Thursday, October 22, 2009

Eleni-fest: I'm not a kick-butt heroine...yet!

Contest is now closed!
Thanks Christina for inviting me to bring Eleni-fest to your blog. For those who don’t know it’s a month long celebration during October where I’ve been yakking about grants, conferences, writing community and the romance and fantasy genres. And I have been lucky to have many special guests throughout the month. Christina will join me on Halloween...cue scary music.

But today I’ll be talking fantasy and paranormal genres – more specifically kick-butt heroines (sorry typing kick ass makes me think of a kicking donkey. I know get over it Eleni, still…my term of choice is kick-butt).

In the beginning…
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved fairy tales and stories in general, watched many cartoons, comics, TV shows (e.g. Bewitched) and movies (e.g. The Wizard of Oz) to fall in love with the whole ‘fantasy’ world whether it be set in another world or in this one with paranormal elements (super heroes). How cool! How amazing! How fantastic! And the allure of fantasy began…

I wanted to be that kick-butt super heroine – I remember dressing up as Batgirl after getting a show bag from the Royal Show that is held yearly in Adelaide. Here I was with gappy teeth, wearing a cape pretending I was oh so super heroine-ish.

There was also Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Super Girl, Wilma from Buck Rodgers…sorry big fan of Buffy but she didn’t invent kick butt. Not to mention the non-paranormal ladies like Charlie’s Angels and Police Woman (oh so cool with great hair with bangs).

See don’t you just want to be these unruffled, tough ladies, with hands on the hips saying ‘bring it on!’ (cue the ‘da da daaa’ music) then flick the hair.

Oh and one of the first romances I barracked for was Wilma and Buck. I was only young but I remember that clearly. Though I can’t remember what did happen. I’ll have to go find me a DVD of the series and find out!

Cultural influence…
But even before this there were kick butt stories. And coming from a Greek background, a big influence on my life – Greek Mythology. When I was 9, my family travelled to Greece and the stories of the Gods and the history of Greece came alive in my mind. It was then I was given a copy of a Greek Mythology book (in Greek). There were some great pictures in it that stirred up the imagination, like this one of Athena. Yes, I still have the book *grin*

Can you see why my 9-year-old self would be intrigued? The vivid colours, the scene, and what’s more, she was a warrior god that also had the owl for the symbol for wisdom. Brains, beauty and power!

I didn’t realise until much later but while the Greek Gods & Goddesses had powers and were immortal, they were not always moral. Maybe that’s why the stories fascinated me as well as kind of scared me. Who knew what you could do to displease the gods and you suffer for it?

How each god and goddess represented different parts of nature, human nature or culture fascinated me – like Gaia being Mother Earth, Artemis the huntress, Aphrodite the love goddess and so on. Stories of monsters, creatures like the Gargoyles (Medusa) and abilities like throwing lightning bolts, appearing and disappearing, freezing a person to the spot with a look, sparked stories in my mind. Adventures like Odysseus’ trek home, Jason with the Golden Fleece, and Herakles (aka Hercules) brought that quest element to life. And of course the Amazons who were warrior women standing their own against the men & other creatures.

Now I have always been an uncoordinated soul. While other kids could do cartwheels properly, I just didn’t have that ‘bend’. Mine were erratic. I played soccer in high school but the amount of injuries I had due to lack of finesse, well I ran out of fingers to count. Not only was I unco, I was and am plump and vertically challenged. Yes, that’s short for un-PC among us. No long Elle Macpherson legs for me!

So the closest thing I could come to a kick-butt heroine is by reading about them, watching them, or writing about them.

Fantasy & Paranormal influences...
Though the serious writing came many years down the track when the series The Chronicles of the Cheysuli by Jennifer Roberson changed my life – epic generational fantasy. And I was hooked. Oh yes, I’d read The Hobbit, seen bits of The Lord of the Rings (cartoon), but there were female characters in this series that were just as important as the male ones. It has been many years since I have read the series and I may view it differently now, but that can’t take away the importance it had in my life.

Then I read some more different types of books – some high fantasy, others more with paranormal elements, all with a hint of romance.

Marion Zimmer Bradley – The Mists of Avalon
David & Leigh Eddings – The Belgariad
Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander (Cross Stitch) – Jamie is my all time fave hero.
Barbara Erskine – The Lady of Hay
Robert Jordon’s – The Wheel of Time
Sara Douglass’ – The Axis Trilogy
Traci Harding’s – The Ancient Future trilogy

Still I had always read widely and continued to do so (including horror, detective, mysteries, different types of romances). But I’ve really come to terms that I really haven’t as an extensive reading experience in the fantasy genre as you might expect. I had been slowly getting behind with my reading and with catching up reading the greats because of CFS (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome).

I looked at this list of the Top 100 Fantasy Novels (speculative fiction) and worked out that I have only read about 18 of the titles and/or series. Sad state of affairs *sad face*. In my down years, I did however rely on TV and movies to get me through and the visual medium is great when you are too tired to read. So I score a lot higher with these. (Top 100 Fantasy Films and Top 100 Fantasy TV series for your interest).

Holy Cow - Paranormal Romance!
In the years where I had not been reading so much, the market of paranormal romance has ‘kapowed’. Aha, that’s my Batman reference all right.

And that is the direction my reading has taken recently. I’m enjoying reading these stories because even though they had been around, the stories have flourished adding different elements to old legends and tales. And special guests that I have this month on Eleni-fest who write in this and the urban fantasy genre – my gracious hostess Christina of course, Mel Teshco, Anna Hackett, Tracey O’hara, Eric Hayes, Keri Arthur, and Denise Rossetti (more fantasy but I’ll add to this list).

I’ve only recently found the Goodreads lists and they are a great way of introducing you to any genre you are not familiar with.

Actually in Heart & Craft, author Kelly Ethan has a great chapter about Fantasy Romance (this is the book that is part of my website competition). Where a fantasy romance focuses on the romance, the romantic fantasy has romantic elements.

I’ve also recently started reading Graphic Novels (aka formerly known as comics but with longer length from what I gather). And that has given me another layer to this whole paranormal/graphic world. It goes hand in hand with urban fantasy and horror I believe. Fascinating!

Still while I may not be as widely read as others, I love the fantasy and paranormal worlds and it doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of them. Unfortunately there’s no ‘time stop’ button so I can catch up on my reading, and the last thing I want is for reading to feel like a chore. I want to read…actually I have to read, just like I have to write. It’s good for the soul.

My stories and world building...
The sense of discovery, of needing to obtain a goal, of watching characters grow and learn is what I love about fantasy including the quest fantasies. It’s probably why my yet to be published book -Healer’s Destiny- is one. And why I have more waiting in the wings for me to write. I love the middle ages type world with dragons, magic, and the journey of discovery. I love a Greek mythological type worlds also ;)

But since I’ve always loved paranormal elements, and had written a few short stories with this aspect, I’ve also started to delve the paranormal fiction world with longer fiction (novella and novel) and I’m having fun blending our world with another layer of magic.

In university a friend dubbed me the appendix queen because I had so much research in my assignments that needed add appendices to be pointed to, as it would not fit in the 2000-5000 word essays.

So yes, I can go on and on with research. I now take the ‘research when I need’ approach otherwise I will never get to the writing.

A couple of books I use extensively are:

The Writer’s Complete Fantasy Reference: an indispensible compendium of myth and magic

The Writer’s Guide to Everyday life in the Middle Ages: The British Isles from 500 to 1500 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

There are plenty more including books on mythology, costumes, and history, but these are a great starting off point.

And more and more, there are plenty of online references. Here are just a few:

RWAus has had a paranormal group off and on for a number of years now. Before the conference and since the loop is buzzing with more activity, which is great to see. Writers get each other, still those who read or write Paranormal (we include all speculative fiction in this), get why we love this genre that touch more. So it’s good to bounce thoughts and ideas with each other, discuss books, TV programs (yes, Supernatural is high on the list - ), movies.

I also follow blogs and twitter (you can follow other social media if you are so inclined) and it can help you feel part of the broader community of fantasy/paranormal romantic elements (big or small) enthusiast (say that quickly 3 times!). It actually has been a blast getting to know people via cyberspace. That’s how I got to know Christina (& our mutual love for BSG!)

So while I myself am not a kick-butt heroine, my aim is to create those them, give them vulnerabilities, battles and obstacles to overcome, and to make the story sing!

How about you?

I’m giving away a mini-pack to one commenter.
Comments will be open until end 27th October.

For more information on Eleni-fest, check out my website.

Thanks again Christina for having me on your blog. I hope I've been a good house-guest *wink*



Rachel Bailey said...

Eleni, what a fascinating journey you've had! I loved Mists of Avalon too, and heaps of those TV shows you listed. And the stories of the Greek gods and goddesses are just so compelling.

Getting my mind into the fantasy way of thinking was a great way to start the day - thanks, Eleni!

And thanks for hosting the post, Christina!

Mel Teshco said...

Hi Eleni and Christina,
What a great insight into what makes you tick, Eleni! I for one can't wait to read your published work, can't help but think it'll be brilliant! =)

Sue BT said...

Hi Christina and Eleni,
Loved your post, Eleni. The fantasy realm sounds so wonderful to play in.

Helen Hardt said...

Mists of Avalon is one of my favorites!

Cathryn Hein said...

Wow, what a great post, Eleni. Fascinating. And I'm like you, kick-ass just makes me think of Donkey from Shrek. Not quite the image I think they're looking for. Cute though...

And thanks so much for all the links. Veery handy.

Another great blog post as usual, Christina.

Cari Quinn said...

Awesome post! I still need to check out Eleni-fest... :)

Sussan Marz said...

Have enjoyed getting to know you Eleni. I watched many of the same shows and had girl crushes on most of the heroines. I so wished I could be them.

I read Mists of Avalon. Although it was gripping, it was too tragic for my taste -- did not leave me feeling better afterwards.

Have you read The Empire trilogy (Daughter of he Empire, Servant of the Empire, Mistress of the Empire) by Raymond Feist and Janny Wurtz? I noticed it wasn't on your list. The heroine is smart, vulnerable and definitely capable of holding her own. She faces formidable stakes in each book. These were the first heroine focused high fantasy novels I read with a hopeful, happy ending at the end of the trilogy.

Christina Phillips said...

Eleni, thank you for bringing Eleni-Fest here today! I used to watch loads of those shows too, reading this post brought back lots of nostalgic moments!!

Eleni Konstantine said...

Oh, sorry, late to the party -- late night, sleep in - you know how it is.

Thanks Christina for hosting this blog and inviting me over to play!!

Glad I could bring back some nostalgic moments.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Rachel - yes it is like a journey abit...and it hasn't ended yet! ;)) Destination: Publication followed by Destination: Keep It Going!!

I was in Dymocks yesterday with a friend and we were discussing how much of our reading in our youth has moulded into one big tale. I can't remember all the stories I read as a child, nor everything I watched on TV. Same goes with the Greek myths - so many and heard over a big course in my life. So no wonder I love lots of different things!!

Glad to start your day off with the fantasy genre way! ;))

Eleni Konstantine said...

Mel - I can feel my psyche being analysed ;)) I hope to live up to your high standards (gulp) and thanks for saying so.

Sue - oh the fantasy realm is such fun!!

Helen - yes, The Mists of Avalon was a different take to what I had read before with the Arthur legends.

Cathryn - phew I hoped the blog post wouldn't suck. LOL re thinking of Shrek's donkey. I hadn't thought of him specifically. LOL. Glad you like the links.

Cari - thank you and please do check out Eleni-fest. We have just over a week still do go.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Sussan - I know, they were so cool weren't they those heroines. I agree with the tragedy of Mists of Avalon. I do like HEAs but Greek seem to be imbedded in the culture with tragic tales - lots of the myths are - and so it wasn't anything new. I read this pre CFS and so now I would prefer happier tales.

I haven't read The Empire trilogy - have heard great things and it is one of the greats I have missed out on. Many titles on that to read list I tell you!!

Nicky Strickland said...

Eleni, a fascinating post & it's amazing how many spots we cross over in interests.

Mists of Avalon - hijacked my mother's copy & it never made it back to her (& read all the others in that series too).

Aaaah, Buck Rogers - the hair, the memories *lol*!

I also remember hijacking ANY books that mentioned mythologies & loved reading over & over again about the Greek & Roman shanningans. I ended up with a BA in Ancienct Civs with minors in Greek Literature (I did manage to avoid having to learn ancient greek though.....just *lol*).

Something about those mythologies that set alight my imagination.

Thank you Christina for hosting.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Nicky - LOL - did your mum ever ask where that copy was? I've read some of the sequels but not all.
- yes Buck Rogers hair was sooo it back in the day
- wow, we do cross over in heaps - I've got in a BA majoring in psychology but my minor was Classical Studies. I did however want to do Ancient Greek but just couldn't fit it in. Oh well, there's always another day. Though how you managed to get out of that one is curious.... ;))

Nicky Strickland said...

Er, I didn't mention how I did not get out of learning ancient Latin did I......

Eleni Konstantine said...

LOL - no but that makes sense... you learned one of the languages not both ;))

Anonymous said...

Eleni and Christine,
Thanks for a great blog, and isn't it wonderful to know we've all developed such amazing imaginations and are not allowed let them loose on the world.
Eleni, I loved Jason and The Golden Fleece too!!! So brave, so heroic. Sigh!

Kylie Griffin said...

Hi Eleni,

I'm chiming in late here - but this I really enjoyed reading - there were so many "oh, Eleni likes some of the books I do!" and "oh, Buck Rogers!" and "oh, so many other similar interests it was scary how closely our younger lives/interests coincided" :-) (not to mention some of the commenters!)

You can't beat the sf/f/uf/p genre! :-)

Eleni Konstantine said...

Kylie, yes you can't beat the Spec Fiction genre can you? :)) Well I don't think so and add some romance and viola, perfect.

Seems like you and I are from that same generation that grew up with the same influences. I think it was a really cool time. ;))

Eleni Konstantine said...

Hey Suzi,
Letting our imaginations loose is the way to go. Got a big scope and lots of influences.

You know talking about Greek Myths has made me want to refamiliarise myself in them. It's been awhile. And I don't think I've read all of the Greek version (just bits and pieces). May have to immerse myself after Eleni-fest!

Viola Estrella said...

What a kick-butt post! :-) I, too, had a hard time conquering the cartwheel. I was always lopsided. I loved seeing all that has influenced you. Bionic Woman? Charlies Angels? Bewitched? I was so there!

Eleni Konstantine said...

oh thanks Viola! And so glad to meet someone else as uncoordinated as I am ;)) Yes lopsided cartwheels. LOL.

Go those kick-butt heroines. Lucky us to have had those influences.

Susan Macatee said...

Hi, Eleni! I always wanted to be batgirl too! I guess that's why I write adventure romance! The heroine in my newest historical release is a Confederate soldier, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the American Civil War.

How kick-butt is that for an historical romance heroine? LOL.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Hi Susan fellow Batgirl fan :) oh a historical heroine - completely absolutely butt- kicking. Sounds fantastic.

Brenda Hyde said...

Wow, what a great post, and SO much good information! As usual, you rock:) Another kick-butt heroine series that I have read twice is Elizabeth Haydon's Rhapsody. Her and Sara Douglass have great heroines!

Kaye Manro said...

Fantastic post, Christina!

Eleni Konstantine said...

Aw thanks Moonsanity. That's very nice of you to say. I'll have to add Elizabeth Haydon's book to the list.

Kaye - thanks.

Eleni Konstantine said...

Thanks everyone for commenting on my blog post. And thanks to Christina for hosting me. You rock!!

Now as to the winner of the mini-pack.... Kylie Griffin!!

I'll contact you via your email on your blogger page.

Top Ten Books said...

I'm not surprised you got influenced by the Wheels of Time, it's a marvelous series.