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Other Side of the Pen: December 28th, 2015

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As a writer, as a freelance editor, as a reviewer… Well, sometimes Mia gets mouthy, and the fourth week of the month is when she’s gonna let you know just what she thinks!

Rescuable Commodities

Everything that I am about to say can be applied to any author, in any genre; but the issues I’m about to discuss I have found to be most prevalent in epic fantasy novels written by male authors.

Are you all sexists, or are you really just not any paying attention to what you’re doing with your female characters?

Epic fantasy is my first love, and that love is being sullied. As a book lover, a book reviewer, and a book editor…I see a lot of books. I’ve noticed themes in many of them, again especially epic fantasies, where the female characters seem put in there for the hell of it; because the author realized, ‘oh hey, I should probably put some girls in here.’ Or just needed those girls for the Relevant Lower Body Parts. Don’t try to fool me. I can tell.

If you have heard of the Bechdel Test, then you know this isn’t just about books but a broader problem with entertainment media. (Although in writing this article, I think I may have found a semi-sexist inherent flaw in the test itself…) For the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on the books. I am creating my own Females in Fantasy Test, which is a little more encompassing.

You must have at least ONE female character who meets the following criteria:

1. She must have a name.
2. She must be alive. (Even though dead characters in the back story can have great strength and impact on the living ones, we need one who is more than inspiration.)
3. Unless every character is a kid, she needs to be a grown up.
4. Her purpose in the book needs to be as more than a sex doll (in the pages JUST so male characters can have sex with her); a chew toy (in the pages JUST so she can be abused/sexually assaulted and/or to be rescued); or a broodmare (in the pages JUST to give birth to your More Important Male Heroes).
5. She needs to have more than a one-dimensional personality of a shrew or a doormat; like all characters, she needs to have good and bad traits and a personality that is her own outside of her relation to your male character/s.

Basically? She has to have a life and a purpose of her own, separate from the men. It is no different than how one should treat women in “real life.” Treat women and female characters like they are their own people.

The Majra Series by J. Simon is a fantastic example of this. The female main character even reflects on the women in stories often just being “rescuable commodities” for the heroes. She refuses to be “just” that, and your characters should too. It’s really not that hard, all you need to do is care as much about the character building of your female characters as you do your male.

Really, how many books have you read where the male characters are just there to be sexed up, or to be abused by women and tossed aside, or just to be “Dad” to the heroine but nothing more?

Both in the world your novel has created, and in the plot over all, your female characters need to be their own people. Is it really that hard? Is it really so difficult to make one character a female who actually is a character? Sometimes there are stories and worlds where it’s on purpose, but most of the time, it just feels like laziness, or anti-women issues. I have seen it in indie and Big 6 alike.

Oh, and let’s not get into history here. Tolkien is no excuse. He was writing from his very male-dominated generation. Writers today have no excuse at all.

I’m really not up on this soapbox to say that every book has to promote some “feminist” agenda. I’m just so tired of reading so many books where the author’s sexism, subtle or overt, and sometimes outright misogyny, is shoved in my face. I’m sorry, but as a woman, that is very grating to the nerves.

I think I’d rather read a book without any female characters at all than one that treats them like so many do.

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Nutmegs & the Charter Oak: December 21st, 2015

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Mia is from CT, and Adelheid is in CT…so, let’s talk about Connecticut!

Seafaring Connecticut

Did you know that Connecticut has a pronounced seafaring and whaling history? Today, you can visit the city of Mystic and see Mystic Seaport and learn about old whaling ships and the active past of its coast!

From the website: “Mystic Seaport is the nation’s leading maritime museum. Founded in 1929 to gather and preserve the rapidly disappearing artifacts of America’s seafaring past, the Museum has grown to become a national center for research and education with the mission to “inspire an enduring connection to the American maritime experience.”

The Museum’s grounds cover 19 acres on the Mystic River in Mystic, CT and include a recreated 19th-century coastal village, a working shipyard, formal exhibit halls, and state-of-the-art artifact storage facilities. The Museum is home to more than 500 historic watercraft, including four National Historic Landmark vessels, most notably the 1841 whaleship Charles W. Morgan, America’s oldest commercial ship still in existence.

The Museum hosts 250,000 visitors annually and has an active membership base of 16,000 from all over the Unites States and the world.”

That’s just a part of it, too. In Mystic, you can also see the Aquarium, which is home to the only Beluga Whales in New England. While I don’t get down to the seaport as often as I should, I’ve visited the aquarium many times. (I even went to the senior prom there. I had dinner and danced with Belugas!)

If you take a drive down to quaint Niantic, you can walk along the boardwalk on the coast of Long Island sound. I love driving along Main Street in the summer with the windows down and smell that salt air. These coastal cities in Connecticut house such a feeling of history, that’s it’s really a sight to behold and something powerful to experience!

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From Mia’s Desk: December 14th, 2015

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From Mia’s Desk will post the second week of each month and discuss something of interest to Mia, which she hopes others will find interesting too! It may focus on opinion pieces, literature (historical and current), or even movies–because a good story is a good story.

Beauty & the Geek

Anyone who spends any time around the internet has probably heard the term RPG, which stands for Role-Play Game. It’s used for many venues, but for me, I started out writing in “fandom” games by email and by message board when I was fifteen. I was already writing my own stories, but this was a far more interactive style of writing. I never wrote for canon characters, so I’m not quite in the usual “fanfic” world, but I did spend a lot of time in the worlds of Star Trek, Robert Jordan’s the Wheel of Time and Anne McCaffrey’s Pern. My characters and plots were always my own, however.

I am proud to say I’ve been a lifelong geek! I still do my RPG writing as my “hobby” writing.

How has this shaped my writing? In more ways than you might imagine.

It’s taught me how to work and write with other people, because I have written with all manners of people with all sorts of ideas and at all sorts of skill levels. Most people might think that this style of writing would attract “bad” writers who couldn’t hack it somewhere else, but that’s very far from the truth. It attracts people who don’t want to spend all their time on the writing path alone, and want to write with like-minded people. I have met some of the most fantastic writers in my games. (Including my husband, who I think is a better writer than me, and who forces me to write more and write better.)

I have had to learn how to plot and write on the fly, and to accommodate unexpected changes. When you’re writing with other people, sometimes they do things that you don’t expect and it does no good to throw yourself on the floor and have a tantrum. You just have to learn how to adapt your own ideas and roll with it, or learn the art of compromise.

This style of writing has fueled my imagination. It’s taught me the value of other points of views, types of plots and characters, and styles of drama. It’s helped me learn how to write different genres, perhaps stories I might not have tried before, and has given me challenges that have helped me grow as a writer.

Sometimes these challenges have been to write a character that I wouldn’t usually, for the sake of someone else’s plot. I’m forced to work and improvise in a character and plot that’s not my own. It’s stretched my creativity.

These days, I’m not role-playing as much as I used to, but I still do a lot. And a lot of my story ideas now have been influenced by stories I’ve written in my games. Ideas that never took off, or went in a different direction, or themes that I really liked have all resurfaced and been reshaped and written by me for stories I’m putting together today.

People may think of whatever they want of these types of games and of “fanfiction,” but the truth of it is that a lot of writers start here or in places like it. It’s fun and can help you grow as a writer, push you along the path of creative adolescent into the authorial adult you wish to become.

In the words of Alec Hardison (from TNT’s “Leverage”): “Age of the geek, baby.”

Live Long and Write!

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The Adelheid Chronicle: December 7th, 2015

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The Adelheid Chronicle will post the first week of the month to discuss interesting facts about the series, the setting, its creation, about current and future releases, teasers, etc.,

Adelheid’s Vampires Don’t Sparkle

How do you like your vampires?

Today, they come in so many shapes and sizes that you might as well be ordering off the menu at a drive-thru restaurant. “Would you like some sparkles with that?” They are now heroes, villains and everything in between. They’ve come a long way from the black and white creatures of Stoker’s immortal tale.

Vampire lore has existed forever and in nearly every corner of the world. Even countries without specific, or “standard,” vampire mythos have something like it. Historical figures such as Vlad Tepes (inspiration/title character for “Dracula”) and Elizabeth Bathory have been notably called “real life” vampires. Whether accurately accused of their bloody crimes or not, the legends persist.

The popularity of vampires today is not really anything new, but the popularity of the vampire hero is, from books to movies to television shows. It gives paranormal writers a far broader range of options.

So, what’s a writer to do?

Far be it from me to say that every paranormal writer is writing a cultural treatise. For most of us, it’s just fun. But there is a lot of lore to choose from and even more freedom to just make things up. (After all, no one has ever had a vampire knock on their door to tell them they got it wrong. At least, not that we know of.)

Do you want your vampires to sleep through the day, or can they survive in the sun? How about that silver allergy? Can they eat human food, or just humans? Can they shapeshift to wolf or bat or mist? Can they fly? How about if their faces change when they ‘go vamp,’ and what about religious items?

There are a lot of choices!

When I began writing my Adelheid series, I had read my share of old and new vampire fiction (cut my teeth on Anne Rice and P. N. Elrod, still adore Dracula), had seen movies and shows (from the popular Angel and Underworld to the less known Demon Under Glass) as well as literature on different views of vampires through history and around the world. I picked through it to choose what lore to combine into “my” vampires, and what would work with my stories the best.

I’ve gone further to create a setting where a law exists that makes vampires, and all the other supernatural creatures, legal citizens. I look at what might happen when a vampire has to be just like “everyone else,” obey human laws, and blend in with a society that until recently believed vampires were a myth and now meet with acceptance from some and hatred from others, even anti-preternatural groups like LOHAV: the League of Humans against Vampires.

And when it came to my supernaturals, I chose the best of both worlds: some of my vampires are heroes, some are villains and some fall in between. That’s how I like my vampires. Now, the question is:

How do you like your vampires?

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It’s the end of 2015! So…let’s give away stuff!

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Listen to grumpy cat, he knows what he’s talking about!

But seriously, folks, it’s almost the end of 2015 and with 2016 looming large ahead of us, I’ve decided to do a reader appreciation, end-of-year giveaway with a bunch of stuff. I think it’s cool stuff, but I guess you’ll be the judge in the end. 😉 This giveaway is gonna run through out the month of December, so please share the heck out of it. It’s open to everyone. Winners chosen in 2016.

The Prizes

One (1) Adelheid Prize Pack

One (1) Here, Kitty Kitty Prize Pack

One (1) Bellator Prize Pack

One (1) Amor Vincit Omnia Prize Pack

One (1) International/Digital Prize Pack

All of the physical prize packs are restricted to US/Canada mailing addresses, but there is an international prize pack with a bunch of ebooks and a gift card to Amazon. Every physical prize pack will have a physical copy of the book, sign bookmark, and a collection of book-related items.

There’s lots of ways to enter, so go for it, and tell your friends!

Enter the Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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