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:

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Writer's Gratitude

I didn't intend to write about Thanksgiving this week. After all, isn't that the big theme trending on twitter and Facebook right now? Aren't we all just sick to death of the trite, "I'm thankful for my Starbucks" posts going up daily? It feels like we've worn out the holiday and we haven't even bought our groceries yet. Even the retailers want us to just skip ahead and focus on what's really important: shopping!

And yet... while some of the items on the thankful lists may seem trite, the larger sentiment is something we don't see enough of these days. Gratitude, as a general principle, seems less and less important. Part of the problem is that we are always in a rush. We are so busy sending emails on our smart phones as we rush from point A to point B that we not only don't say "thank you" to the person holding the door open for us, we didn't even notice someone had done so. A "thanks" to our server, barista, or store clerk is rare. And of course, the everyday little things that make our lives so much easier-- clean running water, washing machines, dishwashers, or even ready access to food on the table-- are completely taken for granted. We assume that these things have and will always be available. We demand and expect, but rarely consider the effort, the demands of time and energy, the wizards behind the curtain that factor into getting us what we need or want, when we want or need.

As writers, we have so many things to be thankful for, and so many people who are instrumental in getting our books from brain, to page, to readers. So, in the spirit of the holiday, it’s time to pull back the curtain and give a little gratitude to a few of those hard-working supporters who make this passion of ours into a reality:

1. First off, we have to thank the muse. Fickle as she may be at times, nothing happens without that spark of inspiration.

2. Friends and family are an essential part of any creative endeavor. They encourage, they cheerlead, they tell us, “no, you don’t suck, your book is great!” or when the book does suck, they tell us how to fix it. Behind every tortured creative soul is a loyal friend or family member willing to pick up all the pieces and tape them back together when necessary. For my part, there isn’t a book or a story I’ve completed without an army of loyal minions at my back.

3. Other writers deserve a shout-out, particularly those in the SFF community. I’ve learned more from my fellow writers about craft, publishing, marketing, and every phase in between than every workshop I’ve attended and book I’ve read combined. These are the people who really get down and dirty, devoting their time to read beta drafts and offer their creative genius in support of others. They are always willing to help a young writer get started or offer praise and support. These are our fellow soldiers in the trenches, without whom we would never survive.

4. I know I personally could not function without my writing group, Lumosliterati, and I know many others feel the same way about their wizards behind the curtain, who pick apart plots and character, nag about word choice, argue about commas and repetitive sentence structures. We laugh, we fight, we cry, and our books are all the better for it.

5. Editors: Terri-Lynne and Eric, I’m looking at you! I can say from experience that it is no fun being an editor and having to tell an author that he or she needs to rethink, revise, rewrite. My books are my babies, and I know all writers feel the same. But without my editors telling me, “this is great!” or “make the pirates work or they have to go!” my books would never hit shelves. Which leads me to…

6. Publishers, the ultimate quality-control guardians, the keepers of the kingdom. I’m a little biased, but my publisher, Eric T. Reynolds of Hadley Rille Books, is the absolute bomb-diggety. He makes sure that our books are beautiful quality, inside and out, before they reach the readers. But what makes me especially thankful for my publisher is his attitude toward the press and his authors. Hadley Rille is his baby; we are his family. Karin and Terri-Lynne are my book-sisters, Mark my brother, and all of us feel connected. Could we make more money as “big-publisher” authors? Probably. But this experience of belonging to something greater than the individual is priceless, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

7. Last, but definitely not least, we owe a debt of gratitude to our readers. To be able to share our worlds and characters with others is the most wonderful feeling imaginable, and to know that other people love Breyveran, Ki’leah, Britta and Erich as much as I do makes everything worthwhile. I know some of my readers are a little peeved with me at the moment for the long pause in their story (it’s coming, I promise!) but hopefully they will come to love Skerth and Kiri, too, and look forward to their continued stories as much as I do.

I couldn’t end this post without a heartfelt thanks to all of you, our loyal readers of Heroines of Fantasy. I don’t comment as often as I’d like, but I read everything, and cherish our conversations here. I think I speak for all of us here when I say that we are all grateful for your company, and we look forward to many more years of dialogue and adventure to come!

~Kim Vandervort

Monday, November 18, 2013

Shaking off Stagnation...

Hello folks! Mark here with a few thoughts on how I break myself out of the creative doldrums. I've written previously asking about where we find our sources of inspiration. Sometimes, however, inspiration doesn't show and patience wears thin. During those times stuff roils around inside my brain, refusing to congeal enough to frame coherent thoughts. I've gone through more than my fair share of that experience. I don't like it, but I have come to learn there are reasons for such stagnation. I am pretty lazy as a rule, or at least I tend to think I am, but as I contemplated the length and depth of this most recent bout I came to realize a few truths. And reviewing my past bouts with blockage, I realize those truths have been consistent.

I now know that routine can actually work against my creative process. And yet I also know that when I commit to discipline I produce usable stuff. On the surface it might appear paradoxical, but when I look closely I realize certain kinds of routine tend to wear me out physically and intellectually. I shut down. Things gestate. In time stuff begins to come out, and it usually takes the form of verse first before working into prose. This has been true since I first began putting stuff down on paper as a youngster. I was cleaning out some boxes in the basement yesterday, avoiding dealing with a seventeen page edit letter, and I found some of my old notebooks. It was strange getting reacquainted with my sixteen year old self. I found the first reference to Talyior's name. I found the first use of the Harpist of Light, the tag Eleni attaches to Donari in her piece to him from King's Gambit, in a poem and short story in an old spiral notebook. My younger self loved narrative verse. People have said there's poetry within my prose. Some things don't really change.

What I think I mean is I don't tend to worry too much anymore about not finding the words. When verse starts to ooze out on the backs of essays or onto blank screens, I know something useful and substantial is on the way. I'm an old style percolating coffee pot. I can help the process along by making a few changes in my routine. 

I've done the same sort of thing in my teaching. I'm a veteran; I know all about routine. When I sense my students and I getting a little stagnant, I throw in a curve to shake things up. Over the years my favorite method has been to join in with my class in a unique writing exercise. Young writers struggle with thinking too literally. I want them to push to metaphor and meaning. To that end I have everyone write down 4-5 unrelated terms or phrases, wad them up and toss them into a hat for a blind draw. No one gets to keep the one they wrote. The goal for the assignment is to compose an essay making use of those terms in such a way as to make a commentary about the human condition. I place several stipulations on the composition: 1) None of the terms/phrases and be taken or used literally. We have to change their meaning, turn them into concepts or ideas and develop prose that explains them clearly. 2) They have to develop each term as a chunk in the essay with balanced development. 3) They have to weave the "term-chunks" into a humanistic essay with a central focus.

Once the howls of dismay fade away, everyone realizes they have complete freedom to frame whatever truth they wish. Usually, a goodly handful surprise themselves by reaching some surprising insights. Historically, this essay has always been the most fun to read out loud. They get to experience discursive thinking and intellectual freedom--heady stuff in this era of standardized testing. What they get usually goes far, far beyond what ever grade they might receive. In fact, we grade the papers as a class.

I still recall the first set of terms I had to deal with when I first started doing this assignment with my students. A couple of my more precocious intellects came up with the following: Snotty nose hairs, Uhhhhh..., Under water kites, and Skittleosis. One of these days I'll post what I came up with--perhaps in the comments thread if anyone is interested.

So that is one way I shake things up. It helps break the routines in my teaching life, which in turn helps break up the blockages in my writing life. What do you do?

Mark Nelson

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Holidays Are Upon Us

It starts with Halloween, and just careeeeeens straight through until New Year's Day--holiday chaos. I have been seeing Christmas decorations in Costco since September. Gads, I miss when the holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving. By the time Thanksgiving comes, tis the season a month already. I love the stretch of days between August's first cool nights and New Year's Eve's champagne toast; not as one long mishmash holiday season, but letting them each come into their own. The wheel of the year turns quickly enough, thanks. No need to rush.
Holidays are holy days. How an author uses such days in their work has always intrigued me. I've rarely seen one that doesn't mimic our own seasonal holidays. The events in our world tend to revolve around that turning wheel of the year, whatever the culture. It doesn't matter if one is north of the equator or south, autumn holidays center around the harvest. Winter, the triumph of light over dark, or the long sleep. Spring, rebirth. Summer, abundance. The Christianization of many parts of the world kind of throws that off balance--Christmas is still celebrated on December 25th in Australia, even though it's the height of summer there--but let's not put that kettle of fish on the fire. Now, how about in fantasy fiction?

In Pawn of Prophecy, by David Eddings, the winter holiday was called Yule. It mimicked every winter holiday celebration I can think of from Christmas to Hannukah to the Feast of St. Lucia. In Guy Gavriel Kay's, Tigana, the annual Ember Days of Autumn feast celebrates the deicide of the God Adaon, and mimics the Dionysus myth.

There--I gave you two. Now, I am very curious to see what you come up with. Winter, spring, summer or fall--or none of the above! What seasonal festivals, national holidays, or any other event of that sort can you tell me about whether one you've read, or written yourself.

Terri-Lynne DeFino

Monday, November 4, 2013

On the Art vs. the Artist

This weekend I went to see ENDER'S GAME, the long-awaited film interpretation of Orson Scott Card's classic science fiction novel. 

I've made it no secret how much I've been looking forward to this movie, and how much I enjoyed reading the novel. The story relates how the boy genius Ender is psychologically manipulated by the war machine of his time to become a weapon of mass destruction. 

The movie is very well done, though like all screen adaptations it falls short of the subtlety and depth of the novel itself.  Still, Asa Butterfield is perfectly cast as Ender, and while I had doubts about seeing Harrison Ford in this movie, he did a good job too. The special effects are phenomenal, and it was especially interesting to see the three-dimensional weightless battle games come to life on screen.

When we got home after the show, I wanted to share some thoughts about the movie via Facebook.  Upon logging in, I came across a posted comment by a person who had decided they would never read ENDER'S GAME or see the movie because of Orson Scott Card's personal beliefs. 

Not really sure what the post was referring to, I did a Google search and discovered that Orson Scott Card is a fairly controversial figure because, among other issues, he disapproves of same-sex relationships and has campaigned against same-sex marriage.  This has cost him in his following, and has led to a movement to boycott the book and the movie. 

As much as I agree with those who criticize Orson Scott Card's attitudes toward homosexuality, I was a little taken aback by the boycott movement.  The situation reminded me at once of THE GOLDEN COMPASS by Philip Pullman. 

One of the best YA fantasy stories I've ever read, THE GOLDEN COMPASS features a wonderful, complex, intelligent, and feisty heroine in the person of Lyra Silvertongue. It was adapted to the screen and released in 2007. Though extremely well done, the movie got nowhere in the market place.

Why?  In part because Pullman is an atheist. Because of this campaigns were run to boycott his books and his movie.  When returns on the movie were less than ideal, the option of filming the sequels was quietly dropped. 

Now, many would argue that homophobia is much more objectionable than atheism. Personally, I would have to agree, but that is not the debate I am interested in having today.

What I really want to ask is this:

When we reject an author's work because of his or her personal beliefs, does that put us on a higher moral ground than them?  Or does it merely bring us down to the same level of intolerance? 

Have at it, friends and followers of Heroines of Fantasy.  I'm very curious to hear your thoughts. 

-Posted by Karin Rita Gastreich

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kickstarter: My Experience

Today we welcome Joshua B. Palmatier, prolific author and founding editor of Zombies Need Brains LLC.  Joshua has written a great post for us about his experience with crowd funding for his new small press.

A professor of mathematics at SUNY College at Oneonta, Joshua Palmatier has published five books with DAW—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne), and the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame) under the pseudonym Benjamin Tate. A new series began in July 2014 with the novel Shattering the Ley. Joshua has also published numerous short stories—“Mastihooba” in Close Encounters of the Urban Kind and “Tears of Blood” in Beauty Has Her Way (both edited by Jennifer Brozek), and “The River” in River (edited by Alma Alexander). With Patricia Bray, he has edited two anthologies (After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity). Recently, he has become the founder/owner of a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, whose first anthology—Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens—will be released in May 2014.

You can visit Joshua at and, or at You can also find him on Facebook under Joshua B. Palmatier and on Twitter at @bentateauthor.

Kickstarter: My Experience

I recently ran a Kickstarter that had two goals: generate funds in order to put together a new SF&F anthology called CLOCWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS and to start a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC.
I think that Kickstarter offers a viable alternative for the writer in the current publishing market. Essentially, it provides another option for getting an author’s work to the public. In my case, I wanted to continue co-editing anthologies with Patricia Bray. However, the major publishers were no longer interested in this type of anthology (except in rare cases) and even though we approached some small presses, no one else seemed willing to take the chance. Ten years ago, that would have meant the project was dead in the water.
Not so with Kickstarter in the picture. It gave me a platform to launch a new small press AND at the same time see if readers were interested in a particular anthology idea. Kickstarter is a final option, if all other avenues for getting a book published have failed. It has the additional advantage that it can be used to judge the viability of project ideas—if readers are interested, they’ll fund the project; if not, then the Kickstarter fails. You are essentially “test-marketing” a book idea, something that big publishers haven’t been able to do . . . ever. They risk that an idea will capture the reader’s imagination with every book they produce. That risk is nullified with Kickstarter.
I used Kickstarter to test-market an idea. Readers are essentially preordering the books they are interested in. If there are enough preorders, then the anthology or novel will be produced; if not, then I simply move on to the next idea. This alleviates most, if not all, of the risk on my part, as a publisher, while still giving the readers what they want. I’m surprised that others haven’t caught on to this advantage. (Actually, I’m seeing more and more anthologies and book projects being proposed on Kickstarter, so people are catching on now.)
I also see additional advantages for authors in Kickstarter. An author whose series has been dropped after a few books can potentially get the funding to finish off the series on their own by running a Kickstarter. Novels that have been turned down by every publisher, big or small, can perhaps find enough interest on Kickstarter to be self-published. And a writer’s backstock—books that are currently out of print—may also find a new audience through Kickstarter.
But there is a downside. In order to successfully run a Kickstarter, it requires a lot of time, work, and energy. It’s exciting, yes, but also extremely stressful. There will be little time to do anything much EXCEPT run the Kickstarter while it’s in progress, and there is significant planning far in advance and additional work afterwards. Any writer thinking to use Kickstarter needs to weigh the advantages and disadvantages ahead of time, and decide whether it’s worth it, or if they should just spend that energy and time writing something new instead.
Here are a few pointers for those of you who may be considering running a Kickstarter of your own:
  • Research: Make certain you research ALL expenses for your project well before you run the Kickstarter, and THEN add in a buffer for unexpected expenses. This should be the base fund necessary for the Kickstarter to succeed.

  • Set-up: Relying on your friends and followers on your social networks will only get you so far. Set up well beforehand some guest posts, articles, press releases, etc., to get the word about the Kickstarter spread BEYOND your own networks.

  • Rewards: Spend time figuring out exactly what your reward levels will be well in advance. (I did this, but even so, if I run another Kickstarter, I’ll do something totally different.)

  • Time: Plan on doing NOTHING but the Kickstarter in the first week and last week of its run. It will consume your life.

  • The Lull: There WILL be a lull in funding/interest in your Kickstarter in the middle two weeks. In the set-up phase mentioned above, try to plan some of the posts during these weeks, to nullify the lull as much as possible.

  • Thank the backers: You should always thank the backers with either the updates or personal messages. I sent personal messages to each backer, and the response from them was phenomenal. Yes, personal messages take up time, but it’s worth it.

  • Exhaust all other options first: The Kickstarter will be an emotional rollercoaster, whether it’s successful or not. Don’t put yourself through that anguish unless it’s the only option.

  • Have fun: That all said, have fun while the Kickstarter is going on. If you aren’t having fun, then it isn’t worth it. (I’d say the same of writing in general.)

Monday, October 21, 2013

What to take on a wild ride through the weird...

Hello folks! Mark here for a quick post. This year I had the chance to revise my teaching schedule by turning what had been a one trimester (twelve week) elective into two different trimester classes offered once per year. Over the years my Sci Fi Lit course has grown popular with my non-traditional, non-honors track students who were looking for a way to meet their junior-senior year reading course requirement. I wrote the class originally to give those students an alternative to the American/World Lit sequence and to allow myself a chance to teach some of my favorite genre stories.

I have had a nice run. When Jackson's LOTR films came out, I managed to scam a COUNTY-wide field trip for a special early showing of each movie. I took eight hundred kids, from about 12 schools to the theater for three years straight for a five buck thrill. I still get emails from kids who went with me, some of them from other schools, remembering the experience and wondering if I was going to try and pull off another coup for the Hobbit films. Sadly, those days are over, but one of the by-products of those times have been full classes every spring. Yes, I do use the LOTR films in my class.  In fact I use quite a few films, novels and short stories in the class. That is one of the cool things about our genre: when done right, or at least energetically, our stuff translates nicely to film.

I teach the class with the view that most of my students are reluctant or non-readers. Many of them are, however, pretty decent visual learners. Whereas some may see "watching the movie" as a cop-out, in my Sci Fi class I use film to introduce as many of the great stories as I can in addition to the assigned readings. I take my group as deeply into the literary qualities of those film-stories as I can. So far, the results have been favorable. So favorable that, as I mentioned above, I now have to schedule and plan for two classes. I had seniors who took the class as seniors asking for another offering. Hence, Fantasy Lit's creation this year. I like it because I get most of the honors kids for three years, but lose most of the rest after their sophomore year. At times I feel like I lose touch with the pulse of the regular dealing with the divas and their college bound attitudes and expectations. The class is structured just enough for sanity, and I get the satisfaction of taking kids on a semi-wild ride through the weird.

I have only twelve weeks for this course, so I needed to make some decisions on what to read, what I could afford to buy, and how difficult to make the readings. Long just doesn't work in this case. I tried reading Dune the first year I taught Sci Fi. Nope. Had more success with the mini-series spaced with selected chapters. Anyway, I knew I had to find about 8 weeks of material to add to what I have used from Fantasy in the past. My term will consist of a short fiction unit with stories from Cherryh, Tolkien, LeGuin, McCaffery, McKillip, and some of the bits I can glean and pc from my old copies of Lin Carter's Year's Best Fantasy--loved some of those old stories. Again, I'm limited by ability, time and a conservative base. For novels, I intend to read A Wizard of Earthsea, a detailed synopsis of Tombs of Atuan and all of The Farthest Shore. I love the other books in Ursula's sequence. They are on heavy rotation with the interested set after we do the units. I'm adding McKillip's The Forgotten Beasts of Eld and adding back The Hobbit. We are going on a full on excursion to Middle Earth this year. I'm even planning on using the fan films Searching for Gollum and Born of Hope  in addition to several stand alones that I use for various archetype studies. Anyone here remember the cartoon 9, Watership Down?, The Iron Giant, and the campy but still fun Willow?

What I'm getting at with this rambling piece of self-congratulations is a question: If you were blessed with the chance to teach a course like Sci Fi lit or Fantasy lit, what would you use? What would be your rationale for your choices? As you can probably surmise, I'm a bit on the side of the old tried and true with my tastes. Would you make different choices? Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 14, 2013

In Defense of Sansa Stark

Today on Heroines of Fantasy, we have a special guest--my daughter, Jamie. She came late to Game of Thrones fervor, but she caught it bad. Her Game of Threads posts on Jezebel's sister site, The Powder Room, are a regular feature during the show's airing season. Jezebel's main page is often the site of her snark, but today--she has agreed to grace us with her fabulous presence.
(I might be a little biased, being her mother and all.)

In keeping with Heroines of Fantasy's mission to keep female characters real, viable, and plentiful, Jamie gives us her defense of Sansa Stark. ~Terri-Lynne DeFino

Before in this article you’re embroiled,
And through each sentence you’ve toiled--
If you still yet aspire
To read A Song of Ice and Fire
Don’t read this! The books will be spoiled!

Seriously guys. If you haven’t read the books yet…

*waits patiently for the door to close* Are they gone? Okay fabulous.

I love Sansa Stark.

Yes. That Sansa Stark. Saccharine, dewy-eyed, froo froo, mean to Tyrion, misguided Sansa Stark. Know that scene in Beauty and the Beast when Gaston shows the townsfolk the image of the roaring Beast in the mirror, and they all get their pitchforks, and Belle is all “No! You don’t understand! He’s my friend!”? That’s how I feel among a lot of Game of Thrones fans when I try to defend Sansa. But, ever the optimist (like Sansa, y’all!), I’m going to do so here, at the request of Mama Bogwitch. In the interest of avoiding “tl;dr”s in the comments, I’ll keep it to a few quick points.

Complaint: Sansa is so girly! Ugh! She’s such a little priss! She always has to be such a perfect lady! Give me Arya any day!

Am I going to argue that Sansa is kickass in the same way that Brienne, Dany, or Asha are kickass? Absolutely not. She’s certainly nothing at all like Arya, her plucky (and, if I’m being very honest, sort of stereotypical) sister. I’m not even going to argue that Sansa isn’t “girly.” She’s the definition of cisgender. But here’s my problem, and it very much frames the way I look at Sansa: why can’t we respect strength or intelligence in women unless it subverts gender norms? What does it say that we can only admire a character if their courage is in keeping with traditionally male modes of behavior? One of Sansa’s most oft-repeated refrains is “Courtesy is a lady’s armor.” I feel it is often dismissed by readers, or presented as further evidence that Sansa is only interested in being nice. Yet when Lord Varys flounces about all perfumed, pretty, and demure, hiding his true nature and cunning behind a flowery exterior, we praise his ability to use people’s assumptions to his advantage.

Complaint: It’s Sansa’s fault Ned is dead!

While I can’t say she didn’t have a part in the way things went down, she’s eleven. Know what I was doing at eleven? Collecting comic books trading cards and wearing macramé vests. Everyone is stupid when they’re eleven. Furthermore, do you know how many people conspired to get Ned imprisoned? Basically the whole small council, plus Cersei and her minions, plus the Gold Cloaks. Do you think all those people needed the complacency of a little girl to carry out their plot? Above and beyond all that, Joffrey went all wildcard on everyone and decided he wanted Ned executed. So Ned’s death is in no way on Sansa.
Complaint: Sansa just lets things happen to her! She’s passive!

After Ned dies and Sansa learns that “life is not a song,” Sansa—a sheltered lord’s daughter who has never spent time among the intrigues of court—is in over her head and she knows it. Rather than immediately leap to what would inevitably be an ill-conceived plot to escape her situation, she spends some time playing to her strengths (remember: courtesy is a lady’s armor) while she figures things out. What happens to her is not pretty, but she lives through all of it. I don’t think a character who went about things more aggressively could say the same.

Complaint: Sansa is so naïve! She trusts Littlefinger! I can’t like someone that stupid.

Oh of course not. You would never love a character like that.

(pic of Littlefinger with knife at Ned's throat removed. Many gifs and pics removed. We just won't go into that.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Needs of the Many

Whatever Spock's political orientation, no one can doubt
that he is a hero.
In the wake of certain political events in Washington D.C. this past week, author David Gerrold posted this image of Spock saying his last good-bye to Kirk on Facebook. It promptly made the rounds among politically aware and FB-connected trekkies.

Irrespective of arguments about Spock's political orientation, the reminder of his heroism in The Wrath of Khan got me thinking about heroism/heroinism in general, and especially how the ultimate sacrifice, my life in exchange for saving the lives of my companions, returns to us in many different forms in some of our favorite stories.

Of course, it does not always take delivery of the ultimate sacrifice in order to achieve a heroine's or hero's goals. Oftentimes, the resolute willingness to accept a challenge that might demand that sacrifice is enough. 

We have the classic story of Frodo and his burden of destroying the Ring, made all the more compelling by the fact that Frodo was one of a host of characters in LotR who were willing to sacrifice their lives in the effort to save Middle Earth from Sauron.

In Nemesis, Data saves Picard's life and the lives of all their crew,
but unlike Spock and Kirk, they don't get the opportunity to say good-bye.

A generation after Spock exposed himself to lethal radiation in order to save the crew of the Enterprise, Data would follow in his footsteps by rescuing his own crewmates at the cost of meeting certain doom during the explosive climax of Nemesis. 

In the last Harry Potter film, we were led to believe for a handful of compelling scenes that in order to kill Voldemort, Harry himself, who carried a part of Voldemort's spirit, would have to die. 

The denouement of Ender's Game is a disturbing
application of weighing the needs of the many
against the needs of the few.
We are but a month away from the premier of Ender's Game, the long-awaited film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's classic science fiction novel.  While Ender will not confront the decision to end his own life, as the pre-adolescent commander of an interstellar war fleet, he will grapple in a very real way with the inherent conflict that exists between the needs of the many and the needs of the few.

These are some of the most famous examples, though I'm sure you can come up with more -- and I hope you do! One thing they all have in common is the promise of resurrection.  Thanks to the Genesis Project, Spock was returned to us in the next Star Trek movie.  Frodo survives Mound Doom, and though he never returns to his former life, he is given an everlasting home among the elves.  A part of Data lives on in his less-developed but promising brother, B4.  And Harry, as we all know, didn't have to die after all.

Is the promise of resurrection somehow inherent to the trope of the ultimate sacrifice?  Are we so reluctant to kill our heroes and heroines that we must always find a way to grant them immortality?  Or is the possibility of resurrection simply a metaphor for the staying power of such formidable heroes and heroines in our memories and in our imaginations?

I'd love to hear what you think about ultimate sacrifice, resurrection, and the role both play in our favorite stories. 

- posted by Karin Rita Gastreich

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Unexpected Pressure of an Unfinished Series

I am delighted today to welcome DelSheree Gladden as a guest on Heroines of Fantasy.  I met DelSheree at the online workshop  Since then, she and I have kept in touch with each other as we've embarked on separate but parallel paths of publication.  DelSheree's YA fantasy novels are wonderfully dark and incorporate the culture and mythology of the Southwestern United States.

DelSheree lives in New Mexico with her husband and two children.  The Southwest is a big influence in her writing because of its culture, beauty, and mythology.  Local folk lore is strongly rooted in her writing, particularly ideas of prophecy, destiny, and talents born from natural abilities.  When she is not writing, DelSheree is usually teaching yoga, coaching gymnastics, reading, painting, sewing, or working as a Dental Hygienist.  Her publications include Escaping Fate, Twin Souls Saga, and The Destroyer Trilogy.  DelSheree's newest series, Someone Wicked This Way Comes, follows Vanessa and Zander Roth, siblings with an uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering that will either gain them limitless power or lead them to their deaths.

This week on her blog, DelSheree Gladden will be hosting a Meet the Characters Blogfest.  Read character interviews and bios from a variety of authors, and cast your vote for character contests.  There is also a big giveaway with lots of great prizes.  Meet the Characters Blogfest runs from October 1 thru October 31. 

You can also visit DelSheree Gladden at her website.

Now, without further ado, here is DelSheree:


The Unexpected Pressure of an Unfinished Series

Normally, by the time I am ready to publish a book, I have the entire series written. There is a certain sense of relief I experience while writing when I know that if I change my mind about a character or plot point in book three, I can go back and change book one or two without upsetting any readers.
Wicked Hunger is the first book I have published without the series being completed…and it is driving me crazy! I hadn’t planned on publishing Wicked Hunger for a while (until books 2 and 3 were written), but when I was offered a publishing contract, I got excited, got ahead of myself, and signed on the dotted line.
Great, right?
Except now I can’t seem to finish the half-written book two, Wicked Power. I am too bogged down worrying about how the rest of the series will progress and whether or not I have everything just so in book one to get there.
So what did I do to cure this bit of writer’s stage fright? I basically got myself into the same mess with two other series! Needing a distraction, I turned back to the first book I published, which hasn’t had great sales, and decided it would fare better as a series. So I wrote a second book, and now have plenty of rewrites to worry about as beta readers give me feedback. Still too distracted by pressure to finish Wicked Power, I decided to finish a different half-written novel, temporarily titled “Invisible.” Wondering if the project was interesting enough to continue, I arranged to have it featured on Wattpad. The response has been great, but I still have 4 chapters to write, and probably editing and rewrites as well…not to mention readers are already asking for the next book.
Clearly, I need a better solution to the difficulty I’m having on Wicked Power.
For those who haven’t read Wicked Hunger, it is the story of the Roth siblings, who are cursed with a terrible hunger for pain and suffering. The origin of their curse remains elusive, but the danger it poses is very clear. It becomes even clearer when Ivy walks into their lives. Zander is immediately enamored with Ivy despite the fact that Vanessa is convinced she’s only there to destroy them.
Wicked Power will follow Van and Zander as they explore the Godling world and try to figure out who, if anyone, to trust with their lives. There are a few key aspects I’m still ironing out, but I aim to have it available early next year. I hate to keep readers waiting too long and I suspect that in the end, that will be what finally gets me through the block I’ve been experiencing with this book. The encouragement and enthusiasm I receive from my readers has never failed to spur my creativity and push me to finish a project.

About Wicked Hunger

Vanessa and Zander Roth are good at lying. They have to be when they are hiding a deadly secret. Day after day, they struggle to rein in their uncontrollable hunger for pain and suffering in order to live normal lives. Things only get worse when Ivy Guerra appears with her pink-striped hair and secrets. The vicious hunger Ivy inspires is frightening, not to mention suspicious.
Vanessa’s instincts are rarely wrong, so when they tell her that Ivy’s appearance is a sign of bad things to come, she listens.  She becomes determined to expose Ivy’s secrets. Vanessa tries to warn her brother, but Zander is too enamored with Ivy to pay attention to her conspiracy theories.
One of them is right about Ivy … but if they lose control of their hunger, it won’t matter who is right and who is wrong. One little slip, and they’ll all be dead.

Purchase your copy of Wicked Hunger on Amazon or Barnes and Noble online.


Monday, September 23, 2013

Guest Author Louise Turner

It's my pleasure today to welcome historical fiction author Louise Turner as our guest on Heroines of Fantasy.
Born in Glasgow, Louise spent her early years in the west of Scotland where she attended the University of Glasgow. After graduating with an MA in Archaeology, she went on to complete a Ph.D on the Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent. She has since enjoyed a varied career in archaeology and cultural resource management. Writing has always been a major aspect of her life and at a young age, she won the Glasgow Herald/Albacon New Writing in SF competition with her short story ‘Busman’s Holiday’. Louise lives with her husband in West Renfrewshire. 
Her first novel, Fire and Sword, is set in the turbulent period which follows the murder of King James III of Scotland, and the succession of his son, the future James IV.  At its heart is the struggle endured by John Sempill of Ellestoun, a young man who finds his future put in jeopardy  when his father dies fighting for the losing side. 
You can visit Louise at
First of all, a big THANK YOU to Karin Gastreich for her invitation to contribute to the Heroines of Fantasy Blogspot.
I’m Louise Turner, and I’m a writer of historical fiction.  My debut novel, Fire and Sword, is set in 15th Century Scotland and is now available from Hadley Rille Books.
You may be scratching your heads and wondering what a writer of historical fiction is doing on a blog dedicated to fantasy.  And I must confess, I wondered at first what I could possibly say that was relevant, or appropriate.
But then I looked back along the path that brought me here, and everything fell into place.  I was brought up on science fiction and fantasy.  My mother raised me on a varied diet of Dr Who and Susan Cooper, J R R Tolkein and Ursula LeGuin.
Is it any wonder, then, that my earliest pieces of writing were fantasy and science fiction?
One thing did, however, set my mother apart.  She was a big fan of historical fiction.  But somehow – with the exception of Rosemary Sutcliff – it was a genre that completely passed me by.  Then I went to university and discovered archaeology almost by accident. It was at that point  my life changed completely.
My original intention was to mine archaeology for inspiration so I could write science fiction and fantasy, but as time passed I thought I’d give writing historical fiction a go.  And once I started dabbling with the genre, I was hooked. 
It was at this time that I started reading historical fiction, but I was often left disappointed. I found history exciting, and vibrant, but most of the time the stuff I was reading just seemed plain dull.  The characters often seemed to be manipulated by history, marionettes pulled by the strings of Fate.  I wanted to read something different, something which reflected the way in which people interacted with each other to create history.  Is it any wonder that my main inspiration came from novels set in the Union-Alliance universe of C J Cherryh,  graced with multi-layered plots which make you really feel like you’re witnessing history in the making?
A number of fantasy writers are directly inspired by medieval culture and society, but it sometimes feels like the genres of fantasy and historical fiction are following parallel, but entirely separate, courses.  In reality, they have much in common.  That common strand tends to be humanity.  Even a brief study of ancient and historic societies shows that human beings can exist in infinite variety.  But they remain, nonetheless, human.  Throughout the millennia, they’ve lived, loved, died.  They’ve mourned.  They’ve created things of great beauty.  They’ve spun tales of wonder and delight.  And sometimes, they’ve proved themselves capable of almost unbearable evil and cruelty.
Scratch the surface.  Look a little deeper. Whether you’re moving forwards or backwards in time, or you’re exploring realms that are completely invented, you still need the common reference points.  Universal problems and truths remain consistent and when the author keeps this at the forefront of their mind, the story will be credible and the characters worth caring for, no matter when and where the story may be set.