The release of LoE Book 9: Stenibelle is here!! I’m very proud of the book and of the character in it, the first LoE book to feature a female main character–most of the previous books have been ensembles with strong male and female characters.

Stenibelle (Cover by Carol Phillips)

Stenibelle (Cover by Carol Phillips)

I’ve been asked if I think Stenibelle is a Feminist Book. I actually have no idea. The word “Feminist” has taken somewhat of a radical turn from the `60’s up till now. In the `60’s it meant a free, liberated woman, doing things previously considered to be “unlady-like” A `60’s feminist was probably a tomboy, or a hippie girl living in a VW van, smoking weed and wearing baggy clothes. She lived her life as she wanted, which might deviate from the established female model (chaste, married, motherhood, etc…).

Nowadays the word “Feminist” seems synonymous with “Feminazi“, a cold, opinionated, emotionally unavailable, agenda-ridden woman who hates all men. An invincible, man-killing war-machine bent on proving the superiority of the female gender. Obviously, such a character is a stereotype, and a polarizing one at that, setting both genders against each other.

 

STENIBELLE AND “THE TESTS”

I wrote Stenibelle to be a Female-Centric book, one that focused on the struggles of a female character without being political or polarizing. Stenibelle is not invincible, or perfect for that matter. She’s a flawed human being who starts out angry and unsure of herself, needing a healthy “kick-in-the-rear” to get pointed right. Stenibelle learns. She grows, she becomes more than what she was, as should be the case in any piece of fiction: the capacity to change.

So, what sort of a book is “Stenibelle”?

There are a number of tests out there, mostly aimed at judging women’s roles in films. We can apply these tests to Stenibelle, the book and see how she rates (Of course, this is me, the biased author judging the book. Read it for yourself and feel free to rebut if needed).

Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is a set of three simple and rather loose requirements designed to determine the role of women in a film.

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it.
  2. The women must talk to each other.
  3. The women must talk about something besides men.

Given these rather vague requirements, Stenibelle easily passes the Bechdel Test. There are lots of females in the book, many more than just two. They have lengthy conversations with each other, and many of their conversations don’t involve men at all (of course, “talking about men” is a very nebulous factor. Are the women talking about a boyfriend? Are they talking about a man in the home or workplace? As there are only two genders, erasing 50% of them from a protracted conversation can be difficult if not impossible, forcing the conversation to be nothing more than “girl-talk” which opens a whole new can of worms. We’ll assume “talking about men” means discussing a boyfriend, husband or other love-related interest.)

 

The Russo Test

The Russo Test is a fairly new test designed to analyze the representation of LGBT characters in films. Inspired by the Bechdel test it’s named after film historian Vito Russo. It also has three loose criteria:

  1. The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
  2. The character must not be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
  3. The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.

Without going into too much of the plot and the outcome of the story, Stenibelle passes the Russo Test, and it does so without being pushy, political or in any way agenda-driven.

 

The Mako Mori Test

Mako Mori was one of the lone female characters in the film Pacific Rim. Her depiction in the film has become the standard in giving a female a “fake, action-driven” role to play that fails the Bechdel Test.  Again, the test has three basic criteria:

  1. At least one female character must be present
  2. The female gets her own narrative arc
  3. The female does not exist solely to supporting a man’s story.

Again, Stenibelle passes. Stenibelle is not there to simply support a secondary male character. This is her story. Without her, there would be nothing.

 

The “Sexy Lamp” Test

Comic book writer Kelly Sue De Connick created a somewhat tongue-in-cheek test judging the role of females in a story-arc.  Essentially, if you can replace the female character with a lamp, blow-up doll, stirring stick or similar prop, would the story still fly??

Yes–you cannot replace Stenibelle with a cool lamp and have the story function. It would not–not at all. Moving on.

 

There is an additional test called the Finkbeiner Test dealing with the role of women in science. As Stenibelle is not a scientist (she’s actually more of a sorceress) this one really doesn’t apply.

So, that’s it. With Stenibelle, I wrote a human story dealing with a female in a tight spot. I tried to write it so that anybody, female or male, could get behind her and cheer. Pick it up–see if you agree.

Stenibelle will be available 7/24 from Loconeal Publishing.

 

copyright 2015, Ren Garcia

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Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

Front Cover of LoE Book 9 (artwork by Carol Phillips)

It doesn’t happen too often, especially in my case, but on select occasions your own characters can jump up off the page and surprise the heck out of you.

Such was the case with Stenibelle, a character I dreamed up on a lark.

OUT FROM THE DARKNESS:

I was working on The Shadow tech Goddess, a tale dealing with alternate universes and Extra-Planar Entities. Our hero, Paymaster Stenstrom, Lord of Belmont-South Tyrol, had been informed that there are many Wvulgroms. alternate versions of himself running around, all somewhat similar to himself but undeniably different–such is the basis of the entire Shadow tech Goddess storyline. It’s not an unfamiliar concept, we’ve seen it before in various media: fiction, TV, comics, films (the Star Trek episode “Mirror, Mirror” immediately comes to mind). In many cases, these “alternate entities” are a study in opposites: good vs evil, chaste vs immoral, that sort of thing. In my case I wanted these Wvulgroms (qv=alternate entities) to be merely a product of their circumstance. They can be very different from the character we’ve come to know, or, they might be very similar, it all depends.

Back cover on LoE Book 9, featuring the irascible Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Painting by Carol Phillips)

Back cover of LoE Book 9, featuring the irascible Hannah-Ben Shurlamp, EVoR (Painting by Carol Phillips)

In the case of the Shadow tech Goddess saga, eight different versions of Paymaster Stenstrom are involved. They all have similar experiences: they all served as paymaster aboard the Fleet ship Seeker for Captain Davage, and they all bought the captain’s chair of the Seeker later on. They all had various levels of failure/success in the Seeker Affair, as it was known. Some had no trouble at all securing the Seeker’s chair, some had a bit of rough sledding, others failed spectacularly. One was imprisoned, one was enslaved in a sex pit, and one was killed.

At the end of Book 8, all of these various alternate versions are brought together in the smothering darkness of the Shrine of Boraster on the Planet Eng and sorted out, each sent on their merry way.

As I wrote the final scene, each Wvulgrom was brought forth and presented to the central version of Paymaster Stenstrom–all of them tall and handsome.

And then the 3rd version was presented. As I wrote, my fingers worked the keys all by themselves. The third version presented was a small, comely woman. I had established earlier in the story that the Wvulgroms of Paymaster Stenstrom didn’t all have to be as is, they could be of differing race, of differing species, and, of differing gender. Such was the case here–the 3rd version was a woman named Stenibelle.

Lord A-Ram told him: “In another universe, you are a woman, and you would be most proud of her.”

So, that’s all I had, just an odd revelation that he, somewhere out in the universes, was a she.

STENIBELLE:

Stenibelle accosted by hookers on Hoffman Plate. (painting by Fantasio)

Stenibelle accosted by hookers on Hoffman Plate. (painting by Fantasio)

Shortly after I finished the first draft of the Shadow tech Goddess, I developed the idea of writing a series of smaller, shorter books detailing the activities of the alternate Stenstroms’ as pertaining to the main story. I started writing them all at once, but the one that stood out most in my head was Stenibelle, the female. I began writing a quaint story dealing with Stenibelle’s quest to discover the way to long lost Cammara, an abandoned home-world of the League lost for over 200,000 years. At first, Stenibelle had all of the “It Man” abilities the male versions of Paymaster Stenstrom have: super strength, invulnerability, flight via mind power, and so on. The only thing she couldn’t so was fire the NTH pistols, which require a male-hand to shoot. I wrote her as a demure, considerate woman doing her best for her House under bizarre circumstances.

I quickly got bored with her. Where was the growth? Where was the potential?  I really didn’t see it. I put her down for a long time and moved onto other stories. I considered deleting her altogether.

Stenibelle, Lady of Belmont-South Tyrol (painting by Eve Ventrue)

Stenibelle, Lady of Belmont-South Tyrol (painting by Eve Ventrue)

Then, it occurred to me that I’d been doing Stenibelle a great disservice. There was no depth to her, no agency, no room for personal growth. I’d been treating her with kid gloves, and she, though she had a great deal of power, was essentially helpless, like a princess in a tower.

Time for the gloves to come off. Time for Stenibelle to face the world. I was going to lay her bare and watch her grow into something new–not a perfect person, mind you, not invincible, not a cold, gritty tent-pole character, but a human one, full of successes and failures, remorse and joy, frailty and determination, and the capacity to better herself and her House.

First, I removed all of Stenstrom’s It Man powers. She still possessed all of her skills in Tyrol Sorcery, the vanishing, the lock picking, all of that, but no more super strength, no more flying and  TK’ing. I took away all of the vast sums of money Stenstrom has available to him and made her a pauper.  I also stuck her in prison. I made her angry and unsure of herself. I put her under the sway of powerful people and I addicted her to personality-altering Bolabungs.

Through all of that, Stenibelle had to make do, had to overcome poverty and addiction, had to learn to stand up for herself in the face of powerful people, had to learn to trust and seek help when it was needed, and to come to terms with her own heart. The character that grew before me was quite a welcome surprise, becoming more whole and complete than I has first thought possible.

I put her through a lot, and the person she became is something anybody can relate to and cheer for.

That’s what I was hoping for all along.

League of Elder Book 9: Stenibelle will be available summer 2015 from Loconeal Publishing.

copyright 2015: Ren Garcia, Carol Phillips, Fantasio, and Eve Ventrue

 

 

 

 

This is the part I hate. This is the part where everything’s turned in, the cover is done, the artwork is (mostly) done, and the only thing left to do is wait for the thing to hit the shelves.

stgcover-front“The Shadow tech Goddess” took me four years to write, and, during that time it went through a number of different incarnations and intentions. I had at first wanted to publish her after Book 2: The Hazards of the Old Ones. She just didn’t feel right–I was floundering around with the concept and, frankly, got a little lost. I decided to focus my energies instead on the Temple of the Exploding Head trilogy, which was bursting out of my head at the time (I always seem to have a Main WIP going, and one in the fire at the same time. The Shadow tech goddess was always “in the fire”, never quite hot enough to be worked and shaped into something useful). Once the Temple was done, then I’d finish up the Goddess. I promised myself that.

I just didn’t have a good grasp of the story even though years had passed. What was the story I wanted to tell?? What interesting concepts would I introduce? I didn’t know.

I was still stuck.

Putting it aside, I decided to finish up the Sands of the Solar Empire, and then I’d get to the Goddess.

Time passed. Sands and Against the Druries came and went. I intended to concentrate on the House of Bloodstein–a tale dealing with my old favs, Lord Kabyl and Sam, the new ne-countess of the House of Blanchefort. Once again the Goddess eluded me and settled into the less swift current of my brain. My publisher, James Barnes, asked me what titles I’d have ready for 2014, if any. I had it in my head to say “House of Bloodstein”, but my mouth rebelled and said “Shadow tech Goddess” instead. James took it and ran.

And so, I was committed with a WIP that had whipped me into submission for years.

The "Back Cover" of The Shadow tech Goddess, with blurb. Enlarge to read text

The “Back Cover” of The Shadow tech Goddess, with blurb

THE LOVES OF PAYMASTER STENSTROM:

I think my issue all along was boredom. I was bored with Paymaster Stenstrom and his presumptive fiancée, Lady Gwendolyn of Prentiss. I love creating relationships, and, Gwen seemed to be the winner in this case, what else was there to write about?? I got it into my head that I wanted to write about different loves–lots of them, each one full of hidden possibilities. I greatly value loyalty in a hero–a hero to me must be, above all else, loyal and trustworthy. So–how could I have Stenstrom indulge in many torrid relationships and have him remain loyal at the same time??

Alternate realities was the answer, and, once I came to grips with that idea the rest was easy. I dreamed of arcane devices and Extra-Planar entities. New corners of the League opened up to me and places never seen danced in my head. Eventually, after a writing binge, I had seven stories ready to go, each dealing with a different love of Paymaster Stenstrom, or “The Turns of The Shadow tech Goddess“. Central to the Turns is the main story which begins and ends in one book. In the book are mentions and casual asides of characters and situations that are not covered to any great degree. Did I make a mistake? Did I pick up an interesting plot thread only to forget about it pages later? No way! They are covered in the six novella-sized stories which are related to the main story. The novellas detail important events which help to bring the main book to be, a la, the hand behind the stage pulling a rope that draws the curtain. Lord A-Ram and Lady Alesta of the Pilgrims of Merian serve as guides shuttling between the books. They often disappear in StG–they are off assisting the “other” Paymaster Stenstroms.

Stenibelle_IISTENIBELLE:
In an alternate universe, Paymaster Stenstrom is not a man and his House is on the verge of extinction. The disgraced 30th daughter of the House of Belmont will either be the final stake driven into its dying heart, or the ray of light that comes to save it.

MELAZARR
Can a crass, foul-mouthed Xaphan woman from Caroline actually be the vessel carrying information that can save all things? Paymaster Stenstrom struggles to keep her alive and, discovers in the process, the amazing woman hidden under her bravado.

ATD 5TAARA
Tiny Taara de la Anderson is Stenstrom’s right hand, always loyal and brave. Does she dream of different things, and how far will she go to get what she wants?

KAT
He felt her claws raking his chest in the cold of the Clovis ruins, and now here she is again at his throat. Who is Kat, and can she believed? What demands does she make of him? The Shadow tech Goddess comes to call on an old debt.

THE ALL-IN-ONE
He awakens in a pit and is the slave of the Lacerta. He hears many voices in his head and remembers many things he himself has never done. He is all aspects of himself, yet he is none of them. He can try to escape the Lacerta’s pit, but, where will he go? Is he better off dangling in the dark dreaming of things other people have done?

THE TEMPUS FINDAL
Of all creatures, the Tempus Findal is the most horrid. She believes she has her own place at last where her insidious power will not destroy. The Gods of Cammara will give her no rest and might undermine all she has attempted to build.

The Shadow tech Goddess will be out March 2014 from Loconeal Publishing. The novellas will be published approximately every three months afterward.

copyright 2014, Ren Garcia