Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Heroine I Wished I'd Written

 This week at the SFF Seven, we're talking about our favorite heroines that we didn't write. 

I think you all know me by now, and thus know I don't much like picking favorite anythings. There's a lot of room in my universe for all the stuff I love and I don't really think in terms of ranking. All that said, I just completed a reread of Patricia McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld, one of my most cherished books of all time. It's a brilliant fantasy novel and one I wished I'd written. The heroine and protagonist is a wizard woman named Sybel. 

Don't pay attention to the stupid listings that call this book young adult (YA). First of all, in 1974 when this book was first published, there wasn't a YA category. Secondly, the only reason this is listed as YA, I assume, is because it's written by a woman with a female protagonist. If this deeply layered, fucking brilliant fantasy novel is YA, then so is The Lord of the Rings. 


Sybel is simply a brilliantly drawn heroine. She is a product of her upbringing, isolated physically and in her immense power. Living among the magical, nigh-mythical creatures she cares for, Sybel has to learn to deal with human beings. She is unflinchingly strong throughout the story, cleaving to her own sense of self, even when others try to rip that away from her. In her learning to first love, then to hate, then to move past both, she achieves her own mythic status. Even as the reader follows her self-destructive path, dreading the inevitable outcome, we also believe totally in her reasons, never failing to cheer her on. Sybel is the awkward, bookish, shy girl in all of us, who wrestles with the tumult of the wider world. 

In rereading, I found so many ways this story has infused my own work, though I despair of ever reaching this level. And Sybel is in all of my heroines. Maybe even a bit in myself. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

3 Fav Webcomic Heroines

This Week's Topic: Favorite Heroine (who's not one of my creations) and Why?

I've a deep love for heroines who are competent and compassionate. Funny is a bonus, but humor is subjective so I'll glom on to the straight man (as in the comedy definition, not the CIShet meaning) just as quickly. Flaws are great when rooted in character dev and an untold backstory, but I'll chuck a book if she's pointlessly bitchy, whiney, or TDTL. I just...can't. Maybe I'm too old (reaches for fiber supplements). Maybe I'm too inundated by pop culture's "strong female protagonists" who can slaughter a hundred monsters as an "oopsie, I didn't know I was so powerful" then regress to total ineptitude the moment the dude shows up. That's not to say I need the heroine to be a mature expert from the start. I'm game for a clueless n00b as long as she's not...stupid. I love heroines who stand up for themselves. They don't have to do it with their fists. A concise verbal setdown is a thing of beauty too. (NGL, I stan swordmasters and assassins as well.) Gimme a gal who can apologize as well as show relationship awareness and gratitude while we're at it.  A woman who can outsmart, outthink, out plan, out strategize the opposition? I want her story in my grubby mitts.

So, which fictional ladies have me hooked?  Here are three from my current webcomic must-reads:

  1. Empress Navier Trovi from Alpha Tart, Sumpul's The Remarried Empress webcomic
  2. Martina/Astina from The Lady and the Beast webcomic by Maginot and Hongseul
  3. Vivi from Little Rabbit and the Big Bad Leopard webcomic by Yasik, Sadam, and Mogin 
    • the hilarity of the bunny's expressions is worth every paid ep

Friday, January 6, 2023

Book Club Tales

Once upon a time, our community had a book club. The organizer found out I'm an author and talked me into joining the group. We met once a month, as you do. Voted on which books to read. The group always picked two books so you'd have a choice of what to read and then divided the group along the lines of who read what. Then we sat around and talked about them. Indoors. Seated right next to one another. As if we had nothing in the world to fear. It was the before times.

Yeah Covid shut us all done and dealt a fatal blow to the group. Too many of our members were elderly or immune-compromised. In an active community with a population that skews pretty hard to retirees, the book club was a social haven for our neighbors with mobility issues or who are fighting cancer. So even after vaccinations and options to meet outdoors, the group never recovered and there is no book club in my neighborhood these days.

I liked the book club and I disliked the book club.

I liked that one of the books changed a woman's mind about what it means to be transgender. She'd firmly believed it was all nonsense. The book we read got her inside a transgender child's misery and their parents' struggles to comprehend and finally help the child thrive. If a book can engender compassion, that's power and I'm entirely here for that.

I disliked the book club because book clubs only want to read *important* books. You know. Oprah books. Literary books. Genre fiction isn't allowed. I could nominate as many genre fics as I wanted (don't think I didn't). They were never voted for. Not even as alternates. I'd gotten maybe three books into this book club deal and had pretty much decided it Was Not For Me (tm) when the pandemic handled the matter. Though I note that if we'd managed to keep a club going during the pandemic, I'm comfortably certain the members would have been more amenable to lightening the mood with some genre fiction.

My problem is that high school put me off reading literary books. It's just that I paid good money to big pharma and therapists over the years to stop being depressed and literary books depress me. Some of them are brilliant and uplifting and lovely. Water for Elephants comes to mind. But for the most part, literary books aren't invested in character arcs and I want to believe in the power of the individual to change. That's the appeal of genre fiction for me. I have yet to find a book club anywhere that wanted to read Murderbot stories. So I'll stick with genre fiction in my quiet corner of solitude where I can read the happy and the fun. Preferably SF, Romance, Fantasy, PNR, Steampunk - whatever my weird little heart takes a shine to. If I find a no pressure, come as you are book club that wants to stick to guaranteed HEA books, I'd be tempted to join. Until then, Twitter fandoms will be my clubs. 

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Book Club Love

Fictively Reading Book Club's Instagram home page showing the last six posts of books that were read: Shielded, Scarlet and Brown, Pie Academy, Dial A for Aunties, Touch, and Bring me their Hearts

I miss my book club. If you know me, you know my book tastes don’t run with the typical book club types. Which was why I started my own with the goal to read fiction and introduce a wide variety of genre fiction to our members: Fictively Reading!

One of my favorite book club reads was Polaris Rising by Jessie Mihalik. Only one other person out of our group of eight had ever read science fiction before. It was one of the best discussions because they were all blown away by how much they got into the story and the characters, which also meant I got to geek out about space operas and what they are and why this one hooked us all so well. 

I think being in my self-created book club was such a good fit because I picked a few books and let everyone else vote on which one they wanted to read next. Had I actually read some of them before hand? Yes, but I wanted to be sure they were really good! There’s nothing better than suggesting a book to someone and they fall in love with it, come back to you and gush about it. And in our book club we all got to do that together! 

Another huge plus of being in a book club: you get out of the house and actually talk to people. As writers we don’t get a lot of face time IRL. And as introverted as I am, I still need connections with people. Meeting for book club was in part excuse to introduce SFF and romance to new readers, but also for our group to get together and catch up on everything that is life. 

*sigh* The good ol’ days. Unfortunately, the pandemic put an end to our book club meetings since we couldn’t actually meet in person. I have been asked by a few of the members if we’ll ever start back up. And you know what, we really should! 

Are you in a book club? 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Book Clubs - Love 'Em or Leave 'Em?

 Introducing my new supervisor: Killian! He loves being present for the podcast, this blog, and morning wordcount, though he has a tendency to fall asleep on the job. Still, I have high expectations and the Cuteness Quotient™ is off the charts. 

This week at the SFF Seven we're talking book clubs. We're asking each other what bookish groups we belong to and what do they provide?

Like KAK, my answer is: none.

Oh, I have belonged to book clubs in the past. I was in one for a while back when we lived in Wyoming - though it was, in part, a thinly veiled subterfuge to get people to read MY newly published book. Which they did! And discussed, which was fun. Mission accomplished. 

Otherwise... I don't love being in a book club. It's fun to chat with people and I love to talk about books. Book clubs are, however, rather noteworthy for not actually discussing the books (or reading them) and devolving into gossip instead. I'm also a steady reader, finishing a book every two-three days, so I don't need incentive to read. I find I don't like "required reading" either. One cool thing about book clubs is they get you to read books you otherwise wouldn't; they also get you to read books you otherwise wouldn't because you don't want to. While I know there are genre book clubs out there, most tend toward the erudite and fashionable books, and not the kind of thing I love to read. 

Besides which, I can always find people to discuss the books I *do* love to read. Or there's always the cats. Killian's reading comprehension needs work still, but he's an excellent listener. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Book Club: Talking to Me, Myself, and I

 Happy New Year from all of us here at the SFF Seven!

This week's topic: To what bookish groups do I belong and what do they provide?

rubs neck

looks askance

This is a great moment to remind our dear readers that each member of the SFF Seven contributes 7+ topics to our annual programming calendar. This allows each of us to not only ask questions of our fellow bloggers, but also to offer you--our readers--different perspectives based on where we are in our publishing careers, which paths we've taken, and how our genres influence our decisions and experiences. 

Back to the weekly question.

Hi. My name is KAK, and I'm a recluse. I, uh, am not a member of a book club. Neither IRL nor online. AITA? Hope not. I love the concept of book clubs...for other people. Whether a book is actually discussed amongst attendees or if the book is just an excuse to get together, book groups are a wonderful means of facilitating deeper relationships. As an author, to have my book be the topic of discussion would be amazing. To be invited as a guest speaker is quite an honor. As a reader, however, the only conversations I have about a book are with me, myself, and I...okay, and perhaps with the wildlife who have the misfortune of being near whilst I'm in the throes of dissecting plot progression and character development. 

What about you? Do you belong to a book club? Online? IRL? Active participant or lurker? Tell me all, tell me the comments.

Friday, December 30, 2022

Wishing You a Bright New Year


Wishing everyone a happy New Year!

In the New Year, as the days lengthen, may light also return to our lives. May we be healthy. May we create joy in ourselves and in others. May the universe tip toward equity and justice for all beings. May we be prosperous. May we love and be loved. May we know peace.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Wishing you a Glitter filled 2023!

a black and white Siberian husky resting in glittering snow with his pointy eared shadow stretching out before him

As we watch the last sunsets of 2022 we’re sharing thoughts and blessings for the year to come.

There’s something refreshing about contemplating the year to come instead of pondering the year that has been. What has been has been, and what will be is still in formation. Have you put thought into your 2023?

Like Jeffe mentioned yesterday, over the past year I’ve realized that I do need people interaction. It’s been a few years since I’ve attended a con, and I miss it. Author friends get it in a way no one else can. Those relationships are precious and in the coming year I aim to give more time to them. I hope you have the bandwidth to put into author friendships, they’re worth all the effort. 

2023 will also be when I send out my next manuscript. There’s all sorts of scary wrapped up in that, but I refuse to be afraid of my shadow. It is time. 

And I’m going to continue to look for glitter, every day. It’s easy to let the no’s and negative stuff bring you down. I believe it’s important to focus on the good, every day. I hope your 2023 is filled with glitter, writing, and author friends! 

Happy New Year!