Sexism in Literature

Heros.pngRecently, literature has gone crazy with feminism discussions.  Big women can be pretty too.  Women shouldn’t be treated as objects.  Women deserve…

You all know what I’m talking about.  Now, when was the last time you heard a rant about fridging some guy?  Why not?  Why is it “acceptable” to knock off some male character to inspire vengeance or purpose in his female (or male) family/lover/friend?  Why does no one complain when all the “hot” guys are also rich, built, or otherwise unrealistic?  Why is no one protesting the covers featuring males who are heavily photoshopped or air brushed to portray unhealthy body ideals, like 6 pack abs when completely relaxed?

Granted, some of this is human nature.  A strong man is just sexy.  Humans are kinda programmed to think that.  Does that mean that every single romantic hero has to be an alpha?  If so, why don’t we delve into his inner turmoil of coping with the backlash of such arrogance and heavy-handed mannerisms?

I think you all can see where I’m going with this.  Why are there two sets of rules, and do YOU as a writer (professional or just for fun) fall into the tropes?  Do you take the short cuts to make it easy, or do you stop and think about the men and women you’re creating, and what they tell the readers is “normal”?

Should you?  Should I?  While, yes, we have the RIGHT to write what we want, are we doing more damage to our own causes because it’s so easy to be lazy?

Just food for thought.

Head Shots

I9uTJKdFNo, I don’t mean the kind you get in first person shooters, I mean pictures.  This is the image I decided to use when starting to publish.  I don’t typically spend a lot of time getting my picture taken.  It’s over-rated and shows off my wrinkles.

You see, I’m a blue haired lady who hates getting dressed up.  I have a job where I can go to work in yoga pants and a tee.  Mascara?  Bah, who needs it!

But I’m still too vain to plaster pictures of my slovenly self around like that.  I want to have a little glamor, so when strangers look at me, I’m not left wondering how many chins they are counting.  I think we all have a bit of this.

And there’s nothing wrong with it!  Everyone wants to be lovely.  Male, female, it doesn’t matter.  We want people to find us pleasing in SOME way.  But, that doesn’t help me, right now.  See, I need to get some photos to use for my career as an author.  Head Shots are kinda expected.

So, I dyed my hair, have some lipstick, and a plan.  There’s a date in my future with a camera, and I’m going to HATE it.

Hope you’re all a fan of blue.  😉

Addicted to Publishing

There’s a thrill – and a terror – to releasing your first book.  Watching the sales climb, seeing the reviews come in, and knowing that SOMEONE ELSE is reading your book?  That’s a feeling I can’t describe.  It’s exhilarating.  It’s horrifying.  It’s mesmerizing.

It’s also a whole lot of work.

From deciding where to advertise, learning the industry, and working day and night to keep up with new ways to make sure people can find your book, it’s like a real job.  This is the life of an independent author.  No one tells us what to do.  No one makes the decisions, and no one has all the answers.  It’s us against the world.

And I’m addicted to it.

I have one serious back list… kinda.  As I’ve said before, I have about 35 books in some state of “done”.  Some are rough drafts.  Some are ready to print.  Others need some major plot work before even my trusted beta group will see it.  They’re close, though.

What they don’t have are the finishing touches.  Editing.  Reviews.  Advanced copies to people who will actually write a review!  And the biggest deal breaker: no cover.  Without a quality cover, a book simply will not sell.

So, my little publishing company (Spotted Horse Productions) has a bit of a backlog.  We’re currently working on 3 books, from 3 series.  I’m trying to figure out how long it takes to write a book, from start to finish, to predict the lead time for the rest.  I figure, if I release all of these books, it gives me quite a span of time before I need to worry about what I am CURRENTLY writing, but between all of that?  Yeah, I need to finish the ones that are “purt near” done.

I still want to watch the numbers.  I want to get the feedback.  I am addicted to letting people read my fantasies, and hearing both the good and the bad.  I’m still trying to master this indie publishing thing, but I’m getting there, and I’m going full steam ahead.


Love Online

CA_Amy2We all play video games, or so it seems.  From Facebook to our phones, there’s a simple app to make it easy to lose a few minutes between whatever we’re waiting for.  Computers, consoles, and mobile devices, they all have a selection, and we love them.

We also find love on them.  So many of these games are cooperative.  After a few weeks, we make friends.  A couple months later, and it’s become a habit to flirt with that one guy/girl who makes us laugh.  Not long after that, an online pal turns into someone we’re texting, messaging, and thinking about taking a vacation to meet in person.

Two decades ago, it was shocking.  That person on the other end of the monitor had to be a stalker, serial killer, or axe murderer.  Ten years ago, only “losers” found love online.  Today, most people meet their significant other through the help of the internet.  Whether that’s through social media, an online dating site, or finding the partner of our dreams in a game, it’s not a big deal.  It’s normal.  Everyone knows someone who did it.

So why don’t we read about it in the books we love?  Why do Romance and Fantasy still try to avoid any technology?  Cell phones are basically ignored, the hours lost on a computer or tablet never happen in the story, and our heroes/heroines act like they are stuck in the 80s.

I have a theory.  I think it’s because so much of our tech is, well, technical.  I happen to work for an internet service provider.  I’m a gamer.  I can talk about the specs of my hard drive, video card, CPU, and overclocking.  I get lost in the minutia of dissecting game mechanics.

I happen to work for an internet service provider.  I’m a gamer.  I can talk about the specs of my hard drive, video card, CPU, and overclocking.  I get lost in the minutia of dissecting game mechanics.  I think this makes me qualified enough to write a book about professional gamers.  I also know that most of this stuff is annoying crap to readers.  They don’t want to learn engineering in order to enjoy a book, but they notice glaring mistakes.  They know that placing a cell phone beside a tablet doesn’t always get a connection.  They know that Google doesn’t work very well offline.  Readers aren’t stupid, even if it isn’t their field of interest, and writers are terrified of messing it up!

So, hold onto your seats, people, because I’m writing a love story for the virtual world.  Gaming, cell phones, hacking, scripting, and data surveillance.  Oh yeah… and it was all inspired by Gamer Gate.

The Professional Hermit

Q9HPTT5LIE.jpgI always wanted to grow up and be a hermit.  Being a writer is a little like that, I believe.

For days on end, I seclude myself in isolation, tapping a staccato rhythm on my keyboard.  My foot taps as if keeping time, even though it’s mostly a nervous twitch.  And the only person to appreciate the foolishness of all this is my dear, sweet, youtube watching husband.

You see, this is our “deal”.  I write as much as I want.  He plays video games, watches horrible movies, or gets lost in youtube documentaries about whatever caught his attention.  If it sounds miserable, trust me, it’s anything but.

Neither of us are “people” people.  We enjoy having no expectations, having no one around to complain about it, and nothing else that has to be done for just a few minutes.  Or hours.  Sometimes entire days.  When I get excited and start explaining my latest stroke of brilliance, he hits pause and listens – usually while giggling at how cute I am.  When he scores an epic kill, I come watch the next life.  This is the beauty of a completely mundane life, and one I think is all too often overlooked.

As authors, we try to write the impossible characters: millionaires, heroes, tragically abused, and unbelievably resilient.  We don’t imagine entire novels about the guy working at Walmart to make rent or the girl who has IBS.  We’re so convinced that no one would want to read it, that a life like that can’t be exciting – or some other piece of drivel – that we prove to ourselves that we’re not good enough.  If that’s true, then our readers aren’t good enough, so all of us need to strive for MORE, because we’re just so damned average.

But why?  Why can’t we find the beauty in the little things.  The extra in the ordinary.  Why can’t we stop going so fast every single day to stop and realize how great all of these boring little things are, and how romantic, fantastic, and epic our stories really are?

I am a hermit by choice.  I’m a hermit because I actually LIKE being just me.  I relish this little, boring, and rather dull existence I have made, because it’s the smallest things that turn it into magic.  The spontaneous kiss.  The flirting after ten years of marriage.  The way my fat little dog snores, and how much I just love the wrinkles in his tail.  The personal success of chasing down the cat before it runs off with my scarf… again.  My life is a fairy tale, set in contemporary times, building an epic series… And I share it with my readers all dressed up in shiny new clothes and  beautiful stage sets.  I write about life, because I am a professional hermit, and loving every minute of it.

The danger of reading my own books

OMD teasingI’ve been going through One More Day, looking for quotes to make teasers.  Advertising tools, basically.  This is the life of an Indie Author.  We don’t have a publishing machine to do it for us, so you’d better learn a little photoshop, 3D modeling, marketing, layout design, and so much more.

But that’s not the rant I want to have today!  No… Today I want to talk about what happens when I read a novel I wrote.  I want to write the next one!  I always think about what happens next, about where the characters end up.  In this case, my problem is a supporting character named Colby.

He’s cute, he’s quirky, he has a mouth like, well, a tattoo artist, and he’s stuck between overconfident alpha male and insecurity.  Getting used by women has a tendency to do that to a guy, I’d think.

But Colby is a great guy, under all the rough edges and ink.  He just isn’t that lucky in love, but he deserves to be.  He deserves to face his demons, beat them down, and reign victorious over his own life.  He also sounds like a character that is going to be a LOT of fun to write.

But, When We Were Dancing is at the top of my list right now.  I can’t do anything until it’s on the shelves – even though I wanna.  To pacify myself, I’m spending my time away from the computer (you know, when I can’t be writing) debating his plotline.  Now, my only question, is if he ends up with the girl he met in One More Day, or if she breaks his heart, too.  Hmm…

I am an Author

My first book released on September 1, 2015.  That means I’ve been an author for about three and a half months.  I’ve been a writer for a whole lot longer!

Now, I’m not one of those people who can say I was “born” to write, or anything like that.  I never really thought of things like that, but I always enjoyed the arts.  Ever since I was a child, I liked painting and drawing.  Considering my mother is an amazing painter, this makes sense.  In junior high, I took to music.  Through my life, I’ve learned to play the flute, french horn, bass clarinet, tuba, bassoon, and more.  I was never exceptional at it, but I did love the art of music.

Then there’s the words.  Looking back, I can put the pieces together.  In fourth grade, I wrote my first “story”.  It was about a girl and a unicorn – duh!  The assignment for school was to write a one page story… I wrote twenty-seven.  It just happened.  Then there was the one in high school.  A creative writing assignment that took hold of me.  In college, I decided to write a book.  The plan was to do something with World War II snipers, to feature the hardships of Russian women at the time.  Yeah, I think I made five pages before giving up.  I just thought I wasn’t cut out for this.

Then, somewhere along the way, an idea began growing in my head.  It was just an idea I followed when I couldn’t sleep.  Laying in bed, I would wonder what this alien creature would do, and spent a lot of time pondering the “what ifs”.  In 2013, I had a month long vacation and no money to enjoy it, so I sat down and tried to get some of those words into print.

Four weeks later, the iliri were born.  Now, in January of 2016, only a handful of people know about them (love you, beta readers), but those beasties – and the novice writing mistakes I made – were my first book.  I quickly hashed out four novels in the series, taking three months to get eyes on them.

THEN, I spent a year learning the tricks to putting words together.  Yep, for a year I had multiple finished books, but no faith in them because I didn’t know how to properly tag dialogue or why certain paragraphs felt annoying (sentence variation!).  What I did have a lot of were stories.

Within 25 months I plotted out 35 novels.  Many are in various stages of completion.  A few have been shelved for weak characterization, over-done tropes, and the like.  More have come to me.  Right now, I have 9 unique universes, hundreds of imaginary friends, and stories that I think others will love.  The problem is that I need to get them out to my readers.

This isn’t a job that can be done alone.  Each book requires so many people.  I have a group of four beta readers who will always be there when I need them, and countless others willing to put eyes on a new book in it’s rough stage.  I have an editing friend who does an amazing job of smacking me around when I try to give eyes their own personality, but hates metaphors.  I have a cheerleader who is right there to research anything I ask for, and she keeps me focused on the goals I’ve set.  Then there’s my cover artist.  Oh, he is going to kill me one day!  As often as I send back concept art for minor changes, it’s shocking that he actually likes me.

But I’m still working on the most important thing: readers.

I have a wonderful group of fans who have sent letters, left comments, and most of all, taken the time to review my two released novels.  I still want more.  I want to reach thousands, to give them a chance to escape the monotony of daily life for a few hours, to build worlds in their minds with endless possibilities, and to bring a smile to their face or a tear to the eye.  I want to give people a break from the real world, because we all need one.

This means marketing.  Marketing isn’t about getting rich (I’m an artist, that never happens!), it’s about making people FEEL.  It’s about reminding us what life was like “back then” when things were better, or how we can move on when it’s just too hard to imagine.  Books are about exploring the human condition, even when no humans are involved.

I’m getting there.  It hasn’t been long and I’m still a novice author, but I have no intention of quitting.  The list of books in my line-up is sitting at 27.  The Spotted Horse Productions team is in full gear.  2016 is going to be a big year for us and I hope that all of you come along for the ride.

A little about Norihame

In When We Were Kings, the tiny country of Norihame is an anomaly.  For generations, their over zealous neighbors, the Rhians, have conquered lands to expand their empire, just like the Romans of eons past.

Norihame, however, was based upon a small, Romanian-like country who refused to give in.  Due to a few geographical defenses, a strong and willing military, but some genius in their ruling family, they maintain their autonomy.  Unfortunately, their proximity to the diverse culture of Rhia means some will bleed over.  This is how the gladiatorial games became the basis of their judicial system.

The Aravatti family are well respected and beloved rulers – for the most part.  Ever since Queen Leandra sat on the throne and beat back the Rhian Empire with not only military might but also economic brilliance, her descendants have been seen as Norihame’s saviors, and time after time, they’ve risen to the challenge.

For me, the world of Rhia and Norihame is built upon the question of “What if the Roman Empire had survived into the Dark Ages?”  This is why eager readers may notice some inconsistencies in style and time frame.  I tried to imagine a “modern” roman mentality, swayed by the culture of the world and the pressure of religion.

The governance of Norihame, and it’s monarchy, was based on ancient Romania and the chief-kings of the time.  Sadly, there was no exact word for the position they held.  Modern English translates it to “King” and so that is what I used.  It’s also a title that readers are comfortable with, even if the setting is not quite the standard medieval European one they expect.

And, as Leyli continues to stand defiant, those things she takes for granted will become more clear.  From the politics she was never allowed to be a part of to the tense relations between nobility and neighboring countries, Norihame is a very diverse place.  Secrets are tucked in every corner.  Some even in the gladiatorial arena.  Sometimes its the things right under our nose, the things we barely pay attention to, that can affect the entire outcome of this saga.

What’s in the works

I have a secret.  It’s a series, nearly completed, that’s stuck somewhere between fantasy and science fiction.  Based on a planet colonized LONG ago, where Earth has become a memory so distant it’s not thought of, metals are nearly impossible to fine in pure form, and humans aren’t the only sentient species.

For thousands of years, humans have domesticated the iliri.  They are slaves, cheap labor, and all around second class people.  They’re also pissed.

Imagine a world where electricity is impossible to move because there’s no metal wires, where guns and gunpowder are too expensive to keep producing, where DNA manipulation is old world technology.  Where a single UN survival knife is worth enough to buy a city and armor is made of resin and acrylics.  Imagine a world where the servants are beasts who’d rather eat you than scrub the tile… Then imagine what happens when they learn to fight back.

Happy 2016!

As I wake up and wipe the sleep from my eyes, I can’t help but check my social media.  Isn’t this the way of modern society? 

I see stories of hotel fires in Dubai, recounts of what happened in 2015, and a lot of looking back.  For me, this day is about looking forward, about looking at the possibilities waiting to be achieved.  It’s about preparing to get down to some real hard work.

My goal for 2016 is to release a book each month.  I’m not sure if I can do it, but my backlist is long, and much is “almost done”.  From the last two books of the Wolf of Oberhame series (gladiators, woot!) to the Eternal Combat series (all about girl gamers, and the men who see nothing wrong with that).  I have a few pet projects I want to spend some time with, like the science fiction/fantasy mashup which begs the question of what makes technology.

Needless to say, with a project list consisting of almost 35 books, I have the potential to actually DO this.  The question is if I’ll get the time and the inspiration.  Thanks to the Spotted Horse Productions team’s amazing work, I also have to realize that by pushing, I’m not just asking myself to “knuckle down” but also the people who make these books possible.  From the trusty group of beta readers to my cover artist and editor, I can be demanding, and I know it.  No matter what, they always come through to make my books shine.  I plan to spend this year appreciating that a little more.

So, yes, 2015 is done and gone.  It’s time to move ahead, to wipe away last year’s excuses, and be the author I always wanted to become.  It’s time to get down to work.  Hopefully, my readers will appreciate it.