Feminism, Initials, JK Rowling, and Me

533642_552932778076373_588861722_nA writer friend posted this picture on Facebook this morning and invited my comment. You really don’t do that unless you mean it. I don’t like to get political and I don’t really like the term “feminism.” I’ve always joked that women who seek to be equal to men are underachievers.

The fact of the matter is that I strongly believe that each gender has its strengths and both male and female should support and encourage each other. The traditionally “male” role complements the traditionally “female” role and one is neither superior nor inferior to the other. I also believe that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to and my gender has less to do with it than my determination and skill.

I believe that the term “feminism” is insulting to me. It implies that women cannot gain true equality to men without the help of enlightened men making adjustments and setting the bar lower so we poor, weak creatures can reach it. That’s not equality. It’s condescension.

Growing up in a home with three brothers and eight male cousins, there was very little doll-playing going on. When playing with my brothers, I crawled on my belly taking the beaches of Normandy with my stick rifle across my forearms along with everyone else. The taunt of “You can’t because you’re a girl” always resulted in “Watch me!” followed by my doing just what their friends said I couldn’t.

Of course my accomplishments were declared a fluke and I was shoved aside and told to go play with dolls while they went off to do “important” boy things.

My mother once told me that boys didn’t like when girls beat them, so I needed to let the boys win.

Screw that!

No power in the verseWhy should I hide who I am or pretend to be less than I am to make someone else feel better about themselves? By the same token, why should I expect someone else to lower the bar so I can reach it. If I want it badly enough, ‘no power in the ‘verse can stop me’ regardless of how high it sits.

I’ve been called a “femi-nazi” an “Amazon” and several obscenities that my brothers would have decked them for using. I knew going in what I was in-for by working in a male-dominated industry. Some men are intimidated by women and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better.

Buffy_CheerleaderI’ve got news for you, some women are intimidated by strong women who don’t fit into the typical cheerleader mold and feel the need to denigrate them just to make themselves feel better, too.

I don’t feel that’s an issue that falls under feminism. That’s an issue that falls under some-people-who-have-a-sense-of-power-over-others-fear-those-who-will-not-fall-in-line-with-their-world-view. That’s not being a feminist. That’s being a free-thinking, intelligent human being. If there is an obstacle in the way of my goals, I will overcome it on my own, thanks. I don’t need a group of condescending men and women in power legislating it away for me.

Whether we like it or not, prejudice against women writers is alive and well. I see it with SF more so than with Fantasy, mostly because I’m most active in that genre. The stereotype of the SF fan being primarily male, between the ages of 13 and 30, socially awkward, living in his parents’ basement is still strong, but oh-so-outdated.

Recent scandals of sexual bias and harassment have rocked the SFWA. Women in the genre are marginalized and often vilified. Unless one is writing SF Erotica or SFR, having a feminine name on the cover does reduce sales.

When it first came out in my town that I’m a novelist, the local editor/owner for the free newspaper asked if I wrote about “trips to the grocery store.”

upwords-board-730x485Rather than start beating my chest and crying over the unfairness of it, I considered the source. He’s a condescending blowhard with few friends in town who is still angry over the fact that I beat him like a red-headed step child the one and only time he challenged me to a game of “Upwords.” I tried to warn him that I play cutthroat Scrabble and tend to make my opponents cry, but he just had to challenge me.

In case you’re wondering, I looked at him in disgust, told him to stop being an ass and said I was writing a SF series filled with political intrigue following a military officer wanted for treason while she tries to find her kidnapped father, clear her name, and prevent an assassination plot that will plunge the galaxy into civil war. I doubted she had much time for grocery shopping.

Women and girls are less likely to care about the gender of the author. Men and boys have preconceived ideas of what women write. It may not be right, but the fact remains that it *IS*.

We can stubbornly stick our given names on the covers of our books and whine about pathetic sales and wonder why men don’t buy them. We can also suffer the ridicule of males threatened by intelligent women while we’re tilting windmills over it.

ChewieMen in power are like wookiees, they don’t like to lose and tend to get upset and pull people’s arms out of their sockets. Let’s face it, it’s not about prejudice as much as it is about a group of people in power over an industry who are loathe to relinquish said power.

For now, that is the nature of the industry. Ideas do not change overnight. In the decades that I’ve been writing, I’ve seen many, many changes within society and within the industry. When I first began, the strong, kick butt heroine was anathema and completely unheard of. She was the kiss of death for a manuscript.

Xena Thanks to Xena, Buffy, and Charmed, or rather Sam Raimi, Joss Whedon, and Aaron Spelling, the female action hero is no longer a thing of the past, although I doubt without the male of the species putting his weight behind the notion, women writing and producing these characters would ever have gotten past the elevator pitch. Right or wrong, it’s the nature of the industry.charmed_season_1_promo-2

Feminist? Perhaps. Capitalistic? Certainly. I’d be willing to bet that these men who produced these cutting edge women saw the potential fan-base for strong female characters in the rising numbers of young men of the 90′s having grown up in single parent households and tended to view their mother as provider and protector.

I’m jaded enough to attribute their choices to dollar signs rather than any sense of social justice or feminist responsibility.

The gatekeepers of the industry can’t argue with sales. While the traditional SF/F publishers are less inclined to give shelf space to women writing in the genre, it *is* a business and sales are the bottom line. When the sales of female authors match or outstrip the male of the species, you’ll see change. To first get those sales at this point in time, one must play the game.

For the time being, women using initials or a male pseudonym in order to be taken seriously in a male-dominated genre is simply the way things are done. In time, with networking, the rise of self and indie publishers more inclined to take a chance on women writers, that will change.

Our daughters and granddaughters will thank our initialed nom de plumes for paving the way for them to use their own names on their own SF/F covers.

Book Review: BENEATH THE STARRY SKY by Jessica E. Subject

From the start, Jessica E. Subject’s BENEATH THE STARRY SKY had me hooked. I loved the way these two damaged people, Tamara and Josh, were brought together for what was supposed to be one night of guilt-free pleasure and ended up finding the acceptance they were both looking for.

The characters were well-rounded with all the little faults and foibles of people we all know. By the time they met, I was already rooting for them to find each other. The love scenes were very hot. They were also poignant, fun and funny. It was a quick read and I was sorry to reach the last page. I would love to know what happened between these two after the sun came up.

reading at the beach

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it.

Last time I gave you the list of books on my Kindle for Summer Reading, this time, I give you books I’ve read and HIGHLY recommend. These are some of my favorite new releases and some old favorites I go back to again and again.

Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

KEIR by Pippa Jay (SFR)

THE LANCASTER RULE by TK Toppin (SFR)

AMBASADORA by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)

A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss  (R)
(or SHANNA if you prefer something more tropical and summery)

HONOR’S SPLENDOR by Julie Garwood (R)
(really anything by Julie Garwood to be honest. LOVE HER!!)

A KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR by Jude Deveraux (R)
(Any Jude Deveraux book, really)

THE STAINLESS STEEL RAT by Harry Harrison (SF)

HITCHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY by Douglas Adams (SF)

THE GIRLS FROM ALCYONE by Cary Caffrey (SF)

THE CRYSTAL CAVE by Mary Stewart (F)

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming (M)

THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler (M)

STAR SPANGLED MURDER by Leslie Meier (M)

DEATH ON DEMAND  by Carolyn Hart (M)

A NEW LEASH ON DEATH by Susan Conant (M)

REST YOU MERRY by Charlotte MacLeod (M)

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?

reading at the beach

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it. I have to admit that all of the books on my TBR list are by authors I’m acquainted with and owe reviews to. Some of them are so talented they make me want to give up writing altogether!

Here are only some of the books I haven’t read or finished yet, but are on my list of summer reading. It is an incomplete list, but these are the books I hope to have finished before Labor Day. I am looking forward to reading every one of them. Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

THE WHISPERING TOMBS:  A Quality Times Novella by Gayle Ramage (SF-humor)
In ‘The Whispering Tombs’, Quality and Tim are residing at the luxurious Baala Haven Resort, on an unpronounceable planet, when they’re invited on a quest to find ancient hidden treasure by a wealthy alien archaeologist. Reaching the caves of Azrokaran, however, loyalties are tested to the very limits as those within the group reveal their true colours. 

EVEN VILLAINS FALL IN LOVE by Liana Brooks (SFR)
A super villain at the top of his game must choose between the world he wants and the woman he loves. 

PARADIGM SHIFT by Misa Buckley (SFR)
Observatory tour guide Megan Shaw has always had stars in her eyes, so when she all but runs down the otherworldly Raul, she barely blinks. It doesn’t hurt that Raul is hot – whether in his human form or his natural one – and that there’s an immediate mutual attraction. But Raul is on the run from his alien overlords and soon Megan finds herself fighting against a foothold situation with nothing more than a couple of cattle prods and Muse for soundtrack. However Earth is not the only planet at risk and with his species desperate to escape generations of oppression, will Raul’s loyalties shift as easily as his physical appearance?

KICKING ASHE by Pauline Baird Jones (SFR)
Seems Time has a new hobby: kicking Ashe (and shame on It for doing it when she’s down). 

Not that she plans to stay down. Or give up the guy.

DEAD MAN’S FORGE AND OTHER ADVENTURES by TM Hunter (SF)
(the entire Aston West series actually)
Everybody’s favorite Space Pirate.

ALONE ON THE EDGE by Patrick Stutzman (SF)
After accepting a job as a robotic engineer that sends her to a mining station at the edge of explored space, Anna Foster finds that her position is not what she expects and must adjust to life as the only living being aboard, struggling to keep her humanity while a relentless computer lords over her existence. But, the discovery of a secret could prove to be the key to her freedom.

No LimitsNO LIMITS by Jenna McCormick (SFR-E)
All Genevieve Luzon wants is to be loved by one man, a seemingly impossible task in New York City – though she can buy sex as easily as she can order pizza on a Friday night. Needing a job and sick of being alone, Gen enlists as a pleasure companion at a premium escort service…During Gen’s first training session, she meets Rhys. He is an empath, a man with the extraordinary ability to fulfil her most secret desires. His dangerous mission might claim his life, but Gen is not about to let something she’s wanted for so long get away now that she knows how good it feels…
You can read all about it here in an earlier post when Jenna was my guest!
http://jccassels.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/jenna-mccormick-no-limits-guest-blogger/

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)
(Prequel to Ambasadora)
David Anlow, a former captain who was betrayed by both the fleet and his ex-lover, now spends his lonely days shuttling around a group of scientists for hire.
Boston Maribu, Mari to her friends, is one of his passengers, a young botanist who is as beautiful as she is naïve and innocent. 
When Mari asks David to teach her about more than just piloting the Bard, nights on their ship heat up and their feelings for each other mature into a relationship neither expects. But a suspicious new client shows up with wicked plans for Mari, and the soldier inside David comes alive, ready to fight for the young woman who stole his heart.

THE DEVIL AND PRESTON BLACK by Jason Jack Miller
(not sure how to categorize this one, it’s billed as Appalachian Gothic)
Preston Black has a nasty habit of falling in love with the wrong type of woman. But girls who don’t play nice are the least of his problems. This handsome bar band guitarist isn’t washed-up, but he’s about to be. He’s broke, he’s tired of playing covers and he’s obsessed with the Curse of 27.
He’s about to add ‘deal with the devil’ to his list.
Lucky for Preston, he has help. Like the angelic beauty who picks him up when he’s down. And the university professor who helps him sort through old Appalachian hexes and curses to find the song that may be his only shot at redemption. And when things get real bad, he has the ghost of John Lennon to remind him that “nothing is real.”

***

Next week, I’ll put together a list of books I’ve already read and highly recommend!

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?

Book Review – Cairo Nights by Sandra Sookoo

With a list of books to read as long as my arm, and an editor squawking for me to write, the last thing I needed to do was start reading a new release. Naturally, that’s exactly what I did when I needed a quiet distraction from a weekend fraught with illness and high emotion. Fortunately for me, Sandra Sookoo just released an Historical Erotic Romance titled Cairo Nights. (By just, I mean it released TODAY!!)

I enjoyed striding through the gritty, dusty back alleys of nineteenth century Cairo with Joy Debinham, a headstrong, completely unconventional heroine with attitudes firmly rooted in the twenty-first century. I bought into Joy’s mission to save the children of Cairo from disease, especially once I learned what motivated her to do so. She is a driven, determined heroine to whom men are an afterthought – until she meets brash American, Quinn Handry.

Quinn is an opportunist looking for an opportunity to exploit, but he hasn’t been having much luck at it. I liked that Quinn is an imperfect hero, complete with spectacles and broken nose. He came to Cairo looking for antiquities to broker, which automatically sets him at odds with Joy who believes that Egypt’s treasures belong in Egypt. The two quickly succumb to their mutual attraction and are willing to flout convention to be together.

This book made for a quick read and a fun escape to the sultry heat of nineteenth century Egypt, complete with some pretty sizzling scenes during those Cairo Nights. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down.

For more information on Sandra Sookoo or Cairo Nights, check out these links:

Cairo Nights

 
http://www.sandrasookoo.com/
http://sandrasookoo.wordpress.com