Walking the tightrope

There’s a tightrope every author walks these days, whether they admit it or not. It’s not new. It is probably as old as that first storyteller sitting around the fire entertaining the family or tribe. It is that line between entertainment and message and how much of one spoils the other. It is an issue that has taken on a life of its own of late as some people tell us we have to have a checklist of characters in our work so that everyone who might read it feels included. Others tell us that if you aren’t of the same sex/race/gender identification/whatever as your main characters, you can’t write the story. Then some tell us we shouldn’t read an entire group of authors — for a year or forever — because they are male or for some other reason.

But, as I said, that’s nothing new. It has just taken on a life of its own in this day of instant communication. The internet has given us all a voice and some are more circumspect about what they say, where they say it and how it might impact not only those they are attacking but others as well.

The result of this is that the balance pole writers used to have as they crossed the crevice on the tightrope has been removed. We are being forced to do our best Wallenda Family imitation and, I’ll tell you here and now, it isn’t easy and there are times when you ask yourself if it is worth it. Fortunately, for myself at least, when I get to that point, someone shows up with a PM on Facebook or through email to ask when my next book is coming out because they enjoy my work.

And yet the uncertainty lingers.

I ran into this tightrope without knowing it when I wrote Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1). I found some of those who read the book, a very small minority, had issues with it because the main character. Not because Ashlyn Shaw was a Marine. Not even because she was female but because she was a female Marine in battle. These readers’ concerns would have had merit if the book was set today and on this planet. But the novel is set far away from Earth and at a time in the distant future. Powered battle armor assists every Marine, as do implants that enhance the Marines. But all they saw was a woman in combat and they instantly thought I was trying to signal some sort of message.

I wasn’t. Far from it, in fact. I was simply writing the story that had come to me. Fortunately, when I spoke with those who had the issue about the differences between combat now and in the book, most admitted they had not thought about the differences between combat now and combat in the future. With that in mind, they reconsidered their objections to the book.

This isn’t the fault of readers. At least not as far as I’m concerned. It is the fault of certain publishers and authors who have decided it is their job to educate the reading public by hitting them over the head with message instead of subtly weaving their message into the story. As an author, we shouldn’t have to worry about successfully completing the checklist of characters and issues covered in our books for those books to be considered readable. Yes, we can do all that and make certain people in our industry happy but, if the book doesn’t entertain, what’s the point? A boring book, a book that makes readers feel they are being lectured to, won’t sell. As an indie author, that is the curse of death. As a traditionally published author, it might take a bit longer but, sooner or later, the publisher will cut you loose because you aren’t making them money.

The fallout is that now readers flinch at the first sign of what might be a message, whether it is or not. That is a shame because they see what looks like a signal from the author and quit reading right there. How many good books are missed as a result?

Is such a response reasonable? I don’t know. I know I’ve been guilty of it and have realized it only after others I respect and who share a similar taste in reading to me have said I really needed to give a book a second chance. When I have, I’ve realized I did the author a disservice by not reading further to see if what I thought was a trigger was merely a plot device or, in one particular case, a red herring.

In another, I initially put the book down because I did think it was pushing a Feminist agenda. Then others I know read it and started talking about it in ways that made me wonder if I had misjudged. So I went back day before yesterday and started reading it again. When I did, I fully expected to react exactly as I had the first time. To my surprise, I didn’t. Why? I’m not sure. Maybe I was in a different head space than I had been the first time I tried. Maybe it was because I wasn’t in the middle of trying to write a book. Whatever it was, as I read, I knew I had been wrong.

The book wasn’t promoting some Feminist agenda. It wasn’t a “sisters, we must unite against the evil men” sort of book. It was, in fact, a Regency in space.

Oh, I can see how some people could think differently because, at first glance, I did as well. But all this book actually did was take the same basic plot elements we have seen time and time again — and there is nothing wrong with that because there are no new plots. What is new is how the author deals with those point — and switched the sexes out. It isn’t the first time it has been done, nor will it be the last.

If the book at been about the male spacer who had been estranged from his family for years being called home by the dowager mother to do his duty and rescue the ditzy younger sister who had wound up getting herself kidnapped, I wouldn’t have blinked twice the first time I tried to read the book. After all, I’ve read that sort of plot time and time and time again. But this time, it was the daughter who was the spacer and estranged from her family. Her proud father — is he sexist? Probably, but he read more as someone used to being in control and now isn’t and he is reacting badly to his new situation. — calls her home and has to admit, much to his chagrin, that her brother is not only a fool but has managed to get himself kidnapped and now daddy dearest needs the renegade daughter to do her duty to her family and try to rescue her brother.

Same plot, just different genders.

And, again, not new.

It is just that, in this day and age when we are being hit over the head with message fiction and being told we need it so we will learn to be better people, a lot of readers are gun shy. They see something that might not be there simply because they have been hit in the head too many times. As I said, I’ve been guilty of it. Now I need to remember what that feels like as a writer and try to give the author a chance, especially if that author is being published by a house I trust.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal the last 24 hours or so. How do we avoid this pitfall some in traditional publishing have put in our path? I’m not sure. All I do know is I have to remember that it is a tightrope but there is solid land on the other side of crevice and I can and will make it there. So, too, will I as a reader. I just have to step carefully, keep my eyes and ears open and remember not to close my mind.

And hope a great big gust of wind doesn’t come along and blow me off.

To help anchor against that wind, I will keep writing and, sigh, keep promoting my work. Yes, sigh. I suck at the self-promotion bit. But Sarah and the others tell me I have to do it so, here it is.

Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is currently available for pre-order. Publication date is April 18th.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

 Nocturnal Challenge (Nocturnal Lives Book 4).

The one thing Lt. Mackenzie Santos had always been able to count on was the law. But that was before she started turning furry. Now she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy to keep the truth from the public-at-large. She knows they aren’t ready to learn that monsters are real and they might be living next door.

If that isn’t enough, trouble is brewing among the shapeshifters. The power struggle has already resulted in the kidnapping and near fatal injury of several of Mac’s closest friends. She is now in the middle of what could quickly turn into a civil war, one that would be disastrous for all of them.

What she wouldn’t give to have a simple murder case to investigate and a life that didn’t include people who wanted nothing more than to add her death to the many they were already responsible for.

For a change of pace, if you enjoy a little bit of romance with your suspense, or a little bit of suspense with your romance, check it outSlay Bells Ring.

Fifteen years ago, Juliana Grissom left Mossy Creek in her rear view mirror. She swore then she would never return for more than a day or two at a time. But even the best laid plans can go awry, something she knew all too well, especially when her family was involved.

Now she’s back and her family expects her to find some way to clear her mother of murder charges. Complicating her life even further is Sam Caldwell, the man she never got over. Now it seems everyone in town is determined to find a way to keep her there, whether she wants to stay or not.

Bodies are dropping. Gossip is flying and Juliana knows time is running out. After all, holidays can be murder in Mossy Creek.


67 thoughts on “Walking the tightrope

    1. LOL. I wondered if anyone would figure out the book I meant. And yes, it is good. I’m sorry I let my initial knee-jerk reaction stop me from reading it. I’m still trying to figure out exactly what stopped me initially. I’m going to put it down to just being in the wrong head space — or being temporarily out of my mind. VBEG

      1. My first thought was Her Brother’s Keeper as well. I had similar issues at first, but having read other stuff by Kupari, figured I was just gun shy from running into such things elsewhere.

        I’ve definitely had a tightrope of my own to walk. I find I’m overly sensitive to the feedback from my beta readers as I experiment with different perspectives and point of view characters. So far I haven’t had a reader call me out on being “message” fiction or vice-versa, as all action no substance. It’s a lot like cooking: a dab of this, a dab of that, and you get something tasty in the end to share with your friends.

        1. Which is what I should have done. I have read his other work with Larry and have enjoyed it. I simply wasn’t in the right mind space for it at the time. I also know what you mean about feedback from your betas. I find myself like that as well. Good that you haven’t been called out, that has to make you feel at least a bit more comfortable.

      2. MUahahahaa! You had the exact same reaction to it that Sanford had. And he got in SOOO much trouble about it when he talked about it. I enjoyed it, but yes, that first chapter was tough to swallow.

        1. Honestly, going back I realize it isn’t that hard to swallow. Not when you realize it is nothing but regency in space and not when you think about how many times you’ve read the same thing with the sexes switched. Shrug.

          1. I agree. The beginning would have been better if it wasn’t so tropey, but the book is good enough overall to work past that, and I’m sure as he goes on, he’ll learn not to do that.

        2. I’ll note that the blurb does not help. So blurb + first chapter makes it look like progressive virtue signalling if you don’t already know Kupari through his other works.

          1. Which is why I like the multiple chapter preview you can get at baen.com or even on Amazon. I tend to look at those when I can’t tell much by the blurb (and also because I know how hard it is sometimes to write a blurb that really reflects the book without giving away too much.)

          2. Haven’t read Kupari’s other books, and decent chance I won’t be reading this one soon. My money budget has for years not been able to stretch to buying all Baen titles, and I haven’t had the time to read them from the library or otherwise. I encouraged to hear assurances that it is more interesting than I had thought.

      3. I knew exactly which book you meant and if it wouldn’t have been for the fact it was from Baen I might have had the same reaction. I trust Baen not to let me down even when it seems like they might be.

    2. I still haven’t read it. when I pointed out my issues with the beginning in a private group I got a lot of conservatives screaming that it was a good book and they said so. That made me determined not to read it. No one, not even my wife, tells me to shut up and like it

      1. That really is your loss, Sanford. Sometimes you have to step back and reconsider your position. I did with this book and realized my issues weren’t really issues but simply the fact I wasn’t in the frame of mind for the book at that time. As for the rest of it, there are times when it is better to step back and bow out instead of bulling ahead. Some fights just aren’t worth it.

  1. I walked my own tightrope, just not the same as yours. The Ship has proved controversial for any number of reasons, including reader expectations. It appears they expected space opera, where the MC steps into a functioning ship and off he goes.
    But it’s not. There’s quite a bit of science and engineering involved. I gloss over some of it, but not all. I also use quite a bit of dialogue. That’s a different kind of tightrope. Reviewers claimed it slowed the action.
    Result, my first ever one-star reviews. Two of them. Complaints. Characters not interesting enough. You name it. For a fairly-ordinary guy, I racked up enough authorial sins in that one book to ensure a seat in literary hell.
    I can’t even buy a promotion; most promoters want at least four stars, The Ship had three point five last time I checked.
    But even without a promotion, it’s selling. Readers in the KU program have read upwards of a million pages in the two months its been out. And even the reviewers who complain want to know when the next one will be published.
    One foot on the tightrope, the other flailing off in the air somewhere…

    1. Welcome to the life of a writer. Been there and doing that.

      As for expecting space opera instead of hard sf, do you have the keywords set to point more directly to hard sf?

  2. No filter can be perfect, and even if Metformin does turn out to be a life-extension drug there’s not enough time to wade through crap without filtering.

    And let’s be honest, for every Her Brother’s Keeper there’s at least a hundred Fuzzy Nation’s and If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love’s.

    Really, the only practical thing you can do is to do what you have been doing, and use people you trust to re-filter for diamonds in the previously designated rough.

    1. Thanks, Albert. You’re right about filters, just as you are right about Fuzzy Nation and IYWADML. Those, and titles like them, have put so many of us on our guard that we are more sensitive than we probably should be to “message”. At least I am.

      1. Remind me, it’s been years since I read Piper’s Little Fuzzy books. Is this that lost third manuscript, or something entirely different?
        That pile of dino guano has been discussed at some length of late, but Fuzzy Nation is new to me.

        1. Fuzzy Nation is a pile of garbage written by an idiot (John Scalzi) who apparently thought he could tell “Little Fuzzy” better than Piper did.

          The “Lost Third Fuzzy Novel” by Piper was found and published as Fuzzies and Other People. [Smile]

          1. Thanks, I had read Piper’s two, then someone came out with a third, and much later Piper’s lost manuscript was discovered and published. I read and liked all four. Had no idea Scalzi took a swag at the subject and based on what y’all are saying very gratefully so.

  3. I play with gender and sexual identity a lot in my books and I was concerned I might be alienating readers by doing so. I don’t have any conscious message in my work (at least not one about sexual identity) I just drew upon my own experiences in alternative sexuality communities to build the social dynamics of my fictional non-human communities.

    But I’ve found that while I am (justly) accused of many writer’s sins, no one seems to think that I am pushing any kind of social agenda. I have found that a lot of people do tend to assume that since I write sympathetically about sexually off-beat characters I must therefore be politically liberal, though.

    1. Misha, it sounds like you are getting your message, whatever it might be, in but you are doing it subtly and putting plot and character development above it. That is something I wish more writers would focus on.

      1. My message–such as it is–is that people become what they are through the choices that they make, and that they are responsible for what they have become. It’s really a very anti-progressive viewpoint that I have adopted.

        Since I happen to believe that sexual identity is a choice–although it’s not a single moment, but rather an long term development of a habit of responses–I have built that into the fabric of my world.

        The semi-human characters that I have created began as human and became something else through their own actions. Again, it’s not as simple as waking up one morning and deciding to be a monster, it’s a long path the consequences of choices are usually not fully realized until long after they are made. But in the end it’s what we do today that determines what we are tomorrow.

        It’s kind of the opposite of the philosophy of Bryan Singer’s “X-Men” movies.

        1. Misha, you just gave me a revelation. (One that I am sure is old to the experienced here, but new to me…). When I’m creating a character, I am creating their choices – and that is the true diversity we should seek.

          Thank you, sir. (And, since the most sincere form of gratitude is… Finally bought Catskinner’s Book. With luck, I’ll get to it sometime this month…)

            1. Oh, I wasn’t crediting you with the idea – just finally putting the words together where I read them that brought it home to me. (Which leads to today’s post – very few, if any, new ideas – but put together in different ways. Success is in how you put them together, which is what I am slowly getting the hang of.)

    2. At least to me, the issue comes (mostly…the only rule of writing is “it depends”) when instead of writing characters who are gay, or confused, or whatever you write characters who look at everything thru that lens. Same as IRL. I don’t care who or you prefer (as long as old enough to consent) but if your entire identity is your preference you become a caricature and not worth my time.

      Playing with gender or the like in sci-fi, fantasy, etc can be fun and interesting if the story is even handed and it’s used right but too often it seems to become author polemics. Especially if its done in a slipshod way (just flip pronouns or the like).

  4. Sounds like something I’d like to read. And yea, it is not wrong to have a reaction when you have been burned time and time again. It is good though that you are willing to go back to a book…

    1. I figure it’s like anything else. Everyone can have a bad day. I will give a restaurant a second chance — as long as I didn’t get food poisoning there — so I might as well give a book a second chance. That’s especially true if the book didn’t fly across the room on the first reading. Shrug.

  5. I’ve pretty much indefinitely shelved one group of stories because it deals with gender issues and genetic engineering, and in the wake of the Ancillary Pronouns to-do, it’s too likely that the first impression will be Message Fiction, Heavy-Handed, and people will shy away. Maybe some day when things settle down I’ll pull it back down, but in the meantime I’m far too busy with the Gus on the Moon universe.

    1. If it is in your face, message over everything else, I do the same thing. This, in hindsight, was more me just not being in the mood for the book. I’m glad I realized it and went back to it.

  6. Then there’s the other side: the message readers who might buy your book expecting the latest lecture, then trash it because ‘you’re not doing it right/haven’t brushed up on your intersectionalism, standpoint theory, progressing stacking, etc.

    You just can’t win.

    1. They only way to win is not to play the game. I learned that from an AI that almost started World War Three. 🙂

      1. I’m with The Other Sean here: When you open your Gateway, write the story it hands you. For any given story, some fragment of humanity is guaranteed to hate it. Just write the best story you can. All other worries will come to nothing and are a waste of good cortisol.

        1. Which is what I try to do. However, there is always that niggling little doubt that rears its ugly head. I keep smacking it down but it keeps coming back.

            1. You are preaching to the choir here, Jeff. I learned that long ago. Still, there are days when the speed bump seems a little higher — so I just race a bit faster toward the end of the latest wip and go sailing over said speed bump with a WHEE!

    2. Nope and that is one of the tightropes we have to walk. It is why, as an author, I try to signal what the book is about — and that it isn’t message over plot — in the blurb and when I blog about it.

  7. I do it and make no apologies about it. I think it was John Wright that said ‘tolerance is nothing more than moral apathy’. I am not a bigot – I am a father, a son, a brother and a man with scruples and ethics. And the second I see a whiff of the usual lectures cropping up on a book – not only do I finish with it right then and there – I put the author on a mental chit – list as one to avoid. I will not be lectured by people that may be child molesters, or those that think the rectum is a sex organ and centre their existence around it, or unhappy women that are angry with their own genitals and biology and hate themselves for it. People that don’t judge don’t have judgement – and therefore can’t write about characters that supposedly do.

    Perhaps it’s sexist and rotten of me to say so but I won’t go see a ‘chick flick’ in the theatre – nor will I read ‘chick – lit’ – which is what your stuff appears to be. What of it? Pick your audience and write to it – nobody can fault you for that. If there’s a message you want to get across go for it. But don’t bitch if it is one that I as a reader don’t want to hear. That’s how the market works.

    As for female Marines – it doesn’t work for me. Any number of men who have been up to their eyeballs in excrement and guts is saying that women won’t be able to handle it. I would trust their judgement before that of some fat she-twink with rings through her nose and pink hair, HAR HAR HAR!

    As for me…I’ve given up. I’ve seen way to much chit that was written by some hack that learned to write in a ‘work shop’…and I’ve had enough. If you could give me anything as a writer, Amanda – some originality would be a tall cool drink of water in the moral and intellectual desert that modern literature has devolved into. I would ask that if you have a message for me…that it be a GOOD one for a change.

    And here I am – a reader, lecturing you – a writer! My profuse apologies. You will do alright. Only courageous authors can write about courageous characters…and your best work might be the book on your drawing board right now. I hope you sell a million copies.

    1. You should apologize for being ignorant and apparently proud of it. NONE of what Amanda writes is even vaguely “chick lit”. If you think it is, you have no idea what chick lit is.
      So, female marines don’t work for you. Good then. If you don’t even consider you’re missing a great read, it’s none of my business. OTOH consider Amanda isn’t writing women in present day and that already we’re so different in how we react from our ancestors a few hundred years ago as to be “alien.”
      To reject a book about the future because it doesn’t work that way in the present is at best strange. Again, none of my business, but consider perhaps science fiction isn’t your genre.

      1. Just about to wield the clue-bat – and looked at an empty hand, because Sarah stole it from me! Bad Sarah!

        Perfect example of one who cannot stretch beyond this place and this time, to imagine a different place and a different time.

        Yep, not suited for science fiction. Tom Clancy, perhaps; a perfectly good author that happens to write what this person considers realistic fiction, about this place and this time (or close enough, anyway, to not get him all stretched out and flopping around…).

      2. Educate me, Sarah? How do you define ‘chick lit’? This is my experience, gals – and I’m not saying any of this to be a jerk. This is just my experience as an unsophisticated, everyday bum looking for something good to read: if I see a book cover with plain looking women romancing on it, or holding guns that weigh more than they do…the chances of that book being a stinker are at around 80%. If the advert blurb describes the story as involving female main characters reacting to tactical situations emotionally – the stinker potential goes up to about 95%. I know that if I get stupid and buy that book I won’t only be lectured as a reader…I’m gonna probably get bitched at too!
        Those stinkers that that I read had book covers and advert summaries just like yours and Amanda’s. This is how bad the problem is for you writers – how many liberal SJW stinkers do I have to waste money on before I find a good one? I don’t have the time, the money, or the patience to waste with this. So bad is it, Sarah, that if I see a book is written by a woman…I no longer will bother with it.
        Ignorant? Lady, I’ve read so many stinkers, packaged, illustrated and marketed exactly the same way you gals are pitching yours, I could sink a battleship with them. I am not ignorant, Sarah – I’m telling you – as a customer…what I want in a good story. I want believability, I want originality, and I am not seeing that here. Instead I’m being nagged for wanting the wrong stuff in a book!
        LOL. Have it your way. At the end of the day Sarah, you are just a dancing monkey that’s here to entertain me and if you don’t – I won’t put a coin in your tin cup. As women are prone to do – you forget that the customer is always right.
        Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll take my leave! The last word is yours, for I clearly made a mistake in coming here.
        Good luck with your books, Amanda. I mean that sincerely.

        1. Chick lit is a defined category. I don’t need to educate you, look it up!
          Honestly, you’re entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts.
          As for my being a dancing monkey, fuck off and take the donkey you rode in on. You’d never buy anything I wrote, and you’re only here to troll.
          Gaze lovingly on my middle fingers as the door hits you in the ass.

        2. Somehow I doubt you will stay gone. You see, I did a little search and discovered that you came here before and tried lecturing Peter Grant. He took it about as well as Sarah did and, to be honest, as well as I did. Might I suggest before you start telling me I write chick-lit, you find out what the hell chick lit happens to be? You might also want to get down off your high horse, or maybe it is just an ass, before you open your mouth about things you obviously know nothing about.

          So you’ve been burned by books before. We all have. But most of us realize that is the exception and not the rule. Of course, from what you’ve said, I would guess you don’t like any story where the woman is strong and capable. Guess what, you can be strong and capable and female and not be a poster girl for the SJWs. Too bad — for you. You are missing a lot of good books out there. Good luck finding books you enjoy — and I meant that sincerely.

          1. How many stories, sci-fi or otherwise revolve around the idea of the MC or part of his clan being the only one. Tom Clancy has the perfect politico in Jack Ryan, almost uniformly loved. Correia has Owen who was trained his entire life and is a prophesied hero to fight the old ones. Star Wars is the Skywalker Family Soap Opera. Kirk (in the new movies) was almost groomed. As long as the story is accurate to the character and vice versa that is the big thing.

            In reality, you have individuals that can work in the blood and guts, and those that don’t. Yeah, you can make the arguments that there will be more men able to fight and more women to nurture but you will always have your outliers. I will note though that it is the issue of how much tolerance one has for rubbish that comes by. Supergirl knocking out Lex Luthor I could see. Some power armored heroine going mano a mano (mana?) with another power armored marine can be depending on science. The standard human knocking out someone much bigger with one punch, especially after he’s withstood a pounding from others…uh…Better have good reason for me to suspend my disbelief. And sadly the last of those is the most common trope we see so I can’t blame some for burnout.

            I have to add some of your Nocturnal series into my list…I need more hours in the day.

            1. I absolutely agree and I try to keep all that in mind when I write. Nothing throws me out of a story so quickly as the small woman — or man — taking down the hulk of a man in a straight up fight, often with only one blow.

              1. Ya. That is one of the (many) things that has slowed my wip down. I know that the female MC will be heavily involved in the second half but need to make sure that its as realistic as a lycanthrope story can be.

  8. I buy every book you put out Amanda and every time one of the female leads is in any type of fight with any man it’s like I’m holding my nose in the air. You write compelling stories and characters that transport me to imagination land. But hardcore battle Marine or tough female cop that kicks guys pass is so unrealistic that it takes me out of the stories. So much so that like sex scenes I just skip the pages. There will never be a time that women will be on par with the men in battle. Even if you’re talking about women in space for every implant you give a woman the men get the same implant. Keeping the physical differences. As for power armor unless you’re talking large mechas most that I’ve read they still wouldn’t allow the women to vault over men in skill and power. All that being said ill still buy your next book simply because of your skill.
    As for stopping to read a book cause of something message in it I just dropped one yesterday. It’s was about a disabled bet working as a PI. Had a pretty good story going right up to the country folk who were horrible racist homophobes and then in the next few pages a pro-life congressman is portrayed as a hypocrite cause he’s with some bookers. Instant drop.

    1. Joe, first of all, thanks for buying the books. For the rest of it, I hear you. I may not necessarily agree with you. But that is why, more often than not, when she gets in a fight with someone, Mac Santos (from the Nocturnal Lives series for those not familiar with her) either fights dirty or she takes as many — or more — punches as the other person does. It’s why she occasionally loses. Even with her shifter capabilities, she isn’t as big and strong as male shifters are, although she is more than a match for a “normal”.

      With regard to Ashlyn Shaw in the Honor and Duty series, she is a female Marine. However, if you look at her squad, even before she was in a command position, she was a sniper. Ortega was intel. The men are the ones who are in the heavy battle gear and in the trenches. I have tried to have folks, whatever their sex, in jobs they are best suited for by build and aptitude.

      1. That’s one thing I really like about Nocturnal Lives – people get hurt and need to recover. That’s fairly rare in fiction.

        I’ve gotten used to super-ninja-chick from various media properties (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., I’m looking at you). I think that is something you avoid. Mac is a shifter so she’s stronger than normal and she does get beat up. Whatever grunt work Ash may have done in the past, she’s a captain, now; she’s not front-line infantry. She is super-hard-ass, probably called “bitch” rather a lot by people who don’t like her, but being tortured for loyalty can do that. I think they both work better than usual.

        No one is ever going to make everyone happy. I agree – on this point – with Glenfilthie: Pick your audience and write to it.

        1. I have never gotten into not letting your characters — or those they care for — get hurt. That, or the fear of being hurt, is what helps shape the way they react to any given situation. If they aren’t mortal, then why worry about what anyone else is doing? If they don’t feel fear or love, for example, they don’t dare about others around them. That makes them one-dimensional at best. Thanks for the compliment re: Nocturnal Lives.

          1. Wait!
            Create characters that the reader will relate to, identify with, and hold some measure of sympathy for. Then drop them into terrible adversity. Show their intense struggle to adjust, adapt, and overcome the situation they find themselves in. Finish with the ones that survive in a better place than they were before.
            That’s just silly. Who would ever read something like that?
            The sarcasm it is strong in me this morning.

      2. The way you write your female characters is one of the reasons I keep reading.I’ve stop reading and watching a lot of stuff because how they portray fights. I watched Agent Carter right up to the first time she punched a guy twice her size and knocked him out.

    2. One of the two female protagonists I’m writing at the moment is very petite, so she avoids brawls and relies on her revolver. The other has some genetic tweaks for strength and reflexes, but needs training to fight smart because she’s outclassed by genetically-engineered humans and cyborgs and whatnot.

        1. Exactly. There are in-the-face combat people, and then a lot of others that make great snipers. Or, like me, potentially useful only as REMFs.

    3. Depending on the system used for powered armor it could be either a multiplier or a piloted system. Hydraulics used to multiply force would still leave the effects of muscle composition difference between males and females but electrical or motors would be more a piloted suit where reflexes and training are more significant.

  9. I certainly don’t mind strong female characters: I’ve written several myself. What bothers me is when every woman is a Xena, then it feels forced and unrealistic. Real life isn’t like that, no matter what Kameron Hurley says.

  10. My first thought was “Hang a lantern on it.” If you know you are likely to set off people’s “message coming” alerts, but that isn’t what you are after — put a lampshade on it and dance it around a bit! I.e., somewhere up front, have a character ponder “This could almost be one of those crazy romances, but it isn’t” or something like that. Kind of a “trigger warning” in reverse?

  11. After more than 60 years, I can spot *C–P* pretty quickly (5-10 pages). In fact, I have a pair of books to “review” that will get a _private_ review to the author. In short: good plot ideas, badly handled (HS level quality). Your books, have *never* drawn even close to that reaction. I buy, read and will _re-read_, yours.
    As an author, I *try* to avoid “messages.”

  12. I don’t know.

    On the one hand, I do perfectly understand what you’re saying, and find myself engaging in it as well. Since the Puppy thing, I now basically treat message fiction like a vampire treats garlic, and am FAR more sensitive to social justice tells than I used to be, to the point that I’ve also probably put books back on the shelf for having them when they weren’t really SJW-y at all. So I do agree on that.

    On the other hand, if you’re upset enough about the perceived message in a book to go hunt down the author and vent your complaints at them, when you haven’t read much or even tried to think the problem through logically to figure out if it makes sense in the story…no, I still feel like that’s your (the reader’s) fault for being obtuse and overly confrontational, not the fault of other authors for shoehorning social justice messages into books that are supposed to entertain. They shouldn’t be able to break into our heads and steal our deductive capabilities from us.

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