Back from Vacation with a New Addiction
So, it's Sunday evening and I'm coming off a week of vacation. During this past week, my elder son introduced me to the Game of Thrones. Damn him.
Don't get me wrong, it's a great story with well developed characters and an intricate plot. The author of the books upon which the cable series is based used research on England's War of the Roses as a foundation for his epic fantasy. Much of the series--and, I assume, the books--ring true with regard to the imposing power of the aristocracy and royalty and everyone else, the political intrigue and corruption, and the utter powerlessness of women.
Although true to historical fact, the common brutality toward women and the disregard toward their dreams and ambitions rankle. However, that's a fact of life for chattel. Whether it's Daenerys suffering beneath her psychotic brother's abuse, Sansa's manipulation at the hands of the queen and her repulsive son Joffrey, or even Queen Cercei who isn't nearly as powerful as she pretends, women young and not-so-young, highborn and low, must resign themselves to being the pawns of their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons. Most of the women in this series are whores. They all trade upon sex to stay alive if only because they are not permitted to refuse the attentions of the men who rule them. Their value depends solely upon their pedigree, their physical beauty, and their childbearing capacity.
In other words, women in such societies are broodmares, unworthy of respect but for their husbands' traits passed on to their sons. Not daughters. Sons. Any woman who defies the entrenched expectation of submission and obedience to her male guardians is labeled "whore."
That particular reality comes home when, in the second season, Theon Greyjoy cadges a ride to his father's castle. He immediately begins feeling up the young woman who kindly offered him a lift on her horse and orders her to his bed that night. In this world, no woman has the right to refuse a man's attentions; or, rather, she can refuse and then be raped for her daring to deny him. Yara states that she endured his attentions to see what kind of man he was. He, like nearly every other man in this series, is a predator.
Later that day he discovers that woman is his sister. Their father, King Balon Greyjoy, has settled great responsibility upon her shoulders, responsibility she has proven worthy of bearing. However, Theon is appalled, not so much that he molested his sister, but more because her father does her the honor of treating her like an intelligent, capable individual.
Oh, the horrors!
The subtext is that Balon would not have relied upon his daughter--nor honored her with responsibility for his conquered kingdom--if he'd had a son who'd not been fostered with the enemy. On the other hand, spunky Arya deserves admiration for rebelling against the entrenched expectations that her own worth will be proven only by the sons she will bear. I find Daenerys the most sympathetic character thus far. Using a woman's wiles--universally derided by men because they're not "honorable"--she secures her husband's affection, if not his respect. Her authority rests in Drogo's ability to enforce her will and in the honor of those few men who pledge their fealty to her to abide by those vows.
That, of course, brings us to those derided tools used by women in an era where women have no rights or privileges beyond what their male guardians allow. Think of it this way: if you have neither the physical prowess to bear arms nor the legal authority to exert power, then how does one exert any control whatsoever? All that is left is underhanded means: poison, rumor, sex.
The correlation does men no favors, either. In this book, they're all too often venal, corrupt, obstinate, and easily manipulated by their gonads. They have no self restraint and are ruled by their whims and appetites. They're toddlers with sharp knives and heavy fists.
If you haven't picked up on these terrible sub-themes of oppression and brutality, then you're missing a huge part of the story. If you can't see the lingering residue of such attitudes, then check out modern romances today that wallow in alpha males who treat women like toilet paper: use once and discard. The attitude of women as chattel, only valuable for procreation, powerless beyond her hero's ability and willingness to enforce her authority, and definitely unworthy of dignity or respect is alive and well today in many countries... and in modern fiction.
I hope to refute that attitude in my books and I hope that readers will appreciate heroines who work with what they've got to preserve or achieve independence and/or respect as well as love.
Taking a break, book promotion, and more
If all goes as planned, y'all won't hear from me next week. I'm taking a vacation that begins with the county fair on Friday, June 21, and will extend through the following weekend.
The Clark County Fair is strongly oriented toward 4-H and agriculture. I grew up as a 4-H member and my children were 4-H members and I have been involved with the county's only llama and alpaca oriented 4-H club for 10 years. This year, we're taking seven alpacas and one llama to the show ring. This year, Booboo stays home.
Booboo is my rescue llama. He's 17 years old. He joined our herd six years ago. Yes, there's a story behind Booboo, one I've told many times before. That said, if we'd had a club member who needed a llama as special as Booboo, then he'd be headed to the fair again this year. Booboo is special: he's the one I match with disabled children.
FREE BOOK PROMOTION
In 2014, I published my first book via Kindle Direct Publishing. My knees and hands shook with dread and hope. I called a friend to help me weather the anxiety of taking that big step as an indie author.
The anxiety never quite dissipates. Each release is cause for giddy celebration.
On July 28, 29, and 30, Rowan: Branch 1 of the Tree of Life--the first in the trilogy--will be offered for free download through Amazon. Get started on this trilogy and enter a contemporary world of sidhe, shifters, and vampires.
What do I like about this book? The characters are mature adults. No teeny boppers here. Nothing "new adult" overflowing with angst and melodrama. No billionaires. No man-whores. Because supernatural characters can be realistic, you know, and still be drop-dead gorgeous.
UPCOMING RELEASE & COVER REVEAL
Progress is picking up on Russian Pride, the fourth and final book of the Russian Love series. In this book, we come full circle. Giovanni, the cousin of our heroine in Russian Lullaby, is our hero. Our heroine, Inessa, is the daughter of Maksim and Olivia Andrupov. Here's a quick synopsis:
Domestic abuse victim Inessa is rescued from a beating and sent to recuperate in the home of Giovanni Maglione, the mafia captain of Cleveland. Her parents discover that Inessa's husband double-crossed the Chinese triad, and now they want their pound of flesh--and they're happy to take it out of Inessa. In an effort to spare her the triad's retribution, Maksim and Olivia persuade Giovanni to marry their daughter. The Chinese triad will be looking for a Russian mobster's wife, not the wife of an Italian mobster. Inessa agrees to the marriage of convenience which, of course, isn't so convenient. The triad doesn't fall for the ruse. That forces Giovanni into a violent and bloody mob war, because he protects what's his... and Inessa is most definitely his.
Yes, the description leaves a lot to be desired. I invite anyone who'd like to participate to offer a revised cover blurb. If you've got suggestions or something better, please send 'em to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I could use the help.
One task an author has--especially one who writes paranormal, fantasy, or speculative fiction--is to suspend disbelief. After all, if I'm going to write about shape shifters, mythological creatures, demons, and such, then I need to convince the reader accept these characters as real for the duration of the story.
As a ghostwriter, this involves puncturing holes in a client's story.
One project on which I'm working involves a trek through an extensive subterranean network of caves and a supernatural creature. The progress of the protagonists immediately fell prey to a distinct lack of realism. There is where my background of knowing a little bit about a lot of things shows its value. With convincing arguments related to actual experience and a good bit of logic, the client agreed to some changes in his story to suspend readers' disbelief.
Failure to suspend disbelief affects movies, too. Poor graphic effects--see any fantasy movie from the 1970s or 1980s--instantly turn what could have been a great flick into a cheesy laughter magnet. This is a concept filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg understand. Vast improvements in CGI graphics help to make the transition from poorly conceived special effects to awe-inspiring admiration.
Steven Brust does this with his matter-of-fact descriptions of witchcraft and sorcery--not the same in his Vlad Taltos series. He speaks to the sensations of building spells and grabbing power, the emotional and physical feelings the magic user experiences. It's not necessary to own a grimoire or spellbook.
Anachronisms also crash the story. Characters acting in ways radically inconsistent with the norms of their class and time seldom fail to disappoint me. Actions and objects--even something as simple as donning a piece of clothing--that don't fit the occupation, conventions, or background of the character(s) also pull me out of the story. For instance, consider Azeem's use of a primitive telescope in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. While it's a great scene imbued with wry humor, no such appliance had yet been invented at that time in history.
Suspension of disbelief not only concerns the environment in which characters find themselves and the special abilities they employ to defeat their enemies. It also concerns dialogue. Whether I'm reading historical fiction, a military thriller, romance, or fantasy, if the characters speak in ways that simply don't ring true, then that disconnect pulls me out of the story.
For an example, let's focus on romance. I've had sex. I have two children who are evidence of that. I cannot remember ever holding an extended and eloquent conversation with my husband during the process of procreation. Therefore, when I come across a scene of explicit intimacy in which the hero and heroine are holding a lengthy discussion, my mind automatically heads to the realm of "Hah! Not likely." In short, the author has failed to suspend my disbelief.
One hallmark of good writing is the ability to lure the reader into the story and immerse him or her into that world, only releasing the reader when the story ends or real life intrudes with its more urgent demands. Effective suspension of disbelief makes all things possible.