Saturday, September 20, 2014

Perfect heroines

I am bemused these days about the craving for heroines who have no flaws. I was brought up in the era where heros and heroines started out one way and ended up another after grueling physical and emotional trials. It seems that nowadays many readers want their heros to arrive full-blown perfect and kick ass and take names. And not only that, they also have to be slim, beautiful with flawless skin etc etc...

My heroines are flawed. They can be selfish, stupid and really annoying. and yet they move through the narrative looking at themselves critically and finding better ways to relate. In other words they change in the course of the story. What would be the point of  having them start out as all powerful? And why would I want to read about an all powerful heroine who is a cardboard cut-out? The answer is, I don't, but apparently a lot of people do!

Is it the era will live in now that readers look for this in their books? Even a friend of mine, an older woman, admitted that she couldn't relate to one of my protagonists because she wasn't young and/or able to walk through her life without bumbling. And this heroine is older, not thin, with many problems.  I guess I can understand it in YA books, because the kids reading them need someone to look up to, but even in that case wouldn't it be better to have a vulnerable heroine who is more like the reader and ends up winning in the end? If a heroine (or hero) is too perfect how can we ever aspire to that? Because to my mind fiction is where we find out about ourselves and learn how we want to be in the world. My question is, how have we gotten here?

We live in a world of chaos now, bombarded with stimuli from dawn to dusk and even beyond if we live in a city and hear sirens and traffic etc...Many of us feel vulnerable, lost and afraid, unsure where we are going in a world that doesn't have time for our concerns. Cell phones and other electronic devices keep us isolated. Hours spent on the computer where we think we're talking with 'friends' by posting give us a false sense of community. It's a made-up world of no substance. It makes sense that we want assurance in what we read. I understand.

But again, my contention is that if we don't have flawed heros who rise up and confront their problems, fate and destiny, we will not understand how to do that ourselves. And of course, as a writer I find this trend frustrating. I won't change my writing to accommodate this--I simply can't. I only hope for readers who appreciate someone who is less than perfect but also able to overcome their difficulties.

Thanks for reading and any and all comments are very welcome!

Friday, September 12, 2014

twisty trail into the wilderness

As I child growing up on a farm in Virginia I followed barely visible trails through the woods, picked persimmons off trees and ate them, studied crawling creatures as they marched through leaf detritus and up and down tree trunks. Watched a snake move through dappled shade. I was gone from dawn to dusk, lost in a world that was completely magical. That was back in the days when children were allowed to run free. No worries about being kidnapped or snakebite or anything else. My parents trusted that I was sensible enough to recognize danger.

Being an army brat I traveled to all sorts of areas during those developmental years, including other countries. Wherever we were I found some out of the way place to explore, whether it was the housing complex in the process of being built to beckoning forests that stood dark and mysterious. I lived in Berlin when the wall was being built, ran away from home and came up against a barbed wire fence in the middle of a bridge. I found my way home again. I owe my imagination and my writing life to those who trusted me enough to let me out of their sight. Without that freedom I wouldn't have learned to build castles in my mind.

I'm disturbed by what I see happening with children these days. Kept busy with after school projects and other organized activities, they are no longer given the time to become bored. Because it is boredom that forms ingenuity, allowing minds to come up with some make-believe game or story in their mind that leads them into the world of the imagination. Why has boredom become a bad word? It's part of life. In many places children are not permitted to walk a mile to school. Is it really so much dangerous or is it the media that has instilled this terror in the minds of parents? Yes, there are predators out there and yes, children have been kidnapped. But is this a good enough reason to keep them so busy with organized activities that they can't experience the world around them? I'm not advocating putting children into danger, only discussing how anything can be taken too far. I feel for those parents who are worried all the time.

With everything that's happening across the globe, from disappearing species to polluted water and air, as well as all the practices that are taking away our green spaces, it's more important than ever to allow our children to participate in nature. They get sick more often now and I've heard it's because they're too clean! Let them play in the dirt instead of watching a video game inside a pristine house. Take them to a farm so that they can see animals grazing and rooting in the ground. Let them pick up spiders and snakes and worms. Let them play in mud and cow pies! They'll have more immunity as well as a better understanding of the world they live in.

Our children are the future and if they live plugged in to one video game after another, never understanding what nature has to offer, we will see the end of what makes this world so amazing and magical. Without appreciation the world outside our window will die.

Rant over.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

changing tunes, or taking a different trail, or shaking it up--Marketing

Just to be honest at the outset, I'm tackling a subject here that I don't know much about--the dreaded m word that every self-published author fears.  I'm working on book seven now and have been hoping that sales will pick up because of so many books in the marketplace, but alas, I still have not found my tribe. This year I've spent more money on this, doing newspaper ads here in Tucson and paying for ads online. I've also found two or three places that for a nominal fee will tweet an ad for your book. is one of them., a site based in Dublin, does reviews and features books for a nominal fee. Also has an awesome blog with many tips for writers.

A problem that I have which may not be your problem at all, is that I sign up on these sites, pay with paypal and then forget about them--apparently my mind has no follow-up ability. And following up is VERY important! (especially if money changes hands)

When posting on FB, blogging or tweeting, try and be consistent. By that I mean do it often, not do it the same. I've heard that posting early in the morning or late in the evening is the best time to reach readers. And don't just advertise yourself, try and expose who you are aside from being an author. And interact if you can with whatever subjects interest you.

 I'm still struggling with Twitter when it comes to this. I guess it's the hashtag thingy that I find somewhat confusing. Maybe you can start a sort of thread by adding # whatever? and then see who responds...just putting a tweet out there doesn't seem to do much since I've posted questions that get no answers. For some reason I'm getting more and more followers and I'm not sure why. I'm muddling along with it and trying day by day to figure it out and respond in kind.

Facebook is an entire other world. I haven't been posting on my author page and have been told that I should. And according to my source, this should happen five to eight times a week! Doesn't always have to be about the books, in fact it's better if it isn't. (confusing, right?) I see people filling up the page with automatic posts. I do not want to do that no matter how entertaining they might be. If I personally do not have time to look something up and then post about it, forget it.

All in all be yourself.

Thank you for reading and I appreciate any and all comments!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

for your eyes only

How do we draw people to our blogs, or to any of our writing, for that matter? I've tried over the years to pick things of interest to other authors starting with interviews with self-pubbed authors and ending with my own unfolding process. I hoped to help others avoid the pitfalls I've gone through. I don't know if something has changed in the internet world but any comments on my blog have been dwindling down to, well...nothing. Maybe it has to do with not enough time in a day to go on several FB groups, Goodreads and Twitter as well as write. ( and there are so many other places to waste time on the internet!)

Is there so much out there now that people don't have time to read blogs? Or possibly my audience knows everything I've been sharing and is thus bored with what I have to say. Or maybe I just don't know how many people are actually reading it! I've noticed that I don't read as many blogs as I once did. When I first started this one I read a ton of them every day and made sure to leave a comment on each one. Now I read no more than 3 or 4--

With Instagram, something I know NOTHING about, things seem to be speeding up even more. I can't go that fast nor do I want to. I use adverbs and adjectives when I write, anathema in this current time of pared down writing. I feel that adverbs can be necessary to convey meaning. For instance 'he folded his jacket and placed it on the back seat' versus, 'he folded his jacket carefully and placed it on the back seat'--I grew up in a slower world. I agree with many of the new rules and try my best to not go overboard with descriptives, but if we have none it's like building a utilitarian bridge--the writing has no grace. I never did like Hemingway's writing style.

How did I get on this subject? I'm not really sure--maybe it's my ongoing search for my tribe. I know they're out there but how do I find them? I sincerely believe I am not alone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Trials and tribulations of trilogy

This post is about the difficulties an author can encounter in writing the third book of a trilogy--or I suppose the last book of any series. Unless you're the type of writer who has outlined the entire story and knows what will happen in each book these rules will apply. And since I'm what's known as a 'pantser' I do not fit in the aforementioned category.

1. Staying true to what you've already written--no matter how much you wish you hadn't put in the bit about (fill in the blank), it is down in black and white and there is no denying it.

2. Adding new characters--don't know if I read this somewhere but from my standpoint adding a bunch of new characters into the last book of a series detracts from the ones you already have and can be confusing. (Game of Thrones notwithstanding).

3. Making sure the plot is not the same as the first two--each book of a series in unique and to repeat plot lines is boring despite how hard it is to think up a new one. Try and make book 3 unique and a surprise for your readers.

4. Making sure the characters stay true to who they are--if Mary has been a scatterbrain in book 1 and 2 it makes no sense for her to suddenly become organized--unless there is a major reason why and this transformation is part of the plot.

5. Adding background material--adding background material for one or two characters who have not been previously developed is okay as long as it doesn't end up taking over.

6. Weaving in what has come before--as hard as it is to do, a writer needs to act as though each book is a stand-alone. This can be done in a prologue or just woven in artfully as the story unfolds.

In the course of writing book 3, these 'rules' have come to my attention, plaguing me. But to look at things positively, the story line has been laid out already--all the author needs to do is to finish it. Sounds easy, doesn't it?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

help with writer's block

I am stumped at the moment with my third book of the Gypsy series. I've decided that I cannot under any circumstances use the same plot themes of last two books--and so, what to do? that's why I've decided to put the question to those of you who have read Gypsy's Quest and Gypsy's Return. I now know the end but how to get there is a wilderness filled with thorny bushes too dense to move through.

Who would you like to see more of or learn about in this last book?
1. Kafir
2. Rifak
3. dragons
4. Vanatru
5. Loki/Freyja
6. Brandubh
7. Ella
8. Satyrs
9. Gypsy
10. Gunnar
11. you fill in the blank

Is solving the dilemma of having a child and the man she loves far in the future enough to sustain your interest in Gertrude's plight? Is the craziness going on in the future getting tedious? Time-travel is a tricky business and I've thought of several plot possibilities but have discarded them due to paradox or various other confusing issues...I've consulted Einstein's theories but I'm not a scientist! (nor a science fiction writer) I may just plow ahead, paradox or not, with one idea that interests me...if it doesn't work out I'll discard it to. Better to keep writing, I tell myself. Surely the characters will come to my aid like they've done in all the other books.

Thanks for any and all ideas!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Themes raised in the Gypsy series

These are the first two books in the Gypsy series. A third is in the incubation stage but should be in the works very soon. The setting is the fictional town of Milltown, Massachusetts and a Norse world far in the future. So what are the main themes of these books, you ask?

One of the main protagonists, a woman in her early fifties, has written a book to help change the future for the better but finds out it's had the opposite effect. (Yes, this is a time-traveling story and includes a magical boat called Gypsy.)

Somewhat dystopian and/or post-apocalyptic, this series is about how the present can impact the future in various unforeseen ways. The narrative is told through the two main characters who have been separated by time. Their love story is what underlies the rest of the themes, that and the child who was thought to be dead.

In addition to the two main characters, Norse gods and goddesses, dragons, and a sorcerer move through this bleak future doing whatever suits them. But the economic hardship created by a repressive society run by corporations, the loss of clean water and food, and technology run amok, have put this world at risk.

So how will this situation be resolved? I don't know the answer to this yet but I'm hoping to find out as soon as my characters give me the green light. They run the show--I'm only the conduit.

Name suggestions for the third book, anyone?