Archive for April, 2014

Tides

blue moonI had a realisation today, so please indulge me in this short post about how I write.

I am currently drafting the third book of Echoes of the Past, entitled Tides of Spring. About two weeks ago I wrote a pivotal moment in the series, a game changer and key bit of character development for one of my protagonists. It was very emotional to write and I very much hope that my readers feel moved by it too. After writing this, and other previous “big” moments in the series, I was emotionally and mentally exhausted and have hardly been able to write a word since.

Today I realised that I tend to work in tides, high and low. I’ll be extremely prolific for a couple of weeks, churning out 20,000 words or more but then I need a rest, sometimes just a few days but after a significant emotional expenditure like this one I sometimes need a few weeks.

The second element of this realisation was that I noticed it was a new moon yesterday, and a solar eclipse early this morning (I missed seeing it but woke to a notification about it on my phone). This means that I wrote the epic chapter around the full moon. It got me thinking and looking back at these tides and I do believe they are connected to the phases of the moon, which is somewhat fitting as my series is so intimately connected with our silver satellite and the goddesses associates with it. During the waxing moon, as it moves from new to full, I am motivated and prolific. During a waning moon, as it moves from full to new again, I sometimes have a lull in output. This isn’t strictly true all of the time, if I am on a roll then a prolific period can last several weeks or a month or more. The waning moon seems to slow me down only when I reach a super dramatic moment in the series and need that emotional breather afterwards.

People have long connected behaviour with the moon, usually the full moon, which is credited with inducing erratic and even crazed behaviour in people, hence the terms “lunacy” and “lunatic”. Many also believe the moon influences birth, though I can’t say this has been my experience. I wonder what more subtle influences it may have? Does it effect our motivation? Energy levels? Moods? Do those who follow a fitness regime struggle to meet their goals at certain times of the month? Then there are other celestial events, such as eclipses, solstices and equinoxes, and of course a blue moon*. I know that for a week or so around each equinox I feel very unsettled and emotional.

*A blue moon is the third full moon in a season that has four full moons. Seasons normally only have three full moons.

I would love to hear from you. Have you ever noticed any of these influences in your life?


Girls, Boys and Those Who Have Yet To Make Up Their Minds….

I woke up this morning and went to check on what I had missed on the internet overnight. A big job that must be completed every morning before I even get out of bed. It’s my way of reorienting myself with the world. An article from The Guardian popped up that I was compelled to read, as it was on a subject that I feel very strongly about: the segregation of children by gender.

girl-or-boy-toyThe article talks about the dramatic change that has come about over the last thirty years or so, in how toys are marketed to children (and their parents). I can remember when I was little that most toys came in bright, non-gendered colours. Most of my favourites were bright red. There was no great compulsion for manufacturers to make two of everything, one pink and one blue, like there is today.

This bizarre marketing practice doesn’t appear to be fuelled by demand. When left to their own devices, children will happily play with toys of any colour. That much is evident to any parent who practices anything resembling open gendered parenting. I have always tried to do this. Baby toys, clothes and bedding that we bought for our children were all gender neutral and any soft blue things that we were given by well-meaning friends or relatives after their births were discretely balanced out with a multitude of other options. As they grow and make their own preferences known, nothing is off limits based on gender. My five year old’s favourite colour is pink and although he has a keen interest in DC superheroes, his favourite character is BatGIRL, rather than any of the obvious male heroes. In the Lego Movie, his favourite character was Unikitty BECAUSE she was mostly pink.

I found myself doing something unexpected the other day, however, when the two of us sat at the laptop together picking out headphones for him to listen to music and audiobooks with. He wanted pink ones and while I was very keen to buy him the ones he wanted, whatever their colour, I could not bring myself to buy the ones he picked out. Not because of their colour, but because the only available options were pink or blue. I couldn’t, in good conscience, support the company that would produce such limited and gender-specific options. I looked instead for a different brand that offered more choice, with the intention of buying a pink set, but was met with “out of stock” at every turn. In the end I bought him green frog-themed ones from a retailer only offering gender neutral options.

Of course, retailers claim that they are trying to meet demand and I’m sure many of them believe it. They see girls queuing up to buy princess costumes and boys clamouring over action figures and draw the conclusions that support their practice, when it is their own aggressive marketing that creates this epidemic in the first place. Parents don’t help the situation if they have bought into “pinkification” too. To any parents reading who may be concerned about how their children are likely to turn out: let me assure you, boys who play dress up will still have their penises at the end of the day and girls who want to climb trees will almost certainly still get married and have babies.

retro lego ad 1Marketers also claim that it has always been this way, but as I have already mentioned, this is not true. Going back to the 1970s and 80s we see very different marketing strategies, ones that did not limit a toy’s market to only half of all children.

Although we have seen great progress towards gender equality in the last few decades, we risk seeing all of it undone with these marketing practices. As the article mentions, there has been a drop in the number of women enrolling on engineering courses in the UK, now at only 8% of the total number of students. How can this be? The obvious answer is that girls are, from a very young age, being brainwashed to believe that they should only be interested in hairdressing and dolls, pink and princesses. That they should hone their skills in home making and confine themselves to that role, and await their prince charming. Is this 2014 or 1814?!

Boys are targeted too, with bullying being a serious risk for any boy who dares defy social norms. My eldest wants to be a palaeontologist when he grows up, but only wants to work one day a week, the other six he intends to spend at home with his kids. I hope he retains this wish and gets it. What a lucky future partner he may have 😉

When it comes to my writing, I like to write strong female protagonists. The main character in my series, Echoes of the Past, is an independent and feisty young martial arts expert. She undergoes a transformation in the first book and gains the ability to turn into a seven foot tall slobbering kill beast covered in thick fur. I have to admit, I have my wobbles about the marketability of the concept. Our society seems to be fine with the idea of male protagonists who have monstrous forms and who get into vicious fights, but our female leads, even in the action and horror genres, seem to need to retain their sex appeal by wearing black leather and fighting gracefully. I hope that by bucking the trend I am offering readers something different, something they have been waiting for.

As for those headphones, I might just tweet or email the manufacturer and tell them exactly why I chose another brand.