Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Of Girls and Boys, Heroes, and Keeping Your Characters in Character

I have a son and a daughter, pre-teens, and they both love things like Star Wars and Doctor Who, playing video games, dressing up as superheroes and running around with toy Styrofoam Thor swords. They love comics and anime and Legos.

My daughter is drawn to strong female characters. Black Widow is her favorite Avenger. I try to find stories that have strong female characters for my daughter, because it’s not hard to find strong male characters written, but sometimes harder to find the girls. And while my daughter loves both, she relates to the girls.

I started watching an anime last week—and I’m not going to name it, because I don’t feel like getting into an argument about how and why these characters acted the way they did, and how it might have been rational or logical in some ways. It started out great. It was intriguing, the animation was gorgeous, and it seemed to have strong characters of both genders. At first. By the time I hit the second arc of the story, I felt like everything I had come to know about these characters was sucked out or flattened. Boy became the stereotypical hero off to save the damsel—and let me say, I don’t mind damsel in distress stories. They can be written well. Not all girls want to be the hero—some girls dream about a knight in shining armor coming to sweep them off their feet. But some girls want to be heroes. Some girls need to be heroes. Some girls want to see the heroes they can relate to. And when the writers take a girl who was shown—at first—as a strong, capable character and slowly tone that down and then flat-out rip the heroic rug right out from under her, it disappoints me at first—and then just makes me mad. Why would you do that to your character—just so the guy can become a white knight to a girl who shouldn't have needed it?

There was a line this female character said when she was basically being tortured that made me so, so mad, and I can’t say what it was without giving the anime name, but let me just say: it was not cool, because it made the girl’s pain all about the guy. It was not only an injustice to the girl, but also an injustice to the characterization of the guy, who had once had confidence that the girl could protect herself pretty darn well and that just…vanished. It was like watching Body Snatched versions of these characters.

I’m not saying the guy can’t rescue the girl. I’m not saying the girl can’t rescue the guy. I love a good story that has mutual rescuing where characters of both genders get to be the heroes. I love when the girl is able to escape on her own. I love it when the guy comes to help her or save her. I love when the girl gets to save the guy.  As long as it is well-written and in character. Look at Disney’s Tangled. Eugene and Rapunzel saved each other back and forth through that movie. Look at Frozen. Anna and Kristoff took turns saving each other and at the end, Anna gets to save herself, which is the best thing ever—but she wouldn't have gotten to the point where she could if she hadn't had friends to help her along the way. Everyone needs a leg up sometimes—boy or girl. Heroism comes in all sorts of forms. It’s not just physical strength. The shyest, quietest character might be the bravest one. Characters who some might see as weak could be the strongest.

I want stories that tell my son he can be the hero. But I also want the same for my daughter. I want stories that can tell both of them that it’s okay to rely on other people, male or female, and that they don’t always have to be the hero, but they also can be. They need strong characters of both genders in the things the read, the stuff they watch, what they listen to.

And when I’m watching something and it starts out with a strong female character who dissolves into an object of conquest, it frustrates me and makes me want to go sit down and write a book about a strong female character for my daughter. (Then I remind myself I’m already writing a series about a strong female character—but darn it, I want to write a brand new one. A book, not a series. Why can’t more of my books come in one-shots?)

I say again: We need strong characters of both genders. But please, fellow writers, please—do not taunt me with an awesome, strong, female character and then make her an almost completely helpless object. Don’t. Do. It. I wouldn't want to see that happen to a male character either. Keep your characters true to themselves. Characters are supposed to grow, and yes, characters change when they go on journeys, sometimes for the worse, but it should make sense.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mother's Day Book Bash May 5-12!

One of my books, Rising Book 1: Resistance, is on sale for a Mother's Day event. There are eight other awesome authors whose books are also on sale, so check out the info below to see if any of them catch your eye! To help decide which books might best suit those you gift on Mother's Day, all week during the Book Bash, we're going to be posting tidbits about these books--excerpts, deleted scenes, etc.--on our Facebook event page here.

Eye on Orion by Laura Bastian
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99  Amazon
Genre: YA Fantasy

Falling in love with your gorgeous new neighbor isn't a bad thing, but when he turns out to be the bodyguard of a princess from a planet nine billion light-years away, life gets complicated.

Seventeen-year-old stargazer Holly Adams never imagined she’d find herself trying to prevent the overthrow of an alien government. When Jai and his sister Amira move into the house down the street, Holly is immediately drawn to them. Jai acts suspicious of her from the start, making Holly more curious about their oddities. When Holly learns they are from a different planet, she does what she can to help protect Amira from Shander, a man who wants to marry her by force in order to take over the kingdom her father rules.

Mistaken identity, a botched kidnapping, and a first kiss that bonds Holly and Jai for life are hard enough, but when Shander believes Holly to be the princess, things get even more dangerous.

Arms Wide Open, a novella by Juli Caldwell
Price: $.99   Amazon
Genre: Romance

Lauren Brooks is in a rut, and her roomie is determined to yank her out of it by convincing her to participate in a local coffee shop's 5-in-5 speed dating event. Once she agrees, it takes her about 30 seconds to realize if there's an oddball out there looking for love, he'll find her. And creep her out. She confronts one weirdo after another until someone she used to know winds up in the same place, and she has to decide what she wants more: to make a break for it, or embrace the possibilities of another chance.

Not So Easy by Sherry Gammon

Sale Price: $2.99, regularly $4.25   Amazon
Genre: YA Fantasy

Senior Max Sanchez has it all. 

He’s the star pitcher for Port Fare High’s baseball team. He’s dating the head cheerleader, Emma McKay, and he has a great group of friends. 

Junior JD Miller’s life is Not So Easy. 

Unlike Max, JD struggles with making friends. He’s a social misfit, and he’s being bullied at every turn. He’s also barely surviving. 

A tragedy forces these two together. Now Max must face the hardest challenge of his life as he works to help JD. A tragic accident changes everything, merging their lives together, and Max soon learns that life is not so easy for everyone. Max works to the point of exhaustion trying to help JD survive the chaos that is his life, and his eyes are opened to a world he had no idea even existed. 

Not so Easy is a story about hope, surviving, and never giving up. Download a free sample and start reading now!

Adrenaline Rush by Cindy Hogan
Sale Price: 1.99, regularly 3.99   Amazon
Genre: YA romantic suspense

A madman with a mission is kidnapping groups of thrill-seeking high school seniors across the country, and it’s up to Christy to stop him. To do so, she must take on a fearless alter ego and infiltrate a group of adrenaline junkies bent on pushing life to the limit. Death-defying stunts are only the beginning: two groups fit the profile, and Christy must discover the real target before it’s too late. 

If she chooses the wrong group, more people will disappear. But choosing right puts her as the prime target—with no guarantee that she’ll get out alive.

Rising Book 1: Resistance by Laura Josephsen
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99   Amazon
Genre: Fantasy/Science Fiction

All Alphonse wants is a quiet summer at home before his final months at university. What he gets is a half-dead stranger on his doorstep and the task of delivering a package to the leader of his home country. Not long after he boards a train toward the capital, he's attacked by knights, elite soldiers of the neighboring king. 

Alphonse is temporarily rescued by Mairwyn, a mechanic with a haunted past and a deep hatred of knights. Together, they attempt to carry out Alphonse's urgent errand, only to learn that if they fail, countless people will die. 

And even if they succeed, they may not be able to prevent the war that lurks on the horizon. (Book 1 of 2)

Chimeria Omnibus Edition – Blood Will Tell and Blood is Thicker by Meredith Mansfield
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $4.75   Amazon
Genre: Portal Fantasy

Blood Will Tell
A half-werewolf and a dragon in disguise join forces to rescue an innocent woman from an unknown attacker. Without knowing who or why, each tries to solve the mystery in their own way. But a decades-old crime and the dragon's true identity may destroy their collaboration--and their growing attraction to one another--just when their enemy has found their hide out.

Blood Is Thicker
Rolf and Valeriah are back. Even while Valeriah struggles to adapt to her new life, a new crisis arises. If they can't figure out why the dragons' hatching grounds are suddenly going cold, a generation of dragons may never hatch--including their own eggs.

How to Have Peace When You’re Fall to Pieces by Rebecca Rode
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $4.61   Amazon
Genre: Nonfiction

You haven't seen your kids' bedroom floor in weeks, your schedule is overflowing, and the drive-thru lady knows you by name. But even when life feels chaotic, peace is possible. Packed with poems, quotes, and inspirational stories, this book gives a fresh perspective on a mother's work and helps restore calm to a hectic world--starting at home.

"Charming . . . full of wit, humor, and great ideas." ~Sandra Covey

A Change of Plans by Donna K. Weaver
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $3.99 (If you get the Kindle book, you can add the audiobook for only $1.99) Amazon  
Genre: Clean New Adult Adventure Romance

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancĂ© was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn’s painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

All the Finer Things by Stephanie Connelley Worlton
Sale Price: $.99, regularly $2.99   Amazon
Genre: Romance

Married to one of the most lucrative and sought after plastic surgeons in SoCal, Megan Hamilton has it all. Her posh life, designer clothes, and stunning penthouse leave her wanting for nothing… or do they? Controlled by his obsessive pursuit of perfection, Doctor Matthew Hamilton will stop nothing short of breaking his young, spirited bride into a subservient trophy wife. But when parenthood enters their picture, the entire game changes. How far will Megan have to go to escape Matt's obsessive control and abuse? And how much will she have to lose before she gets there?