Monday, December 30, 2013

True Heroines in 2014

As always, our grand-high-mystic-poopah and editor-in-chief, Eric T. Reynolds gets to usher in the New Year at Heroines of Fantasy. Considering HoF is now the official blog of Hadley Rille Books, it's even more appropriate than ever.

There are changes as 2014 tumbles in, but one thing remains the same: Heroines of Fantasy and Hadley Rille Books remains dedicated to presenting all kinds of amazing female characters, writers, and artists to our readers. Don't misunderstand, we love our men! And a good character is a good character, whether a heroine, hero, noble or wicked. But let's face it--there is no shortage of all kinds of well-rounded male characters or writers. The women are gaining ground, and we aim to help that along as we always have.

Happy New Year! Eric, you're up!

In recent times, it seems no matter what the market demands, we still see many movies, books, and games with old-fashioned female stereotypes that deviate from reality, even when more normal portrayals of women are desired by much of the population. Why are we continuing to see this in twenty-first century Earth? And what do we think about that at Hadley Rille Books

For example, Cartoon Network canceled the series Tower Prep apparently, we’ve learned, because the female characters were too smart and too interesting. A recent post about it caused an inevitable reaction in social media and a possible movement to write and publish only female lead characters in 2014.

At Hadley Rille Books, we already had our line-up for 2014 when I saw that post. I double-checked: All our fiction (short stories and novels) for 2014 will have female lead characters. This wasn't really intentional, but it isn’t surprising since much of our focus has been on producing works with female leads. Our book covers will also have accurate portrayals. But many fantasy book covers still don’t. They show women in nearly impossible poses, fighting with swords while wearing revealing outfits and high heels. We know it’s fantasy, but one shouldn't still have to suspend disbelief to accept it. Except that many are so used to it, it’s often the norm. (Here's a real woman, Samantha Catto-Mott, who wields a sword. She was the first woman to win the Longsword Competition.) 

About a year ago, author Jim C. Hines blogged pictures of himself mimicking poses from fantasy cover art. In the comments, someone told him to do more of those and Jim’s reply was "Heh . . . Sorry, no more until my back recovers." Even if the characters inside a book are realistic, the cover often isn’t.

Fraeda, from The Shadow One Walks
by Terri-Lynne DeFino
Artwork by Annette Spurgeon
To be released by Hadley Rille Books in 2015
For a while, we were using the expression "strong female characters" to describe many of our protagonists, but we realized that wasn’t accurate. A post I Hate Strong Female Characters by Sophia McDougall brought to light that not all female characters are "strong." And the question was: why aren’t male characters referred to as "strong male characters?" We found many of our characters don’t fit that description anyway, so we came up with the expression "true heroines" to describe the protagonists in our books.  That is, characters who are real and span all spectrums of personalities, flaws, strengths and weaknesses. Just like people all around us. This is also true in our Archaeology Series, novels that show what life was like from the point of view of women of ancient times, women who were common people.

So what do we at Hadley Rille Books do? Simple. Produce the best books in the world with an emphasis on realistic female leads with cover art and advertising that accurately reflects that. Our line-up in 2014 is: Ice Magic, Fire Magic by Shauna Roberts; High Maga by Karin Rita Gastreich; Three Great Lies by Vanessa MacLellan; After the Ruin by Harriet Goodchild; and a new anthology called Ruins Excavation (edited by Rose Reynolds and me) in which all protagonists will be Women of Color Archaeologists. (We have an open call for submissions for this anthology, deadline January 31st. However, we’re considering extending the deadline a bit.)

I hope you’ll join us in the adventure. 

--Eric T Reynolds
Editor/Publisher, Hadley Rille Books

Monday, December 23, 2013

New Year, New Heroines of Fantasy

Well, my friends, 2013 is winding down and 2014 is upon us. We at Heroines of Fantasy thank you for another wonderful year of interesting discussion, laughs, and community. But like all good things, it must come to an end; we will no longer be four regular bloggers sharing thoughts, curiosities and opinions.

We will be six!

Mark, Karin, Kim and I welcome Louise Turner and Eric Griffith to the roster of regulars here on Heroines of Fantasy. As the official blog of Hadley Rille Books, we thought it would be great to include HRB's other genres, historical/archaeology, and science fiction. Louise is our historical lady, and the author of the recently released Fire and Sword. Eric is our scifiguy and the author of Beta Test, published in 2010. They will be introducing themselves in the months to come, so I won't steal their thunder here; but if you want a little sneak-peek, head on over to our contributors page and get one.

And that's not all...

Heroines of Fantasy is instituting a Wednesday Book Review, and with those reviews come new contributors. We will be posting reviews for fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction, novels published by legitimate small press, novels by women authors, and/or novels that feature complex female characters. Julia Dvorin is going to be coordinating the endeavor, as well as reviewing. The other reviewers who have signed on so far are:
David Hunter
Cybelle Greenlaw
Chris Gerrib
Harriet Goodchild
Eve Brackenbury
Carlyle Clark
For more about our reviewers, you can check everyone out on our reviewers page.

Do you have a novel that you'd like to have reviewed? Authors may submit queries to reviewers at Queries must include the following information: title, author, publisher, release date, brief description of book, cover image and purchase link, available formats for review (print, electronic, and if electronic, mobi, epub, etc.) If a reviewer decides to review a book, he or she will contact the author and request a copy of the novel. Go here or more info.

In the months to come, we all look forward to some great discussion here. Our commander-in-chief, Eric T. Reynolds is up next week for his yearly New Year contribution. Come ring in the new year with us here on Heroines of Fantasy!

~Terri-Lynne DeFino

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Top Ten Most Influential Novels Meme

Hello, friends and fans of Heroines of Fantasy!

One of the current memes on Facebook asks writers to list the ten novels that influenced them the most. The topic of inspiration and influence is fitting for the holiday season and closing out of another year, so, without further ado, I bring you my annotated list.

1. The Narnia books by C.S. Lewis, my first entrée into the world of fantasy.

2. Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern. I found Dragonsinger on the shelf of my elementary school library in fifth grade. I read every book thereafter, enthralled by this amazing new world I had discovered. In middle and high school, I even wrote Pern fan fiction for Star-Rise Weyr. On a typewriter! Then I mailed it, and it was published in beautiful booklets that were mailed back quarterly-ish. Good, good times, as both a writer and a fan.

3. The Once and Future King by T.H. White. My 7th grade English teacher assigned this novel, which sparked the love of Arthurian legend that eventually guided my Master’s emphasis (Medieval Literature) and inspired me to become a writer.

4. The Belgariad by David Eddings. Back in 8th grade, I pulled the first novel in the series from my mom’s bookshelf and discovered that epic fantasy could also be romantic and funny. And yes, Eddings is also responsible for my love affair with the apostrophe.

5. Joyce Ballou Gregorian’s Tredana trilogy. I think these novels might have gone out of print minutes after I read them, and it took me years to relocate and collect them all. They were so influential that I have never actually reread the books I hunted down so carefully, out of fear that I wouldn’t love them as much. Special trivia: these books inspired the dream that inspired the very early drafts of Song and the Sorceress. The name of my world—Sildehna—is a shout-out to these books.

6. Cujo, Christine, and Carrie, by Stephen King. I went through an avid King phase in middle school (apparently all I did was read novels in middle school, which my Social Studies and math grades reflect) and particularly enjoyed his early work, which delves much more into the psychology and human element of horror rather than his later, slasher fiction.

7. Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women is a far better, funnier, and more feminist text than The Canterbury Tales, and it is also the subject of my Master’s thesis. I pity those who haven’t discovered Chaucer, especially those who have never read this text. Chaucer and I would have totally gotten along.

8. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I came to Tolkien very late; in fact, I read his scholarly work in graduate school long before I ever read a word of his novels (partly due to overexposure to film strip versions of the horrible animated film, shown repeatedly during library time in grade school). Happily, I did read the novels—over and over—and I now own a leaf cloak pin, a tapestry map, and many other tokens as symbols of my extreme geektitude.

9. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling. Despite the overuse of adverbs, these are pivotal works of fiction that will stand the test of time. If Rowling writes anything else set in the wizarding world, ever, I will read it and love it. And I will continue to wait for my letter from Hogwarts until the day I die.

10. The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, my starter drug for the world of dystopian fiction, which I have been hooked on ever since. Someday, I’m going to write a dystopian novel. Wait for it.

Now I’m tagging all of you: what are your top ten novels? And if it’s something I should read, post links! I’m always looking for the next great read!

See you next year,

Kim Vandervort 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Artistic License...How much should we allow?

Hi folks, Mark here with a few thoughts on what will likely be a lively debate about how much film do or should deviate from the texts from which they come.

I cheated and stole a peak at the early reviews of The Desolation of Smaug over on For those who haven't made it over there yet, it has grown into the essential all-things-middle earth website. I have a soft spot for the place, actually, way back when it first got started I won the contest to name the chat room.  When you go into Barliman's for the gossip and the flame wars, well, you're welcome.  No real glory there, obviously, and I never figured out how to use the email addy they gave me. I feel like Willy Loman naming the boss's son 'Howard'...

But I digress.

When The Desolation of Smaug hits the screens next week, I'm almost convinced it will bring a firestorm of critical response. Rumor has it Jackson makes several glaring deviations from the original text, as if the stuff that showed up in the first installment wasn't enough, and those 'adjustments' are sure to bring a strong response from the two camps in question: the literary purists and the fans of film for the sake of film.

I have mixed emotions about the controversy. As a fan of sci fi and fantasy films in general, I want a good show. Entertain me. Enlighten me. Just don't bore me.  Radagast's sleigh rabbits, the endless race over the uplands before finding the secret way to Rivendell, the cgi barf in Goblin Town and the ridiculous Bilbo to Thorin's rescue at the end left me yawning somewhat, and yet I understand the why of it, to a point.  What gets me riled is when it seems the alterations stem from the ego of the producer/director rather than an intent to tell the story in a slightly different way.

I suspect the latter will be front and center of the discussions that follow the release of the Desolation of Smaug.

Of course I will see the film. I haven't made it to Ender's Game yet, but that is on my matinee list form the holiday break. I'm sure I'll like it, but if what I have read so far regarding spoilers and deviations is true, I'm sure I will mixed emotions. For me, Lewis and Tolkien were my introduction to the genre. My fifth grade teacher read us The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and my sixth grade teacher read us The Hobbit, complete with voices for the dwarves, Gandalf, Bilbo, et al. I was hooked. Living in Germany at the time just added to the magic. New Zealand has proven an excellent source for locations, but I recall feeling pretty strongly about a few places in southern Germany and Austria...

What all this sickly anticipation has me thinking about is how much poetic license should we allow folks like Peter Jackson. As an author, how much control would I be willing to give up to see my works transformed into film? Like many of you, I would love to get that phone call/email/tweet.  And yet I find myself trending toward caution because of what I have seen done to Tolkien. LeGuin's Earthsea was roundly butchered by the SciFi channel and suffered a confusingly derivative animated version from Myazaki's son.  So I would like to leave you with some questions:

As an author, what are you willing to allow? How much creative control would you like to keep? Card resisted early attempts to film Ender's Game because he wanted to keep his original schematic intact.

And what great stories would you like to see tackled next?  I would love to see someone have a go at McKillip's Riddlemaster series, or perhaps a try at Cherryh's Elvish/Welsh fantasy duology The Dreaming Tree.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Non-Kick-Ass Heroine

Hello, friends! It's my turn to head off Heroines of Fantasy, giving Karin some well-earned time off. There are changes coming to the blog. Great changes. But I'm only going to tease you with that for now. New year, new blog. But for now--
Our guest blogger is the fabulous Jeannette Kathleen Cheney, author of the newly released, The Golden City.
~Terri-Lynne DeFino
In my novel, The Golden City, my heroine Oriana Paredes is not a kickass heroine. She's a sereia--a siren--sent to a human city to spy. Her training, while it did include basic knife wielding skills, was not sufficient to make her kickass
Now we do see writers who skip that. In fact, it's a trope we see on TV a lot.  Buffy?  Does she train to be the kickass heroine? No, it's an inherited burden. What about River Tam? Nope, brainwashed into it. Trinity in The Matrix? Uploaded. It's all shortcuts. Do you see them doing pushups and arm hangs to build their upper body strength? Do you see them practicing having their thighs kicked just to harden the skin. While it makes a great story twist (pretty girl is unexpectedly kickass!) it also bugs me.

Now don't get me wrong. There are heroines who do earn being kickass:  Sarah Connor, Ripley, Zoe, Starbuck...and Michelle Rodriguez in about anything she's in. That's just for starters. It means hours and hours in the gym. Hours and hours learning to do that sort of thing. Hours and hours practicing and keeping their skills up to date.

My heroine doesn't have time for that. Before being deployed as a spy, she has to learn to speak with a Portuguese accent, learn human manners, learn to wear human clothes. She had to learn about the political situation and players in the city. She has to learn basic first aid skills because she can't go to a human hospital or doctor. Add to that a physical limitation: anything that causes her hands to vibrate will disorient her. The webbing between her fingers is highly sensitive to vibration, which is what allows her people to sense movement in the water. So should she hit someone with her hands or fire a gun, the vibrations would incapacitate her for a moment. 

More importantly than all the rest, she needs to fit into Portuguese society of 1902. The constant training required to be kickass would be out of the norm for a woman in Portugal. She would call attention to herself that she cannot afford. So for my heroine, kickass just wouldn't work. 
Fortunately, a woman doesn't have to be kickass in order to be a heroine. Heroines often start from a position of weakness and grow out of that into the role of a stronger person. Brains help level the playing field, as does courage, patience, and persistence. And having friends helps as well. I chose those for my heroine instead, and I hope that makes her believable for readers.

So what makes a believable heroine for you?  Is it all about being kickass?  And which ones aren't believable?

For two years, Oriana Paredes has been a spy among the social elite of the Golden City, reporting back to her people, the sereia, sea folk banned from the city’s shores....
When her employer and only confidante decides to elope, Oriana agrees to accompany her to Paris. But before they can depart, the two women are abducted and left to drown. Trapped beneath the waves, Oriana’s heritage allows her to survive while she is forced to watch her only friend die.
Vowing vengeance, Oriana crosses paths with Duilio Ferreira—a police consultant who has been investigating the disappearance of a string of servants from the city’s wealthiest homes. Duilio also has a secret: He is a seer and his gifts have led him to Oriana.
Bound by their secrets, not trusting each other completely yet having no choice but to work together, Oriana and Duilio must expose a twisted plot of magic so dark that it could cause the very fabric of history to come undone....

J. Kathleen Cheney is a former teacher and has taught mathematics ranging from 7th grade to Calculus, with a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist.  Her short fiction has been published in Jim Baen's Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others, and her novella "Iron Shoes" was a 2010 Nebula Award Finalist.  Her novel, "The Golden City" will come out from Penguin, November 5, 2013.

And Twitter @jkcheney 

The Golden City is available at: