Save yourself… or don’t get saved.

Save yourself… or don’t get saved. Why I think that mindset is dangerous for women… and men.

I’ve heard it a million times, and it drives me absolutely nuts. If there is a female protagonist, she must save herself, or she is weak and useless. Seriously? Well, I guess I’m a weak woman because the men in my life have saved my hide more than once—and I love them more for it! However, if you knew me as well as my family and friends, you would never call me weak (I mean, I am a redhead, after all.)

Let me back up a bit and give you some background for my semi-rant. A dear friend of mine has written many short stories with strong (I mean well-written) female leads who find themselves in a pickle that seems impossible for anyone to overcome. Sometimes they save themselves, sometimes a father, a stranger, or some other person comes to their aid. And for that, she has been told she should have the protagonist save herself—every single time.

Let me be clear. I love a female lead who can kick butt and take names, but when the stakes are high, let’s be honest—none of us can do everything on our own. We need people. That’s why we live in a society… a civilization. Now, don’t get me wrong. When a woman who is supposed to be the lead of the book does nothing but whine, get in her own way, and never learns from her mistakes (cough—Elena Gilbert—cough) or frequently makes ridiculous choices until some big, strong man comes to save her (cough—Bella Swan—cough), then yes, it tends to grind on my nerves a little. Whenever a woman allows a man to treat her poorly, I bristle… but that’s a far cry from writing a character who needs a little boost, or at least, accepts one with gratitude when it’s offered.

But let’s step back even more and examine a few other situations. In one of my friend’s (Crystal Crawford) stories, the female main character finds herself abducted by a human trafficking ring. It just so happens her father is a sort of tech genius and has been helping to track this very same ring. This main character does everything in her power to save herself—and another young woman—from what would likely be a horrible fate. She was not complacent, did not whine, did not sit around for a rescue team—no! She worked hard and escaped! That’s almost unheard of when it comes to human trafficking (I mean, I wish it were real, but it just isn’t), yet when her father shows up in the end with a strike team to help her and ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE… it turned some readers off. She should have saved herself, they said… I’m sorry, WHAT?

Wouldn’t it be grand if a seventeen-year-old girl could single-handedly bust up a trafficking ring without any help whatsoever? Realistic? No, not really. Yes, fiction is made up and is often unrealistic, but you need a touch of reality for a book to ground you and keep you reading. You need a reference point, and a young girl saving herself, breaking up a ring, and saving everyone else inside with her, is… what’s the word… ridiculous—unless she has superpowers, but that’s another story and another rant altogether.

In my soul, I believe that forcing a female lead (or any lead, for that matter) to always save herself in impossible situations sets a precedent that can be dangerous for women. It says you are not capable, formidable, or worthwhile if you cannot single-handedly tear apart a building, beat up all the bad guys, and rescue everyone all by yourself. It says if you are attacked by someone and cannot overpower them, you are weak. It says that having feminine emotion is bad, and it’s just not. If someone is beating me to a pulp, I would very much like for a stranger to jump in and save my butt. I don’t care if it’s a man or another woman or an animate fruitcake dressed as a human—just save me!

Let’s be real for a minute and jump back to my friend’s story. What seventeen-year-old girl is capable of such feats? And why shouldn’t her father want to help her? What sort of crummy dad would let his daughter figure that out on her own? Liam Neeson, anyone? I’d appreciate someone with a special set of skills giving me a hand when it all hits the fan.

I also think it does men (or any rescuer, but usually it’s a man) a huge disservice. Somehow, they become overbearing and patriarchal bad-guys for wanting to help the women they love. Does this mean a woman saving a man is bad, too? Going to the ends of the earth to rescue someone you love is… bad?

I really love it when a book or movie can show a couple or family helping each other because, to me, that’s what life is all about. For example, in Frozen II, Kristoff was honestly sort of useless throughout much of the film. Then, when Anna needed him the most, he came in full-force with the help of Sven, and what did he do? He asked Anna how he could help. See? He didn’t tell her she couldn’t do it herself, didn’t swoop in and save the day—he helped.

I think it sucks for both men and women when we set a precedent that asking for or receiving help somehow makes you weak. No, to me, asking makes you strong. It says you know your limits and are not afraid to show your fear, weakness, or need for another. After all, there are loads of things women can do men can’t, and that’s what makes women pretty awesome anyway. Of course, a butt-kicking heroine is awesome, and I adore them… but not if all they do is save the day alone, constantly discouraging everyone who cares for her from helping her.

This crosses into the territory of another character reminding the female lead how amazing they are. I always hear, “She shouldn’t need a boy to tell her how amazing she is…” That’s exactly right, and in a perfect world, everyone would know they are worthy of love, they are important, and exceptional in their own way. But… where is this perfect world? I think we all need reminding that we are great, that we don’t need to be anything else but what we are, and that our hard work means something to someone.

Believe me, I know loads of women who do extraordinary things every day. They fight against some of the most brutal realities of human nature, rescue people from fires, save lives, raise kids on their own… but even they need help. Not necessarily from a man, of course, but help all the same. So maybe the next time you read a book where the superhero woman gets a little nudge from someone else (especially a man), consider how strong she must be to ask, to receive, and to be grateful. And maybe one day when the man least expects it, that woman might just save his hide in return—like I’ve done for my husband. More than once. Because he can’t get out of his own way sometimes.

New Discord Server!

Introducing… 

Crystal and MJ’s Reader/Writer Portal!

I now have a Discord server where you can interact with me in real-time, participate in my online events, and chat with fellow readers!   

​I’ve partnered with my friend and co-author, Crystal Crawford (okay, it was mostly her idea), to create a joint Discord server where we can host online events, chat with our readers, do workshops and info sessions with fellow writers, and more.

​Discord is unique in that it allows me to host a private (invite-only) server where I can set up “Channels” for a variety of different chat topics, do live-streams and screen-shares, host group video chats, host online events, create breakout groups for specific events or topics, post videos and links, and lots of other fun things.  It also allows for users who join — like you! — to text chat in the channels with me (and each other), message other users, and even jump in to group video calls when I set them up. 

​In short, it’s the perfect platform for me to connect with you better, and also for you to find others who have read my books and may want to chat about them, as well as connecting with fellow readers and writers who share your interests.

It also has a fun leveling system where you can Rank up by interacting and chatting in the server.  When you hit each new rank, you get access to special titles and exclusive, story-themed custom emojis… and there’s even a Leaderboard with a special reward for the Top User!

And it’s all FREE for you to join and use!

When you join as a reader (and/or a fellow writer), you’ll immediately find a post which will let you sort yourself into channels based on whether you are a reader or a writer (or both), and whether you are interested in interacting with Crystal, myself, or both of us!   You will also get access to the channels to interact with your fellow readers and/or writers who join our server.

We’re just getting things rolling in the Discord server, but plans for its use include:

Dedicated chatting channels for readers of my books, Crystal’s books, and also our cowritten work

Scheduled live-streams and/or group video sessions with myself and/or MJ (probably usually Crystal—she’s the live video dork, and I hide like the introverted cave-dweller I am!)

Scheduled character chats, book chats, etc., where you can “chat with the characters” from our books and/or find out more about particular book worlds we’ve written

Dedicated chatting channels for fellow writers, with future plans for scheduled writing chats, critique groups, brainstorming groups, and occasional writing workshops

Ask the Author sessions where Crystal and/or myself will be available for questions and discussion via group text or live video

Exclusive Beta-Reading opportunities

Early access to news and announcements

And more!

​I am SUPER excited about the chance to connect more directly with my readers, and I can’t wait for this thing to really get going!

If this sounds like something you’re interested in, join through the link below, and then just follow the prompts/instructions once you set up your account.

Join CRYSTAL & MJ’S READER/WRITER PORTAL Discord Server!

All you need is an email address!  (Discord does have an app for mobile and desktop, but you can also just use your browser.)

You’ll want to check the #welcome-and-rules channel on the left panel first when you enter, and the friendly Server-Bot will walk you through how to get into the server from there! 

…And I’ll be waiting to greet you on the other end. 

Why Write?

People tend to underestimate themselves. I don’t mean a little uncertainty about meeting a deadline or trying a new recipe—I mean, really, truly underestimating their purpose in life. I was one of those people for a long time, but it wasn’t something I thought about a lot. I finished school, went to college, got the obligatory gazillion degrees, got a better job when I got out of college, got married, had a kid… and then my world screeched to a total halt.

I realized once I had my child that I had no idea who I was. No clue whatsoever. My husband and I decided early in my pregnancy that I would stay home and raise our child. It was more my choice than his, but he supported my decision, which worked wonderfully when we moved from Florida to Georgia.

For a long time, I was happy just being a stay-at-home mom to an infant, but right about the time I morphed from a competent woman who had her life together into a sleep-deprived psycho who didn’t even remember what day of the week it was, I realized I needed more. Then came the guilt parade… because needing more than being a mother was selfish, right? Well, it felt that way when my daughter was only a few months old, and post-pregnancy hormones wreaked havoc on every aspect of my life, including the part that told me I was not a horrible person if I wanted more than feeding a baby, changing her diapers, and trying to decipher just what the heck she wanted when she was screaming like a banshee.

One night, I’d just had enough. The baby was like a mini-tornado for hours before she finally fell asleep for the night, my husband (a firefighter) was on shift, and I was too tired to care that the dishes were piled to the ceiling. All I wanted to do was pace. I paced and paced until I realized what I needed was to get the feelings in my head down on paper. I had never been one to journal, so trying to do that only made things worse. For Heaven’s sake, why couldn’t I just be like a normal person and write down how I felt?

Turns out, I’m not the only person who can’t do that. Lots of people can’t do it, so I thought I’d write a story to deal with all of my emotions (side note, I was also dealing with post-partum depression and grief over tragically losing a childhood friend to suicide.) What happened was a story that incorporated a lot of me, a little of several friends, and a heaping helping of regret all rolled into an account that became quite popular on Wattpad. The Yellow Note, my very first full-length novel, was a hit that amassed over 3 million reads before I removed it from the writing platform and published it.

That was a few years ago, and though I realize there were TONS of ways I could have made that book so much better, I also know that it is perfect just how it is because it was the first time I realized I had something to say. I could be more than a stay-home mom, a homemaker, a homeschool teacher, a personal chef, a maid, and all those other things we do all day every day. I could have a career that was all mine—directed, grown, designed, and crafted by me.

It was pretty wild to discover something I enjoyed so much in my late thirties. I know, I know, that’s not old, but when you are dog-tired, and your brain is too fried to even remember how many times you washed that load of laundry, discovering a new talent is fun and exciting.

So that’s it, the craziest thing I ever learned about myself (okay, maybe not the craziest, but the wildest I’m going to discuss with readers), and it just so happened to be something I could turn into a career I adore.

What is your passion? When did you discover it? What’s the craziest thing you ever learned about yourself?

If you are interested in reading The Yellow Note, the first book in The Secret Author Series, it is available at Amazon.