Quick Note: Hello, dear readers! It has been some time since I have traversed the pages of my blog with anything new. But I'm back from the purgatory I have been in as I revamped Fractured Dream, and I'm ready to become a blogging member of society again. So here goes!
I recently watched Wonder Woman (finally!). She is by far my favorite super hero. I first began watching Linda Carter kick butt as the Amazonian heroine when I was only four or five years old. But I can remember how much I wanted to be like her. I would run around outside, imagining I was her. When my older friend Megan came over to play, I'd let her be Wonder Woman and I'd be Wonder Girl. Us girls have to share the power, after all.
The movie was as amazing as I hoped. Am I silly for getting choked up a bit watching it? I'm a bit overly sentimental at times, it's true. What I found empowering, was that this movie was finally made and the rave reviews it received after its debut. It just seemed to encompass the entire female power element.
In literature and shows, I am drawn to the powerful female. I believe Wonder Woman inspired this in me at such a young age. Quite frankly, a fictional character helped set me on the path to becoming the proud feminist I am today.
Since then, many women, both real and imagined, have continued to be inspiring forces. Super heroes come in many form such as in mothers (Hi, Mom), literary figures (RIP Maya Angelou), political figures (you rock, Kirsten Gillibrand), historical figures (Thank you, Susan B. Anthony), and so many more. But fictional characters have also had a huge impact, whether they represent the fictional or non-fictional narrative. They don't all wear capes or take down men twice their size. They use their words, hearts, intellect, and voices. My writing is a part of my voice.
I have always been drawn to strong female characters, in all components, and I will continue to write women and girls with that spirit in mind and hopefully discover new worlds to weave for them to save or survive in. Because I believe in the power of the fictional character. In our minds, she comes alive. <3
Today I saw a quote from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which still stands as my favorite TV show of all time: "Every girl that could have the power will have the power. Can stand up. Will stand up." For those who have never watched the show, this is from an epic moment in the last episode of the season. To me, it says you don't have the potential to be strong, you are strong.
I've always loved the moment in stories when the woman takes back her power or finally wields what she has had inside of her all along. I'm a Wonder Woman lover, but Helen Keller is my hero, and I miss Maya Angelou's voice. The women who fought for our rights in this very real life story are inspirations. International Women's Day honors those women before us, it honors us, and it brings awareness to the disparities that still exist in equality in our country and around the world.
I've always recognized the day, but this year it means far more to me than it has in the past. If this country's political climate has shown me anything, it's that we are still fighting for our rights. That we need to still fight for our rights and for our voices to be heard. It has shown me that despite my own experiences with inequality in the work place, I have been privileged enough to not fight too hard before. I have been too unaware of the struggles going on every day.
As each day ticks by and another fight arises to maintain our rights or the rights of our fellow human beings, I find myself reminded of Story, Jess, and Kestrel from my book Fractured Dream or Blake and Shelby from the Reaper's Daughter. I write strong female characters because I believe in the inner strength that we possess. Magic is awesome, but they beat all odds not because of their special powers, but because they recognize their inherent power within. Because they persevere against all odds. Because they persist. I think often about all the books I've read where women fight against oppressors, fight to make the world brighter, fight to save the world. I think about Buffy. And I think about all the women fighting for their rights around the world. But instead of magic, they use their intellect. Instead of super strength, they use their voices. Instead of battles, they march.
Today, I am unabashedly proud to be a feminist. I believe in equal rights for women. I believe in equal rights for all human beings. Happy International Women's Day to all the amazingly strong women in real life and to those who have inspired us in fiction. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich said, "Well behaved women never make history." And as Mother Teresa said: "I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples." Let's make it ripple.
When I was younger, I could barely read a book without some sort of love story involved. I would zoom through plot to get to the parts where the heroine and hero would finally reveal their love for each other, finally realize they were soul mates. The soul mate principle, as explored by many authors with various theories and ideas within the context of YA lit, was a passion. At night, I would wish to the world that I would find my truest love. My teen years were filled with the idea that some day I would find that person who would defy death for even me. I'll never forget in middle school we were reading some love story, and our teacher asked us to pen an answer to the question, "Is love worth dying for?" This was a time when Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was my newest and favorite-st movie and Bryan Adam's "Everything I do, I do it for you," made my heart fill so much I felt it would burst. Yes! I fervishly wrote my answer, love is worth dying for!
You think you'll never change, your beliefs will always be the same. That your passionate believe in something so true will last forever. Then, suddenly you're in your thirties, much wiser, and you laugh a little at your silly younger self, all the while feeling guilty for letting that idealistic, naive girl down.
When did I stop believing in the "soul mate"? While I'm not sure, it could be when I met my husband—my life mate, which I believe to be based on something much stronger. And yet, while my reading tastes have broadened through the years and my love of plot is evident in my own writing and thought processes, I still embrace the love stories—fantasy, contemporary lit, chick lit, YA—whatever the genre. I will never understand the hate-on of the "insta-love" in books, because to me it's escape, fantasy, idealized versions of love, cosmic connections, and allowing yourself to believe that the worst thing that could tear you from your soul mate is some apocalyptic war that will ultimately be stopped in the end. The belief that goodness prevails and happiness can be found. Love is love, and I'm all in.
YA love stories allows those of who are older to relive that passion, and even though many would scoff at the "insta-love" connections, instant attraction and connections happen every day—in real life. YA love stories are often truly reflective of the big emotions of youth and a breakup can seem like the world is ending, that true love has been thwarted. But trust me, it hasn't.
While I'm reflective on the wisdom that has come from age and experience, some beliefs may have shifted, yet they remain the same. I do believe in true love. I see it every day in the face of my son. I do believe in spending the rest of your life with someone. My husband and I have laughter and new adventures planned for our silver years. I do believe in dying for love, not in the jump-off-a-bridge-because-I-got-dumped, which is ridiculous and even as a teen I had better presence of mind. But I would put myself in harm's way if the people I love were in danger, as would many people. #mamabear
The truth is, I will always be a sucker for a good love story, whether it's realistic or riddled in fantasy, in life and in the pages of stories. After all, great love between lovers, family, and friends is what life is truly about. That's why reading is so magical, because for a short time we find new adventures and characters to love, ones that can help us find insights within ourselves or provide a relaxing or stimulating escape from reality.
“Where there is love there is life.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Don't miss the Valentine's Day-themed episode of the Quirky Book Sirens, where we'll talk about what makes a good love story in literature. Feel free to chime in with any suggestions!
The October Frights Blog Hop is almost done, so I wanted to share an excerpt from The Reaper's Daughter. Look for Part III of Grim's Fall, coming in the next two days! Also, don't miss the giveaway, which will end in two days:
THE ROLLING GREEN of her eyes was dimming fast, losing color and life to the quick click of time that beat out her days and nights, a perpetual circle that was now fading to a close. Light brown hair that had been recently styled into looping curls was limp against the black pillowcase―a metaphor for her wilted spirit, I mused, thinking offhandedly how proud my English professor would be at my thoughtful use of language.
I sighed. I didn’t want to be here.
When her eyes met mine, I knew she saw me for who I really was—what I really was. She reached out an eager hand to take mine. I didn’t want anything to do with it. But it wasn’t because her fingers were slick with blood, deep crimson dripping down her arm and fingernails from where she’d so precisely placed a razor blade to her vein and dug deep, thinking she’d be free of her pain. It was because her face reflected back to me all the times I’d felt I’d been given a shitty deal. Current situation: case in point.
“Hi,” she whispered, her once pink lips fading with every pump of her life, which was idly dripping away from her to the plush white carpet below. I could smell the newness of it, the fresh aroma of a recently laid floor. That’s going to be a bitch to get clean.
I looked around her bedroom, at the dance trophies and pictures of smiling friends, and wondered why. Why me? “Blake …” Hearing my mother's warning tone, I looked over at her where she stood in the shadows, overseeing my tutelage.
“Why can’t we just call an ambulance? It’s not too late. They could save her,” I whispered fiercely, staring at the girl’s hand stretched out to me as if I were her savior and not her end. “We should save—”
“It’s not for us to decide, you know that. We are only here to bring souls over, not save their mortal lives. Take her, she wants to go.”
“And will she still feel the same when she’s looking down at her body?” I asked, not even bothering to check my mother’s expression when she didn’t answer. Suicide wasn’t a peaceful death. It was pain―that much I knew.
I choked back the tears that wanted to rise in my eyes for this girl, for me … I turned to her once more and leaned down, brushing a strand of her hair from her graying face. “What’s your name?”
Barely blinking, her pale eyes darted to me. “Carly,” she said, choking around her words.
“Just hold my hand and I’ll help you cross,” I said softly, forcing myself to meet her gaze so that someone would witness her ending as they had her beginning.
She smiled slowly, and I saw that in life she had been pretty. When she’d believed. When she’d had hope.
“The light?” Her eyes widened, glittering green for a brief moment in their otherwise colorless depths at the prospect of going somewhere beautiful after this life had been so cold.
I nodded, although I didn’t really know where she would go. I was only in training, but I hoped it was someplace good, where her tormented soul could rest.
She had small, feminine hands, I thought, as she laced her slippery fingers around my longer warm ones. She didn’t last long, her pulse giving one last flutter before sputtering out.
The room was suffused with the silence left behind in the absence of such a simple thing. The thundering lack of a person’s heartbeat had never seemed quite so loud. As life departed Carly’s mortal coil, her soul lifted from the body, but unlike some souls I’d seen that were light and buoyant, at peace with the next step in their existence, hers was outlined in darkness, and it rippled, suspended in space like a special effect in a bad horror film. Her gaze turned from her body to me, sorrow coming to settle on the slope of her bowed shoulders and in the recesses of her eyes. Regret was a fickle creature. It always came too late.
“I hope you find what you wanted,” I whispered to her soul, waiting to feel the energy that usually infused my body during a crossover. As she blinked out, all air was ripped from my lungs and I was left clutching the bedpost for purchase, grappling for oxygen and drowning on the echo of Carly’s anguish. The room spun around me, and my rasping heaves hurt my chest as I struggled to survive the sharp, bitter sting of loss that clung to the drapes and walls and assaulted my nose with its acrid scent.
I inhaled deep breaths when air returned, staring at the pool of red on the floor, thankful the bedspread had been black. She looked like a zombie, gray and without light, her once green eyes staring into a void that held nothing for her now. Without thinking about it, I reached forward and closed her lids with the lightest touch of my fingertips. The hands of Death.
“Blake,” my mother warned again, a chastising edge to the velvety lilt of her voice.
I turned to look at her and sighed, feeling the darkness in the girl’s room overwhelm me, irritation surging inside me at my mother’s emotionless manner. “Don’t you care?” I asked.
She stepped forward from the shadows, her shroud of black hair sweeping around the marble pallor of her face. “Of course,” she said. But I had a hard time believing her when her features remained composed in an expression of sculpted apathy. “But it is what it is, Blake.”
“This was the worst.”
“I’ve seen much worse,” she said, her voice lacking the deep resonance of human compassion. It was flat, a monotone observer in a world colored by grief and heartbreak.
“Gee, thanks, way to make me feel better about this whole gig.”
“That wasn’t really my intent. This is who you are. You will have to deal with tragedies that far surpass this.
Tragedies far more encompassing. This was one girl. Be grateful it wasn’t thousands.”
I could barely look at her, nauseated by the way she acted as if one girl hadn’t been everything to someone. I opened my mouth to retort with something equally nasty, my body tensed to storm past her for the last time, but I was caught in mid-motion by a soft knock at the door. My head swiveled.
“Carly?” A soft voice came from the other side, concern coating the lightness of her tone.
Oh god, I absolutely could not stick around to watch Carly's parents find their daughter dead from suicide on her comforter.
Turning quickly, I pulled a fleecy black blanket, folded so carefully before, up over the girl’s chest, trying to make the scene look less gruesome before I headed to the window.
“I’m outta here,” I told my mother. To her credit, she didn’t try to stop me with more inane platitudes.
“You could just flicker out,” she said dryly. The doorknob was turning, and I shook my head. I’d tried her way of traveling through realms to no avail. If I was going to make an exit, it was going to have to be the human way.
I hurled myself through the open window onto the tree outside without thought of my physical safety, only glancing back once to see that my mom had already disappeared.
Sliding down the tree, I hit the ground with a grunt, my sneaker-clad feet stinging from the impact. I didn’t pause, pumping my legs to power myself down the sleeping streets as fast as I could to get as much distance as possible from the death scene. But I didn’t run fast enough, because her mother’s shrieks of agony followed me from two blocks away. They don’t ever think about who they leave behind.
I blocked my ears and kept running, the late winter air biting at my cheeks with the hope of spring hanging heavy in the wind, even on such a desperate night.
When I got to my own house, I paused at the stoop, sucking in a few breaths and trying to make the images in my head go away. Smoothing back my long, dark hair, so like my mother’s, I checked my hands for hints of blood. But just like any normalcy that had previously existed in my life, the blood I’d seen stain my fingers had vanished. Licking my lips, I put my key in the door and pushed it open, stepping into the foyer.
My dad looked up from the living room, where his nose was buried in a book. “Hey, B,” he said, taking off his glasses and rubbing tired eyes. “What are you doing here? I thought you were staying at the dorm tonight.” He arched his brows and glanced at the cable box clock that glowed a green 11:15 p.m.
“Yeah, I was going to, but Shelby wanted me to stop by her parents’—you know, it’s weekly game night—so I figured that since I was so close, I’d just crash here tonight. I’d better get a little reading in though, so 'night, Dad.”
He didn’t stop me or question me, which I was thankful for. I bounded up the steps to my room. Movies always made it look so easy, but living a double life was going to be the death of me. Pun intended.
After closing my bedroom door behind me, I sat down on my bed, tossed off my shoes, and quickly headed for the bathroom to shower. My skin felt dirty with the cloak of death, and I wanted to wash it away. Even though I knew it was impossible.
I was struck by my reflection as I closed the door behind me and turned to the medicine cabinet. It was like looking at a younger version of my mother. Only my eyes were a pale crystal blue. Hers were black. I was thankful for the difference.
But what we had in common even more than looks was a legacy. A long one. You might have heard of her before; she’s really quite famous, although most stories have gotten it wrong and made her out to be a dude. She goes by the name Grim, but her full name is Grim Reaper. Do you know what that makes my mother? Yep, that’s “right. She’s Death.
So what does that make me? The Reaper’s daughter.
As part of the October Frights Blog Hop, I'm posting a short story from the world of my YA Paranormal novel, The Reaper's Daughter. You don't have to have read my book to follow this, because this story stands on its own. It's more like the beginning, a prequel, so to speak. This is the story of the Grim Reaper's banishment from the underworld.
* * *
“I dare you.” His rough, hard face creased with a taunting smirk, his narrow dark eyes flickering with challenge. From his hand hung a sword, the whistle of steel meeting air still echoing from where he’d only moments before tried to slice off her arm—the one that held the scythe.
Grim laughed, the sound bouncing off the glittering crystals and craggy rock of the caverns. They had come to the walkway of the dead, near where Styx guarded the doorway between the underworld and the land of the living. The guardian deity hadn’t intervened yet, and for that Grim was thankful. She was ready to end the death deity war Hades had set in motion.
Hefting the scythe she so easily held in her hand over her shoulder, she shook her head, gazing at him imperiously although he dwarfed her by the mass of his bulk, his shadow almost vanquishing hers. “I will not kill my brethren, and you are that, even if I find you … well, I’ll be honest, repulsive,” she said dryly, arching a dark brow.
He smiled, and Grim stared at him impassively, eyeing the sweat clinging to his long hair and glistening against the pale of his skin with an inward distaste. She had always disliked the deity and his brutish ways, never felt he carried with him the compassion for those he crossed, and she didn't respect his need for power. Now, his eyes glittered black and he held her gaze, his focus only wavering away from hers for a moment to focus on the gleam of the silver scythe she held. He gestured beyond himself. “If you are to stop me, you will have to kill me.” From the shadows stepped his army, more than she could count.
“Your devil’s spawn,” she said, inclining her head in acknowledgement.
“Oh, well I’m hurt you would refer to innocent children so,” he said calmly, a mocking thread running through his tone.
“Innocent? I could say the living are happy when they see me, but that doesn’t make it true.” She smiled humorlessly, glancing to the figures of Hades’s children standing behind him, around her, with weapons in their hands and ambition in their souls. Glancing back to Hades, she caught the gleam of his sword slicing through the air, sending her into motion, her hands folding securely around the scythe and swinging it, the clang of metal reverberating off stone pierced the night with death.
“War then,” he said.
“You and yours began this,” she said, gritting her teeth and shoving him back with the force of her weapon, making him stumble back, a grimace of surprise flashing across his face.
Grim grinned, the power from the scythe crackling within her. How could he think he’d beat—a wind slapped her, and from the corner of her eye she caught the mass that was Hades barreling toward her, his hybrid goons closing in on her.
Thought wasn’t an option, and she swiveled, instinctively putting the power of the scythe into physical action by stepping forward and slamming the blunt part of the weapon into his chest. A crack of bone shattering filled the cavern, and Hades was sent flying back into a part of the wall that jutted out, his body hitting it with a slap. A strange expression flickered across his face, his black eyes losing the steel twist of corruption for the briefest of moments, and then he slid down to the ground, his eyes closing.
That must have hurt, she thought, glancing dismissively at the deity. He was immortal, so he’d heal fast enough, and he would be punished for his crimes, she would see to it. Grim eyed the kids moving in on her and sighed softly. Indoctrinated by Hades with his hate and misdirected power grab, and as many as there were, they’d be a challenge, but ultimately, they’d be no match for her.
A moan drew her attention back to Hades, who sat up slowly from his spot on the ground and rubbed a large knuckled hand over his chest. “Feeling under the weather?” she asked, wondering when the council would show and provide her the support to bring him and his brood to justice. But when he looked at her, she was startled by the creases of pain that worried his face. “He’s quiet … I can’t hear him … You-you killed him!” he growled.
“Killed who?” she asked slowly, watching him carefully, the scythe still clutched in her hands. He couldn’t possibly mean--
“You killed my brother. Pluto’s dead.”
* * *
Stay tuned for Part II, which I'll post on Sunday.
I'm participating in a couple of really cool online book events this fall. The first is the 2015 October Frights Blog Hop, which is happening Oct. 1-10. I'll be running a series of posts during those days and at the end of it all, I'll be giving stuff away! There will also be a list at the end of the post directing readers to all the other authors taking part in the hop. It should be some fangtastic fun. Honestly, Halloween is a delicious time of year for me, so bear with me. I love decorating, I love the spooky atmosphere, the crisp air and hint of something powerful in the air.
Then November 1-8, I'll be an author at the first ever Virtual Fantasy-Con. Each day will have a theme such as Epic Wednesday, Fairytale Thursday, and YA Fantasy Sunday, which are the events I'll be a part of. This event takes place on Facebook, and the link is posted above. I'll give further details, but I'll definitely be giving away some books then too. If you any questions, feel free to post in the comments below.
Facebook will soon be launching a "dislike" button, at least according to CNN Money, which reported that Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement in a Town Hall meeting earlier today:
"The company had hesitated to launch a dislike button, but it has realized that people want to 'express empathy' on posts about unpleasant news. 'Not every moment is a good moment,' he [Zuckerberg] added."
I totally, totally get that. Who wants to "like" a post when a friend on Facebook posts about a death, an illness, or catastrophe. I've run into this issue many times myself. It's hard to know what to do since sometimes you might want to offer support such as a virtual hand on the shoulder, but "liking" such a dark, grief-stricken post just doesn't seem right, you know? So I get it. That all said, I think this button is going to set the proverbial shit flying. Because people will use and abuse it, I have no doubt.
If we're going to be honest about what we don't like or what's annoying, we might as well give an array of buttons. My friend and I had a little text message fun with it today, so I thought I would make some of you laugh (while some will probably grind their teeth at me) and share some of the new buttons we came up with.
You're Bragging Again Button
Passive-Aggressive Alert Button
Vague-Booking Alert Button
I'm Sorry You Feel the Need to Paint a Brighter Picture Button
I Don't Give a Shit About Your Culinary Skills Button
I Can Grocery Shop, Do Dishes, Fold Laundry, Cook a Gourmet
Dinner, Bathe the Kids, Walk the Dog in One Day Too Button
Please Show Me Another Picture of a Road Sign on Your Amazing Vacation, I Always Wanted to See One of Those Button
It's a Pyramid Scheme Button
Awesome, You Sweated While Working Out, Didn't Know That Happened Button
The Stop Posting Wine Pics, All Kids Drive Their Parents Crazy Button
The I Can't Deal With Your Politics So I'm Unfollowing You, At Least Until the End of Election Season Button
We're sarcastic often, but it's all in good fun, since I am definitely guilty of the Posting Quite a "Few Pics of Your Kid, Huh? Button."
I do know one thing, it would have been nice to have a dislike button the other day when someone's bigotry and hate-comments entered my stream, making me unfollow a certain narrow-minded individual I went to school with.
Love, peace, and snark, but never hate.
From a reader and observer's standpoint, magic, vampires, angels, and witches have been hot trends and themes since the dawn of Harry Potter and Twilight. In came the era of fantasy and paranormal geared for young adult readers. Meanwhile, us OLDER "young adults," who'd long been searching for romances between teen vamps and vastly vivid magical world-building suddenly had just as vast of a selection of books to choose from.
As a reader who has been reading fantasy my entire life, it was amazing to have so many new titles and wonderous stories. And of course, it's been helpful to have launched my writing career in a time when the kind of books and stories I like writing are popular, in literature but also in television and movies.
So the point of this post ... A recent article in the Irish Times made the statement that fantasy in YA may be on its way out in 2015, making room for stories centered around more realistic themes. Now, while the author admits it's a sweeping generalization, I still felt the need to argue the point, specifically because of the reasons the author, Robert Dunbar, gives for this prediction in Realism Replaces Fantasy in Young Adult Fiction:
"Traumas and tantrums, often arising from clashes with various authority figures, remain a feature of the “growing up” process, but in the more accomplished novels they are seen as providing the opportunity for enhancing inter-generational understanding rather than merely creating an excuse for prolonged outbursts of shouting."
The writer of the article then goes on to mention two books, both of which explore elements of homosexuality, and the deeply moving adolescent experiences that are involved in these books. I'm not questioning his analysis, I'm sure they're quite deep. But in the midst of all that, fantasy in YA still has a place. Harry Potter himself dealt with insecurity, loss, bullying, child abuse, discordant friendships, consequences, and the sacrifice that comes with choosing to be a leader in a world of followers. These books were not just so wildly popular because of the amazing world and epic battle JK Rowling created, they also resonated on a human level.
Many YA fantasy books delve into heavier themes, including homosexuality, suicide, shifting parental relationships, abuse ... So my response to this article is no, realism is not going to be replacing fantasy in the YA genre in 2015. I think there's plenty of room for both. And often, they can be one in the same.
In Fractured Dream and in the rest of the Dreamer Saga, twisted fairytales, legends, and myths are significant characters and an important element that makes up Tressla, the land where Fairytales go once they're created. I'm now offering subscribers the chance to twist a favorite "fairytale"—or legend or myth.
As I work on writing the second book in the Dreamer Saga trilogy, Shattered World, new fairytales are revealed, and I thought some help from the minds of my readers or potential readers would be amazing. So if you're game, head to the Home page and fill out the subscription form. When I send out the newsletter on June 1, you'll be eligible to enter the contest and be privy to all the details.
We're just two days away from the launch of The Reaper's Daughter this Saturday and my marketing manager wants me to dress up as the Grim Reaper and make a video for my book launch party on Facebook. Will I do it? We shall see. But until then, I'm so stoked about my launch I'm giving stuff away. Books, that is. Beautiful, tangible, paperback books. But there's only a couple of days left to enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for one signed copy of The Reaper's Daughter or one signed copy of Fractured Dream.
To join said Facebook launch party for lots of other goodies and giveaways from myself and a number of other YA authors, click here: The Reaper's Daughter Facebook Launch Party, Enter Here ... Goes from 2-9 pm this Saturday.
K.M. Randall writes fantasy and paranormal for both a general and young adult audience. Her debut novel, an epic fantasy called Fractured Dream, launched in June 2014, and her second book, The Reaper's Daughter, launched May 2015. Randall also published Fairytale Lost, a prequel to Fractured Dream, as an exclusive on Wattpad. She blogs about dreams, female heroines, and activism and its relevancy to the literary and fictional world. And when in the season, sometimes she just likes to talk about Halloween. She is currently hard at work on the second book in the Dreamer Saga series, Shattered World.