Monthly Archives: June 2012

Another New Book

Okay, it seems I haven’t posted in a while. That’s my problem…write or blog…

Seriously, I have a hot new ebook and it’s totally free!

Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands

Cover for 'Free Guide to Self-Publishing and Book Promotion: Inside Secrets from an Author Whose Self-Published Books Sold in Thousands'

Wondering how to get published? Or how to self publish? Have an amazing book but no one’s reviewing it or hearing the buzz? Now award-winning author Valerie Estelle Frankel shares all her inside tips, from conferences to Facebook, Twitter to eBay, on how to make your book a success. With this guide, you’ll learn how to create a professional cover or find a cheap but brilliant cover artist. Build and distribute your ebook in every format, make bookmarks and handy cards, write and distribute your press release and get into the news. Every essential tip for new writers and experienced ones who want more exposure and sales. Complete with an appendix of successful query letters, press release, sell sheet, flyers and cards, step-by-step covers, and much more.
Now with a Bonus Essay on Creating Cover Art by Mary E. Lowd, author of Otters in Space.

Please come check it out at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/175520.

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Filed under About Me, and Publishing

Baptism, Sacrifice, and Resurrection: Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey

Buffy the Vampire Slayer has all the characteristics of a superhero. She battles monsters as Chosen One and Slayer, born to defeat the forces of darkness and sworn to protect the innocent. By day, she passes for a teen like any other, with her secret known only to her mentor and best friends. And like Superman, Spiderman, and so many more, she quests on her own version of the hero’s journey.

On the heroine’s epic journey, she places the defense of family, friends, and loved ones above all. Buffy’s foes are misogynists, abusers, power-mad men, and most often vampires: demonic creatures that turn the helpless into murderers and devourers of life. She uses her gifts to defend abused women and frightened children, along with her vulnerable mother and little sister.

In all these great stories, the hero or heroine descends into death, and is reborn, more powerfully than before. This descent is a great trauma, one that frightens away all but the bravest. When Buffy finds out the great prophecies condemn her to die at the hands of the brutish Master, she quits being a slayer. She is galvanized to fight, however, when her innocent friendWillowis hurt by the Master’s senseless murders. As she puts it, “It… it wasn’t our world anymore. They made it theirs.” By traumatizingWillow, the vampires have threatened Buffy’s gentle, vulnerable side at its core. Buffy assures her she will do “What we have to,” and strides into battle, head high. With a defiant “Maybe I’ll take him with me,” she descends into the vampire lair and certain death, determined to protect those she loves.

Despite her crossbow and bravado, however, her slayer power is no match for the Master. However, Xander, her emotional side, and Angel, her love, arrive and administer CPR, bringing her back from her prophesized death through love and loyalty, the heroine’s greatest weapons. When she returns, she feels “strong” and “different.” Within moments she’s standing, determined to rejoin the battle. Empowering music fills the screen. “Oh look, a bad guy,” she says. She punches the vampire in their path and walks past him, not breaking her stride. She strides unhesitatingly up to the Master. With a final “You’re that amped about Hell…Go there!” she tosses him through the skylight, impaling him on a spike far below.

When the heroine resurrects, she is a new person, strong with the mysteries of the underworld and its arcane wisdom. She no longer fears her own mortality. While this first season finale foreshadows her later, more lasting death and resurrection, it also provides a turning point, filling her with inner potency.

Later seasons focus on her other relationships. Her mother dies, and her mentor Giles leaves forEngland, forcing her to grow up. As Willow grows in power, Dawn, Buffy’s younger sister, emerges as her new vulnerable side. In the fifth season finale, Buffy sacrifices herself to save Dawn, dying once again and then finally returning to life in the essential path of the Chosen One.

After this resurrection, Buffy must accept her responsibilities and grow into adulthood as Dawn’s guardian and an independent adult. She transcends her earlier status as misfit high school student and grows into womanhood, eternally protecting the helpless through the power of the Slayer.

 

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Elektra, Catwoman, Sue Storm, and Jean Gray: Superheroes on the Heroine’s Journey

Superman, Spiderman, and many others follow the hero’s journey of Joseph Campbell, battling the dark supervillain who represents their own darkest impulses and dying to return stronger than before. But this conflict is not restricted to the male hero. In their various movies, Elektra, Catwoman, Sue Storm, and Jean Gray each follow the quintessential heroine’s journey, sacrificing their lives to save their loved ones and gain enlightenment.

Protecting the innocent is the crux of the heroine’s journey, and female superheroes devote themselves to this cause. In the movies, Elektra and Catwoman battle assassins and abusers to save the single young girl who represents their own vulnerable psyches. Sue Storm and Jean Gray die defending their families, preparing to become the ultimate guardians and lifegivers. For Sue in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, this sacrifice echoes the major life change of her wedding, as she prepares to enter a new stage, rather like Snow White or Sleeping Beauty returning from near death to wed their princes. Jean Grey dies to save her friends in X-Men 2, but is reborn asPhoenix, amoral shadow rather than heroine. At last she surrenders to her darkest impulses, unleashing a strength that can end the world, unless she has the courage to face what she’s become.

This is the heroine’s traditional battle: facing the shadow, dark side of the self. To triumph she must battle the child-killer, the wicked stepmother and destroyer of life. Catwoman fights a woman whose face is as motionless as glass, while Sue Storm faces the force of entropy itself as the Silver Surfer. Elektra battles the deadly Order of the Hand, who control life and death. This is the heroine’s traditional adversary: sterility as she represents life and growth. For Jean Grey, the enemy is far more intimate and destructive: the passion and chaos raging within herself.

When the heroine conquers the dark side of her soul, she revives far stronger than before, with the wisdom needed to gain adulthood. There are many others who follow this quest of strong women everywhere: Wonder Woman, Buffy, Xena, Sarah Jane Smith, Charlie’s Angels, Lara Croft, Witchblade, and all their friends and sidekicks. These strongest of women hallmark a new era, not just of feminine power, but of feminine enlightenment as these superwomen confront the dark side of the self and emerge from the conflict as the ultimate defenders of innocents.

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The Mother Daughter War Reenvisioned: Snow, Glass, Apples

Snow White is the conflict of mother and daughter as one grows toward marriage and queenship as the other steps aside. This forces a conflict and reintegration far more profound than the epic battle of father and son. “Snow, Glass Apples” reverses the traditional pattern, casting the young princess as a murderous werewolf and leaving the heroic queen to try to save the kingdom from this threat.

The Grimms’ stepmother is clearly threatened by her daughter’s beauty and the fear that the daughter will supplant her. She neglects the kingdom to peer selfishly into her mirror each day and reduces her vision to the two of them, valuing only herself and the need to be uniquely desirable. More frightening still is her demand for Snow White’s heart. Eating one’s enemy is far more intimate than any other form of possession; by consuming Snow White’s youth and beauty, the queen hopes to absorb them.

Gaiman’s stepmother, by contrast, looks outside the two women’s relationship to see the needs of the kingdom, as trade and the population are slowly dying from Snow White’s destruction. This innocent side of the queen has become a killer. The queen takes her heart and protects it, guarding it with berries and garlic to save others from Snow White’s power, rather than taking it for herself.

At the same time, like the original story, the two women are inextricably bound as they desire the same men and prey on each other, Snow White biting her stepmother and the stepmother keeping Snow White’s heart, until they’re bound like two sides of the same self, innocent and evil, light and dark, nurturing and devouring. The greatest tragedy is that the people of the kingdom, like those who read the story, assume the stepmother must be the monster.

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Shadow World, Shadow Self: The Heroine’s Journey in Mirrormask

When Helena’s mother falls ill, Helena descends into the shadow world to wake the sleeping queen and restore her world. But when she does, she discovers the princess—shadowHelena—has gone to earth and taken her place. Shadow Helena fights with her father, rages and storms. She’s the dark, angry side of Helena, the side she usually keeps buried beneath the paper-covered walls of her room.

More than simply the inverse of the heroine, this shadow has hidden positive qualities as well, often strong and assertive where the heroine is silent and passive. In her battle to achieve a higher consciousness, the heroine pits herself against this shadow, and must integrate it into the self.

In the Otherworld,Helenatries on the shadow princess identity like a costume. What would it be like to look mature and glamorous, to sit at a stately table and be a perfect daughter? Through windows and mirrors the rebellious princess rages, screaming for attention and independence as she battles through adolescence. And yet, the rage and power she has evoked are too strong within her and she can’t figure out how to fight through it, to return to the sunny Helena the juggler she once was.

At last,Helena harnesses the power of the mirrormask—a tool that both lets her perceive the world and show the world the face she wants to reveal. Using it she climbs out of the darkness and reclaims her place from her bratty, miserable self before the world of pen and paper, of imagination, creativity, and beauty is lost forever. Here is the heroine’s classic journey.

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Coraline: The Classic Heroine’s Journey

The heroine’s journey sees the adolescent girl receiving a mirror, seeing stone, or tool of knowledge and perception (like a book, magic spectacles, or a golden compass) rather than a hero’s sword. She quests, not to topple the tyrant and rule his kingdom, but to rescue a lost sibling, parent, or lover. However, her quest is no less valiant for its lack of weapons as the heroine often struggles through the darkness, helpless and alone, battling her deepest terrors to save those she loves.  And she does it swordless.

Armed with only a seeing stone and her own wits, Coraline has plenty of horror to face, most particularly in the sickly-sweet Other Mother who wants to remake Coraline into a dark, frightening self. If Coraline agrees, the Other Mother will one day devour her and leave nothing but a ghost floating pathetically behind the mirrors of her home. This reflects the archetypal struggle for independence, as girls long to leave home and grow up, but the fairytale dark mother clings too tight, begging her to stay home and be a child forever, let her mother dress her and take over all aspects of her personality. Girls everywhere must learn to avoid the temptations of ice cream and dancing toys, to outwit the mother and become adults.

In the pattern of heroine quests everywhere, Coraline defeats the Other Mother with a hollow stone and a riddle game, and then conquers her disembodied hand with a doll’s tea set. As she does so, she’s following the tradition of mythic heroines across the world, who use magic thread, charms, potions, and their own wits to recreate the world and save their most beloved.

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The Old Blog

This is not my first blog, though I’d like to post regularly this time around. My old blog, available at HarryPotterParody.com, my books’ site (specifically at http://66.123.188.52/hpxx/news.htm) offers many of my conference reports through 2007-2008, my Birthright Israel trip in 2006,  the step-by-step details of writing my Harry Potter Parody in ten days straight, and so forth. I believe I’ll copy a few con reports below in honor of Book Expo America this week, one of the best cons ever, even though I didn’t make it this year.

 

6/2/08 Home from Book Expo America at last. (Gone Tues-Sun).  I took only a few photos—far too overwhelmed.  I drove down Tues, attended the Writers Conference/Agent pitch session Weds, and saw relatives Thurs. Then the gigantically overwhelming Book Expo America, (only broken up by my cousin’s Friday night Bar Mitzvah). Sunday as the con ended, I drove home, car packed to the metaphorical rafters with books. 

I think since I was listening to Bridget Jones’s Diary both ways (hilarious!) I’ll organize the trip this way:

Pitch session agents who requested my manuscripts: 12. Excellent.

Pals I knew at the con: 4

New friends made of adolescent authors: 3

Hours spent waiting for signed copy of Eragon: 2

Books picked up while waiting for signed copy of Eragon: 2

Hours spent waiting for signed copy of new Salmon Rushdie: 2

Hours spent wondering why I was bothering: 4

Number of other Harry Potter derivatives: 2 (Mine was cuter!)

People who recognized me or my book: hundreds. Cool.

People who have now heard of my book: thousands. Also cool.

Postcards I hand-distributed: 1000 (Literally).

Books I signed: All (125).

Publishers who requested my manuscripts: About 20. I was busier than last year, but also excellent.

Relatives/friends I visited: six

Relatives I spoke with at the Bar Mitzvah: Probably 14. Cool.

Celebrities I saw: Quite a lot.

Free books I acquired: Hundreds. Very Nice.

Gallons of gas to drive to LA: 10. Sounds good.

Hours spent listening to Bridget Jones: 12

Hours spent listening to other audio books: 3

Hours spent in traffic: wince.

Number of frantic emails in my absence: About 200.

Number of times checked email on trip: Once, briefly.

Number of emails sent on trip: 2

5 am wakeup calls: 4

Hours of missed sleep: wince.

Hours walking while dragging books: almost all of them.

Pissed-off knees: 2

Signings: 2. Both went well.

Booths displaying my book: 3. Nice.

Sample books the booths distributed: about 9 (all of them).

Bananas eaten in place of meals: 5

Free chocolates eaten: hundreds. But they were yummy.

Diet cokes drunk: probably 12

Guess I should finish up like the credit card people and say Conference: priceless. Yawn. The proofs have come for Deathly Paper Shortage. Time to get busy again.

Phoenix Rising 2007

My first Harry Potter con was so cute! Lots of people in costume, lots of fanfic authors and artists, lots of Harry Potter goodies and treats. I spoke on several panels and even a few podcasts. To say nothing of my light up ballgown (which doesn’t photograph well).

 

Book Expo America 2007

The Expo was truly enormous. It seemed every publisher was there, to say nothing of all the booksellers, librarians, and authors. I met lots of really famous ones, like SE Hinton, Dave Barry, Judy Blume. I got to meet all three of them, and get signed copies of the latest books. So cool! Hundreds of authors and publishers were ALL offering FREE copies of their latest books. As you might guess, I picked up piles and piles (and somehow managed to close my suitcase). Also lots of cute freebees and promos– everything from cookie cutters to cookies. 🙂 Lots of new technology: Margaret Atwood was signing books from Canada with this interesting computer option. Lots of interesting publishers and book-related services.  Plenty of hot YA fantasy authors there too.  Some people were interested in my Heroine’s Journey book, but that’ll have to wait till I get back.

 

Westercon 60 2007

Westercon (The Western US scifi fantasy con) was on the small side, but fun, with the people I usually see at Baycon. Dad and I wore costumes (and presented them at the Masquerade) chatted, observed, collected ribbons, and so forth. We also won a few Baycon memberships and loads of other goodies at the Scavenger hunt (first place!). I spoke on a number of panels and sold some books in the dealer’s room.

 

 

Prophecy 2007

This conference took place only a few weeks after book 7 arrived.  I spoke on tons of panels: discussing symbolism in Deathly Hallows and Horcruxes in lit and myth.  I was also a “Visiting Professor” in Mythology and Fantasy Writing.  (Most of my papers and presentations can be found here).  I wore all my beautiful costumes, and sold about 50 books to people in the corridors.  I was definitely amazed by some of the lookalike outfits there (Harry, Voldemort, Luna, Umbridge….)  This con also had gorgeous decorations in the common room (featuring a fireplace, colored cushions, and every HP game in existence) and Hall of Remembrance (with touching shrines to all the characters who didn’t survive the series).  All in all, it was a great con.

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Buffy and the Warrior Woman’s Classic Quest

I just wrote the book Buffy and the Heroine’s Journey (Feb 2012, McFarland). And why not—it’s an obvious place to go. A long list of authors have analyzed Buffy’s becoming the Chosen One, refusing and then accepting her calling, and finally descending into death (twice!) to return stronger than before, with a deeper wisdom of adulthood and its costs. In these steps, the hero’s and heroine’s journeys are basically the same. But there’s really more going on.

There’s the hero’s quest, in which Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker battles his dark father, sacrifices his life, and returns stronger than before. There’s the lesser-known classic heroine’s journey in which Snow White or Psyche faces the evil stepmother and sacrifices her life to save her loved ones. And there’s the warrior woman’s quest, which blends both in a fascinating story arc. This is Buffy’s journey.

There are many warrior women: Eowyn, Artemis, Mu Lan, Annabeth of the Percy Jackson books, Xena, Elektra. The 2010 Alice in Wonderland, long hair flying over her shining armor. The upcoming Snow White and the Huntsman. And now Katniss of The Hunger Games has captured our hearts. These heroines ride and fight beside men, often dressed as men, like Alanna of the Tamora Pierce books. They follow the hero’s quest with male mentors and male weapons, fighting to defeat the dark lord and save the world. Yet after they succeed, they feel a discontentment, a lack of something. She has outfought all the boys and, in doing so, has become a boy herself. The heroine sets out again, this time questing for her lost feminine side. She battles the wicked stepmother and child killer, once more sacrificing her life, but this time to protect her most innocent self, the little sister Dawn Summers or Primrose Everdeen.

My study follows Buffy’s path as she defeats the male monsters of the patriarchy (the Master, the Judge, Angelus, and the Mayor) and then finds something is missing. She turns to other mentors than fatherly Giles: Professor Walsh, the “evil mom,” Dracula, the deep, mystical masculine and dark mentor, the savage First Slayer. All of these encourage Buffy to accept that death is her gift, that she needs the dark energy of the unconscious rather than the shallow masculine world of the everyday.

All this crystalizes in season five when Buffy gains a new sister to protect. The heroine’s journey is about rescuing loved ones: Meg Murray’s father and brother in A Wrinkle in Time, Coraline’s parents, and Katniss’s family and friends in The Hunger Games. Even Twilight’s Bella becomes a powerful shield when her baby daughter is endangered.  In season five, Buffy harnesses her new dark-born powers to accept that death is a gift and to save Dawn. She also battles the first of the female Big Bads, Glory. This blonde goddess is fashionable, flippant, and spoiled, like Buffy’s season one cheerleader self she must leave behind to become a good adoptive mother. After Buffy returns from death in the culmination of her heroine’s quest, Glory is succeeded by Dark Willow and the First, once again, Big Bads that mirror Buffy and try to slay the innocent while Buffy struggles to protect them.  Buffy finally grows into a leader, but also surrogate mom for an entire household of young slayers. At last she remakes the world, redefining it as a place of feminine power, where an army of her chosen ones can defend the helpless and take back the night.

While the hero always gets a sword (as Buffy does when she battles Angelus) or a knife (echoing Buffy’s stakes), heroines fight with tools of life and perception—holy water like Lucy’s healing potion, or a silver amulet like Buffy’s cross. Silver, seen in Artemis’s bow or Galadriel’s ring, is associated with mirror magic and sight because of its clarity. It’s also a symbol of purity and protection. The heroine is also known for a distance weapon like a bow—Katniss in The Hunger Games has a silver bow, then later a black bow of fire and death. Buffy too frequently shoots a crossbow.

Buffy’s ultimate weapon, of course, is the scythe, echoing the crescent moon and the ancient axes wielded by the priestesses of Crete. It is the death weapon, casting Buffy as the mature slayer, no longer a sweet princess clinging to her daylight powers. She rules the night and knows that death truly is a gift. And she pulls it from the stone, establishing herself as the one true slayer, the mythic hero coming to remake the world.

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