Fantasy Journeys: We Need a Rewrite

In a Facebook group of which I’m a member, there has been discussions about the hero’s vs heroine’s journey. The hero’s journey was defined by Joseph Campbell and refined by Christopher Volger. It is supposed to be the monomyth that underlies adventure stories everywhere in the world, of the lone man becoming stronger through a series of adventures that allows him to achieve his ultimate goal, after which his tale ends. Within these tales, women are evil or good, no in between, and exist for some small plot point and then disappear. Maureen Murdock, in response, wrote about the heroine’s journey, in which the woman tries out the hero’s journey, finds its not for her because, hello, woman, and focuses on spiritual awakening and familial ties.

I have degrees in English lit and art history. I remember these distinctions discussed over and over again in class after class. Men = heroes, while women = seducer or mother, and in those capacities, could be ignored after their flash appearance in the story. They’re Cassandras, even if that’s detrimental to the hero, because, hello, women.

Picture elven woman in forest
Image by Jim Cooper from Pixabay

Both journeys are based on century’s old sexist assumptions concerning who went to war and had adventures. It’s taken as a fact, that men built their egos and then did whatever they damn well wanted after powering up, while women were either the evil but ineffective blockade or the good but ineffective lover sitting at home wringing their hands. The problem with this, as with most things ancient, is that history was rewritten by the winners (patriarchal society) and the contributions of women were sidelined, ignored, or altered to fit with the deep-seated need for men to be superior. That history doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and modern research is discovering how much.

Current research in archaeology has shown that some men’s graves are actually women’s, and that women had a larger role to play in the war arts than previously assumed. And that’s the key word, ‘assumed’. Excavators into the twentieth century just ‘assumed’, based on war objects, that bodies in said graves had to be men, and didn’t bother to investigate beyond that. Why would they? Everyone knows that, beyond a few exceptional women, only men went to war.

Of course, when someone actually decided to study the remains, some of these ‘men’ were actually women, and far more than anticipated. OOPS.

Statue of Tomoe Gozen and Kiso Yoshinaka Image by Agkg from Pixabay 

We have stories about Amazons, and the Scythians upon which they were likely based certainly had active women warriors. Celtic peoples trained women in the fighting arts. Tomoe Gozen was not the only female samurai or fighter in feudal Japan, even though they were not much written about or recorded (because women. That’s why, when a third of the Battle of Senbon Matsubaru dead were women fighters, their presence was ignored by contemporary scholars and downplayed by some current ones). How about the Mino of Benin? In the article, author Fleur Macdonald states, “The current Queen Hangbe told me that all traces of her ancestor’s reign were erased by Agaja, who believed that only men should hold the throne.”

And that’s a huge problem with research into women heroes. Men, whether in ancient or modern times, chose not to pass down female stories, female histories. Instead, they hid them. They changed them*. They made certain to keep women as artificial stereotypes because those metaphorically chained them to men’s will. That subservience made them uninteresting and dull compared to the flamboyant heroes, and who doesn’t like reading and identifying with the flamboyant?

Both the hero’s and heroine’s journey, in my opinion, rely heavily on sexist divisions to inform them. When I was reading up on them earlier this month, I was reminded about a student of my husband’s who majored in math. Her Gender Studies professor told her that there needed to be a redefining of math in female terms, making it more soft, gentle and natural. Men were hard and logical, and math reflected that too much. And the professor didn’t see it as a sexist comparison, and didn’t much care she completely misunderstood the nature of math. The student did, and was furious and insulted by it. That division underlies the hero’s vs heroine’s journey, and pretending that the heroine’s journey is more wholesome, in that it encompasses more of what makes a person a person, doesn’t eradicate the sexism, it continues the status quo.

Viking Burial Mound Image by Lars Borris Jensen from Pixabay 

History is being updated to reflect reality, so maybe it’s time to rewrite the ‘journey’ as well. I truly hope, that having a wide-range of authors from different cultures, different sexes, can start to chip away at the old foundations and create something new in their place. This is why indie authors are so important–they don’t have to follow the restrictions in place to create formulaic blockbusters. They don’t have to mash their stories into predefined categories using past-their-prime tropes. They can initiate change.

It will be long in coming. The hero’s and heroine’s journey are familiar, and don’t require much thought on the part of readers, who understand the stereotypes and know where stories are going to end based on them. There’s comfort in that, which is why these journeys’ are still around and taken so seriously.

*I realized this in college when I was studying King Arthur and his Round Table. Queen Guinevere’s relationship with Lancelot was introduced by Chretien de Troyes. It wasn’t original, it was a sexist revision. SURPRISE! Ever wonder how many other tales were purposefully changed by men to prove the destructive nature of women, and everyone assumes that was how it always was?

**cover image by Mark Frost from Pixabay

Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available in Kindle format. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

Plans for 2021

Time to look to the future (though, y’all have to admit, no one anticipated 2020 going down in that fashion). I have plans!

I will continue to release a bi-weekly chapter for my Lapis of Nicodem serial at World Anvil. It’s a dark fantasy where the lead character, Lapis, has spent the last eight years training to get revenge on the rebel traitor who helped murder her family, but might not be able to accomplish her promise. It’s turned out far darker than I originally planned, and it was dark to begin with.

I am editing the third book in The Wellspring Dragons series, The Glass Volcano. I plan to release it Summer 2021. If I’m really ambitious, I might try to release the 4th book sometime later in the year (it, too, is in the editing stage, though I need to draw pics for both of them and that takes me a long time).

I’ll continue adding to the world wikis for both LoN and Wellspring. This includes writing articles and completing artwork to go with them.

I want to create more music for both the LoN and Wellspring worlds. It adds to the feel of them. I’m no great composer, but hopefully I improve as time goes on.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I would like to start producing “How-to” videos, focusing on World Anvil, maybe say something about Artbreeder and how I make art using Adobe products (though, after yet another slow-ass update for Photoshop, I might have to ditch that until a stable version is released. My desktop is an Alienware Aurora R9. It’s not a slow machine. A couple-second lag when drawing a line is annoying and ten to fifteen seconds to preview a change is ludicrous. I had to go back three updates to get to a point my laptop could function with the program).

Things I would like to do:

  • I’ve written for my whole life. I may not have published until 2020, but I’ve written story after story, starting when I was 11. I have a lot of work that’s ready for editing. I might work on one of these other stories and get it ready for publication. How many stories should one work on at once? Heh, no idea.
  • Get better at landscapes. I want them to look like the watercolor-y images that are part of the load screens in Elder Scrolls online. Not necessarily photo-realistic, but concept-like.
  • Maybe draw a manga. My drawing is slow, so this probably won’t happen.
  • Get better at marketing. How will I do that? Maybe do the new Amazon add set-up after I get my third book out there.
  • Create paperback versions of my Wellspring series.
  • Maybe start merchandising.

That’s a lot for one year. It’s pretty centered on creating, but the truth is, I don’t want to ruin that part of me by focusing on marketing so much I end up hating it all. I find absolutely no joy in advertising, and social media is mainly me interacting with people who don’t care about my work. It’s kinda a drag.

And on that Happy Note, hoping everyone has a wondrous year.

NaNoWriMo: An Update

So far, I have written around 23,000 words in November, which includes sparse writing days around the US election. Nervousness can infect creativity and bring it to a standstill, but I persevered. I have finished, but am beefing up, the next chapter in Lapis of Nicodem (LoN) serial, while working on chapters 15, 16 and 17 of The Glass Volcano.

Since creativity took a bit of a dive, I ended up creating wallpapers for LoN, and building a Kofi WIP gallery for The Glass Volcano. I finished a song that I intended to be the theme song for my character Sikode, but it’s far too . . . nice, to be that. It sounds more soft, romantic, so it’s probably going to represent the romance between Sikode and Shiobe. My husband, whose music project is Modulo Torsion, said he rarely manages a song that he purposefully wants to sound a certain way. He’ll want a harsh song, and it will turn out softer. He’ll want something fast, and all the drums sound awkward. He suggested I just create, and then see where that song might fit into my Wellspring world. I can’t say I’m a grand songwriter, so that’s probably what I’ll do. I want to be a stompy industrial dance creator, but what I end up with is more along the classical and folky lines of my cello and whistles and recorders. I do like the theme I came up with, so I probably will expand on that.

How’s your #NaNoWriMo going? Hope you are enjoying it as much as me!


Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available on Kindle and EPUB formats. Lapis of Nicodem, a serialized dark fantasy, is available for free at World Anvil. Follow me, Kwyn Marie, on Facebook and Instagram. Check out my author website, and the Wellspring Dragons book site as well as the Lapis of Nicodem book site. And if you like what you see, buy me a KoFi!

Write the Story You Want as an Indie Author

One of the better things about being an indie writer is the ability to write the story you want to write, instead of the story a publishing company has decided will sell more books.

There’s freedom in creating your own work without being told to tone down your lead female character, or change the perspective to a man’s, because reading what women think doesn’t sell. There’s freedom in writing a societal critique without being told to make it more palatable to the people you are criticizing in it. There’s more truth and emotion in one’s words, when you don’t have to take a hammer to the plot so it will be more acceptable to a greater number of people.

I was a librarian for several years. One of the genres that took off during that time was vampires, with the Twilight series, Anita Blake, Sookie Stackhouse, and the like. Publishing companies saw the success of these books, especially among teens, and began to publish more and more stories in that vein. It was almost as if that was ALL they were willing to publish. Yes, these books sold, but a lot of the later titles were sad knock-offs of the genre-changing ones, with the same story, the same types of characters, the same outcomes, regurgitated over and over again.

Older librarians believed that the success of vampires would dwindle within a few years, and another angsty genre would burst forth and renew the stale. It never happened while I worked in libraries. Publishing companies did not want to take chances on books they were uncertain would sell, to the point it seemed agents refused to push anything not related to vamps in some way. Fantasy was (and still is) my life, but I began to find it less fulfilling because the high magic stories I loved were fewer and far between. And, truthfully, I’m not a fan of romances, whether they take place in a fantasy setting or not.

I’m also not that fond of the gritty urban fantasies, where the fantastic is background noise–though I was told I needed to start writing in that way to get published. I realized that, if I wished to write what I loved, the established publishing industry was not the route I needed to take.

True, it’s a lot of work being an indie author, with the advertising, marketing, social media posting, on top of the actual writing and illustrating…but I get to decide for myself how to manage all of them. It’s worth it, to see my vision out there and being read, rather than the focus-group oriented slog of a story that is tailor-made to appeal to everyone, and thus riveting to no one.

Shiobe Rising: The Wellspring Dragons Book 1 and Trouble in Tindrel: The Wellspring Dragons Book 2 are available on Kindle and in epub format. Check out The Wellspring Dragons site and the book trailer. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and if you like what you see, buy me a Ko-fi!

Indie Authors and Editors

It’s hard being an indie author. You need to pay for everything yourself. This includes writing the book, prepping the book for publication, uploading it to sites for publication, publishing it, and marketing it. There’s also the expenses of software, editors, cover designers, sometimes interior designers, and advertising.

Basically, everything costs money. You need to spend money to make money, as they say. Of course, if you’re just starting out, where is all that money coming from? Most authors are not exactly swimming in it, and decisions must be made about what to pay for and what to skimp on.

There are discussions about editors in this context. Everyone wants their books edited, but the cost to do so isn’t in the budget for a lot of people. A good editor is worth it, but when your book is over 400 pages and you’re looking at a cost of a couple thousand dollars, ‘worth it’ isn’t an option. Some people rely on friends or family to help out, and there are beta readers, but these options do not replace an experienced editor.

And some people really, really need an editor.

There’s many different types of editing. For instance, an editor can look over the manuscript and check for spelling and grammar errors. They can make sure there is consistency (you say she has blue eyes in Chapter 1, but claim they are brown in Chapter 3). For a higher fee, an editor can give advice on “big picture” issues and suggest alternatives for problematic areas. Reedsy blog has a list of 9 types of editing, and an explanation about which each one entails. Not all books are going to need every type of editing (for example, most novels do not have an index, and therefore, do not need index editing).

Especially when you need help with the “big picture”, a good editor can vastly improve your manuscript. But what if you can’t afford a good editor?

I admit, I’m pretty ambivalent about editors. As a librarian, I read book after book that failed on the editing front, and these books were published by publishing houses who supposedly have access to good editors (misspellings, unclear sentences, sometimes plot holes that made me wonder how the book even got published). Then there was my first foray into acquiring an editor for my indie books. I waited 8 months for the editing to be completed, and it never was. I should have pulled my manuscript long, long before then, but I was nervous about finding an editor and the process, they were recommended by a friend, and I did not have the money to find someone better. I felt I had wasted time and resources, with absolutely nothing in return.

What to do? Editors are absolutely necessary, because indie writers are ridiculed for believing they don’t need one. It’s assumed a book is trash without one, and that a writer can never be a valuable critic of their own work. Perhaps. But there are some things a writer can do to clean up a manuscript to the point they may not have to pay for as many editing services as they think.

When I was doing research into editing, I was very surprised at how many blog posts and comments I read by editors, who talked about running manuscripts through software programs like Grammarly and Hemmingway Editor. Most of these professionals used three or four different programs, each with their own strengths, to review a document for spelling and grammar issues. That’s right, they use the same software that you can also purchase to spell and grammar check your work. While editing software can be spendy, many products have free versions that are useful. Why not use the same tools the professionals use? I don’t really need an editor to run my document through a program I already have access to. (That having been said, there are authors who simply have no clue about the finer points of grammar, and these programs are hardly infallible. They really, really need the sure hand of an editor to help them.)

I did a lot of other things to make certain my manuscripts were ready besides using spelling and grammar checkers. I re-read them and re-read them and re-read them again. I have been working on the Wellspring Dragons series for years now, and in that time, I’ve probably re-read the manuscripts over a hundred times. It takes time, but do it. Read no more than a chapter a day, and ten minutes at a time (it’s normally difficult to pay close attention for longer than that. Your mind will wander). Run that chapter through a text-to-speech program like Natural Reader and listen to how it sounds. Does something sound off? It probably is. Does something not sound clear? Then rewrite the sentence or paragraph. The reader might even catch a wrong word that is spelled correctly, but used incorrectly (I meant a “hard day’s work” not “hare day’s word”). If you don’t have access to a reader, then read your book aloud. This takes time, and a lot of it. But it also allows you to feel how your book flows, and if the way you wrote something needs work.

Keep a timeline of events. In my case, I wrote the story, then went back and filled in the timeline (planning my work just isn’t the way I do things). Because I was focused on the timeline and making summaries, at one point I noticed I had one character talking about a conversation that I had deleted. Yay, fixed! You can also catch mistakes about dates this way. Keep a brief physical description of characters and important objects you can check when needed. Consistency is key!

It is also a good idea to have others read your work. Not all readers are of equal value, but everyone does have an opinion. And, truthfully, for fiction writers, casual readers are likely the majority of your readership. Their experience will be the reading experience most will have with your work. Why not listen to what they say? Yes, there are the very strict indie writing police types who will scream and yell about a missing comma or the use of “which” vs “that”, and they will insist your mistake destroys the rest of your work, but they will not make up a very high percentage of people who pick up your book (and really, they’re not looking for an enjoyable read. They’re looking to prove how smart they are). And, if readers like your work, they will want to be helpful. Having beta readers from a certain level of Patreon support can provide loyal patrons with a great reward.

Editing is a very important step in producing a great manuscript. If a book is riddled with errors that even a casual reader notices, it won’t attract the readership you desire and reviewers will take note. There are ways to spruce up your document without necessarily paying for every aspect of editing services, though. And if you don’t have the money to pay for an editor up front, don’t lose sleep over it. It would be a shame to silence your voice over something like that. Beta readers can help get you started. You can also join a community like World Anvil, write a Manuscript, publish it there, and start getting feedback and attracting readers. It may not be publishing with an ebook retailer, but everyone starts somewhere.