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Big news! Just returned from Sasquan (Worldcon 2015) in Spokane, WA – where much fun was had meeting and greeting and eating and signing books – to hear that I have been added to the guest list at this years Jet City Comic Show!
I’ll be appearing along with fellow 47North authors Camille Griep (Letters to Zell) and Kate Danley (The Woodcutter). And so very honored to be listed in the company of SFF greats like Terry Brooks and Robin Hobb. Big fangirl moment.
More details to be posted as programming and schedule are confirmed.
One of the most unexpected responses to my debut novel, THE WELL OF TEARS, was the negative reaction from younger female readers about the age of the protagonist in the book (she’s around 40), and the fact that she has a long-standing, functional, and happy life partnership.
THE WELL OF TEARS is more or less a multi-generational family saga with characters who range in age from 19 to 153. The lead protagonist, a sorceress called Alwen who embarks on a quest she has waited half her life to complete, must face a host of complicated challenges and heart-rending losses – the kind that come to someone who has lived long enough to acquire the obligations that come with adulthood – duty to family and community, and to self.
Concepts that are, apparently, inaccessible and / or alienating to younger women.
As a wife, mother, sister, aunt, and feminist – this pains me. It seriously pangs my heart to discover that the only kind of relationship angst some young women want to experience in their reading is whether or not the girl gets the guy. As if there isn’t far more riveting relationship angst to come after the hook up?
Wow. Come on, ladies. Dream bigger.
How I wish I’d been able to find a heroine in the stories I read in my twenties to model the woman I wanted to become, rather than female leads who merely made me feel less alone in my own romantic quagmires. But then, maybe I shouldn’t expect more from readers who are still giving jell-o shot syringes five star reviews ;).
So tell me, young(er) women readers of SFF – why is an older protagonist so unappealing to you? I really wanna know.
200 Kindle Book Bargains, 47North, Bully Whippet syndrome, Celtic mythology, Fantasy Series, Hywel Dda, magical creatures, Roberta Trahan, The Dream Stewards, The Hellion Horde, The Keys to the Realms, The Well of Tears, Welsh Folklore, Welsh History, Welsh Lore, Wendy the Bully Whippet
Great news just in time for the holidays – as part of the Amazon 200 Kindle Book Bargains promotion, both Dream Stewards books are on sale for $1.99 through December 14, 2014. Click here to get yours:
So, let’s have some fun! I’m resurrecting the weekly Creature Feature Trivia Challenge, in celebration of the season. Read the article below, answer the trivia question correctly (answers can be found somewhere in the blog archives), tell your friends about it, and you could win a $10 Amazon gift card!
A single monstrous barrel-chested creature with a bulbous head burst through the trees, gnashing a grotesquely protruding jaw of jagged teeth the length of Hywel’s forearm. The creature had staggering height and breadth – at least three times the size of his horse – taller and broader and hairier – and oddly boar-like with its hulking shoulders and thick neck. Its roar rattled his bones.
In the mystical White Woods that surround the ancient home of the Stewards, all manner of magical creatures exist – some more demonic than others. In THE KEYS TO THE REALMS, Hywel encounters the Hellion Horde and the horrific beasts they ride. These beasts have no known name, but they are as fearsome and deadly as the Hellion warriors themselves.
These frightening creatures first appear in THE WELL OF TEARS, and are inspired at least in appearance by a real animal. This animal, however, has an entirely different nature and is actually quite remarkable.
Meet Wendy, the Bully Whippet – a much-loved pet who suffers from a genetic disorder manifested by a mutation which causes double-muscling. Her general health is not affected by this anomaly, only her physique. Although her extraordinary looks invoked the image of a monster in my mind, her real-life story warms my heart. Who wouldn’t want this lovely girl as their canine companion?
The Dream Stewards series centers on a prophecy that foretells the rise to power of a legendary leader, who was also an actual 10th century ruler. What is the FULL name of the king of the prophecy?
(hint: if you haven’t read the books, the answer can be found in the blog archives, by using the search box at the top of this page. Just type in “Hywel” and browse the articles)
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. One lucky winner will be chosen at random from all the correct entries received by midnight on Friday, December 5th, 2014. The prize is a $10 Amazon gift card!!
47North, A Dribble of Ink, ageism in SFF, Aidan Moher, Chrome-assed bitches, Jane Navio, mature heroines, Miserere, MJ Locke, Roberta Trahan, Teresa Frohock, The Dream Stewards, The Well of Tears, Up Against It, women in SFF, Women Made of Chrome
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:
So what do you think? Is an over 40 heroine unappealing to you? If so, why?
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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!
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:
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;
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47North, Amazon Publishing, Book Reviews, epic fantasy, Paranormal Fantasy, Roberta Trahan, Team Tynga, The Dream Stewards, The Keys to the Realms, The Well of Tears, Tynga's Reviews, Urban Fantasy, When I'm Not Writing
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:
47North, Amazon Publishing, Anti-hero, Classic Fantasy, Classic hero, Game of Thrones, George RR Martin, GrimDark Fantasy, hero mythology, The Dream Stewards, The Keys to the Realms, The Red Viper of Dorne, The Viper and the Mountain, The Well of Tears, Tor.com
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