Strength of Character

I spent a recent evening chatting with a group of writers about the public’s desire for strong female characters. The simpering, helpless, man-dependent archetype of the past is no longer the paragon it used to be. If any of our female protagonists swoon into the arms of their brawny rescuers, they better be seriously ill or recently wounded in battle. Encountering a spider no longer qualifies as trauma.

Then our conversation took an interesting turn. Someone shared an opinion that the presence of kindness and compassion in a female protagonist might make her appear “weak.” The unspoken implication was that a female character is “strong” when she is more like the stereotypical caricature of a man – as emotionally sensitive as a block of wood.

Yes, I’m talking stereotypes here and the wind blows both ways. Some believe that gentleness “weakens” a man as much as the lack of it “strengthens” a woman. It’s an antiquated mindset that persists on many levels and is slow to evolve.

Pixabay image

Of course, the souls who populate our books must be true to their natures. Both male and female characters (like the rest of humanity) fit into a broad spectrum when it comes to emotional intelligence. Expression can be passionate, volatile, ambivalent, or completely shut down. On top of that, consider that feelings are fluid and slide all over the place along the love-fear continuum.

Emotional texture is one element that puzzles together a character, no different than physical appearance, skills, aptitudes, and social competencies. An emotional undercurrent is one way to enhance complexity, but it’s not necessarily indicative of a character’s strength.

peopledothowstuffworkscom

Mother Theresa, Time.com

I’d argue that what makes characters “strong,” regardless of gender, is their determination to act upon the world rather than react to it. Kind and compassionate people fall as easily into this definition as ruthless overlords and heroic champions. Strength is demonstrated by conviction, how actively they pursue their goals, overcome their flaws, and engage both the internal and external obstacles that block their paths.

Happy Writing

A Great Read: African Me & Satellite TV

Many people believe that modeling a life of kindness and compassion is key to lifting humanity out of violence and despair. The approach suits my introverted personality, and it certainly feels safe.

Yet, I often wonder if it’s enough, and whether what’s truly required of me is to speak, write, and act for change. I worry that some will misinterpret my silence as condoning the wrongs visited upon the world. My recluse nature engages in an ongoing battle with what I believe is my responsibility as a human being.

61u1SUKn1pL._SL1000_That’s one reason why Jo Robinson’s book, African Me & Satellite TV, struck me as such a great read. It felt personal.

African Me & Satellite TV is a book with a message about injustice, responsibility, and forgiveness. In its pages, Robinson takes the reader on a journey through one woman’s painful acknowledgment of the truth about silence, and the power of her voice that ultimately sets her heart free.

The main protagonist is Suzette, a white woman living in Zimbabwe after the nation underwent violent land reform in the 1990’s. Though a genuinely kind and thoughtful person she is also deeply withdrawn and non-confrontational, silent in the face of prejudiced attitudes and unjust treatment of black Africans by the white minority.

When two fiercely bigoted racists move into the community, few citizens are spared the ensuing verbal and physical violence. Regardless of the consequences, Suzette finds her courage and can no longer hold her tongue.

Jo Robinson

Jo Robinson

Through Suzette, Robinson gives the reader a glimpse of the truth about African colonization and the tremendous injustices perpetrated against the African people. Throughout the book, the readers also witnesses the respectful and loving relationships that can flourish when people find the strength to forgive each other the wrongs of the past and acknowledge their shared humanity.

The story unfolds at a quick pace. All of Robinson’s characters are engaging and richly portrayed, particularly Suzette and her vibrant cook, Princess. I recommend African Me & Satellite TV to anyone who enjoys a tale about standing up to injustice in hope of a better future.

African Me & Satellite TV available on Amazon: Here

One of Those Dopey Days

Some days my own dopiness astounds me. Today was one of those days.

 

D. Wallace Peach

D. Wallace Peach

I had a day of writing planned…no interruptions…no other duties…a Saturday of pure 100% BLISS.

However, I decided to clean up my wordpress media library which was overloaded with images.

Never having done this before, I looked up instructions on the handy internet. Easy enough. Go here, click there, wave the magic cursor over the images and select “Delete Permanently.”

“Well,” I said to my myself, “most of these images I’ll never use again. I might as well just delete them.”

Ta Da! That felt good. 50 images gone…breathing easy. I’m getting really good at this!

Then I open my website. My background is GONE. The images for all my posts are GONE. A little lightbulb blinks on in my head. Crap!

Guess what I did all day…

Donating Royalties to Charity

Five Elements CoverAt least once a year, my writers group slips into a period of enthusiastic over-exertion. In 2014, our creative mania took a fresh turn. We decided to write short stories built around five randomly selected elements: a ghost, an alien, a spaceship, a conflict with a boss, and a fireplace poker.

Despite the unifying elements, the result was seven entirely unique tales. After months of rewrites, we chose to publish the Five Elements Anthology and donate all royalties to charity.

BooksForKids2Choosing the charity took a whopping thirty seconds. We selected Books for Kids, a Willamette Writers’ literacy program here in Oregon. Far more complicated was figuring out how to make the donations. I discovered early on that there’s no definitive source for information or guidance on this topic.

I can guarantee that I’m no expert on this, so the information below should not be taken as gospel. My intent is simply to share what I learned. More accurate and/or detailed information is welcome!

That said, here goes:

1. Amazon has rules about mentioning a charity on the cover or in the blurb. The best Amazon link I found on rules is here. For our book, we elected to avoid the rigmarole and placed information regarding our donation in the Author’s Note. We included the sponsoring organization’s logo and link, and the name of the charity with its logo and mission.

2. Several sources recommended the obvious: Obtain written permission from the organization to use the name of the charity, and its logos and links. We did this all through email. Once we had conceptual approval, we submitted the final Author’s Note for a second written approval.

I will add here that Willamette Writers expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for our effort. It probably helped that the organization is writer-focused, and one of our authors is a member. We sent one sample story their way, but don’t be surprised if an organization wants to read the whole book before approving the use of their name.

3. We were not able to find any way for royalties to be paid directly to the charity without the charity itself taking on the role as “publisher.” My research suggested that charities, in general, are resistant to assuming this role for fear that it may in some way conflict with their tax-exempt status. They may also be unwilling to take on the additional accounting requirements. Though subjective, the consensus on this topic seemed clear, and we chose not to investigate this as an option.

4. The IRS wants its share, of course. Though we have six authors, one of us had to take official ownership as the “publisher/author.” He will receive royalty checks by mail and simply sign them over to the charity. He agreed to absorb any taxes a well as any benefits from the donation, unless of course our little anthology sells tens of thousands of copies. That would be a nice problem to have, and would likely require some adjustment to our arrangement.

I won’t belabor this point, but f you are engaging in this adventure with other authors, such as we did with the anthology, use caution and be certain to work out the financial arrangements in advance.

5. Finally, what did we gain from this? We received free publicity in the Willamette Writer’s newsletter when the book when live. We’ll get a little promotion when we hand over the big, fat check (yep). In addition, we hope that if readers enjoy our stories, they’ll link to our other books. And finally, we feel great about supporting our community of future readers!

Hope this was helpful.

If you are so inclined, you may order your $.99 copy here: Five Elements Anthology

 

 

 

 

 

 

Write and Change the World

JeffersonMost of us have days filled with small acts of kindness. We smile, kiss hurt elbows, throw tennis balls for our dogs. We pay for a coworker’s coffee and leave a big tip. We call a friend in need, chauffeur teenagers, cook a favorite meal, or pick up ice cream on the way home. These small invisible acts often go unacknowledged, but they travel around in overlapping circles, keep our lives balanced and relationships healthy. We see the results in strengthened bonds, deeper commitment, and abiding love.

87230b4a08df4def07bae73905d9319bBut what about those times when we don’t see the ripples? When we toss acts of kindness and compassion into a seemingly bottomless well of suffering and despair? When we perceive no reward for our efforts? When we don’t know if we’re making any lasting difference in our world at all? Some strangers we’ll meet face to face, but most we’ll never know. The poignant tales of their lives will play out in other neighborhoods, other cities, and other lands, unseen and unheard.

download (1)In our political landscape, acts of kindness and compassion are often labeled as weak, a waste of time and money, conciliatory, poor investments, and unpatriotic. In a culture that values money over lives, the manipulations are intense.

Yet, I would argue that when we ordinary folk commit small everyday deeds of kindness and compassion, the ripples are there even though invisible to our eyes and silent to our ears. Those random acts are cups of water that we pour down that deep, collective well. They blend and build, until over time, the bottomless well holds a limitless reservoir from which a garden grows. I have faith that no act of kindness or compassion is wasted, ever.

gandalf quoteI’m not really surprised that Gandalf sits up there with some of the greats when it comes to quotes regarding kindness. Does it matter that he’s a fictional character? Not really. Through Gandalf, Tolkien’s wisdom reached millions. Such is the power of the written word. Books can and do have the power to change the world…

 

Hybrid Publishing: An Experiment

2075040_screen-shot-2013-12-19-at-17-15-55-pngIn my school days, I was unimpressed by science. Now that I’m older and know a mere fraction of what I did as a teenager, I’ve changed my opinion. I’ve dusted off my white lab coat and decided to conduct a pseudo-scientific experiment in publishing. My analysis of results will be totally subjective, a fact I’m willing to guarantee.

After six books with a traditional publisher, I’ve decided to self-publish the next one. Am I the first to do this? Of course not. But I’ve always been one of those kids that learns by doing. Don’t tell me the ice is too thin, the cliff too high, the dive too deep, the shark too toothsome; let me discover those things for myself! It’s an impactful approach—I have the stitches and mended bones to prove it.

So, why the switch, Diana? There are two reasons:

One is timing. In my totally unqualified opinion, it takes a loooong time for books to cycle through the traditional process. I’m in no way attempting to minimize or disparage the role traditional publishers play. I understand that producing a quality book is careful, painstaking work. Editors and publishers know their business and bring immeasurable value to the process and product. As a new writer, I depended heavily on their expertise and learned tons about the business. The editorial feedback made me a better writer. That’s a fact…in fact.

That said, traditional publishers have multiple clients—it’s not all about me! Can you believe it? Since my name isn’t George R.R. Martin, I’m still a publisher’s long shot. Yep, I’ll admit it. I have to respect priorities and get in the queue with everyone else. My publisher is currently working on my Dragon Soul Trilogy—a sequel to Myths of the Mirror—and honestly, I’m too impatient to slide a new book to the bottom of the pile for a 2016 release.

The second reason boils down to a desire to experiment with marketing. Even with traditional publishers, particularly small presses, marketing falls heavily on the author’s shoulders. This seems to be the norm these days, and whining about it hasn’t improved my sales one red penny. I’d like to experiment with discounts, pointed giveaways, and other pricing strategies that I currently have zero control over. My hope is that more aggressive sales of The Bone Wall (due out this month) will result in readers picking up my other books, which is good for me AND my publisher.

I suspect that I’ll ultimately end up doing a hybrid of traditional publishing and self-publishing. And my experiment is just starting. It may be wildly successful, a total bust, or make no difference at all. I’ll be sure to give everyone an update on results. I might even cobble together a chart!

The Bone Wall will be available this month, initially via Kindle…

Bone Wall CoverBlue light ripples and crackles as the shield walls fracture. The remnants of a doomed civilization stand vigil outside, intent on plunder and slaves, desirous of untainted blood to strengthen their broken lives. With the poisons, came deformities and powers, enhanced senses and the ability to manipulate waves of energy—lightbenders and fire-wielders.

For those who thrived for generations within the walls, the broken world looms, strange and deadly, slowly dying. While the righteous pray for salvation, Rimma prepares for battle, fueled by rage and blinded by vengeance. Her twin, Angel, bound to her by unbreakable magic, seeks light in the darkness, hope in the future, and love in a broken world.

Premio Dardos Award

It always surprises me when these things pop up. Because they’re unexpected, they bring a ripple of excitement and a giddy smile.

dartsI’m honored that my little blog has captured the attention of wonderful writer C.E Robinson and encourage you to visit Before Sundown. Please take a moment to check out one of her recent posts that typifies the beauty of her words http://cerobinsonauthor.com/2015/01/12/the-heartbreak-of-dementia/

The Premio Dardos Award recognizes cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values in the form of creative and original writing.

download (3)For me, the best part about this award is the opportunity to nominate 15 fellow bloggers that I admire for their writing ability. The worst part is only being able to pick 15. Whether they choose to accept this nomination or not isn’t a major factor; I’m happy just spreading the word. In giving you their sites, I’ve directed you to a post that particularly moved me or made me laugh. Enjoy.

Storyshucker: Stuart Perkins writes mesmerizing short stories that delve into the ordinary details of daily life. His blog is the very first I followed, and I still look forward to every post. https://storyshucker.wordpress.com/2015/01/02/why-do-this-to-myself/

Fred Colton: Fred’s writing strikes me as raw and witty, brimming with male libido. I can’t pick out a favorite. Here’s a good one: http://fredcolton.com/2015/01/07/something-i-need-as-soon-as-im-famous/

Kevin Sampsel: Kevin is a poet. His words are rich, rich, rich. http://kevinsampsel.com/2014/11/29/in-lieu-of-intimacy/

Renegade Press: Chris Nicholas is one of those powerful writers who digs deep. I loved this post http://monologuesofawouldbewriter.com/2015/01/10/wolf/

JJ Anderson’s Blog: JJ is another writer who takes on that role of witness. Rich in detail, all of the posts are worth reading. This recent one is a favorite of mine:  https://thevelveteenmaraca.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/a-vanquished-foe/

Heylookawriterfellow: Mike is just plain funny. One of those people with a natural knack for humor. I get a kick out of his posts: http://mikeallegra.com/2014/11/11/a-mouse-divided/

The Task at Hand: Linda Leinen paints pictures with her words. Her writing is stunning. Read it and marvel: https://shoreacres.wordpress.com/2014/12/29/the-way-of-all-words/

Holistic Journey: Diana is the holistic wayfarer, reflecting on the human journey. Her words flow. I would love to give you a handful of posts. Here’s one: http://holisticwayfarer.com/2014/12/31/we-dream-again/

Ocean Bream: This blog is a little gem. It was hard to pick my favorite post among the offering. This one is beautiful: https://oceanbream.wordpress.com/2014/11/22/dear-november/

Captain’s Log: Pete Deakon offers a variety of posts in addition to his own writing. This post pulled on the heartstrings: http://petedeakon.com/2015/01/12/still-she-tugs/

Just a Crazy Dreamer: Nakul Arora says he’s on a personal journey and shares his wonderings, questions, and discoveries. Check out: http://justacrazydreamer.com/2014/11/21/being-still-learnings-from-a-tree/

On the Heath: I of July is a poet. He’s prolific and his work is sharp, often striking at the core of love, hope, and loneliness. You name it. https://htmm.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/origin-of-obscene-before-the-sins/

Boy with a Hat: Vincent writes a variety of posts from prose to poetry. This is one of my recent favorites: http://vincentmars.com/2015/01/04/ode-on-solitude-modern-edition/

Mike is Happy: Mike’s posts are a little different from those above. They’re short and hysterical. They have a place in this cultural line-up. https://mikeishappy.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/another-day-in-the-life-i-dont-really-deserve/

Rachel Being Chatty: Rachel’s posts are another dip into absurd humor. I read every one of her Deep Thoughts and start my day with a smile. http://rachelbeingchatty.com/2015/01/17/deep-thoughts-27/

There you have it. Now that this post is up, my job is to notify everyone on the list of their nomination. Happy Writing!