Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Insecure Writers: Time to Bloom

Today I'm pleased to share with you a guest post by M.J. Fifield, author of the new fantasy novel Effigy. Those of you already familiar with M. J. through her blog are likely aware of the, um, gnashing of teeth, flailing of limbs, and pulling of hair that went on prior to this novel being released into the world. While observing M. J. grapple with the stresses of the publishing process, I was often reminded of this Anais Nin quote:


"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

It was a long, arduous process at times, but she overcame her insecurities and went for it. And isn't the end result beautiful and totally worth it? 

Take it away, M. J. 


A Strong Female Character


I grew up in the 80’s in a household where the television was never off, so one of my first role models (apart from my tough-as-nails mother) was Teela from the 1983 animated series He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. She was the captain of the palace guard, good with a sword, and responsible for the protection of the prince. She kicked ass, and did so all while wearing a leotard and high-heeled boots.

Teela

Teela led to She-Ra, the Princess of Power. She-Ra was a freedom fighter armed with a magical sword, high-heeled boots, the ultimate mini skirt, and a talking unicorn-pegasus hybrid. Oh, how I wanted to be She-Ra, Princess of Power. I spent a lot of time that decade running around the neighborhood with a stick as my sword pretending to be her. My neighbors now will tell you that I still do that, but it’s not true. Unless they have video. Then it might be true.

She-Ra…noticing a pattern yet with that hair?

 Anyway, I digress. I watched Teela, She-Ra, Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Emma Peel, and probably other women I can’t even recall at this time. In the 90’s, I became aware of Buffy Summers and the women of the Whedonverse. Talk about strong, female characters.

How much did I love Emma Peel?! LOVE.

Meanwhile, Haleine Coileáin came into existence. When Effigy begins, she’s sharp and tough-talking, but she can’t kill you with her pinky. She knows which end of a sword to hold, but she can’t do much damage with it. Mixed martial arts are beyond her, and she couldn’t draw a bow to save her life.

She’s not a warrior. Not in any traditional sense. Her weapons aren’t forged from steel, but rather intellect and fortitude. She’s armed with an overwhelming urge to do right. To be good.

Haleine’s strength isn’t in having the skill to throw someone across a room or shoot the wings off a fly at 1,000 yards, but in her own ability to be able to get back up after being knocked down, to keep fighting when it feels as though all hope is lost.

It’s not easy for her. She struggles. There are enemies determined to tear her down, and she falters. Mistakes are made. She gets lost. By the time the story ends, Haleine is in a much different place than from which she began—and it’s not a particularly strong place.

It’s for this reason that I worry that perhaps she isn’t as tough a female character as she should be, as readers might expect her to be. That said, readers thus far have considered Haleine a strong female character (one called her a kick-ass lady), so perhaps I should stop worrying and take their word for it.

Besides, if there’s one thing I know about the Coileáin women, it’s that no one—and I mean no one—can keep them down for long. Haleine may be lost for a time, but she’ll find her way back.

Because that’s what strong female characters do. With or without a sword.





Author Bio:
Armed with a deep and lasting love of chocolate, purple pens, and medieval weaponry, M.J. Fifield is nothing if not a uniquely supplied insomniac. When she isn’t writing, she’s on the hunt for oversized baked goods or shiny new daggers. M.J. lives with a variety of furry creatures—mostly pets—in New Hampshire.



EFFIGY:

The survival of a once-mighty kingdom rests in the hands of its young queen, Haleine Coileáin, as it slowly succumbs to an ancient evil fueled by her husband’s cruelty.


Buy the novel at:      Amazon US   Amazon UK  CreateSpace




Did it feel like a scary risk when you published your novels? And what do you think of the ever evolving strong female characters and the way modern authors are reinterpreting the female heroine? If we can just get them out of high-heeled boots and bosom-enhancing corsets I'd be happy -- the characters, that is, not the authors. They can wear what they like. :) 




This post is part of the Insecure Writer's Support Group hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Warning: May contain strong female characters. 






AND just a heads up I'll be taking a break from the blog for awhile. Got some things to work on that require me to put my head down and just get them done.

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80 comments:

  1. Emma Peel was so hot!

    Huhn? What? There was more to your blog? I seem to have forgotten all of it.

    Except for Emma Peel!

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  2. I love the description and I love reading about strong women characters. If intellect and fortitude are this young protagonist's main weapons, this book is definitely going on my TBR list. Have a great night! Lily-Eva, Co-host

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    1. Agreed. Women are strong for different reasons than men, and bringing those to the forefront is what makes a character great. :)

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  3. Hi L.G. I hope you get your things sorted. See you when you return. I love this:
    "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Don't we all feel that way when we don't know whether to let go of our darling into the big, cruel world. This sounds great. Love the cover too.

    Denise

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    1. I may never get things sorted, but at least it keeps me busy. :P

      And I've always loved that quote. It's hard to put yourself out there, but if you feel compelled…you must.

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  4. Oh my gosh, I'd forgotten all about Teela :)
    Yep, I love strong female characters. We need more!!

    Enjoy your blogging break, Luanne. Hope you get everything you want done.

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    1. I don't even remember Teela. I have vague memories of She-Ra, but I was probably too old when these came out as shows. But Emma Peel was my fav. Loved her. :)

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  5. Haleine sounds like a character we can all relate to.

    Now I must go search for She-Ra on YouTube.

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    1. I have the series on DVD is you want to borrow it...

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  6. MJ, that's the strongest woman of all. Well done.
    Hope you accomplish a lot during your break, LG.

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  7. Congrats to M.J.! I have to say, I had a major crush on Emma Peel when I discovered The Avengers!

    L.G., good luck with what you have to do, we'll be hear when you get back.

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. I kind of had a crush on Emma Peel, too.

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  8. I didn't watch those specific shows in the 80s, but I love the animation. It takes me back to the days of watching Scooby-Doo on Saturday mornings!

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    1. Oh! I watched Scooby Doo, too. I forgot about Velma and Daphne. Now I have to rewrite my post.

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  9. Thank you so much for hosting me today!

    And I'm glad you said the thing about writers being able to wear whatever they want...because I'm wearing my Emma Peel outfit right now. (note: possibly not a true story)

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    1. My pleasure! And I've just gotten my Emma Peel outfit back from the dry cleaners. It got a little messy after the last encounter with a baddie. :P

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  10. Love that cover! And funny that you brought up Emma Peel. Hubby and I were going through the channels Sunday and came across an episode. Loved that show.

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    1. My favorite, favorite woman on television as a kid. I liked Cat woman too. I think I might like black jumpsuits and mod boots. :P

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  11. I read an article once from a literary agent about how he wanted female characters who were strong because of their femininity, not because they knew how to kick trash, and I think that's really what we have to aim for. M.J., it sounds like you've succeeded on that front! Stoked to read the book. =)

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    1. That's where I think most people miss the mark when they write their strong female characters. It's unlikely a woman could best a male in physical strength, but she can always outmatch him in other ways. :)

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  12. ooh, I had Teela's and HeMan's figurines as a kid, and that tiger of his too! But I did like SheRah most!

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    1. I used to watch Wonder Woman. Funny how they all had a variation of that same outfit back in the 70's and 80's. Oh, and 2014 too, apparently.

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    2. I still have Battle Cat kicking around the house. Sadly, I don't know where the other action figures have gone.

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  13. 'My neighbors now will tell you that I still do that, but it’s not true.'

    :)

    Lu, godspeed on your project, girl.

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    1. I think it's safe to say MJ still runs around with swords. There's too much evidence for her to deny it.

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    2. Yes. I most definitely still run around with swords. For the safety of all mammals (and table lamps) in the house, my significant other has imposed very strict rules about this habit.

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  14. Dude, She-Rah was awesome! Funny I recently had a conversation about all the classic shows when I was a kid. And She-Rah was at the top of the list.

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    1. Wow, lots of She-Ra fans. Seems she influenced an entire generation of people. :)

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    2. I keep trying to get my niece to watch (and love) the show. No luck so far, but I know I'll get her to love Buffy.

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  15. Beautiful cover! And entertaining post on how girls find TV heroines.

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    1. I LOVE that cover. So beautiful with just a hint of danger as she holds that dagger in her hand.

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  16. Oh my gosh - LOVE MJ's bio! It's also fun to see who her female heros were and how that influence evolved in its own way into her heroine---who sounds quite interesting, btw.

    Thank you, L.G. for letting me keep wearing my corsets, hehe, not really, but maybe I'll start.

    Good luck getting done what you need to get done!

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    1. Maybe all women writer's should embrace their power and wear high-heeled boots and corsets. Really, there might be something there we're missing, since most women heroes wear them. :P

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  17. Fun article! I never read/watched much with strong female characters growing up, but they intrigue me now. I think I hold characters to the same standard, regardless of gender. If they're petty and whiny, I don't like them. But if they take a lickin' and keep on tickin', they inspire me.

    And I do, occasionally, write while wearing a corset...
    >_>
    <_<

    Loni

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    1. Yeah, when I was a kid it was basically The Bionic Woman and Emma Peel out there using their brains and ass-kickery skills.

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  18. Very cool, I saw Effigy promoted over on Alex's blog as well. And as for strong females I prefer them both in fiction and real life...although I don't like Sheera quite as much as my wife does. I think it's because that Beau character weirds me out...who wears a napkin for a shirt and shows off only their abs?

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    1. He wears a what? I've never seen the show, but that does sound weird. :P

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    2. Yeah...Beau was just odd. But there's always one in every group.

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  19. When I used to babysit when I was in high school, I had to watch He-Man and Sheera all the time with the kid I sat for. Man, I hated those shows.
    I'm sure it's no reflection on M.J., though.

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    1. Ugh. I had to babysit for this kid every day one summer, and she would play Kenny Rogers on the record player over and over. To this day I can't stand to hear any of his songs.

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    2. I had a Kenny Rogers record when I was in middle school. I liked it, but I didn't listen to it all that much.

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    3. I once sang back-up vocals for Kenny Rogers in a concert. Only time I ever danced to one of his songs. And by 'danced' I mean 'swayed almost in rhythm.'

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  20. I used to watch Heman with my younger brother. I had Mary Tyler Moore and That Girl to look up to. I did enjoy the Bionic Woman.

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    1. Oh, yeah. Mary Tyler Moore was awesome. As was Rhoda.

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    2. Mary Tyler Moore. Another woman I forgot. *hangs head in shame*

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  21. My sons loved He-man and She-ra. Love those strong females. TV has more of them nowadays.

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    1. It's hard to explain to young women today just how devoid of non-stereotypical women television and movies were a mere thirty years ago. A lot has changed. Not enough, but it's moving in the right direction. :)

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  22. You had me at Buffy, MJ. Love that girl. I can't wait to read about Haleine and her adventures.

    Take care and enjoy your break, LG.

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    1. Yeah, Joss Whedon is quite the women's advocate in the work he produces. Much there to admire. :)

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  23. Strong female characters are great. A lot of them whiny though. Are we women whiny?

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    1. Yes, sometimes we're whiny. Not a very good characteristic. Let's make a pact not to write whiny characters.

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  24. Ooh I loved Shee-Ra, Wonder Woman, and Bionic Woman, etc. Strong female characters are awesome! And hey Haleine sounds very interesting as is. :D

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    1. I got to read the first hundred pages of the novel during a critique and Haleine has some great moments. :)

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  25. Excellent. Strong female characters come in all forms. I'm glad readers and writers are starting to see beyond Wonder Woman.

    Enjoy your break and stay focused.

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    1. We talk a lot about strong women on this blog, but it's because there's still more change needed. We need more women heroes in whatever style that takes. ;)

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  26. Thanks for sharing what inspired you and how that translated into your own heroine. I ca see a lot of them in her and the differences too. Good luck, MJ!

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    1. I can see, too, where Haleine got her red hair. :)

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  27. You just proved that women can be strong and tough in a thousand ways, not just the way that involves physical violence :) Trust your readers - Haleine sounds incredible, and strong, and tough as nails, and that's what counts! You're forging a new kind of warrior woman, and anything new is hard; but it's so great, and so important. Congrats, MJ :)

    And Luanne, have a great blog break!!!

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    1. Already got a ton of editing done on the first official day of my break. Cut two thousand words. Onward. :)

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  28. Super cool!! Have a good blog break.

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    1. Thanks! Off to a productive start already. :)

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  29. i think MJ is a strong, kickass character!
    what a great blast down memory lane! and loved seeing a little insight on Hailene's character - tempting a good character away from what's right or making her do wrong for right are great twists! congrats again!

    and LG - thanks for stopping by my broken branch falls blog tour!

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    1. I hope your tour was a big success! The book got a lot of good exposure. :)

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  30. Hope you accomplish what you set out to do. The internet can be such a distraction. Says she who's supposed to be writing and not reading your blog!

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    1. Yep, got another twenty pages edited today and made excellent progress writing my query letter. Amazing what one can do when they put their head down and focus. :)

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  31. Strong female characters are very popular right now. I hope we get some stand-alone movies soon. Examples: Wonder Woman and Black Widow deserve their own movies.

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  32. Emma Peele brings back wonderful memories of watching The Avengers while dining on TV trays in the family room! Wonder Women and Bionic Woman were favorites too, though I really related more to the female sitcom characters. This was fun, MJ!

    Hope you're able to get all caught up soon, Luanne!

    Julie

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    1. oops that's Wonder Woman. Sorry about that.

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  33. Love the colour blending on that cover!

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  34. Being a strong person has nothing to do with the ability to wield a weapon or mixed martial arts. Granted, they're fun to read at times. Strength comes from within. Making mistakes and learning from them. Standing firm for something. Having honor. I like reading about those type of characters. You have a beautiful cover!

    Linda, enjoy your time off. Sometimes sanity requires time off, lol! Or it does in my case. :-)

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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  35. It's interesting to consider the different takes people can have on the strong female character. I'd also like to see them getting out of high heels and boob-enhancing attire. Though even more, I'd like to get to a point where the heels and the cleavage are empowering rather than degrading, so that the strong female characters could wear either/or without any backlash or being objectified.

    Awesome cover, congrats to M.J. :)

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  36. I love reading about strong female characters as opposed to weepy woman!

    Love the cover...it calls out! Congrats!

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  37. Fascinating cover. Would love to read this.

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  38. I hope your are enjoying your break and getting all those things done that you needed / wanted to! Thank you for your support. My loss of Patches was a shock, but sharing it here on the blogosphere just made sense that day. I was reaching out and was so touched by all those who responded, of course more tears fell, and still do today. I just found one of her toys, almost brand new and sent it to my sister for her Angel. I miss her terribly - she was such a huge part of my life! I do hope your baby is cuddling with you now!

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