Saturday, January 25, 2014

My Kind of Heroine

This is another round-robin tour, so please take some time to enjoy several different views on what type of heroine makes you grab a book and read.

I’ve been reading for a long time, and have found it is the characters that attract me to a story first, specifically, the heroine and the hero and their personal qualities. This said, the way the heroine or hero is depicted on the cover always catches me, too, so maybe my choice is also a visual thing. Lately, many covers leave off the face, I suppose so readers can identify with the characters even if they look different from the reader. Cover art certainly has changed over time. Oops, digressing.

As a child and before horses took over my best character in a book, I loved Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner. I think because the girls had an important part in the story, the children helped each other survive. Before that, my reading had been about all the princess type girls in all fairytales I read. Princesses are often portrayed as spunky, but ultimately the prince saves them. East of the Sun, West of the Moon was different. The girl settled her own future even though initially abducted by her prince.

I started working in a drug store at fifteen back in the sixties, and because I was working, I had money. The bookstand drew me. I bought a copy of Emilie Loring’s Trail of Conflict which was written in 1922 about the post-WWI arranged marriage between the socialite daughter of a rich businessman and the man with upper crust ‘family ties’ fallen on hard times. Not her best, but interesting for a teenager, and like me, the heroine was searching for love. Geraldine was a spunky but sometimes clueless heroine who was courageous, but like most women of the time, she put up with a lot of expectations from their man. (Not that Stephen is an evil, obnoxious abuser, just used to giving orders.) Still, the heroine dye was set for me as a reader for a while: Men protected naive, powerless women. 

It got worse with Barbara Cartland’s romantic Regency novels. Georgette Heyer’s heroines were interesting, but still, the man ended up protecting his ‘princess’ no matter what her social standing. Most books of the time presented spunky, stubborn heroines who for the most part capitulated to their man. I also found I liked Betty Neel’s heroines who usually were average looking, quiet ladies whose qualities only one discerning handsome, rich Dutch doctor could appreciate. (Pretty strange, huh?) I wonder if this image is what women were really like or just sold to romance readers? I also wonder what I was thinking. Luckily, life taught me remaining naive and powerless held a cost, too, and to be wary of preconceived, prepackaged ideas.

In my late teens, my taste in heroines began to change. In fantasy, Andre Norton’s women in her Witch World series attracted me, and then the Lisa in the Dragons of Pern. Sure, I liked the old ‘princess’ heroines, but a new image began to emerge. I began to like bold women who took charge when necessary, who often became the protector and worked with their mates in equal partnerships while fighting for their futures. This often happened in science fiction and fantasy, although the character of Philippa in Dorothy Dunnett’s Renaissance based historical The Lymond Chronicles, fell into this pattern even though she did not become a major character until the later volumes; yet she always made her presence known and was a true surprise. 

Today's message seems to be teaching women about being strong and powerful. This also has costs, yet this might just be another prepackaged formula. Having studied Vladimir Propp and Joseph Campbell, I have a new viewpoint. These heroines and my choices are part of my psyche that need exploring.

I read across a wide variety of genres: fantasy, scifi, romance, mysteries, suspense, chick-flick, contemporary, and I find many more heroines whose stories suite me. I like those working against horrible odds and disadvantages and living up to the challenge even if their happily ever after isn’t perfect or they fail their challenge in some fashion. I dislike heroines who start out with possibilities they never live up to, or fall back into the old “I need a man to take care of me” pattern. These are the books I close and do not reopen.

Other authors are talking about their type of heroine. Next on the list is Marci Baun. Take a look. At any time a link might be lost, they are all listed below.

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Music and Reading Relationship

 Reading is so important to education, employment, and entertainment.  So I'm always concerned when I hear statistics of children who cannot read at grade level, particularly in depressed and poverty-stricken neighborhoods in our big cities. If you haven't heard of the Harmony Project, follow the link attached to the quote from a PBS Newshour program of March 8, 2014, below. Learning music helps children learn to read. How amazing is that? Josh Aronson did the interview with Margaret Martin who started the program and with Dr. Nina Kraus who studied the remarkable results.

JOSH ARONSON, who conducted an interview with Margaret Martin, said she was convinced that music helps children learn to read because of the graduation rate of kids who have gone through her program. This year, she says, 93 percent of them finished high school in four years and went to college. But Martin acknowledges she does not have the formal training to prove that music helps kids grasp language better and become more proficient readers. So she enlisted the help of this woman. Her name is Dr. Nina Kraus. She is a neurobiologist at Northwestern University and for 25 years she has studied how the brain processes information – the neurobiology of auditory learning."

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Crewkin on Sale!

Until January 10th you can purchase my scifi story Crewkin on sale at MuseItUp Publishing for $1.99 (regularly $5.95). It is also available at this price through B&N, Amazon, Bookstrand, and Omnilit.
Excerpt  — A tense moment between AI and the main character:

…intruders held in forward compartment…all live…initiated crew life-support parameters of programming…

“Release them. This is their ship.”

…input incorrect…intruders dangerous to security of rabican  engine and markham3…

“No. I am correct.”

She jabbed the information request pad. The console remained solid beneath her touch, and the ship’s registry appeared on the screen. Can it see and read? No. Would it understand the code delivered via the circuit? Yes. Display modules all used universal code.

“Check the ship’s registry. The governing seals remain intact. The Terran family owns this ship. You are the intruder. You are the only danger on the Vagrant Spirit. You are a killer.”

The constant low hum of the computer filled the silence. Renna reached up and turned on an overhead. Ambient light flooded the area, killing the stark illumination from the LEDs. She punched the pad controlling the forward shutters, shutting out the disturbing display outside the ship. The flood of sensation bombarding her mind and body eased.

…orders executed…ship records sealed…current ship code unknown…rabican protocol prevents breach of sealed records…first trial insufficient power for transfer…cs9m3 and rabican engine knocked off-line…second attempt auxiliary engine assist trial successfully completed…any crew injury unintentional…

“This was not a trial. The CS9M3 and the Rabican engine were destined for reclamation after the destruction of the Markham3. This was a cargo run for the Vagrant Spirit. You are the cargo. Where have you taken us?”

…orders followed…system not purged for dereliction…why sub speaker renna markham3 recover cs9m3…

“I didn’t save you. You reactivated.”

…renna markham3 not sent to reclamation for dereliction and death of markham3 crew…

“No. I’m guilty of many things, but not killing my kin. I just couldn’t make them want to live. My crime is not dying with them.”

…life dies…termination of cs9m3 attempt aborted…

“Everything dies. The CS9M3 was turned off.”

…renna markham3 not terminated…

“I know. I wanted to live more. Where are we?”

…specified…ship travels to the assigned coordinates programmed in rabican…mission successfully initiated…

“This ship is the Vagrant Spirit. There were no specified coordinates. The insertion location differed. You have the Vagrant Spirit’s crew locked in the fore compartment. They hired me as crew. Our mission was to take cargo to the Zorah Reclamation Center. The Rabican engine is our cargo.” She was tired of repeating facts in a useless endeavor. She couldn’t change the CS9M3’s programming.

After a brief pause, the engine’s artificial intelligence responded. …explain presence of sub speaker renna markham3…

“Coincidence. Mischance. Fate. You killed my kin.”

…accident…duty to protect assigned crew…sub speaker renna markham3 and cs9m3 rabican kin…

“Markham3 kin died. We failed our ship. Why are you hijacking this ship?”

…complete mission…

“Where are you going?”

…expulsion point changes with insertion point…cs9m3 and rabican moved…exit unknown…sub speaker renna markham3 changed specified insertion location without update to cs9m3 rabican…

“We are not on Markham3. That happened over a year ago. Can you return?” The low hum continued unchanging for several minutes.

…unknown…name crew…

Renna named the Vagrant Spirit’s crew.

…cs9m3 assigned vagrant spirit…designation change cs9vs1…

“You are cargo laded to the Vagrant Spirit for Zorah Reclamation. May I join the Vagrant Spirit’s crew?”

…vagrant spirit crew or terran crew…clarification needed…command crew necessary
in compartment…communication, navigation and ship log codes sealed…need access…

She heard the hatch locks release. Feeling strength return to her shaky limbs Renna rose and left the compartment. As she walked lights came on, turning off as she passed. Once she took a step and found herself outside the ship. After a shocked second she took a breath, closed her eyes and threw her head back. Focus. You are in the gangway headed toward the fore compartment. When she opened her eyes, the partitions had reformed around her. Every few steps another aberration occurred. Solids transformed, blurred, dissolved. With any step a foot might sink through the deck or hit resistance above the deck. After each anomaly she reiterated her focus mantra. When she reached the forward compartment, she heard the automatic locks disengage. The hatch swung open. She entered. The six members of the Vagrant Spirit stared back at her. Lights, grav, and life-support functioned. The monitors lining one partition displayed the command module. With a smooth swish, the hatch closed behind her.