Male, Female, Balance

Quite regularly, I find myself beta-reading for other writers. That’s a given if you want to improve your own writing (yeah, and if you want to guilt-trip other people into beta-reading for you). Over the past years, I’ve read everything from epic fantasy to murder most foul, from paranormal romance to superheroism, from women’s literature to children’s books.

Usually, I don’t give a damn about whether the characters are male or female, or if there’s a healthy power balance between them. As long as they’re well written, believable, and necessary to the story, their gender is the last thing on my mind. Recently, though, I’ve come across a couple of books that made me question my stance in that respect. All of them by the same author (nope, I’m not naming), they were all written from the perspective of a male main character. And here’s the thing: While throughout every story, said male occasionally bumbled along quite charmingly and needed a female to rescue him, in the end, it was always him who saved the day, and the girl who needed a strong pair of arms to pull her out of the final disaster. It was like they were keeping records, with the boy constantly one-upping the girl until she finally, however tough she was, had to admit defeat.

Now, I’m not much of a feminist and I find no pleasure in raising my own gender by putting the other gender down, but I still couldn’t help thinking that this wasn’t a message I could condone. On the one hand, because that little detail wasn’t necessary to the story – it’s of no importance who ultimately saves the day, as long as the day is saved – on the other, because the books were aimed at a teenage audience. Aim a book at adults and you can write whatever you want, in my opinion, but if your target group is children or teenagers, you have a responsibility. Any message you constantly repeat might sooner or later be believed.

While I was busy ranting at that author about his unresponsible ways, a nagging little voice at the back of my head kept asking, Are you any better? So he’s a man writing from a male perspective and always letting his boy win. What about me? I’m a woman, and the one series I have aimed at teenagers has a female narrator. Did I make the same mistake, only the other way round, without even noticing? I went and checked.

And the oddest thing happened.

I realized that the cast of characters in my Resident Witch series is completely balanced. Exactly as many males as there are females, the same number of people with or without magic talent, of seriously clever or moderately intelligent, of cunning and useful or plain comic relief, of evil or good, on either side of the gender gap.

I was completely stunned. Why? Because I hadn’t planned any of that. I didn’t go and say to myself, if you have a clever girl, you need a clever boy as well. If two females can do magic, you need two males who can do the same. Oh, and you’ll need a bastard for every bitch. I just wrote the stories and it happened of its own accord.

That got me thinking, because seriously, where did that come from? Is it representative of the little bubble I call my world, my personal echo chamber? Is it how I want to perceive the world as a whole? Is there a moral in any of this rambling here or am I just showing off what a liberal, balanced person I am?

There might be a little moral. A rather obvious one, but I guess repeating this message until someone finally believes it isn’t the worst thing I could possibly do. Imagine a world where we still are males and females, but we no longer label each other with all the prejudices and preconceptions those two words are loaded with. Imagine we stop judging each other for the things we do that others perceive we do because of our gender. Imagine a girl crying over a sad movie – is she just ‘acting like a girl’? Or an empath and too good for her own good at relating to someone else’s pain? Or the guy who keeps lecturing other people on things they really know themselves, thank you very much – is he ‘mansplaining’? Or just an arrogant idiot and someone should tell him to shut up? And yes, I know those weren’t the most balanced examples, but I thought I’d go with the most stereotypical ones the better to drive the point home.

Long story short, it’s up to you. If you can imagine a world that’s not filled with men and women, but with people, and you can judge people by their words and actions, not by their gender, hey, what a world this could be.

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Out now: Paws and Claws

Cake & Quill’s third anthology is out! Check it out, it’s full of great stories and poems, my favorite of the three so far. I have three stories and a teeny weeny bit of flash fiction in it. Enjoy! All proceeds to charity, as usual.

Cake & Quill

It’s the first of April, and unlike the rest of the world we’re absolutely serious. So, no, it’s not a joke – our latest anthology, Paws and Claws, is out and available. Filled with all sorts of creatures, furry, fluffy, slimy, scaled, winged, weird, it tells you stories to make you laugh, make you cry, and make you wonder. As announced, all proceeds will go to Bob’s House for Dogs, a small charity that offers hospice care for older dogs,helps making senior dogs ‘more adoptable’, and ultimately works to try and give more dogs who have found themselves without a home, a forever home.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed writing and compiling it! It’s on Amazon, in e-book as well as in paperback format. Perfect Easter present, isn’t it?

Get in the mood by watching the trailer!

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Our furry friends #3

We’re running a series over at Cake & Quill, where our writers get the chance to spill the darkest secrets, biggest tears, whatever, connected to past or present pets. Here’s my contribution. Make sure you check out the other ones as well!

Cake & Quill

Angelika Rust is next in line to tell us about the furries of her past. Austrian by birth, she lives in Germany as a translator and mother of two human and three non-human kids.

Angelika donated three short stories and a piece of flash fiction to Paws & Claws, featuring different kinds of birds, a mongrel dog, and a suicidal snail.

*****

I grew up with pets. Loads of them. They’ll tell you it’s important for a kid to have pets, as it will teach things like responsibility and compassion. I’d say, though, that the main lesson I got was that death is a natural occurrence, something that just happens. It also told me that adults take it harder.
By the time I moved into my first apartment, my brother and I between us had buried four hamsters, two rabbits, and one guinea-pig. I was never particularly sad. It’s dead?…

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Resident Witch III: It Never Rains

So here’sit_never_rains_cover_for_kindle another book following Alice and the gang further down the rabbit hole. No, I’m not allowed to say that. She still doesn’t like Wonderland references, unless she drops them herself.

Three months have passed in Alice’s world since the ending of book two, and she’s starting to get over all the things I’ve put her through. It’s Christmas, she’s young and in love. Even her mom is finally coming home from the psychiatric ward. Everything’s looking up. If it weren’t for that weird incident at the gas station. And those nasty nightmares…

Hope you’ll enjoy reading this one. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Here’s where you can get it. Oh, and I made a pretty trailer, too, to get you in the mood. Have fun with it!

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Coming soon: Paws and Claws

A new Cake & Quill anthology is coming out! I’ll have a few stories in there. Exciting days 😀

Cake & Quill

After monthspaws-and-claws-cover of writing, editing, rewriting, polishing and cover design, we’re proud to announce our third anthology, Paws and Claws. As the title suggests, it features animals as its central theme, but, well… it was written by the members of the Cake & Quill Collective, which means it’s not a collection of the cute and the cuddly – every paw hides a claw.

Between these pages, you’ll find out the truth about Adolf and his feathery friend and what it’s really like to be a country vet’s son. You’ll hear Bast speak and see animals gang up and fight back. You’ll meet stoned sheep and suicidal snails. Wild wolves and mongrel dogs, fluffy cats and a plague of frogs – we’ve gathered them all, for your enjoyment.

As usual, all proceeds will go to charity. In this case, we’ve found a lovely dog shelter, Bob’s House for Dogs, who…

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Hi, I’m me.

I love this so much, I had to go steal and reblog it. And not because the author called me one of her bestest friends, but because of this sentence:
“Religion doesn’t make terrorists or homophobics. Feminists don’t make anti-male propaganda, any more than men are rapists. It’s just the fuckwads that do those things and that they happen to identify with any of those labels has as much to do with reality as bacon has to do with astrophysics.”
So much yes.

6twistedbiscuits

I’m very tired right now. I’m tired of the news screaming bad, bad, bad things at me all day. I’m tired of hearing how horrible people are to each other and I’m so, so tired of hearing all about how much hate there is in the world. I’m tired of newspapers being so irresponsible in their reporting that fact-checking seems to now be seen as a nuisance and it’s all about getting clicks rather than reporting the news. If I weren’t already not-buying newspapers, I’d be boycotting them all by now.

I’m most tired of hearing how bad people are. Muslims are all terrorists, right-wing Christians are all homophobes, left-wing Christians just want to steal your hard-earned money and dole it out to work-shy scroungers. Tory supporters are all greedy, selfish ‘I’m-alright-Jack’ types and Labour supporters are lazy, feckless idiots who’d rather the government did their thinking for them. Men…

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It’s Not All

Hey, you. You who still remember.

The nice, balmy evening. The friend who wanted a drink. The quick stop at the gas station. The harsh, angry voice, snarling at you to get out, they don’t serve niggers.

It’s not all whites.

The shards hitting the floor when the window shattered. Intrusion, violation, your home no longer a safe place, so much harder to take than the material loss.

It’s not all blacks.

The strobe lights flashing. The bass drumming. The blast. The sudden silence. The screams and moans. The blood. The scattered body parts.

It’s not all Muslims.

The tiny tadpole on the ultrasound image. Hope. Bliss. Love. The doctor stating your life was at risk. The decision. The emptiness. Your heart breaking, and breaking further with every scream outside the clinic, murderess, should have kept your legs together.

It’s not all Christians.

The darkness. The footsteps behind you. The pounding of your heart. The breath in your ear. The knife against your throat. His hands ripping at your clothes. The powerlessness. The fear. The pain. The shame.

It’s not all men.

The quiet in the apartment, emptied out in haste while you were at work. She’s gone, you don’t know why, you don’t know where. She’s taken the kids. Your soul is bleeding.

It’s not all women.

adult-1867428_1280It’s never all.

It’s always just a few.

Don’t let them win.

 

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