Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why “How I Met Your Mother” is One of the Best Romances on Television

You know what the most romantic love story of all time is? The one where a man tells the story of how he fell in love.

How I Met Your Mother is a television show. It is a comedy. And yet, it is one of the most romantic things I’ve ever seen–for so many reasons. For nine seasons we’ve heard a man tell his children the hilarious, touching, and life changing story of how he met (and fell in love) with their mother. It involves all the friendships and failures that brought him to that moment. The moment that changes everything.

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I write romance for a living and I am constantly struck, as I’ve watched this show over the years, how touching and eloquent it could be about life and love. I appreciate the different storytelling devices the writers use (my favorite is starting the show at the end, then going back and telling us how it happened).

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I also love the recurring themes: the goat, the slap bet, the Bro code… the list goes on. It creates a sense of anticipation and satisfaction, yet does it subtly and with very little effort. It is almost built into the fabric of the show itself.

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I relate to this show for so many reasons. I’m approximately the same age as the characters, I went to college at the same time, had similar experiences, and met similar people. I fell in love with my husband in college and our best friend is still our best friend. (Sometimes seeing Mark and Nate together is so eerily similar to Ted and Marshall it scares me). We’ve been through the same heartbreaks, career changes, pregnancies, and weddings.

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I sometimes feel like this show is my own life.

But it’s more than that. Sure the ’90’s references, flashbacks, and Legend-wait for it!-dary exploits are all oddly familiar, but there is more to the show than references and cultural symbolism. It is about life and relationships. The kind of stuff that is universal.

  • The friend who you are bonded to for life because of an experience words will never be able to adequately explain. The “you had to be there” moment.
  • The lover who somehow becomes your best friend.
  • The love you feel for your children.
  • The love you feel for your significant other.

These types of love aren’t unique to a specific person. Our individual experiences, our ups and downs, those are unique. But the kind of love is universal. Anyone can have that friend or lover.

The story of falling in love is timeless. They stick with us because it is the feeling, not the context, that matters. I know by heart the story of my Mimi and Papa meeting and falling in love. I will always remember my dad talking about the day he met my mom (they were in high school and she was wearing “shiny tights”). I tell the story of the day I met Nate over and over. Sure we talk about the clothes and friends and food, but it’s how they made us feel: like we weren’t alone, how our hearts began racing, how everything about our lives changed that day. It is one of those experiences we all want to have.

And that is why, as I watch these last episodes of How I Met Your Mother, I am struck so hard by how romantic this show is. We were promised in the first episode the story of how Ted met his wife. The writers have diligently worked hard to fulfill that promise. This season they have wrapped up nearly every story line, question, and character they introduced. As a writer, I am in awe of what they have accomplished. And on television? It is almost never done. The fulfillment of the promise of seeing Ted meet and fall in love is one of the most satisfying love stories I’ve ever read or watched. It will go down in my personal history of one of my all time favorites.

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Copious tissues will be needed to get me through this last episode. I hope that it is everything I am wishing for in a finale. (I’m a little worried by rumors I’ve heard about the story line in this last episode, and yet I feel like even if they are true, I will still love the way they do it.)

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Thank you Carter Bays and Craig Thomas for an amazing show, and thanks to all the actors and actresses who brought these characters to life. You’ve made a permanent mark on my heart. I don’t know what I’m going to do without this show!

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The slap bet is one of my favorite recurring themes on the show. I would get so excited when I knew a Slaptastic episode was coming, I’d actually start vibrating. The anticipation of how and when it was going to go down was so fun! Plus, I think the magical combination of Marshall’s stoic commitment and that secret (not-so-secret) belief we all have that Barney kind of needs these slaps, made it even more hilarious than it already was.

Then there’s the goat, the doppelgangers, Barney’s theories…. the list is so long! What were some of your favorites to look forward to each week?

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Sharing is Caring Part 2: Websites I Follow

Today I want to share with all of you some of the amazing sites I’ve stumbled onto lately. Because sharing is caring.

1) One of my goals this year was to spearhead some sort of positive movement online, and “Operation Nice” to combat all the negative (see AL Parks recent post on negativity and author branding). As I looked more into the idea I discovered someone else was already doing it. Not only were the doing it, they were kicking ass as it. At first I was a little sad that I hadn’t done it first…but then I was excited because Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls is so much more than I could have done on my own. She has the resources, the support, and the celebrity to help make this everything it needs to be.

I follow their Facebook page and smile every time the page comes up in my feed. Every post contains a celebration of women and girls doing amazing things in our world. They promote positive behavior and give prompts for positive posts on social media. Not only that, but they create their own original content, series, and videos. Please, please check out Smart Girls! It rocks, I promise you!

2) About the same time I found Smart Girls, I found A Mighty Girl. This website is focused on books for younger girls, but it posts and promotes topics of all kinds related to women and girls. The books they sell on their website all contain female protagonists and empowering and educational stories about girls and women. It is another incredibly positive and enjoyable page to follow.

3) And don’t forget about the Kindness movement!

4) Another site I’m excited to tell you about is one I am part of. Raising Awareness of Women in Writing (RAWW) is off the ground! We share stories and news relating to writing, publishing, and female characters in fiction, plus we have original content coming later this year. Our goal is to be a resource for information and a place for people to connect and interact.

5) I really Enjoy the A.V. Club and all their articles. It covers all the media from books to movies to tv shows. Lots of thoughtful content on what going on in the media, including women’s issues.

6) VlogBrothers. I’m kind of a nut for the entire Nerd Fighter, DFTBA, Crash Course, Mental Floss, Art Project, etc, etc, etc, empire brother John and Hank Green have created. It is all over YouTube, Tumblr, and Twitter and almost all of it focuses on being nice to each other, sharing information, growing knowledge, and helping those in need. It is an awesome community (haha, Don’t Forget To Be Awesome) and I love watching all of their videos.

So, these are some of the people and blogs I follow for news, inspiration, and general entertainment. I hope you find something new to enjoy and please feel free to suggest other for us to try!

Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter 3 of The Unspoken Game

Welcome to Flash Fiction Friday! This week I’m sharing Chapter 3 of The Unspoken Game: The Mummy Maneuver (out this May). I don’t think anyone has read this chapter yet (except the Sexy Editor). Not even my CP’s. So this week is pretty special.

If you need to play catch-up, you can read Chapter One here, and Chapter Two here.

And then Tuesday, April 8th I’ll be participating in the First Kiss Blog Hop with a piece of Flash Fiction inspired by the viral video of strangers kissing on camera! All I can say right now is my piece includes an adorable geeky-type guy (or is he?!) and a reluctant lady. And a kiss, of course!

But for now, here is this Friday’s Flash Fiction. Enjoy!

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Chapter 3

Antonia was relieved to see the familiar Seleron Technology logo on the side of the private jet.  In the back of her mind there was still a little lingering doubt she’d just agreed to follow a complete stranger to her death.

The jet was top of the line.  Leather seating that felt like butter beneath her fingertips, dark wood-grain accents, and soft lighting that was soothing to the eyes.  She could get used to traveling in private jets.

“Can I get you a drink?” the flight attendant asked.  He was incredibly short compared to Donovan and Scott, who turned out to be nearly as tall and fit as Donovan.  Maybe there was a corporate policy at Seleron Technology that required all men to be huge?

Antonia wasn’t exactly short herself.  Five-foot eight wasn’t tall, but it was above average.  Maybe she’d fit right in.  “Just a water for me, thanks.”

“Sparkling?”

“Sure…” she drawled.  She didn’t really care if came from a spring, carbonated, or distilled from the air.  She just wanted a glass of water.

“And for you Mr. Donovan?”

Antonia’s eyebrows shot up.  Mister?

“A water for me, as well.  Thank you, Hank.”

Hank smiled and left to get their drinks.

“So…” Antonia began.  “Donovan is your last name?”

His expression didn’t change in the slightest.  “Yes, it is.”

The man could be surprisingly difficult when he wanted to be.  “So what’s your first name?  You introduced yourself as Donovan, I just assumed it was your first name.”

This time he smiled behind his black sunglasses.  “You know what they say about assuming.”

Antonia sighed.  “Fine, Donovan.  I take back my offer.  It’s back to Dr. Warren for you.”

This time it was Donovan’s eyebrows that shot up with surprise.  He didn’t seem to like that turn of events very much, which was fascinating to Antonia.

“No one calls me by my first name,” he finally said.  He sounded stunned, like he couldn’t believe he was telling her this.

And that made Antonia bizarrely thrilled.  “Why is that?  Is it something embarrassingly horrible?”

Donovan chuckled.  “No, actually, it’s not.”

“You aren’t named Fitzpatrick or Himey or something?” she was playing with him now.

“Hey,” he scoffed.  “What’s wrong with Fitzpatrick?  That sounds distinguished to me.”

“Fitzpatrick Donovan?  Talk about a mouthful…”

He grinned, showing all of his perfect white teeth.  “You do have a point.”

Antonia wished she could see his eyes and gauge what he was thinking better.  As it was, she was staring a set jaw and a pair of shiny black lenses.  He was impossible to read like that.

“What’s with the glasses, Donovan?  You wear them all the time.  Can you see through those things?”

He nodded, and adjusted in his seat, sitting forward to reach across the little table separating them, taking off the glasses and handing them to her.  “Take a peek.”

He was actually offering his sacred glasses.  Antonia had a feeling it wasn’t something he did every day.  She hesitated at first, taking a moment to look at his eyes one more time.  He looked wary despite the smile on his face.  “Alright.”  She took the glasses and slid them on her face.  “They’re a computer!”

“Basically.  I can do just about anything with these babies.”

Running down the side of each lens was a stream of data.  It took her a moment to adjust to what she was seeing, but only a moment.  Down one side seemed to be coded updates, and down the other was data for Simon’s case.  “How do you control it?”

“Eye movement, mostly.  And this baby.”  He held up the watch on his wrist.  Upon closer inspection Antonia realized it was also a computer.

“It’s like I’m wearing glasses, not sunglasses.”  Everything around her was as clear as day, not shaded like she expected.

“The lenses always look black on the outside, but inside adjusts based on the lighting of the room.”

“Amazing, can I get a pair?” she asked, reluctantly sliding the glasses back off.

“Negotiate it into your next contract.”

Next?  Was there something she needed to know?  But before she could ask, they were interrupted.

“Donovan,” Scott called as he climbed inside.  “Here are the updates you asked for from HQ.”  He handed Donovan a black laptop.

“How are things coming with the others?”

Scott smiled tightly, “Sparks has agreed to meet you in Atlanta and we’re still working on Patterson, but there’s a complication with Reynolds.”

“Complication?” Donovan asked as he opened the laptop.  “What kind of complication?”

“She’s in jail.”

Donovan groaned.  “Again?  I told Jones to keep her out of trouble for forty-eight hours.”

Scott smiled and crossed his arms, easing himself into a wide stance.  “In his defense, I don’t think it was Jones’s fault.”

“I’m sure,” Donovan agreed under his breath.  “Change of plans, then.  We’re headed to Vegas.”

“You got it, boss.”  Scott headed directly for the cockpit.

“Vegas?  Shouldn’t we getting to Atlanta as fast as possible?”  She didn’t like this turn of events one little bit.

“It will be a quick detour, besides,” he said turning the laptop toward Antonia.  “You have plenty of work to do.”

On the screen was a 3D scan of Simon’s lab.

“As you can see we’ve scanned everything.  There’s also enhanced security footage and photographs of any evidence our team was able to find.”

Antonia studied the screen intently.  She worked with 3D scanning all the time.  It was common to scan archaeological sites and digs, even artifacts.  She knew the software in front of her well, but it was like it was juiced up on crack.  “Let me guess, this is the Super-Seleron version of 3D scanning software.”

“You better believe it,” Donovan replied.  “It’s like you’re already in Atlanta.  I think you’ll find this is just as useful as being in the lab yourself.  Besides, my team is tracking down leads right now.  Hopefully they’ll find Simon before we get there and all of this will turn out to be a fun plane ride for you.”

Somehow, Antonia doubted that very much.

“Who’s Sparks?”

“An old friend with as many—if not more—interesting connections to unscrupulous people as you.”

He was probably slimy and completely untrustworthy.

“And this Reynolds we’re going all the way to Vegas for?”

“She’s… complicated.  But her skills will be useful to us.  Trust me.”

Interesting choice of words coming from a man she’d known for a couple of hours and hid behind computerized glasses.

During the flight Antonia combed through the data from the lab.  She was so focused on the images in front of her she felt like she was really there in the lab.  It was hard to believe Simon felt scanning this mummy was important enough to risk so much.  It was a mummy.  A person dead and gone for thousands of years.

She was often in the minority when it came to her opinions on the past.  She wasn’t a “put in a museum” kind of girl.  The past was a tool for the present and a way to plan for the future.  It was incredibly important, but it had a time and place in modern society.

Yeah, her mother hadn’t agreed with her on that point, either.

She moved away from the scans of the lab and started pouring through the security footage.  It was hard to watch.  Seeing Simon dragged off, limp and drugged, was painful.  The question that kept bugging Antonia was why.  If they were after the mummy, why did they take Simon?  Or were they really after Simon and using the mummy as cover?

“We’re getting ready to land,” Donovan said quietly.

“Good,” Antonia replied.  The sooner they got Miss Reynolds, the sooner they could move on.

“Finding anything useful?”

Antonia took a deep breath and sat back and away from the computer for the first time in well over an hour.  She rubbed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.  “I’m confused.  Why do you think they took both Simon and the mummy?  It seems like if they were after the mummy they wouldn’t need or want Simon around to complicate matters.”

“That’s an interesting point.”

“I mean, the whole history surrounding this particular mummy is complicated at best.  It’s now been stolen three times and because of its bizarre history.”  She sat up and ran the security footage again.  “They took the everything with them, Donovan.”

“What’s your point?”

She had his attention now.  “Why? What are they doing that requires Simon and his equipment? They aren’t just taking it to sell it. Something else is going on here.”

Donovan rubbed his jaw thoughtfully.  “You don’t think they’ve moved it very far from the lab, do you?”

“I think it’s somewhere very close by.” The thieves had an objective–and it wasn’t fleeing the country.

While they prepared to land, Donovan sent off several emails to his team in Atlanta refocusing their search.  Antonia set aside the data she’d been asked to look at and instead started to think like a thief.

She scanned maps of the surrounding neighborhoods hoping something would jump out at her.  Then she looked at her contacts, hoping to see a connection.  The minute they landed she had her phone out making calls.  Even if they weren’t planning on selling the mummy, they had to prepared to take it.  There had to be a clue somewhere.

“Leave your things here, we’ll be back in less than an hour.”  Donovan grumbled.

“It’s going to take you more than an hour to spring this lady out of jail, Donovan.”

He smirked at her as he stood up.  “Maybe for you, but not for me.”

“Does everybody always do whatever you say?”  Antonia was starting to see a trend where Donovan was concerned.

“Pretty much.  I have that special way about me that makes people bend to my will.”  He was grinning the whole time he was talking.

“Be careful, those special qualities have a way of backfiring,” she warned.

He laughed out loud, but then suddenly stopped at the door and turned around, looking down at her.  He was impossibly tall.  “My name is Cole—but never call me that,” he warned, then turned and walked down the stairs.

Antonia was stunned.  Cole was the perfect name to go along with those black eyes and dark demeanor.

Read Chapter 4 now!

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Thanks for joining me for another Flash Fiction Friday! Stop by next week and see what I have in store! And don’t forget about the First Kiss (#firstkiss) Blog Hop the week of April 7th! Three blogs a day, all week long, posting fresh flash fiction for free!

Also, join us Tuesday, April 1st for Music as Muse!

First Draught 2

Facebook and I Are Getting a Divorce

Kids, I have something to tell you. After some careful consideration, Facebook and I have decided to get a divorce. We still have shared custody of the fans and pictures, but he has the status updates and I have to move out of the house.

It was a tough decision, but a few months back I saw the writing on the wall and started testing the waters with other platforms: Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google+… I’ve realized that Facebook and I were in a bad relationship and we really are better off apart.

You see, back when we first started dating, Facebook made me a lot of promises. I went in knowing Facebook had their own needs and I tried not to be naive but… I was hopeful and probably a bit doe-eyed. There was so much to love. So much potential. We could do so much together and there were some beautiful times we had together.

But then things changed. Facebook went public and needed to prove their financial stability to the world. I became less important. I tried to be understanding–Facebook had his own dreams and goals that were different from mine. But there came a point where I realized this was an abusive relationship.  And it was probably wrong (even if it felt right) to expect so much from a single platform. I put all my hopes in one place, and that is never a safe choice.

Facebook would ask me to do one thing, then get me in trouble for doing it a week later. He asked me to use him, then took everything I needed and asked me to pay him for it if I wanted it back. It wasn’t a healthy relationship.

There was so much potential. Facebook could have become the most important and successful business platform the world has ever seen. They were providing a connection between product and customer–between people looking for love, life, friendship, advice, and more–and decided that connection was only useful to them if they could put an actual price tag on it.

But my friendship and connection to all of you doesn’t have a price tag. I just wanted a way to connect and I thought that was what Facebook and I were all about. It’s not. So, I’m moving on to a place where I can feel safer–more loved and connected, not used and lied to. My fan page is still up on Facebook and I have no plans to ever change that (unless FB starts charging for that, too).  I have a personal page that you are more than welcome to friend request or “follow”. I only use it as an author and nothing else.

But I’m happy with the friendships I’ve found in other places. Instagram (though it is owned by FB) is such a great place. I’ve connected with so many readers and other writers. We share our journey every day.

Twitter is where I talk daily with my fellow writers. There is such a great and supportive community there. I spend most of my “working” hours connecting there.

Google+ has so much potential. I’ve already connected with tons of other writers and readers there. I’m excited to see where it goes.

Tumblr is also a fun place to be. I’m still figuring it out, but it’s strange and wonderful. I think I’m finding my footing there as well.

Like all bad divorces, Facebook and I breaking up has hurt. But in the end, it has changed me for the better. As I’ve moved on to other platforms I’ve been forced to reevaluate my goals and connections, rethink where I’m going over the next year and how I want to get there. I think, in the end, Facebook’s decision to become a self-centered, bullying, asshat, has made me a better business owner. This blog, for instance, is now the center of everything.

And I think that is the way it should be. Most businesses are reverting back to “Pre-Facebook” business standards. Blogs are back and so are RSS feeds. Waaaay back in the day, that is how I used to keep up with the personalities and businesses I enjoyed following. If you are interested, look into an RSS feed reader to keep up to date with the blogs you like to follow (Feedly is the one I’m using at the moment and it great on tablets and phones), that way you aren’t tied to Facebook, Twitter, or anything else to find out what people are up to (or an annoying daily email you more than likely won’t look at). Instead, open your feed and see what you want.

Facebook decided it didn’t want to capitalize on the good things it was doing. Instead it has flushed them all away and replaced them with a confusing maze of rules, contradictions, and meanness. Maybe it is better that we’re going back to the way things used to be. I don’t know… either way, change is happening whether we like it or not. And I’m moving and changing along with it.

Thanks for the happy memories, Facebook. I’ll still be around, I just can’t love you like I used to.

The Writing Process Blog Hop of 2014

I’ve been tagged by the amazing Alexandra Haughton, writing fiend and blogger extraordinaire (you should follow her blog), to tell you about my writing process. It is a blog hop and many ladies have already come before me, it is kind of an adult version of a chain letter. There are four questions, I answer them. It is pretty simple and yet not…because talking about yourself is never as fun as it sounds!

So, for better or worse, here I go!

What am I working on right now?

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Meow. Hehehehe. Ok, sometimes I am drunk college kid at heart.

Right now I’ve got the final words going into the first draft of my new action/adventure series, The Unspoken Game (see below). It will be a double release in May as a short story (The Mummy Maneuver) and short full-length novel (Art of Deception). (There may possibly be a spin-off super steamy romance serial from this as well).

I’m about to tackle the second draft on a fun, sexy short story set in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is part of a four-author anthology out this November with the lovely and brilliant Audra North, Julia Kelly, and Alexandra Haughton. It’s fun because the stories all inter-connect. All the ladies are members of the same writing group on a retreat. All the guys (for the most part) are former frat brothers on a ski trip. There are sexy times and overlapping situations. I love it!

Also on the burners: drafting the plot for book three of the Storm Inside series—Greg Hamilton falls in love. It is messy and fun. Our smart-mouthed, rough around the edges, yet lovable Greg falls hard and it has been so much fun writing the woman who brings him down!

I’m writing my kids some children’s books.

And I’m writing flash fiction for a First Kiss blog hop happening in just a couple of weeks! So stay tuned for that. There are a lot of authors participating and it should be a blast to read all these stories!

There is also my sort-of writerly side jobs of First Draft and RAWWcon. You can read about them here. We also do silly things on video chat from time to time.

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How does my work differ from others in the genre?

I’ve been told my sex scenes make the reader feel like they’re actually having the sex. I’ve also been told I write emotion-driven characters. What this means to me is that my work is a little different from others in any genre I’m writing in because I don’t focus on the action or the description, I don’t even focus on the narration. I focus on the character. What are they feeling and why are they feeling it? My attempt in every book is to make the reader feel like they are becoming the character I write because to me, that is the very definition of being swept away by a story.

Do I actually accomplish this? I have no idea. I do know this: I’m not a rule follower. I use anatomically correct language, I hate euphemisms (I have a whole detailed philosophy on how this is part of female oppression), I swear a lot, and I write the plot in whatever way feels correct for telling my characters stories. Now, let me qualify this by also saying I’m a firm believer in knowing the rules before you break them. I don’t break the rules because I’m a sullen teenager or because I don’t know them. I break them carefully with conscious thought to what I am doing. I’m sure sometimes I will fail miserably (and that’s ok). Sometimes I’m a good little writer and follow all the rules. But I really, really like pushing myself and seeing what happens when I bend and break the norms.

Also, I write heroes who respect women—even the alpha dominant “all that is man” types respect their women. I honestly believe the truest show of strength in a man is that he is never, ever intimated by anyone—especially a sexy, confident, brilliant woman who knocks his socks off and brings him to his knees. And by that token, my women are dynamic, educated, flawed, confident, and often surprised by the love that happens into their lives.

Why do I write what I do?

That’s an interesting question because I’m not writing what I expected to, and I hear that from a lot of other writers. I’m not a huge romance fan. Now, don’t get me wrong—I love romance. I read the shit out of it, but I’m not a voracious romance reader. If someone were to ask me what I read, you’d probably hear romance third or fifth down on the list. Partially because I am super picky reader (in general, any genre) and I DNF any book that starts off with flat characters, too many cliches, or weak, mindless females. There are amazing, amazing books in romance, but there are a lot of bad romances and I was a victim, for a long time, of only finding the bad ones.

Let me back this up for a minute and explain how I got here. I am an anthropologist with a specialty in historic archaeology and an emphasis in GIS mapping. I’m a tech geek with a love of history and an unhealthy fascination with culture and how people work. I ate up every single aspect of my career of choice from cultural studies, to the human body and osteology, to linguistics, to digging in the dirt. It’s my shit.

But life happens.

I got married and had kids. I went from digs on tropical islands with plans to go spelunking and wreck diving, to sitting in front of a computer and changing diapers. I, quite literally, looked up one day and wondered how I got there.

Seriously—not just where was I, but who was I? It felt like my own skin didn’t fit right. The house with the big yard in suburbia was nice…but it wasn’t me.

So I hit the bit 3-0, had my second (and last baby) a week later, and decided if I didn’t grab my life by the horns I was going to miss it. I realized that while I loved my career, what I really wanted to do was finally take all those notebooks, Word files, and notes hidden away all over my house and be the writer I always expected I’d be one day. It was now or never.

I started writing a wildly complex utopian sci-fi that to this day is unfinished (it is called The Butterfly Rebellion and you will hear about it a lot if you follow me). It was too much to start out with, so I dropped back and wanted write about people. Something fun. I picked a romance, gave myself a three-week deadline to finish a first draft, and tried to write the crap out of it.

I finished it on my self-imposed deadline, but something else happened along the way. That ‘light, quick romance’ became so much more. It became a story of two people finding themselves, realizing their dreams, and falling in love—not to save each other, but because that is what happens when the right two people meet.

I was hooked.

That project went in the drawer, but a friend (LeElla!) was screaming at me to keep writing. She sent me JR Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood, An Insiders Guide with a chapter on helping writers get started. Ward suggested taking a peek at Harlequin because they acquire a lot a of writers quickly and it was a good way to get started in the industry with a few pennies in your pocket. I checked the website and at the top was a banner with SYTYCW 2012. I entered on a whim and finaled (to my complete shock). I was convinced everyone would laugh at me. I knew everyone would think the idea I could be a writer was a joke.

Except that wasn’t what happened. Nope. Instead of laughing or crickets, I got encouragement. From everyone. I cried. A lot. And I kept writing. I took my first romance out of the drawer and rewrote it from the ground up. It became The Storm Inside (my first full-length novel). I’m currently rewriting that SYTYCW piece—that’s The Unspoken Game.

I love writing romance because I finally realized it isn’t just about two silly people falling in love. Romance is a love story, but it is really about life. It is about women—something I am passionate about—and their amazing journey through childhood, motherhood, friends, lovers, and life. I so get this.

But I’m also back to my roots writing action/adventure, sci-fi, and suspense. I love that we aren’t locked into any one thing—we can write what we want.

How does my writing process work?

When I was younger (and especially in college) I tended to stay up all night writing. This all changed when I was writing my thesis in grad school. I started getting up at 5am, sitting down at my desk with the same five songs on repeat (Eye of the Tiger—you’re up!) and writing for two hours before I had to get to the lab for work. That was when I started drinking coffee. I still pretty much do this.

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I wake up, pull my laptop off my nightstand, and get at it.

But I’m a mom now…so there is a lot of wiggle room in my process (read: I write what I can, when I can.) Some mornings I write two thousand words before I’m invaded (and I have to start in on the lunches and cereals). Other mornings I’m lucky if I get through my Twitter feed.

While the kids are in school I write like my pants are on fire (this is a problem sometimes since I put too much pressure on myself to perform). I learn my characters, plot and plan. I like to know the full arc and major turning points before I put a word down. The most important thing for me is the first line. For example:

“Jake slammed my back into the wall of the shack, the boards of the wall bending and flexing from the impact.”

If I don’t have a first line that pulls me right into my own story, I can’t start the book. This line from The Storm Inside still makes my brain go in a million different directions.

I write a fast first draft, then edit and revise forever–usually until the point someone named Julia Kelly needs to talk me out of lighting my manuscript on fire over an emergency late night video chat and virtual hair stroking.

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So… that was probably more than you were expecting. I think I over-wrote this baby by a few hundred words. I hope the pictures helped 🙂 I’m tagging the wonderfully talented AL Parks and Elizabeth Barone to pick up the reins next. If anyone else wants a tag, email me or comment below! I’ll update the post with links to the other hoppers as I find them.

Check out some of the other hoppers:

The_Storm_Inside_ebook_posting_online copy

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Sharing the Love: Apps and Stuff I Use to Make Stuff

I do not have secret artistic skills or technological smarts. Ok, I’m not a technological idiot, but the apps and programs I use make me look like I have a lot more going on upstairs than I actually do.  And since sharing is caring, I’m posting a list of nifty things I’ve been using lately.

For making ads, collages, memes, quotes, etc: PicCollage (on my Galaxy S phone and iPad)

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Example:

Music as Muse

Music as Muse 2

Facebook Banners and advertising squares: Canva.com

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Example:

Alexis Anne no sale

First Draught 2

Sale square

Photo editing (makes your pics look fantastic on Instagram…which also makes great advertising stuff): PicTapGo (I-devices only)

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Quotescover.com for making quotes from your work into art.

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What else?? Oh! SpringPad. It is a great place to store all your story ideas. I keep character sheets, notes, websites, pictures… all that good stuff in my SpringPad notebooks. It is kind of like a crazy look inside my head.

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Since most of these are apps for your phone or tablet, I include links. Just go search your app store. I did put a pic of their icons so you can see what they look like. Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!

Flash Fiction Friday: Chapter 2

Every Friday I’m posting free fiction! Last week was Chapter 1 of my new series: The Unspoken Game. Today, you get Chapter 2. Both are unedited works in progress, so please forgive my imperfections. Enjoy and please let me know what you think! If you missed Chapter 1 last week, get it here: TUG: Chapter 1.

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Chapter 2

Donovan followed Dr. Antonia Warren to her motel room and stood quietly by the door while she threw her things into a brown leather bag.  The room was a mess.  Her clothes were…everywhere.  Over the backs of chairs, across the table, on the bathroom counter, and a pile in the middle of the second bed.  She didn’t seem to care about any of it.  She just jammed item after item into the bag before suddenly stopping and looking down at herself.

“Wait, are we going to Atlanta?”  Her brown eyes were wide and she was standing completely still in the middle of the room.

Donovan nodded slowly, “Yes, we felt it would be logical to start at the beginning.”

“Crap I need to change,” she groaned and started pulling clothes back out of the bag.  “I just worked a full field day.  You and everyone else on earth are going to thank me.”

“I’ll wait here,” he said dryly.  It was kind of fun to watch her scrambling.  Dr. Warren was fun to watch period.  Her jeans were tight as was her t-shirt which he finally got a glimpse of when she took off her jacket.  The long brown ponytail that hung down her back wasn’t too bad either.

He’d definitely had worse assignments.

She cocked an eyebrow and rolled her eyes.  “I’ll be three minutes.”

The moment he heard the shower turn on, Donovan started to snoop.  Not because he was being rude, but because it was smart.  He needed to know everything he could about the sexy lady in the bathroom—especially the things he couldn’t find on paper.  He’d studied every piece of information on the good doctor on the way out, even the classified documents, but nothing was as informative as a peek through her belongings.

Five pairs of jeans, all the same brand.  Seven t-shirts, all the same brand.  Seven pairs of identical white socks.  A belt, a jacket, three gray sports bras, two lacey racer-back bra’s, and a pile of delicate, lacey underwear.  Odd that she had such standard clothes, but such beautiful underwear.

Donovan turned toward the bathroom counter.  Dr. Warren’s boots were carefully tucked under the open counter and Donovan realized it was the only pair of shoes he’d seen.  Her toiletries were all drug store travel sizes, face wash, toothbrush, the standard.  No makeup and only a couple of hair ties and bobby pins.  Talk about seriously low-maintenance.

Or someone with nothing tying her down.

The shower turned off and Donovan resumed his post at the door.  A minute later she emerged fully clothed in a fresh pair of identical jeans and a black t-shirt.  “Have fun snooping through my stuff?” she asked with a devilish grin.

“I did nothing of the sort,” he smiled back.  They both knew full well he’d snooped.

Dr. Warren sat down on the corner of the bed and pulled on her boots.  “Is there anything we know yet?”

“Dr. Green was abducted at seven fifty-two last night.  It was a team of four, all wearing ski masks.  They grabbed him and the mummy in less than three minutes, leaving in a white unmarked van—all very standard.”

“And how do you know all this?”

“Cameras,” he replied.

“Of course.  How silly of me.  You do realize most archaeology labs don’t have surveillance cameras, right?”  She stood up and resumed shoving things in her bag.

“Labs with extremely valuable mummies funded by a technology billionaire do.”

“Touché,” she said with a smile, zipping up her bag and throwing it over her shoulder.  At the table she shoved a laptop and cords into a red backpack and slung it over the other shoulder.  “Ready when you are.”

“Aren’t you taking your toiletries?”

She cocked her head to the side and smiled, “Don’t they have drug stores in Atlanta?”

“Touché,” he replied, pulling the door open.  She really was low maintenance.

Donovan’s rental car was a pretty standard blue Ford Focus.  The sight of it, however, made him cringe for one very important reason.

He popped the trunk and waited while Dr. Warren put her bag inside, then slid behind the steering wheel, crossing his fingers the stupid thing started.  It purred right to life.

“You ok over there, cowboy?  You look like you’re afraid the car is gonna bite you…”

“Forget about it,” he grumbled and backed out of the parking space.

If everything went well, when they landed in Atlanta there would be three more members of their team ready and waiting.  But that was only if things went well, which Donovan had a feeling wasn’t going to happen.  The crew The Old Man had selected was ragtag at best.  All of them were loose cannons and none of them were the type to follow orders.  Donovan hated when his orders weren’t followed.  Getting this foursome to work together was going to take finesse and a lot of patience on his part.

“There is a file,” he fumbled around with his bag behind the seat, finally feeling the right file slide between his fingers, “that should bring you up to speed on what we know.  When we get to the plane we will get an update.”

He drove in silence for several minutes while Dr. Warren flipped through the file.  “How well do you know Dr. Green?”

She sighed and slammed the folder shut, looking out the window.  “Simon is like family.  Well, more like an uncle you talk to a couple of times a year.”

“So you haven’t spoken in how long?”

She shrugged her shoulders, “Probably not in the last six months.”

“Since your fall-out with your mother?”

Donovan had seen a lot in his life and had the displeasure of relieving many people of their lives, but he had never felt fear like he did right then.  The anger rolling off the doctor was palpable.  “I don’t talk about my mother.  But yes.  Right around then.” She crossed her arms over her chest and slumped down in the seat.  “What do you know about my mother anyway?”

“She is the lead archaeologist for the Smithsonian and considered to be one of the preeminent minds in theories about early man.  And… she publicly called you a disgrace to the profession for agreeing to work with several black market dealers.”

There was a lot of silence after that.  Antonia sat there with her arms crossed not moving a muscle.  Donovan was actually afraid he might lose her before they even got to the airport, contract or no contract. “Dr. Warren, I didn’t mean to upset you.  I was merely talking about facts, not feelings.”

She sniffed and adjusted.  “You can call me Antonia.  Dr. Warren gets to be a mouthful.”

“And you think Antonia is better?”  Except that it was.  It was so much better.  Not only was it less formal, but it rolled off the tongue.  Antonia was soft and sexy and Donovan had a very good feeling that under the hardened exterior of Dr. Warren lay another layer.  The Antonia layer.

“Call me whatever you want, I don’t care.”

Oh, he was definitely calling her Antonia—there was no doubt about that.  “What I meant before was that I was simply going over the details, I wasn’t judging you.”

She smiled a little.  It was beautiful.  “You don’t think it’s immoral for an archaeologist to deal with the very people stealing our artifacts?  How very odd of you.”

He laughed.  She had a funny way with words.  “I think the black market isn’t going away, so if you feel there is merit there, then there must be something to it.”

“You trust someone you barely know?”

“I have good instincts,” he replied a split second before the engine sputtered and died.

He had good instincts for people… not so much for cars.

“You have got to be kidding me,” he swore under his breath.

“Pull over.”

“I am!” he spat back, wrenching the wheel and letting the car glide onto the grassy side of the road.

“Sheesh, you don’t have to get so bent out shape.  Cars break down.  They’re machines, you know?”

He simply shook his head, threw the car into park, and popped the hood.  “You have no idea, Antonia.  You have no idea.”

How was it possible to have that much bad luck?  Every rental car he’d ever been given had broken down, been dinged, or ended up in a fiery ball of flames.  Ok, so the last one only happened that one time, but the rest… it was a thing with him.  He had the touch of death for rental cars.

She hopped out and sauntered around the hood with her hands on her hips, looking very serious as she stared at the engine.  “What do you think is wrong?”

“Me.”

“What?”

Donovan shook his head.  “Never mind.”

“Can we fix it?”

“I have no idea.  The thing looks fine to me.”  They didn’t have time to play around with rental cars.  Donovan took out his cell phone.  “Scott?  I need a pickup.”

“Seriously?”  Scott replied.  “Where are you?”

Donovan flicked on the GPS tracking device.  “Follow the flashing light.”

“You have the worst luck, man.”

“Don’t start with me…” Donovan warned.

“I’ll be there in ten.  Hold tight.”

He flicked off his phone and tucked it away inside his pocket.  “Let’s get our things ready, our ride is on the way.”

“Whatever you say, boss.”  Antonia skipped around to the trunk of the car like she didn’t have a care in the world.

He was about to change all of that and for the first time in a long time, Donovan wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that.

Read Chapter 3 now!

*****

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First Draught 2

First Draught: Music and Inspiration!

So last month First Draught got back in the saddle with Plotters vs Pansters (above). It was an awesome chat and we had a great time talking about the writing process. Our next chat is April 1st! Yes! April Fools Day! Except this isn’t a prank, this is straight up fun. This time around we are discussing music and how we use (or don’t use) it. We’ll be talking inspiration for characters and scenes, playlists, whether we write to music or silence and so much more!

There may even be silly hats digitally superimposed on our heads.

Maybe.

Music as Muse

If you missed our last chat, don’t worry! It is on YouTube along with all our other videos (and posted above). Our new channel has launched and we are in the process of pulling the videos over. Be sure to +1 our page so you can stay up to date on all our chats.

I’ll be posting pictures, songs, and playlists as we lead up to April 1st, feel free to join in on the conversation:

Instagram   Twitter   Facebook   Tumblr   Google+   Pinterest   Facebook (page)

Flash Fiction Friday (also known as “something to read for free”)

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This isn’t “Flash Fiction” in the traditional sense (a very short, but complete story). Instead this is a short snippet of one of my many projects. Instead of hoarding them all in my hard drive never to see the light of day, I’ve decided to start posting some of them here. My hope is that some will jump out at you, that you will ask for more, and that it will become clearer to me which projects need to jump to the front of the line, and which ones need to stay on that back burner.

Plus, it’s Friday and it is fun to have something fun and free to read.

Here is a look at the short story I’m working on to introduce you all to my characters in The Unspoken Game series. Let me know what you think in the comments!

*****

“It’s too cold for this,” Antonia Warren hissed as she tapped her boots against the side of the truck, zipped her jacket up to her chin, and shoved her hands in her pockets.  “I’m getting a drink.”

“Suit yourself.  I’m going to bed.  See you in a couple months, Doc.”  Trevor Boyd was short, plump, and red in the face as he turned toward the dump of a motel they’d been sleeping in for the last month.

“Sure,” Antonia replied while silently thinking she’d rather shoot herself in the foot than be back in a different horrific motel with Trevor in two months.

Trevor waved as he continued to walk away and Antonia turned her attention to the bar.  Inside was dark, grimy, and a permanent cloud of smoke hung in the air.  It was seedy, but it would do the job.

“Beer?”  The bartender asked.  His name was Joe, or something vague like that.  He was balding and had eyes that saw everything even though he rarely said more than a word or two.  Antonia was sure he had a baseball bat hidden behind the bar, probably more.

“Tequila.”

His eyebrows shot up as he replaced the beer bottle with a shot glass.  “End of the week celebration?”

“End of hell celebration is more like it,” she replied.  The bar stool was hard and uncomfortable, but if she was successful, she wouldn’t be feeling it for long.  Antonia planned on getting drunk and then passing out until lunch the next day.

“Where you off to next?”  He poured the beautiful liquid right to the top and set a wedge of lime on a napkin.

She didn’t think, “As far away from this godforsaken stretch of Texas as possible,” was the answer he was looking for, even if it was the truth.  “London, actually.  I have some business to attend to.”  Business she’d avoided long enough.  Antonia licked the side of her hand and sprinkled some salt, then set the shaker down to pick up the shot glass.  “Bottoms up.”

It was like fire in her throat, but the pain was welcome.  What the hell was she doing with her life?  Living like this just to prove a point?  She was traipsing from one pipeline segment to the next, one of the only females on the crew, and using all her talent to stare at dirt.  Was punishing her own mother really worth… this?

“Another?” Joe asked.

“Please.”

Just as Joe finished filling the glass, the door opened and blanketed the bar in a soft glow from the fading sunlight.  Even though Antonia was mostly blinded by the light, the silhouette in the doorway was distinctively male.  Tall, broad, and serious based on the deliberate way he moved inside and closed the door.  “Fed?” Joe asked as he straightened his shoulders.

Antonia blinked twice to help clear the bright spot in her vision.  By the time she could see the man, he was standing beside her.  He was very tall.  Probably at least six-five, and clearly made of muscle.  His black suit fit him perfectly from his wide shoulders to his trim waist.  And he was wearing sunglasses despite the dark bar.  He was clearly an asshole.

“Is this seat taken?” he asked.

Antonia looked the stranger up and down and chuckled.  “Ummmm, yeah.  It is.”

The man nodded and frowned, stepped over to the next stool and sat down.  “I assume this seat is safe, or would you prefer I move further down?”

Who exactly was this man and why did he think he was so funny?  “You’re good,” she replied with a roll of her eyes.

“What can I get for you?” Joe asked warily.

The man looked at Antonia’s shot glass and smiled, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

She tried not to bristle, but Antonia could feel the man’s intense gaze even from behind his black shades and she did not like the vibe she was getting.  He knew her, that much was clear, and Antonia never liked being at a disadvantage.  So she ignored the stranger, licked the side of her hand and downed shot number two.

“And refill my friend’s glass, would you?” the stranger asked.

Antonia turned in her seat, leaning against the bar, and gave the stranger her very best “don’t mess with me” eyes.  “Just who are you, exactly?”

He smiled as he took the tequila straight with no chaser.  “The name’s Donovan and I’m guessing yours is Doctor Antonia Warren.”

Her blood ran cold.  He did know who she was and he was here to see her, she’d bet money on it.  “Alright, Donovan.  Why do you know my name?”

Joe refilled both of their shot glasses and stood back, watching but not saying a thing.

“I’m here to hire you.”

“Hire me?” she asked.  This had to be a joke.  No one was hiring her, not after her mother had her blackballed from every reputable museum, university, and research cooperative in the United States and Europe.  Hell, even Australia and South Africa had turned her down.

“Yes.  You have certain skills my employer needs.”  Donovan still hadn’t removed his sunglasses, though he seemed to have no issues seeing anything.

“And who is this mysterious employer?” she asked.  It had to be a horrible job.  Probably something criminal.

“Theodore Seleron.”

Or not….

“Theodore Seleron?  Of Seleron Technology?  The billionaire?”  What the hell would he want with her?  Seleron developed cutting edge software and gadgets.  The man had his own private satellites for god’s sake.  He dealt with the future, not the past.

“That’s the one.  The two of you happen to share a close friendship with Doctor Simon Green.”

Simon?  He was one of her mentors… basically an unofficial uncle.  How was he connected to Seleron?  “Ok… what does that have to do with anything?”

“Dr. Green was abducted from his lab at Emory University yesterday along with the mummy he was getting ready to scan for research.”

Her stomach knotted up with nervous energy.  “So why are you here talking to me?”

Donovan turned so he was facing her and pulled out a small tablet computer.  “Dr. Green was working on a grant funded by my boss.  As I’m sure you’re aware, the mummy was nearly impossible to acquire for Dr. Green’s testing and Egypt was very reluctant to grant him or the United States any leeway on this matter.”

Antonia swore under her breath.  To say this was a volatile situation was being kind.  She wondered how Simon had gotten all of it to go through.  A billionaire pulling strings was probably the only thing that had gotten him the mummy—at the expense of international relations.  “Let me take a wild guess, your boss would like to keep all of this under wraps.”

Donovan nodded slowly and brought something up on the computer.  “We are prepared to offer you a very nice sum of money in exchange for your expertise.  We are aware of your other connections and find they may be useful in tracking down exactly what happened to Dr. Green.”

By other, Donovan meant her black-market connections.  “I’m assuming you already have a team at work?”

Donovan nodded absent-mindedly.  “We have a basic team in place gathering evidence.  But time, as I’m sure you are aware, is of the essence.  The university will have no choice but to notify the Egyptian authorities of the theft by Monday at the latest.”

Donovan turned the screen toward Antonia.  “This is a private message to you from my employer.

Antonia pulled a pair of coiled up ear buds out of her jacket pocket, plugged them into the headphone jack, and pressed play.  She recognized Theodore Seleron immediately.  He was a distinctive looking man who wasn’t afraid of the cameras.  He had short gray hair, a clipped goatee that matched the hair on his head, and always wore a three-piece suit with a matching handkerchief and pocket watch.  The man had a style all his own and he never varied his appearance.  “Dr. Warren.  I’m sure you are skeptical of this situation.  I’m more concerned with Simon’s well-being than anything else.  However not having to stop a war would be nice as well.  I hope you will take us up on our offer.  You have the perfect blend of expertise, connections, and friendship with Simon.  My associate has the contract and official offer.  Thank you.”

And desperate.  Seleron forgot “desperate”.

She pulled out her ear buds and coiled them back up as Donovan put the tablet away.  He slid a folded up piece of paper across the counter.

Antonia’s eyebrows shot up and her jaw fell open.  There were a lot of zeros on the check she was holding.  “Seriously?”

Donovan smiled.  “Seriously.  We understand how dangerous and difficult this situation is and we value your discretion.”

They valued it a lot according to the check in her hands.  Simon was a good friend in trouble and Seleron was a well-connected man with the means and motivation to bring Simon home.  She’d love to help… but everything smelled of a catch.  A great big giant catch.  She opened the contract.

It looked pretty straight forward.  In fact, it was shockingly short.  Basically it said she wouldn’t sue them or hold them responsible for anything and vice-versa.

But could she trust Donovan with his black shades and suit?  He had to be former FBI or something.  The man was far too comfortable in his blazer and sat so straight it made her own shoulders ache.  Then again, his suit was nice, really nice.  Definitely not something a man used to government work would choose.  Donovan was an enigma.

“You gonna take those sunglasses off?” she asked.  It was making her nervous that she’d never seen his eyes.

He smiled and the simple action made her pulse race.  The man had a glorious smile—perfect white teeth and a strong, square jaw.  “I only take them off for special occasions.”

“This is a special occasion,” she challenged as she thought over the contract.  Might as well have fun while she was thinking.

“For you, maybe.  But I’ve worked for The Old Man for the last twelve years.  A new contract doesn’t exactly constitute ‘special’ for me anymore.  Not even for brilliant and beautiful archaeologists.”

She let the compliment slide.  “The Old Man?”

“That’s what we call Seleron,” Donovan explained.  The he dropped his voice to a whisper, “It’s also his code name.  I probably shouldn’t have told you that until you actually signed your contract, though.”

Something about Donovan made Antonia want to trust him.  He was stiff but oddly friendly—he was genuine.  “Will it become a special occasion if I sign this thing?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” he joked back and held up a black pen.

“I’m going to regret this, aren’t I?” Antonia asked.  This is for Simon, not the money.  She took a deep breath, scanned the contract one last time, and signed on the dotted line.  What the hell?  London could wait and with that many zero’s in her bank account she could buy some time to look around for a real job.

When she looked up, Donovan had removed his glasses, turning them around so they sat on the back of his head.  His eyes were nearly black but amazingly expressive—possibly the most expressive eyes Antonia had ever seen.  It was like the man didn’t need words to convey anything in his mind.  Every thought, every emotion was in his eyes, clear as day.

It was beautiful and overwhelming.  Antonia shuddered under the intensity of his gaze, distracting herself with folding up the contract and handing both the paperwork and pen back to Donovan.

“I sure hope you don’t regret it,” he quietly replied with a small smile.

Antonia chuckled, “Me too.”

Read Chapter 2 now!

*****

So what do you think of Antonia and Donovan? Let me know in the comments!

Where is Wonder Woman?

March 8th was International Women’s Day, but it was also my son’s birthday, so I didn’t get a chance to post my two-cents on the subject. This is something close to my heart, so close that I often find it difficult to express exactly what’s on my mind.

That’s tough for a writer. And weird.

But that is exactly how passionate I am about women’s rights. Before I lose the eye-rollers, let me just say there was a specific reason I decided to attempt to write this post. I had an interesting discussion with my three-year old son a few weeks back. It took me by surprise and I think it is something a lot of us are struggling with right now.

We were in a department store. Clearly I needed something desperately because taking kids shopping is just about the last thing on my list of things to do. A three-year old in a clothing store is about as much fun as a trying to catch a chicken. So I was there against my own better judgement when we wandered into the girls Juniors section and I saw an Avengers t-shirt hanging on a four-way rack.

I excitedly ran over to it and yanked the hanger off the rack, holding it up to my front and grinning at my son. “Look! I can get an Avengers shirt like yours and we can wear them together!” I was so stupidly excited.

But instead of clapping his hands and shouting with excitement, my son frowned. “No, Mommy. That is a boys shirt, you can’t wear that.”

I shook my head, holding the shirt out so I could look at the lovely V-neck collar and decidedly female-shape to the shirt. “No, this is a girls shirt. We could all have superhero shirts,” I tried again.

But he shook his head. “No, mommy. Those are all the boy superheroes. You should pick out a shirt with girl superheroes. The ones you like to be.”

And that was when I froze, completely speechless. When I was his age my mother was lucky to get me out of the house in anything but my Supergirl pajamas and red boots. I was probably wearing my Wonder Woman underwear underneath. I spent my days running around the house playing not only these two characters, but also She-ra and Sheena Queen of the Jungle. I have distinct memories of going to the movies and watching the television shows. They were my superheroes and I knew by the time I had my own kids the world would be so awesome. How could it not? I was hearing every day that women could do anything. I assumed I’d have plenty of cool movies to watch and amazing characters and women to look up to.

Except that never happened. The day before this fated shopping trip, I’d been playing Avengers with both my sons. One had on the Hulk fists and mask, the other was wielding the Captain America shield and mask, and I was, of course, Black Widow. We were having fun running around the house when the boys suddenly dropped everything and changed. One was now Iron Man while the other was Hawkeye (bow and arrow included). “Mommy, you haven’t changed! We’re switching characters!” They yelled at me.

“Who do you want me to be?” I asked. There was Black Widow or…. Black Widow.

“Be another girl!” They exclaimed. When I pointed out there were no other girl Avengers they decided it was time to quit. It wasn’t any fun any more.

And standing across the aisle from my youngest son holding up a t-shirt covered in males superheroes designed for women to wear, I felt an amazingly heavy weight of disappointment. This was not the world I was supposed to grow into and it certainly wasn’t the world I wanted to give my children.

Where are all the female superheroes? While I love going to see the Avengers and other super hero movies with my family, I always leave the theater a little sad. There was no one on that screen for me to relate to. There was no one up there I was secretly hoping to be. No costumes I want to put together or super powers I could run around the house emulating.

No Supergirl or Wonder Woman.

Female superheroes have been in a sad state of affairs for a long time. By one study, we represent only a 31% of the characters in children’s books and the ratio’s aren’t all that different when it comes to television and movies, where female characters are outnumbered 3 to 1. Most of our roles are to serve the male characters and their story arcs. We get killed off so the male hero can have a purpose or a dramatic shift in the story line.

The female characters in the superhero movies out now are far from great. I love these actresses, but Pepper Potts story line took a rather patronizing turn in Iron Man 3, Natalie Portman’s character in the Thor movies has promise, but is always turned into a simpering woman in love (hardly the PhD badass she could be). Captain America has…? While Lois Lane is simply interesting and not much more.

And none of them are superheroes.

None of them kick ass and take names. None of them rise above to save the day. They don’t have super powers and they most certainly do not have cool weapons.

I miss Wonder Woman. Sure, she’s making a comeback (or so they say). But how she will be portrayed remains to be seen. Somehow I doubt she’ll live up to the character I need (and want) to see on the screen. There are no characters on the big screen, or on the merchandising, that reflect 50% of the population. There is something seriously wrong with that. It sucks and I hate it.

So I put the shirt back on the rack and left the store after that. My son pointed out it wasn’t fair that he got so many cool shirts and costumes and I didn’t. I agreed.

It used to be fun to be Princess Leia or Marion Ravenwood (aka Karen Allen’s character in Indiana Jones). I liked seeing women just as fun and interesting on the big screen as the guys. I don’t really see it anymore.

We just went to see the Lego Movie. It was fun. But it was also a largely male cast. Sure Wildstyle is awesome and Unikitty was…there, but it’s not enough. Not nearly enough. Wonder Woman was barely on the screen but Batman (who was hilarious, along with Han Solo, Lando, and Chewy and a whole host of other fun male characters making appearances) was a major player.  The excuse that these are “Boy Movies” doesn’t hold up. There should be women in boy movies. There are women in real life. Girls like being superheroes and going to see superhero movies. There should be “Girl Movies” too. Not just princesses and and fairy tales, but Supergirl, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Sheena Queen of the Jungle.

We need International Women’s Day. We need both men and women to recognize that there is a problem when it comes to the portrayal of women in television, books, and movies. Women can’t do it alone. We need fathers, brothers, and husbands to stop putting up with mediocrity. We can’t continue to shrug our shoulders and accept the status quo. Nothing changes when you stop caring. There has been a definitive shift away from portraying female characters in all mediums. We need to reverse this trend.

So when a day like International Women’s Day comes along, repost the amazing stories about women you see on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Acknowledge that days like this exist for a reason. We still have a long way to go. Sometimes seeing a super heroine on the big screen is all that gives you hope. Sometimes a single book can mean everything. Let’s bring back the girls so we aren’t forced to read The Hobbit to our children with Bilbo Baggins as a girl because there are no other options for fun adventures involving female characters. Let’s stop saying can’t, won’t, and difficult, and instead start saying now.

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