Category Archives: Writing

The Heroine’s Journey

strong woman

Last weekend I attended Norwescon, a local convention for fans of science fiction and fantasy. It was the first time I’d been to something like this, and I had an incredible weekend.

One of the best panels I attended was on “The Heroine’s Journey.” I’ve spent the last several years thinking about stories and story structure, specifically women’s stories, so I was curious to hear what the panelists thought about the heroine’s journey.( 1 2 3)

They started with a discussion about the hero’s journey (aka “monomyth”), which has been well documented by Joseph Campbell and others. From there, the discussion went into how the heroine’s journey and experience differed from the hero’s. Here are the primary points I took away:

  • The hero is externally focused.
  • He rises to meet an external challenge or “call to adventure,” through which he proves himself.
  • He returns home at the end of the story, changed and stronger than when he left.

For the heroine, these were the main themes I took away:

  • The heroine is embodied. She has physical experiences that inform who she is (e.g. menstruation, pregnancy). This resonates strongly for me, but what does it mean for people who can’t menstruate/get pregnant (i.e. not limited to but definitely including queer and trans folks)?
  • The heroine knows herself in relation to others. She is often defined bye her relation to others.
  • The heroine is told to hide or suppress her power in order to make others (i.e. men) comfortable and/or to feel powerful (e.g. Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie or Samantha in Bewitched.
  • The heroine’s journey is generally understood to be internal, in opposition to the hero’s. Her challenge, then, is to understand and identify her power, to figure out who she is while in relation to others, and to integrate these concepts into a fully integrated whole.

In addition to these differences, I think the mono myth is problematic. It doesn’t consider that not all people have the same experience. I’m totally curious about finding other stories and structures that represent our diversity and richness as human beings.

Would love to hear your thoughts. How do these concepts resonate with your own experience? What fits? What chafes? What would it mean for a man to take the heroine’s journey? How do trans* and queer people fit with these kinds of narratives? How do socio-economic class, social standing, race, religion, country of origin, etc. challenge and/or support these narratives? What kind of narratives do you think the world is missing and what do we need more of?

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Notes:

  1. I want to make clear that I’m talking about people who are socialized as female in Western culture. I also think there is a need to include queer and trans folks in this discussion.
  2. Panelists: Nisi Shawl (M), Susan DeFreitas, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Karen Kincy, Stina Leicht, Cassandra Clarke
  3. Why I Hate Strong Female Characters

On Failure

fail harder

My friend Claudette posted this piece today: Since when did the word ______ become dirty in yoga?. I wondered what the word was that filled in the blank, so I meandered over to see. Perfection. Oh. That word.

I read with curiosity, interested to see how he was going to unpack what perfection meant in the context of yoga. He does define it, but that wasn’t what struck me so much as this:

I need to deny this small, measly self within me that can’t tolerate perfection, I refuse to be too fragile to admit that I am not strong enough or devoted enough to reach for such an unattainable place. Instead I humbly get on my knees and cry out for the strength to fail, and to fail, and to fail, and to fail, as happily and as endlessly as is necessary to take one step towards the lofty mastery of perfection. Let me champion perfection, protect it, covet it, yearn for it, breathe it, know it, risk for it, love it, respect it, fear it, cherish it, tolerate my need for it, lay it all on the line for it.

And I realized something. I have defined my own failure as my inability to achieve. BUT. This idea of failing and failing and failing again and again and again in pursuit of a higher purpose – that is not failure. That is the story of Sisysphus as told by Camus, the man who found his meaning in repeatedly rolling the rock up the hill, not in attaining the summit. I doubt David Garrigues is an Existentialist, but it’s where I went.

I’ve judged myself by my inability to achieve, when I should have realized that what I lacked wasn’t results, but focus. I had no defining principle, no purpose that pulled me forward. I was merely bobbing along, adrift and responding to whatever I bumped into.

I’ve decided this year to let my writing be the defining center. And because I did that, I leapt at the opportunity to go on a writing retreat for 5 days when it appeared. In the past, I would have let it go, because I hadn’t had enough time to prepare myself. But what needed preparing? Only my mind, which was already ready.

Tell me about your failures. Fail harder. Fail softer. Fail funnier. Just keep failing.

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Return

spider o'lantern

We’ve passed the nadir and are swinging back toward the light. The light is lasting longer, even if it’s imperceptible right now.

One of my Twitter pen pals, Lou Knight, asked the other day what our one word of the year might be. At first I thought mine was focus, but as I’ve thought about it more, I’ve decided it’s actually return. Because my focus wavers, I wobble and wibble (hee hee), but every moment I have the opportunity to return to the object of my focus. I get to practice this in meditation, gently drawing my mind back to my breath or my mantra. Likewise, there are a myriad of distractions, and I get pulled by them, and then I notice and return my attention back to the work at hand, whatever that might be.

So, in the spirit of return, I’m taking up my friend GG Silverman’s challenge to embrace your fears for total writing awesomeness. GG shared her fear:

I told her my deepest, darkest fear: I was afraid that when I fully came out of my shell as a writer, that I’d be a scary, ugly spider instead of a beautiful butterfly, and that people would hate me.

Her response changed my life:
“It’s okay to be a scary spider. The world needs spiders, too.”

And the challenge:

Your assignment: take ten minutes to make a list of things that scare you the most, then the next time you have ten free minutes, write about one of them, and go deep. I guarantee it will be some of your most powerful, emotional writing. For extra credit, post the results on your own blog, and tag me with your link on Twitter (I’m @GG_Silverman) using the hashtag #FearlessWriting, or let me know if this exercise inspired an amazing story. I’d love to hear from you.

This challenge nearly sets my teeth on edge and turns my innards to liquid, but what the hell, it’s probably not going to kill me. Ha! Would love it if anyone else wants to join me in “hugging some spiders” this week. I don’t know that I’ll post what I write, but I may share a snippet. Who’s in?

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Clarion West Write-a-thon 2013

thai writing

In the summer of 2011 I embarked on an adventure of untold proportions – that is, I took the leap into the deep deep end of fiction writing. Until this point, I had told myself I didn’t write fiction. Nope, nope, nope. But I had always yearned to write fiction, because there is something that happens when I become immersed in a story. Some writers create worlds that are so fantastic and lovely and heartbreaking that even after I’ve finished the last page, some of that world lingers inside my body. I am changed in the most beautiful ways, and I want to do that for other people. So I jumped off the bridge and into the pool of the Clarion West Write-a-thon.

I think it was Alice Walker who said, “write the stories you want to read.” I would add to that, write the stories you want to be. I am writing myself into being, populating my landscapes with strong female characters who kick ass.

Clarion West is about supporting writers and community – there is the community of writers, and there is the community that supports each writer. You are my community, and I love the spiral feeling of support from inside and out. Every donation makes a difference, even just a few dollars. Stories change lives. Think of the last one you read that changed yours. Imagine how many more stories are out there, waiting to be told and heard. There is a wonderful TED talk about the The Danger of a Single Story by Chimamanda Adichie and why we need more voices, more diversity in storytelling, more stories. The Clarion West six-week workshop supports writers to do just that.

Please consider sponsoring me this year. Also, it’s not to late to join the fun! You can also sign up until June 22nd, when it officially starts.

ETA: If you are sponsoring me for 2014, this is the link.

Thank you.

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Interview with Author Patricia Eddy

self-published

My friend Patricia Eddy just self-published her first book. She asked if I would do an interview for my blog, and I was delighted to oblige. I met Patricia online, through Twitter, and she is a very motivated person as you will learn from the interview below. I got to see an earlier version of this book, and let me tell you, if you are into steamy stories with lots of action, you will not be able to put this one down! Without further ado, let’s get started.

1. Give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

By the Fates, Freed
Paranormal Romance
A witch, imprisoned by evil. A warlock fated to love her. Will their love survive as she learns to trust again? Or will an ancient evil destroy them both?

2. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?
This book is primarily for lovers of paranormal romance with a side of mystery. There’s a hot warlock, a story of transformation and bravery in the face of danger, and true love. Oh, and some steamy sex.

3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
Honestly, I don’t remember! Most of my titles just come to me about midway through the writing process. I had this sense that the world would be heavily influenced by Fate when I started writing and that evolved into Fates, and then By the Fates.

4. Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
My cover artist was Ravven. Honestly, I clicked on her website because she shared a name with my main character. But then I saw her work. It had the sense of darkness I wanted for the series. There are some mature and dark themes in this series so I knew I couldn’t go with a cutesy cover. I also knew I didn’t want the classic romance angle either. Ravven’s work spoke to me. The process was amazing. She hit Raven on the head with the first draft. Ealasaid took a bit of work, but I am so happy with how it turned out.

5. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
Oooo. Hard question. I love them all. Ealasaid speaks to me because of her transformation and because I’m in her head the most. Raven is smoking hot and fiercely protective of his mate. I love writing him because that alpha male persona is so sexy when paired with a woman who is just as strong if not stronger! The supporting cast though is really exciting me for the next two books in the series. There will be a novella from Ami’s perspective before the second book comes out. I feel like she has the most growth potential as a human and because of what she goes through in this book.

6. How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Hmm. Marcas, I suppose. He’s less appealing simply because he didn’t get a lot of love or attention in this book. I almost forgot he was there a few times. He had potential and he was a necessary character, but as Raven was the stronger of the two warlocks and the male protagonist, Marcas didn’t get a lot of chances to shine.

7. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be? Why?
I think I’d flesh out the supporting cast more. Marcas, for example.

8. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:
This was originally intended to be a novella trilogy.
I wrote the first draft of the novella in 2.5 weeks.
I’ve sketched out three different endings for the series (though I’ve already decided which one I’ll use.)

9. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I’m a triathlete. I’m not sure that I’m a talented one, but I’m working on it. 🙂

10. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?
My website will always have up to date information: www.pdeddy.com. I’m also very active on Twitter @patricia_eddy.

11. What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve sketched out an authoring plan for the next year. In the late fall, I’ll be releasing the first book in the vampire series, tentatively titled Secrets in Blood. Ami’s novella (set in the By the Fates universe) should be out in January and the second By the Fates book, By the Fates, Fought, should be out in April 2014. I’m aiming for a book release every 5-6 months.

12. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Talk about it! Add it on Goodreads, write a review on Amazon, share it on social media!

13. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Self-publishing is awesome. The tools online make it supremely easy. Write, edit, format, and publish. That said, I hope that everyone who considers self-publishing will strive to be as professional as possible. We all (indie authors) win when we try to put out our best work possible. I’ve read self-published books that are so much better than traditionally published works and I’ve read self-published books that are rife with spelling mistakes. So write. Edit. Format. Publish.

There are so many tools out there for free or cheap that can help. You can write in your word processing program of choice. Most, these days, will create a PDF for you for free. Once you have a PDF, a cover (even a simple one), and a synopsis, you can publish on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and Kobo for free. You don’t have to spend a dime to get your book in the hands of readers. You CAN spend a lot. Every author considering self-publishing has to decide for themselves how much they want to put into their process.

14. Tell us a little bit about your writing process (e.g. do you plot, how often do you write, what do you do when you get stuck, etc.).

I write A LOT. Every day. Some days I end up with 200 words, others 2000. I’d say my writing process is as varied as it can be. I didn’t plot By the Fates, Freed at all. That probably got me into a little bit of trouble during the writing as I tried to turn it from novella to novel, though.

Now, with the vampire series, the next two books in the By the Fates series, and the other shorter works I have in progress, I’m trying to outline and plot more. I don’t always stick to the outline, but just having it on screen helps when I get stuck.

If I get blocked, I go back and edit. There’s a lot of advice out there that says “Write first, edit later.” That’s great advice. You CAN get too mired in the editing process that you’ll never finish the writing. But honestly, it doesn’t work for me. So when I write, it usually goes something like this.

Sit down, bang out 2000 words.
Next day, re-read those 2000 words, edit a bit. Then try to kick out another 1000 words.
Edit a bit. Write another 1000-2000.
Rinse, repeat.

So with that, by the time I’ve finished the book, the first chapter or two has seen at least 4-5 edit passes.

15. Who are your favorite authors to read?
Lindsay Buroker, Ilona Andrews, Kevin Hearne are my top authors right now. I will read anything they release.

16. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I might have said enough to approach babbling status. 🙂

17. Would you share a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

“If you say the word, I will stay, damn the Council,” he murmured, and took me into his arms.

I did not want to enjoy his embrace. I wanted to be mad at him. But I could not help it. I sighed and let his warmth envelop me. Damn him for the feelings he stirred in me, this overwhelming desire to be close to him.

“If there was a greater purpose in what was done to me, I would have it known. Go.” I turned my face upwards. The scent of him — cedar and the sea — enraptured my senses and I inhaled deeply. His lips parted slightly and his eyes darkened. I could feel his magic dance over his skin and transmit his thoughts. He wanted to kiss me. But I knew he would make no move to do so. He squeezed his eyes shut and started to release me.

I wouldn’t let him let me go. I remembered the first time he had kissed me. I’d been terrified and shackled, but his kiss had made me feel safe and free. I tightened my arms around him and brought my lips to his. I lingered for a breath. His body molded itself to mine. The warmth that spread through me and the surprise that registered on his face lifted my lips into a smile as I drew back so I could look at him.

His brown eyes sparkled in the morning light and his breath quickened. Sparks seemed to dance over his skin and the unmistakable scent of him settled around us. His magic enveloped us in warmth.

“What…was that for?” His voice was hoarse and he was holding on to me as if I were a lifeline.

I swallowed hard. “For me.”

“I do not understand.”

“Whatever you are keeping from me…it frightens me. I worry I will not survive it.” I laid my head on his chest. “You kissed me before you freed me and it made me feel safe. I wanted that feeling again.”

Raven’s fingers curled around my chin, urging my head up to look at him. He cupped my cheek. My body shuddered when his thumb brushed across my lips. “I promise you, allera, you will always be safe with me. You have nothing to fear. I will return as quickly as I can.”

On his way out the door, he turned to smile at me. “You continually surprise me.”

How can readers contact you?
Website & blog: www.pdeddy.com
Facebook: Patricia Eddy Author
Twitter: @Patricia_Eddy
Amazon Author Page
Smashwords
Goodreads author profile

Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
Smashwords
Goodreads

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The Next Big Thing

I got tagged by Janine Southard to participate in The Next Big Thing bloghop. This blog hop gives authors the chance to discuss their current projects, and then tag five others for the following week. I don’t have anyone to tag, so if you want to participate, feel free to hop on the bandwagon!

epiphyte on Royal Palm

 

What is the working title of your book?

Leaves Kick Grass – but honestly, that is just something I came up with because I didn’t want to save it as “Untitled”. IF it ever gets published, I am certain it will have a different title.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I am extremely sensitive to light – I feel energized when there is a lot of sunshine and almost instantly start to droop if it becomes overcast. I’ve often joked about being part plant, and when I decided to try a turn at fiction, I thought it would be interesting to explore what it might feel like if a human actually could photosynthesize. I also wanted to investigate what it means to be “other” in a very different kind of way.

In addition to that, I’m constantly interrogating what it means to be human – even if that human is modified in some way. There is a queer couple who are central to the story, but I am so tired of the tropes that I wanted a story that a) wasn’t about coming out and b) didn’t have horrible things happen to the queer people (i.e. where they die or end up alone) and c) the queer people could be the heroes.

What genre does your book fall under?

Post-apocalyptic dystopian science fiction.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I honestly have no idea. The three main characters don’t look like any of the women I’ve seen in movies. Two of them are butch, which is almost never portrayed on screens of any size.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

What happens when your life depends on sunlight and you become trapped underground?

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I have no idea if it will ever even see the light of day (ha!). IF it does, I was thinking I would like an agent, although with my understanding of the publishing industry at the moment, I’m not entirely closed to self-publishing.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year, although it was written in spurts. If I subtract the months I didn’t write at all, I’d say six months. I STILL need to edit it and fix some parts of the story. No idea how long this process will take.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

You know how they say to write the stories you want to read? Well, that’s why I wrote this one. I can’t think of any, but then, perhaps I haven’t read wide enough. If you know of any that sound familiar, let me know.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Inspiration is a tricky word for me. I will just say that I have wanted to write for a long time. I asked for some help and support and got amazing encouragement from Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s about women kicking ass. And collaboration. And long-term relationships. And queers.

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