Considering writing women warriors, a quora question.

I had to bite when this one slid across my desk: What should one keep in mind when writing female warriors? A lot of my writing, published, unpublished, and even old fanfic, has to do with women who fight back, and warriors among them. So, what do I think about when writing women who are warriors? It’s such a good question, I posted the answer to the Vale & Sea patreon page and to quora — oh, excuse me, Quora (need to put that cap in there). Here it is, with hope, surfacing on my Amazon author page.

If you put your face where that bag is, it won’t matter that she’s a girl, I promise!

Well, I can say this much, there are some considerations when you’re writing a woman who is also a warrior. But let’s just get some things out of the way up front. A trained woman fighter (think Ronda Rousey or Holly Holm or, any of the many others) is going to mess up your day, potentially forever.

The force of a professional boxer’s fist is equivalent to being hit with a 13-pound bowling ball traveling 20 miles per hour,” per the American Association of Neurological Association. ~ Jacqueline Andriakos (health.com)

These are big, powerful women with a lot of training and a lot of muscle fibre. In fact, it may help you to know:

Trainer and record-holding powerlifter Greg Nuckols puts it on his site, Stronger By Science, “Most of the major differences in performance and metabolism between genders can be explained by size and body composition, not gender itself.” Nuckols expands on that thought, noting that, “A woman and a man with similar training and similar amounts of muscle and fat will perform similarly.” ~ Dan Ketchum (http://livestrong.com)

So, you need to take into account the size, shape, and body fat of your character. I can tell you from experience (with very low body fat at one point and lots of muscle) that size does matter (also, small).

Underneath it all, there’s the fact that women, on average, have 30 to 35% muscle by weight and men (on average) 40–50% by weight. Women have more fat deposits in healthier areas (like the hips) than men. Women have more slow-twitch muscle too. So, being a strong, well-trained, woman, tall and big with muscle, will produce similar results to a male of the same composition. But even with a smaller woman in great shape, and corded with muscle, there are perks to the way muscles and fat work, and you can use these in your writing.

Women, who have more slow-twitch (type 1) muscle than men, recover faster. They have more blood supply in their muscles too, meaning more oxygen. Your male runner is faster, but he (on average) won’t be able to run for days like a woman will because their muscle design gives them a lot of endurance. They can pull on fat for fuel too. No doubt, this helps in lengthy childbirth as much as it does on an endurance run. I bet your girl can run for days. Moreover, in a fight, a man’s explosive strength is amazing, but the longer that fight goes, the more the advantage tips to your warrior woman, with her heavily oxygenated, fat-burning metabolism. She’s built for endurance and can keep dishing it out with less fatigue.

There are something like 3000 genes that express differently in muscles between women and men, and, the truth is, there are advantages handed to both men and women as a result. Mostly, you’ll hear about the advantages that gives men. Rarely, you’ll hear about the same for women, but that doesn’t mean those advantages don’t exist for you to write about.

Heck. I write about them!

So, it’s not a simple answer, really. And you need to do your research. If you have other concerns, research them too. One I can think of is ‘What if she’s on her period when the fight takes place’? Well, when your body weight is that low and you’re burning fat like that, your period is sometimes absent. If it’s there, it’s a blip on the radar, trust me. No. You will not get a ‘super-human surge of strength’ from your period. You won’t run from the fight, sobbing, because of some emotional turmoil, because of your period. If you don’t understand periods, please do look them up in a scientific or health journal and apply the learnings to all your women characters. Half the planet has a period. You should know what that means if you want to write women.

Another thing you should know is that the strength of women, in many cultures, is routinely underestimated and even actively disregarded, and that does something to the psychology and endurance of your woman warrior. It’s something you can research for your warrior too. It may lead your warrior to be formidable psychologically.

Lots and lots of juicy things for you to research and write on this topic.

Tracy Eire

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Cardinal Ignition now on Amazon (paperback/e-book)

This is just a quick note to let you know about the availability of Cardinal Ignition on Amazon. It’s the third book in the Cardinal Machines series and should be quickly followed up by the fourth! I’m currently working on the title and cover for the next Cardinal book.

This cover is the work of the amazing Clarissa Yeo (Yocla) who has long delivered gorgeous covers to her customers but is now no longer taking cover commissions. It’s a loss! But you’ll see Sophia Feddersen’s covers cropping up. The lady behind the Cardinal Spark cover, I have high hopes for the next book! But for now? Please enjoy the work of artist Clarissa Yeo!

The Cardinal titles move from Machines toward the spark of consciousness. http://bit.ly/CardinalIgnitionEbook
This is the full cover! http://bit.ly/CM2BookSeries

On inner criticism, ‘Sensitivity Readers’, and penning Pablum.

Christopher Perricone says: “The critic is the kind of person who watches the battle from the sidelines. When the battle is over and the smoke clears, he goes down to the battlefield and shoots the wounded.” Accurate? Oh yes.

Is your inner critic this guy/girl?

Hands up if you threw up in your mouth a little after all the hard work of writing/publishing?

Criticism can either be fairly levelled (or seem that way), or, as is sadly common, be a means by which your voice and story are silenced. We’ve seen a wave of this in the marketplace, everywhere from romance writers to young adult genres. Sensitivity Readers abound, many of whom are like massive ouroboros gobbling up their own tails — for example, recently a Black, gay writer, and an Asian, woman writer were the latest victims when they were blocked from publishing by the backward notion that a Sensitivity Reader, and the censorship they espouse, is a good motion in modern writing. After all, publishing houses and Sensitivity Writers have to coddle and protect your sensitive, little ears from the horrors of reading and judging for yourself. We are infants and children, right? Or so big publishing stats argue, since — omg — 60% of book readers are women, and not only do they not know what to read, they can’t be treated, or read, like adults (this is according to scathing critiques of the New York Review of Books and not my view).

I don’t know about you, but I can judge for myself (though I strongly suspect almost all readers would rather decide for themselves). The infantilization and resentment of some of the critical establishment that so many women readers prefer J.K. Rowling over, say, D.H. Lawrence, is like the spit-up of so many other industries around women’s issues, and women (of every colour, shape, and size) reaching for better representation. Writing, and the changes in writing, log this in the record of history. I’m a big, fat NO to any force that wants to sanitize that history right out of the gate: the main reason Sensitivity Readers are employed, by the looks of things.

But you’re not writing for infants, are you? (Unless you are, and, in that case, go to town!)

Hello. Can you get more ‘GO 4 IT’ than smiley-thumb? Just think about that.

What are some of the most harsh and unfair criticisms your writing has garnered? I mean it could be anything from ‘English clearly isn’t your first language’ <– (one of my worst, and yes, it is, just not American English), to ‘Mary Sue’ <– (an attempt to silence and shut down, often, young women writers early in their development, and writers like me, who like to write with women and girls at the center of the action.)

What you don’t want (I hope) for criticism to do is actually impact your writing voice negatively. No critic can take away the months of work writing, the years improving, and the pride you take in telling a good story. I get the impulse, and I understand the pain of critical reviews, some of which can entail passive-aggressive condemnation, like this one on The Dead Set: “I am going to begin this review by saying that the book is not bad and that I am hooked! Then why the low rating? You might say, well, let’s just say that I am one track mind kind of reader in a few words I’d like to not use a thesaurus/dictionary when I am reading.” She went on to call one of the main characters ‘snobby’ and ‘not the hero type’ (which he truly isn’t), so this honestly may not have been the book for her. The 3-star rating, sadly, stands against the reputation of the book, and whether this person believes she’s hooked or not, she dealt it a blow simply because some vocab was at a reading level she found a bit challenging.

Faith in humanity? Zero.

What’s the take-away here? Write at a less-advanced reading level? Well. Following opinions like this one will spin a writer in circles, seeing as the next opinion will run counter, or point you in an entirely new direction. Instead? Your best bet is to get better. Keep at it. Keep writing. Keep marketing. Work at landing on your ideal audience. Creatives have to keep in mind there is no shortage of people in the world eager to pontificate on about what’s not possible. They’re often deeply invested in this notion: You can’t do it. And this one: How naïve you are to try. Rather than changing to suit them, it may become necessary to press on to test their theories. This takes a lot of energy, but it flies in the face of logic to say ‘You can’t write a good book’ when there are millions of them written already. It is your right to dream. It’s your right to buckle-down and try.

There are often a lot more people than you’d guess invested in creatives failing to try, and they will be pleased only if the world conforms to their limited thinking. Among them will be some of your harshest critics, these are not the people honestly trying to level with you, they’re the backbiters, the lip-curlers, and the folks who want nothing more in life than to say I told you so. You shouldn’t join forces with them, meaning your inner critic shouldn’t rank among them. If it does, that inner critic will happily turn your spicy and memorable writing into infant formula. Don’t let that happen to your hard work! Always keep in mind that your inner critic also learnt at the knee of your haters, and debunk the nonsense with positive writerly action. Write.

Laugh it up, meanie.

It may help to repeat the truth: You have a right to try to practice your art. No matter what ‘authority’ tells you otherwise.

Tracy Eire

Book Review: Cardinal Machines

Alexa Abee (https://www.instagram.com/lexacourtney/) is a fellow NaNoWriMo writer who kindly agreed to read a copy of Cardinal Machines in exchange for an honest review. You can see and follow her book reviews here: https://writingtheuniverseblog.wordpress.com, and this is what she thought of the first book in the series!

Writing The Universe

cardinal machinesTitle: Cardinal Machines

Author: Tracy Eire

Pub. Date: September 14, 2018

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75


Katherine Zoey Cardinal would rather be known as Zoey Collins. It makes her invisible in school, at home, and lifts the eponymous mantle of her Great Aunt – a Mother of A.I., and 1st to put androids on the moon – from her shoulders. The Collins family is rife with penetration-testers and Private Eyes, a gene Zoey has inherited in spades. Emancipated from the Cardinals, Zoey is trying to make it on her own when her Great Aunt dies, leaving her a prototype Cardinal Machine. 

Both beautiful and buttoned-down, he ends up installed in Zoey’s front room, and things are looking up – her model was designed for federal investigations and general law-enforcement. Very helpful when Zoey finds a man she’s tracking, dead, in a seaside park. The Sheriff’s Department rules it an accident, but her android’s assessment calls it murder….


The…

View original post 1,114 more words

Why don’t we rewrite the stars…. Like, seriously?

What happens to indie writers when they don’t get 5 stars on their Amazon reviews? What happens when they get a 3 or 3.5 star? If you don’t have a publishing house paying for your advertisements (not that they do an even decent job of book promotion that I’ve observed / you could probably do better yourself), what does it mean to have 5 stars… or even less?

These 5 guys turn out to be important, they’re given weight by buyers with stars in their eyes, but there’s no telling how many of our readers actually stop to check the quality of reviews as they do so. Reviews are a bit of a crystal ball, it turns out. Or they can be.

Not all reviews are created equal. I’m pulling on some stats that came from a really brilliant Amazon data review in 2013 (A Statistical Analysis of 1.2 Million Amazon Reviews) but there are newer — though somewhat less openly accessible numbers — to rely on for you mad-statisticians to math with!

Max Woolf, a data scientist with credentials reaching into Buzzfeed and back to Apple, is responsible for some of my insights here. The rest of the supposition (and whinging)? That’s all me.

Astronomy vs. Astrology

People who run the numbers on Amazon and other book sales sites are looking at solid market behaviour. I consider them astronomers — star-gazers who have real data and can make and test hypotheses. They can project ahead, sort of like the Data Guy does. This separates them from the rest of us muddlers who engage in, to some degree, the astrology of stargazing. Oddly, Amazon reviews — all reviews, really — work the exact same way. There are helpful and unhelpful reviewers, according to Amazon’s metrics, but it may be more truthful to say is that some reviews carry more weight than others.

“All the longer reviews have high helpfulness; there are very, very few unhelpful reviews that are also long.”

Max Woolf

Reviews are opinions, of course, but Amazon won’t let you come in and write a review that consists entirely of ‘U suck’, or ‘Great book’! There’s a minimum character requirement. Which means there’s an effort that must be made. That, alone, weeds out a lot of casual trolls and haters. A 100 character + minimum? Too much work! Also, Amazon’s helpful/unhelpful rating of reviews can be used to weed out personal attacks, and junk reviews, foisted on authors (we’ve seen this with even top-sellers, a la ‘It’s x because she’s Mormon’). But authors aren’t allowed to sculpt, or even delete reviews the way you might on, say, Fanfiction.net. This is good, because as a consumer, you see peoples’ honest opinions and not a statistical skew, and bad, because, in a massive machine like Amazon, it’s nigh impossible to contest a review no matter how it might attempt to blackball, or even gaslight.

‘Light ’em up, up, up. I’m on fiiiii-yah!’ Courtesy of Fall-Out Boy. Ahem. Okay. No more singing. Gotcha.

It may be wise to be wary, even when a 3-star comes up. I’ve gotten glowing reviews before ‘I loved the book!’ that were 3-star. Not all people agree on what the star ratings in Amazon really mean, but we still base book purchases off of them.

Truthfully, there’s nothing tying star ratings to any specific type of review. They’re essentially the next galaxy over from their associated review text. One, in no way, has to reflect the real content of the other. Now: Is this bad?

Your fate is written in the stars… or is it?

Yes. Sort of. Also no.

I’ve seen blogs purporting the doom of whole genres due to 5 star reviews, and, I admit, a book with 5 stars across hundreds or thousands of readers is a rare thing. It’s a benchmark, J.K. Rowling, ‘era-founding’ thing. But I think readers usually are being honest, even when they have no idea how to write an actual, book-oriented review, and this is despite the spat of paid-reviews from Fiverr that has Amazon totally discounting the reviews of indie writers on any other book (why not throw the baby out with the bathwater, Amazon — it’s just a baby, right?). As writers, I doubt we have any place extolling the idea that reviewers should be assholes instead of fans: be tougher, be critical, be x, y, z, ‘You’re not being honest enough!‘ (yes, I’ve seen it). Writers probably have zero business in their own reviews — or so I’ve learned. It’s reader-response driven, and reviews really do have the power to bring out a writer’s dark-side. (I’ve been there – reviews can be a bit like alcohol, you gotta cut yourself off before you have a capital-P Problem).

Stop reading them and they’ll go awaaaaaay. (A.k.a. No they won’t, but fewer therapist bills may follow. 😀)

A large number of 5-stars can, in fact, look suspicious in big number sets. But I doubt it’s as damning as to sink the entire enterprise of indie authorship (as I’ve also read in blogs). Amazon Prime TV series can have 4.5 and 5 reviews across huge numbers of people and survive. So can indie books. We’re not magic fairies, after all. I’d like for some blogger to sweep in and and tell those reviewers ‘You aren’t being honest enough‘. Riiight. Because we have the authority to police our readers. What horse-poop.

Light ’em up, up, up! Light ’em – OKAY! Jeeze.

With 510, 434 separate reviewers out of 1.2 million reviews, the sample set is large, but not… what some people might expect. Those 500, 000 odd reviewers must be motivated though. Motivated people tend to be passionate. Passionate people may write longer and more positive reviews (they can also be livid and write more negative ones, btw). The numbers demonstrated that the average star-score is also rising over time — an indication that reviewers are learning the system, and, perhaps, thinning out as reviews become more normalized and less faddish (again this last bit is review-astrology).

Point is, the numbers point at what I call a passion-trend in reviews.

Skyview coordinates + star numerology

More than half of the reviews give a 5-star rating. Aside from perfect reviews, most reviewers give 4-star or 1-star ratings, with very few giving 2-stars or 3-stars relatively.

Max Woolf

I can’t know the mind of reviewers, but this was useful data to me! What does this 1.2 million review data-set find re. how consumers comprehend star ratings? Basically, this is what I take from the statistics:

  • If people went through the trouble to write a review a lot of them are passionate enough about the subject to either give it:
    • a 5SO worthwhile!
    • or a 1Die in fire, product!
  • If they gave it a 4-star that’s a strong recommendation. Rejoice!
  • 2 and 3 stars are neutral / may not exist / a phenomenon I call Schrödinger’s review.
  • 1 star reviews deserve a read to see if the person is fair in their criticism. Are they:
    • Furious about the product for legitimate reasons?!
    • Attacking unrelated elements like shipping, the condition of the box, packaging, or angry that the post does X?
    • Unfairly attacking the writer (passive-aggressively or otherwise) him- or herself?

Basically, I saw an inverted Bell Curve with a skew to the direction of higher numbers. Customers appear to be feeling-out (or averaging out) consensus on what the star-rating system at Amazon means. Maybe readers are going back to books and writers that reward their interests? Maybe Amazon’s categories and keywords are becoming more refined? I’m not sure, but, for me, the numbers shed some light on the matter!

How about you?

The romance and mystery of Cardinal Machines

Cardinal Machines is available on Amazon as an e-book, or paperback, at last! I tackled this book a little differently than I’ve written any other novel, let me tell you, and — maybe as a consequence — it was a blast.

For starters, the mega-powerful Cardinal family, with their young sleuth in the wings, was an old idea I’d researched in the past, but rejected. It seemed to be missing something, and that was saying a lot, considering how attached I became to Zoey, who forged ahead even while the repeated shells of loss blew holes in her life. She was brave, tough, and bleeding, even if she was healing. I thought this was perfect fodder for a Young Adult gumshoe. But something was off, so I set it on the back burner.

It took me a while to understand what was missing was a reason for Zoey to hope again. More specifically, I needed someone to come in under her radar and create grounds for her to let down her defenses. The well-defended fortress had to open herself up to potential joy — and, thereby, potential pain — again. But she was too far gone to let down the drawbridge for anyone. So, what could I do about that?

I could write a near-future science fiction. That’s what.

Enter the C001-Oisín, whose Irish name I Americanized into Ocean — or so I imagined it would be pronounced (it’s actually ‘Ohsheen’ — means deer). The Ocean android is a service unit, not a person, and he ends up in the creaky, old, Victorian Zoey inherited from her uncle, almost by accident. True to his name, Ocean’s stealthy and beautiful. He’s also very good at his work — law enforcement. Sort of. Being that he’s an android, he isn’t granted true legitimacy. But Zoey soon discovers he’s the perfect partner for an up-and-coming Private Investigator.

Once I had fit these two pieces together, the story, long dammed up, and now enhanced with androids and futurism, poured out in a couple of weeks. I was overjoyed and remain that way, adoring these characters.

Yes. Zoey is haunted and injured by her past, but she doesn’t know the meaning of quit. And, certainly, Ocean is an artificial lifeform, but he’s hopeful, headstrong, and often, sadly, ‘the only adult in the room. So, I hope you join me for these mysteries and the unlikely love story threaded through them!

Teire_CardinalMachinesSM

Zoey Collins, as she prefers to call herself, is actually Katherine Zoey Cardinal of a famed Artificial Intelligence company called ‘Cardinal Machines’. Along with her breathtaking Ocean unit, Zoey tackles the mystery of a dead man in a seaside park, and all the popular-kid pool-parties the investigation throws at them.

Dat Cover, folks.

You’ve written a book and, proofed it, read it through more than once for problems, including once aloud. Now… about that cover.

Covers are tricky beasts. I have one friend who wants to make the cover himself. He’s – pardon the irony here – dead set on it. A talented plotter and writer, he wants to use generic Hubble photos with some tweaks. And there’s no dissuading him either. I’ve tried. But just because there’s no way to sway him, doesn’t mean there’s no way to warn others: Covers can be considered your single best piece of advertisement for your book. So it’s best to give them time, and consideration. Art is not incidental and shouldn’t be arbitrary. The cover won’t be ignored.

So, let’s get this out of the way: the content of your books are judged by the cover. Really, that’s the first hint that a reader has about who is in the book and what’s going on inside, so it’s impossible to judge them harshly here. In fact, many readers make a rainbow out of their bookshelves, it’s a whole meme, the cover’s so important (part of what I don’t like about CreateSpace is the inability to dress up the spine of a book, for example). That means, if your cover is a kid’s disproportional and unprofessional drawing, your book could easily be considered amateurish. Likewise, if you use a tonne of different fonts, glaringly bad colour choices, boxy photos from google searches (which could get you in real trouble if the image belongs to someone) … in short, if you wander into these pitfalls, including covers that have little to nothing to do with the book, and doing the design yourself, you could adversely impact your book.

Wow Im Toast
Said the woman who used a pic of a smiling unicorn holding a bouquet of lug-wrenches, because it was the first thing that showed up in Search for ‘roadside miracles’. Don’t be that woman… even though she’s got really good hair. (I mean, damn!)

So what do you do?

You pay a professional designer / artist, is what. And, though you can have discussions and make lots of suggestions… don’t argue with the artist. The amount of disagreement you do usually reduces with the amount of experience they have. Make sure you look at their work first, and then… trust them. You chose them for a reason, and you can be explicit about what you’re paying for: these folks know what they’re doing. Your final product may need a few tweaks in Photoshop or Pixlr (ahem, the latter is free), but you will have accomplished the one thing many writers take too much for granted: you will have made a great advertisement for your work!

Me? I’m an artist. I have a strong image of what I want in my head when I think of a cover. So what do I do? I realize I’m not a designer. I’m not a book-cover designer. That’s why I work with those types. These cover designers are artists in their own right, often trained in the type of technologies you just don’t want to mess with. Work with them, and don’t discount the importance of your cover. After all, what readers see is the first thing anyone will know about your book.

Make the first impression count!