As Tides' October 31 launch nears, I'm taking a spoiler-lite look back at where we left our beloved heroes. (Don't forget to join the celebration! There's great ways to join--and win prizes.)

Rona is voiceless for most of Mud

Without giving too much away for those with Mud on the to-be-read list, once she is finally given an opportunity to speak, what she says changes everything.

Let's just say ... it wasn't an exception.

Rona's stay in the Underworld timeless, so for her, now that she's back, her past traumas might as well have just happened. On top of that, she is struggling with the new trauma of her return to life. If that's not bad enough, her past might not be done with her yet.

But Rona's more interested in looking ahead. A war is on the horizon, and she's determined to help end the destruction she feels she had a hand in starting. Even if it means she's stuck wroking with Jordan and Adem to do it.

Rona has a lot of anger in her--but she isn't hung up on it. She's saving it to channel into something productive. Along the way, she ends up taking on a lot more than she signed up for.

The most powerful thing about Rona is, she's willing to shoulder what others can't or won't, even if it means winging it. When everyone else starts to crumble around her, Rona is at her strongest.

Or at least, that's what she's telling herself.

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As my new novel Tides approaches release day, I am hosting some giveaways to celebrate! This week, I'm sharing about the "why" behind the selections in my three hand-picked novel collections that make up the top prizes. 

Check out the SFF Classics Collection and the SFF Strong (& Unusual) Female Protagonists Collection, too!

No question, the sci-fi/fantasy genre needs a whole lot more STPs--strong female protagonists.

But there are traditional STPs (think Lara Croft, Wonderwoman, Castle's Kate Beckett) and then there are ... well, more complex female characters, ones that refuse to fill the mold of any archetype.

As you know, I adore a solid antihero, and this plays heavily into my writing. Rona, the protagonist of Tides, is no exception to that. (I can't wait to hear what you make of her.)

So for this final giveaway book collection, which you can win by spreading the good news about Tides's release during the launch, I chose my absolutely favorite female oddballs and misfits of speculative fiction.

These three leading ladies are so unique, so complex, so willfully deviant from protagonist expectations, you may not always be sure if you're following the hero or the villain. But I promise--you'll always be riveted.

Blackbirds

You'll love Miriam Black or you'll hate her. Honestly, she wouldn't care either way. This sharp and tough rebel embraces her rough edges. Considering any time she touches someone she sees how they'll die in graphic detail, and can't seem to do anything to stop it, it's easy to understand how she got that way.

But then she meets Louis Darling. When she discovers he dies because he meets her, and that she's the next victim, she has to break all her rules.

Miriam may have the blackest heart you'll ever encounter, and the foul mouth to back it up. But she's still easy to love thanks to her intelligence, wit and creative thinking.

Library of Mount Char

This is an extremely hard one to describe, because both the protagonist and plot defy what we typically expect from a novel. A year after reading it I'm still not sure what to make of it, but it's stuck with me.

Carolyn was a normal child once. But that was before her parents died and she was taken in by God-like figure who she and several other orphans call Father. The Library holds the secrets to his power, and each of the orphans has been tasked to master an area of his abilities. These formidable tasks are pushed onto them with ruthless and punishing measures.

But then, Father goes missing. And Carolyn has a plan. Only trouble is, this calculating, stoic, and love-starved girl keeps it to herself until the very end.

Her Fearful Symmetry

This is a lesser-known work from the author of The Time Traveler's Wife, and one I much prefer over the bestseller. Two American twins on the verge of adulthood spend a summer in their recently deceased aunt's London flat.

As the twins explore London and their aunt's neurotic neighbors, they also start to observe a presence within the house.

I won't spoil the end for you, but you won't believe the strange bonds and tensions that keep these twins in constant friction throughout the novel, or how far they are willing to go in pursuit of a spirit.

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As my new novel Tides approaches release day, I am hosting some giveaways to celebrate! This week, I'm sharing about the "why" behind the selections in my three hand-picked novel collections that make up the top prizes. 

Check out the SFF Classics Collection and the SFF Strong (& Unusual) Female Protagonists Collection, too!

I love a great story in just about any form, but comics strike me in a way no other medium can.

I was first drawn to comics for the traditional superheroes ... but I've been unwilling to commit to the massive, entangled Marvel or DC universes (okay, and a little intimidated), and thus I soon picked up other titles.

My favorite thing about comics storytelling is the way they commit to full-on weirdness, and these favorites from my pulls deliver it in spades. Along with well rounded, complicated heroines.

You're gonna love them.

Saga

Stunning imagination goes into the creation of every alien creature in this world--illustrator Fiona Staples is a genius. Even the dark and monstrous things in Saga hold a certain elegance.

This comic took the shell of Romeo and Juliet--star-crossed lovers on different sides of a war--and turned it into a complex space opera world with rich diversity and representation that enriches the world--including a number of badass women.

Paper Girls

This story captures the same '80s throwback nostalgia as modern sci-fi classics like Stranger Things and Super 8, with a crew of preteen girls you would never want to mess with at the center. They're pioneers, after all--the very first female paper delivery people in the town of Stony Stream.

I was hooked from the opening sequence, where Christa McAuliffe of the Challenger makes a guest appearance as a wrathful astronaut-angel. Also featured: time travel.

Bitch Planet

The social commentary in this comic is laid on thick, and in a really great way. And are you seeing this cover? This artwork is gorgeous.

From one of my personal creative heroes, Kelly Sue Deconnick, this series takes place in a future world where noncompliant women are branded and deported to a prison planet for punishment.

I could go on, but just you wait. You, too, will soon be lining up for your NC brand at your local tattoo shop.

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As my new novel Tides approaches release day, I am hosting some giveaways to celebrate! This week, I'm sharing about the "why" behind the selections in my three hand-picked novel collections that make up the top prizes. 

Check out the SFF Comics Collection and the SFF Strong (& Unusual) Female Protagonists Collection, too!

The Classics Collection will go to one lucky winner from among those of you who join my ARC readers list to read a free digital copy of Tides and review it on Amazon in the first week of release, between October 31 and November 7.

This was a hard collection to select--the classics are classics for a reason, after all. The list of classic sci-fi and fantasy novels runs deep and holds major cultural implications.

Ultimately, though, I stuck by three that have stuck with long past that first read, and have influenced my writing as I build out The Chronicles of the Third Realm Wars series.

Here they are:

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

This incredible novel gave the world two truly incredible things: The archetype of the mad scientist, and also the tragic monster. I choose this novel for both of these gifts.

From Dr. Jekyll to Dr. Walter Bishop to Lex Luthor, the mad scientist is one of my all time favorite sci-fi tropes--and one of the most feasible. The lure of knowledge--and the power that comes with it--is just too great, and ultimately, I think we're all mad scientists at heart.

Then, of course, there are the consequences of that drive. Frankenstein's monster has grown a shadow in our culture even greater than his character on the page. Though capable of terrible things, ultimately he's sad, troubled, and lonely.

Adem emerged from my imagination out of the same dark corner where that poor guy lurks.

The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkein

I am not, by and large, a Tolkein fan--a statement that I know could get my "fantasy author" card revoked, but it is what it is. And while you could not pay me to re-read The Hobbit, Tolkein's collection of Middle Earth mythology bewitched me from the first page.

I've always had a great love for mythology, and I find Tolkein's writing style particularly suited to it. Personally, I have greater respect for Tolkein's creation of a complete mythology for his world than I do for making up his own language.

This collection is stunning. Will you lose track of who's who? Absolutely. Almost immediately. But the language and imagery is so lovely it doesn't matter.

The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

Now look, it's possible you have heard me rave over Ray Bradbury once or twice before, but I'm doing it again anyhow. The man deserves it, and this incredible novel double deserves it.

This may be my most-read book of all time, and I've got the beaten up paperback to prove it. I will forever say that this is Bradbury's greatest work, and that's saying a lot when the same man also produced Farenheit 451. 

This novel dances seamlessly between science fiction and fantasy, and artfully crafts an alien planet into a complex portrait of humanity. As rich in prose as it is in imagination, the short stories that make up this novel are etched deeply into my soul with its magical blend of wonder, nostalgia and strangeness.

Want to win this collection? Join my ARC reader list and get your digital copy of Tides--this is the last week to join! 

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So that instantly infamous James Cameron profile released in The Guardian on Friday.

This is the one wherein Cameron spouted about his newfound ability to be nice on set, even though it doesn't come naturally to him, even though he's actually really nice in person.

And the one where he confessed the terrible catch-22 of being attracted to strong women, because they don't need him enough for the relationship to work, and that's why he's on his fifth marriage.

And the one where he had an odd outburst in response to the very pressing question, "Why didn't Jack just get on the board with Rose?" (BUT REALLY. WHY.)

But despite all this, the greatest contention of the article was Cameron's statement about Wonder Woman, deeming her unfit as a strong female protagonist:

“All of the self-congratulatory back-patting Hollywood’s been doing over Wonder Woman has been so misguided. She’s an objectified icon, and it’s just male Hollywood doing the same old thing! I’m not saying I didn’t like the movie but, to me, it’s a step backwards. Sarah Connor was not a beauty icon. She was strong, she was troubled, she was a terrible mother, and she earned the respect of the audience through pure grit. And to me, [the benefit of characters like Sarah] is so obvious. I mean, half the audience is female!”

Patty Jenkins, direct of Wonder Woman, spoke out in response on Twitter, and I pledged my allegiance to her for the umpteenth time:

“If women have to always be hard, tough and troubled to be strong, and we aren’t free to be multidimensional or celebrate an icon of women everywhere because she is attractive and loving, then we haven’t come very far have we.”

Hammer, meet nail's head.

As a female creator who creates female characters, this is a topic I think about a lot, so I wanted to lend my own two cents to this ongoing conversation too.

The idea that every female character needs to be a Sarah Connor is ridiculous, taking women out of one box simply to put us in a new one. It's so ridiculous, it feels more like a self-promotion move to me than a genuine criticism. Or, maybe jealousy.

If we extend this logic, is Rose not a strong female protagonist because she posed for Jack to draw?

Or the true question at the heart of all this, really, is: What is a strong female protagonist?

There are so many answers to this question, which has been asked for decades now, that it's been rendered meaningless.

I no longer care about "strong."

I think there are two crucial things women characters need instead of this.

The first has been talked about a ton: Female characters need agency. Ironically, the best discussion I've read of what this means comes from white male author Chuck Wendig, so go check him out to explore this further if you want.

The second thing women characters need is just more of them.

As long as any female character carries the burden of representing all women, we're not going to get anywhere. It's too much for any single character to represent, and the more generic you make a charact, to make her all-encompassing, the less compelling she becomes as an actual character ... because really, she's not one anymore. She's just the shell of an avatar.

So give me female characters who are loud. Give me female characters who are quiet. I want them tall and short, big and small, old and young. I want them grim and bitter, I want them bubbly and warm. I want them black and Asian and Latina and every part of the LGBTQ spectrum. I want lab geeks and soldiers, ballerinas and mothers. I want them beautiful, awkward, troubled, savvy, broken, wild.

In short I want a lot of them, and I want them to come alive with every shade of humanity. Give. Them. All. To. Me.

We need more stories about women, and we need more women in our stories. 

As an author, I will keep on trying to do my part.

In fact, I first started thinking about my responsibility in this battle about two-thirds through writing the first draft of my first novel, Mud. I realized that for some odd reason, most of my key players were male, and I was mid-arc of a traditional, patriarchal guy-saves-the-girl story. And that was not okay. I wrestled with it a lot as I finished my plotting, and a lot more as I revied, breaking the book back down and rebuilding in into something truer.

If you've read Mud, it probably doesn't take a lot of connecting the dots to see where the inspiration for some of those late-plot twists came from. And I thnk those twists are the best thing about that novel.

These questions and challenges stayed with me as I wrote RainIs Nia a "strong female protagonist"? Wow, even I am not sure how to answer that--it would depend on the definition of "strong" you were using. But she damn sure owns her own story.

I took all this glorious, important baggage with me again into Tides, and I feel it helped make Rona into a truly incredible character. She's not going to be easy to content with, and she's not going to make it easy to come to terms with her.

I can't wait to find out what you make of her in October. Because one thing Rona won't be is ignored, so I don't expect many will feel neutral toward her.

But I made these characters difficult on purpose. I don't want them to be easy to box away.

Because the one thing I never want female characters to be? Pigeonholed. 

The more different variations on female-ness our stories offer, the more complex they are, the more wrestling and consideration they demand of readers, the better it is for all the rest of us, both on and off the page.

 

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