We Need “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Believe it or not, until now, I hadn’t read “The Handmaid’s Tale.”  It was always on my lift, but I could never find a hard copy, and I couldn’t afford to buy a new copy, so, alas, it sat on my list.  Then, one Saturday, I found a copy at my local library’s book sale.  It was the only book I walked away with that time, but I was more than happy to have found it.

When HULU announced that they were making a show of the book, I marked my calendar, and got the book ready.  I had started it prior, but stopped when I heard the announcement.  For whatever reason that I can’t articulate, I decided I wanted to read and watch the show side-by-side.  It was the first time I had ever done something like this, and I wasn’t sorry.  In fact, I kinda wish I could go back and do the same for the Game of Thrones series.

Reading alongside the action on screen kept me guessing, in both situations.  What little changes did they make to the show?  Let alone, what was going to happen next?

Google Image Result for http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1294702760l/38447.jpg: The show is different.  It always has to be because the mediums are so different.  HOWEVER, the way this show as done, translating the beautiful, poetic prose into a compelling and equally poetic monologue, and dialogue, is stunning.  A labour of love, and you can see it in every, stunning shot.  Very few adaptations have even compared to how well this one is translated.

And this one isn’t easy.

Ms. Atwood’s prose is stunning.  It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and symbolic and poetic.  It is poetry into prose, and narrative form.  I gobbled it up.  But I’ve always been a poet at my core.  Regardless, Offred is the core of the book; the narrator that we must believe, and love.  And it isn’t easy.  You want to will her into more action, hold her, cry for her, laugh, you want to actively do something for her.  And the end will grab you by the heart and squeeze (however you interrupt that is up to her, I’d say the same for a happy or sad ending).

Men Darkly Rule Over Women In Photos From The Handmaid's Tale #refinery29  http://www.refinery29.com/2016/12/131854/the-handmaids-tale-first-photos-hulu#slide-3  Joseph Fiennes as the Commander, the mild-mannered head of the house, prepares himself for a night with a maiden. Likely Offred, who he develops a special relationship with....:
Elizabeth Moss in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The show does the same.  Everyone attached to this project is giving performances of a lifetime for this work.  Every. Single. One.  And yes, it is different, and expands the world beyond the pages of Atwood’s work.  It has to, in some way, to build upon what might be several more seasons of television.  That said, none of it feels like it was added.  Every scene is carefully built with Atwood’s stunning prose in mind, the characters, and the world.  The likes of which I have never seen, even in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films (we all know that man took great pains to bring that faithfully alive).

I’ve been singing its praises from the beginning, and using to caution the world.  How quickly our minds can be altered to believe the despicable.  We get inside the head of someone who experienced this, and it should terrify you, and spur you into action.  As a woman, it is a cautionary tale, but one with hope: we don’t have to go this way.  We can stand up and say: no! to categorizing people in such a harmful way.  We can fight back.  If Offred’s voice, so tender, can be heard, so can our shouts.

Everyone needs to watch, and read this story.  We need it more than ever.

Wonder Woman: Waited My Whole Life

I just waxed poetical about Rey and her importance… and then I saw Wonder Woman.  And I cried.  I’m an almost *shhhh* 30 year old woman, and I cried because a movie was made about a woman superhero, helmed by a woman director.

Don’t worry.  I won’t spoil the movie at all.  I won’t mention a word of the plot.  Promise.

What I will say is that, and personal friends on Facebook got this quick post, I have waited all my life for this movie.  Not necessarily for Wonder Woman.  Anyone who has spoken to me knows that I’ve yo-yoed about my opinion on her, which coincides with how people were writing her in comics, but they are giving her what she deserves now.  The beauty, strength, compassion, passion, that a woman deserves.  I have waited all my life to see myself on the screen in a position that men never even think twice about.

She’s not just a warrior, but she’s soft too.  That’s the face of a woman, not a comic book character.

I needed her more than I needed Furiosa (and I needed her).  I saw Diana and I saw myself.  And I cried because I wished I could have seen this when I was a little girl.  It would have saved me so much struggle, and heartache, and doubt.

I was raised well.  I was raised to believe there was nothing different between myself and my brother, but the world didn’t get that.  They still don’t… I hope little girls will see this movie and know, deep down, know that they are equal.  Everything they are makes them warriors, whether they deflect bullets or wrap themselves up in silk.

More. Always More Female Leads

I’m always going on about the importance of a strong female lead.  There are people in my life that are probably sick and tired of hearing about it for me.  I’m not all that sorry about it, though, and I’ll tell you why.

Image may contain: 1 person, textI attended the big comic con for my state: Motor City Comic Con.  I had two outfits prepared: Wonder Woman (I had worked on this outfit for months) and my Rey (which I’m pretty proud of).  Now, Wonder Woman, being that the film is coming out (so excited), was a hit.  Little kids waved, parents pointed me out to them, people wanted pics.  I’m always obliging, after all, as long as they are respectful.  Especially to the little girls (and surprising amounts of little Captain Americas).

BUT…

Image may contain: 1 personAs the day wore on, I decided to change (Rey being more comfortable and closer to my personality).  You know what I noticed?  People loved Wonder Woman; she’s iconic, however, the little girls who saw my Rey (there were surprising few, only one other adult Rey whose staff was enviable), were bold, enthusiastic, and excited.  And I know why.

She’s the character I wanted when I was growing up.  Not to discredit Leia, because she was incredibly important for girls, but I wasn’t much like Leia.  I wanted to fly the Falcon.  I wanted to play in the dirt on the playground.  I was always searching, much like Rey is, for a place that fit.  Rey is feminine (in a way that’s very different from Leia) but she’s also a “tomboy” (I hate the term, but it’s useful here).  And right now, she’s this tentative, yearning heroine we need, and it struck me, looking at the little Reys who asked for pictures, just how much we need her.

So as a writer (and actress), I know that I’m not even close to being done about more female leads in the world.  I’m seeing the impact, and it is a good one.  A great one.  There shouldn’t be a cap on it.  I hear that too often: don’t we have enough?  No one says that to a man/boy.

Now we have women leading the new Star Trek series.  Rey is helming Star Wars.  Wonder Woman is opening soon.  Supergirl is on TV.  But this is just a handful.

No.  There’s never enough.  If these little Reys are any indication?  We need more.

Ying-Yang. Tip that Balance.

As a writer, I’m always analyzing my characters.  I’m evaluating them: how they work together; are they innovative; are they nothing more than stereotypes; are they effective.  So many questions, and important questions, to be asked of your characters, and important to answer.  If we want to continue to grow as a literary community, and we do, then we have to do our part to contribute.  What is beautiful is that we are doing that more and more.  We are adding more complex female and POC characters and the world is better for it.

So when I look over my characters, I have to find my voice in them, and find my particular trend… and I can safely say that I know what I like to do.  I’m a Ying-Yang writer.  I like balance in my characters.  If I have a wild-card, then I need to have a cool-headed character next to them.  Often this manifests in a female-male pairing.  No, I’m not just talking romantically (because I happen to subscribe to the fact that women and men can just be friends with nothing more attached).  I like balance.  I want a female character on the same ground as a male character.  Maybe that comes from my own experiences with friendships.  Or maybe that comes from my desire for equal friendships like that.  I’m not sure.  But I find myself doing it all the time.

In Turned/Red, I have Red alongside Hunt (though I throw Mal in the mix).  In my current novel, (working title Ghost Crown), Katja is beside her brother Emil (I also love writing brother-sister relationships that are functional and not confrontational.  Blame Joss Whedon and Firefly).  I like balance.  But I like to show that women and men can work alongside each other, or even in opposition to each other, and that their gender doesn’t play a part.  They happen to be a woman or a man, but that doesn’t define them.  So I pit them together or against each other.  I make them equal and I balance out the leads.

Or make them non-binary.  Spin that balanced top.

But I do it with women characters too.  Red is balanced by Mal.  Katja is balanced by Milanka.  Even the men are balanced:  Hunt by Byar and Emil by Goran.  Hot/cold.  Passion/Pragmatism.  But then I like to take those balance points and flip them.  Suddenly the passionate one is logical, and the logical one has done something spontaneous.

And then I like to tear that balance apart.  It’s an emotional moment, but also a plot moment.  I’m a character driven writer, so this makes sense.  I need an emotional trauma to turn the tide of the story.  Sometimes, that mixes into the plot based story-telling some writers favor, but it’s more about sharing the world through a character, and these moments define us as human beings, so why not a fictional character?

PHOTOS: 8 Found Hearts For Valentine's Day                                                                                                                                                     More
image found on Pinterest; if yours please let me know so I can credit

By now, you’re probably thinking that this traps me.  I’m stuck finding the balance between my characters instead of letting them be insanely complex or difficult people.  Not so.  A character isn’t always the level-headed one.  Sometimes they switch.  That’s human nature.  If you look at your own friend base, you’ll find the strange balance.  For many of us, that’s a group of people.  We all play a little part in balancing us out as a whole.  For me, that makes a well-rounded and multi-dimensional story.  Balance.  It swings one way or another, but the way it swings, the direction, and how you find that balance is the fun and intensely difficult part of story telling.  It’s also how to create a multi-colored world.  It rounds it out, fills it up, and creates humans.

For each writer, it is different.  Some will balance with physical descriptions.  Some do it with emotions.  Some with alignment (good vs evil).  Some do all of these.  They’re all good.  But we have to make sure to expand upon that starting balance point, and tip it over.  I think that’s why I start with my female-male duo or passion-pragmatic duo.  Then I tip them over the edge and see where that takes us.

Whether you start with a duo or a trio or a group of nine beginning a journey to destroy the ring (I could write a whole post on how that group balanced each other.  Just look at an elf and a dwarf), tip that balance.  Spin it.  Drop a rock on one side, and see how they slide and fall.

Women on the Shelves, We Need More

If you’ve been on twitter lately, and you follow lady writers, you may have seen a hashtag pop up.  #thingsonlywomenwritershere.  It accompanies the comments, and experiences, that women writers face every day.  Even today.  When I saw this movement pop up, I couldn’t agree with the sentiments posts from fellow lady writers more.  Though my experiences are “smaller,” in that I am an indie writer and not navigating a corporate publishing world, it is no less filled with the prejudices that society has placed in our minds.

Women have always had to fight to be heard in a “serious” manner in the writing world.  Whether it was writing under a male, or gender neutral pen-name, or writing in a manner that would appeal to male readers, we have had to cater to the prevailed societal pressures: that men drive sales in certain genres.  Women were only successful in romance, and “chick-lit” (a genre title I don’t much like).  Only a few women were “allowed” into the “all boys club” of fantasy, sci-fi, and action and adventure.

That’s insane.

Luckily, we’re in a time where women are flooding these genres.  And that’s fantastic.  Especially as a woman who loves those genres.  But the hardest part is this:  I’m hearing people, under their breath, saying that every book is about a female protagonist, and that it is overdone.  Overdone?  How many decades have we endured millions of books with male leads?  And I have enjoyed them, immensely.  A few years where girls are in the spotlight does not make up for decades of being sidelined as a poorly written damsel, love-interest, or random assassin girl who has little personality of her own.  Don’t just give us a sword, give us a story.  Women are CRAVING it.

I’m not saying we don’t need male centered stories.  We do.  Inclusivity and diversity doesn’t mean shoving the former aside.  It means opening the door and letting everyone play on an equal shelf, WITHOUT prejudice about whether it deserves to be there or not.  I want my new paranormal fantasy shelved with the likes of George R.R. Martin (not saying I’m on that caliber, only giving a male author example), and I want it sitting next to an Asian women’s story, a black man’s, a latino’s.  I want people to look at the story, not the gender or ethnicity of the character.

It’s a lot to ask.  But I’m going to ask it, because having people say that I’m a woman writer, writing female protagonists, that my books are only for girls, is a discrimination we’re led to believe is okay.  It’s not.  And that hashtag, #thingsonlywomenwritershere, needs to be looked at by everyone, men and women alike, and realize what we are doing… so we can stop it, and open doors for everyone.

Sequel? What Sequel?

I tell people, when they ask, and I’ve mentioned it here before, that writing Turned/Red didn’t just happen.  I didn’t just sit down one way with a story ready to pour out of me.  There was an idea, one I toyed with for months, a whim almost.  But that’s not unusual.  I’ve found that artists toy with ideas, pouring over them time and time again, molding and reshaping.

The actually writing of said ideas?  I wish that came faster.

People who know me as the girl who can sew a 1860s dress in a day (sewing, yes.  Research?  That’s months in the making, but I digress), were shocked, maybe even confused when I said that I had at least three versions of my story, all of them vastly different.  None of them making it past the third chapter.

That’s a lie.  The first one went to the sixth, I believe.

The point is, I tried writing this story enough times to think that it wasn’t going to happen, not in the way I wanted.  And I was right.  It took a late night drive after a long rehearsal for the opening words to pop into my head.  From there, everything fell into place.  That was about 1.5-2 years after the initial concept web/family tree.  Years.  Of hard character building, world crafting work.  I was just very hush-hush about it.  Tentative.  At least until I knew it would take.

So when people have begun asking for a sequel?  Well….

Sitting down to the write the sequel?  Let’s just say that it’s following in the footsteps of its predecessor.  I, naively, thought that since this world was built, the characters created, and the pivotal moments conceived, that I’d have it.  Naive.  But…  This is the first sequel I’ve ever written and I suppose I should give myself some space for that…still… when people ask about how soon that sequel is going to come out, I have to be honest and say: soon, but not this year.

I want to do it sooner, but that’s not how this one wants to work.  Now, I can say that I’m working on novellas, and I had a fun concept to do short, 1000 word one-shots of different moments, characters, etc. to keep the juices flowing.  Maybe post them on WordPress and later compile them.  It might yield the sequel.  Or not.

Granted… that paranormal fantasy I keep working on?  That’s not going away any time soon.  I’m actually excited with my own patience with letting this one un-fold.

Let’s Be Real: Balancing It All

I sat down this week to write up a blog post and you know what happened?  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch.  I stared at the wall for a while, binged This Is Us (which I’m in love with, and it’s not even something I usually watch on TV), and found myself all over my local zoo’s website (I love penguins for some reason).  Usually, this ADD sort of thinking produces something, but not this week.  Could it be burn out from an amazing production week/run of a performance?  Could it be I’m using it all up in drafting my Wonder Woman outfit for con?  Or because I hit this weird, but good-weird spot in my recent novel and I’m busy working it out?  Or maybe it is all of those things.

Maybe I needed to talk about how to balance being an indy (independent) writer, performer, seamstress, pin up girl, AND working a regular-if-only-it-was-full-time job.  That’s the reality a lot of us face as we start out trying to carve a little spot for ourselves.  So few of us get to sit down and write, or perform, full-time.  I’d love to do both.  That’s my goal, a completely reach-able with LOTS of hard work goal, but one filled with the ever persistent balance problem.  I have to feed myself, therefore, I had to make money by working.  I’m committed to events, which require my sewing skills.  I have to make sure my soul hasn’t gone crazy, so I work on finding the next fabulous show to perform in.  It’s a lot.  On top of the need to write down these stories bubbling in my head.  It’s not wonder people thing us, artists are a little off-beat.

As spring rolls around, I realize that I will have less and less time to write.  It’ll be about chiseling moments of time in order to do so… and to be honest, that’s difficult for me.  I get ideas, need to try them out, and end up side-tracked.  It’s the ENFP life at its purest.  It’s brilliant but I have to remember to keep at it.

I, also, have to remember, that I’m not failing if I’m not writing every day.  Not if I’m composing in my head, thinking about it, then I’m not failing.  And yes, I repeat that to myself every time I beat myself up over it… and I do it every time.  I remind myself that everyone works differently.  Some have to write every day.  Some don’t.  Some binge.  Some trickle.  Some plan chapters a week/word count a week.  Some don’t.

But balance, that’s what I need.  I need to make sure I am feeding all of my artistic outlets.  And take the time to regenerate those juices.  It also means, to me, giving in to my artistic impulses when they occur.  And that just because it isn’t happening at that moment, or even a day or two done the road, doesn’t mean it won’t suddenly happen again.

Patience.  It’s a virtue, or something.  I’m not very good at it, but I’m trying.

And I pose this question: how do you balance it all?  I’d love to swap tips, stories, etc.  You an always learn from someone else.  Always.