Guest post – Laura McNeill – five heroines who forever changed fiction

With a hectic week behind me and another coming up, I’ve lent my blog to the amazingly talented, Laura McNeil. After reading her guest post, be sure to check out her newly released suspense novel, Center of Gravity. 

Five Heroines Who Forever Changed Fiction

Laura McNeill

When you think about your favorite novel heroines, what personality traits, words, and descriptions come to mind?

For me, it’s a mash-up of independence, sensitivity, and spunk. I also adore a main character who’s action-oriented, intelligent, relatable, and a bit flawed. In addition, If she can kick a little butt, more power to her!

I recently asked friends and family about the fictional women they believe changed the face of literature forever. Here’s the list they came up with, in no particular order:

Jo March, Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

In Little Women, Jo March is one of four sisters living in 19th century New England. She is the tomboy of the family; strong-minded, independent, and hot tempered. Always the most creative of the sisters, Jo loves reading and writing, composing plays for her sisters to perform. While her sisters swoon over potential beaus, Jo rejects the idea of marriage, believing it would separate her from the family she adores.

Children’s book expert Anita Silvey explains that Little Women is a reflection of author Alcott’s life. “She very much wrote their story as she would have liked it to have been. She really softens the hard edges of her life. She makes Jo a much more lovable, accepted character than Louisa May Alcott herself ever was. Jo always makes you think anything is possible and anything is possible for a woman.”

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series, J.K.Rowling

J.K.Rowling has often described Granger of an exaggeration of her own youth, painting her as the brightest of all of the series’ main characters. When readers first meet Hermione, she is aptly labeled an annoying know-it-all, but over the course of the books, grows into a determined and loyal friend. While Hermione’s greatest fear is academic failure, she is also prone to emotional overload, which only serves to make her more realistic.

In a Crushable article, Wendy Boswell adds this observation: “Ron’s attraction to Hermione and Harry’s liking and respect of her are not predicated on her good looks. While she scrubs up prettily for the Yule Ball, she’s generally unconcerned about her big bushy locks and makes only a small concession to vanity by fixing her slightly protuberant front teeth (but, then, her parents are Muggle dentists). It’s her academic brilliance and flashes of steel backbone that win her friends.”
Hermione Granger Quotes

Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

With steely resolve and ironclad determination, Katniss Everdeen stormed onto the literary scene and stole readers’ hearts. A proficient archer, she is shown in the opening scene of the first book in the series putting her life at risk by foraging for food for her family.

Though she is fiercely independent and tends to be a loner, Katniss’ love for her sister, Prim, motivates her to volunteer as a tribute for The Hunger Games. With the eyes of the nation on her at all times, Katniss breaks the rules anyway, refusing to conform to society mores.

In a Cheat Sheet article, Valerie Tejeda has this to say about Katniss: “It’s stubbornness that proves to be one of her biggest assets throughout the series. In an arena full of trained killers, Katniss’ intelligence and quick thinking helped her prevail over her adversaries. The master chess player, Katniss is always one step ahead and her wit constantly leaves her competition guessing. She’s also an expert strategist and pits her strengths against her opponents’ weaknesses.”

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Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Though she might not seem like a “heroine” in the traditional sense of the word, Lisbeth Salander collected droves of admirers when The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was published in the U.S. At the time of the first movie’s release, Larsson’s trilogy had sold more than 27 million copies worldwide.

Lisbeth is a loner and outsider who makes a living as a computer hacker. Her dark demeanor, tattoos and piercings hide to passing observers that she is intelligent beyond measure. Readers are able to catch a glimpse of Lisbeth’s vulnerable, sensitive side, especially in her interactions with journalist Mikael Blomkvist during their search for a murderer in the Swedish countryside.

A.O. Scott, a New York Times reviewer, has this to say about Lisbeth’s portrayal in the movie adapted from the novel: “The story starts to fade as soon as the end credits run. But it is much harder to shake the lingering, troubling memory of an angry, elusive and curiously magnetic young woman who belongs so completely to this cynical, cybernetic and chaotic world without ever seeming to be at home in it.”

Scout Finch, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee

With the release of Harper Lee’s new novel, many are eager to read the continuance of To Kill a Mockingbird, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that tackles issues of racial injustice in the Deep South.

As the child narrator of Mockingbird, often seeming wise beyond her years, Scout questions the events she witnesses, trying to make sense of the imbalance of right and wrong. As a young girl in small town 1930s Alabama, Scout is expected to stay reserved and mild-mannered, yet takes every opportunity to stray outside the lines of societal norms.

In a character profile posted on the Ol’ Curiosities Book Shoppe blog, I came across this quote: “Growing up in Maycomb with her father’s guidance, Scout was certain to recognize an imbalance in the world. It seemed that honor, truth, and bravery were reserved for a chosen few. This 6-year-old sees the world for what it is, and she recognizes the injustice that reigns in her society. “Live in their skin” her father tells her, and somehow, Scout Finch understands.”

Who are the novel heroines you believed changed the face of fiction forever? I’d love to hear your ideas!

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BIO

Laura adores hot coffee, good manners, the color pink, and novels that keep her reading past midnight. She believes in the beauty of words, paying it forward, and that nerds rule the world. Laura is a fan of balmy summer nights, fireflies, and pristine mountain lakes. She lives in Mobile, Alabama with her two sons.

You can find Laura Tweeting @Lauramcneillbks and blogging at lauramcneill.com. Laura’s suspense novel, Center of Gravity, can be found wherever fine books are sold.
Center of Gravity 2

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Youth is wasted on the young

I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.

Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015

no gray hairs to speak of!

no gray hairs to speak of!

check out my skinny legs :)

check out my skinny legs 🙂

not a care in the world

not a care in the world

plump, young skin...

plump, young skin…

99 cent sale – The Right Design by Isabella Anderson

Okay, so I have to bail on writing a full blog post this week. For one thing, the last one really drained me. Also, I have a deadline of August 1st to get my next novel to my publisher—not a lot of time considering I keep deciding to change things around!

So, instead of original content, I am helping to promote the sale of my friend Isabella Anderson’s romance novel, The Right Design, complete with an excerpt. Isabella is also the founder of the Chicklit Goddess blog, she organizes a private board on Facebook under the same name for authors/bloggers of chick lit/women’s fiction, and she’s super supportive and just a wonderful person!

 

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Blurb of “The Right Design”

Do business and pleasure mix?

In the author’s debut novel comes a story about picking up the pieces, letting go of the past, and finding love along the way–even if morals are tested!

Interior designer Carrie Newman could not have envisioned a more perfect life for herself. She had a great job doing what she loved, wonderful friends, and a close relationship with her sister and brother-in-law. Add in an amazing man who she’d hoped would soon become her husband, and her life was perfect. Until one devastating decision ruins her relationship and changes the course of her life.

Determined to make a new start, Carrie leaves Texas and heads to Palm Beach to pick up the pieces of her shattered and broken life. The last thing she expects is to find herself attracted to her first client at her new job–Brad Larson, who has proven himself time and time again to be caddish.

But there’s something beneath the surface of Brad’s arrogant exterior that keeps her craving ore of him–something almost sweet that Carrie can’t seem to resist.

Is Carrie ready to take another chance on romance? And will this new design of her life prove to be the right one?

 

EXCERPT

After a long pause, Carrie finally spoke. “Fine. Yes, I’m seeing someone.” And when she said those words, she smiled because sticking it to him felt good. Damn good!

Roger stood up, walked toward her and kneeled down in front of her.

Carrie held her hand up to stop him, closed her eyes and took a breath.

“Does he know you like I do? Does he know how you like your eggs in the morning? Does he know how you have to sleep with socks on every night? Does he know you read magazines from the back to the front?”

She turned her head so she wouldn’t have to face him. “Roger, please leave.” Carrie couldn’t take it anymore.

Roger reached for her, grasping her arms and bringing her attention back to him.

“Get the hell out of here. Now!” Anger shot through Carrie as she raised her voice.

“Does he know how you like to be kissed?” Roger stared at Carrie as he caressed her cheek with the back of his hand.

While his hand had once been a source of soothing touch for her, it now stung. “Leave! We’re over! Get the hell out of here,” she yelled, pointing to the exit.

Suddenly, Roger grabbed her shoulders and pulled her tightly to him, catching her by surprise.

“I can’t do this,” she said trying to wriggle out of his arms, but his grip didn’t loosen. When they made eye contact again, she began to speak, but before she knew it, Carrie felt Roger’s lips on hers. For a moment, Roger had her paralyzed, as their lips reacquainted with one another. Kissing him felt familiar and for a half a second, it was as if nothing had changed between them. Seconds later, when she heard her door open, she immediately pushed Roger away, this time with more force, and saw Brad staring wide-eyed at the two of them. “Brad!” She ran toward him, but he held his hands up to stop her.

“Don’t bother,” he snapped and stormed out of her office.

Carrie quickly brushed past Roger and followed Brad down the hall calling his name, but he didn’t respond, and his pace quickened. “Brad, will you please just listen to me?” Carrie begged again as they quickly walked past Elaine’s desk and out the door. “Please let me explain.” When they made it outside to Brad’s car, he finally stopped and faced her. She tried to reach out to him, but he pulled away.

“What do you want, Carrie?”

Her eyes burned as tears ran down her face. She didn’t know where to start or what to say while memories of the last two days ran through her mind. “I’m so very sorry,” she said, wiping her tears away. “I didn’t know he was coming here.”

“He who? Who is he?” His voice was filled with dismay and spite.

“He’s my ex,” Carrie quietly confessed.

He gave a sarcastic laugh. “Of course he is.”

“We were together for six years, he cheated on me, and then I moved here to get away from him and start over. That’s when I met you.” She hoped that giving him the short version would satisfy him for now. Carrie just wanted things to get back to the way they were before Roger came to Florida.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Of all the many conversations, exes weren’t discussed on either of their parts. “He never came up in conversation. We never talked about our exes.”

“Fine, but how can you not mention someone you were with for that long? That’s kind of a big deal, don’t you think?”

“You and I have only known each other for a few weeks. Besides, at least I don’t zip in and out of women like you do,” she said. “Nor do I have flings with my assistant.”

“Danielle and I were together for only a short time, and that was years ago.”

“Well, geez, I’m sorry I didn’t follow proper Palm Beach etiquette and give you a history of my previous romances,” she fought back, but then realized that she was practically yelling. After taking a breath, she said, “I didn’t mean that, Brad. I’m sorry. I just want us back together.”

“You have a really funny way of showing that. Do you want to be with him?”

She shook her head. “No. I want you.”

He pointed toward the entrance to Ocean Designs. “That’s not the way it looked in your office.”

“I…” she began, but Carrie was at a loss for words. She buried her head in her hands. She’d been caught kissing her cheating ex and now was fighting to be with the man who she’d started to love. She looked up at Brad and began to cry harder.

“I guess I have my answer,” Brad said as he unlocked his door. “Oh, and don’t worry about finishing the project. I’ll have England take over.”

 

Purchase links, (please share that the book is on sale for $0.99, until August 3rd):

Amazon US (Kindle): http://amzn.to/TUmZNX

Amazon US (Paperback): 
http://amzn.to/1q3qxI9

Amazon – Canada: http://amzn.to/1o8nxYw

Amazon – UK: 
http://amzn.to/1vGLFFH

Barnes & Noble (Paperback and Nook): http://bit.ly/1AfWkcm

 

Author bio: Isabella grew up with a book in her hand, and to this day nothing has changed. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and has been featured on several blogs. While Isabella doesn’t blog a lot, she focuses her time on featuring other writers, along with writing and editing. Isabella Louise Anderson created Chick Lit Goddess to share the love of the following genres: Chick Lit, Contemporary Romance, Romance, and Romantic Comedies! She loves featuring authors and their books. She lives in Dallas with her husband and cat. She enjoys spicy Mexican food and drinking margaritas, and can be found spending time with family and friends, cheering on the Texas Rangers, and reading. Isabella’s short story, Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, was featured in Simon & Fig’s Christmas anthology, Merry & Bright, in November 2013. The Right Design is her first novel.

Isabellapic

Isabella Louise Anderson’s links:

Isabella Louise Anderson: http://bit.ly/1j5AyWF

Author Facebook “Like” page: http://on.fb.me/1t6PAzC

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/1rv8Ipm

Pinterest: http://bit.ly/1n0XlCL

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1ze5rgg

 

Chick Lit Goddess Links:

Website: http://bit.ly/1n0Yryk

Chick Lit Goddess “Like” page: http://on.fb.me/1o8qxE8

Twitter: http://bit.ly/1j5D0MT

 

 

an anniversary to honor but not celebrate

Over the past year, I’ve peppered my generally upbeat, happy blog with some very sad posts due to the death of my boss/mentor/best friend, Alan. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of his death. This time last year, I couldn’t begin to fathom the pain that would result from losing someone who was such a constant in my life for so many years and someone I loved unconditionally. For more than a decade, barely a day would go by when we didn’t communicate—whether in-person, by phone or by text/email. So to say going cold turkey was a shock to my system would be a gross understatement. I found myself reaching for my phone to text him at all hours of the day from different locations. Not for anything important. Just because. And then without warning, or perhaps a warning I didn’t heed, I couldn’t.

The urge to text him was so strong. I had so much to say! One afternoon, about a week after he passed, I made an impulsive decision while watching Huey Lewis perform at City Field that if I wanted to write Alan, I would! Rather than send him texts, I began writing him notes using the notes application on my iPhone. And I’ve been writing these notes regularly for the last year. There is no schedule to the “when”—during work, before bed, while out with friends etc. And there is no pattern to the “what”— I tell him how much I miss him, I recall a private joke, I express a fear etc. I thought after a year, I would read the notes back and see how far I had come in coping with my grief and accepting the permanence of his death – character development so to speak. The truth is I’ve read through them more than once because it makes me feel close to him and whenever I do, I cry because each note brings me back to that moment in time and is a reminder of what I was feeling in that moment. The notes are more hysterical at the beginning mixed with a lot of anger, both at the situation and, yes, with him too but even a year later, there is a lot of repetition. A lot of asking why he had to die and whether I’d ever fully recover it, I’ve come a long way but I’m nowhere near “healed.” I told my sister time doesn’t “heal” all wounds but hopefully it will “soothe” them.

It has been suggested to me that I publish these notes and I do wonder if others would appreciate such honest and raw expressions of grief. I also considered the possibility of donating much or all of the proceeds of sales to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. After giving it, admittedly, not much thought, I’ve decided it’s just too soon. I’m not ready to share my inner most emotions as they were expressed in real time with the world. Additionally, I’ve decided to keep writing them whenever the mood strikes. It does strike me less often than before. As Alan used to say, “Baby steps, Merrybeth.” However, in honor of the one year anniversary of his death, I’ve chosen to share a few of them:

I’m so pissed that the drug worked on 6 of 7 people and then killed you. Angry!!! You are so wonderful. Why? I’m sorry. I know you’re thinking: don’t dwell; being angry doesn’t change anything. I know. I know. I always hear your voice in my head. But I’m just so fucking sad. I miss you almost every minute of every day. I hope so badly you’re here with me- someway, somehow. Please jump in my head so I can hang with you in my dreams.  7/15/2014 10:41pm

“The mornings are the hardest. Knowing I have to go an entire day without hearing from you by text, phone is unbearable and the thought of no Alan for a lifetime is breaking my heart. I love you and hope you’re ok wherever you are.” 7/17/2014. 8:24 a.m.

You were in my dream last night! You were responding to tweets on Twitter which is weird since you weren’t on Twitter. I didn’t get any direct interaction with you which was disappointing but it was so good to see you. You were still dead (ugh I hate saying that!!!) but you were ok. Come back again please! I’m so sad. Dragging myself to spin class. I also got a weird vision that said “you’re prettier when you smile” and wondered if that was a sign from you. I hope so. 7/27/2014 9:34 a.m.

So, I went out to dinner with Abbe, Hilda and Jules tonight and actually had fun for the first 2 hours. I cracked jokes and everything. And then we had a drink somewhere after and it hit me that you were dead and I just wanted to go home. I keep thinking I can text you or you’re going to visit me somehow. I do believe you will but knowing I can’t control the when or how is so hard. And so is knowing that it won’t be the same. It will never be the same. I’m so sad. 8/1/2014. 11:15 p.m.

Today was a toughie. Alice is coming this week to start packing up your office. I don’t think I can stand it. I’m afraid I will lose it. Why can’t they just retire your office like Jeter’s number 2?? I miss you so much. It still aches. I still don’t underarm why you died. I feel like a child. People die. But I loved you. I wasn’t ready to lose you.  Spell check changed “understand” to “underarm.” I’m keeping it. It’s funny. Like you. Like me when I was with you. 9/29/2014 11:02 p.m.

I miss you. I’m scared I’ll forget your voice. I still can’t quite accept that I’ll never see you or talk to you again. I get through each day at a time but when I try to think long term, I panic. I know I have no choice but to deal with it but I keep thinking it’s all a big misunderstanding. Like Three’s Company. I hope you’ll visit me again. Please be with me tomorrow when I go to the doctor. I’m very scared. I remember last time I did this. You asked Rachael Benz to come with me. I bet now you would come with me yourself if you were still here. I love you and always will. XO. 10/12/2014 8:33 p.m.

Happy almost birthday. I was walking to the subway and got this urge to text you and I realized that, for me, texting you was like breathing. I didn’t think about it. I just did it. Sounds silly but it’s true. That’s why I can’t breathe sometimes when I think about you. 10/26/2014 10:48 p.m.

I lost it today. Some corny Dan Fogelberg song made me think of you and I cried. It’s ok. I’m used to it. Flying to Kentucky tomorrow. First time flying since you’ve been gone. No one to text “landed.” So pitiful. 12/10/2014 6:20 p.m.

“The dead can hold a grudge better than most scorpios.” Line from American Horror Story. Made me think of you because you were so damn proud of being a Scorpio. I hope you aren’t holding any grudges. I got a 3 star review from a reader who said she enjoyed Blogger Girl from the first page to the last and would read my other books. Go figure. Oh well 🙂 LOVE you. 1/2/2014 11:17 p.m.

I’m on a date. I kinda like him…1/9/2015 10:33 p.m.

Remember when we used to thumb wrestle? You always won and I always tried. We were so cute! I have a cold, tomorrow is my ultrasound AND my first book reading. I’m scared. I miss you! 2/11/2015 10:35 p.m.

Today is the eight month anniversary of the worst day of my life so far. 3/8/2015. 6:31 p.m.

OMG everyone on that show Nashville is so good looking! Like Sawyer times 50!!! I miss you L ./11/2015 11:38 p.m.

You used to make this silly sound “ba joobie joo.” I make it sometimes and think of you 🙂 Like now. 6/23/2015 12:34 p.m..

My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!

My late, great best friend and boss of almost two-decades. I miss him every day!