Thursday, June 15, 2017

Wonder Woman: UnApologetically Woman

Wonder Woman. The movie? Amazing.

But why?

Well, duh, because Wonder Woman is bad-ass.

Except, we've had other movies featuring bad-ass women. So what's so special about this one?

Yeah, she's the main character. That makes a huge difference. But what else? I think it's because she's not only bad-ass, but she's unapologetically bad-ass. She's strong and her strength isn't merely in sex appeal, or twisted with evil intentions as most strong women are portrayed in movies. And her strength doesn't come from her similarities to men, or by her having traditionally male attributes. She's feminine and compassionate and uses her intuition (her belief or gut feeling).

She's unapologetically woman.

Where do you think she got these personal convictions, this way of being herself without apology, despite the men who say she can't do this or that throughout the movie?

Wonder Woman was raised in a matriarchal society.

According to Dr. Heide Goettner Abendroth matriarchal societies are not the opposite of patriarchal societies. They are not "Mother-ruled" like the patriarchal "Father-ruled." Rather, they are Mother-centered, which is vastly different. They are gender egalitarian and many are full egalitarian.

Diana (Wonder Woman) grew up without lies to put her in her place, without the shame of womanhood. She grew up listening to her intuition, even if that meant secretly training against her mother's wishes. Can you imagine how many personal hurdles she'd have to fight just to train as a warrior if she'd been told or led to believe that women couldn't fight? If she'd been taught that father knows best (males know best) do you think she would have stepped foot onto "No Man's Land"?

When girls are raised in a culture that deems them as the lesser sex by the laws passed, the school dress code enforced, the lack of layered female characters in movies, the pigeon-holed clothing options they're given, the accepted rape culture surrounding them, the disgust of menses displayed by their peers and adults, and so much more...they grow up inheriting a shit-ton of self-shame.

And self-shame weighs you down. A lot.

But in the movie Wonder Woman, Diana doesn't have to deal with that added self-shame on top of the weight of her dangerous mission. She's driven by compassion for humankind and won't let anyone lessen that conviction. If someone called her a "special snowflake" due to her activism, their words would mean nothing to her because she wasn't raised in a culture where war and power trump love and compassion. She didn't re-think her actions to help, or have second thoughts, because death and dominance weren't accepted norms for her. She respected life, which you often find in matriarchal cultures.

Like others, I cried during the fight scenes. Chills ran up and down my body throughout the movie. Viewing a little girl with dreams of learning to protect herself touched my heart. Everything about that movie resonated deeply with me because I've been studying matriarchal (and matrilineal) cultures and their spirituality for years. In almost every manuscript I've written, the main character is a girl/woman raised in a matriarchal family or society.

My current manuscript passion, Freyja's Daughter, follows a huldra raised in a matriarchal family, but governed by a dominating patriarchal establishment. Those who govern her insist that it's unsafe for her to use her huldra abilities, that if she does she'll become a danger to herself and to others. She's conflicted because her mother secretly taught the opposite. But the night her huldra takes over for self-preservation, her life is changed and her beliefs solidified.

In every story I write, my goal is to display and inspire unapologetic women.

The major response to the Wonder Woman movie has breathed new hope into me, as I'm sure it has for many others. The girl that I was, who asked lots of questions and was told men have always ruled and would always rule because that's how it's meant to be... Well, she's smiling. Because the public's response to Wonder Woman suggests that things, they are a changin'.


Want to know more about matriarchal societies? :)

http://mentalfloss.com/article/31274/6-modern-societies-where-women-literally-rule

http://aplus.com/a/matriarchal-societies-different-mainstream?no_monetization=true

http://metro.co.uk/2013/03/05/where-women-rule-the-world-matriarchal-communities-from-albania-to-china-3525234/

http://www.marieclaire.com/culture/a19105/matriarchies-still-exist-today/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/pierre-de-vallombreuse-matriarchal_us_560c2c90e4b0af3706df136b

Here's a video of Dr. Heide Goettner Abendroth teaching:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsJNq-O7CEU


And of course I've got book recommendations for those interested. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

My Latest Researching Adventure: Reiki

I wrote a story called Freyja's Daughter that follows a huldra, Faline, as she tries to reestablish a disbanded secret society of folkloric women in an attempt to fight the big bad who's been oppressing them for generations. Of course each type of folkloric creature hates the others, so such a task is dangerous and nearly hopeless as her oppressors are always hot on her trail.

One group Faline must persuade are the succubae. Now, every one of my beta readers has a favorite group, and I love each group for their unique sub-culture and abilities, but you guys...the succubae were so much fun to write. Especially their leader, Marie.

According to myth, a succubus is a demonic female creature that is most often said to lure unsuspecting and innocent men into sexual relations. Sometimes this happens within the men's dreams. Sometimes, within their room. Always, they were "forced" by the succubus.

(I'd like to add here that many of our well-known myths have a patriarchal bent to them. It is my goal, within my writing, to take those myths and iron that patriarchal shit out.)

So in Freyja's Daughter, the succubae are not demons--they've just been given a bad stigma because they're powerful women. And no, they don't force anyone to have sex with them. There's more pleasure in the willing.

The succubae in Freyja's Daughter can control and manipulate energy.



Because I plan to continue writing in this Wild Women world in the form a series, I also plan to delve deeper into each group's sub-culture. The next book in the series will shine a spotlight on the succubae group. And last week I attended an energy-healing class as part of my research.

There's lots of different types of classes that teach energy work, but one I've been hearing a lot about lately is called reiki. Even my massage therapist swears by it. So I signed up and went in with an open mind.

As part of the class materials I was given a laminated chakra chart and a book called The Reiki Manual: A Training Guide for Reiki Students, Practitioners, and Masters by Penelope Quest. According to this manual, reiki is a holistic healing method using energy. The practitioner uses life force or universal energy to clear energy blockages in their clients. From the manual: "Reiki (pronounced RAY KEE) is a Japanese word which is most often translated as 'universal life-force energy."

Buy here
I love researching and experiencing new things, so I really enjoyed this class. I got to experience what it feels like to get a reiki treatment, which was highly relaxing. (I'll definitely use that sensation in my next Wild Women book.) The instructor said many of her clients fall asleep during their reiki treatments and I could definitely see why. And the explanation of reiki energy, its history, and how it's used gave me some story fodder. Personally, I don't plan on becoming a reiki practitioner or anything like that. But it was a fun class and the concepts introduced gave me lots to chew on and certainly more than a couple ideas for use in future stories.

What's up next for me in the name of story research? Well, I'm planning a trip to Oregon to visit the Portland underground, which I'll use in the second Wild Women book. :)


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spring Equinox


If you're ready for the new growth of spring, take heart, spring equinox is just around the corner.

This year's spring equinox is March 20th. What does that mean, exactly? Well, according to TimeandDate.com "The March equinox marks the moment the sun crosses the celestial equator -- the imaginary line in the sky above the earth's equator -- from south to north and vise versa in September."

But if you're a nature-lover like me, spring equinox means so much more. Our days are getting longer. Trees leaves are unfolding from buds on bare branches. The biting cold in the air is dulling to a smooth breeze. It's a time to celebrate the sprouting personal growth within our own lives, amplifying the light and love we hope to share with others.



In the winter, most plants go within themselves. They're no longer "on show" for the world to see, looking outward, but rather down deep, looking inward. I imagine many of us do the same thing that time of year. We self-actualize in the quiet moments spent curled under a blanket, hiding from the freezing outdoor temperatures. We review our life and decisions in December and create or tweak new life goals in January. We're given a few months to try these new goals on for size, to work out the early kinks of our yearly plan. Maybe a daily visit to the gym isn't realistic. Maybe yoga fits your body better than Pilates. Maybe the once-a-month date with your partner needs to be doubled to twice a month...

Come March we begin crawling away from our fireplaces and heated blankets to look outward again, to display to the world the beautiful new aspects we've created within ourselves over the winter. We unfurl our petals with confidence, with the knowing that in the next few months our roots will only grow deeper, our leaves will only stretch out further.

Spring equinox embodies the hope of old traditions and the new growth they celebrate. How do you celebrate spring?




Monday, February 27, 2017

Feminist Fiction

Yesterday, while at work (the library) a co-worker asked me what I write, exactly. Normally, when someone asks me this, I say, "Urban fantasy," or I explain the plot of my newest manuscript. But yesterday I said, "I write feminist urban fantasy."

"I take it you're a feminist, then?" he responded.

"I am," I said with a smile.

"What does feminism mean to you?" he asked, which I inwardly applauded his question.

"It means equality," I answered. "I aspire to live in an egalitarian society."

He nodded, explained that he too believes in an egalitarian society, and then asked what makes my urban fantasy feminist. He got the short answer because we had a bunch of books that weren't going to shelve themselves. But today I'm blogging about the long answer.

It is my desire, through my fiction, to level the playing field. My 5th grade teacher loved Greek mythology. And as a child sitting in her class, listening to her tell the tales, I remember wondering why the men seemed so much stronger--in mind, heart, and body--then the women. I realize that's not always the case. The goddess Diana is incredibly capable according to the myths. But when we're talking about Greek mythology, it's certainly not a level playing field. In fact, when we're talking about most mythology it's not a level playing field.

But, if you dig--and I mean really dig--you'll find a treasure trove of pre-patriarchal mythology. Some of the names of the gods and goddesses will be similar, if not the same, but their roles were vastly different than the mythology we know today. The pre-patriarchal mythology shows a more level playing field.

Before I wrote my Wild Women series I researched folkloric female monsters from across the globe. Why monsters? Because I'd noticed that the strong, heroic females in the pre-patriarchal myths transformed into either weaklings who needed protection, or evil, manipulative women--sometimes seductive and sometimes old and haggard--in the myths we know today. This led me to assume that those once powerful guardians of the forest were turned into seductive man-eaters who lived in trees. That the once nurturing healers were turned into haggard old witches who mixed potions and created spells to kill crops.

 


So I compiled a list of these fabulous female folkloric monsters and set to finding out their pre-patriarchal roots. The first book in the Wild Women series, Freyja's Daughter, shows these female monsters learning about themselves what I'd learned about them--that they weren't monsters at all. This, of course, birthed a whole series of books about these folkloric women coming together from all over the world and changing their circumstances.

Just talking about the series excites me, stokes my fire to work toward a world of equality. I hope it does the same for my readers.

Because as far as I'm concerned, a level playing field benefits everyone.      
 

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Month of (Book) Love

Happy February--the month of love!

And what better way to celebrate love than to talk about book love? Either a book you're writing or one you're reading.



I've just started a rewrite for Deadly Splendor, but recently put the polishing touches on Freyja's Daughter, so let's talk about that one.

Freyja's Daughter is about a huldra, Faline, who's reality is flipped upside down when her sister is abducted by her protectors. To get her sister back, Faline seeks the help of her ex-fling, Officer Garcia, and her mortal enemies--the succubae, mermaids, rusalki, and harpies.  

You can browse through my Freyja's Daughter Pinterest board here.

How about you? Experiencing any book love this month?