The Chrome-Assed Bitch Club – We Want YOU!

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Last week’s blog post (see “An Elegant Epitaph: She Was a Chrome-assed Bitch”) inspired a lot of conversation in my author circles about the role and importance of older female characters in SFF – not just as protagonists, but also antagonists and supporting characters. The older female is too often relegated to the ranks of “sage advisor”, who, while often found in a position of power, is static – implying that she is past her prime or has no more need for growth. There seems to be a prevailing idea that once women have attained maturity (i.e. midlife) they are no longer adventurous – physically, emotionally, philosophically, sexually. In some cases the opinion is that these women are no longer interested, and in some cases the opinion is that these women are no longer capable. Neither could be further from the truth, and yet it seems readers (and book reviewers) have a hard time embracing a mature woman on a journey of any kind.

So, of a spark and a roar, a new author / reader discussion group was born. Teresa Frohock and I have opened up a little salon on the interwebs to explore some of the aforementioned issues and celebrate some of the truly remarkable characters and storylines that feature the Chrome-assed Bitches of SFF. There’s some great conversation happening, and a fabulous reading list. Come and check us out!

Chrome-assed Bitches FB Group

Life doesn’t end at 40. In many ways, it’s just getting started. The problem is that mature women are too often devalued, if only as a result of a mistaken perception. We are strong. We are powerful. And we are not to be effed with.

What woman of a certain age hasn’t secretly invoked Kathy Bates’ infamous line in Fried Green Tomatoes: “Face it, girls. I’m older, and I’ve got more insurance.” And on that note, I leave you with the rallying cry of older women everywhere.

TOWANDA!!

An Elegant Epitaph: “She Was A Chrome-assed Bitch.”

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When I set out to write my debut novel, THE WELL OF TEARS, I took some pretty big risks. I hybridized the genre, I layered multiple story lines using many characters with unpronounceable names, and perhaps riskiest of all, I chose a mature female protagonist.

Alwen is a 40-something wife and mother who is also a skilled sorceress and wise leader who is heir to a powerful magical legacy. She is smart. She is strong. She is resilient. She is masterful. And she is a far superior version of herself at 40 than she was at 20. Life has honed her into the “chrome-assed bitch” she needs to be to outsmart a more powerful and far more diabolical mage and destroy the demon horde sent to obliterate her people.

The older the woman, the more dangerous she becomes. Older women didn’t need weapons to take the world down; they changed the course of history with a whisper. A word in the right ear brought down kings and queens, or maneuvered their kin into power. Chrome-assed bitches don’t need guns or swords, they have their brains.

I pulled the above quote from a recent article by Teresa Frohock, author of MISERERE: An Autumn Tale, which was one of my favorite reads of 2012. This quote kind of says it all. Teresa’s stunning debut dark fantasy novel features both a protagonist and an antagonist who are chrome-assed bitches in their 40s. These women have not only fought their way to respect and authority, but they have also acquired the mental discipline, social savvy and emotional seasoning it takes to survive and succeed along the way. With age comes experience.

I’m still surprised by the reviewers who disdain my choice of a mature heroine – calling her “old” and “unrelatable”. Without exception these reviewers are 20-something young women, who I suspect are still finding themselves and lack the foresight to envision the chrome-assed bitches they might yet become. That makes me a little sad.

Here’s the link to Teresa’s article on the blog A Dribble of Ink (edited by Aidan Moher). Teresa’a post includes a list of remarkable women in history worthy of the “chrome-assed bitch” epitaph. Check it out:

Women Made of Chrome by Teresa Frohock (Features on A Dribble of Ink)

So what do you think? Is an over 40 heroine unappealing to you? If so, why?

Zombies, and Knights, and Zombies, and Swordplay, and Zombies…

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One of my favorite reads of 2013 was a little known serial novel called THE SCOURGE – which is the first of a series of historical fantasy/horror novels by my author friend Roberto Rodriguez Calas.

In THE SCOURGE, a mysterious plague has descended upon 14th century England, ravaging the country and trapping the souls of the afflicted in eternal madness. Sir Edward of Bodiam has been separated from his wife, and with two of his knights, sets out to find her. The knights encounter unspeakable horror, violence, and sorrow on their quest, but nothing on heaven or earth can keep Edward from the woman he loves.

THE SCOURGE is a clever, witty twist on some familiar themes like honor, nobility, and true love – with characters you can’t help but love. The quest continues in Roberto’s next book, THE SCOURGE: EMACULUM.

Today I’ll be hanging out on Facebook with a bunch of seriously cool authors and readers, in celebration of Roberto’s new release. There will be zombies, and swordplay, and zombies, and prizes, and zombies, and knights in shining armor, and zombies…

The fun starts at 5:00 pm EST / 2:00 pm PST. Click the image below to be taken to the event page. Hope to see you there!

Scourge Lauch Party 8.5.14

Looking for a little Escape? Check Out This Awesome Summer Fantasy & Sci-Fi Reads Deal

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Summer days are here again – even in the Pacific Northwest! I’ll be writing whenever I can, from a patio lounge chair when the weather allows. But what have you got planned? A couple of weeks at some tropical resort? A mountain lake retreat? A back woods camping adventure? Bumming on the beach? Lounging around the house? Visiting family? Whatever your plans, be sure to load up your e-reader and pack it along!

Amazon has an amazing SciFi & Fantasy Summer Reads Deal going on right now – all kinds of interesting books for $1.99 until August 9th, including mine!! If you haven’t already read the Dream Stewards books, now is the time to give them a try! Both THE WELL OF TEARS and THE KEYS TO THE REALMS are on sale.

Already read and loved them? Maybe tell a friend, or leave an honest review on the book’s page at Amazon.com. It really helps us authors out – we really do want to know what you think! Just click the image above to buy or comment.

And, if you’re looking for something else, even something that isn’t Sci-Fi and Fantasy, there are lots of other great deals. Just click the image below to check them all out. I found a few new titles for my own TBR list. Now all I need is the margarita pitcher and a 48 hour day!

Stephen King’s Top 20 Rules for Writers

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robertatrahan:

Today has been one of artistic reflection for me, so it seems appropriate to share this very helpful reprint of writing advice given my Stephen King that was posted on the blog Literary Liasons by author Mindy Halleck:

Originally posted on Literary Liaisons:

Love or hate his work, Stephen King, author of horror classics like The Shining and its 2013 sequel Doctor Sleep is one heck of a prolific and diverse author.

Over 350 million copies of King’s books have sold worldwide. That’s extraordinary. And though I don’t read his really scary stuff – keeps me awake at night – his works like Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile have been unforgettable reads.  I often wonder, how does he do it? King’s manual On Writing exposes how relentlessly dedicated he is to his craft. Though he says he doesn’t always stick to his own rules, trying to follow them is a worthwhile goal.

To begin with he says the best writers hook their readers with voice, not just action.

Below is a reprint (from Open Culture) of an article/interview with Stephen King regarding his 20 rules for writing. A must read;

stephen-king-writing-tips1. First write for…

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The Keys to the Realms: Epic Exclusive Excerpt Featured in APEX Magazine!

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I am proud and honored to share that an exclusive excerpt from THE KEYS TO THE REALMS (Dream Stewards #2) is featured in the latest edition of the Hugo-nominated speculative fiction publication APEX Magazine.

The magazine features original fiction and poetry for lovers of SciFi, Fantasy and Horror. The excerpts are available to subscribers / purchasers only ($2.99). You can take a peek (and get your copy) on the Apex website.

Apex Magazine – Issue #62

 

“When I’m Not Writing” – guest feature at Tynga’s Reviews

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Tynga's Reviews

You’ve always wanted to know, right?

The crack Team over at Tynga’s Reviews were kind enough to host me on their weekly feature about the things we writers do when we’re not writing.

Click the banner to visit the article, and then spend some time checking out this fabulous paranormal/UF/YA fantasy book blog:

When I'm Not Writing Banner

 

 

 

Out of the Darkness and (Back) Into the Light – Why I’m So Over the Anti-Hero In Fantasy Fiction

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My editor, Alex Carr, recently tweeted that my Dream Stewards series is “a return to classic fantasy and a step forward for the genre”.

In less than 140 characters, Alex summed up everything I ever set out to accomplish with my debut series. But then, he’s always understood and championed my vision. As usual, I’m a little out of sync with the current trends – especially when it comes to grim-dark and grey fantasy. Some people think I’m too old school. Maybe that’s true.

Critics often remark that my heroes are one dimensional because they are not morally compromised or ambiguous, or nearly irredeemable self-serving souls who may or may not have a moral epiphany just in time to save the world. They also scoff at my villains for being too recognizably evil and obviously motivated, but we’ll save that discussion for another blog post.

In recent years, the anti- hero has become iconic in fantasy fiction – and understandably so, to some degree. The idea that an every day person might, in spite of his or her lack of heroic qualities, do heroic things is actually quite inspiring. But even more recently, the trend has taken a darker turn. The anti-hero has devolved into a near-villain whose conduct is more often than not despicable if not reprehensible – who then experiences a moment of clarity in which he ultimately does the right thing, if only once. And more and more often, the anti-hero fails not only to win, but even to rise to the challenge. I give you Jamie Lannister (George RR Martin’s GAME OF THRONES) as a most obvious example. And of course it follows that evil overpowers righteousness. Darkness trumps the light.

The popular explanation for why this kind of fantasy is so appealing is that it is more realistic and reflective of the truth of human nature than the classic hero mythology. Many people see the classic hero as an archetype that is unattainable for them – so far out of reach it makes them feel small, while the anti-hero is more relatable to most of us.

But isn’t that more than a little sad? Is it really so unfair to hold ourselves up to a higher standard than we are ever likely to achieve? How is it heroic to lower the bar just to lessen the sting of failure?

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp – or what’s a heaven for?

I have had this Robert Browning quote sitting somewhere on every desk I’ve owned over the last 40 years. It is the motivations behind every challenge I accept, and an appropriate allegory for every story I write. To my mind, fantasy is at its very core an exploration of the unreal, the unexpected, the unexplained, and the unknown. To my mind, heroism a testament to ideals and aspirations. Of course story must always examine the dark side, even wander around in it a bit, but in the end the better angel has to triumph. Hope simply must prevail, because in reality, it so rarely does.

I’m a reluctant fan of Game of Thrones (the HBO series, not the books), but I watch it religiously because there is so much incredible storytelling going on. Last night’s episode (The Mountain and the Viper), however, has finally turned me cold. The Red Viper of Dorne and his righteous retribution were squashed, quite literally. And once again, a horrifyingly dark and disturbing force has dominated. As I get older, I realize more and more how broken and misguided and morally ambiguous the human condition has become. The last place I want to see this harsh reality reflected is in the fantasy I read. I am so weary of wallowing in the dark. Aren’t you?

As a result, I feel duty bound to offer an antidote, which is why I wrote THE WELL OF TEARS and THE KEYS TO THE REALMS. I’m not old-fashioned, I’m forward thinking. I am all for the tortured, conflicted hero, but most of all, I’m all for the hero – in the classic sense of the champion who recognizes right from wrong and chooses right even when it is hard, even when failure is guaranteed. Even if we are lost in the dark, we should always, always be looking for the light.

Recently, Tor.com posted a list of life-affirming fantasy books – it’s a great list, even though mine aren’t on it. Check mine out if you haven’t already (just click the cover images in the left hand column), and then take a look at this list for some more great reads:  Looking For a Light at the End of GrimDark? Check Out These 13 Life-Affirming Fantasies

Why I Couldn’t Care Less About the Bookseller Wars (Amazon v. Hachette or whoever)

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Here’s the thing. Big retailers have been sparring for dominance in the American consumer marketplace since I don’t know, pretty much since the inception of consumerism. They have leveraged their market reach to force suppliers and manufacturers to give them deeper discounts and bloated themselves with profits until they get so big they burst, split in two, or fall afoul of anti-trust laws. Whatever.

I’m an author. My job is to create content that attracts, interests and affects people. I’m still working on how to do that in such a way that enables me to make a real living. And that’s just part of my job. I know there are some big name bestsellers reaching out directly to their readers in a fit of frustration and concern over their own bottom line. From where I sit that looks more than a little unprofessional.

We authors know, or should know, what we’re getting into when we sign on with a book publisher. It’s on us to worry about the business back channels, dear reader, not you. It’s not your job to worry about whether or not my publisher or the booksellers are being fair to me, and it’s not your job to shout the rallying cry against corporate bullying or stage a boycott or trouble yourself in any way about who is doing what to whom in the Gargantuan Publishing Industry Free for All that’s currently grabbing headlines.

Besides, there are no innocent parties here. Sure, authors get their pockets pinched when publishing companies and booksellers go to battle. It’s unfortunate, and as individual business people. we authors need to take these things into consideration when contemplating how to bring our work to the marketplace. But it really has nothing at all to do with you, dear reader. Except in one very important way.

Are you able to find the book you want? Is it available to you in the mainstream marketplace – maybe not at your first stop, but somewhere in the neighborhood? Odds are it is. And that’s good enough for me. It’s probably good enough for you too. If that ever changes, then we’ll be having a whole different kind of conversation.

But for now, I’ll just keep working on becoming the best writer I can be. And you just keep on reading. Deal?

The World of the Dream Stewards: Creature Feature #3 – The Faerie Folk

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“They all had names, or so she expected, though she hadn’t asked. She thought becoming too friendly might make them more difficult to resist. Not that the faerie folk were baddies, really, but they could be troublesome. No matter what task Eirlys had set for herself, they did their best to keep her from it. It was sure and certain, though, that wherever she went, she never went alone. In the Frisian isles where she was born, the gnomes had been her childhood companions. Here, in her mother’s homeland, she had encountered several new faerie tribes. The pixies, who were mischievous and fun-loving, were her favorites.”

In THE WELL OF TEARS, the whimsical young daughter of the heroine does not inherit her mother’s magical heritage – instead, she shares her father’s affinity to the fey. Eirlys has blood ties to the faerie folk, a gift from her grandmother who was a tangie (a water sprite). As a result, Eirlys can see and hear things that others cannot. Celtic mythology is rife with faerie folklore. The article below is a reblog of a piece I wrote for Fairyroom.com last year. Be sure to read (or scroll) all the way to the end for this week’s trivia challenge!

THE FAERIE FOLK OF CORNWALL

By Roberta Trahan

Perhaps one of the most romanticized of all the Celtic homelands is Cornwall – birthplace of such legends as Arthur, Tristan & Isolde, and Jack the Giant Killer. A natural peninsula located at the southwestern tip of the United Kingdom, Cornwall is an ancient region that predates the Neolithic era. A distinct Celtic nation with its own language and unique history, the proud people of Cornwall still work to maintain their separate identity and culture, while acknowledging their sisterhood with Great Britain.

Cornwall also has a mythology that is all its own. Cornish folklore centers largely on giants and little people, which historians have theorized may have originated as a folk-memory of an ancient Bronze Age race that was conquered by the larger, taller Celts (who might well have been perceived and demonized as giants). But by far the most whimsical characters to evolve throughout the centuries are the small folk (known collectively in Cornwall as faeries):

The Piskies – Often known in Germanic cultures as ‘pixies’, these small sprites lived in secret, isolated places and were considered by and large to be benevolent spirits. Largely thought of as good natured and fun-loving, they were also reputed to have a mischievous side. Though especially kind to the old or infirm, piskies were known to lead able-bodies travelers astray (known as being “piskie led”) for sport. They are described in folklore and old literature as having the appearance of old men, being very small statured (a few inches tall) and dressed in clothes made of the fabrics of the earth such as moss, grasses, and lichen.

The Browneys – Similar to piskies, Browneys were household sprites living closely alongside mortals but rarely seen or heard. They were known to be kindly and helpful, taking every opportunity to benefit their adopted family. Perhaps the closest thing to what is more widely thought of as a traditional fairy, Browneys are often described as gentle, harmless, and always beautiful. They would visit the homes of the poor or sick, tending their gardens or leaving wild flowers.

The Spriggans – The more ill-tempered cousin of the piskie or browney, Spriggans were especially spiteful to those who offended them. Reputed to be the security force of the faerie society, they stood ready to measure out justice to those who would harm their otherworldly brethren. Some of the punishments believed to have been doled out by the Spriggans were storms sent to blight crops, and the leaving of changelings in place of stolen mortal children. They were most often found in old castle ruins and barrows, guarding buried treasure. Spriggans are described in literature as grotesque, with wizened features and crooked skinny bodies. Though small, they were purported to have the defensive ability to expand themselves to gigantic proportions.

The Knockers – These little folk were the unseen underground inhabitants of the tin mines. Many were reputed to have been discovered by miners who heard their singing and the knocking of their magical pickaxes. Usually Knockers were considered helpful, working ahead of the miners and leading them to rich ore veins. But they could be mean when disrespected or treated unfairly. The wise miner would leave a share of his daily meal (usually a piece of his pasty), or else suffer a string of inexplicable misfortunes.

Knockers are described as dwarf-like, with large heads and the faces of old men. Their name comes from the knocking sound on mine walls that occurs just before a cave-in, believed to be a benevolent warning from the fey.

As is true of most Celtic cultures, history and legend were largely passed on through the bardic oral tradition. The earliest and most well-known written documentation of Cornish mythology can be found in several mid to late 19th century folklore compilations that can still found in print today. The following were resources for this article: Popular Romances of the West of England (1865) by the renowned scientist and folklorist Robert Hunt, Traditions and Hearthside Stories of West Cornwall (3 vols. 1870, 1873, 1880) by William Bottrell, and Folklore and Legends of Cornwall by Margaret Anne Courtney.

In addition to its mystic places and magical history, Cornwall is a popular travel destination and home to such modern day attractions as the Eden Project (a global conservation and educational effort) and the Daphne Du Maurier arts festival. To learn more about Cornwall, go to http://www.visitcornwall.com/

Dream Stewards Trivia Challenge:  The Dream Stewards saga is set in the mystical land of Cymru – which is a Welsh word meaning — ?.

(Hint: You can Google this one. There are 2 correct answers.)

Post your answer in the comments section below to enter. If you also like and/or share this post and mention where in your comment, you’ll get an extra entry – but the extra entry only counts if you also answer the question correctly :). One lucky winner will be chosen at random from all the correct entries received by midnight on Monday, May 26th. The prize is a $10 Amazon gift card!!

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