Top Ten Reasons I’m a #Feminist

I was recently invited to participate in a new group blog project. FeminaAequalitas.com  is the pet project of SpellboundScribes blogger Nicole Evalina. The purpose of the blog is to examine issues affecting both men and women. Here’s a snippet from the blog’s About page…

We’re a group of men and women who are searching for equality among the sexes in our lives and in our world. We have opinions on things going on in the world around us – in pop culture (movies, music, books, TV, etc.), world news, politics and in our own lives. We’re here to share those thoughts in order to foster healthy discussion and grow a community of like-minded individuals. We are desirous of change, but aren’t necessarily traditional activists.

If that piques your curiosity, here’s a link to my introductory post.

There’s a definite overlap between the bloggers here at the SpellboundScribes and the people who will be creating posts for FeminaAequalitas.com, though I think the tone on the new blog will be somewhat more serious. For today, though, this is all new and fresh and fun, and I thought I’d come up with a list of reasons that I’m a feminist…

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10. Because my life is good, but not every woman can say that.

9.  Because everyone needs to call the NFL on its bullshit.

8.  Because I’d earn more money if I had a Y-chromosome.

7.  Because someone needs to step up and prove there’s more going on than the #feminazi stereotype.

6.  Because by age 16, girls learn how to avoid sexual assault, but boys don’t.

5. Because ideas of hyperdefined masculinity hurt boys as much as traditional female stereotypes hurt women.

4. Because #RapeCulture  exists.

3. Because my son needs a role model.

2. Because my daughter needs a role model.

1. Because I’m old enough to remember when being a feminist was cool.

Well now, I hope you run right over to the new blog. Thanks for playing along!
Liv

The End of an Era: Saying Goodbye to The Hollows

Don’t worry: this little piece of nostalgia will be completely spoiler-free for the last few Rachel Morgan books. I know many of my fellow Scribes read The Hollows series and aren’t caught up yet, and I don’t want to ruin anything for them!

20140911_132354About nine years ago, give or take a few months, my then-boyfriend (now husband) and I were talking on the phone and he mentioned this book he was reading. “It’s about a witch. She has a pixie for a sidekick and she lives in a church with a vampire. She has a boyfriend who was once a rat, and she accidentally made him her familiar!”

Cue record scratch. Kristin’s ears perk up. “What on earth is this book, and where can I get it?”

Turns out, it was The Good, the Bad, and the Undead by Kim Harrison. (Being less obsessive about doing things in order, now-Husband started with the second book. I put in a request at my local library for the first one, Dead Witch Walking.)

At the time, there were only three books out. Can you imagine, Hollows fans? Three books! I fell hard for the first book and ended up buying all three. I spent my summer living and breathing The Hollows. It was a memorable summer, all on its own: my parents had moved to Wisconsin from Texas while I was abroad in Rome, and I was living in a new place, working a new job, dating a new guy, and everything in my life was topsy-turvy.

But reading about Rachel Morgan reminded me of one thing that had always been constant: I wanted to write. Kim Harrison’s books inspired me and reminded me that fantasy, my genre love, could be fresh and exciting. The Hollows were the first books to expose me to urban fantasy, if you don’t count Harry Potter as UF, which no one seems to. Witches in a modern setting, using spells to hide their freckles and bring down the bad guys? GET OUT.

In a small way, my life changed in a very big way from that moment.

Since 2005, I’ve grown and changed a lot, right alongside Rachel. I’ve made some big mistakes (maybe not quite so big as trying to let my best friend drink my blood or pissing off an entire bureaucratic coven of witches), but Rachel and I have both learned to accept our mistakes for the brave, ballsy, greedy-for-life adventures they were. And we’ve both learned that even if our lives don’t look exactly like what we expected, if they’re filled with love and laughter and doing our damnedest, then they are lives absolutely worth having.

This is actually the first series (again, aside from our friend HP) I’ve read from beginning to end, seeing the main character in myself, growing alongside her, swearing when she made the wrong choices and smiling to myself when things finally fell into place for her. I went from being younger than Rachel to being older than Rachel, but my love for her never really changed.

Book 13, The Witch With No Name, came out just a few short weeks ago.  For nine years, I’ve been reading each new installment in the series eagerly, and this would be the last time. I wanted to do it right. I looked up the tour dates and saw that Kim would be in Indianapolis the day after the book came out. I said to now-Husband, “Unless there’s a freaking tornado, we’re going!”

And we did. It was, in fact, a dark and stormy night, but it was a fantastic one all the same. The lovely Kim answered questions, bantered with her husband, and was all around lovely and totally adorable. She signed our books, smiled for pictures, and was exactly what I wanted her to be: my inspiration, still.

I’ll miss Rachel Morgan, yes, but I’ll read Kim’s next series happily, and I’ll treasure The Hollows for being the series that moved me, encouraged me, and reminded me to never stop fighting for what I believe in.

What series have shaped your lives, even in a small way? Have you ever followed a series from beginning to end?

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“Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”

I’ve been known to describe myself as a member of the Tamarian species.

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There is an amazing episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called “Darmok.” In this episode, Captain Picard meets the Tamarians, a species that the Federation has had absolutely no luck learning to communicate with. Because though the Universal Translator translates the alien language to English, the Tamarian’s word choices make no sense. The Tamarian Captain keeps using the phrase “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra,” which means literally nothing to Captain Picard.

Throughout the course of the episode, it’s discovered that the Tamarians essentially speak using references. Everything the Tamarian Captain says is a reference to some story in his culture, and that’s why Captain Picard couldn’t understand. Because he didn’t know the reference.

I have a habit of speaking like this in every day life. Of filtering thoughts and experiences through stories. This sometimes makes it hard for my friends to understand me, and sometimes I have to stop and explain myself. And that’s fine. Because conversations are a back and forth. I get a chance to explain myself.

Books, movies, and other media, however, do not.

I recently read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book is fantastic. I devoured the entire thing in one sitting, needing to know what happened next. However, the entire time I was reading the book I felt like I was missing something. Why? Because the entire book was one long 1980s reference. And as someone who was barely alive in the 80s, most of the references went over my head. Ready Player One isn’t just a SF story about virtual realities. It’s a love letter to the 80s, and that’s something I just couldn’t appreciate like it was meant to be.

In this case the references didn’t throw me out of the story, but they did make it clear that no matter how much I enjoyed the book this book was not written for me.

On the other hand, we have The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher. It’s not not quite as littered with references, but Harry Dresden lives in the real world and is something of a geek. Everything from the name of his car (the Blue Beetle) to his Mickey Mouse alarm clock (which is adorable) is a reference.

Steve_referenceIn the latest Dresden File book, one of the climatic moments is a fairly obvious (and very purposeful) Star Wars reference. And every one of these little geeky gems has only served to endear the entire series to me. It makes me feel like Harry Dresden is someone I could be friends with, and above all, I am the intended audience of these books.

That is the danger of references. References are like an inside joke between the author and the reader. When the reader gets that joke, it feels brilliant and special. It’s an instantaneous connection. But when the reader doesn’t, it’s alienating.

And this is why every writer must think carefully before using a reference. We have to ask ourselves why we’re using it, if it’s a reference our audience will understand, and whether the reader will be lost if they don’t understand the reference. Because a lost reader is a reader who may set down a book and never pick it up again, and that is something no author wants.

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How the Scottish Referendum for Independence Gave Me New Creativity

Aside from the obvious inspiration for my debut novel, there’s something sparkly happening in Scotland that has brought me back to life.

Today is the day Scotland votes on independence. The ballot question is simple: Should Scotland be an independent country? One box for yes, one box for no.

It’s easy to think of the politics in something like that. And they’re present, of course. But the real magic has happened in Scotland’s people.

National Collective, an organization founded by Ross Colquhoun a couple years back, took point on involving creative folks — artists, writers, designers, architects, actors, musicians, and more — in the discussion on Scottish independence. What happened next was the stuff of an Upworthy video, clickbaity title included.

All over Scotland, National Collective started getting people involved, using social media with facility and power and passion. They grew to thousands of members. They engaged with the Yes campaign. They mobilized each other and their peers, and together they mobilized a generation — and more.

What I’ve seen in the past two years since I first met Ross and wrote a little op-ed for their website back in August of 2012 is a picture of what a society could look like if they cared. To see Scotland take up the banners of fairness, justice, peace, and diplomacy is one thing — to see her people do so in the name of building those things themselves and committing to being better no matter how much work it takes, well. That is the stuff of legends.

The debate on Scottish independence has been fascinating for many reasons, but for me, the part that brings tears to my eyes and goosebumps pebbling across my skin is seeing the webs of connections the people of the Yes movement have forged across their country and the world. How voices in Iceland and Catalonia and Quebec (and here in the US) have raised in support of an independent Scotland. How the #YesGenerations conversation on Twitter showed families reaching across generational lines to have dialogue and how the passion of the youth to build a better nation helped convince their grandparents to give them the chance to try.

That is the kind of land I want to live in. One that values its people and knows that its human capital is far more priceless than pounds or dollars. One that feels the need to protect its elderly from cuts to necessary programs and one that welcomes immigrants and for whom an independent Scotland is for all who live within its borders, regardless of where they came from.

Watching this debate has fueled within me an even stronger desire to be there when Scotland goes her own way. I cannot predict the outcome of today’s vote. All I can predict is that it will be close, and it will leave Scotland changed. Those in Scotland who have risen up to engage with this very important question aren’t going to go away.

A big thing that has come out of this also is the concept that being an idealist and accomplishing something are not mutually exclusive ideas. Those working toward Scottish independence are far from having their heads in clouds or sand or both. They’re out there working, learning about policies, actively engaging in changing that which is within their control. This is the generation that will make up Scotland’s next leaders, and this is something of great value in a world where the recession has made many cynical and apathetic about their abilities to effect change.

So today, I’m looking forward. Scotland has taught me that it’s possible to exercise control things small and large alike.

Whatever the results are today, I’m behind the people of Scotland. Create. Innovate. Thrive.

 

It’s okay to stop

Last week, Jen talked about saying “no” and that it was okay to do so. The other week I talked about rewarding yourself for your accomplishments. Today I’m gonna expand on that idea. Yes, you can tell people you don’t have time for the many things you’re asked to do, but on the same side, it is okay to let yourself stop.

download (1)As writers we’re always under pressure. Projects need to be started, need to be finished, need to be polished. There’s always some deadline looming, even if just self-imposed. When I’m in the  middle of a project, I try to write every weekday and on each of those days I have a word count I try to reach. On this particular project, I want to be done with it by the beginning of October so I’ve imposed a 3k day goal.

And for the first two and a half weeks, I was doing great. Week one, 15k. Week two, 30k. writingAnd then I hit 40k in the middle of week three and I hit a wall. I have a very detailed outline that is helping me get through this as quickly and painlessly as possible, but sometimes that doesn’t matter. That last day that I hit 40k was like pulling teeth and even then I was behind schedule because life got in the way. And then I woke up Friday morning, knowing I had a book publishing today, and I just couldn’t look at my computer. To catch up I’d have to write 4k (though I hit 40k, I did push to 41k), or write some on Saturday. I didn’t want to do either. I just wanted to sit and relax. So I did.

Friday I managed to get my morning cardio photo 1 (4)in but then I made myself a latte and sat my butt on the couch. I turned on that week’s Project Runway and I just watched the show while I sipped my coffee. It was glorious. And for the rest of the weekend I relaxed. Sure, there were a couple of errands that needed doing, but otherwise I just relaxed. There was a tiny part of me that felt a little guilty, but I knew that I needed that decompression, it would benefit me and the book in the long run. Now, Monday morning, I’m ready to get back to the book and get my words done.

You deserve a break, remember that. And when you’re your own boss, there is no one around who is going to check to see if you’ve taken your mandatory vacation days for you, so make sure you do it. You. Deserve. It.

Finding Hope in Tragedy

Image used with permission (as given on site) from http://robwebster.net/2011/08/15/9-11resources/
Image used with permission (as given on site) from http://robwebster.net/2011/08/15/9-11resources/

Normally I try to avoid 9/11 coverage like the plague because I simply don’t want to be reminded of that dark day in our country’s history. But this year, an incredible book called A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner has made me finally face my feelings about what happened 13 years ago. I’m not finished reading it yet, but this tale of two women – separated by a century, yet bound together by loss (one on 9/11) and a mysterious marigold scarf – is teaching me that hope can come even from the bleakest of tragedies, that new beginnings can spring from death.

I was fortunate to not be directly or in any way closely affected by the events of that day. I don’t know anyone who was there or who lost someone. I can’t begin to imagine what the victims, their families, the first responders and the citizens of New York City went through. I am in no way comparing my minor experience to theirs. But the truth is, we were all affected in some way – even on a micro scale – on that bright September morning.

I was 22 and only three months away from college graduation in September 2001. My memory of finding out about the attacks is as vivid today as it was then. I was driving to school on Natural Bridge Road when the Kill Hannah CD I was listening to ended and the radio popped on as I changed CDs. It was tuned to some obnoxious morning show, so when I first heard about the planes hitting the Twin Towers moments before, I thought it was some kind of sick joke. But as I merged on to highway 170, it became clear this was chillingly real.

I drove to school in a daze, listening in horror as the news unfolded that it was a terrorist attack and that many people were trapped. Once at school, I parked and ran for the cafeteria, the only place on campus with a TV. Sitting with my friend and fellow international business major, Shawn, I watched the towers collapse. We both looked at each other in shock. Part of the reason we were friends was a shared dream of working at the World Trade Center, a dream that had just died before our very eyes in the most terrible way.

Like a lot of Americans, I developed a fear of flying for several years after 9/11. Me, the girl who took her first trip to Europe at 11 and was only recently returned from England, my first trip without my parents. The girl whose sole focus during college (other than local bands) was on gaining the skills to travel the world doing whatever job I ended up with when I graduated. Not only did the economy collapse that day, making getting a job very hard after I graduated, the terrorist attacks destroyed my dream job and killed my desire to be a globe trotting jet-setter. Suddenly I was about to graduate with no clue what to do with my life.

fallofmarigoldsA Fall of Marigolds is very much about the limbo time between tragedy and beginning a new life. That’s what the next seven years would be for me. Maybe they would have been like that had 9/11 not happened – I don’t know. But because of the terrible job market, I ended up having to take a job at a tiny non-profit that paid next to nothing and where I was miserable. I stayed for a year before getting a job at my current employer. Little did I know then that I was destined to become a writer.

I was already writing my first Guinevere novel, but it was just a hobby, something I did when I got bored. I only had three chapters written and I never even dreamed of publishing it. (It wouldn’t be until 2008 that started taking my writing seriously.) At that moment, it had been years since I’d touched the book and I had no intention of continuing. But as I grew increasingly frustrated with my day job, I realized I had to do something on the side that made me happy. I thought back to college and my second major, English (which had started out as a minor), and realized that something was writing. If I wasn’t going to travel the world in my day job (thanks, terrorists), why not write and at least hopefully affect readers around the world?

So, in a roundabout way, the events of 9/11 led me to becoming a writer. I lost one career that day, but was unconsciously set on the path that would lead me to where I am today. I know this is nothing compared to what many experienced as a result of 9/11 and I am in no way attempting to upstage or take away from them. This is simply my story, my ray of hope from an unthinkably terrible day.

What do you remember about 9/11? What is your story? Have you found a ray of hope from the events? Have you read A Fall of Marigolds? What do you think of it?

(Before I realized what day it is, I was going to post about something that likely will ruffle some feathers, but you’ll have to wait until October for that one…I’m such a tease.)

Just Say No!

As an author this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn. I’m a teacher at heart and I love to help people. So when someone says, “Hey, can you take a look at this for me.” I have a tendency to say, “Sure.” Especially if they are a friend.

Time management is so important in this business if you want to actually write books. Considering everything else an author has to do beyond writing…there’s so little time. I’ve had to learn how to prioritize. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s easier to tell someone that right now I just don’t have the time, than it is to offer to help and not be able to follow through.

I think most every author’s wish is that they could sit down and write all the time. And for a while, that’s exactly what we get to do. Then you start promotion. And editing. New books. Reader email (Which we love! Always feel free to send!) If you don’t prioritize from the beginning it is so easy to get caught up in the flurry of helping others get their start. My advice…when you learn your limits stick to them. Turn requests down in a professional manner. Don’t alienate people. A polite refusal will take you a lot further than a harsh, “I don’t have the time for you.”

 

A bit of shameless promotion:

My first shifter story…Not Just a Kiss is now available for free on Goodreads! You can find in the Goodreads M/M Romance group here or download it here.

Not Just a KissThe last thing Raju Bhandari expects on the night of his first leopard shift is to find his mate. He is ready to start training for the endurance test that will determine his place in the leap. But the son of the alpha has a different plan in mind.

Sujan Malakar, son to the alpha of his snow leopard leap, has found his mate. On the night of Raju’s first shift, he goes to Raju’s home to tell him how he feels. But Raju doesn’t acknowledge their mating bond. For the first time, Sujan is rejected. Not one to back down from a challenge, he continues to pursue Raju to show him they are meant to be together.

Raju’s pride keeps him from seeing the truth in Sujan. Everyone says they can see their attraction to each other, so why is he the only one who doesn’t?