Princess in Chains: Is the Urban Fantasy Heroine a Victim of Writers’ Imaginations?

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I’d like to thank Alesha Escobar, friend and fellow indie author, for giving me the opportunity to host her here on my site as she kicks off her end of the Addicted to Heroines Blog Tour.  The tour will run from February 1-10 and will feature a handful of talented indie authors who’ve written some kick ass heroines.  For more information, click on the banner and follow along for a chance to have fun, meets awesome authors, and even win some prizes.

Princess in Chains: Is the Urban Fantasy Heroine a Victim of Writers’ Imaginations?

Quick.  Name one of your favorite urban fantasy heroines.

Now, give me one or two qualities that make her awesome.

Was one of them the fact that she could wield magic and swords like nobody’s business (Also known as being kick-ass)?

You’re not alone. Many readers (and writers) of the genre enjoy a strong heroine who can defend herself and others, if needed. However an interesting discussion has emerged as to whether or not this is the only road for our heroine to go down and if we’re forcing her into a singular role that sends the wrong message.

Physical strength and domination have always been associated with traditional male power, and a woman who exerts physical prowess must theoretically either transition into the realm of masculinity or at least be validated by it. Thus the UF heroine appears to distance herself from other women, she must be the sole “princess” among a nearly all-male cast, and as another writer put it, she must be “weaponized.”

The concept of the fantasy heroine jumping into the fray alongside the heroes isn’t something new. Examples range from the cross-dressing female knight, Britomart, of Spencer’s The Faerie Queene to the shieldmaiden Eowyn of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, who described her domestic life as a “cage,” and sought freedom and honor through taking up the sword and going to war like her male counterparts.

The UF heroine isn’t much different, except that her armor is a pair of leather pants (or ridiculously tight jeans, but that’s another story), and her sword is a pistol or magical ability. She too, wishes to break her chains and rattle her cage, and show the world what she’s made of.

Let’s be honest. There are those fist-pumping “You go, girl!” moments we love to revel in when we see our heroines karate chop an assailant, blast an evil warlock into next week, or punch the arrogant guy who doesn’t know how to keep his hands to himself.

However, if punching people is all she does, and there’s little else to our heroine, then it can get real old real fast. So in that respect, I agree with our friends who point out that we need more displays of different types of strength. There’s intellectual strength, emotional strength, and moral strength. Just think of times you’ve had to make a difficult decision, but chose what was right over what was easy–that’s a show of strength. Or how about a day you felt like falling apart, but then you ended up making it through, perhaps even helping someone along the way; that also, is a show of strength.

Our UF heroines don’t have to be princesses in chains, they can be as complex and multilayered as we’re willing to make them, and for me, that’s one of the awesome parts about being both a writer and reader of the genre.

You might appreciate the following heroines:

  1. Sabriel, Sabriel (Abhorsen, #1) by Garth Nix
  2. Karigan G’ladheon, Green Rider (Green Rider, #1) by Kristen Britain
  3. Alexia Tarabotti, Soulless (The Parasol Protectorate, #1) by Gail Carriger

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authoraleshaAlesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy. Connect with her online for updates and discussions at http://www.aleshaescobar.com

 

After 1 Year and 100 Posts

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A year has passed since I’ve started this website in the form in which it now exists. It’s been a good year. I’ve met and connected with an awesome community of indie authors and I’ve managed to gain a little bit of exposure for my book and make some sales in the process.  I procured a few interviews with interesting and prolific indie authors and artists, landed multiple guests post for this site, and have written a few for others as well, learned a bit about self-promotion, and wrote multiple book reviews.  I am also active on Goodreads.  Starla Huchton did and incredible job redesigning my book cover, and I joined Amazon’s KDP Select program.

I joined two anthologies over the past year.  Grim5Next Worlds Undone anthology is a spectacular idea conceived by Lyn Midnight wherein 36  writers collaborate to create twelves stories written in three parts about the apocalypse. The collaboration eventually went on to include artists and musicians and even a children’s project. Unfortunately, the project became too large and unwieldy for our lovely editor and it eventually fizzled out.  As of late however, it appears that Worlds Undone may be making a comeback.  I’m hoping it will.

The other anthology that I am involved with is more personal and dear to me. It started from a comment that I left on a fellow indie author Matt Williams’ site. We discussed the idea of going to space and that discussion turned into an anthology entitled Yuva.

Me: Four nerds verging on geeks live in my house, of which I am one. One of our nerdiest but fun conversations centered around the question “Would you rather go to space or the bottom of the ocean?” Hands down the answer was space.I once dreamed that my son, now 21, would one day go to space and walk on Mars. He is no longer a child who dreams of space, although it still intrigues, and space seems a distant childhood dream of his. But even for myself, at the ripe old age of 41, the idea of going to space is a bright hope, even though I know it is unattainable and unrealistic. But, given the chance, I would go. This post reminds me of the awesomeness of our great universe, of the chaotic randomness, of the beauty of this world and the things we have to be grateful for, and of how utterly minuscule we people really are in the grand scheme of things

Matt: Okay, you need to write this down. I foresee you doing a story where a family does go into space. Ho boy, I smell another anthology here!

Me: An anthology about space, going to space or anything related sounds awesome. I vote for you to be the editor. What do we need to do to get started?”

yuva_cover-0Yuva, still in the works, will consist of twelve stories of which mine will be first.  We’ve managed to fill about eight of the spots, so if anyone out there would like to contribute to a space and colonization anthology, shoot me a message.

Over the course of the last few months I realized that I had a bit of an unintentional theme going, that of time management. I wrote quite a bit about the subject and several fellow indie authors contributed some really amazing posts about how they manage their writing time.  As time is such a difficult thing for me to wrangle I think I was subconsciously looking for a way to reconcile my lack of time with my desire to be more prolific.  I’m still struggling with that one but one thing’s for certain, if you want to produce, you just have to do it.

Apart from the issue of time management, I didn’t have much of a plan as regards what I’d talk about here, which quite frankly was very much counter to my goal.

Over the past year I’ve read many posts about creating a unique author brand. I don’t think that I’ve done that successfully as regards this blog.  I blog about the things I like, an eclectic mishmosh of “stuff”, for lack of a better word.  For many reasons I’ve purposely stayed away from more challenging controversial topics.  I either feel under informed, unqualified, or quite honestly afraid to engage in these challenging discussions out of fear of alienating readers but as I have so few, (hahahaha) it’s pretty much a moot point.

Keeping with the idea of a theme I’ve decided to choose another topic to give special focus this coming year.  I’ve been giving this considerable thought this past month and have decided on critical analysis/reviews of SFF books written by women.  This will certainly not be to the exclusion of other post ideas and I hope will be interesting for readers as well as a learning experience for me.  I never feel as if I am well read enough.  I plan to read and listen to books.  The first review will be of Bujold’s Free Falling which is already quite interesting.  I plan to read more by Bujold, in addition to Leguin, Butler, Zimmer Bradley, and McCaffrey among others.  If anyone has suggestions of authors I should check out, fire away.

Honor

Honor

I’d hoped to have completed the outline of Honor&Truth by June, but that didn’t happen.  Then I got caught up working on my anthology stories, hit a writing slump that seems to happen to me every year around September, got distracted with children, life, work (which has been a beast!), the internet and attempts to promote An Unproductive Woman.  So, my efforts are renewed and I’m back at it.

Honor&Truth is a serial novel blog that I worked on for about a year and a half.  I finally stopped more than thirty chapters in.  I didn’t want to but felt compelled as I’d never so much as outlined a single chapter and my story, written by the skin of my teeth and posted every two weeks, had so many plot holes I couldn’t keep up with them.  I stopped the blog in order to regroup, merge H&T with another story that kept spinning in my head, and begin a serious rewrite.  Months have passed and on that account, I’ve failed.  Fortunately, I love the story and the characters enough to keep pressing.  And even better and heartening, the characters Bilqis, Honor, Araminta (Old Mother), Siti and many of the others talk to me everyday.  Loudly.

Honor&Truth has a new name.  As Truth does not exist in the current outline, it wouldn’t make much sense.  As it stands the story of Honor exists as the second tale in the Hinterland Chronicles.  But don’t hold me to it.  As I am still in the outlining phase, this could still change.

I’ve been nominated for a few blog awards, the last and most important of which is the Blog of the Year Award.  This honor was conveyed upon me by Matt Williams, to whom I am grateful.  A complete post about is soon to come.

My greatest work for this coming year will be continued simplification.  In other words, weaning out the unnecessary to replace with what I value.  I value my relationship with God, my family, my writing, and my health.  So this coming year will include renewed efforts to create peace and productivity with regard to those things I deem as most important to me.  Why is life such hard work?  Forget I asked that.

What have you accomplished this past year?  Toot your horn!  Tell me about your successes and failures.  Tell me what you have planned for 2013.

 

Alesha Escobar Talks About Time Management

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Time management is the issue I spend the most time lamenting.  There never seems to be enough of it.  I work full-time as a nurse and this is a job I actually enjoy and am grateful to have, but I am also a writer.  If I don’t make the time to write I feel depressed, deprived, and resentful.  If you’re dedicated to an avocation that is dissimilar to your day job, then I’m sure you know what I mean.  Making time amidst the other many pressing real life responsibilities can be challenging to say the least.  

Fellow indie-author and friend, Alesha Escobar, author of The Tower’s Alchemist and Dark Rift agreed to share some of her thoughts and advice on the matter.  Join me in welcoming her…

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Curious Expeditions via Compfight

I remember how I’d grit my teeth during the last 15 minutes and urge my English students to wrap up their essay or creative writing assignment. Class would be almost over, and despite my repeated warnings about time management, I’d still get:

“Mrs. Escobar, can I take this home and bring it in tomorrow?”

“No.”

“Can I have more time?”

“No.”

“Can I go to the bathroom?”

I weigh the decision….”Nope.”

As their writing skills developed, they soon learned that while journaling and writing could be relaxing and a wonderful means of expression, in the real world when you have to produce a written piece at someone’s request (especially if payment or grades are involved), time is a luxury that must be treated as such. I have to remind myself of this, especially when a deadline is looming.

I’ll confess to you right now–I love surfing the net, watching movies, and I am an unabashed shopaholic. I’m also a busy mom of four, which means I have even less time to write. So how important is time management to me? Extremely. And I’m betting it’s something you want to conquer and make work for you as well.

The first thing I learned about time management for the writer, like my students did, was to remove some of the major obstacles that slow us down or distract us. Here are four tactics that helped me manage my time better:

  1. Don’t Write Tired. You know, when your eyes are droopy, you keep swaying, and you start misspelling words and reading the same line five times. Not only are you working slowly, you’re also not at your full awareness and creative potential. Sometimes it’s necessary to write at night when the house is all quiet and no one’s bothering you, so if this is the case, just give yourself a 15-20 minute time limit for writing late at night and then go to bed. Maybe you can wake up a little earlier the next morning to add on another quarter hour. This will help you produce more writing than trying to pull an “all-nighter” or a two-hour stretch at 11 p.m.
  2. Play Priorities. Filling out calendars isn’t much fun–but they help! Sometimes I get onto my laptop’s calendar and map out a week or two ahead and then prioritize my activities and commitments. If you know you’re going to have a busy week, then you can determine the best times when to fit in writing. Also, it helps to have a written deadline in red caps staring back at you, because then it impresses on you the desire to finish and meet the deadline. When I see an activity on my calendar that perhaps isn’t that high of a priority, then that’s an extra spot where I can insert writing time.
  3. Jump Into It. Have you ever felt lazy about doing something but once you jumped right into it, it was actually easier than you thought? I once read that as human beings, we tend to take the least amount of action necessary. So, if something seems like it’s going to be difficult or burdensome, we tend to shy away from it (this is how I feel about that pile of dishes in my kitchen). If I feel like I have to “do all that writing,” I may be less inclined to actually do it, and will waste time doing #4 on the list.
  4. Distractions, Distractions. They’re all around us, especially since with a simple click of our mouse we can escape our work in progress (WIP) and go visit social media land or watch a movie. Beware of distractions. That “ten minute break” watching funny YouTube videos will turn into an hour. I promise you. When I taught writing, this was the major downfall of most students who hadn’t completed their assignments and met the deadline. They were distracted by friends, or the cute guy/girl, or that kid that wanted to go to the bathroom. Sometimes distractions are thrown at us, sometimes we wander into them like a daydream. How do you remove this obstacle? Separate your writing activity from other activities. If you’re typing away on your WIP, resist the urge to check your Amazon ranking or if someone retweeted you. Treat your WIP like a friend that needs your attention, and by giving your writing the commitment and time it needs, you’ll be rewarded with a more satisfying session that didn’t drag on because you were distracted.

I’m a big believer in the idea that time management is more workable when we remove obstacles that slow us down or turn us from our path. Sometimes life gets in the way, or we’re tired, or busy, but just remember a small commitment to your task can go a long way. Don’t pressure yourself if you’ve only gotten in 15 minutes, or maybe even missed a day. Just start again the next day, and be consistent with getting in some writing at least a few times a week. As you keep writing and keep practicing, you’ll find that the process will become easier and more manageable.

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Alesha Escobar writes fantasy and urban fantasy stories to support her chocolate habit. She earned a B.A. in English Writing and a Master of Science in Education, and has enjoyed both teaching writing and being a writer. Her hobbies include reading, watching movies, and making crafts. She is currently working on the final installment of The Gray Tower Trilogy.

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