J. Grace Pennington

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Avengers–Still Think You’re the Only Monster?

Black Widow

I recently saw Avengers: Age of Ultron in our local theater. Armed with a root beer and a box of Junior Mints, I went in looking for a fun couple of hours and came out with a head full of thoughts and ideas and ponderings. Life of a writer. Driving home, the thoughts percolated into three distinct topics (or rants, however you want to put it) and I decided to turn them into a blog series. I’ll try my best to keep the posts spoiler free, but due to the exploratory nature of the ponderings, some things may slip out. Proceed at your own risk.

Post idea number one: Black Widow. a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff. A controversial figure if I ever saw one. My very conservative friends hate on her for being too feminist, and my feminist friends hate on her for not being feminist enough. It’s either “She’s a woman–how dare she fight?” or “She’s a fighter–how dare she be womanly?”

For you see, in this Marvel installment, not only does Widow kick some serious enemy behind, but she has a love interest.

Natasha, please be consistent. Are you a tough woman, or are you a feminine one?

My question, after seeing her in three movies is, why do these things have to be mutually exclusive?

I actually really admire her as a character. She’s far from perfect, and her perpetually-perfect hair and makeup no matter how intense the fight is a bit annoying (what do you expect, it’s Hollywhood), and I’m not a fan of her rather extremely skintight suit (again, Hollywood), but I really think she presents an interesting mix of tough and feminine.

I didn’t pay much attention to her in the first movie. But there were a couple small moments that grabbed my attention. One was her brief moment of honest vulnerability with Hawkeye. It made me think, “Wow, there’s a real woman under that assassin-exterior.” The other was a moment in the New-York-destroying fight at the end of the film where an explosion goes off above Captain America and herself. In that moment, he covers her with his shield to protect her from the debris. And how does she react? Does she toss him away and yell, “How dare you? I don’t need a man to save me! I can take care of myself!” No, she actually ducks beneath the shield, allowing him to keep her safe.

That’s not because she’s weak. That’s because she’s not stupid. She knows that his strength and assets can protect her better than she can protect herself at that moment, and she’s grateful for that.

The new Avengers movie drives this aspect further home. Once she finds a man that she can actually trust and be herself with, does she push him away with an “I don’t need you, I’m a strong woman!” attitude? No. She goes for it with confidence. Because she knows they work well together. She wants that in her life. It’s not because she’s weak. It’s because she knows it would be good for her, and for him. Because that’s how she’s created, as a woman. And she’s confident enough in that to know, yes, she does need men. It’s not about strength or weakness. It’s about the fact that women and men were made to complement each other, to be better together than apart.

The point of all these rambles?

Don’t be afraid to give your female characters a mixture of toughness and vulnerability. Toughness isn’t an unwomanly characteristic, and vulnerability isn’t a weak one. Women in the real world are multi-faceted. Let’s make sure our fictional women reflect that.

It’s Always Fun to Get Free Stuff

Been enjoying hearing me talk about Implant lately? Are you curious? Do you want to have it before all of your friends? (Because everyone you know is definitely going to be running out to buy this book the moment it hits virtual shelves. *nods*)

Well, good news! I’m going to give away the very first official copy of Implant! I’m nice that way. But I need you to do a little something for me first.

Write an Amazon.com review of any of my books. It can be short, simple, doesn’t even have to be positive! Just share your true thoughts with Amazon customers, then send me a link to your review to be entered in the giveaway! Only Amazon reviews count, though I won’t complain if you also post them elsewhere! It also must be a new review, posted between April 28th (when I announced the contest on Facebook) and midnight CST on May 31st.

But wait! What if you’re one of those industrious souls who has already reviewed ALL of my books? In that case, send me links to prove it, and I’ll award you two entries, just for being awesome.

Email links to theauthor [AT] jgracepennington [DOT] com, and please use the subject line “Amazon reviews.” I look forward to seeing what you have to say!

To make things easy on you, here are links to my books:

Firmament: Radialloy

Firmament: In His Image

Firmament: Machiavellian

Never

Colored Highlights and Drifting Shadows

Do you like poetry? I love it, though I can be kindof picky when it comes to which poems resonate with me, and which ones I just don’t click with. Some of my favorite poetry is that which my dear friend Ophelia-Marie Flowers had written. I have a couple of her books, and can’t wait to get my hands on the latest one! Today I’m interviewing her about the book, so read on to learn more, then head over to her blog for lots of fun giveaways!

Hello, Ophelia! Thank you for joining me today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thank you for having me here, Grace.
I’m a 20 year old homeschool graduate, and I currently work full-time in Long-Term-Care as a Nurse Aide. I love my job, and enjoy that it gives me the time to still pursue my hobbies. I am a Pastor’s daughter, and have three younger siblings. Other random things about me: I like the color teal. I like white chocolate a whole lot. I enjoy falling asleep to thunder-storms. I super enjoy teasing with people who know how to tease back. I love deep conversations about life. I love to sing loudly and laugh freely. *Grins* I love looking at the world with wonder, because I know God holds it all.

What is your book about?

This book is about friendship, in its various forms and changes.

“Friendship is full of highlights and shadows. Sometimes it is bright and joyful as we learn, build trust, grow, and laugh together. Other times it is dark and confusing as we get hurt, question, change and sometimes even break apart.

In many ways, friendship changes who we are – the way we view the world, how we live, what we reach for, and who we trust. It is a reminder of our fallen nature – It is an even greater reminder that we are not meant to walk alone.

This book of poetry, quotes, and scripture explores both the joys and pains bound in friendship, and seeks to share many of the lessons we learn from each other.”

What was some of the inspiration for the poetry in your book?

You, for one. ;) *Distracting cough* Anyway, silly-truthfullness aside – The last year or so has really challenged me in my friendships. I’ve sadly lost some friendships, and joyfully gained others, and I’ve had a lot of adjusting to do. Growing up changes friendships, and I’ve watched it change mine. God has been teaching me how to be a better friend and to look to Him for guidance. When I do a lot of thinking, it often comes out in poetry. I realized I had enough poetry on the topic to make a book exclusively about friendship. I chose to include quotes from friends, other sources, and Scriptures because I wanted to have a bigger perspective on friendship than just my own.

Do you have any ideas for your next book?

I want to write a book entitled, “Out Of Defeat – Into Peace”. It would be a book about struggles with sin and low points in faith, and about God’s true Peace in the midst of doubt… I’m still in the writing process, poem-wise, with that idea, so it’ll be quite some time before it might be potentially ready. Still, I hope that will be the next poetry book I publish.

The other running idea I have is currently entitled, “Out Of Love – Redemption’s Mercy”. It would be about God’s love, redemption, and His grace. Actually – I have ideas for a total of four books… but that is getting ahead of myself. One poem at a time – that’s how I seem to get anything done, haha.

What is your favorite thing about writing poetry?

I like to write poetry because it is a good way to express emotion. In it, I can share my own views and be an encouragement to others. I like reminding people that they aren’t the only one to feel the way they do. We all have our ups and downs in life, and we’re not meant to walk it alone.

Finally, what is the weirdest food combination that you like?

I like peanut butter in with my Mini Wheats… I’m not sure if that’s all that strange, but it’s good. ;) I also occasionally eat Ramen noodles raw – like, not boiled. Now that I have been told is strange, haha. Oh well.

Thank you for stopping by the blog, Ophelia! Best wishes with your release!

Don’t Write What You Know

Anyone who’s ever turned their hand to writing knows this this adage, as well as most who haven’t. “Write what you know.” There are many great writers who have followed this advice. Charles Dickens, for instance. Nearly all of his stories had autobiographical elements, and most of them took place in the nineteenth century London where he lived out his life. Or L. M. Montgomery. She wrote of Prince Edward Island, her world, and the people and dynamics of a small town in her era.

But what about Isaac Asimov? Sure he knew science, but how much personal experience did he have in a robotocized society? Or J. R. R. Tolkien? How many years did he spend in Middle Earth, exactly? How many Hobbits had he come across?

As I heard one writer say once, “If we can really only write what we know, we should be very concerned about the number of murder stories that are out there!” This lady’s solution to the problem was to instead, “Write what you can learn enough about to write of intelligently.” There’s good sense in this. But I think we can dig a little deeper.

You can learn about anything. The internet takes care of that. Want to write a story about an insurance company, but have no experience working for or closely with one? The internet has all your answers. Have a story set in New Zealand, but never visited and aren’t close to anyone there? Google is your friend. Your next masterpiece involves brilliant doctors, nuclear weapons, and Arthurian legend? Wikipedia is the source of all knowledge (at least knowledge good enough for fiction).

It’s not hard to come to know enough about anything to write about it. But I think the “write what you know” saying didn’t arise just because people didn’t have the internet at that time. There’s something more to it.

Anyone can write about anything, but only you can write about things that have happened to you. That doesn’t mean the student can only write about college and the farmer can only write about cows, but it does mean that there should be select details you pull from your life and drop into your story to add that little touch of realism that imagination can’t provide you with.

Here’s an example. I can’t sleep with a clock in my bedroom. I’ve never been able to. If I have an analog clock present, the ticking distracts me and I can’t stop thinking of music that fits the beat. If there’s a digital clock nearby, the numbers distract me and I can’t stop trying to work them into mathematical equations. (OCD much?)

So I took this odd factoid and dropped it into my story about surrogate motherhood. I’ve never been a surrogate mother. I’m not close to anyone who has been. All my knowledge about the subject came from websites, news stories, and my own imagination. But I put the can’t-sleep-with-a-clock detail into the story. Along with some other little things I’ve done and experienced. Thus, this woman who I can’t relate with when it comes to her job, lifestyle, or experience–I can relate with because of certain quirks and tendencies that are cut from the truth of my life.

I try to do the same in all my stories. I may not have dealt with a medical Implant that can cure all ills, but I know how I react physically when I’m angry, so I gave Gordon some of those characteristics. I may not live on a starship, but I understand how it feels to be loyal to your father and yet have the tension of not always agreeing. And I definitely haven’t worked hard hours in a sadistic coal mine, but I’ve felt what it’s like to be weighed down with guilt and feel you deserve something that’s not yours to bear. These are details, feelings, just little wisps of life, but when I blow them into a story, they can breathe a life into it that wouldn’t otherwise be there.

So no, don’t write what you know. Write what you imagine.

Then connect the dots with what you know intimately and personally.

The things that no one else shares.

“Call me Neil, okay?”

“You were on the Head’s side. What made you change your mind?”

Doc’s lips turned up ever so slightly. “You should be able to guess. I forgot what it was to have principles or convictions until that idealistic dreamer came along. After I was sent to the base as a spy, he reminded me–in no uncertain terms, either. You’ve seen how pushy he is.”

Gordon couldn’t help a smile.

When I asked which character from Implant you wanted to hear about, you overwhelmingly voted in favor of Neil Crater, the idealistic dreamer of the the rebels. So here I am to tell you a little bit about this leader–and hopefully whet your appetite for the rest of the story. See what I did there? I’m an author! We have to market our books! It is, of course, all one big ploy to get you to buy something. If you are opposed to such measures, STOP reading now, close the tab, and go watch a kitten video. And forever wonder who exactly this Neil Crater is.

After Gordon gets pulled into the future, he meets two people–Doc and Neil–who will change his life forever. We’ll learn more about Doc later, but for now, who is Neil?

Neil is just what I said–idealistic dreamer. He’s passionate, convicted, principled, incredibly intelligent, kind, and visionary. He cares about every individual rebel, and believes redemption is always possible–but at the same time he has no patience with evil or stupidity. He’s a scientist, a brilliant engineer. He can usually be found in the laboratory, in his slightly mismatched clothes, big glasses, and red kerchief around his neck, bending over some device that he believes will help them take down the Academy once and for all.

He’s quick to trust, but also quick to urge caution. He reminds others of their humanity, not only with his words (which are certainly numerous) but with his actions. He finds as much value in serving a bowl of soup to a tired worker as in giving a rousing speech or building a complex element of a master plan to save the world.

Neil Crater is the perfect leader–combining brilliance, strength, and compassion to create the kind of man that others can look up to, love, and follow. His weakness–his compassion and emotionalism–are mitigated by Doc…

But I’m not supposed to talk about Doc just yet. You’ll just have to wait a little while longer.

So tell me–does Neil Crater sound like someone you would like to read about?