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.

One-Shots and Fueling

In the early morning hours, you know them, they’re the ones were you roll over at 2am, open about ten apps and hope for sleep, I came up with an interesting idea…  One -shots.  I used to write them all the time.  I wrote fan-fic one-shots, original fic one-shots… anything.  There were a great way to get juices flowing, explore a character voice, and just simply: practice.  In fact, during that 2am desperate search for sleep, I realized I missed writing them.

I came up with an idea.  Mainly, I came up with the idea to keep my first novel’s world in my head.  I didn’t want to lose the world I had built in favor of the new one that seems to be taking over (ahem… Srebrov and my paranormal-fantasy).  I decided that one-shots, a great exercise, would really help my world-mushing problem.  Why not write one-shots in Faeree, Turned/Red‘s world?  Write from perspectives of characters never met in the novel, or explore bits of their early life?  It would be a fun way to further explore what I had created…

And why not share those experiments?  I’m all about transparency of the process… and encouraging others to do the same.  So this first one is up on Fictionpress.  Eventually, I hope to collect them into a small companion book, but for now, they’re available to read there.

I hope you enjoy!

World Painted Red: The Nanny
She was tasked with a simple job: steal the baby for the queen. But nothing with the Imperial Queen is ever that easy. A one-shot in the world of Faeree first introduced in E. Logan’s Turned/Red.

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.

When Characters Speak Up

What happens when a character, who, when you originally wrote her, was one of the more elusive of the set, suddenly decides to speak up and demand her own story?  You try to tell her to stop, but end up giving in and allowed her to take over her own novella.  At least, this is how this reasoning goes when a little story-bug gets into your brain and won’t let go.

Not that I’m complaining.  Story-bugs are the best.  Really.  There’s passion, and imagination, and fire there.  It means that a character has a voice that demands to be heard, and usually, if you let yourself follow the story-bug, something interesting comes out of it.

Now, I’ll admit, it isn’t always a full-blown story.  I’ve had story-bugs think they are full novels but end up realizing they are just fabulous sub-plots to another tale.  They end up being important points in the over-all reach of the story in ways I didn’t expect.

The bunny looks so cute and concerned....: Then you have story-bugs that started out only as a sub-plot idea that somehow blooms into a bigger one.  That’s where I am currently.  Solene White, a character in my novel Turned/Red I wrote about earlier (here) was only ever supposed to be a sub-plot.  Having based her off of Snow White and a few well-talked about monarchs in history, I didn’t feel like I wanted to re-hash an over-told tale.  I was wrong.  Apparently.

In the original plotting of the story-arcs, she never received her own.  The “Cinderella” character would get one, the “Sleeping Beauty” character would get one, down the line even a “Dorothy” and “Tinkerbell” character would get one… but not “Snow White.”  That, however, was back when I was taking the story in a very fairy-tale re-telling route, before it turned on its head, pulled from the War of the Roses and my dystopian love and jumped the curve.  Happily.

But now Solene isn’t content to be in Red’s story.  She wants her own.  So does Mal.  So does Red’s mother.  These women have stories they want to tell.  Novellas.  Not fully grown tales, but mini-ones.  And while I spent this week trying, and failing, to focus efforts purely on my paranormal fantasy project, they were begging me to give.

So I did.  Novellas for everyone it seems.

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.

A Day of Red

I am Red
A woman forged
Through red flames
A blazing inferno of a phoenix
Always rising again

I am Red
A woman embracing
A gentle heart
Wrapping warmth and love
In strong arms

I am Red
A woman thinking
In numbers and facts
Changing the science game
With brilliant minds

I am Red
A woman of spirit
Daughter, Sister, Mother, Wife
Hand in hand
Sirens singing a song
A human song

I am Red

I am Woman.

Today is Women’s Day, and around the global women, and men, are standing up to support the other-worldly contributions that women play in everyday life, let alone life changing and altering fields.  We are standing up to be counted, and saying that we cannot keep playing into history’s hands, repeating it, and pushing women down below their male counterparts.

As a struggling female writer, (and artist, as I am in dress rehearsals for a show going up this weekend, eep!) I am reminded how far we have come (I had the great Tamora Pierce in my library as a kid, and now look how many of us populate the shelves?!), and how far we have yet to go.  Until all boys pick up a book led by a female character and simply shrug, putting more stock in the story, not the protagonist, we have to keep pushing, and… fighting.

And this doesn’t just apply to women, though today is focused on us.  It applies to POC and LGBT+ characters, of which many ARE women.

Equal footing.  THAT’S humanity.  And as artists, is that not our call?  To reflect humanity?  Or pieces of humanity as accurately as possible (and I’m not talking about excluding fantasy, of which human nature is often THE central force)?

Food. The Spice of Life

I recently uncovered my copy of A Feast of Ice and Fire: the Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook (which I HIGHLY recommend for the historical goodies in there).  I did it to gear up for the next (and last, let me cry into my pillow please) season.  In the forward, I was struck by how the authors of the cookbook commented on George R. R. Martin’s feasts, and how often he writes them.  I never paid much attention when I was reading the books.  I was too much in the world, and maybe, just maybe, that’s why author’s put food in their books.

Amazing restaurants on the water in #Dubrovnik, Croatia:
Dubrovnik, Croatia

In this new project I’ve realized how important a component food has become.  There are whole scenes around meals, which makes sense for a fantasy novel, but isn’t it that way in life?  Don’t we have the most amazing conversations over a plate of food, or a glass of our favorite drink (be it wine or grape juice)?  We are at our most open when we are sharing a meal, so it makes sense to bring that forth in a written work.  There’s hardly an easy out if you are sharing a meal.  You either suck it up and stay, or you make a dramatic exit.  Either are writing gold.  It forces your characters to follow through with their words and actions.  They don’t get to swing a sword, slip away, or any other easy out.  Not that forcing them to stay is easy writing.  On the contrary.  The next thing you know, you’re writing a scene you weren’t sure you were ready for, but your characters were.  And in the end?  The narrative is better for it.

Food always places a culture.  For my new project, which I brought up in my last post about world building, my new place has some touches for a Croatian heritage I’m only just now discovering, so I’ve made a conscious choice to use Croatian and similar style foods.  Even if people don’t know what burek or kifle is, there’s instantly a feel associated with those words, and that spelling.  It’s a feel I want to imbue my story with, not to mention I like the idea of planning a meal around this new tale.

And there is such a rise in cookbooks inspired off of books/tv shows/movies.  I have an Amazon wish list full of them.  (Arguably, I love historical cooking, so anything that even hints at historical recipes is instantly in my “need” list.)  Eating, and socializing around that act, is purely human.  Of course, as authors, no matter how “other” our characters are, this will always reveal some sort of truth.  Even Turned/Red had some of my favorite, poignant moments, around a table and coffee.

We need food to survive.  And the social interaction that it involves, even if it is just one person.  If we want to be true to life?  Food is on the page, whether we consciously write it, or it just happens.