The best protection any woman can have … is courage—Elizabeth Cady Stanton
Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a contemporary of Susan B. Anthony, and although less well-known, she still has a lot to say to modern women.
This quote resonates with me, especially because I am scared of everything. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, storms terrify me, and if I could wrap my car in bubble wrap for all forays out of the house, I’d be much happier.
However, that just won’t do.
Life is about taking chances, especially in my chosen career—writing and publishing. While I can happily live my life never getting on another airplane or motorcycle, I can’t not write.
And that requires courage of a different sort.
Good writing involves putting the characters in situations where they will grow. Finding some hidden truth inside themselves. Not only that, but it’s necessary to take risks with plot and conflict, and that can be scary as an author. The heroine is already in trouble? Let’s throw something else in the mix to make it worse! Depending on the trouble and the wrenches we throw into the mix, the characters we have birthed will suffer much more at our hands. As much as we laugh and joke about that, it’s still guilt-inducing for me. And readers get angry. That’s a risk we have to take.
The entire act of indie publishing is a brave thing, as well. I’ve already been rejected by the publishing houses who are supposed to know everything, right? When I first began this journey, I felt like I was going over their head, so to speak, and publishing anyway, after they’d essentially told me I wasn’t worth it. That’s ballsy too.
It took courage. Courage I didn’t have.
And throughout this process, I have learned so much about myself. I’ve learned I can truly do anything I set my mind to, something I assumed my parents just told me to make me feel better. I’ve learned I can support my family through creative efforts. I’ve learned I CAN touch people’s lives and make them better. I’ve learned how to push through my failures.
And these things have made me even stronger. And in that strength, I am protected by my courage to take risks. Risks with my characters, the situations they find themselves in, and the other characters who help them discover their own inner strength.
So I project my insecurities on my characters in different ways—either by making them fraidy cats, like myself, or the fearless woman I wish I was.
And it’s cathartic in a way I can’t even explain. But through this journey of writing and exploring different characters’ faults and foibles and helping them grow, I have found myself.
And I am a strong woman.
And so are you. Just find your courage, and you’ll be protected.
It’s an honour to write about my favourite fearless female character. Thank you Tigris for the kind invitation.
What makes a person fearless?
Some individuals are fearless because they have nothing to lose; others are fearless because they believe so strongly in something, they are willing to risk everything for it.
Raven Wood, the heroine of my Florentine Series, works at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence restoring famous paintings. She is fearless because of her belief in justice and compassion, as well as her conviction that a good person can’t witness a crime without getting involved.
Here is a scene from the first chapter of “The Raven”:
“Angelo was a homeless man who spent his days and nights begging for coins. Raven passed him on her way to and from the Uffizi. She always stopped to greet him and give him money or some food. She felt a kinship with him since they both walked with a cane. Angelo was developmentally disabled, which only increased her compassion.
As she walked, her gaze traveled from Angelo to the drunken gang and back again. A terrible feeling of dread passed over her.
“Good evening, friends!” Angelo’s Italian pierced the rainy darkness. “A few coins, please.”
The cheerful hope in his voice caused Raven’s stomach to churn. She knew the cruel fate of hope when it was misdirected.
She began limping faster, her eyes fixed on her friend, willing herself not to trip and fall. She was almost to the bridge when she saw Angelo lifting his hands and crying out.
The largest man was urinating on him. Angelo tried to move away, but the man followed. The other men cheered.
Raven felt shouts of protest bubble up in her throat. But she didn’t open her mouth.
She should intervene. She knew it. Evil flourished when good people walked by and said nothing.
The largest man finished urinating with a flourish, returning himself to the confines of his jeans. Without warning, he lifted a booted foot and kicked Angelo in the ribs. He cried out in pain slumping to the ground.
The men stopped and stared in Raven’s direction.
“Stop,” she repeated in a much quieter tone.
The men exchanged glances and the largest one said something derisive to his companions. He stalked in her direction.
As he approached, Raven could see he was broad shouldered and tall, his head shaven, his eyes dark. She resisted the urge to retreat.
“Go.” The man waved at her dismissively.
Raven’s green eyes darted behind him to where the homeless man was lying, curled into a ball.
“Let me help him. He’s bleeding.”
The bald man looked over his shoulder to his companions. As if in defiance, one of them kicked Angelo in the stomach.
With a predatory smile, the bald man turned back to Raven. He pointed in the direction from which she’d approached.
“Run,” he hissed…
As you can see in this scene, Raven isn’t entirely fearless. She has a healthy sense of danger and realizes that by coming to the homeless man’s defense, she is putting herself at risk. She is walking home, alone, and the streets of Florence are almost empty. Her personal risk is even greater given the fact she is physically disabled and walks with a cane.
But her belief in the homeless man’s dignity and his right to live without intimidation or abuse trumps her concern for herself. Her commitment to justice and compassion makes her set aside her fear.
Raven’s decision to intervene on the homeless man’s behalf has consequences. I won’t spoil the story by telling you what they are, but I can reveal that there are both positive and negative consequences. One of the most positive consequences is that because of her actions she meets her soul mate, William, grows to love her deeply, especially because of her fierce and protective nature.
Later in the novel, William asks Raven why she risked her safety and even her life to defend the homeless man.
Raven replied that she couldn’t stand there and do nothing. By this she means that she couldn’t live with herself if she walked away from the homeless man’s suffering.
It’s this realization that makes Raven fearless – not her physical strength, or her power, or her situation. Her convictions and her courage motivated her to do what is right, despite the risk.
I admire her character very much and enjoyed writing her. Readers in the Spanish speaking community have started a #YoSoyRaven campaign to express their solidarity with her and her bravery.
Raven’s story, which is told in “The Raven” and “The Shadow, comes to a conclusion with the final book of The Florentine Series, “The Roman,” which releases December 6th.
It’s a bit late tonight for Friday’s Fearless Female, I know. I got home and totally crashed… But here they are… Whitney and Sierra!
A few years back, my son and I went to visit Sierra. She still lived in Colorado at the time, and, it was perpetual winter. After a long debate at Redbox, we decided we were going to watch “The Avengers.” Sierra was less than impressed, and certainly not excited about it. If I recall her words were, “I think I’ll go to bed.”
Kiddo and I, we smirked and let her have her opinion and popped in the DVD, and told her to “give it ten minutes.”
About the time Natalia Romanova, Black Widow comes on the screen tied up, playing the damsel in distress Sierra gets up from the couch. “Oh please, I’m not watching this.”
I smirked again and said, “Just wait. Two more minutes, then you can go to bed.” With great and obvious reluctance, including some heavy sighs and watch-checking, Sierra agreed.
After the movie was over I asked her if it was all that awful. I think, she’s actually a Marvel fan, now. So, Sierra, what exactly changed your mind?
I don’t recall the story happening this way. At all. I fell in love with the Avengers the first time I saw Iron Man. I loved the backstory. Seeing Tony Stark, lying on the ground, dazed, broken, then looking around and focusing on a missile with “Stark Industries” on the side gave me the chills.
So I’m sure it was my idea to rent the Avengers movie. (I dislike a lot of things. Being wrong is one of them. So I will rewrite history when necessary.)
I’m not saying you’re wrong Sierra… I’m just saying you fell in love with Tony Stark when you made me bring Iron Man over AFTER watching “comic book characters” in the Avengers. 😉 Please, continue…
I’ve always had an aversion to “damsel in distress” type of storylines. Like many people, I had a rough upbringing. While parts of my childhood were sunshine, there were unspeakable rough patches. From many years of therapy followed by a divorce I never wanted, I learned to toughen up.
And it was important to me to instill a sense of resourcefulness in the women around me. I don’t believe that Prince Charming is necessarily coming to save us. And so, in my books, my heroines tend to be strong, clever, determined women.
They do become better people once they learn to love, as do my heroes. But you won’t generally find my heroines tied to the railroad track with a train bearing down on them, screaming helplessly while waiting for the hero to rescue the at the very last second.
So when a movie opens with a helpless-appearing female character, I start to twitch. I especially don’t want to waste my time when I could be snuggled under the comforter and dreaming up new storylines.
And then… And then… And then magic happens. Black Widow is no victim. She’s no helpless female just hoping her man shows up in the nick of time.
She is a heroine in her own right. A wicked, gorgeous, clever, kick ass heroine, capable of saving her own life and those around her, while dealing out her own form of justice.
Whitney and kiddo knew all along that I would fall in love with Black Widow and that it would lead to a scorching affair with Thor, Hawkeye, Captain America, and oh-me-oh-my, Iron Man. (Hulk? Not so much. He’s too much effort for me. If I have PMS and no chocolate, I can match his mood in an instant.)
Beyond Black Widow’s general kick-asseryness, I adore the humor that runs though the movies. That’s another thing all my books have to have…a chance to breathe through humor.
Long live brave, competent heroines. And to borrow from a famous phrase, may we be them, may we inspire them, may we raise them.
I speak my mind. A lot. People tell me they admire me for being a straight-shooter, or standing up for things and people. What most of them don’t realize is that it took me literally decades to get to the point where I could speak up for myself, let alone others. When my good friend, Tigris, asked me to be part of her Friday’s Fearless Female, I knew I had to share this little bit about me.
I “knew” lots of people in high school, but I never belonged. My parents were older, and had long since retired, before I entered high school, and simply put, I was awkward. We didn’t acknowledge social awkwardness back in the 1980s, I just wasn’t “cool.” That’s not to say I’m cool now, but I am at least unafraid to be myself.
It was only a handful of years ago that I stopped worrying so much about pleasing everyone, and realized I needed to just be true to myself. I had always been socially aware, and had raised my daughters to look at the world around them, and show compassion, but I never wanted to offend anyone. I don’t really want to offend anyone now, but I find it hard to stay quiet, when I know I have the power to speak out.
That doesn’t mean I’ve changed who I am, just that I’ve evolved in some ways. I’m still the girl who would rather be home reading, but I’m also the person who can speak in front of hundreds of people without freaking out. I can talk to almost anyone, but if it’s not for work, I have to force myself out of the house. I’m not afraid, or uncomfortable since I’ve accepted myself, flaws and all, but I would still rather be with a book than out with a crowd.
Being fearless for me has meant accepting who I am, both inside and out. I’m not the rail thin girl I was a couple of decades ago, and I’m also not the one who was scared to walk up to an actor at Old Tucson 30 years ago. It means I’ll defend my friends to the end of the world, and I’ll speak up about what I believe in. Sometimes that on social media, but it’s also in the books I write. Every one of my books has a strong female main character—most of them are much stronger than I’ll ever be—and themes of loyalty, and social justice. I couldn’t write them any other way.
I found my voice around the time I turned 40, and yes, sometimes I wish I’d been able to do it earlier in my life. Then again, I probably wasn’t ready to be this fearless when I was younger. My time is now, and my voice is only getting stronger.
Fearless. That’s a pretty big word, in my opinion. The definition is lacking fear. After a week of struggling to write this post, starting and stopping, typing a line or paragraph, only to erase it, I’ve realized something.
I don’t know any fearless females.
I do however, have the honor of being surrounded by friends who despite their fear, carry on and conquer. Authors who write and lift a middle finger to those who judge them for their choice of genre. Artists who struggle to make their world just a little more beautiful and get criticized for not doing it just so. I have friends who are single mothers, who have ‘traditional families’, and friends who are happily single.
They make no apologies for being who they are, and while sometimes they make scary-to-them choices, try to take over the world.
The strength that these women give me to push through another day is everything to me. I look up to these women, these Fearful but Don’t Give a Shit Females, and am awestruck. I hope to one day inspire someone else the way they have all inspired me.
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Dumped by her boyfriend of three years just a few days before their anniversary and planned trip to an island paradise, a place where fantasies come true—a resort called Indulgences--Zoraida Lemes is forced to do a little soul searching, and what she discovers is not what she expected. Especially when her best friend from childhood, Mateo Vargas, expresses an interest in being more than just friends.
Now everything is up in the air. Including her friendship with Mateo.
One almost steamy night sets the two on a journey that Zoraida may or may not be ready for, but Mateo hopes she is as the two indulge their fantasy with a game of hearts.
There is always a light at the end of every dark tunnel. But who ever analyzes the journey to get there? There are doors leading to different outcomes, Windows slightly ajar, offering other paths, and cracks in the wall alluding to the outer arena called life.