different. Teach them how to work together. Teach them how to not waste anything because wasting is wrong. Teach them to look out for each other and not stand by when someone is getting hurt. If we adults model these simple behaviors, as King Arthur does in my books, the children will learn them. And the future of this country will look a whole lot brighter.
“Thank you for the guest post. I like the way you concluded with some possible solutions. There is hope for change.”
(Wipes the drool from chin)
“And honestly, I was completely mesmerized by what you were saying… Bullying is a major theme in my new release, The Red Sheet, as well. Do you happen to have an excerpt from Children of the Knight?”
THE knight, with Lance clinging tightly to his back, stopped at the edge of the Los Angeles River, and the two of them gazed down into the dry, concrete riverbed. The river was really more of an aqueduct and, depending on rainfall totals, seldom had much water coursing through it. The horse neighed approvingly.
“You weren’t shittin’ me about a long journey!” Lance exclaimed, sitting up to get a better view.
“Hold on tightly,” the knight intoned as he flicked the reins, and the muscular white mare began her descent to the riverbed below. Lance felt nervous and afraid atop such a large animal, but somehow the presence of this strong, confident man eased his fear.
“Does, uh, does your horse have a name?” he asked, trying to quell the nervousness in his voice. This descent was steep, and he wanted nothing more than to plant his feet firmly on cement. He was a street kid, after all.
“She hath been given the name Llamrei, after my first mount of long ago,” the knight replied, his tone wistful, filled with longing.
Something about his melancholy tone silenced Lance. The mare reached bottom without even the slightest misstep and began trotting along the riverbed, halting at an enormous entrance to the storm drain system, which wound underground throughout the Los Angeles basin. This cavernous maw looked large enough to drive a van through without hitting the top.
A huge metal grill guarded the entrance to the drain, but Lance noted that the aged lock had recently been broken. The knight reached out and grabbed one side of the grill, backing his horse to slowly ease it open. The metal screamed with disuse, and the sound sent chills down Lance’s back. The dark, gaping orifice threatened to envelope him, and his stomach pulled up into his throat.
“We, uh, we’re goin’ in there?” He fought to keep his quivering voice steady.
The knight turned as best he could to the boy behind him. “Have no fear, young Lance.”
Lance instantly bristled, his pride winning out. “I ain’t afraid! It just don’ look like no home ta me.”
The knight merely nodded. “It doth be mine at present.” He gently spurred Llamrei forward into the dark, forbidding tunnel, pulling shut the grill as they entered, and sealing them within.
Lance watched warily as the knight extended a gloved hand outward, grasping an old, weathered torch from a small alcove. With his other gloved hand, he dug into a leather pouch hanging from the saddle and extracted a pinch of some kind of powder, sprinkling it atop the torch. Flames sprang instantly to life, causing Lance to gasp with surprise as its flickering glow cast weird shadows and reflections off the man’s armor. He gazed in wonder. That looked like something out of a movie! Who was this guy anyway?
The knight noted the boy’s wary look and smiled to put him at ease, forgetting for the moment that his helm obscured his features. “A mere trick, my boy, taught to me long ago by M—by an old friend.”
He turned forward again and spurred his horse into the darkness of the tunnel. The man’s quick change of subject was not lost on Lance. What had he been planning to say? All his street instincts told him to leap down from the horse and hightail it out of there and never look back. None of this made any sense, not here, not in his city, not in his sorry life. And yet he didn’t jump. He didn’t run. There was something about the guy…. Growing up as he had, Lance had a good gut when it came to people. No, this guy wasn’t out to hurt him or kill him or….
No, don’t even go there!
No, he decided as they trotted along the dark, dank underbelly of the city, this guy would not hurt him. But if he didn’t want to hurt him, then what the hell did he want?
The two remained silent as Llamrei trotted fearlessly along the damp and drafty storm drain. There were no sounds save the clop, clop, clopping of her hooves against the lichen-covered concrete. It surprised Lance that the horse seemed so comfortable underground. He always thought most animals, himself included, preferred above ground to below. She must be used to it, he surmised, which meant the guy was telling the truth. He really did live here.
Suddenly, Llamrei stopped. Lance had been so lost in his musings that he hadn’t realized they’d left the tunnel to enter an enormous chamber.
“We doth be here,” the knight announced, drawing Lance back into reality. As the man deftly dismounted, Lance’s eyes bulged wide with wonder at his surroundings.
The immensity of the underground chamber awed him. It appeared to be some sort of central hub from which a multitude of tunnels branched off, disappearing into darkness. Lit solely by the light of numerous torches imbedded within the concrete walls, Lance gazed in amazement at what appeared to be the central hall of an old castle, the kind he’d only ever seen in books. What the hell? There wasn’t such things in LA!
He observed bedrolls lining the walls and disappearing down each branching tunnel, furniture like old tables and chairs, but all wooden and rough-hewn and not like any modern stuff he’d ever seen. There was even a big-ass throne of some kind with huge arms and a really high back set against one wall, like right out of a frickin’ old movie! What the…? And then his eyes fell upon the weapons, and his face lit up with wonder. Spread out before him were racks upon wooden racks of weapons—swords of all shapes and sizes, shields, short-handled dirks, knives, longbows and short bows, and arrows and quivers.
Carefully, eyes pinned to the armory before him, he dropped slowly off the horse, allowing his skateboard and backpack to fall to the ground unnoticed. Heart beating wildly with excitement, he stepped forward into this wonderland, gaping in astonishment at the sight before him. He slipped the hood down, allowing his long brown hair its freedom. He just shook his head in awe.
“Wow!” was all he could think to say, hurrying to the nearest of the weapons racks and gingerly touching some of the swords. He gripped the leather- bound hilt of a large broadsword and struggled vainly to heft it over his head. The blade alone was almost five feet in length.
The knight turned to observe Lance grappling with the weight of the sword and smiled as he recalled his own first attempt ages ago. He couldst almost believe that time so long ago had been merely a dream, or that perhaps this time beith the dream. Yet he knew the truth—he’d known it the moment he’d awakened in this foreign land—both time periods were real, and once again he had a crusade to mount, one greater and more significant than his first. And this small, longhaired boy battling the weight of a sword nearly as large as himself… well, this boy was the key.
“Wonderful…and as you know I’m reading it right now…so no spoilers. Do you have buy links?”
“Thank you so much for the guest post. I like the way you concluded with some possible solutions.”
(Lifts a folder from the bed)
“Oh sorry, Mike, the powder room is right down the hall, first door on the left. While you are gone, maybe I could share these reviews? I think my friends would like to hear the buzz—you know, what people are saying—about Children of the Knight.”
“The story becomes better page after page and at a certain stage you can’t put the book down until you arrive at the end. It is a very moving story and makes you wonder about how good our society really is and whether we care enough about the weak links in it.”
–Kim Anisi for Readers’ Favorite
“It is most difficult to read this novel and not feel the need to speak-up and take action. I know I have a heavy heart and bear the shame of being a member of society that has failed so many children.”
–Neil on Amazon
“This novel was stunning. As a nation, we are making our children disposable, writing them off as nothing worth saving and treating them like adults in a judicial system riddled with corruption and, worse, a simple lack of caring.”
–Sammy on Goodreads/Amazon
“I think there is every human emotion packed into this story. This is the first in a series and it is amazingly powerful.”
– Jerry on Goodreads
“Growing up, I knew far too many kids just like the ones in this book. I was one of them. These characters are real and heart-rending.”
–Giovanni, former foster child
“Who, but the children, fight FOR the children! If I could make this required reading in all schools, colleges, book clubs, etc.. I would in a heartbeat. My 15 year old son is reading this now and it had raised so many questions from him, questions I am so happy he has asked.”
–JoAnn on Goodreads
“I did cry but I liked the hope that was given and I felt attached to all of the characters. I want to read more now.”
–Blaze on Goodreads
“Children of the Knight is one of those stories where you start reading saying to yourself “that’ll never work” and then 6 hours later you put it down sobbing, having read one of the best young adult books currently in publication.”
–Josh at Greedy Bug Book Reviews
“I loved the way characters were brought to life and allowed to experience all emotions, including uncertainty, jealousy, shame, anger, happiness, and love. All of them, especially Lance, made an impression on me and I’m not likely to forget them anytime soon.”
–E. Summers on Goodreads/Amazon
“Children of the Knight is a great story, well told. Bowler’s take on the material is bold and original. His ability to create exciting, suspenseful action scenes while keeping track of a huge cast of fully realized characters, each with his/her own background and storyline, that makes Children of the Knight a must read for both YA and adult readers alike.”
–Steve on Amazon
“Children of the Knight is one of the most emotional books I have ever read. I am not usually overly emotional when reading, yet at various times during the novel I found myself laughing, cheering, feeling terrified for the characters, and even almost crying. This is one of the few books I would recommend to anyone and everyone.” – Ashah at The Broken Bookshelf
“I laughed. I cried. I felt. Simply put, this is easily one of the best books I’ve read in the past five years. Bowler’s writing invites readers to truly hear water dripping and shots going off, truly feel sneers and snarky comments from peers, truly witness and experience injustice in its most disturbing form – one involving children. This book will call you to action on behalf of our society’s “optional children.” If you read anything this year, read this book.” – Nora at Only God Writes Trees
“Those are quite impressive, Mike, if I don’t say so myself. What’s that? You’d like to sleep a bit more? Oh, that’s no problem. You want me to put the mosquito netting the way you had it before? Of course. But before you go back to sleep, I’d like to thank you for spending the first part of your morning informing us about why bullying has become institutionalized in America.”
(Steps away from the bed)
“Sleep tight, Michael.”
(winks at Michael, who is already softly snoring, and leaves)
Posted on February 23, 2014
Here is a sneak preview about what you will be missing if you miss tomorrow, MONDAY FEBRUARY 24, 2014 BLOG POST. WHICH IS FUNNY and INTERESTING and even a little bit IN-YOUR-FACE!!
You will miss veiny forearms.
You will miss workout shorts.
You will miss a brave and bold, not for the feint of heart, guest post by this man, Michael Bowler, about why bullying has been institutionalized in America.
You will also miss an excerpt from Michael Bowler’s awesome book- that I am currently reading and LOVING- Children of the Knight.
And worst of all, you will miss a healthy breakfast.
COME and VISIT US TOMORROW!!
Posted on February 20, 2014
I am going to level with you, my very dear group of forty (or less) followers and guests, as well:
THE RED SHEET IS MIA KERICK.
Bryan Dennison is a bully and I am definitely not.
(I am eating M & M’s for breakfast…this can’t be good.)
He is a popular high school athlete. I was neither.
(Should I have left spaces, or should it be M&M?)
He is also a gay teenaged boy. And I’m not.
(M&M looks more “right” than M & M, so…)
So why is The Red Sheet PURE MIA KERICK?
(They are Red Sox M&M’s- I had to special order them)
It is because of the way Bryan Dennison thinks.
(I LOVE THE BOSTON RED SOX!!!)
Random thoughts pop into his mind.
(I am really angry at Jacoby Ellsbury for going to the Yankees!)
Bryan and I share a similar sense of humor.
(Go ahead, Jacoby, leave me like Johnny Damon did…)
The “changed” Bryan and I see the world similarly.
(Johnny Damon broke my heart when he left and donned the pinstripes.)
We see it as a place that is funny and ironic and sometimes cruel.
(And I named a cat after him- JEEZ!)
We believe that people–and the world–can change for the better.
(I booed Johnny Damon when he returned to Fenway Park for the first time.)
We both believe that we should BE the change we want to see in the World.
(I should have just held my tongue- after all, it wasn’t a personal decision on his part.)
I try so hard to treat other people the way I would like to be treated- to be helpful, and kind.
(I am sorry Johnny! I won’t ever boo another athlete…or anyone, for that matter.)
Trying to be the change-
Posted on February 19, 2014
Posted on February 18, 2014
Tiptoe-ing into the guest room…
“Oh, good. You’re awake. I brought you tea and…cookies. I stayed up all night baking them. I burned a few…oh, okay. I burned most of them. But the ones on the top of the pile should be pretty good.” I place the cookies and cup of tea on the bedside table.
“You don’t have to get out of bed, as long as you are in Mia’s Guest Room, it’ll work just fine…oh, you want your dachshund slippers?” I bend over to pick them up off the shaggily carpeted floor. “Here you go! No, no let me…”
I gently slide a slipper onto each delicate foot.
“Now you look more comfortable, Raine. Are you ready to start? Great…mind if I sit at the foot of the bed?” I push a couple of pillows onto the floor and sit down. “By the way, I love your Mumford and Sons T-shirt–super cool! So, uh…whenever you are ready…”
After a sip of tea, a nibble of a cookie, the FABULOUS Raine O’Tierney clears her throat.
“I’ve been thinking a lot lately about social networking and how utterly stressful it can be for a brand new author. When I take off my tiny hat and my hot pink glasses and my faux mustache and become regular ol’ library lady, I love getting on and seeing what my co-workers and colleagues are all up to! I like to comment on their photos, chat with them, ‘like’ particularly witty posts—it’s all very easy and natural. When I have to do the same thing as Raine O’Tierney? It sometimes becomes a challenge!
When I received my first contract last year, I knew I was going to have to network. So I got myself all set to go onto the major social networking sites and I stepped into the world, friending other authors, and I was immediately hit with feelings of panic and inadequacy. It was like changing schools mid-year and walking into a cafeteria where everyone is already friends!
So I stood there with my proverbial lunch tray, not knowing where in the world to sit, eventually finding a little corner by myself and wondering—was it always going to be this way?
The answer is NO. No, it won’t. I know it’s hard feeling like the newbie and the odd man out, but it will get easier. I’ve made some KICKASS friends and I’ve learned some lessons along the way. If you’re feeling alone, consider the following pieces of advice that were given to me:
And the biggest one (and hardest for me!)…
Know this—you’re not alone in how you feel. (Most) all of us have felt this way to varying degrees. It’s hard to believe when you first walk into that cafeteria, but you really are part of one of the coolest, most supportive groups in the world! Give it time, you’ll find the whole cafeteria is yours.
(Thank you, Mia Kerick, for having me on your blog!)”
“Oh, Raine, you are so very welcome! It was my pleasure!”
“And you are absolutely glowing this morning.” (Don’t you agree, audience?)
“Is that a gift for me?” I lift a book from the deep mauve bedspread. “Your very first short story? Under the Table and Into His Heart! Well, sweetheart,” I lean toward the top of the bed and hug my guest blogger firmly, “I am speechless. I mean, you didn’t have to do this…but I’m so very glad you did!!”
Under the Table and Into His Heart by Raine O’Tierney
At the Under the Table host club, Valentine’s Day means one thing: cash. Neglected housewives, newly ex-girlfriends, and lovelorn thirtysomethings pay for the attention of handsome men. Shy bartender Jem has always wanted to be a host, and when the club’s owner, Miss Rye, accepts a contract from a MensLove Convention, Jem volunteers to flirt and make out with another host for the ladies’ entertainment. Bailey, an older man who’s had his eye on Jem, convinces Miss Rye to let him be Jem’s partner, and everyone gets more than they expected—especially Jem and Bailey.
“It was just playacting,” he said emphatically, hoping to make it true. His breath escaped in a little white plume that quickly dissipated on the night air. No. No, it wasn’t.
“Maybe for you.”
Bailey had slipped through the door unnoticed, so that when he spoke, Jem started. He turned on Bailey. “All of that—the kissing—it was real for you?”
“You… like me?”
No one had ever liked him in his whole life. Tolerated him, for the sake of Renzy, yes. But liked him? He could remember standing next to Renzy at school, while his brother received one love confession after another from the girls in their class. They had faces so similar they could almost have been identical twins—if not for the eyes. Renzy was always the one people were drawn to.
“I can take it back if you want,” Bailey said quietly. “If you think I’m too old. Or if you’re not interested in being with a man. I’ll say I was joking just then, and we can pretend it was just a job.”
“You can do that? Just pretend?”
“No. Not really. I doubt I’ll be able to delude myself after tasting you. But for your sake, I can try. All you have to do is tell me that you want me to pretend.”
Cover image and author photo
Attached in the email! J
Raine O’Tierney is an always-writing, boundlessly enthusiastic, exclamation point addict! (!!!) She is known for declaring every day “the best day EVER!” and every thing her “all-time FAVORITE!” Despite this (obnoxious?) exuberance, she still somehow manages to have a wonderfully encouraging husband, Siôn, (who also writes M/M rom!) and an amazing group of friends and colleagues who continue to support (read: put up with) her. Raine spends her days working as a library lady, fighting the good fight for intellectual freedom.
Website and social media links
Posted on February 17, 2014
My very first overnight guest, Raine O’Tierney, will stretch out in the bed shown below and discuss the stress of social networking for new authors.
I will try to reduce her stress by feeding her Chamomile tea
and Russian Tea Cookies that I will stay up all night baking.
You don’t want to miss Raine in her fuzzy bathrobe… and I hear that she has dachshund slippers.
I will continue this post…tomorrow.
Posted on February 16, 2014
One of the greatest things about being an author is that I can, through my stories, encourage readers to think about things differently. Maybe even radically differently.
At the most basic, there is this: I write M/M romance. I write YA M/M romance. My goal is to have YA LGBTQ romance mainstreamed into all YA romance, which is certainly a challenge, but quite achievable. You see, I want young adults to think about romance differently. I want them (gay, lesbian, bisexual, straight, transgender teens) to see love as love.
Not gay love or lesbian love or het love, but simply love. I dream of the day that a romance is just a romance, without qualifications. That is thinking about romance differently, is it not?
I have written YA and adult novels that encourage readers to think about family in a less traditional way. In fact, most of my novels deal with the concept of a “family by choice.” Brett and Corey, in Beggars and Choosers, come together as family, as they truly have no one else in their corners. In A Package Deal, Tristan and Savannah come to Robby as a “package”; not in the traditional sense of a threesome, as their bond is not sexual. They are bound as a family of choice by shared experiences, total commitment to each other, the building of mutual traditions, and time spent together. One of Out of Hiding’s primary conflicts is the need and willingness to accept others as your family, even at the risk of your heart.
In my YA novels, the flexible concept of family is also evident. In Intervention, Kai belongs to a strong family unit, and Jamie to a dysfunctional one. Kai’s family extends their love to encapsulate Jamie, and that sense of secure belonging allows Jamie to flourish. Not Broken, Just Bent also deals with the concept of family, as each character must recognize that, although their family units are far from traditional, they work, and are valid. Clearly, my goal is for readers to open their hearts and minds to the concept that simple love and commitment are the basis of familial bonds.
Another issue I hope readers will look at with new eyes is the essence of communication. Sometimes speaking directly just doesn’t work to express your love, hurt, anger, frustration or fear. Through music, dance, and art Kai, Dario, and Jamie are able to express emotions that words just can’t touch. Look at self-expression in a new way!
And finally, I hope to encourage readers to open their hearts to non-traditional ways in which love can function, and function with purity and innocence and beauty. This relates closely to the concept introduced in A Package Deal, the emotionally intimate love shared by three people, and a theme that I will continue to explore in future works. At its basis, is the question, “Who makes the rules for love?” Who is the powerful one who gets to say- ONE MAN and ONE WOMAN equals a LOVE RELATIONSHIP?
I say, there is no all-powerful being who cares to use his/her energy to dictate the exact equation of what comprises love. Why can’t three or four people (or whatever number of people) come together with a sense of fidelity, commitment, romance, and innocence, if it works for them? Why is that considered somehow kinky or perverse? If the love is pure and the participants are satisfied, who is to say that it is wrong? I encourage my readers to see these types of non-tradtional love relationships as potentially perfect.
This is a release week for me. The Red Sheet, that comes out on Thursday, February 20th, asks you to see the concept of a miracle as a possibility. A complete overnight personality change? Can it happen? Are you able to open your heart to see things with new eyes?
Posted on February 12, 2014
I have been so freaking busy. Seriously. (This is weird…it is kind of like having a REAL JOB!!!) In any case, I have been writing guest posts for blogs and review sites I am going to visit (for my release of The Red Sheet) like it was the reason God put me on Earth. In between writing guest posts, I have been doing edits for my next book for Harmony Ink Press. And in between all of that raising kids, drinking champagne with Mr. Mia, still not cooking decent meals, a little Face-booking, and emptying the dishwasher. And feeding cats. There it is…I have summed up my life.
Next week, I plan to do a post right here about FLASH MOBS!!! I am probably a little bit too excited for this. So stay tuned.
Here is where I’m going to be over the next few weeks, in the incredibly likely event that you start missing me desperately and you crave a few words of “Mia wisdom”:
PLEASE VISIT ME!!! (and maybe you can win some fun stuff!!)
Here are a few of the AMAZING PROMOS that my wonderful assistant Beckey White has created for the release of The Red Sheet.
I’m thrilled beyond belief!! There are many more promo pics to come, so keep an eye out for them on Facebook.
Leave me a response– I’d love to hear from you!!
Back to writing my guest post about miracles…
Posted on February 10, 2014
Posted on February 9, 2014
Cody Kennedy is an author I have come to admire over the past year for creating convincing YA characters who have great depth, as well as for devising I-can’t-put-down-the-book-although-it’s-2AM kinds of plots. I thoroughly enjoyed Omorphi and then Safe back in the fall of 2013, and since I was having trouble waiting for the release of Tharros, the sequel to Omorphi, I searched around a bit to find another work of Cody Kennedy. On Cody’s website: http://www.fairybycodykennedy.blogspot.com, I found a serial story, Fairy, and set about reading it in its entirety over the course of several days.Here is my 5 star review:
Fairy by Cody Kennedy should be a full-length novel.
Now that I said that, I feel better and I can offer my honest review.
I have never before read very much fantasy, as I feared I would not be able to relate to it. But because I enjoyed Omorphi and Safe by Cody Kennedy so much, I decided I would read his serial story, Fairy, from his website. Lucky for me, Cody had already written 20 chapters, so I wasn’t forced to wait for each of these segments to appear on his website. And I’m really glad that I got to read twenty chapters in only several sittings, as I was able to get a sense of Fairy as a more complete work.
Well, I was wrong to worry that I mightn’t be able to relate fully to the experiences of the characters in this fantasy story, because, thanks to the main character Merry’s authentic voice, I found myself able to know and care for him from the very first chapter. Merry is a character with whom I, and anybody who has experienced bullying at the hands of others, in particular in a school setting, can relate to. He is a young man who spends a lot of time feeling as if he is in some way less than others. His internal language was exactly as I would imagine a shy, insecure, and persecuted, but somehow still self-respecting, teenage boy’s voice should be. (I am at my happiest as a reader when I truly believe in the character; when I can picture him thinking and feeling and saying the words I see on the page.) And, yes, there was fantasy… and there was world-building, but nonetheless, I had no problem connecting with Merry.
Speaking of world-building, at different points in my reading, I often stopped to wonder just what the landscape looks like inside the author’s brain, because what he put down on paper was imaginative and colorful and sparkling and original. And in regard to his fae characters (I hope that is the right way to phrase it), each was rich and quirky and brilliant. I know them well, in particular Lady Sadb, and in her case, I know people like her and I will admit to not being their biggest fans. Maybe in future chapters she will redeem herself.
Quinn, the fairy prince, leaves nothing to be desired as a hero. And he is the kind of hero I like best, tortured in his own right, but fully selfless when it comes to the one he loves. I like it best when Quinn reminds Merry to stop being so hard on himself.
The greatest strength of Fairy, in terms of taking me to another place and holding me there, which is ultimately why I read, was Cody’s use of language. With the fairy language, which sounded to me Gaelic and old-fashioned, the writing was consistent and believable. I admired the intricacy and the flavor that never wavered. Writing in that kind of dialect must be very challenging.
Fairy is a wonderful YA serial story–filled with color and imagination and problems we all can relate to that make us pull for the good guys. There is more than a touch of sweet and poignant romance. The story is simple, in some ways, but quite complex in others. And so, on that note, I will not conclude by labeling the first twenty chapters of Fairy by Cody Kennedy as a fulfilling portion of a “YA novel”, but instead I will call it a heartwarming serial story (maybe someday a novel?) filled with the hope for better days, from which all readers, young and old, can benefit.
Posted on February 7, 2014
Posted on February 4, 2014
Readers connected with Philippe in Out of Hiding. Here’s my proof:
Sandy says: Ms Kerick does a fantastic job with her character development. We fully understand where Philippe’s pain comes from and can sympathize with him. So much so that I may have shed a tear…or two. Okay, more than two, but this poor broken man, who felt all alone, who thrived on being invisible needed someone strong to love him and care for him.
And Tina agrees: Philippe is so sad and so broken, I just loved his vulnerability and the great deal of love stored up in him.
Mare saw him very clearly and loved what she saw: I loved Philippe. I loved his vulnerability, his fears, the way he hid. I loved every single solitary random thought that he had in his head. I loved him. I loved how insignificant he thought he was, he was anything BUT insignificant. Philippe had a wealth of love stored up in him that he was so SCARED to let come out. I sympathized with him, I routed for him from beginning to end. I waited patiently for him to figure it out. I let out a breath of relief when self discovery was made. He’s so sad and broken really.
Christy also appreciated Philippe’s broken soul: Philippe is introverted, shy, vulnerable, scared, simple in his tastes, loyal, a free-spirited hippie, loving, smart, and completely adrift in his life with absolutely no idea who he is or what he wants. A shoulder injury has sidelined Philippe’s job as a commercial fisherman, and it is that, along with love for his brother and his niece, Sophie, that has him chaperoning her around New York City for a summer.
AJ phrased it simply: Phil- a very lost soul
TM’ comments showed that her grasp of the character was clear: …Philippe just wants to be invisible. After the death of his mother years ago, something inside him broke. He’s spent the last several years literally hiding out, until his brother talked him into chaperoning Sophie this summer.
Anna’s remarks let me know that I had hit a home run with my characterization of Philippe: The MC, Philippe, was quite convincing to me, his inner monologue rang true, and the telling of his story soon found me rooting for him, hard. His vulnerability was what struck me the most. I so adore a character who stands there and learns how to say what he feels in his heart.
And Kimber’s comments were simple and to the point but spoke very clearly: Phil was a lonely man who learned to turn off his feelings when his mother died.
PMG’s relates to his experience as a fisherman: This book takes place in NYC, and the fisherman, Philippe, is really a fish out of water. But Philippe is another of Kerick’s sensitive, damaged men, and he soon realizes that he can hide from all his pain as well in the crowds of the city as he can in the empty expanse of ocean.
Celina said: Philippe Bergeron thought he was pretty good at hiding away from the world. After his mom’s passing, he pretty much left it by taking up work with fishing boats and fishing off the New England coast for a couple of years. Lost among the stars and the sea, he worked on his armor and isolation.
But I think the most profound and rewarding words (to me as an author) came from CC: It has been a very long time since I connected so strongly, right off the bat, with a character written by an author who is totally new to me. ‘Out of Hiding’ is my very first Mia Kerick…I guess you could say I was a Mia Kerick virgin up until now. There was something about her writing, and about Philippe in particular, that just reached out and grabbed me in the most astonishingly visceral manner. I almost felt as if I’d been punched in the gut, and for someone who reads as much as I do, it was a very pleasurable change of pace.
Philippe is introverted, shy, vulnerable, scared, simple in his tastes, loyal, a free-spirited hippie, loving, smart, and completely adrift in his life with absolutely no idea who he is or what he wants.
How amazing it is to be an author. To create a character and to have him seen and understood, even cried for…and truly KNOWN by my readers. There is nothing better!!
“purple your profile for cancer survival”