Divorce is About Power – Even in Fantasy Literature

divorce is about power - tornadoDisclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

A few weeks back Tor.com published an article written by Anise K. Strong called Beyond Happily Ever After Divorce Should be an Option in Fantasy Fiction. It was an excellent article, and it got me thinking about power, about who has it and who doesn’t, and how this is depicted and communicated in story. At its core, divorce is about power, and as such, is well worth consideration when building a world.

At the same time, patriarchy and sexism have actual societal consequences; you cannot just create a world where women can become fighters and everyone wears a magic birth control necklace and expect that nothing else will change.

The question of who has power and who doesn’t in the world you are building has a profound impact on the characters that move through it. Battle hardened women in control of their own reproductive fates are not likely to tolerate a governing system that treats them as second class citizens or attempts to control who they can have sex with. Abusive partners might think twice before battering a woman that is just as gifted with a sword as he is. Raping and pillaging takes a decided turn when those you want to rape and pillage fight back with equal vigor and strength, either physically or by turning the political or economic might of a nation against you for your transgressions.

There is no shortage of discussion these days about diversity in fantasy, and even in the realms of epic and high fantasy, the tides are changing in response. We see a lot of kick-ass women and people of varying races these days. But we’re not seeing a lot of divorces to go along with these changes, and we should be.

Anise K. Strong has a new book out called Prostitutes and Matrons in the Roman World. (Affiliate Link, see below.) It looks like an excellent reference book for anyone looking to bring additional dimension to their writing. As well, of course, as for anyone interested in Roman history!

I frequently use folklore, mythology, and history as inspiration for my books. My book shelves are lined with texts such as this one, so I have no reservation about recommending this book. And YES, this is an Amazon affiliate link. If you buy using this link I get some pie money. 🙂

 

 

 

Writing Life Comic #5: What People Think

From the outside, the writing life is a glamorous one. Speaking engagements all around the world with free airfare and hotel, adoring fans fawning on every word you utter, plenty of money for you to live quite comfortably while you scribble away over at the coffee shop everyday. And oh… how wonderful must it be to live so creatively every day!

It has it’s benefits, I’m not going to lie. But things are rarely what we initially believe them to be.

What people think the writing life is.
The Writing Life is a once monthly comic series released on the first Wednesday of each month. The next is due out on 6/1/15.

Writing Life Comic #4: Ideas

Ideas, and no more ideas? If I had a dollar for every time this happened to me I’d be giving my books away and living like J.K. Rowling! Many (most) writers are part-time scribblers and part-time something elsers. Ideas seem to fall from the sky at an alarming rate while I’m working on that something else. I wade through them like snow during a March Colorado snow. (That’s super deep, in case you didn’t know.)

The instant my butt hits my office chair at home, however, not even a cricket can be heard through the deafening silence in my head. *sigh*

So many ideas
Artwork by Kelci Crawford

The Writing Life is a once monthly comic series posted on the first Wednesday of every month. Stay tuned for the next comic, scheduled for 5/4/16.

Writing Life Comic #3: Writers Boulders

Somewhere roughly about the midpoint of a novel life really begins to suck for a writer. You would think that being a plotter would help with this, but, you’d be wrong. Middles are simply shitty places to be. I think if a novel could be written without a middle all of us would do it.

Comic - getting blood from a stone
Artwork by Kelci Crawford

The Writing Life is a once monthly comic series posted on the first Wednesday of every month. Stay tuned for the next comic, scheduled for 4/6/16.

Farasi Bahari – An Entirely Different Sort of Sea Horse

farasi bahari image
Source: http://mythicsummer.blogspot.com/2012/01/farasi-bahari-and-haetae.html

This next tale on the Farasi Bahari I found deep in the Pacific hidden in a nook inhabited by an eel. The eel put up a bit of a fight, but I prevailed, and introduce you now to the farasi bahari.

Emerald green hides, and fins for mane and tail, the farasi bahari are magical horses that live deep in the Indian Ocean. They have no need for air, and thus have no lungs and are never short of breath. They flee at the the faintest scent of human and are impossible to capture, but any offspring beget on normal mares inherent their speed and endurance. Read more

Eikthyrnir, The Giver of Water

An image if Eikthyrnir
Found on vallume.deviantart.com

The Eikthyrnir I found on page 321 of a stained tome called The Dictionary of Mythology. The story of Eikthyrnir is likely familiar to some of you, anyone with a fascination in Nordic Mythology will likely have encountered it. It might not be quite as uncommon as the others I’m presenting here in this series, but its imagery is so compelling I had to share it here. Read more

Dinnshenchas, Guardian of Cattle, Avenger of Women

dinnshenchas
Image Courtesy of: http://bit.ly/1yBtfbD

I found this story of the Dinnshenchas riding about on the back of an enormous bull grazing in a field in western Colorado. Which is odd, considering it originates in Ireland. Then again, Aine is Goddess of cattle and protector of women, and would thusly be anywhere they are.

The myths tell a tale of violence and rape, and out of Aine’s grief and anger, the Dinnshenchas were born, dwarf fairies able to take any shape to guard cattle and to help avenge women harmed by men. Read more

Camazotz, the Destroyer of Life

Camazotz Statue MayanAt the bottom of the Amazon, deep in the belly of an Arapaima, I found this Central American story of the second people, and of the giant bird Camazotz who has a bottomless appetite for the heads of people.

The Mayan gods Tepeu and Gucamatz sought out the help of magic adepts, and through incantation found that man should be made of wood, and woman of the pith of bulrush. They set to work and soon found success, and while able to speak and beget children these wooden people had neither fat nor blood nor intelligence. The gods sent four huge birds to destroy their creation. Xecotcovuch tore out their eyes, Camulotz cut off their heads, Cotzbalam ate their flesh, and Tecumbalam crushed their bones. Read more

Author Event Speech and The Magic of Finishing

A few weeks back I participated in the inaugural Illumination Author Event in Denver. The Illumination events are wonderful intimate events where readers get to have lunch and network with their favorite authors. The first event was in Denver, but they are being scheduled all over the country. Check out the link above for more details.

As part of the event each author gives a talk. I thought I’d share a version of it here, for those unable to make it to the event. I called the talk The Magic of Finishing. What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

~ The Talk ~

I remember writing my first short story, I was about nine years old. I called it Halloween Ghost and it was about a boy stumbling upon a haunted house while trick-or-treating. The boy is captured by the resident ghost. But it turns out the ghost is a friendly sort and was just giving away giant servings of ice cream. In reading it now two things are very apparent, one – my love for all things speculative has been a life long passion, and two –  spelling was not a gift of mine at that point in my life! I’m pretty sure I found every possible spelling of the word ghost in the 100 words that made up that story!  Also, full disclosure, I still love ice cream.

I was very excited about the assignment, I remember it clearly – I loved writing even then. But what I remember most clearly is the lightning strike of inspiration I got when the story popped into my mind. The idea seemed to come straight out of the aether – some gypsy-voodoo-black-magic that I’d somehow managed to get on me or to step in. Like walking through an unseen spider web, though much more pleasant. (And with none of the frenetic GET IT OFF ME dancing.)

It felt as if it had come from out there, rather than from inside of me.

I continued to write over the years, but I never finished a story. I wrote while I rode the wave of inspiration but when inspiration abandoned me I abandoned the story. For decades this was my pattern. My life is littered with half written books, characters half formed, their lives paused 1/4 of the way down a page, with a backstory but no future story. Villains abandoned at their peak, hero’s forced to linger at their point of greatest weakness, characters stuck where things are most dark, most dire. It’s pretty gruesome back there!

Somewhere after that first lightning flash of inspiration I’d picked up the habit of seeing writing itself as gypsy-voodoo-black-magic. Something that came from “out there” and if it comes from “out there” that means I have no control over it. I am subject to the fickle whims of the muse. If the muse stops weaving her magic what am I, a mere mortal, to do about it?

In looking back at it now I realized I’d believed this about all sorts of things, not just writing. I’d never really finished anything that mattered. Yea… I did the usual stuff – I graduated from high school and went to college. I graduated from college too, and got a job. That job led to another job and into roles with increasing responsibilities. By all outward indications I was successful and accomplished. But I knew something no one else knew.

You see, when I was nine I wanted to be a writer. By the time I started college I wanted to be a biologist or chemist. I left college with a BS in Criminal Justice (pre-law) and by the time I started working in my first “real job” it was in technology.

Now, meandering paths are not uncommon at that stage of life – many, maybe most of us, have no clear idea what we want to do when we’re twenty. But what might not be so obvious is that, for me at least, the spaces between those bullet points were trade off’s.

Science for writing – it’s a far more pragmatic career choice.

Criminal Justice for science because it was just plain easier.

Technology for law because that’s where I could find a job.

It turns out I loved working in technology, I’d stumbled into another passion and I’ve stayed there ever since. But even here there were tradeoff’s. Despite what I told others, and despite what I told myself at the time, the underlying reason for every one of these trade off’s was fear.

What if I can’t do it?

What if I’m not good enough?

Not smart enough?

Not cool enough?

What if I try my hardest, but still fail?

Instead of working hard for what I wanted most, I spent my time working a little for what came easiest. It was easy to blame the fickle muse for this. To hide the path of least resistance within the guise of magic-from-the-aether. To claim I followed the path of inspiration. But eventually I started to wonder about this muse of mine. What kind of sick bitch was she to start me down one path only to yank the rug from under me and send me careening off in some new direction?  It was like the most serious game of keep-away I’ve ever heard of!

Now, to be clear, we should follow our inspirations. Inspiration is an expression of our intuition, it tells us where our passion lies, where our talents reside. But believing that people accomplish things because they have some super-secret tie in with some super-muse, or because they’re gifted with gypsy-voodoo-black-magic is a mistake. The truth is that finishing stuff is hard no matter who you are.  And it takes a lot more than inspiration to carry things through to the end.  Whether you are getting your degree, getting fit enough to jog a mile, or writing a book, finishing is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.

Inspiration is designed for the start. Sweat, dedication, and courage are designed for the finish. I’d lived my life waiting for the magic. I’d made the mistake of believing all I needed was that magic. I’d forgotten all about sweat part. I’d forgotten the courage part.

There really IS magic in writing, and in life. Inspiration and creativity are magical… random junk from day to day life go in, it sloshes around somewhere in your gut, turning into some primordial semi-toxic stew that occasionally vents off some nasty stench, and then suddenly out of the blue – POOF! Ideas come out. It’s an amazing thing. I’ve got no clue how it works.

But the actual writing part, the doing, is sweat and courage. It’s showing up EVERY SINGLE DAY no matter where your muse is. Some days, the magical ones, words flow like warm honey. Other days it feels like you’re crawling across a mile of used needles, bloody hospital scalpels and poo.

When I realized all of this I realized my muse had done her job well.  The rest of it was on me. So, I found my courage and began finishing the really important things. I started writing again – in earnest – and I’ve published two books so far, realizing a lifelong dream of being a writer. I made a dizzying career change and launched my own business, I finished a degree I’d long wanted but kept putting off.  Inspiration told me what was important, sweat and courage helped me to finish the job.

You see, finishing has nothing to do with inspiration and has everything to do with hard work and the courage to keep to your path.  It’s showing up every day, as I mentioned.  It’s refusing to give in to the blank looks you get from people when you tell them what you’re trying to do, it’s continuing with your efforts even when you see no results. It’s not glamorous. It’s actually quite ugly. It often involves crying. There’s almost always blood. But after all of that, at the end of the day, when you have finished, it is pure magic.

Fahrenheit 451 – First Line Friday

fahrenheit 451Fahrenheit 451 is, of course, one of the best books of all time. It’s a classic for good reason! I recently reread it with my book club, and I loved it as much as an adult as I did as an adolescent. There are about a thousand lines I could choose from this book, but since this blog series is all about opening lines, here it is.

I love this line. So simple, but saying so so much.

It was a pleasure to burn.

~ Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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