Anti-Feminist Characters?

I have received some pretty strange feedback since I made my novels public.

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Obligatory photo to be more appealing.

Everything from; “This was clearly written by a woman, but a woman with a good imagination.” Which, admittedly, cracked me up… to: “This novel is harmful TO women.”

Today I’d like to briefly address the latter comment.

First, some quick background information. I don’t like to identify as a feminist because I find third-wave feminism online to be very toxic and distressing. In third-wave feminism online I see a lot of hate, anger and bitterness and I don’t necessarily want to associate with that. Offline I am more likely to identify as feminist because I have a great deal of respect and love for first-wave feminism but third-wave feminism online is something I have tried to steer clear from.

Anytime I have spoken up online about my beliefs on certain subjects I have had the extreme left level me with insults.

So with that information in tact, just know that when I wrote my novel it was not with any desire to make a political statement. I didn’t want to write a feminist character or share a feminist message but in the same way I had no desire of sharing the opposite. My only goal in writing was to tell a fun story with characters people could hopefully relate to.

My main character, Kai, is a mixture of the women I know and love most in my life. People often mistakenly think I based her on myself but I most certainly did not. She also suffers from anxiety and a bit of PTSD. I’ve been told I demonstrated that VERY poorly but if I did, oh well. Kai doesn’t know what she has, she can only share her experiences in her own unique way.

Kai is also a spaceship ‘captain’. If you’ve read the novel, you know that title doesn’t really mean all that much.

And this is where the ‘your character hurts women’ comment came from. Kai is in a position of power (captain) and she’s not perfect, she’s not even very good at being ‘captain’ because she’s reckless and at times foolish, and this is not okay in the eyes of some third-wave feminists online (apparently).

It’s been over a year since I received that little inbox note and it still bothers me. Why do women have to be portrayed as super strong, incapable of error, perfect creatures in media? Is this the only ‘strong female’ that third-wave feminists will accept?

I think of Kai as strong and I see her as strong. She has all the same insecurities, doubts and even desires as any women I know, but she pushes through those things and lives her life. She doesn’t back down in the face of her anxiety, she doesn’t let her mistakes stop her from moving forward and she’ll go fist to fist with anyone who pisses her off. If she were a male character, she’d basically be Captain Kirk (with the same foolish away missions), so how is she a disgrace to women?

I look around at popular media right now and I see depictions of women I can’t identify with and I think it’s because content creators feel obliged to cow-tow to feminists like the one who inboxed me complaining that my novel ‘hurt women’ because my female lead was not powerful or smart enough.

I won’t ever cow-tow. I won’t ever politicize. I just want to tell stories with characters who feel real to me and others. I want broken, damaged characters who make horrible decisions and yet still manage to come out on top. I want characters who are good people but not perfect people.

I’m sorry if you feel my novel ‘hurts women’. I don’t think I’ll ever be famous enough for that to ever actually come true but even if some miracle happened and my words reached many ears, I don’t think anyone would read a fictional novel and think ‘women shouldn’t be captains because this fictional woman was bad at it’.

If my novel IS anti-feminist… so be it. I won’t change it to feed into some political agenda. It’s just a story, with characters I’m rather fond of despite their faults. And yes, it was a story that was clearly written by a woman but I had a hell of a lot of fun writing it and can’t wait to write more.

Peace!

The Importance of Leaving Reviews

When you imagine an author begging for reviews, you probably think of a self-published author. Generally you don’t see traditionally published authors asking for reviews, and this is because they have a team that does the asking for them and it all happens ‘behind the scenes’, where you, as a consumer, are left clueless.

In the self-publishing field we have to do all our own marketing.

Reviews are literally the lifeblood of our marketing. Word-of-mouth is everything in any industry, but as a self-published author reviews are how we prove ourselves. Our work is made or broken on the back of impartial reviews. But why are reviews such a big deal?

Make one customer happy and they’re happy, make one customer angry and they’ll tell everyone they know.

Reviews Get Us Noticed

On sites like Amazon, reviews determine how visible you are on the site. The more reviews you have, the more ‘items like this’ and etc. lists you’ll show up in. From a purely marketing standpoint, reviews are necessary.

Reviews Confirm Our Work

People have this idea that traditional novels are somehow superior because they’ve had to go through the process of being accepted by a traditional publishing team but let’s be honest, some traditionally published books aren’t good. Traditional novels aren’t guaranteed to be good, or even nicely packaged (I’ve seen some terrible traditionally published covers), but people think they are. Reviews are validation, they are our way of showing the wary reader that our work is worth their time.

“If you liked a novel the best way you can say thank you to the author is to drop them a rating and review”

Reviews Can Help

They can show us where we’ve taken a wrong step. Many self-published authors take this very seriously and go through arduous editing and proofing processes but others are perhaps a bit naive and think they can write and publish without any extensive editing process. Reviews are especially important to show us when we’ve skipped a step or missed something, but also to warn other readers what to expect.

Reviews are really our biggest and most important form of marketing. If you liked a novel the best way you can say thank you to the author is to drop them a rating and review on your chosen platform for such things.

Now, on a side note;

Be Thoughtful In Your Feedback

Back in the day, before I published my first novel, I read and reviewed a number of self-published novels. I was in a group specifically for self-published authors and I wanted to try and help them out as a reader.

I was open, honest, and sometimes brutal in my reviews. If a work was poorly edited (I don’t mean missing commas, I mean switching from first person to third in the same paragraph, breaking the fourth wall inadvertently and other egregious errors), if the story had glaring plot holes or errors, I would point these out.

I regret making these reviews public. They were fairly … extensive. More like a peer critique than a review in all honesty. I can’t imagine how rough it was to receive these in a public forum. At the time I felt it was my responsibility to let other readers know how poorly the novel had been prepared and honestly it was annoying to me that I had spent money on novels that were so horribly put together but I still feel I should have messaged the author privately and given them a chance to correct things behind the scenes.

Shortly after I released my first novel I received a number of private messages from well meaning people who had picked apart every error in my novel and wanted to let me know. Thankfully the errors they were finding were things like a missed comma here or a perceived missed comma there. I even had someone point out a ‘plot hole’ before finishing the story, a plot hole that wasn’t a hole because it gets resolved in the rest of the story. But they meant well and I appreciate that they took the time to try and help. I even implemented some of the edits they suggested.

I am forever grateful that they dropped this feedback in my pms instead of as a review.

Live and learn. Now that I’ve seen both sides I wouldn’t leave reviews like I used to.

Phew! This has been one mouthful of a post.

To summarize:

Please leave reviews. Even for traditionally published novels. It is the quickest and simplest way you can say thank you.

How do I write when I’m not inspired/motivated to?

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I frequent a variety of writing groups in my quest to improve and better understand the writing community. The most common question I see popping up from time to time is: How do I write when I don’t feel inspired/motivated?

The answer isn’t as simple as people might think.

As humans, our brains are each unique. What works best for one person, may not work for another, and that’s okay. Too often when I’m reading advice columns I see people giving concrete advice, as if each writer is a carbon copy of another and there can be no variation but that’s disingenuous at best and demotivating at worst for those writers who may be outside the mold.

So, as I answer the question, please know that this is what works for me. Give it a try, if it doesn’t work for you, you might need to find another way.

  1. Make writing a habit. Do it EVERY day. No matter what. Sometimes this will mean staring at an empty screen for thirty minutes and only writing ten words but it WILL get easier. Eventually your brain will learn.
  2. Try to always write in the same place. For me this helps because this space has become my ‘writing’ space and my brain associates it with writing. As time went on, it became easier and easier to write in that space, even when I wasn’t feeling like it.
  3. Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration, to me, isn’t a real thing. Inspiration can sometimes trigger the first idea that starts a project but once you’re writing a story, inspiration wanes. During the nitty gritty aspect of writing a story, there will be ‘boring’ spots, challenging spots, bits that make you groan because you’d rather be writing about explosions and excitement but those ‘quiet’ bits are equally important to a story and it’s OK to be bored by them. But you can’t let that feeling stop you from working. Inspiration has its place but it shouldn’t make or break your writing.
  4. Don’t wait for passive motivation. YOU can motivate YOURSELF. Motivation isn’t something that just happens, it’s something you have to create. Make the decision to write. Make the choice to write often.

If the above really doesn’t work for you, then maybe you’ll need another method but I know it worked for me, so give it a try.

Good luck!

Peace.

A Year Later – A look at a self-published life

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One year ago I released my first novel, TYR. I made the decision to self-publish. Ideally I would have loved to have a publisher but also the idea of self publishing really appealed to me. I enjoyed the challenge, the adventure of it.

So far, it has been worth it.

I haven’t moved as many copies as a novel by a traditional publisher might have moved, but I learned how to promote myself, I managed to drag myself out of my shy little bubble and I’ve learned what a wonderful community I live in.

Offline the support has been fantastic. The local newspaper conducted an interview, the local radio station has asked for an interview, local libraries have taken the book, local stores have stocked it on their shelves, and everyone has been so very kind.

Online, too, I found a community of writers, authors and readers who were eager to offer advice, help and support. For the first month after the release of my first book I would receive almost daily messages from helpful friends or readers who wanted to suggest editorial changes (bless them). I didn’t mind, it was clear they were just trying to help.

Going forward, I would like to pursue a publisher as I’ve now experienced self-publishing and I would very much like to see what traditional publishing is like. If possible I’d love to be able to pursue both paths at the same time as I find a great deal of enjoyment in self publishing.

At the end of this summer I hope to release my first audiobook. This will be the next big step in my self publishing adventure and I very much look forward to it.

If I could give any advice to any author hoping to self publish it’s as follows:

  1. Surround yourself with people who will be honest. You NEED to know if certain aspects of the story don’t work, or if your editing is flawed.
  2. Get a good editor. Even if it means saving money before you can publish the book. Don’t ruin your writing reputation with a poorly edited book. Admittedly my novel has struggled with some editorial errors but too many of those and readers will get frustrated.
  3. Get off your couch. Marketing takes place outside your home. Talk to friends, talk to strangers, go out there and market yourself.
  4. Don’t be afraid to take chances and try things. Was it scary for me to approach stores to see if they’d carry my book? Absolutely, I did it anyway. And having my book on a store shelf gave it some added credibility which in turn helped me find some more readers.
  5. Your first book is really about finding an audience so don’t hesitate to give it away for free in promotions and the like.

One year ago I decided to chase my dream. And I’m so glad I did.

Don’t forget to chase yours!!!

Peace.

 

THE 100 TV Show Review

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This review will touch on three seasons so there will be spoilers. Please don’t read if spoilers will bother you.

If you’re debating whether or not to watch this series (and invest your valuable time on it), and the idea of spoilers doesn’t bother you too much… keep reading.

Season 1 of the 100 was captivating. The premise was compelling. Earth has been ravaged by a nuclear explosion. The only survivors of the species were humans who lived on space stations. 100 years has passed since the nuclear bombs went off and the space stations are running out of resources so they’re forced to return to Earth. One catch, they don’t know if Earth is survivable anymore so they send a group of what is essentially death-row teenage prisoners (the 100) down to see if they survive.

The 100 immediately find themselves fighting the elements, the ‘Grounders’ (humans who survived the apocalypse and remained on Earth) and each other (some of the 100 want the rest of the space station to come down, the rest don’t).

I won’t say much else about this first season. I loved it from episode 1 to the end. The Grounders were terrifying, the intrigue was high and I found myself invested in many of the main characters.

Season 2 had a good start. But something changes near the middle of the season. Clarke finds herself falling for the Grounder Commander, and while this may not be the point where the Grounders start losing their teeth (I think that starts with Lincoln, a Grounder who falls for one of the 100 and quickly becomes an ally of the 100), it is the point where the last bit of Grounder intrigue is destroyed.

The Grounders, as a mysterious ‘other’ entity, were terrifying. The more the show writers showed us into their politics, their lives, their worlds… the less terrifying they became. They were completely stripped of all their teeth and what remained was this bizarre pantomime of an enemy. It’s like everything else in modern television these days. No bad guy can simply be evil, they have to have sympathetic stories and leanings that make us feel ‘bad’ for them. Ugh. That sort of ‘bad guy’ isn’t scary to me.

But, despite the Grounders losing their strength, I managed to finish the season. There were a few true heart breaking moments but overall, the latter half of Season 2 suffered from; “Let’s make our bad guys sympathetic and let’s try to make an even better and scarier enemy”.

Season 3 is where everything goes wrong. Two new enemies are introduced. Pike, a man from the space stations who is hell bent on not befriending the Grounders (good for him) and this AI creature that at first has unknown motivations.

By Season 3 the Grounders are completely removed of all semblance of power. They’re love-sick little puppies who pantomime evil but really is anyone intimidated by them anymore? I know by this point they were just a joke to me.

Pike had potential to TRULY be a terror but he’s quickly dispatched in favor of the ‘AI’, who is supposed to be more intimidating and terrifying but really the AI storyline was just silly and annoying.

By the end of Season 3 Pike and the AI are neutralized, the Grounders are just big babies and everything is stupid and disappointing. A new threat comes in the form of nuclear reactors that are about to leak so much radiation everyone will die of radiation poisoning but honestly at this point I think that would just fix everything.

My final thoughts on the 100 is that it started out good but the writers fell for a mistake that many TV and movie writers seem to fall for these days… they tried too hard to make their bad guys ‘complex’ and as a result they completely defanged them. These are Twilight vampires, not The Passage (Justin Cronin) level vampires. Nobody is afraid of Edward Cullen and by the end of Season 3 there were no enemies left in the 100 for me to be bothered by. The mystery, intrigue and tension is completely gone, replaced by teenage moping, faux romance and empty threats.

My suggestion is to just skip the show. Like many, many other shows of it’s ilk, they just weren’t able to maintain momentum after that first ground-breaking season. And it’s disappointing because the series started with so much promise.

A Whole New World – Navigating Change

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For me, 2017 started off with change. Not just because the surnumber of the year had switched from 6 to 7 but because, for the first time in 10 years, I would have only one job.

10 years ago I was in a pretty dim situation. Having just learned how to control my anxiety – which, at one point, kept me literally house bound – I was working on paying off debts I had built up while trying to get on my feet. Foolishly I had used my credit cards as my income for several months while I tried to find work and I had a crushing weight of debt on my shoulders.

I remember sitting in my room and crunching the numbers and realizing if I kept paying my credit cards as I was doing I wouldn’t pay them off for 20+ years. I knew I had to do something. I got a loan to amalgamate the credit cards into one set loan (with a set payoff date) and got a second job. Actually, at that point, I got two other jobs.

What followed was 10 years of blur and work. 10 years of no more than one day off a week except on special occasions. 10 years of 60 hour work weeks. 10 years of no vacations (except the odd 4 or 5 day vacation every other year). In those 10 years I paid off that initial debt, bought my own home, discovered new debt in home renovations, and finally paid off that debt too.

I am now almost completely debt free (save for a small credit card I maintain with strict discipline).

Things change, as they’re prone to doing. My day job ceased to exist at the end of 2016 and as of 2017 I am a 40 hour a week girl.

I almost don’t know what to do. January was spent sleeping, a lot, and just sitting in my house and cherishing my free time.

But, January is over and life has to go on.

February started with me purchasing a $25 computer which will be my ‘work’ computer. Previously I did all my writing at the library, at the work computer during breaks or on my laptop but I know I need something more structured because my brain is easily distracted. I’ve carved out an office corner in my house and I am ready to get down to the nitty gritty.

My action plan is to publish two or three novels this year. We’ll see how that goes. I still need to find an editor (my current editor won’t edit the upcoming pieces due to content).

My goal for 2017 is to write no less than 1500 a day, every day.

Life has a habit of changing. Sometimes those changes are good, sometimes bad and sometimes they’re just neutral.

This time this change has been good and I’m glad for it.

2017! Here I come.

Learning From Mistakes – An Author’s Guide to Recovery

Look, I have bad news. Unfortunate, inescapable news…

You.

Are.

Human.

Yes! You. You’re human. And part of being human is making mistakes. Some larger than others. Some that will wake you up at 3AM and harass you in every quiet moment of your life. Some that will just fade away and be forgotten.

You are going to carefully dictate a letter to an agent and realize AFTER pressing send that you missed a vital piece of information or a particularly egregious error.

You are going to participate in particularly painful interviews and later ask yourself: WHY DID I DO THAT?

You are going to publish stories that later you will look at and maybe not be so proud of.

You’re going to make Facebook posts, Twitter posts and blog posts that you regret.

The good news is…

It’s okay.

You’re human. Part of being human is making mistakes and learning from them. So long as you don’t skip that learning part, you’ll be fine.

I’ve made my fair share of mistakes on this journey called life and sure I look bad with horror and regret and sometimes I just want to curl up and cry for hours … but I don’t. Because crying and feeling sorry for myself never got me anywhere.

You want the secret to overcoming mistakes?

Forgive. Forget. Do better next time.

That’s the secret.

Also, remember if you mess up REALLY bad, you can always just write under a different pen name. Sure, it’d mean starting over but it’s an option if you make a *Keemstar sized mistake.

Peace!

And happy writing!

* Keemstar is a YouTuber who earlier this year was raked over the coals for mistakes he has made throughout the years.