My guest post on Women's Writing Circle

Thank you Susan Weidener of Women's Writing Circle for accepting my guest post!

Please check it out here: Arizona Firefighter Finds Voice and Story In Memoir.

My guest post on Penstra

Thank you, Shaye Larson, for asking me how I came about writing my book! Check it out on his blog, Penstra.

My guest blog post: How I ended up writing a book and landing a book deal

My friend Smokey 1976

Thanks to Caitlin Lambert, I had the opportunity to exchange blog posts with her the other day. Here's  my post on Caitlin's website on how I came about writing my memoir, and my publishing journey.

Guest blog post: What is a Strong Female Character, Really? by Caitlin Lambert

 My guest today is Caitlin Lambert, who kindly offered to write about what she perceives as a strong female character in literature. Thank you, Caitlin, for a wonderful, well-written piece!

Lately, there has been lots of discussion about female empowerment, and literature has not skipped out. In fact, “strong female characters” is a term thrown around a lot, especially when it comes to YA books. With the phrase so commonly used, how do we know what it really means? Reviews and readers say that a book has a “strong female protagonist”, but what characterizes such a young woman? What makes a female character strong?
It is easy to believe that strength comes from a lack of emotion – from bottling up the pain and fear and trying to push it out. This idea that fear equals weakness, and that tears signal a lack of strength, has affected the way we see female characters. Here’s a few myths about girls in YA:

They carry a sword, so they must be strong.
Anyone can drag a weapon around. As Gandalf (aka J.R.R. Tolkien) so profoundly said, “True courage is knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one.” Violence and skill in war definitely reflect a certain kind of strength, but it is the harsh kind. What about the gentle, steady strength? Why does all strength have to come from violence?
Someone who quietly perseveres through years of trials without giving in is, in my opinion, much stronger than a person who unleashes one time in passionate anger and slaughters an entire army.

Tears equate to weakness. Characters can never cry, even if they are facing the impossible, or staring into the face of death.
Bottle the pain, harness the hurt. Bury it deep inside until it hardens into strength.
Guys, this isn’t real. In this world – in this life – we experience trials and heartbreak, and we sob until we can’t breathe. We suffer loss and death, and what is our natural, real response?
We cry.
Why, then, do we need to morph tears into a weakness in literature? When a character oversteps that line between heartbroken and whiny, then they border on weak.
Strong people don’t avoid crying. They cry, but then get up and overcome. Here, everyone, is where you find strength.

Strength is staring fear in the face, feeling it, harnessing it, and overcoming it. Sometimes strength is the quiet, steady kind, and sometimes it is more fiery. Sometimes it does require passion, and speaking out for something you believe in. But other times, it is soft. Constant.
Strength comes in all forms. Trying to stereotype a “strong female character” is to try and fit every woman into the same category. Every character will have different strengths and abilities.
Some qualities of strength in literature are…

Weak characters react to the people and world around them, letting other people dictate their choices. They rely on others to protect/save them, so any danger will probably render them completely incapable of action, until someone else rescues them. Sometimes, a character is trapped, and someone else breaks them free. That doesn’t automatically mean the character was weak. It just requires a balance. How many times does the female save herself?

Strong people fight and overcome in spite of their fear, not in absence of it. Why would we even need to be strong if something is easy? The entire essence of strength is holding up under pressure. If we take that pressure away, we don’t need to be strong. Therefore, fear is not a bad thing. You as the writer just need to decide how your character will react to it.

Harsh women aren’t always strong, and kind women are not always weak. In fact, it takes a great deal of strength to be kind, especially to people who don’t deserve it. Some of my favorite female characters in YA have been ones who not only fought and overcame, but who were merciful and looked out for the innocent.

Lots of times, young adult novels (especially big worlds like in sci-fi and fantasy) have huge stakes and the main character must make decisions with enormous consequences. Having them remember the small people who seemingly don’t matter shows a huge part of their personality.

One of the biggest lessons to be learned from the Hobbit (and the LOTR series as a whole) is that small people can do great things. One line from the Hobbit movie illustrates this… “It never ceases to amaze me, the courage of hobbits.” Even though the hobbits are much smaller than any other fantastical beings in Middle Earth, they still accomplish and overcome huge obstacles. Bilbo likes his books and his house and his fireplace, but throughout his journey with the dwarves, he shows strength. He is the smallest, and yet often, he is the bravest.

There are many, many characteristics of strength – enough to fill a dozen posts. In the end, I think we should realize that “strong female characters” do not all mirror each other. They are not all weapon-bearing, army-leading, or kingdom-conquering. They won’t always make the right decisions, or have everything figured out. Sometimes they will cry – sob even – and feel the crushing weight of their fear.

And then they’ll get back up, keep fighting, and overcome. THAT is true strength. 

Caitlin Lambert is the mind behind Quills & Coffee, where she shares tips, tools, & encouragement for writers. She writes YA sci-fi/fantasy novels, and is currently querying her second book, WHAT LIES ABOVE, while drafting her third. When she’s not writing or working, you can find her reading, composing piano, and adding endless destinations to her travel bucket list. Or quite possibly eating dark chocolate.
Website: Quills & Coffee

Women firsts: Bessica Raiche, first woman aviator

This is not the plane she built, but similar.

When you think of women firsts in aviation, Amelia Earhart comes to mind, as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1928. But I’ll bet you did not know that Bessica Raiche beat Earhart by 18 years. Bessica was not only the first woman in the United States to fly solo, but she and her husband built the craft she would fly in their living room. Which, by the way, presented a problem when they realized they had not considered how they would get the silk, piano wire, and bamboo contraption out of the living room once it was built. They ended up dismantling it and reassembling outside.
This feat is not the only event that made Bessica one amazing woman. She was also the first woman to drive a car across the United States. And that’s not all. She excelled as a musician, artist and linguist—and, to the chagrin of both women and men of her time, shot guns. If that wasn’t enough, Bessica became a dentist, and later one of the first women to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology.
Mrs. Raiche had to give up flying for health reasons, but pursed her other passions until she died at the age of 57.

My interview with author Lily Iona MacKenzie

Many thanks to Lily Iona MacKenzie, who graciously offered to interview me for her blog. You can read the interview here.

Authors who write about strong women: Guest post from Lily Iona MacKenzie**

My novel Bone Songs opens with a tornado that sweeps through Weed, Alberta, and drops a purple outhouse into the center of town. Drowsing and dreaming inside that structure is its owner, Curva Peligrosa—a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet. Adventurous, amorous, fecund, and over six feet tall, she possesses magical powers. She also has the greenest of thumbs, creating a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she possesses a wicked trigger finger.
When Curva had ridden into Weed on one of her horses two years earlier, she was like a vision from a surrealistic western, with her two parrots, a goat, glittering gold tooth, turquoise rings, serape, flat-brimmed black hat, rifle, and six-shooters. After a twenty-year trek up the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she was ready to settle down. Her larger-than-life presence challenges the residents of Weed, who have never seen anything like her.
And I must admit, I hadn’t either. I am neither 6-foot tall nor as buxom as Curva. In my external life, I’m pretty conventional. But unlike me, Curva is amoral and not bound by the usual codes that restrict many middleclass women not only in terms of their relationships but also in the daily choices they make. She lives fully in her senses, bedding with multiple men if she desires, enjoying what she refers to as walking marriages where a woman invites a man to spend a sweet night with her, but he must leave by daybreak. She also pursues her dreams, no matter what hardships she encounters in doing so (as in trekking the Old North Trail for twenty years with horses, dogs, a goat, and parrots).
Given that I was a single parent at a very young age, my options were severely limited. I had a son to raise, no childcare, and I needed to support us, which I did from a variety of jobs. So in Bone Songs, I wanted to create a female character that was fully feminine but not as limited as I had been from a variety of restrictions—some self-imposed and some societal. But Curva didn’t fully come alive for me until I discovered her name. Originally, I had called her Lupita, yet I was having trouble getting inside her character.
But then my husband and I visited Cuernavaca, a small town two-hours drive from Mexico City. On our way there, I kept seeing signs along the side of the road with the words curva peligrosa, which means dangerous curve. The name itself released this character. Suddenly, I could hear her speak, I could see her interacting with others, and I knew her. She seemed to emerge full blown as Athena did from Zeus’ head, and Curva also has a mythical quality.
Was Curva based on anyone I know in actual life? No. I wanted to create a character that was not like someone we’re likely to run into. But she does have elements of various goddesses in her make up. Curva’s love of nature and willingness to travel in the wilderness by herself reminds me of Artemis, goddess of the hunt.  She also can be associated with a kind of Eve figure who creates her own Garden of Eden that she would like to establish in Weed. Curva wants the northerners to be able to experience this more idyllic state that her greenhouse represents. Finally, Curva has an earth-mother dimension. She’s a kind of Demeter figure who is associated with animals and the earth and doesn’t do well in chronological time.
I look forward to hearing about other strong female characters. Meanwhile, Curva will be on the prowl when Bone Songs gets released later this summer.

**A Canadian by birth, a high school dropout, and a mother at 17, in her early years, Lily Iona MacKenzie supported herself as a stock girl for the Hudson’s Bay Company, as a long-distance operator, and as a secretary (Bechtel Corp sponsored her into the States). She also was a cocktail waitress at San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel; was the first woman to work on the SF docks and almost got her legs broken; founded and managed a homeless shelter in Marin County; co-created THE STORY SHOPPE, a weekly radio program in Marin County for children; and eventually earned two Master’s degrees, one in Creative Writing and the other in the Humanities. Her reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, travel pieces, essays, and memoir have appeared in over 150 American and Canadian venues. Her novel Fling! was published in 2015. Bone Songs, another novel, launches in 2017.  Freefall: A Divine Comedy will be released in 2018. Her poetry collection All This was published in 2011.

You can visit her blog here

Signed a publishing contract!

Great news! I have signed a publishing contract with Bedazzled Ink Publishing

My book will be published in their 2018 catalog.