On the Importance of Strong Female Characters

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From the Women’s March; Seattle, WA; January 21, 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.

As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without a doubt—that the strong female characters we see on screen and read about in books really do have an impact on us and how we view ourselves, each other, and our roles in the world around us.

What would General Leia do?

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These three signs caught my attention, but you couldn’t swing a pink pussy hat without hitting a Leia Organa reference. Considering that Carrie Fisher was a badass in real life, this is not surprising. If the dead really do get to hang around and see what the living are up to, I’d like to think that she got a giggle from the “Carrie Fisher sent us” sign.

I’d like to think that she’d be proud to be our rebel leader.

Are you ready to be strong?

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Fans of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer not only know where the words on this sign come from, but many of us can recite the entire speech—if we can get through it without crying, that is. Submitted for your misty-eyed pleasure:

For people like me who rarely view embedded videos in an article, here are the highlights:

They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power…From now on every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

-Buffy Summers

A whole damn lot of us made our choice and are ready to be strong.

And then there’s this:

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The picture says it all.

Xena will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Xena poster I hung on my wall to remind me not to take any shit, particularly from real-life Joxers.

I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I was a big Xena: Warrior Princess fan and he responded, “You know Xena and Gabrielle are lesbian icons, right?” Well, I hadn’t actually known (naïve me, I guess), but the only troubling thing about finding out was this guy’s tone and his obvious suggestion that there was something shameful about being a lesbian icon. Fuck that noise.

So here’s the thing…

The articles reminding us that one march isn’t enough are already flooding my feeds—as well they should. Marching is great, but there is more work to be done. There are the things we can all do as citizens; then there are the things we can do that are more personal.

I’ve always known that the presence of strong female characters in fiction is important, but this march solidified for me what a great female character can inspire in real life women. As a result, my dedication to writing these characters has been renewed. I intend to contribute as many badass women to the fiction world as I can because…well…I can. And of course, I don’t want to do it in some pandering political way—obvious and boring as hell to read—but in a way that’s honest. A way that inspires.

I suppose I can call it my duty. I prefer to call it my privilege.

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Excuses, Excuses!

“What’s your excuse, now?” you might be asking, and you’d be within your rights. After all, every time I’ve been quiet on the blog, or the internet as a whole for that matter, I’ve come back with some flimsy excuse as to where I’ve been, but this time the excuse is a good one. I promise.

Yes, I’ve been trying to find balance in my writing life again, but this time it’s because I’ve landed a new paying day gig. It’s a technical content writing job and it’s actually kind of perfect for me. It is also particularly significant because landing a full-time job was the final piece of the puzzle before feeling like I really live here. Driver’s license and registration updated: check. Registered to vote: check. Employed by a company in the Greater Seattle Area: check. Though I rarely have to commute (working remotely is nice, I’ve got to admit), there’s something about being able to complain about the traffic with the other commuters that just makes me feel like part of the community. Of course, I realize that as a transplant, I’m actually a part of the traffic problem we face.

There’s also the issue of getting the most out of the few remaining days of summer. It’s no secret that I hate going to the gym. I’d much rather get my exercise from an outdoor activity. So while I still have enough daylight to hike a trail or skate (inline) around the park after work, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. There are plenty of short, cold and rainy days on the horizon that will find me on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Or maybe I can just suck it up and learn to be cold and wet in the dark.

I really hate the gym.

But time marches on. Summer is almost over and autumn is upon us. Aside of perhaps having to return to the gym (I say “perhaps” because I’m seriously considering that cold and wet in the dark thing), I’m excited for fall. I’m ready for hot cider and Halloween. Fall is also my most inspired and prolific time of year, which is good because I have a lot to do.

And if I can find that elusive little critter called balance, you might actually get to hear about it.

This Is Just How It Goes Sometimes

It’s always good to hear from writers when things are going well: when a project has been picked up or published, when momentum is strong and daily word count is high, when there’s sage wisdom to impart. These posts give all of the rest of us hope that we’re not wasting our lives (and advice about what to do when we’re banging our heads on the desk, feeling like we are). These posts are necessary.

Also necessary are the posts that say, “Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this.” Well…

Hey, writing is awesome. It comes with some great rewards, but a lot of the time it’s more like this:

Let’s talk about those works in progress.

I wasn’t quite done with 13 Morbid Tales when I started keeping notes for a novel. In fact, I often had to remind myself to focus on the task at hand; 13MT had a deadline and the novel did not. Nevertheless, I was chomping at the bit to start typing away at my new—clearly brilliant—idea. So, with 13MT finally finished and out, I sat down and began working on this wonderful new project…

…and it was just bad. It was hackwork wrapped in cliché, skipping down Redundancy Road. I put it aside until I could bring something new and fresh to the table and went back to the drawing board.

It was as if the new idea was already there. It was so much better, so much darker, than the dreck I’d just put aside. Chapter one flowed from my brain through my fingers to the page in record time. This was it! I was on fire! I was telling everybody about it!

Guess how long the cursor has been sitting on the first page of chapter two. Actually, no. Don’t. It’s embarrassing. Also, I think I hate chapter one. “It is not going well, friend. It is not going well,” I answered when a friend asked. I do, however, have some great notes—for a third freaking novel. Yeah.

I’m seriously starting to think that I have a fear of commitment when it comes to writing novels.

Let’s talk about that job search.

I’m still in pursuit of a full time writing job: firing off resumes, applications, and cover letters. In some instances, I’m taking writing tests. Now, I like writing tests. Writing tests are good. They keep me sharp and, since it was literally illegal for me to retain samples from my last writing job, they give me a chance to prove myself in the face of my relatively slim portfolio.

Keeping that in mind, it makes it sting all the more when the writing test doesn’t result in further interviews. I get that job hunts as a whole are full of rejection, hundreds of people applying for the same job. I get that the writing life as a whole is full of rejection, hundreds of manuscripts on the same desk. But holy crow! Combine the two, it’s like Rejection-palooza over here.

I can remind myself that, this is just how it goes sometimes, all day long. Eventually, the doubt sets in and I ask myself why in the world I chose to be a writer. Then I remember that thing I’ve said many times before and will say many times again, “I did not choose the writing life. The writing life chose me.”

And in the end, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

How Does It Feel?

I’ve been getting this question a lot since putting out 13 Morbid Tales. Of course, my very first answer to this question is, “Freakin’ great, dude!” And that’s no lie. The feeling of accomplishment was a high that lasted for weeks. And the support? Oh, sweet lord, the support! As I explained to a friend, I’d prepared myself for bad reviews, hate, and being pelted with rotten tomatoes. The “What If” monsters in my head even led me down a spiraling path that ended in townsfolk chasing me with torches and pitchforks. What I hadn’t prepared myself for was the outpouring of love and support. From people boosting the signal online, to folks hooking me up with events, to all you crazy cats who took awesome pictures of my book in various situations when your copies arrived…I’ve been so overwhelmed with support I’m still on cloud nine and I cannot thank you enough.

Of course, negativity can still come at any time, and a part of me wants to stay vigilant because that crap only gets you when you’re not looking, but the bulk of my torment comes from my own psyche. Surprise, surprise.

That said, there have been some drawbacks in this overwhelmingly positive time. If I’m being completely honest with myself, those are coming from me, too.

One of the greatest accomplishments of my summer (besides moving cross country) was getting active and healthy and into better shape to the tune of approx. 18 lost pounds, two sizes dropped, and sweet, sweet muscle tone. Well let me tell you, it doesn’t take nearly as long to start falling back out of shape again as it does to get into it. I’m not saying that putting my book out completely took over my life; it just provided a whole lot of excuses to skip the gym. Some were even legitimate. But since it occurs to me that I’m not publishing a book this morning, guess where I’m going once this is posted. Gotta nip this ass-in-seat-all-day thing in the bud before all the good I’ve done is undone.

I did drive myself a little nuts reading the book over and over (even though I swore after the final proof that I’d never read it again), allowing myself to get worked up over word choices and that comma I really should have used. I’ve been assured that I’m not the first writer in history to have done this.

In deep contrast, I’ve also had the burning desire to just move on to the next project. Sometimes, it’s really hard to keep your mind on the book that’s already out for the sake of marketing when all you want to do is keep the momentum going and start the next thing. I have started the next thing(s) and am anxious for the day I can do cover reveals and publication announcements for them.

All in all, though, publishing my first book feels great. It’s been a wonderful experience that I’m looking forward to having many more times. And again, I want to thank everyone who has made it so wonderful.

Read It: Haunted

Haunted coverI could not be more excited to announce that Haunted, a novel by my dear friend and intensely talented writer Reggie Lutz, is available for your reading pleasure!

And yes, I do mean pleasure. I was lucky enough to beta read this book. More than once I found myself so engrossed in the story that I forgot to do my beta reader job and had to go back. Yeah. It’s that good.

So what’s it about?

Gwendolyn McTutcheon can’t move on even though she’s been dead for a year. Having left behind a grieving husband, Evan; and three sisters, Trudy, Bethany, and Sarah; she knows there is work yet to do. 

Sarah, Gwen’s youngest sister, is back in town to help her two remaining sisters confront a depressed Evan about settling Gwen’s will. Still grieving—and raw from wrongful accusations made by Trudy and Bethany that he’d murdered his wife—Evan must set to the task of putting the past, and Gwen, to rest. But not all of the past stays in the past when Sarah offers her help and a romance between her and Evan begins. After all, it was that inappropriate kiss years ago that sparked the notion he might have harmed his wife in the first place. 

As Gwen watches, unable to intervene, Trudy and Bethany keep secrets of their own, secrets that level the field and make Sarah consider coming home to stay again. But when an arsonist sets his sights on Evan’s bar, Duard’s, and Sarah’s life is threatened, Gwen knows she must find a way to intervene, for her family and for her own peace. 

So, you know….

Buy Haunted for Kindle

Buy Haunted for Nook

Buy Haunted on Smashwords

Got it? Yes? Great!

I’m also thrilled to announce that Reggie and I have teamed up on a project that’s coming along swimmingly. We’ve had moments of wowing each other and surprising ourselves and just generally having a great time telling a story. It’s been fun living in our post-apocalyptic dystopian world and we can’t wait to invite you to hang out with us there.

Soon, my pretties. Soon.

On that note, I have some work on that project to go do now.

But seriously, buy Haunted. You won’t regret it!

It’s Autumn!

Hello faithful readers!

Yes, I’m still here. I’ve not been spirited away to another dimension. I’ve not been fighting my way through a labyrinth to save my little brother from David Bowie (although, how cool would that be?!). I’ve not had one of my notorious “f*ck this sh*t, I’m going off the grid” hissy fits. It’s actually been a decent time with a lot going on, and of course, in the midst of all of it, I have–once again–neglected the blog.

*Flogs self.*

So, what exactly is it I’ve been up to? Well, I’ll take a break from flogging of myself to tell you (in no particular order).

1. Making Room for a New Addition

When we were first approached with the idea of taking the last kitten from a neighbor’s cat’s litter, I intended to stand firm on being a dog person.  Since our place is too small for the dog breeds I prefer (Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, Huskies), I was sure we were going to remain pet-free for the time being. Then I met said kitten. Needless to say, my husband and I took the little guy. As it turns out, I’m an animal person. This is actually a shock to no one.

Salem is really adorable when he plays.

Salem is really adorable when he plays.

Of course, having been raised with dogs, I went into full research mode on the absolute best way to care for a feline since I knew nothing about doing so. And of course, being a bit of a germophobe who has now read all about what kinds of little nasties cats can carry (honestly, I just wanted to research when and how often to get him to the vet and what kind of things to have the vet check for. I had no intention of feeding my paranoia), our whole home had to be purged of junk, cleaned and disinfected from top to bottom, and kitty-proofed, because cleaning up after an animal is easier when you don’t have to move piles of junk just to get to the mess. And keeping a place in a certain state of cleanliness (and perhaps sterility) is more easily done once working with a clean slate. In truth, the Great Purge of 2013 needed to happen anyway, but our little Salem motivated us to get it done. So, a car load of donation stuff, 4 big bags of trash, and numerous containers of bleach wipes later, kitty has a very clean, much more open place to wreak havoc.

*Pats self on back for being such a good pet parent, instantly flinches from touching the flogging wounds. Humility restored.*

2. Partaking in Fall Festivities

I know, I know! I was attending various fairs and festivals when I should have been writing! How could I do such a thing?

*Still stinging from first flogging. Not doing it again.*

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel, Fall Fest 2013, Misquamicut Beach, RI

The view from the top of the Ferris wheel, Fall Fest 2013, Misquamicut Beach, RI

It’s been told to me by many writers and various other artsy folks that it’s not so much about writing what you know as it is about drawing from life experiences.  So I had some experiences.

There are few things I enjoy as much as walking around a festival, fair, or carnival. The rides. The food. The excitement in the air. It all makes me feel just a little more alive, and for me, that is vital to my writing.

Which brings me to…

3. Writing

Autumn tends to be my most prolific time of year. Summer travel obligations are through. There’s no paralyzing depression brought on by a long Winter. There’s no desperate desire to do anything but sit once Spring ends the cabin fever. And, of course, being a dark fiction writer, Halloween brings endless inspiration. You can’t swing a cat (sorry Salem, I’ll quit using that expression) without hitting some sort of creepy festivity: haunted corn maze, haunted hay ride, haunted house, etc.

So, even though I run to all of these festivities, I end up getting a lot more work done. Does that mean I don’t have trouble with my writing in the Fall? Oh hell no! I have a short story in the works right now that’s kicking my butt. I think I’m on the fourth re-write now and still don’t have a presentable first draft. I really do feel bad every time I tell my critique buddy it’s still not ready. But it’s being worked on and that’s what matters.

That said, faithful readers, you’ll be seeing some creative stuff from me soon.

Until then, I will leave you with a photo of my front yard.

Happy Halloween, readers and fellow bloggers!

Happy Halloween, readers and fellow bloggers!

One Day

Photo Credit: Kelly Rowles,
Pix|elation Photography
(link below)

I am living a lie.

It’s not an interesting lie. I’m not an international spy. I don’t have some second family secreted away in another state. I’m not a princess playing a peasant. No, it’s much more mundane than that. I just had the privilege of learning that the life I’m living is not the life for which I was meant.

Last weekend (so yes, I am a bit late on this post), I had the extreme pleasure of getting to model my gorgeous wedding gown at the MayFaire Moon Corsets and Costumes fashion show at Dorian’s Parlor. On that one day, I met some incredibly talented, beautiful, and overall wonderful people who embrace—no—live their creativity. It was that creativity, buzzing like an alarm clock all around me that woke me up to the fact that I’ve lost my creative self in the day to day life that I’ve been living. On that one day, the Universe bestowed upon me a moment of clarity necessary to change my perspective.

Right now, my life is very much about the daily grind, and getting done with everything that needs to be done to pay bills or keep promises. It’s not that my daily life is that bad.  But what became so clear to me in the presence of all of those fabulous people, is that they truly live their creativity while I always seem to put mine on the back burner. The life I keep telling myself I’m working toward is the one for which I never seem to have time. At the end of the day, after all of the other deadlines and expectations that my daily life requires are met, my own expectations are the only ones I can blow off without any repercussions.

Or can I?

The repercussions are that I’ve not met the goals that I’ve made for myself. Blowing myself off is why 13 Morbid Tales still isn’t finished. Blowing myself off is why I can’t lose that last 10 pounds (okay 15). Blowing myself off is how I’ve created a life in which all I have to look forward to is more of the daily grind that was never meant to be anything more than a means to an end. Blowing myself off is the reason that I look in the mirror and see that I’m a stranger in my own life, feeling trapped like a prisoner by that damned daily grind!  And this goes beyond finding balance. I tell myself that if I’d just “find a balance” all of this would work out, but it doesn’t. Telling myself this lie is just another way of making light of the issue and giving myself permission to blow myself off even further, as if finding balance is a simple fix that I have all the time in the world to make. And while I continue to tell myself this lie, the life I want continues to pass me by.

I’d like to make some declarative statement that “I’m done with this!” and move on, but this is something I frequently struggle with, and I tend to find myself in need of that one day to put it all back into perspective. I am so grateful that every now and then I get that one day to put me back on track. I owe a very special thank you to all of the amazing and creative people in my life who never fail to make that one day possible when I need it the most.

Now for the end-of-blog-post questions we have all come to expect, recognize, and dare I say, love: What is your ideal one day? What kind of things help get you back on track?

Also, please give some love to these fabulous people:

Photography – Pix|elation Photography
Clothing – MayFaire Moon Corsets & Costumes
MUA – The Changeling Room