Monthly Archives: October 2013

Romance for a Reason Finale: Females in Fiction #10

This final post of my Females in Fiction series was supposed to go up yesterday on another site, but for some reason didn’t, so I’m sharing it here. I’ll save my wrap up of the tour for this weekend!

If you missed the first posts in the series click on the titles to catch up.

Top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

Introduction to series – From G. I. Jane to Feminist Romance with Fangs

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever
they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

Tears and Cheers To All That Makes Us Amazing! 

Over the last nine posts I’ve urged for writers and readers to demand more of their fictional females. I’ve asked that the women held before us as heroines be strong but still feminine, cunning but not catty, independent but not unable to accept help and chivalry. I’ve argued for heroines who can embrace their sexuality, but who don’t necessarily have to look like ‘ideal’ sex symbols. And I’ve applauded ones who can weep, wipe their eyes, and walk away with their heads held high, as well as for those who can stand their ground and kick some butt.

I entitled the series of posts ‘Females in Fiction,’ but what I was really writing about were the amazing qualities I find in the real-life heroines who surround me, traits I see far too few of in the females in my books, particularly romance books. So many of the women I admire manage to be strong, while still being wives and lovers to equally great men, most of whom married them because they too admired that strength. So why do so many fictional love stories not have such balanced partnerships? Are the only interesting love stories ones where the guys get to save the day? Are women readers so enchanted by the knight in shining armor that we’re okay with being depicted time and time again as the damsel in distress?

I don’t think so. I think, perhaps, we accept these stories because there aren’t many that break the mold to choose from. It’s time that changed. It’s time we require more of our romance writers (myself included!), the way we’ve required more of society in the way women are treated and depicted. We love to tweet #notbuyingit for magazines and t-shirts we find demeaning or offensive. Maybe it’s time we start #notreadingit for books that depict women as weak victims in need of saving, rather than the amazingly tenacious group that we truly are.

I want my heroines, like I want my friends: strong, independent women, who cry a little and laugh a lot—and who make me do the same!

And for those who haven’t checked out the ‘Romance’ part of Romance for a Reason:

Unbridled: A collection of short stories from the Alex Crocker series

By Lauren Grimley

“Think Law and Order SUV meets The Breakfast Club” was Ellie’s trite explanation of what Alex had been dragged into. Add a few fangs, Fifty Shades of Oversharing, and a dash of Dr. Phil, and she was in for quite a Thursday night.

Alex couldn’t deny she had become the pint-sized poster child for PTSD lately, but she didn’t exactly expect to find a support group for teachers turned vampire chew toys in Bristol, MA. Listening to the tales of the four other females gathered to help her heal, however, she accepts that perhaps both the worst and the best of life can blossom from the unexpected.

Unbridled is a novella-length collection of four connected stories focusing on the unlikely friendships and less likely lovers of the female characters from the Alex Crocker series.

“Grace and Dignity”

Ireland, 1713

Even a female whose mating has been arranged most of her life still thinks about what she wants in a mate. Not one of the qualities Sarah had hoped for were easily evident in her betrothed, the future Regan of the Rectinatti coven. Perhaps, though, there were more layers to Darian than he liked to reveal, but how does a subject unmask a prince?

“Rules and Recollections”

Bristol, Massachusetts, 1902

You can’t fall in love with someone you barely recall, but that, Vivian supposed, was the point. After a terse meeting with the Knower, a mind reader, memory manipulator, and the coven’s most notorious lecher, Vivian isn’t herself. She can’t shake the feeling that the solution to her mood lurks just below the surface of her consciousness. Only plunging into darkness, though, will bring everything to light.

“Blood and Secrecy”

Bristol, Massachusetts, 2008

The shared need for blood brought them together, but individual desires for secrecy are keeping them apart. Each already left behind a life of privilege for reasons the other likely couldn’t understand. Now both Rocky and Ellie need to decide if they’re willing to open up about their pasts in order to ensure a future.

Series: Alex Crocker series, can definitely be enjoyed
without reading the first two books in the series, but is written to fit after
the events of book 2, Unveiled.

Genres: paranormal romance, vampire series, urban fantasy,
short stories

Release date: October 1, 2013

Available formats: ebook & paperback (178 pages)

Website page: http://www.laurengrimley.com/Unbridled.html

Purchase links:

Amazon (e-book & paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FIS0KF4

For the other books and stories in the series see Lauren’s Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B007Y5ZZSG

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/unbridled-lauren-grimley/1117001983?ean=2940148813262

And the Reason? Cancer and violence suck, and not at all in that sexy vampire way.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a friend and teacher of too many women who’ve been affected by violence, I chose it to also to be the release date for Unbridled. I may not love wearing pink or purple, the colors of these two issues, but I do love a good fight for great causes. I’ve just chosen to battle this one with my pen. Please consider helping in your own way!

How you can help:

Read some romance. Proceeds from Unbridled will be donated to the two charities listed here.

Donate. Make your own individual donation to these two charities or choose a local charity supporting these and other causes affecting women in your area. To learn more about each charity and my reasons for choosing them, visit the Romance for a Reason page. Or click through to donate directly.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

V-Day

Party hard. Gather the women (and men!) of your book club or just a group of friends for a Romance for Reason party. Party ideas? Check out my blog for ideas on how to plan your gathering. Then download the Romance Reading Questionnaire and/or the Body Lingo Bingo for some fun party activities!

Share. Tweet, status update, review, or just chat with friends about the books, the tour, and the charities (mine or yours)!

Giveaway: As a thank you for everyone’s support of these great causes, I’m doing a Rafflecopter giveaway of two prize packs including a digital copy of Unforeseen, as well as a “Cancer Sucks, I Bite Back” mug, and some book-related swag! Good luck and thanks!

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Romance for a Reason: Females in Fiction #9

It’s been quite the month for Romance for a Reason! I’ve had some terrific reviews of Unbridled (any review is terrific; keep that in mind if you want to help a girl out!). I took part in two interviews each with some unique and new questions. I’ve visited 18 different sites where I’ve shared my writing and more importantly spoke the two causes Romance for a Reason is supporting. And, of course, I posted frequently about females in fiction, tackling my ‘must-do’ list for strong heroines. Today I’ve reached number nine: eliminating cattiness.

If you missed the first posts click on the titles to catch up. For the rest of the interviews, excerpts, and reviews, visit the calendar on the Romance for a Reason page for links.

Top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

Our Own Worst Enemy

Okay. I admit it. I occasionally like to read about (or watch) a good catfight. It’s a guilty pleasure readers and writers need to give in to from time to time. We can’t expect our heroines to always be ‘above it all.’ After all, who of us claim to never have gotten sucked into the gossiping and or bickering our gender is unfortunately infamous for?

But occasionally succumbing to such practices is different from having them be commonplace enough that they become a character trait, rather than a moment of weakness. Our heroines ought to have the grace and dignity to stay out of the mud throwing most days. Who wants a strong female character who can’t tolerate and tears down other strong female characters? If writers want to entertain us with gossiping, backstabbing wenches, by all means bring on the cheek slapping and nail scratching. But please write it in a way that it’s quite clear to the reader who the ‘good guys,’ or girls in this case, are and who is simply meant to be the nasty foil for them. This way we get the fun of watching the witches, while illuminating everything that’s wrong about their bad behavior and everything that is right about our heroines. It’s bad enough female celebrities flood the media with this kind of bad behavior, but, at least in that case, few are deeming them heroes. Sadly, we’re all too disillusioned to have many real-life heroes anymore, especially among celebrities. The least we can ask for is that our fictional females portray the better side of female nature.

Let’s face it, if we can’t boost each other up, in books as well as life, than who’s going to do it for us? I’d hate to be the woman who makes it to the top only to find I’ve got no amazing girl friends left with whom to enjoy my success!

Want to help support some real-life heroines?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a friend and teacher of too many women who’ve been affected by violence, I chose it to also to be the release date for Unbridled. I may not love wearing pink or purple, the colors of these two issues, but I do love a good fight for great causes. I’ve just chosen to battle this one with my pen. Please consider helping!

Read some romance. Proceeds from Unbridled will be donated to the two charities listed here. It’s now available as both a paperback and e-book on Amazon, and for Nook on Barnes & Noble.

Donate. Make your own individual donation to these two charities or choose a local charity supporting
these and other causes affecting women in your area. To learn more about each charity and my reasons for choosing them, visit the Romance for a Reason page. Or click through to donate directly.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

V-Day

Party hard. Gather the women (and men!) of your book club or just a group of friends for a Romance for Reason party. Party ideas? Check out my blog for ideas on how to plan your gathering. Then download the Romance Reading Questionnaire and/or the Body Lingo Bingo for some fun party activities! (My own book club met just this past week, raised some money, and had a blast!)

Share. Tweet, status update, review, or just chat with friends about the books, the tour, and the charities (mine or yours)!

As a thank you for your help, I’m doing a Rafflecopter giveaway during the blog tour. Be sure to enter to win one of two prize packages!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Romance for a Reason: Females in Fiction #8

As Romance for a Reason begins to wind down, I’m nearing the end of my females in fiction top-ten list. Today we’re talking girl power, quite appropriate for a month speckled in pinks and purples—and not all worn by women!

If you missed the first posts, click on the titles to catch up.

Top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever
they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

Putting the Girl Back in Girl Power

In many ways all of my posts have been about ‘girl power,’ about honoring and encouraging strong females in fiction and in real life. Today’s post, however, is looking specifically at some traits that I feel are common and are especially powerful in women. Before I even start, let me address the idea that this post in itself might come off as stereotyping my own gender. If one’s definition of stereotyping is simply pointing out that from personal observations a particular group of people tend to share similar qualities, then yes, what I’m about to write is stereotyping. I won’t apologize, though, because I feel my readers are smart enough to understand that first, I mean no harm by such generalizations, and secondly, I, like they, understand they are just generalizations, not pre-conceived judgments on any actual person. I don’t judge a book by its cover, nor a person by his or her gender. But that doesn’t mean I can’t generalize to say women are amazing—and that we need more proof of that in our books!

So what girl powers are missing from our fiction? Mildness, emotions, and mothering.

Ironically perhaps, mildness, or a lack of aggression, is one of the traits that makes women strong. It’s harder to keep one’s temper and argue logically than to lose it and deck the opponent, yet women are often consider the weaker sex because we more often than not do just that. As I already spoke to in an earlier post, women who act like men in order to be ‘strong’ characters are not admirable. I love to read or listen to a character who can keep her head and, ideally with a quick wit, put the enraged opponent, male or female, in his or her place. Mildness and meekness are not the same!

As much as I love a brooding bad boy with his pent up emotions, I think once again, this one goes to the ladies willing to cry. We all have emotions, so why is it that men are seen as tougher because they suppress them? Frankly, I think it takes a lot more tenacity to admit what’s bothering you and openly show vulnerability, pain, or grief. The boys who brood usually destroy themselves, or someone who gets in their way at the wrong time. The females who cry? They eventually get a tissue and get on with it. That’s strength.

Mothering to me is the ultimate act of strength for women. Not even accounting for the struggles of pregnancy and childbirth, just the idea of sacrificing so much to create, protect, and teach a little life is amazing. Who is fiercer than a mother protecting her child? (No one, just ask Bellatrix.) Mothers instinctually are heroic, yet, despite all the lovemaking going on in romance books, few spend time depicting that strength and beauty unique to women.

So go ahead, writers of romance, get a little stereotypical with your females. Have them remain even-tempered even in the face of those who are not. Have them cry then move on. Have them be mothers as well as lovers. Have them be real, because real women are strong and amazing!

Want to help support some real-life heroines?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a friend and teacher of too many women who’ve been affected by violence, I chose it to also to be the release date for Unbridled. I may not love wearing pink or purple, the colors of these two issues, but I do love a good fight for great causes. I’ve just chosen to battle this one with my pen.

Please consider helping!

Read some romance. Proceeds from Unbridled will be donated to the two charities listed here. It’s now available as both a paperback and e-book on Amazon, and for Nook on Barnes & Noble.

Donate. Make your own individual donation to these two charities or choose a local charity supporting these and other causes affecting women in your area. To learn more about each charity and my reasons for choosing them, visit the Romance for
a Reason page
. Or click through to donate directly.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

V-Day

Party hard. Gather the women (and men!) of your book club or just a group of friends for a Romance for Reason party. Party ideas? Check out my blog for ideas on how to plan your gathering. Then download the Romance Reading Questionnaire and/or the Body Lingo Bingo for some fun party activities! (My own book club met just this past week, raised some money, and
had a blast!)

Share. Tweet, status update, review, or just chat with friends about the books, the tour, and the charities (mine or yours)!

As a thank you for your help, I’m doing a Rafflecopter giveaway during the blog tour. Be sure to enter to win one of two
prize packages!

Leave a comment

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Romance for a Reason: Females in Fiction #7

Since Romance for a Reason is all about honoring and supporting women warriors, I’ve spent the month visiting blogs and talking about females in fiction. Today I’m back home on my own blog to tackle number seven on my requirement list for kick-ass heroines. Click on the titles to catch up on any of the others you missed!

Top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

If Chivalry is Dead, It’s Because We Killed It

I started the month on a rampage about how women in romance and real life need to take charge and get the job done on their own. I skewered the princesses of the past for twiddling their thumbs while awaiting their Prince Charmings and decimated the
stereotype of damsels in distress needing a man to save the day.

But, ladies, I never said we need to slaughter our saviors. It’s not the fault of the prince for wanting to be the hero, for wanting to save the one he loves. Frankly, shouldn’t we be flattered that someone would risk his life for us?

In my first post I used the analogy of my dad taking my car to get its oil changed for me, something he does because he likes to and I don’t. There’s never an implication that I couldn’t complete this task; it’s just something he does to be kind. If he came home and handed me back my keys and I bit his head off for helping, I would not be a model for strength. I would be an ungrateful little bitch. A woman who can’t accept help from a man, doesn’t come off as heroic; she comes off as threatened.

Females in fiction sometimes need a reminder of this, as do their writers. For every damsel in distress is a character too independent for her own good, one who can’t seem to see the difference between a gentlemen wanting to be polite, chivalrous, or romantic and a chauvinistic pig with the intent on degrading a woman by stepping in when he assumes she is too frail to act for herself. If every male in fiction was the latter, there would be no romance worth reading. We need to give the guys, especially those stepping in front of swords for us, the benefit of the doubt. While the writers of romance need to find better ways of creating tension for their love scenes. Despite how the media often portrays us, females can be strong and still be kind and appreciative of a little chivalry now and again.

Hold the door open for this independent woman, and I’m much more likely to take your number than to take your head off.

Want to help support some real-life heroines?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor and a friend and teacher of too many women who’ve been affected by violence, I chose it to also to be the release date for Unbridled. I may not love wearing pink or purple, the colors of these two issues, but I do love a good fight for great causes. I’ve chosen to battle this one with my pen. How will you help?

Read some romance. Proceeds from Unbridled will be donated to the two charities listed here. It’s now available as both a paperback and e-book on Amazon, and for Nook on Barnes & Noble.

Donate. Make your own individual donation to these two charities or choose a local charity supporting these and other causes affecting women in your area. To learn more about each charity and my reasons for choosing them, visit the Romance for
a Reason page
. Or click through to donate directly.

The Breast Cancer Research Foundation

V-Day

Party hard. Gather the women (and men!) of your book club or just a group of friends for a Romance for Reason party. Party ideas? Check out my blog for ideas on how to plan your gathering. Then download the Romance Reading Questionnaire and/or the Body Lingo Bingo for some fun party activities! (My own book club met just this past week, raised some money, and had a blast!)

Share. Tweet, status update, review, or just chat with friends about the books, the tour, and the charities (mine or yours)!

As a thank you for your help, I’m doing a Rafflecopter giveaway during the blog tour. Be sure to enter to win one of two
prize packages!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Leave a comment

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Females in Fiction #1, Damn-sels of Distress

image from: http://denwrites.com/tag/black-and-white/

And that, my fair readers, is the problem!

Last week I kicked off Romance for a Reason, my blog tour turned fundraiser for women’s charities, with a piece about how I evolved from tomboy to writer of feminist romance stories. I ended the post with a plea: to the writers of the world, be it of books, movies, television scripts, or internet content, consider whether the heroines of our tales are worthy—of being loved, of being respected, or of just being. And if they’re not, to scrap ‘em. To the consumers of these works, please consider the same and hold your heroines and their creators to higher standards.

My standards include the following top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

Yeah, I cheated and squeezed in eleven. Call it writer’s license. For the remainder of the month, I’ll be explaining each of these in more detail, starting here with number 1. (See the calendar on the Romance for a Reason page for dates and links to the other posts.)

Damn-sels of Distress 

The Beatles weren’t the first or certainly the last people to get by with a little help from their friends, family, and, yes, lovers. I take no issue with men helping out the women around them, be it in romance books or real-life. My car would never have its oil changed if I didn’t accept help from the men in my life.

That said, I do take issue with books and other media who depict females as only being receivers of such help, often because their characters are too weak, squeamish, or stupid to do it themselves. In reality, I don’t change my own oil because I have little interest in learning how and no interest in hanging around a dealership while someone does it for me. As a car lover, my dad would camp out in a dealership for vacation—if he were into camping, that is. So he happily offers his assistance, and I gratefully accept it. There’s no condescension implied and no offence taken. The same is true when he comes to me to for help with technology. (Okay, I can sometimes be condescending then…sorry, Dad.) So where are such reciprocal relationships in
fiction? And more importantly, who’s to blame?

In fiction, the crisis facing the heroine is usually far more frightening than crudding up her engine with old oil. It’s often life or death. So can we blame the hero, her lover, for wanting to save her? Absolutely not. In fact, most readers get to this part of the story and swoon, especially if aforementioned male is scantily clad and heavily toned while completing such heroics. (Yes, I see the double standard here. But I won’t complain about the swimsuit edition, if I can have shirtless vampires and kilt-wearing
highlanders.)

Nope, the blame goes to the fictional female (and her creator) for sitting around doing little more than praying for her hulking male to sweep in and save the day. I get that women are the weaker sex. It’s a biological fact that as a little sister took me years to accept, but I’m over it. I also get that women in general tend to shy away from violence more than men; actually I appreciate and am proud of this fact. But I think having one’s life on the line ought to negate all that. That’s the time to stop being a damsel, damn it, and start saving yourself, or trying to. If you’re likely going down, at least go down with a fight. After all, if the character doesn’t care enough about herself to fight back, why should we as readers care?

A heroine who saves herself (or at least makes a valiant effort trying before her alpha-guy steps in) is admirable. One who saves everyone else, as well—totally kick-ass. That’s the next step writers need to take with their fictional females. And please don’t do this by slapping some lipstick on some body-builder shaped, gun-wielding dude-turned-dame. (You’ve all seen the book covers to which I’m referring.) The most fantastic female heroines use their brains, compassion, and common sense to save the day, proving that heroes can be feminine and kick-ass, without actually ever having to kick anyone. (Although, a good knee
to the groin of the villain never goes unappreciated.)

The damsel-in-distress-saved-by-her-knight-in-shining-armor fairytales of our youth might, sadly, have been acceptable back in the times they were created. No more. Women have come too far and fought too fiercely for any of us, male or female, to accept such female characters as our heroines. It’s time we demand our fictional females be as brave, cunning, and willing to step in and save the day as those hot heroes who make us swoon.

Read a few romance books with that type of female lately? Do share!

For those interested in checking out the stories of the fierce females from the world of Alex Crocker, Unbridled is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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From G. I. Jane to Feminist Romance with Fangs


After being a guest on three other terrific blogs, I’m finally kicking off Romance for a Reason on my own blog, by introducing a topic I’ll be writing about here and on host sites all month: strong fictional females. Before jumping into that, though, here’s a little insight into how I, of all people, landed here.

Romance for a Reason. Oddly enough, it wasn’t until rather recently that I believed there were any good reasons to be reading, let alone writing, romance. This had little to do with the quality of romance books on the market or their portrayal of females. After all, I hadn’t read any romances. Nope, my baseless contempt for the genre was more to do with where I was as a reader and writer, and as a woman, a journey that started long before I was old enough to read E.L. James.

Reading wise, I’m an oddball among authors. Every writers’ conference I’ve ever attended the teachers and students love to
reminisce about childhoods spent lost in the world of literature. Now I’m not saying I didn’t read as a kid; I loved reading. But reading was a rainy day activity, or something to occupy the time between sunset and when dinner was served. I enjoyed plenty of trips to the town library, but it was not my primary playground. Short of a hurricane, the neighborhood kids and I all
played outside. My early love of story telling came from hours role-playing scenes from Star Wars, building forts, and, yes, even playing war with toy guns.

I’m even odder in the world of romance writers. As you’ve probably deduced by now, I was a tomboy growing up. I wanted little to do with princesses and even less to do with anything pink. (Unless the princess was Princess Lea, who was kick-ass and fulfills nearly all of my requirements for fabulous fictional females. Yes, I still am getting to that.) My camouflage nightshirt didn’t show dirt or chocolate ice cream drips the way the pink frilly gowns my grandmother gave me did. And with their perpetually
pointed toes, my Barbies couldn’t even stand on their own, let alone hold an AK-47 like my brother’s G.I. Joes. It seemed to this little girl growing up in the early 80s that being lady-like was no fun at all. I was too young to know what a feminist was, but I knew all about ‘fairness.’ And having to wear a dress or skirt on the first day of school, which greatly inhibited my already short stumpy legs from running around at recess, seemed grossly unfair.

Little girls grow up, but I still never would have guessed that wearing a skirt, by choice, some ten years later would be the catalyst to writing and discussing feminist romance. But here I am, thanks in part to Skanky Thursdays. Yes, you read that right. Sometime during my junior year in high school my small group of friends and I decided to stop being wallflowers and embrace our sexuality. Okay, I think we actually all just happened to try out the new trend of wearing short skirts to school on the same
fateful Thursday. The result, though, was the same. We liked it, we named it, and we made it a weekly tradition, appreciating even then the irony behind the fact that we were the four least skanky girls in our high school.

I’m not sure it was such a big deal for the other girls, who seemed more comfortable in feminine attire than I was, but for me, bearing three inches of thigh (which I realize is comparable to a nun’s habit by today’s standards) was uncomfortably, yet wonderfully liberating. Looking back, I realize I had reached an age where I was relatively comfortable in my own skin, confident in my talents (or at least somewhat assured that I actually had some talents), and willing to speak my mind. The scandalous skirt with the slit up the side was just an outward manifestation of my coming-of-age. And seeing the second glances it derived from a few male classmates entirely made up for the impracticality of not being able to get the books off the bottom shelf of my locker. I was starting to like this being a woman thing.

If I were to fast-forward a decade (okay, almost two, but who’s counting?), you’d see the flashes of life experiences and important people who’ve helped me continue to appreciate being female, and who’ve helped me grow into a stronger woman. My mother’s first battle with breast cancer came just a year after Skanky Thursdays, followed by college where I played women’s rugby, then moved home and earned my black belt in Karate. After B.U. I became a teacher, moved out, earned a Masters, bought a condo and a car, and published three books, all on my own. You should be hearing “All the single ladies” playing in the background by now.

Except, I didn’t do any of this all on my own. I had the advice, support, and encouragement of scores of wonderful, beautiful, courageous women—friends, family, and coworkers. I’ve also been blessed with men in my life who’ve made me feel pretty, which with society’s over-emphasis on it might seem trivial, but is still important, and who more importantly made me feel intelligent, responsible, and worthy—of being loved, of being respected, or of just being. That’s all anyone, male or female, can really ask of one’s self.

Why then do we not ask it of our characters?

“It’s fiction, Dad!” was the exasperated response I gave to my father growing up when he couldn’t suspend his disbelief long enough to enjoy a one hour episode of the X-files. But aliens aside, our fictional characters ought to reflect the best and worst of humanity. Where heroes and heroines are concerned, you’d expect less worst and more best. Flaws make for fun reading, but at some point the character must prove that his flaws sum up to something admirable. I say his, because the flawed but heroic roles too often go to the guys—usually the ones with sweet six-packs, which could be why women forget to complain that they’re the ones always being saved by these hotties. Love of washboard abs and tight buns, notwithstanding, I’m here to
register my complaint.

I now have three gorgeous nieces (the daughters of two close friends) and one handsome nephew, my brother’s new baby. I don’t want my nieces growing up in a world where it seems cooler to be a boy. And I don’t want my nephew to think all females are in need of saving—that’s not to say he shouldn’t help a woman in need if and when the opportunity arises. I just want to be sure he’s doing it because that’s what good people do, regardless of gender. Clearly, since almost all my babes are still in diapers, it’ll be long a time before they’re reading romance novels. And I can’t do much about the myriad of media they’ll be exposed to, some of which will surely still employ stereotypes about both genders. But I can be sure that what I add to that growing world of influences depicts women as accurately and positively as possible.

So my plea to the writers of the world, be it of books, movies, television scripts, or internet content, is that we consider whether the heroines of our tales are worthy—of being loved, of being respected, or of just being. And if they’re not, scrap ‘em. To the consumers of these works, please consider the same and hold your heroines and their creators to higher standards.

My standards include the following top ten things more fictional (and real-life) females ought to do:

1. Save themselves (and everyone else) whenever they can.

2. Accept when they can’t.

3. Know themselves.

4. Be willing to change.

5. Embrace their sexuality.

6. Champion their femininity.

7. Appreciate chivalry.

8. Celebrate girl power.

9. Eliminate cattiness.

10. Cry a little & laugh a lot.

Okay, so technically that’s eleven. That’s why I don’t teach math.

Over the course of the month, I’ll be expanding on each of these in a full blog post (see the calendar for dates and links). In
the meantime, I’d love some help compiling a list of such characters and the books they grace. My attempt to do this on my Facebook author page seemed a sad confirmation of how few strong fictional females are out there, at least in
romance. Prove me wrong…please!

I’ll start with one that did come up and which I wholeheartedly agree with: Claire Fraser from the Outlander series by Diana
Gabaldon

Next…

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