Promoting strong female heroes in fiction

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Female heroes, female heroines – take your pick.

About a year ago, I was watching the movie Jack Reacher, eating some buttered popcorn, admiring Tom Cruise’s fake-fighting skills … and then something clicked – where were the female thriller heroes?

I’d just finished reading The Bourne Identity around the same time. While I love thriller novels, overall the genre has a lack of stories focused on females as the protagonists. When females are mentioned, they’re usually in need of being rescued by the male hero or serving as bait to ensnare the hero into the villain’s trap.

There are some thrillers which feature women as the leads – Salt, Nikita, Alias, to name an awesome few – but the majority of action stories showcase the power of male heroes. I wanted to provide another (always needed) female hero, so I created Jane Lu in my Young Adult thriller, The Innocent Assassins. She’s a seventeen-year-old teen girl/highly trained assassin and undercover spy who beats just as many villains as the boys.

Even from the male-dominated thriller genre, female-dominated genres such as historical romance also tend to have “swooning” heroines and “brooding” heroes. The men are the ones with an exciting career, while women are the ones attending balls and worrying over gowns. While I love historical romance, I longed for more books featuring hard-working heroines who were just as capable as the heroes.

With that, I wrote about Evelyn Lancaster in my western historical romance, One Last Letter. Evelyn’s a tough-as-nails plantation owner who rejects marrying for love in order to do what’s best for her ranch. Her goals are placed firmly in continuing her financial success, not catching the eye of the closest cowboy.

Both Jane and Evelyn are around my age – late teens/early twenties. They’re the kind of heroines everyone needs to read more about, especially young girls.

As a teen author, I know both the weight of written words and the intense scrutiny teens face from peer pressure. With the rapid responses of social media, we’re incredibly influenced by whatever we read and hear and see. That’s why all the characters we’re exposed to influence our lives. Imagine how incredible it would be if every female character was an independent role model rather than a damsel in distress.

Strong heroines – if it’s an archetype, it’s my favorite one. The world can’t have enough tough female characters out there to inspire others. We need powerful female role models in fictional worlds to inspire girls in the real world.

{This article was originally posted on the awesome Girls Can’t WHAT?}

Lessons learned from my first book launch + One Last Letter is going on tour!

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Hello, everyone! One Last Letter has officially released today! *throws up all the confetti*  If you want to learn more about my historical romance One Last Letter, the blog tour information is posted below for you to follow along.

In honor of my second book launch, I thought I’d share an article I wrote for Authors + Readers Book Corner about my first book launch and lessons I’ve learned  – “Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff!” Stress, mistakes, surprise, and Amazon issues galore abounded that first day. Learn how you can avoid it!

BLOG TOUR FOR ONE LAST LETTER

SUNDAY, AUGUST 4
Fic Central: Review of One Last Letter

SUNDAY, AUGUST 17
Happily Ever After Thoughts: Interview

MONDAY, AUGUST 18
SSLY Blog: Review of One Last Letter
Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Meet the Characters of One Last Letter!
Author Open MIC: Interview
Conversations with Lisa Mondello: Interview

TUESDAY, AUGUST 19
Romance Obsessed Book Blog: Character Interview with Jesse and Evelyn

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 20
Shooting Stars Reviews: Excerpt and Playlist

FRIDAY, AUGUST 22
Blurbs in Bloom: Promo

SATURDAY, AUGUST 23
Buried Under Romance: Exclusive Excerpt

SUNDAY, AUGUST 24
Storeybook Reviews: Deleted Prologue and Playlist
Bookkins: Review of One Last Letter

MONDAY, AUGUST 25
Love Saves the World: Review and Guest Post: “Famous Love Letters”

TUESDAY, AUGUST 26
Sara Walter Ellwood: Guest Post: “The Music Behind the Story”

THURSDAY, AUGUST 28
History From a Woman’s Perspective: Review of One Last Letter

 


 

Book Launch Lessons: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Stress, mistakes, surprise, and gratitude? Sounds like the release day for my first novel, The Innocent Assassins.

Unlike other digital-first publishers, Astraea Press doesn’t upload pre-orders for e-books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. I didn’t see any of my book’s purchase pages until the day of release. Imagine my surprise (and horror) to discover the summaries on each e-book outlet included the wrong name for the hero!

It wasn’t a complete shock. I changed the hero’s name halfway through the editing process, so the summary I first submitted to Astraea Press used the original name for the hero. It was completely my fault. I was the one who forgot to submit an updated summary for the buyer pages.

I e-mailed the owner of Astraea Press about the summary change. She was quick to reply and said an edited version would be uploaded by the next day; all I had to do was send her the new summary with the name change. I rushed to send her the updated summary. True to her word, the summary with the right name for the hero was added to all major e-book outlets. Crisis averted!

On another note, let that also be a lesson to other authors out there! If you can’t see your Amazon/B&N’s book page before the release, make sure you check with your publisher that the summary/other information is correct. Check to see if all the information you last sent your publisher is still the most recent version.

Additionally, I hadn’t told anyone my book was being published. Since pre-orders weren’t available for my book anyway, I posted news of my release (for the first time) to all my social media profiles on book launch day. Within minutes, I received texts and messages from my friends and family with both words of congratulations and disbelief that I’d kept it a secret for so long!

News of my novel spread through word of mouth and resulted in a healthy spike of sales over the next few days. Pre-orders are a commonly discussed method for book marketing, but surprise can work in your favor as well. Advance orders can work great, but authors shouldn’t worry about losing a pre-order audience either.

The biggest takeaway? Everything will be fine. Put in the hard work and rewards will come your way. Seriously, no matter how bad something may seem at the beginning (it’s not on Amazon?! the title is wrong?! that’s not my name?!?!) – it shall be fixed. Most e-book retailers have a lag time of a day or two before the update is published. That day or two will seem like an eternity, but the page will be fixed before you know it.

I’m definitely keeping this in mind for my book launch day on August 18 for my second novel, a historical Western romance titled One Last Letter. Orders are now available on Amazon USUK, and Canada!

{This article was first posted on Authors & Readers Book Corner}

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#8sunday – 8 Sentences from my WIP & 8 Literary Links for the Week

Hey Pema, what the heck is #8sunday?

It’s the hashtag for Weekend Writing Warriors, an awesome post that links to multiple writers posting story snippets on Sunday. In honor of #8sunday, I thought I’d also include eight equally awesome links I’ve found this week regarding writing and reading and editing and life. Read on after the snippet to discover the week’s round-up on pesky day jobs/college classes, Twitter talk for bloggers, coping with criticism, and the hottest YA author.

The excerpt below is from A Truth University Acknowledged, a New Adult college take of Pride and Prejudice.

His voice was low. “Are you telling people we slept together?”

“No.” I swallowed hard. “Look, I’m sorry about jumping to conclusions.”

“I know you run a feminist blog, but that doesn’t mean every guy’s a rapist.” He scowled. “I would never sleep with you. Why would you even think that low of me?”

“When most guys I know see a drunk girl wearing a crop top, they assume they can sleep with her. That’s just how they are.”

“Someone who stereotypes against all men as rapists?” His cold gaze regarded me with complete disdain. “You’re not my type.”

For more of the feminist Eve and the disapproving Duke, the first parts of the story are already posted on Wattpad!

And now for this #8sunday’s literary links:

  1. Tom Pollock: Writing Around a Day Job - “Prioritize the people. They’re more important.” Whether this involves you being a college student or an attorney or a mom of three kids, everyone’s got that OTHER-MAJOR-COMMITMENT which could fill in for the “day job” part of his article. Mainly, he’s reminding everyone to live a balanced life – yes, go outside and do things! Hang out with your friends! Run a marathon! (Not that I’d ever do the last one but, you know, you could.) Your writing will be there when you return.
  2. 8 Things I Wish I Had Known About Twitter When I Started Blogging – “Be ridiculous – but do it with class.” (And please do not send automated DM’s asking me to like your FB page.) Kelsey’s great article applies to authors, book bloggers, companies … it just covers Twitter in general. Super helpful for all those on the platform and for those thinking about starting an account.
  3. Finishing Line  –  “Finish it. Whatever it is.” Whatever project you’re working on, stick with it! Don’t doubt it. Continue forward. You owe it to yourself.
  4. Dealing with Criticism – “I put as much distance as possible between myself and the thing I have made.” This is actually a video from Charlie McDonnell after he finished a short film and posted it on YouTube. It’s a great video for any writer/director/creative content maker on the subject of reviews.
  5. To Build A Story: The Feels – “Yes, there are scenes later where she considers her mom and feels sad and everything, but she never really grieves, and never initially deals with it.” Victoria has an awesome writerly blog everyone should go follow, and this article’s especially relevant. I’m guilty; I always forget to pause and take in the emotions of the characters. Unless you’re writing a story where human emotions don’t exist in your story whatsoever – we react to things! We get upset. Think of the characters’ instinctual reactions.
  6. This photo tweet from Erin Niumata:
  7. A book store where books are wrapped in paper with short descriptions so no one would “judge a book by its cover” 
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    I think it’s at one of Elizabeth’s Bookshops in Australia. Some stores have a “Blind Date with a Book” section. Either way, it’s a cool concept!
  8. Introducing The Hottest Young Adult Author In The World – I know this one’s been making the rounds already on a lot of book blogger tweets … if you didn’t know who Pierce Brown was before, you do now.

 

#1 Editing Tip + I’m live-writing my next novel for you to see!

The editing tip is actually directly related to the “live-writing” part. Also, pretty sure “live-writing” isn’t a word. But I digress. On with the story and invaluable editing method!

Remember the New Adult contemporary romance version of Pride and Prejudice that I discussed in my blog hop post? For now, I’m posting the story on Wattpad!

The first three parts are already up, and I’ll be posting the next part later today. Find the story here! You can also browse excerpts of The Innocent Assassins and One Last Letter on my Wattpad profile. Quite literally just set up the account yesterday.

While a lot of the site’s fanfiction, there’s quite a bit of original work too. Keep in mind that the majority of Wattpad readers and writers are teen girls. But if that’s your target audience for your work, you should consider setting up an account and posting your story as well. If any of you guys have a Wattpad account, let me know – I’ll be sure to follow you!

And that brings us to today’s #1 EDITING TIP -

Make your work as unfamiliar as hell.

From Nick Stockton’s article on Wired:

When you’re proof reading, you are trying to trick your brain into pretending that it’s reading the thing for the first time. Stafford suggests that if you want to catch your own errors, you should try to make your work as unfamiliar as possible. Change the font or background color, or print it out and edit by hand. “Once you’ve learned something in a particular way, it’s hard to see the details without changing the visual form,” he said.

And it works!

Currently in the editing trenches for A Truth University Acknowledged, and I’ve been at an editing loss. If someone else looks over my work, they immediately see typos that I never notice. My Crimson Romance editor, Julie Sturgeon, says, “…you don’t see a lot of things in your manuscript because you’d have to flip the switch from creative to analytical, and then you can’t create!”

Me and my current MS, in a gif.

I’ve been having issues with editing. Like to the point of: “Oh, well, that’s the second time I’ve read that chapter and it sucks but I can’t think of what to change so BYE.”

Clearly not an effective way to edit.

But Nick Stockton’s article helped a lot. He says you have to view your work in a way that’s completely different than any way you’ve seen it – literally. For me, that’s been posting ATUA on Wattpad. After I post a section, I read over it again and notice typos/other errors I never picked up on before.

(more…)

Gratitude & why Mindy Kaling should be every writer’s writinspiration (it’s a word now)

What’s something you know now about happiness that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
When I was 18 years old, I took a semester off from college and was an intern at Late Night With Conan O’Brien. It was the most glamorous job I ever had, and I idolized the writers there. I remember lying in bed every night telling myself that if I ever got a job as a comedy writer, I would be so happy and all my dreams would have come true. Six years later I got that job, working on The Office. I felt incredibly happy and grateful for a about a week, and then a whole new set of complaints set in. This would’ve shocked and disgusted my 18-year-old self. It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful when I want to be snotty. (Mindy Kaling, x)

Wait, what?

Let’s backtrack for a second.

Whether your passion is writing novels or book reviews or screenplays … it’s all creative work. It’s all work that thousands – millions - of other people pursue and work hard toward and all serve as your potential next source of burning jealousy.

That’s why Mindy Kaling’s quote from her interview with Gretchen Rubin is so important. “It’s helpful to remember the younger version of me because it reminds me to feel grateful…” 

Think about it. Wherever you’re at now, whether it’s after your first published novel or after your first time hitting the bestseller list or after your first finished manuscript or even after your first novel outline – it’s more than you had a few years ago. 

I swear it’s somewhat relevant guys.

At the risk of quoting Miley Cyrus – there is always going to be another mountain (I’m always going to want to make it moveeeeee … okay. that’s enough). There’s always going to be someone out there in their writing career who’s farther/”more accomplished” than you. If you hit the USA Today bestseller list, you’ll see someone hitting the NY Times bestseller list and think, “I wish I had that.” If you release your first published novel, you’ll see someone’s else novel staying #1 on Amazon bestsellers list for weeks on end and you’ll think, “I wish I had that.”

Not that envy is a no-good-terribly-rotten thing. It can serve as motivation to continue working and eventually reach your goal. But you can always be grateful for where you are now – no matter where that may be. Remember to appreciate whatever your writing progress is at this point!

Mindy Kaling answered the interview quoted above in 2011. She didn’t know yet that her show launched in 2012, The Mindy Project, would become a hit and she didn’t know yet that it would be picked up for a second season, then a third season. She didn’t know the show would have over 300,000 fans on Facebook. But she did know to be grateful.

Rock on, Mindy Kaling. Keep serving as a writinspiration (still a word!).

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Writers’ Blog Tour + exciting pre-order news! + a college story

First things first – my historical Western romance One Last Letter is now available for pre-order from Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Amazon Canada! Thanks to Julie Sturgeon, my editor at Crimson Romance, for the heads-up. You can also add the book to your Goodreads TBR! Browse the book’s page on my site to read the entire first chapter, check out the summary, and see a complete list of links for the novel.

AND SECOND BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY -

I was tagged by the lovely Victoria Davenport (@vdavenportwrite) of Coffee. Write. Repeat. for the Writers’ Blog Tour, and I’ve finally had time to finish answering the questions. Read on to learn more about my writing process, and then scroll down to see the other two talented young writers I’ve nominated!

What am I working on?
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AKA me. me, every day, “writing.”

I finished writing A Truth University Acknowledged, which is a New Adult update of Pride and Prejudice. The characters attend 21st century college and do normal college student things – no underage assassins or newly wealthy cowboys this time. It’s definitely been the most fun I’ve had with a project so far (it’s completely based in reality, so yay! no research required). Currently, I’m in the editing trenches with that story and dying loving it.

Quite actually the query:

“It is a truth university acknowledged, that any drunk girl wearing a crop top to a party must be in want of a hook-up. However high her IQ and completely virginal she may be, this truth is so well fixed in college life, that she is considered easy. Guess what? She’s not.”

So begins the angry blog entry of Eve Blythe to her site FeministBreighton. As a college freshman, the only History major, and feminist activist, it’s all she can do to balance friends and grades – forget love. After she drunkenly vomits on the shoes of attractive but arrogant sophomore Duke Keenan, she’s horrified to discover her roommate set them up for Screw Your Roommate. Before a school budget meeting, he even threatens to cut off funding for her blog. She swears to loathe him for all university (and alumni events, too!).

This New Adult update of Pride and Prejudice provides a modern millennial perspective to the romance classic. A Truth University Acknowledged is complete at 68,600 words. The college spin guarantees awkward first dates, sexting anxiety, and vodka-fueled confessions.

Vodka! Sexting! Vomiting! What more does a story need? (Okay, lots more. Not even sure what the conflict is in this query. Hence the editing. Lots of it.)

Also, I’ve never heard of a college that pays students to write feminist/fashion/whatever-the-subject-may-be blogs, but that would be awesome if it was actually a thing. Sadly, it is not. Doesn’t mean I can’t create it in this novel! I’m super excited that she’s a blogger. It’s been fun to get to compose all these feminist blog posts (that colleges should seriously look into funding).

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, I guess answering that would require me sticking to a genre. I’ve dabbled in Young Adult thriller, Adult historical, and now I’m in New Adult contemporary. They all have romance, I guess? Romance ties all the stories together.

The major way I hope my work differs from others of its genre is the realism of the characters. There are certain aspects of Young Adult/New Adult novels written by adults which make me scratch my head and wonder, “Okay, we (students who are supposed to be represented in the story) do not do that.” Take the way we text as an example.

College students don’t actually use as much shorthand as adult authors seem to think. I’ve read stories where the 22-year-old college senior texts her friend, “g2g i noe i wll c u l8r” Just … no. Just no. We say, “I know I will see you later” because the majority of us have phones with Autocorrect and our sentences come out complete/in English.

There are certain aspects of teen life that I want to see represented in novels, but I haven’t found yet. I hope I can write convincingly about teens because I’m one myself. I know what kind of book I want to read, and that’s the book I intend to write.

Why do I write what I do?

My story ideas are genuinely just a matter of what I feel like reading at the time. I wanted to read a story like The Innocent Assassins, so that’s what I wrote. I wanted to read a western romance, so I wrote One Last Letter. Now apparently I want to read a story about Elizabeth and Darcy being their awkward selves in college. All I do is create the story I wish I could already buy on Amazon.

The oldest characters I’ve written from the viewpoint of are Evelyn and Jesse in One Last Letter. They’re twenty-three. That was my biggest concern going into the novel – will I be able to write about an age I haven’t experienced yet? Thankfully, the awesome Ysar of FIC Central Reviews seemed to think I did okay. That being said, I probably won’t venture into any age I haven’t experienced again. I prefer to write about teen lives because that’s what I know, that’s who I know, and that’s all I know.

How does my writing process work?

Get inspired by anything – someone I see on the street, something random someone tells me, a deleted movie scene – quite actually anything. After I have the idea, I usually sketch out the first few chapters – what’s going to happen, when is a character going to be introduced, how she’s going to navigate out of the embarrassing situation… And then my story never goes according to plan and I stop outlining altogether. I go where the story takes me.

I always know the ending of the story before I begin, but how my characters get there is as much as a surprise to me as it is to the reader. Then I edit the story, polish it, and send it out. A lot of my stories haven’t been published. I queried another manuscript before The Innocent Assassins and another story before One Last Letter - neither of them were picked up. After I send it out for a while, I move on to the next one. Publishing’s great, but it’s not why I write. If a story hasn’t sold for a while, I follow my inspiration to the next manuscript and forget the one before.

And now to introduce you all to some quality writers, Sophie Diamond and Johanna Harlow! I love the content they post on their blogs, and it’s always awesome to learn more about other young writers out there. Best of luck to both ladies for their future projects and publications.

guestpost_sophieSophie Diamond, 22, from Robin Hood Country has just finished writing her first novel about life after graduating university. Loves bad dancing, Grey’s Anatomy and her dog Josh.

“After reading endless terrifying articles about the difficulties of getting published and making a career out of being a professional writer I’ve decided to push mercilessly ahead (and stop reading those articles).

Join me on my journey as I work from my first draft to my final product as I hopefully go from fledging writer to an actual professional.”
Website // Twitter

Johanna Harlow is a college student with an English major and an emphasis in creative writing. When 6988309783_3881e2c142_bshe graduates, she aspires to invest herself in the world of books (either through literary agencies, publishing, or authorship).

She is currently editing her first book (a blend of fantasy and sci-fi) as well as working on the first draft of a dystopian. She has a special affinity for well-developed characters and symbolism.
Website // Twitter

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From Trashy Tales to Canon Critiques

{Reblogged from my original post on the incredibly-awesome-book-blog-everyone-should-check-out Casual Readers!}

“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery. It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors.”
Graham’s Lady Magazine (USA), July 1848, review of Wuthering Heights

It’s no secret that public perception of a novel changes over time. When Lolita was released, reviewer John Gordon of Sunday Express deemed it “the filthiest book I ever read” and “sheer unrestrained pornography.” Yet the novel also happens to be required reading for several of my college’s literature courses. Today, Lolita has acquired “classic” status.

Lolita, you are literally twelve.

But what creates a classic? Is it immortal literary themes recurring time and again in every generation? Is it novels displaying sparkling wit and dialogue? Better yet – maybe it’s just because (gasp!) readers just like them for some unexplained reason.

Jane Austen’s novels are regarded as undeniable classics, but what’s thrown the books into the waiting arms of Western canon is the ability of her novels to transcend time. They make great adaptations, and for good reason – they’re classic situations which every generation of readers can relate to. They possess themes of love and loss and longing and (very properly hinted at) lust.

Yet what themes could be more lasting than sordid tales of sex or drinking or gambling? Erotica or “steamy romance” novels flood today’s book industry in greater volumes than ever before. One of the early books to give a serious push of promotion to the popularity of erotica – whether you agree or not – is the infamous Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.

The popularity of the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer had me thinking – “Wait, there are people that like these novels?!” (Also, how did they get Beyoncé to agree to that?!) So I did some research, thanks to Dr. Google. And yes, there are people who genuinely love E. L. James’s books. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but all that matters is that they’re someone’s idea of a good read. They may be your favorite books!

(Just remember.)

But will it ever become required reading in college literature courses? It’s impossible to tell. Cult classics cannot be defined and pointed to within our own time; canon status can only be reached a generation after the book has been published.

“Western canon” seems to be defined as the books which have proved the most influential in shaping Western society, yet most writers use “classics” and “canon” interchangeably. And rightly so. If a book has lasted the test of time and remained popular, there’s gotta be some influencing-of-the-world going on in that span of time.

If we’re going strictly by popularity (and ignoring the Fifty Shades craze for now), the Harry Potter novels are both generally well-liked and stand as candidates to last the test of time. They may not strictly “reflect our society” (though let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to go to Hogwarts and swap his or her life with a world reflected by the books?). Yet the same issue hasn’t prevented sci-fi adventures or Gothic horrors from reaching canon. Last time I checked, there wasn’t a ton in common between my life and Victor Frankenstein’s, but that didn’t stop my English teacher from assigning it to me.

Canon tends to hit at something deeper – human emotion. It’s not so much about the exact experiences or settings that the reader relates to, it’s (to use #fangirl speak): “THE FEELS.” Readers can relate to Frankenstein’s loneliness, regret, and anger. Readers understand Elizabeth’s attraction toward Darcy. Canon literature forms from the reader’s ability to relate to the character’s emotions. If the reader can relate, the book remains popular.

Why do you think a book becomes a classic? (And do you think Fifty Shades could ever reach canon status?)