Archive for June 2015

Simplistic Thinking about Mass Shootings   4 comments

Perhaps it is human nature to blame something other than ourselves for the events we see in the world. The South Carolina church shooting shows that tendency in full view.

  • Guns caused the shooting. Their very existence demands that they be used for the mass killing of folks.

Do we really believe that? Certainly our president and some pundits say they believe that, but isn’t that the equivalent of saying “the devil made me do it?” I’ve been around guns my whole life. It’s stupid to go into the woods where there are bears, wolves and moose without a firearm. I shot a 22 when I was 7. I first handled my mom’s 357 when I was in junior high right after three soon-to-be rapists tried to break into our house and Mom (all 95 pounds of her) scared them away.

My guns have never whispered to me that I should go out and shoot up a church, a movie theater, a shopping center. Guns are inanimate objects. If there’s any whispering going on, it’s coming from the mind of the shooter, not the guns. Guns are simply a tool for keeping users safe. Make them illegal and it leaves law-abiding citizens at the mercy of law-breakers, because law-breakers won’t be obeying the gun laws.

  • Racism caused the shooting.

There may be some validity to this argument in the case of this particular church. It was a historically black church and the shooter seems to have had some racist beliefs. He was also high on drugs and may have been mentally ill. So is that racism or mental illness or some other problem not yet identified. The shooter spent an hour in that church during Bible study before he opened fire. If it were my church, I’d be asking “What happened during that hour that escalated rather than de-escalated his violence?” Maybe it was nothing. Maybe he was just bent on killing people and it took him an hour to get the courage, but … as I said, if it were MY church …. Is it possible they weren’t very welcoming to the weird white guy in their haven for the dark-skinned? If you think that’s a racist question, note the number of fingers pointing back at yourself before you pop off.

  • Mental illness caused the shooting. Lock up all mentally ill or make it illegal for them to have guns and all will be better.

I worked in the mental health field for 15 years. I’ve met some mentally ill people who would mow down a church group because the voices in their heads told them to do it. Not the gun, not racism — mental illness. But I’ve also met mentally ill folks who would never hurt anyone (except maybe themselves) and others who stay on their meds because they don’t want to ever hurt anyone else. Delusional disorders are not all the same and it’s wrong to treat some folks like criminals because they are ill.

  • Churches are at fault.

I actually heard this from an atheist neighbor this weekend. If churches weren’t these monolithic structures that judge people, he said, they wouldn’t become targets for crazy people. Do away with all churches and people would be free to love one another and violence would be reduced immeasurably. Wow, you just can’t make that up.

All of those simple causes are probably partially at fault. Churches ought to be more welcoming to those who are odd. Yes, that puts them more at risk. Jesus never said being His followers would be safe. There is a lovely man who occasionally comes through our church. We call him John the Baptist and I can’t say his real name because I signed agreements years ago. He is a Christian who is also bat-crazy with schizophrenia. Often when you talk to him, it’s like reading Alice in Wonderland on acid, but he also cuts right to the truth of the gospel in a way that sane people rarely do. He knows his Bible and his application is spot on. And (some people find this creepy), he seems to know things about you that he shouldn’t know, but he uses that knowledge to help the Christians he meets. I wonder if he’s not talking to angels, who are the demons who chose to obey God. Yeah, I worked in the mental health field for 15 years and I believe in demons. That’s another topic. Churches should be more welcoming to people who are not stereotypically “church” people.

Mental illness is a tough nut to crack. Europe and other nations handle it by doing what we used to do — locking folks up and forcing them to take their meds. There is a growing movement in this country by mental health advocates to never force anyone to take medication against their will. Did you know that? Yeah! So maybe there’s more to these mass shootings than just undiagnosed mental illness. But maybe in a country that prides itself on individual liberty, we really don’t have a right to force others to be medicated against their will. There are some folks who think we should treat mental illness like a crime. I don’t, but I also acknowledge that some people won’t stay on their meds and they aren’t John the Baptist motivated by God’s spirit to share the gospel. Some of them are scary scary people and we need to have a discussion about what to do with that. Currently, if you call for help because you think someone might be developing schizophrenia and about to harm someone, you have to show that they really are an imminent risk to themselves or others. In essence, they have to mow down a church group before the police will act.

Notice that I’m sitting on the fence with this because I’m an individualist who has experience with both good people who are mentally ill and scary people who are mentally ill. I’m not sure what the answer is here and I suspect there is no “good” solution.

Racism is a swinging door. The first time I ever saw racism directed at me was not because I’m an American Indian and white folks don’t like Indians. It was a black man who had decided I was white and he didn’t want me in his shop. Racism doesn’t have a color. A traditionally ethnic church of any stripe might think its meeting separately because that’s how white folks want it, but in reality, in this day and age, they are meeting separately because they feel most comfortable with that. Guaranteed, if a group of any ethnicity showed up at 90% of traditionally white churches, nobody would turn them away and most might not even notice the color of your skin. Racism and reverse racism are not excuses for mowing down a church group, but it is certainly something churches need to consider. And, not just churches. Society as a whole exhibits this problem. When you’re pointing a finger at someone else as a racist, pay attention to how many fingers are pointing back at you.

Guns do not kill anyone by themselves. They are simply a tool. If we didn’t have guns, mentally ill people and racists would find other ways to kill people. Knives, gasoline bombs, cars, baseball bats, bow-and-arrow, hammers …. As a small woman, I’m not going to go mana a mana with a man swinging a baseball bat or wielding a knife. With a gun, I become his equal and therefore, equally able to protect myself and those around me. If you disarm me, you relegate me to the role of victim, leading to my death.

I know we don’t want to hear this. We want simple causes and simple solutions, but we don’t have those and until we accept that the issues are more complicated than we want to believe, we can’t hope to solve the problems.

Being Asked to Conceal Carry at Church   5 comments

A friend called this morning and asked if I would be willing to talk to the ladies of her church about concealed carry. Rose explained that her church gathered yesterday in the wake of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church shooting to discuss security. They agreed they didn’t want uniformed security guards at the doors. That’s pretty off-putting to members and visitors alike and the uniforms make a great target. They decided that they preferred members to conceal carry, but the discussion revealed that their congregation does not have a culture of that. Many of the members carry guns for hunting, but they just aren’t into going forth armed.

Rose knows I conceal carry occasionally. I’ve taken concealed carry courses. Though Alaska does not require a permit for CC and I have chosen not to end up on a federal list, I wanted the skills offered by a professional instructor. Rose hoped I would come to her church and encourage other women to take the courses and start carrying at church.

I haven’t carried at church since we changed churches about four years ago. Our old church was right next to a community drunk housing project and in a neighborhood with a high drug population, so CC seemed like a good idea and church members regularly carried. Our new-ish church is in a better location and we have a couple of former soldiers who act as entry monitors who I assume are CC, so I haven’t felt the need, but the events in South Carolina has given me pause.

That guy was in a Bible Study for an hour before he opened fire on the people he had been interacting with. What would I have done in that situation? I’ve never drawn my gun on another human being, but my mom did once to keep rapists out of our house (I’ve discussed that on this blog before). Nobody can be sure how they will react when the fecal matter hits the fan, but I have trained for it, so I suspect I’d unload my clip into the shooter.

Would that save some lives? Yeah. We know it has in the past.

For the record, although I haven’t carried in church for several years, I regularly carry at the movie theater and certain community events. I am a small woman, so actual concealed carry is not always an option, but I want to share something that occurred last summer in a second blog post.

Posted June 20, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Free for 2 More Days   Leave a comment

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverThe Willow Branch is FREE on Amazon through Monday.

Get a great epic fantasy for your summer reading. If you like it leave a review on Amazon

Alaska is NOT on fire!   1 comment

Apparently that is what CNN and Huffington Post is telling people.

Of course, it’s all caused by global warming and the sky is falling, so be afraid, be very afraid!

My mother-in-law even saw fit to call us from Hawaii because she was “afraid” for us.


This is actually a small fire season for Alaska in terms of acreage in flame.

Black spruce trees, which account for the majority of our forests, are essentially oil lanterns waiting for a spark — from lightning, a chain saw or a carelessly tossed cigarette butt — to set them aflame. They actually need fire to open their cones so they can propagate.

For 70 years, Alaska (like everywhere else in the country) fought fires quickly so as to save Smoky Bear. Alaska’s forests began being munched by bugs about 35 years ago and the foresters began to reconsider the wisdom of preventing all forest fires. The problem is that there is a lot of fuel out there in the forests that needs to be cleaned out, but there is no way Alaskas can log it all, so lightning sets off a fire and WHOOSH millions of acres go up in flames. The Wolf Creek-Boundary fires about 10 years ago covered 2 million acres and actually took two summers to bring under control; it just smoldered under the snow all winter.

This year the acreage is much smaller, but it just happens to be near structures and — as we informed Nora the other day — the big fires are nowhere near Fairbanks. There’s 300 miles and the Alaska Range between us and the Sockeye fire.

Which is not to say the Interior around Fairbanks doesn’t have a few fires — but nothing unusual and we’re dealing with them.

This is the art of living sensibly. Don’t panic over things that aren’t panic-worthy.

*Image courtesy Alaska Dispatch News.

Posted June 19, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Free for the Solstice!   Leave a comment


Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverEpic Fantasy at it’s best.

A healer must mend a broken kingdom and bring together two enemy races before a greater threat destroys them both.

The Willow Branch is free on Amazon June 18-22.

Five Star Reviews

“In a time when so much fantasy being published is grim and dark, it’s refreshing to find a book that returns to the beauty of high fantasy, with lyrical prose and an alternate history take on old Celtic tales but blended with mythical creatures such as dragons and elves. …”

“A beautiful fantasy novel with solid bones and depth, The Willow Branch took hold of my mind and encompassed me. I loved its setting of a Celtic realm and the reflections of Christianity really completed this work for me. Complete with a dragon, elven people, humans and long abandoned dwarven mountain paths, it easily created a wonderful fantasy realm, and the individual…

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Posted June 18, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Free for the Solstice!   1 comment

Willow Branch Blue White Recreation CoverEpic Fantasy at it’s best.

A healer must mend a broken kingdom and bring together two enemy races before a greater threat destroys them both.

The Willow Branch is free on Amazon June 18-22.

Five Star Reviews

“In a time when so much fantasy being published is grim and dark, it’s refreshing to find a book that returns to the beauty of high fantasy, with lyrical prose and an alternate history take on old Celtic tales but blended with mythical creatures such as dragons and elves. …”

“A beautiful fantasy novel with solid bones and depth, The Willow Branch took hold of my mind and encompassed me. I loved its setting of a Celtic realm and the reflections of Christianity really completed this work for me. Complete with a dragon, elven people, humans and long abandoned dwarven mountain paths, it easily created a wonderful fantasy realm, and the individual characters here really took hold of my emotions and made me care about the characters’ fates. …”

“A fantasy of real beauty and a highly imagined world. There is a lovely sense of symbolism that is woven in with a Celtic theme. With a Medieval type setting and feel to it the story tells of a kingdom in peril and the search for the one who can save it. But such things can come from most unexpected places. …”

Posted June 18, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Publication on Wattpad   Leave a comment

Posted June 18, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

National Dump the Pump Day   Leave a comment

As an individualist, you might think I’d resist “national” anything, and I do. These little heart-warming moments of enforced solidarity are really good propaganda opportunities, but I’m not impressed.

Believe it or not, I am not opposed to mass transportation. I missed the days when bus lines were run by commercial enterprises, but my parents told me about them — clean, safe, on time, driven by polite drivers who worried about losing their jobs if they didn’t do a good job.

I occasionally take public transportation now and I have disagreements with the talking points in the attached propaganda.

So here is the counter argument by someone with better math skills than me.

To sum up what the writer said and what I believe — I honestly don’t think public transportation is a cheaper way to get around than a car. There are enormous hidden costs to the taxpayers because public transportation is almost always government owned, but there is also the time and hassle costs for users to be considered, which the writer does a good job examining.

But, hey, many folks are going to go with the emotional propaganda of it all despite the logical arguments and the writer also touches on this by quoting someone who corresponded with him. We can make mass transit a viable alternative to the car, but only if we force people to live in apartment complexes with no personal space — which by the way, almost always results in high crime and periodic outbreaks of violence. Like rats, we react badly when we’re forced to be in close proximity to one another for long periods of time.

Posted June 18, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized

Interview with KC Sprayberry   3 comments

Today’s interview is with K.C. Sprayberry. Welcome to the blog.  Tell us something about yourself.

Sprayberry EyesI currently live in Northwest Georgia, but that will be changing soon. We’re in the process of selling our home and relocating to Alabama. Not only am I an author, I’m also the editor-in-chief of Summer Solstice Publishing, an imprint of Solstice Publishing. My significant other is my husband of nearly twenty-two years and the only child remaining in our almost empty nest is our youngest, who will be returning to college in a year.

At what point did you know you wanted to be a writer?

As far back as I can remember, I have loved reading. I think that came from my mom, who in an effort to control six unruly children over school holidays, was wont to sit us down with a book in our hands and order us to read. We all developed a deep-seated passion for those books and many others that continues to this day. Sometime during this process, I began to create stories in my head. At first, I put these tales into my diary, until one of my brothers discovered it and blabbed. After that, I kept the stories in my head, until high school, where a very good creative writing teacher pulled that magical string and let them loose. Since then, I’ve been jotting down stories on pieces of paper, napkins, even my hand when I was without a piece of paper. It’s like the faucet will never close, and I aim to make the most of this journey.

Sprayberry callchronicleskindlecoverThat’s a common history for many of us writers … that tap that cannot be turned off.  Tell us about your writing process.

My writing process generally consists of me yelling at the characters demanding to be heard while I attempt to do those normal things—prepare meals, tote the child here and there, and clean the house. They won’t shut up, so I’ll plop down and pound out their stories, until the dust bunnies are of Jurassic size, and then do the normal things until the characters are too loud again. It’s a vicious circle I can’t, and don’t want to escape.

What is your favorite genre … to read … to write?

It might be easier to ask what is my least favorite genre. I will read a book as long as it’s good. It’s that simple. Be it fantasy, contemporary, romance, sci-fi, or any of the other genres, as long as the author has created a wonderful, consuming story that I can’t walk away from. There are exceptions though. I don’t read porn, have no use for it, and literary fiction leaves me cold. Most literary fiction I’ve attempted to read bored me to tears within the first ten pages.

Sprayberry lost and scared cover artWhat are you passionate about?

Writing, reading, photography, nature, honesty in politics. Yes, I know the last one is a bit of a laugh, but I feel that politicians should be honest with those who have elected them. That’s probably why I’m not too popular with that group.

What is something you cannot live without?

A quiet place to write… my books (we have close to 3,000 print and ebooks)… my kitchen—cooking is my way of relaxing. As one of my children recently described it, “I don’t know how much she puts of what into the pot. She just tosses this and that, and it all comes out great.”

Sprayberry Softly Say GoodbyeWhen you are not writing, what do you do?

Visit the library… a park… smell the flowers outside… meet up with people I like. I’m a simple person. There’s no need for a fancy meal, or an elite gathering. Give me down home folks and good food, and I’m enjoying myself.

Have you written any books that made a transformative effect on you? If so, in what way?

My most recent novel, Lost & Scared, and my latest collection, Soar High 1 Standing Strong.

The novel, Lost & Scared, is about non-custodial parental abduction told from the viewpoint of twins, a brother and sister, with an almost mystical connection. One of them is left behind, while the other is taken in the abduction with three of their younger siblings. It’s intense, explores a lot of emotions and actions I’ve avoided in my other teen novels, and as my editor put it, is a darned good book.

Soar High 1 Standing Strong is a series of stories about abuse. It’s about overcoming abuse more than about the actions themselves. Freeing those being abused from their situation is more than mouthing words, it’s about action, doing what others may say is wrong, but still taking that step to walk away from the pattern so it doesn’t hold onto you forever.

Sprayberry Where U @Where do you get the inspiration for your novels?

Things happening around me, news stories, situations I experienced growing up and as an adult. Sometimes a character will appear in my head and demand that I tell a story I’ve never considered. Those are harder to write, but far more satisfying, especially the research I do to find out more about the situation I’m crafting.

What sort of research do you do for your novels?

Newspapers, the internet, talking to people who have experienced what I’m writing about, or who know someone who has gone through it. Sometimes, to craft a great story, you have to step away from the characters and envision things how their friends see them. That’s why it’s important to get the opinion of bystanders.

If someone who hasn’t read any of your novels asked you to describe your writing, what would you say?

I’m intense and approach subjects that aren’t comfortable. Things like underage drinking, school violence, texting and driving, non-custodial parental abduction, and bullying to name a few. Some say those are hot subjects, but I try to look at them from a viewpoint that hasn’t been done before.

Do you have a special place where you write?

I have a writing cave. It’s a private place, where those in the house know they can’t wander into at will. I’ll also write in a notebook at the park, or sitting in the bleachers before a game, or even at the grocery store if the muse strikes.

Do you find yourself returning to any recurring themes within your writing and, if so, are you any closer to finding an answer?

Currently, I’m returning to the non-custodial parental abduction theme. Lost & Scared 2 is in the early planning stages. There are a couple of chapters written, but I’m still researching a few elements that I don’t really know well, so those characters are well rounded. I have to say this book will portray the original twins in a completely different way as the first book, which is why I’m having so much trouble getting it to work. They’ve matured, are getting ready for college, and still dealing with the near past. And that’s all I can say about that book at the moment.

Are you a plot driven or character driven writer? Why?

Character driven, definitely. My characters are very much a part of my life. They feel the same as my kids. I care about them. I cry when they do, laugh with them, and fight for the same things they believe in. Well-developed characters can move a plot so well, and I strive hard to do that with mine.

Do you write from an outline or are you a discovery writer?  Why?

I’m a panster through and through. I’ve tried writing from an outline, but it never works. Before I reach chapter eight, I’m tossing everything out the window and listening to my characters, switching up situations, letting the plot take off on its own.

Sprayberry Take Chances (683x1024)What point of view do you prefer to write, and why?

For my teen books, I prefer first person, present tense. It’s more alive, contains more a feeling of immediacy. Romance, military fiction, and westerns are all third person, past tense. That’s how the story wants to be told, and I learned long ago not to ignore the story.

Do you head-hop?

I try not to. Some of my stories have that happen accidentally, but mostly I stick to the point of view I’m working with at the moment. Do I have multiple POV stories? Yes. Two of my teen books, my romantic suspense novel, and my western are all multiple POV, but I work hard to ensure the reader isn’t confused about whose story they’re reading.

I’m going to drop you in a remote Alaska cabin for a month. It’s summer so you don’t have worry about freezing to death. I’ll supply the food and the mosquito spray. What do you do while you’re there and what do you bring with you? If you’re bringing books, what are they?

Better be some really good mosquito spray. I’m a magnet for those critters, and I hear the ones in Alaska are huge!

The huge ones are easy. They’ve very slow, so you can smack them before they get to you. It’s the smaller ones that attack with ferocity and by the millions. But we have great bug spray.

You’ll supply the food too? Will it be food I don’t have to prepare? Because if so, I’ll be spending that whole month doing a NaNoWriMo type writing marathon with one major difference. I won’t have to stop to grocery shop, or make meals, or clean the house. You might have to use a shoehorn to boot me out after a month.

Tell us about your books.

We’ll start with the first. Softly Say Goodbye was inspired by a Breaking Benjamin song, Here We Are. The moment I heard that song, the characters came alive in my head. The plot and theme were a lot slower, until I settled on underage drinking and one girl’s passion to stop teens in her school from going down that road.

Take Chances is probably the second most emotional book for me. This idea began right after Columbine. That really hit home for my family. We knew people there, people I’d worked with before we moved to Georgia. Watching the news stories, seeing the terror drove home just how awful this is. The main character, Julie, is a military brat, and proud of it. She has her secrets, one of which is revealed the day before horror visits her at a school a second time.

Sprayberry The Wrong One 2 (427x640)The Wrong One is my first multiple viewpoint story. Two children are ripped apart in a night of terror when they are four. Fourteen years later, the boy, Kyle, stands by his vow to bring Lyssa home. Lyssa doesn’t even know who she really is, due to a threat made in the early hours after she was taken from her home. This book is my first psychological thriller, but not my last. The Wrong One placed #7 in the 2013 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

Inits—it’s all in a name, or as Alex puts it in this book, the inits, initials, of your name. And his are a curse word. He’s tried for years to stop punching people who use his inits, but now that he’s starting high school, he knows he has to find a peaceful way to stop the teasing. Only one person stands in his way, the school bully, who is determined to make Alex get over his inits and let people use them.

Texting and driving is the theme for Where U @, but the book is much more than that. It also explores some racism, where the main character, Trea, must put up with harassment because she’s one quarter Cherokee. As she discovers, it’s easy to say don’t text and drive, but the temptation might prove too strong at certain moments.

Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates is the first in a planned 6 book series about a group of teens living on a space station. It’s irreverent, funny, and full of all kinds of dangerous situations—the perfect book for adventuresome boys and girls. Oh, and there are space pirates, with one big surprise for BD Bradford, the main character.

Canoples Investigations Versus Spacers Rule, there’s a new gang making trouble on Canoples Station, along with a lot of hatred for the Canoples Investigations crew. Can they overcome all of that to protect the station from dangerous animals and… gasp!… gas?

Paradox Lost: Their Path is a time travel fantasy novel. What starts out as a prophecy that will happen sometime in the future, turns into a fight for their lives for triplets DJ, Matt, and Elisa. To compound the problems, each of them must make the choice to save their father, trapped in the debris of 1906 San Francisco after the earthquake, thereby changing history and causing more problems. Or will they put their personal concerns aside and work for the more important issue, stopping Rogues from destroying the world? Paradox Lost: Their Path placed #3 in the 2014 Preditors & Editors Readers Poll.

The Curse of Grungy Gulley, a tale that has been with me for a long time. It originally started out as another “dead mother” book, but evolved into a good versus evil fight spanning 144 years, with four viewpoints. Three teens must overcome a Bewitcher who has been harrying their families since the time of The Black Plague in fourteenth century Europe.

How do you stop a stalker who is determined to possess you? That’s what Lisa faces in Evil Eyes. This book is also about teens experiencing new feelings of closeness with their significant other once they’re off in college, away from a protective home environment.

Lost & Scared is my most recent YA novel, and the most intense writing experience I’ve ever had. The theme is non-custodial parental abduction from the viewpoint of twins, a boy and a girl. Each of them originally has the same reason to exhibit disgust for their dad, but they find themselves being tested beyond what they thought were their limits as the story unfolds. This book isn’t for the faint of heart.

What if you had a chance to ride in the Pony Express? What if you were a girl and this was your dream? That’s the theme of Pony Dreams, a book set in mid-nineteenth century Nevada. Abby will do anything to get near the ponies, even thinks about sneaking away from home to join the new mail venture.

Westerns have always had a special place in my heart. The Call Chronicles 1: The Griswold Gang was an experiment that I suggested to The Western Online. This book was actually first published on their website as a serialized novel, much like the penny dreadfuls of the nineteenth century. It’s about a family who has a duty to find and bring to the justice the men who burned their home and murdered their parents.

What would you do if your daughter allegedly committed suicide but you are certain she didn’t? That’s what Jayme and Brad face in Starlight, a romantic suspense novel about corruption.

*** I do have short stories, collections, and anthologies along with my novels, but in the interest of space, I didn’t include them. ***

Was it your intention to write a story with a message or a moral?

It never starts out that way, but the subject matter I deal with usually ends with a message. Honestly, I really try hard to avoid being preachy about those messages.

What do you want readers to think or feel after reading one of your books?

I want them to get mad, to cry, to laugh, to think of my characters as they would their family or friends. I would love my readers to be so involved in the book that they are screaming for a win during a game, beating the armrest of their chair when things go wrong, or hiccupping from sobbing at a very intense moment.

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Softly Say Goodbye:

Take Chances:

The Wrong One:


Where U @

Canoples Investigations Tackles Space Pirates:

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Evil Eyes:

Lost & Scared:

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Don’t Ignore the Differences   1 comment

Anyone who has read my books knows that I write from the male perspective a fair bit. My reasons are complex, but it’s probably owing to growing up in Alaska where there was a 4:1 ratio of men and women. It is a place where men are men and women win the Iditarod, so even my female characters tend to hunt, fish and chop wood. If there is a girly character in my writing, it’s rarely a central character because I struggle with girly females.

Regardless, men and women are different and if you don’t know that, it may be negatively affecting your writing. Females tend to write like girls (hence the majority of romance novelists being female) and men tend to write like men (and pen the better epic fantasies — usually). There’s nothing wrong with that, unless you want to market books to humans in general or create characters of the opposite sex, because trust me, there is no such thing as gender neutral writing and attempts to make it so are cautionary tales in why we shouldn’t go there because we give up a major tool for creating tension and nuance within our novels

I’m not saying anything that scientists haven’t already found ample evidence to support. Men and women are different at a biological and brain architecture level. Those hardwired gender difference have a huge impact on how we write, but as I showed in the first paragraph, that is also influenced by culture and temperament. There are, believe it or not, male romance novelists. They usually write under a female pseudonym and their novels sell just as well as the ones written by females. There are other writers who seem to transcend gender. Kate Elliott, who is one of my favorite epic fantasy writers, managed to make me forget that a girl was writing Prince of Dogs, while, in the Cold Magic series, her female-centric narrative is perfectly believable.

How does she manage that? I don’t know, but I do know how I attempt a similar outcome.

I recognize that men and women are different. We even use different vocabulary. Women like personal pronouns — I, you, we and are also much more descriptive and effusive in our language. We play with adjectives. Men like active verbs and concrete figures and tend to limit descriptors to numbers.

Nothing separates men and women more than our analogies. A man warms to the idea of an motor that roars like a lion while a woman prefers something that purrs like a kitten. In epic fantasy, men and women often live very different lives. A male soldier is likely to draw metaphors from his own life — to think of horses, swords and armor. A female seamstress is more likely to think in terms of needle, thread, coat and shoe.

Men think in terms of accomplishments — a battle won, a disease conquered, a city built. Women focus on relationships and emotions. This is really evidence in the entertainment we choose. Men tend to like explosions in their movies while women want a happily-ever-after. In writing novels, male writers tend to follow the men off to war while female writers tend to focus on the family coping at home.

At a writer’s workshop last winter, we were asked to write a paragraph describing a photo (depicting a cowboy breaking a bronco) and then to write the same description from the perspective of the other gender. The results were an interesting survey. All of the paragraphs from the male perspective focused on the excitement and sense of accomplishment in training the horse while most of the female-perspective paragraphs focused on the fear of injury and the sadness of the animal’s terror. Mine was the exception to the female perspective rule — I wrote with the guys, probably because my mother used to break broncos in Montana as a teenager and I grew up with those stories.

If you’re writing for a purely male or female audience, it’s helpful to know these difference, but it’s vital to be aware of them if you’re writing for humans in general. I write epic fantasy and apocalytpics. It’s important for me to blend and balance these two genders to be more inclusive of both men and women. I try to include both domestic scenes and battles. My female characters care about things my male characters do not. Lydya, an important character in the Daermad Cycle, struggles to spend time with her children and cares that soldiers are getting serving girls pregnant. Meanwhile, Padraig notes how much taller the walls of Clarcom have become in the years he’s been away.

One of the most essential focuses for a writer who wants to be accurate with both male and female characters is dialogue. Recognizing differences in gender communication can help to create more believable characters that ring true with readers. Linguists have found that women state preferences rather than make demands, ask questions rather than make statements, and we apologize for our difficult decisions. Men use more commanding and aggressive language, use more sarcasm, insults and sexual innuendo and also hold their personal information much closer than women do.

Of course, our differences are not all the same. Not all women think and behave alike and the same is true for men. As a tom-boy raised in Alaska by a tom-boy farm girl and a man who paid the bills as a professional chef, I am well aware that there is considerable variation within the genders, but their differences as a woman somewhat in touch with her masculine side and a man somewhat in touch with his feminine side provided conflict in their relationship. While some in society consider it politically correct to write men and women as the same in novels, we are not the same and it is that difference that provides opportunity for conflict and nuance. Just as you would research a character from another culture, you should research gender differences so that you can exploit, enhance and highlight the differences to make a more compelling story.

Posted June 17, 2015 by aurorawatcherak in Uncategorized


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