Monday, 16 June 2014

Off to summer pastures

I’m retiring this blog for a couple of weeks while Ill have a summer holiday. I’m going to catch up with my reading, but I’ll be working too. I will be writing and – apparently – painting a porch. It should be – eh – fun.

This post also marks my second anniversary as an independent author. The second year was easier than the first in many respects. I only published two new books, so my writing schedule was less hectic. I got the hang of the social media platforms I frequent and established some routines, making that part of my publishing life easier.

I tried some new things too. I made a paperback of Which Way to Love? It took more time than I thought it would to prepare and it doesn’t really sell, but at least I now know the process. I also produced a bundle edition of the first two books in the Two-Natured London series. Another novelty was promotion sales of the entire Two-Natured London series when a new book came out. I was rather happy with the results and will continue those.

The biggest difference is, however, that I’ve learned to relax and schedule some downtime for myself. The greatest indicator of this is that I’ve actually had time to read again. I barely opened a book the first year without feeling guilty that I wasn’t writing.

So, all in all, a very positive second year. I’ll recharge my batteries and head for the third year with renewed vigour. I’ll see you in August the latest. Until then, have a great summer.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Imagining matriarchal worlds

I came across an interesting blog post on world building today. The topic was matriarchies, and how to create a believable society run by women for ones book. Though I’m not planning to write such a novel, the post triggered a few ideas of my own.

The post, Creating Matriarchies by Chris Winkle, lists various reasons for why patriarchies are prevalent. There are biological reasons for example: women bear children, which puts them in physical risk and in need of protection, and men are stronger and more aggressive. And there are cultural stereotypes that uphold the idea that a patriarchal society is better. The writer then lists various possibilities for why this state of reality might have been upturned. The reproductive system might be solely in the hands of the women, or men could be physically smaller and weaker than women, for example. Men might have caused such a screw up that their leadership would no longer be valid.

These are all interesting points. However, they all assume that you base your imaginary world on our patriarchal society. That cataclysmic changes would have to take place for a society run by women to come about. They assume that societies naturally develop into patriarchies.

But patriarchy, like all forms of society, is a cultural construct. We create it with our actions, and we uphold it by repeating the cultural conventions that made the form of governance possible in the first place. In our world, drastic changes would probably be needed for a matriarchy to happen. But you do not have to base your fantasy society on our world.

So, if you want your world to be a matriarchy, why not create a culture that naturally assumes that women are superior to men?

The reasons for why your society is matriarchal you can make up yourself – or you can choose not to give any explanations. A culture where the rule of women is commonplace wouldn’t constantly try to find reasons or justifications for it. Just like ours isn’t explaining why we live in a patriarchy. It would be a natural state of affairs.

When you imagine a society where its natural for women to be in power, you free your imagination to creating societies and worlds that are unique and fresh. You wouldn’t be bound by the notions of biological imperatives; your society would either have different imperatives, or it wouldn’t put similar store to them.

Matriarchal society could be matrilineal, the base of women’s power in accumulating inherited wealth, as the writer of the blog post suggests. He, however, notes that just because children inherit their mothers doesn’t break men’s influence over women. Roman culture is a good example of a society where children inherited their mothers and men were more likely to favour their sisters’ children than their own. But you don’t have to be bound by such ideas in your matriarchal society. Wealth might be meaningless, or if you don’t want men to interfere in the inheritance process, you don’t have to let them. Just make sure that the reasons are logical within the context of your creation.

Cultural norms and stereotypes need not be the same in your creation as ours. There need not be the idea of a weaker sex, or gendered work similar to ours. Your culture doesn’t have to repeat our notions of motherhood. The person giving birth doesn’t have to be the one to rear the children, or motherhood isn’t seen as a hindrance to participating in the society. There are tribal societies even in our world where women rule, because men are too busy to hunt for food; they don’t see the provider of food as someone who should naturally be in charge like in our society.

Rubens (1577-1640): Amazonenschlacht c. 1619.
Try to see past the stereotypes of our societies. Create your own stereotypes, should your story require them – they can be a powerful narrative tool – or do without. A great example of a society where gender lines are blurred is Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. None of the characters are described by their gender attributes and everyone is referred to as ‘she’. It frees the author from the notion that genders are different or that the gender somehow dictates a person’s role in the society. The reader is left to question the importance of genders in the first place.

It is, of course, perfectly possible to create a matriarchal society that is an offshoot of our own. But why settle for that when you have the power to create something new? Think outside the box that is our world. Assume that women are in charge because they should be in charge and proceed from there. Who knows where it might lead you.

Monday, 2 June 2014

When there is nothing to blog about

I’ve been neglecting my blog for a month. Partly it’s been because I’ve been recovering from publishing my latest book, Her Warrior for Eternity. But mostly it’s been because I have nothing to blog about.

The purpose of this blog is to share my experience as a self-publishing author, and maybe help others who are on the same path. However, after two years, the experience is starting to repeat itself. There are only so many times one can write about the excitement over a new project or upset about a book that has stalled.

Image credit: Stuart Miles
I could always offer advice for others, of course. But there are so many blogs doing the same that finding something new to say has become extremely difficult. The blogosphere is so saturated with excellent advice that I don’t even have to look for answers when I encounter a problem. I only need to wait and someone tweets or shares the answer to it on social media. Often I get answers to problems I have yet to encounter.

In such environment, it’s easy to become despondent and stop blogging altogether. Why bother when someone else has already written the same thing better and no one is reading your blog anyway.

But there are other reasons for blogging. It can help the blogger too. I’ve been able to hone my language skills and expression with these posts. It’s not easy to convey a meaningful message in a manner that keeps readers interested, i.e. shortly and to the point. I have still a lot to learn in that respect.

So, whether or not I have something to say, I’ll try to return to a regular blogging schedule, because it’s good for me. The same might be true for you too. Even if you have nothing to say, try saying it so that people read your post anyway.

Did you read this far?