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.

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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.

Prayers for the UK

I had a post ready for today, to make up for last week when I was busy in comic con prep (I’m entering reenacting prep this week), but in light of events that have happened in the United Kingdom:

My heart goes out to you and those innocent victims.  Many prayers and good thoughts.

Mother’s and another One-Shot

Goodness!  It’s been busy.  Between work (don’t feel too bad, I love my job) and rehearsals (don’t feel bad there either, I couldn’t imagine NOT performing), there’s been little time to write.  I have to remind myself that it’s okay… especially since I’ve had a break-through the Turned/Red‘s sequel and what the voice will sound like… and I’ve been struggling with that for some time, so that’s a big deal.

I, also, may have written Katja in my paranormal-fantasy into quite the pickle and need to figure out a good way to escape it.  Whoops.  I blame her.

But, it’s Mother’s Day, and while I never plan on being anything but a mother to my kitties, I want to celebrate mother’s out there, whether they have children, or not that are their own.  I firmly believe that we take on motherly qualities in all areas and that should be celebrated.  Plus, my mother and grandmother…  words don’t suffice.

Well… sort of…  I did write another installment of World Painted Red which is my 1000k short story collection I’m working on.  This one brings us Red’s mother, a character I love, and may, one day, get her own story.  Read over here at FictionPress or below:

World Painted Red:  The Word-Smith

The concrete counter was holding me up.  I had all my weight leaning on my hands, on that counter, as if the grey slab was the only foundation I had under me.  In the sink beside me, waiting to be tossed, or better yet, burned in the antique fireplace, were white washcloths covered in blood.  My husband’s blood.  I wished it wasn’t the usual occurrence: the bloodied rags haphazardly tossed in the sink.  I wished that I didn’t know a thing about how to patch him up, but I did, and it happened more and more.

I wasn’t sure I could fault him for it, but I couldn’t.  I wanted to be out there with him, fighting from the ground up.  My role was something else, however.

My nails tried to dig into the concrete.  Over, and over.  The tips of my fingers began to feel raw, only a few more scratches away from adding my own blood to his; it would certainly be fitting.  But I stopped, keenly aware that in the next room a man, gruff but edged in fluff, was making our young daughter giggle, minutes after having his head, hands, and body stitched back together.  Only one of us could be made of patches, and he had sacrificed himself.

A giggle erupted from the living room, tiny, but deep.  She would be a spitting image of her father when she grew up, I knew it.  My only hope was that she would be less like him, with less of his tendencies to get himself into scraps.  There were only so many stitches I could put in my family.  I couldn’t begin to contemplate putting them in her perfect, toddler skin.

With shaking hands, I gathered up the rags, and pitched them into bin set for the trash the next morning.  My husband wouldn’t be able to hide his current injuries, so I didn’t bother to start a fire to burn them.  Drowning out the childish shrieks, and the booming laughter of my husband, I ran the sink, rinsing away the traitorous deeds our family was leading.

As I stepped back, surveyed the kitchen, the dishes drying beside the sink, and the gleam of the countertops, the world seemed simple.  Clean.  Outside our safe walls, made so by my appointment in the legal offices near the heart of Faeree, the world was covered in blood, rubble, and the tears of those forgotten by the glittering towers of the White Dynasty.  My husband worked tirelessly, a fierce bear protecting his cub, to bring the tyranny down, more often by force.  No matter how many times I tried to convince him to use a more diplomatic solution, he was all fire, consuming, and headstrong.

I was the rock.

It was so hard being the rock.

I wanted to yell.  To raise my fist with him, but I knew.  I knew that I had set the path at his feet, and that it was I who had lit the fire that burned through him.  All of the stitches I put in his skin, were mine.  My words, only words, were the first to start the rebellion, the kindling so many were waiting for, and he fanned them.

One last swipe on the counter, and I wandered to the edge of the doorframe to look in on them.  She was toddling away from him, a little run that her chubby lanky legs struggled with, to circle the coffee table.  He loped after her, comically looming like a monster.  Her little voice shrieked, then giggled, and shrieked some more.  Despite the fresh stitches, the pain that must have been going through him, he obliged her.  He never once paused, or thought to turn her never-ending energy in a different direction.  She was his joy, but in that moment, I saw that she would be his destruction.  He would do anything for her.  Anything.  As would I.  And she deserved everything.  Even a world where we fought, with blood and turmoil, to bring to her so that she wouldn’t know the burden that Faeree was placing on the shoulders of its people.

They turned the corner, her face turning up to see me, leaning in the doorway.  She bolted toward me, her arms outstretched, looking for protection.  I returned her pure, innocent smile, snatching her up in my arms, swinging her legs around me.  “Roselind Red.”  I admonished.  “Rupert Red.  What is going on in here?”

“There’s no Rupert here.  There’s only,” he paused for dramatic effect, “the Troll Monster.”  His hands, freshly washed, flew up in ridiculous claw shapes.  The face he made, pinched and comical, made a giggle (such a foreign thing) bubble up in my chest.

He took a stomping step toward us, and I took a little step back.  Roselind’s little arms circled my neck.  “Mommy!”  She cried, though there was no real fear in her voice.  I prayed there would never be a reason for her to cry my name with fear behind it.

Rupert took a step toward us.  I took a step back.  “Don’t worry, Little Red.  I’ll always keep you from the big, bad monster.”  I childishly stuck a tongue out at my husband, who gave me a playful wink moments before leaping toward us.  I was a word-smith, not a fighter, and with a squirming toddler in my arms, I wasn’t quick enough.  His big arms wrapped around us.  His fingers found tickle spots.  He knew my weaknesses, and I simply could not endure tickling.  I sunk to the floor, laughter overwhelming me.  We tumbled together in a mixture of erupting giggles, and flaying lips.  When the tickling subsided, Roselind wiggled free, triumphantly taking her place atop the cushions on the couch.

Rupert sat back, pulling me up with him, and tenderly brushing a strand of hair from my face.  His hand was shaking, probably from pain.  My eyes softened.  I took his hand, kissing the top just before the stitches I had delicately sewn into his skin.  Behind us, Roselind tossed herself down, bouncing with the cushions, her little face smooshing as she turned to watch us.  “Tell me a story, Mommy.”

“A story?”

“Yes,” Rupert urged, “a story.  Ella, tell one of your lovely stories.”

“Story!”

“About a girl,” he continued, “who escaped the Ice Queen.  And found her less-than-princely Prince Charming.”

“With the fairy godmother!”

I smiled, slowly.  “Just one then bed.”

Roselind clapped, then squirmed until she was curled up in the cushions.

“There once was a girl who lived far away from Faeree, where there were rolling hills, and silly dogs who chased sticks.  She had a wonderful father, but a horrible stepmother who was always jealous of everyone.  But this girl was smart, smartest in her class.  And she had an idea…”

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.