Sunday, July 24, 2011

Kick Ass Heroines

(I'm sorry I'm putting up this guest blog by Beth Barany late, I tried to send her a blogger link so she had total control of the formatting. It may not have worked, and I wasn't able to check because my wife and I spent a night in a hotel due to air conditioning problems in a heat wave.)

Kick Ass heroines, Bad Girls, in Science Fiction and Fantasy
by Beth Barany

David, thank you for having me on your blog to write about kick ass heroines in fantasy and science fiction.

Major confession up front: I love kick ass heroines in science fiction and fantasy and love to write and read about them, too.

I've recently published my first novel, a YA fantasy, Henrietta The Dragon Slayer. Yeah, she's a bad ass!

Henrietta is a bit of a bad girl as the story opens. She’s gettin’ out of Dodge, leaving her hero days behind, not wanting to be her kingsdom's hero anymore. She's leaving behind her responsibilities for a life in the sunny beaches down south. Her heart is hurting and she doesn’t even know it. Yet.


Henrietta, the legendary Dragon Slayer of the Kingdom of Bleuve, can’t stomach the thought of one more kill. Yet, in order to save her dying mentor, she must go on one last quest. But will misfit companions, seasickness, and an ego maniacal king derail the quest for the healing stone? And will she be able to cut past her conscience and kill the dragon?

Read an excerpt of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer here.

Where did the inspiration for Henrietta come from?

Other bad girls!

I devote this post to the bad girls and kick ass heroines I know and love, drawn mostly my favorite authors, books, movies and TV shows. And from a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

The Bad Girl archetype is a powerful and ancient one, and well represented in our modern stories.

The Bad Girl archetype is about reclaiming female power for the good of the community and for benefit of the Bad Girl, who sometimes becomes more than just a Bad Girl. But more on that in a future post.

I'll be doing a giveaway at the end of the month for a free copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer and picking a winner from all the people who comment during my blog tour, so please to chime in with your favorites!

In Science Fiction...
Elizabeth Moon writes smart science fiction featuring most often women space captains. Ms. Moon was one of the first women in the Marine Corps in the 1960s and her military knowledge flows through her stories like a second skin. I love reading about women facing leadership challenges in space. There is nothing like the threat of zero atmo to make a leader come alive.
My current favorite book of hers is Once a Hero in The Serrano Legacy series. I also loved the Vatta’s War series, and the stand-alone, Remnant Population.
Sharon Shinn writes fantasy and science fiction, for young adults and adults. The first book I read of hers is still my favorite: Mystic & Rider, the first in the Twelve House series. A hardened warrior devoted only to his king and a mystic shunned by her family but trusted by the king must roust out those that scheme in secret against the kingdom.
Her heroines are complex, the love stories unique and varied in each of her books, and her worlds feel so full and real.

In Fantasy...
I have a primary place in my heart for Nikita in the original Luc Besson film, La Femme Nikita.
She’s bad out of choice and circumstance. Then she gets a chance at redemption. Or does she? I like how she has the opportunity to remake her life.
Another kick ass heroine I like is Lara Croft in Tomb Raider.
She's a spoiled rich girl, or is she? Not just. She lost her beloved father early and seems to be driven by some sort of justice. She’s strong, she’s capable, and she won’t stop until she gets what she wants.
And then there's Lilu in The Fifth Element, another Luc Besson film.
She may not be considered a bad girl, because she’s supposed to save the world. But if the world is not worth saving she will let it be destroyed. That is definitely a Bad Girl trait, in my book. That takes guts, and the strength of doing what’s right, in the face of the potential horrible loss.

In Archetypes...
The ultimate bad girl is Kali, the Hindi goddess of birth and destruction, and eternal energy.
I’ve been drawn to her all my life, without consciously knowing why. Then in preparation for this article, I read this: “She is also revered as Bhavatarini (literally 'redeemer of the universe').”
I love stories where the Bad Girl gets redeemed. She’s on the outside looking in, her violent tendencies seemingly keeping her at odds with the expectations of what it means to be a woman.
Only through acceptance of her benefits to the community that both she and the community agree on, can she find her place in the community.

In History...
Lastly, I want to mention the book, Warrior Women: An Archaeologist’s Search for History’s Hidden Heroines by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, with Mona Behan.
From an editorial review at Amazon: “Nearly one-quarter of the women buried in some late Iron Age sites were either warriors or priestesses. Even the remainder ‘hearth women’ were important players in the tribes’ surprisingly egalitarian societies. Further, southern Kazakhstan’s famous ‘gold man’ was in fact, a ‘gold woman.’ ”

I know I come from a long line of warrior women, many of them viewed as Bad Girls from the culture of their day.
It’s time for us, for me, to reclaim our Badness and use it as a force for good! And use our considerable abilities to be kick ass heroines in our own lives.
Who are your favorite Bad Girl or Kick Ass Heroines?!

P.S. All who answer the question and comment on this post are eligible to enter my July book giveaway for a copy of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer (print or ebook -- your choice!) and also the blog tour Grand Prize, Henrietta's necklace, featured on the cover. All the Giveaway rules here: Henrietta The Dragon Slayer Summer Blog Tour. The novel is available is Amazon US, Amazon UK, Nook, Smashwords.

PPS. An earlier version of this article first appeared on my blog,

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Foolish Samurai

I just read an unusual online story. One thing that makes it unusual is that I read it to the end. I abandon lots of fiction after a page or even a paragraph.

The Foolish Samurai breaks some rules, but it draws me and holds me anyhow, so the story is worth thinking about.

At the end of the long first paragraph I don't understand what is going on. Is the Samurai sleeping in the sewer drain and planning to break into the Evil Wizard's corporate HQ part of some kind of role playing game? It sounds too fantastical to take seriously even in the bounds of the story, and we have no real hint of the problems or fears, so it doesn't generate much suspense by itself. It generates a bit of curiousity though.

He doesn't exactly 'save the cat', perform some immediate deed of kindness to make us empathize with him. Somehow the wistful dream of eating fried chicken with his family brings us closer to him, even as little hints make the story more mysterious than ever.

I don't know if this story will be read in twenty years, if the metaphor for us and our society is profound or unique enough to stand the test of time. But it drew me in to the end today, and that's an accomplishment, even if the author doesn't realize or appreciate it.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Love and Writing

As I navigate the world of trying to get published, I often look back on early drafts of writing. It makes me happy to see how far my writing has come in the last 14 years. Working on the skill of writing is, as it turns out, quite similar to working on a good marriage.

A marriage starts with a good proposal. Take my husband's proposal to me: We were on a romantic drive through the Appalachian Mountains. The trees were changing colors. The southern breezes must have been whispering sweet nothings into my then-boyfriend's ear. He pulled over at scenic drive along the Cumberland Gap. With an engagement ring full of diamonds in his hand, he smiled at me said, "Marry me, or I'll jump over." I laughed, of course, and agreed that marriage sounded wonderful. I love his sense of humor, but I also love that he is responsible, driven, and adventuresome.

A good piece of writing shares those same qualities. It was actually when I went to write my vows—naturally, we had decided to write our own—and began to list all the qualities I loved in him that I thought about how that translates into writing fiction.

I am a writer of young adult fiction, which means I have to pay special attention to morality in my writing. Where in adult fiction, a writer can publish a piece that is dark, a young adult piece without a hopeful ending will likely be a hard sell. But in most fiction, young adult or otherwise, readers relate to the good guy. It could be the guy who may be long-suffering, but has strength of heart or the underdog who works hard to bring his team victory in the face of difficulty, or possibly even the boy who does the right thing when the wrong thing is easier. Authors give a reader a reason to read the same way a guy gives a girl a reason to say yes to the engagement ring. It starts with some kind of moral ground.

If a character isn't driven to solve problems, you have no book. Successful characters succeed because they stay true to the one thing in life they need or want most. They don't give up. Marriage is similar. It's probably different for every couple, but if they stay true to the thing that is most important to them as a team, I think that marriage will be a strong one. I guess I can only answer for my own, but that has been my experience thus far.

Adventuresome Spirit
Not all books are adventure stories, per se, but I think they all have an element of characters doing something new or becoming something new. Great books begin with a character's problem, mystery, or desire and end in his or her transformation. So, even if a character doesn't end up somewhere physically different from where he or she started, something has changed for him or her. Readers love to follow around a character that allows them to experience a new world or a new mindset. I'd say the same is true for spouses. The very act of getting engaged and then married is doing and becoming something new. But, it can't stop there. Love and marriage is truly exciting when you realize you've become something new—something better—because you're together.