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Introducing the Mocking Jay Awards

Posted on January 25, 2014

Katniss-GaleLast year ended with mixed reviews regarding the number and quality of female role models in popular entertainment.  With the exception of “Heat,” summer movies were a zero-sum game, with few women even making into the picture. Music was dominated by Miley Cyrus’ bizarre and overtly sexualized antics, and over in publishing, books with one word titles like “Lick,” were climbing the charts.

Mercifully by winter, the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence returned as Katniss Everdeen, the heroine of The Hunger Games, capturing our collective imagination with the release of Catching Fire, the second movie in the series based on the books by Suzanne Collins. Although brash and clumsy when it comes to her own relationships, the brave teenager does (spoiler alert!) help crush a republic—one that is rotting away, its populace degraded from too much food and a steady diet of television violence. Whatever lessons you take from this enormously successful dystopian trilogy, one thing is certain: in the face of oppression, the fight for democracy can be dangerous and bloody—something one only need look at the New York Times to confirm.

After immersing myself in Collins’ extraordinary trilogy and being blown away by Jennifer Lawrence’s spot-on performance as the complex, captivating Katniss, it was deflating to be reminded that both the actress and the heroine she plays are such rarities. Our pop-culture landscape is littered with over-sexed female celebrities whose contributions to our daughters’ perceptions of what it means to be a woman are, in my opinion, damaging.

To combat this depressing deluge of regressive dreck, I went looking for some real-life role models to usher in 2014 on a more hopeful note: flesh-and-blood representations of the courageous spirit of Katniss. Despite their conspicuous absence from pop culture, I found no shortage of examples of women who’ve shown Katniss-like levels of courage in the face of oppression and corruption, in some cases paying a high price for their strength.

So to begin 2014, here are my awardees for the first annual Mocking Jay awards:

The Night Witch. The New York Times Magazine recently remembered World War II hero Nadezhda Popova (known as Nadia,) a member of the all-female 588th Night Bomber Regiment of the Soviet Air Force. One of the world’s first female combat flight pilots, she and her comrades would cut their engines and glide perilously close to the ground to hit their targets. The gentle swoosh they made overhead evoked for German soldiers the flight of a witch’s broom, earning the squad its nickname, the Night Witches. Popova died at age of ninety-two with her eight hundred and fifty two air missions largely forgotten.

Malala Yousafzai.  An outspoken advocate for the education of girls, this brave Pakistani teenager and student began blogging at the early age of eleven and was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012, as a warning to others. One of the youngest nominees ever for the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala, who is now 16, managed to recover from her grave injuries and has since become an important global symbol of peaceful protest.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina.  Members of the punk protest band Pussy Riot, Nadezhda and Maria were sentenced to 21 months in prison in Russia for singing a song that was insulting to Vladimir Putin. On Dec. 23, 2013 they were granted amnesty and released – just as Russia prepares for international scrutiny on the eve of hosting the Winter Olympics. Minutes after being released, with television cameras filming, Alyokhina promptly rejected her amnesty, saying, “I don’t need mercy from Putin.”

 

Tetyana Chornovil. A reporter in the Ukraine known for exposing the vast corruption of the current government, Chornovil was brutally beaten outside Kiev just before Christmas. She has bravely allowed images of her face, which reveal the extent of her horrific injuries, to be posted around the world, her image a potent reminder of the brutal attempts at intimidation that go on in her homeland.

From the brutal treatment of journalist abroad, to the revelations of Edward Snowden right in our own backyard, the sad truth is that you don’t have to pick up a novel to read about dystopia.

What do you think The Hunger Games’ President Snow would have made of the women whom I nominated? Of their refusal to retreat, or express gratitude for false mercy?  I’d also love to know who you’d nominate for the 2013 list.  I’m certain I’ve barely scratched the surface of good choices, of role models who chose to devote their lives to a cause greater than their own fleeting fame.

Send me an email at evette.davis@gmail.com with your choices.

Evette’s op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle

Posted on January 17, 2014

The following essay appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle’s guest editorials section on January 1, 2014.

San Francisco’s story will repeat

Living in San Francisco is like having a stunning spouse or companion. Everyone wants to be near you, which can be exhausting. Our city is experiencing that now. There are too many people and not enough places to live. Rents are rising, tempers are flaring and windows are being smashed. Read the full article here.

 

 

An interview with Evette on her childhood poetry and inspiration

Posted on January 17, 2014

What is the personal story behind ‘Woman King’?

As one of the few women working in politics and public affairs in San Francisco and the region, I’ve often longed for a confidant to discuss some of the more unpleasant things that have happened in the course of doing my work. That desire sent me off to write a play about a consultant who suddenly sees an ancient female warrior appear as her invisible mentor. Read the full interview on Smashwords.

Try this at home: Reflecting on my first year as a self-published writer

Posted on January 14, 2014

 

Another work in progress: My Twitter feed

Another work in progress: My Twitter feed

Not long after I became a self-published novelist, I sent out a tweet promising that I would “try never to make the same mistake twice.”  If you count the fact that I often miss my target to tweet daily (oh, the irony) to keep up my social-media presence, then I have made many of the same mistakes more than twice.

Welcome to the world of self-publishing!

It’s a place of vast opportunity, but also great potential disappointment. Our roadmaps are newly inked, all of us cartographers of a future yet to take shape. On some days I hail myself as a genius, on other days, not so much.  As I embark on the New Year – and Book Two in my trilogy–I thought I’d share some food for thought about lessons learned and fun tools I’ve discovered:

The roadmaps for self-published authors are newly inked, and all of us are the cartographers of a future that is still taking shape. On some days I feel like an intrepid genius, on other days, not so much.  As I embark on the new year – and Book Two of my trilogy – I thought I’d share some food for thought about the lessons I’ve learned and some fun tools I’ve discovered:

Don’t be in a hurry. In traditional publishing, books can wait years for publication; self-publishing has the opposite problem. The ability to click the “upload” button without any gatekeepers whatsoever to stop you means that many stories reach the public before they’re ready. I did take time to have my first novel Woman King edited, but I should’ve given myself more time. Now as I work on a second edition of Woman King with an editor, I’m contemplating a longer timeline for editing and review of the second book in my planned trilogy.

Free, or nearly free, is often the norm. I used to think that being rejected by an agent was the most humbling experience I could have as an author. I’ve actually encountered something vastly more discomfiting: the frugalness of consumers on the Internet- especially for untested writers. It wasn’t until I made Woman King free as an e-book that I began to see any interest.  My advice?       Don’t be afraid to give a certain amount of your work away to build a readership.

Build an audience. One of my main tasks as I prepare to launch my second novel is to amass a following through reader reviews, social media, and blogging. Trying to create witty tweets while also finishing a novel, managing my day job, and being a participating member of my family is no easy feat, but it’s necessary if I want to bring my work to the attention of readers in a saturated marketplace.  I regularly read other blogs, magazines, and online newspapers to help curate good content for my followers.  I also speak at the public libraries in my area about self-publishing and attend local author events in order to be an active member of the community. To help manage my time, I write my blog posts and essays (like this one) in batches, rather than trying to draft something original every day. However you choose to engage readers—be it through social media or good old-fashioned networking-do it early and often.

 Create a publishing team.  Writers write. We don’t design book covers, create marketing documents, edit our own manuscripts, or do any of the other myriad things it takes to bring a book to life.  Or at least we shouldn’t try to do all of those things ourselves. Whether you pay or barter for services (or end up just owing a friend a huge favor in return for their help), create a team of specialists who can help you bring your book to the marketplace that mimics the suite of professionals employed by a publishing house. At the end of the day, we should all want our work to be as flawless as possible.

Be ready to make changes.  The freedom of being online is that readers can discover or sample your work at any time, which means that you can adjust the price, alter your marketing content, or even revise the manuscript itself at will.  Don’t be afraid to go back and make changes that can help you expand your audience; take advantage of the fact that an eBook is a living document.

Explore serial fiction. Woman King began its journey to publication with my uploading it chapter by chapter onto Juke Pop, a curated serial fiction site. This turned out to be a huge opportunity to get the book in front of readers, where they promptly voted Woman King one of the Top 30 stories on the site. Eventually, I published Woman King as a standalone novel, but you can be sure I’ll be placing excepts from book two on Juke Pop later this year.

It turns out a picture is worth a thousand words.  As of late I’ve been dabbling in Pinterest and experimenting with way that images can help writers tell the story of their books and engage readers in ways that were never available before. What does a character or a setting look like? Do you have a music playlist that inspires you as a writer? Share images of the album covers or artists from that list. There are endless ways of posting images about interesting subjects related to your work so when you’re building your social media strategy, don’t neglect these opportunities.

Keep writing.  Being a writer is a tricky business. Many of us are introverts who are secretly wishing for mass approval as we write our hearts out on the page. But don’t let that be a reason to stop. Seeing my imagination take shape on the page is always exciting and fills me with a real sense of accomplishment. So, be nice to yourself, and keep plugging away.

Praise for ‘Woman King’

Posted on September 2, 2013

Readers across the land (and perhaps the globe) have been enjoying “Woman King,” and many of them have posted some great reviews on sites like Goodreads, Amazon and Smashwords. Here are some excerpts:

“Let me begin by first saying, WOW, I loved this book from start to finish. Evette Davis’ book truly packs a punch and has plenty to offer including the supernatural, romance, fantasy, politics and more. This is a beautifully written book with an exceptionally strong plot. Be sure to check out her work, I highly doubt that you’ll be disappointed.”  (A.C. Haury, Bibliophile Book Reviews)

“One of the few American writers, in the genre of recreational fiction… concerned with how an intolerant brand of modern Christianity has come to dominate American Politics…(An) unusual blend of a modern political campaign combined with the affairs of Others (fairies, witches, vampires) lifts it above the norm of the current plethora of romantic vampire slush. I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy, and also looking to see if this author writes non-paranormal stories; I think they would be even better than this.” (Amazon reader review)

“Woman King is a paranormal romance and thriller for the intelligent reader.  It has it all:  political issues, social issues, family issues, witches, vampires, demons, time-walkers, fairies, werewolves, empaths, romance, violence, danger and espionage.  Davis does a laudable job by weaving an intricate story line around a well-developed, blossoming romance.  She ties story lines together and introduces back stories to explain complicated characters.  Moreover, the protagonist is extremely likable and easy to relate to.  This may have been a paranormal book but I found her story to be motivational.  Who hasn’t wanted to turn their back on the world and just throw in the towel?  When Olivia begins her training sessions to get her life back on track, the book becomes nearly therapeutic.” (Rebecca Skane, Seacoast Online)

“In Olivia, (Davis) introduces a new female character to vampire fiction. No helpless but willing victim she. Olivia recognizes the inherent danger of a human entering into a relationship with a blood drinker and she is willing to take the risk—but on her own terms. The tension is palpable as she flirts with, but stubbornly pulls back from, allowing her lover William to drink from her to the point of no return. In a neat plot twist, as her paranormal skills and power mature, those close to her recognize that she is fated to become a leader of the secretive Council.” (Amazon reader review)

“Reminds me of a John Grisham book but ‘Woman King’ happens to include fairies, vampires, witches and werewolves. All of the characters in this book held my attention…” (Goodreads reader review)

“This is well-written, intriguing, and has fleshed out characters. Awesome.” (Smashwords reader review) 

 

Critical mass: Book reviewers weigh in

Posted on June 27, 2013

The book critics are beginning to have their say about “Woman King.” Read a review by Rebecca Skane of the Seacoast Online blog of New Hampshire!

If you come across any reviews of ‘Woman King’ on the web, please pass along links. If you’re interested in the views of other readers, I recommend browsing either my Amazon page or the reader comments on my Goodreads page here.

Dammit, Jim! Women Want to Have Adventures Too

Posted on May 28, 2013

Summer movies are upon us and with their arrival comes the unfortunate role of women in blockbusters.  As the mercury rises and the grass turns brown, female characters are once again relegated to simpering on the sidelines or stuffing themselves into small bathing suits (or cat suits) to enjoy sexual innuendo and banter, while the men go off to save civilization.  Or they spring to life on the big screen as jovial bar whores, as in the upcoming remake of the “The Lone Ranger.”

“Star Trek Into Darkness” got off to a good beginning when it allowed a young Lt. Uhura to join a landing party to confront the Klingon warriors.  Sadly, her bravery was fleeting. She was quickly sidelined, so the men could begin their fight sequences. A brilliant weapons scientist who joins the Enterprise’s mission turns out to be the admiral’s daughter. That might have been be OK as she was prepared to stand up to her war-mongering papa, but not before she’s put in a scene in which she must be ogled by Capt. Kirk as she stands in nothing but a bra and panties.

If aliens were to really land on this planet, they’d be forgiven for mistaking women as feeble creatures unable to do more than pout about their relationship status while their superhero boyfriends break the sound barrier.

This folklore gets worse in today’s popular fiction, where women, it seems, just want to be tied up or rendered useless in a sexual haze by rock stars, underground boxers and other assorted bad boys.

Which leads me to ask, where are the interesting women in popular entertainment?

I wrote Women King as a direct result of my disgust with the way women are marginalized in the course of doing their work. I wanted to create a story where a strong female character could develop, without having to become a cliché.  And I wanted her to have a life that resonated with women like me: educated, professionals who enjoy fantasy and fiction, but don’t enjoy dithering female characters, whose only successes seem to be making men fall in love with them.

So tell me, whom do you admire? Send me a note and I will write another blog post with my responses.

Get thee to the library

Posted on May 21, 2013

I’m happy to report that for those of you who missed my launch party, but were curious about Woman King, I’ll be giving a reading at the San Francisco Public Library on June 5.  While there, I will also discuss some of the lessons I’ve learned from my year-long quest to self-publish.

No big surprise to the other writers out there reading this blog post, but I am a big fan of libraries.  For more than a decade, a big part of my day job, the one that pays the bills right now, has been spent working to help libraries—through campaigns and PR programs.

Beyond the obvious that libraries are fun, they’re also important.  In a city like San Francisco where everything is becoming new and shiny, high-tech and expensive, libraries remain fabulous public institutions that allow everyone—regardless of their income, education, color, sexual orientation or immigration status—to have access to the same information.  It may seem simple, but think about the equalizing power of everybody being able to read Walt Whitman or Harry Potter.  That is democracy in action and in San Francisco, it’s funded by our tax dollars.

As a young girl, I feasted on the banquet that my local library provided. From elementary school to college, I was known to simply plop down on the floor and pull the books off the shelves.  Stephen King, Hemingway, T.S. Elliott – there was no end to my appetite and, thankfully, no end of my supply of books.

To be returning to the library as a published author is a dream come true for me, so I’m grateful to the folks at the SFPL for hosting me.  While there, I’ll review my experiences as a self-published author, discussing my decisions to hire a professional editor and a graphic designer.  It was not an inexpensive endeavor. And yet when I look at my book sitting out there on Amazon and Smashwords, looking every bit as polished as the other books in my genre, I feel that my investment was worth it.  If you’re in town, I hope you will come and join me.  I think it’s going to be a nice evening.

 

 

 

Now available via Amazon, Smashwords

Posted on May 20, 2013

I am delighted to announce that WOMAN KING is now available for sale on Amazon.com and Smashwords.com. Thank you to everybody who showed your support at the book’s May 9 launch party in San Francisco. Many copies were sold there, but you still can get yours now!

Evette's book signing at launch

Signing books at my launch in San Francisco.

For those of you who have followed the novel since its debut with JukePop Serials and helped to make it one of the Top 20 stories, I want to extend my sincere thanks. Please visit my website, www.evettedavis.com and follow me on Twitter, @SFEvette.

If you’re in the Bay Area, you can join me for a reading and discussion that I’ll hold on June 5 at the San Francisco Main Library. Details are on my website.

I hope you’ll enjoy my writing, share your feedback, and please remember to tell your friends about WOMAN KING!

Cheers,

Evette

More Music: The Three Blind Mice and their playlist

Posted on March 19, 2013

I recently posted a list of some of the music that inspired me while I was writing “Woman King.”  What I forgot to do, however, was to share what a sample set would look like for William’s band.

Those of you who’ve read “Woman King” know that William is Olivia’s love interest. He’s also a 180-year old vampire who plays in a bluegrass band called Three Blind Mice. They manage to get in a few performances in the book, although I don’t go into much detail about the songs.

My inspiration for William and his band is Devil Makes Three, a trio from Northern California who play a kind of punk country that’s truly infectious.  They’re very talented musicians, and I was lucky to catch them at the Fillmore in San Francisco at the end of 2012.

Based on that inspiration, I decided to create a list of songs Three Blind Mice might cover if given a chance to perform, and you can check it out using the Spotify playlist above. I’d love to hear from you about what you think Three Blind Mice might play. Send me an email! — Evette

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