Friday, November 28, 2014

What Books Are You Thankful You Read? (Favorite Books Post No. 4)

This year has been a good year, and I have more to be thankful for than I could put into a hundred posts. So, being a writer, I figured I'd narrow it down to books. Which still could take more than a hundred posts, so I decided to write about three books: one from childhood, one from college, one from the last few years.

The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

In first grade, my teacher left school for several months to have a baby, and we had a wonderful substitute teacher. Every day she read to us from C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It captivated me instantly with the scene where Lucy hides in a wardrobe during hide-and-seek. She plunges into the furs hanging there, putting one hand out so she doesn't hit the back of the wardrobe. Instead, she finds herself in a forest with snow falling around her. I wasn't sure what a wardrobe was, but from context decided it was like a closet. After that, every closet I could get to, I felt along the back for a secret door to the land of Narnia. Similarly, I didn't know what Turkish Delight, the treat the Snow Queen gives little Edmund that only makes him long for more, was. (Okay, I still don't, so if anyone would like to fill me in, feel free). I imagined it tasted like my favorite candy, which was Watermelon Jolly Rancher hard candy, only liquid so it could be poured out of a bottle. I loved to read, and I'm sure I'd already read, or had read to me, other books that involved magical worlds, but The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the first one that stands out in my mind. Lewis' vivid descriptions drew me into Narnia. And the story gave me the sense that there were amazing worlds and possibilities just a stretch of an arm away.  

Atlas Shrugged

I came across Ayn Rand in a Philosophy 101 class. The textbook mentioned almost in passing a philosophy of enlightened self-interest that held a man's proper moral goal was his own happiness. (Ironically, that's how Rand phrased it, despite that she created one of my favorite women heroes.) My professor, when I asked to learn more, told me to read Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged, and I did. On a practical level, Rand's heroes Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon gave me models of women and men excited and passionate about their work. Most people I knew viewed their jobs as a sort of a necessary evil, and each work week as something to be gotten through to get to the weekend. I knew few people who ran businesses or who finished college. On an emotional level, the idea that a person ought to pursue happiness changed my view of life. My mom, raised in a very poor immigrant family during the Depression, believed happiness was more likely in the next life than this one. At the time, the Catholic Church fostered that type of mindset. We were told most people needed to suffer after death in a place called Purgatory to pay for their sins. Then they could be allowed into heaven. If you suffered in life, that shortened your time in Purgatory. So my mom believed if you were too happy in life, you'd have to suffer for it later. In retrospect, I think this was her way of believing in some sort of fairness, a way to balance out that some people at least seemed to have better and happier lives than others. Atlas Shrugged gave me an alternative approach, one that said that achievement and happiness and success all fit together and that it was moral to want the same positive, good things in your own life that you believed were good for others.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Philosophy

I found this book while browsing in Borders one day. I love Buffy, and I'd never taken philosophy beyond the 101 class. This book seemed like a painless way to cover some of the ground I'd missed. But it turned out to do more than that. For one thing, I learned a lot about writing from it, particularly how ethics and a world view can make a story rich and layered without slowing it. Much as I'd liked Atlas Shrugged, it was as if Rand didn't trust her readers to draw the "right" conclusions, so she'd inserted treatises within the novel. Probably good for reaching someone like me who wasn't inclined to read her non-fiction cover-to-cover, but not a model of how I wanted to write fiction. Buffy and Philosophy peeled apart plots to show me how the ethics of Buffy creator Joss Whedon made the storylines stronger and the characters deeper without any preaching. The book also helped me understand my own world view and why Buffy spoke to me beyond just being a good show with strong characters. I'd long ago rejected most of Catholicism, though not the values I'd learned along the way. I struggled to articulate the source of my beliefs on right and wrong. The first essay in Buffy and Philosophy speaks to this, positing eudaimonism as the ethical basis of Buffy. Eudaimonism "holds that the basis of moral goodness is the fulfillment of human nature to its highest potential....The Buffyverse consistently reflects the Platonic view that a just person is always happier than an unjust person." (See the first essay, Faith and Plato, pp. 7-8.) The essay shows how this plays out throughout the show and in spinoff Angel, particularly through the dynamic of Buffy and Faith, initially drawn as the "good slayer" and "bad slayer."  

So those are my three books. I'd love to hear about yours, so feel free to comment below. And Happy Day-After-Thanksgiving!

-----------------

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best sellers The Awakening and The Unbelievers. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases, click here to join her email listThe Awakening series is also available on barnesandnoble.com.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Critiquee's Choice or The Truth About Praise and Blame

In my other life as a lawyer, my colleagues and I have a running joke. One day your client says you are the best attorney in the world, worth every penny (that would be the day you win a trial, an appeal, or a crucial motion), the next day you have no idea what you're doing and it's unbelievable you graduated law school (that would be the day the judge rules against you). Sometimes it's the same client sending those conflicting messages. As the author of Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff notes, if you take either praise or blame too much to heart, you’ll live on an emotional roller coaster. This is why many authors I know don’t read reviews of their books. So is there anything to be learned from the comments (especially the negative ones) people make about our work or other aspects of our lives? That depends upon a few factors.

The first is how specific the critique is. No doubt like most people, I prefer "loved it" to "hated it" (so feel free to write a few "loved it" reviews of my latest release, The Unbelievers), but what I value most are comments that pinpoint what worked and/or didn't. For example, one reader wrote that she really liked the supernatural pregnancy aspect of The Awakening (Book 1 in my occult thriller series) and found it to be fast paced and intriguing, but she felt the male characters were overall portrayed negatively as compared to the female characters. That certainly wasn't my intent, but on reflection, I could see where someone could read the book that way. So in Book 2, The Unbelievers, I focused one of the sub-plots on two of the male characters and delved into their stories and motives more. That ultimately became one of the greatest strengths in the story. On the other hand, I didn't learn anything from a 1-star review that said “Meh – not for me.” Or, though they made me smile, from 4 and 5-star ratings on Goodreads with no comments.

Can we learn from the comments (especially the negative ones) others make about us? 


Another thing to consider when deciding whether praise or blame tells you anything useful is the emotional context. A client's comments about my legal ability just after a win or a loss are less likely to reflect accurately my actual legal skills or the service I delivered than the same client's feedback after a year of working together that included both ups and downs.

Perhaps what matters most is understanding the critic's preferences. I have a friend whose decorating advice I’d take any day of the week, even if she told me my favorite lamp needed to be hidden away where no one but me would see it. I love the way her home looks and admire her taste. Plus we both love hardwood floors and antiques, and we both are definitely not fans of matched sets of anything. Or of ruffles. On the other hand, her interest in fashion is minimal and her clothing choices are ultra-conservative. If she told me my shoes were too flashy, it's unlikely I'd change my footwear. Likewise, when I see a review of one of my thrillers, whether it’s positive or negative, I often check to see what else the reader has reviewed. One reader complained that the characters in The Awakening raced around too much and there wasn't even a good love scene. Her other reviews were mostly of romance novels. While I'm sorry she didn't like the book, I didn't change the pacing or plot of Book 2 because of it. The racing around that she didn't like is what makes fans of Dan Brown and Dean Koontz call The Awakening and The Unbelievers fast-paced page-turners, which is what I was aiming for.

If I tried to make every potential reader happy, I'd probably produce terrible books that zigzagged all over the place, So I do my best, in writing and in life, to appreciate anyone who takes the time to give feedback, and to pay the most attention to those critiques likely to help me get better and better. That makes my life more peaceful and, I hope, my work the best it can be.

-----------------


Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best sellers The Awakening and The Unbelievers. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases, click here to join her email list. The Awakening series is also available on barnesandnoble.com.





Friday, September 26, 2014

Why I Admire My Mom

For the 3 1/2 years I've written this blog, the post that has consistently gotten the most hits is Why I Love V.I. As the title suggests, it's about fictional female private eye V. I. Warshawski, created by Chicago-area novelist Sara Paretsky. The post's popularity tells me I'm not the only person who likes to read about strong women. The devoted fan base of books and movies like The Hunger Games and Divergent underscores that. Which is why I decided to write more posts about women, real and fictional, whom I admire. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized the first woman I admired was my mother.

My first memory of visiting downtown Chicago involves my mom taking me to a protest. I was about nine or ten. My mom was strongly pro-life (or anti-abortion, depending how you frame it). The rally took place at the Daley Center. Groups of people waved signs and shouted slogans. I also remember my mom pointing out The Picasso in Daley Plaza. (She asked me what I thought it was supposed to be. I said a bird. She told me a lot of people held different views about what the sculpture was and struggled to explain the concept of abstract art. I still saw a bird. Really -- look at it, it's a bird.)

When I was in grade school, our suburb's village president was charged with income tax fraud and extortion. My mom helped form a citizens' group to seek more information about the charges and spread the word as, in true Chicago-area style, the man and his political party remained extremely popular. The former president was eventually convicted, and the citizens' group morphed into a competing political party. My mom never ran for office herself, but I remember her going door to door talking to neighbors about the issues, distributing political literature and posters, and organizing fundraising events.

When then President Nixon was impeached over the Watergate scandal, my mom had me watch hearings about it on television though I was in third or fourth grade. She told me I needed to pay attention because I'd never see a president impeached again in my lifetime. She also took me to the movie All the Presidents' Men. While what I mainly remember from the movie was the popcorn tasting like buttered cardboard (and while my mom was wrong about never again seeing a president impeached), that experience prompted me to read All the Presidents' Men as an adult as well as In the Arena by Richard Nixon.

I'm grateful to my mom for letting me know early on that being a citizen is a privilege and imposes responsibilities. And that if I don't think something in the world is right, I need to go out and try to change it, not wait for someone else to do something.

Today (September 26), is my mom's birthday. This post is one way to remember her. Another way I honor both my mom and my dad, whose lives were ended in 2007 by someone else's choice to drive while intoxicated, is to support AAIM, an Illinois non-profit that works to prevent DUI-related deaths and injuries and to help victims of DUI drivers. If there's a woman who influenced you in a positive way, please consider donating to a cause today in her honor. And if she's still here with you, please take a moment to let her know how she inspired you. I wish I had done that more often with my mom.


-----------------



Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases, including The Unbelievers (The Awakening, Book 2), click here to join her email list. To pre-order The Unbelievers for Kindle click here.   









Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Extant, Transcendence, and Who’s Talking To Whom

The concept of recent sci-fi movie Transcendence – what if a human’s brain becomes an A.I.? – fascinated me, and I enjoyed the film. What bothers me is that despite one of the two main characters being a woman, Dr. Evelyn Caster, I can’t remember, in the entire movie, any woman speaking one-on-one with any other woman. About anything. 

I understand men outnumber women in the hard sciences, but Evelyn has not a single woman friend to support her in a crisis? I also understand that writers can’t throw in scenes solely to show a character has friends. Yet, somehow, men in the movie talk to one another, not only to women. It wouldn't be so bad if Transcendence were unique. But in so many action, sci-fi, and suspense movies, and often TV shows as well, women interact primarily, if not exclusively, with men. Even in romance movies, where women are shown as having female friends, the only topic the women typically discuss  with each other is men. I can’t help wondering whether film and television writers and directors truly believe this is how women’s lives work.

One reason I love the new CBS show Extant is the relationship between main character Molly and her best friend and physician Sam (Samantha). I started watching Extant because of the mysterious pregnancy aspect. No surprise, given my love for the book Rosemary’s Baby and movie The Terminator. Extant is well acted, with compelling plot lines, and I love the Sam/Molly dynamic. Molly trusts Sam, and Sam puts herself and her career on the line for Molly. When drastic circumstances push them into conflict, they strive to understand one another through the depths of their anger and fear rather than becoming enemies or, worse, engaging in the emotional equivalent of a hair-pulling fight. Or, worse still, engaging in an actual hair-pulling fight, which I’ve never seen two women do in real life, but have seen several times on TV.

Women colleagues have played a pivotal role in my life. Soon after I became a lawyer, I had a case opposite a woman attorney who also had just started practicing law. Each time we appeared in court, we waited our turn among about thirty other lawyers – nearly all men. The opposing attorney and I argued vigorously in court, but before and after we talked about being lawyers, our law schools, and where to find good pantsuits (most stores sold only skirt suits at the time). We ran into each other at professional events after the case was over and eventually became friends. Ten years later, I stood up at her wedding. Other women attorneys generously shared information about finances, hiring staff, and computers when I started my own law practice.


In my writing life, too, women have been wonderful advisers and friends. Through social media, I met New York Times bestselling author Melissa Foster, who invited me to join a thriller book launch she organized and gave me marketing advice. Through Melissa, I met Chicago-area horror author Carrie Green. Carrie and I had a blast presenting a panel at Chicago Comic Con called Girls Gone Gore. (The title was Carrie’s idea – mine was much less exciting – Women Writing Horror.)

Men, too, have been wonderful mentors and colleagues to me, and I owe several a great debt. So my point is not that women are better friends and mentors to women than men are. My point is that women are friends and advisers to one another. If I saw more stories like Extant that portrayed women as the real people we are, with professional and personal relationships with one another that are as strong and varied as men’s are, I would go to movies and watch television a lot more. I suspect a lot of other women would to.

-----------------

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases, including The Unbelievers (The Awakening, Book 2), click here to join her email list. To pre-order The Unbelievers for Kindle click here.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pete Spencer Held Prisoner - Excerpt from The Unbelievers (Book 2 in The Awakening series)

Reader Kerri Geiser attended a book release party for the paperback edition of The Awakening and won the right to have a character named after her in Book 2 in the series.  Below is an excerpt that includes an interchange between her character and Tara's father, Pete Spencer, from The Unbelievers, set to be released in September, 2014. These scenes occur around the middle of The Unbelievers but contain no spoilers, so feel free to read away:


***

Pete lay on thin carpet over what felt like a metal floor that swayed beneath him. His shoulders ached. When he opened his eyes, he saw only black. No light seeped in around the edges of the blindfold. His hands were bound behind him.

Bouncing, rattling. A van. I’m in the back of a panel van. He tried to move his feet, but they, too, were tied together. At least he wasn’t gagged.

“Cyril?”

No answer.

Pete kicked his feet in unison. They hit what felt like metal. A clanging sound echoed around him. He rolled along the carpeted floor until he banged into what must be a side of the van. It seemed too long to be the back. His body fit lengthwise against it. His head felt fuzzy. He had no idea how long he’d been out.

The van jounced, and his right knee smacked the floor at the perfect angle to send shooting pain along his inner thigh. His shoulders and upper arms ached from having his hands behind his back. Otherwise, though, his body didn’t seem battered. Pete worked his wrists and felt the rope stretch. Whoever had bound him hadn’t done so tightly. He considered whether Cyril had lured him to the church and set the trap. But much as he wanted to blame Cyril, he couldn’t see what the man stood to gain. 

But if Cyril’s not part of this, where is he? And what could anyone else want with me?

Pete froze, forgetting the ropes for a moment. Tara. They want to get to Tara.

***

A door slammed. From inside the panel van, heart hammering, Pete listened to footsteps crunch in snow. He simultaneously regretted that he’d stayed so distant from Tara since Fimi’s birth and cursed her for not keeping quiet about her unusual pregnancy. Telling anyone beyond the family placed them all in danger. 

“My name is Kerri Geiser, Mr. Spencer. I will open the doors in a moment. I apologize for the method of transport. It is important that you not know where you have been taken if you decide not to help us.” 

A woman’s voice, but not the priest’s wife. The accent sounded Russian, with rolled R’s, stressed syllables, and the W’s pronounced like V’s.

Help you do what? Pete thought, struggling with the ropes around his wrists. Was it a bad sign that Kerri Geiser had given him her name? If it was her real name. For the first time, he wished he’d taken boxing or martial arts like his father had wanted him to do. He might know something more about fighting, as Cyril no doubt did. He’d been in pretty good shape before Megan’s death; he’d found a way to work out every other day, at least by swimming half an hour at the Y. But since then he’d let it slide, and he’d become softer and weaker. He’d let a lot of things slide.

He heard creaking as the doors opened, and a blast of icy air hit him. His down jacket had come most of the way unzipped, and he was sweating from his struggles, so he felt chilled and clammy. No light seeped in around the edges of the blindfold, so it must be after sunset.

“Slide forward until you sit at the back bumper of the van,” Geiser said.

He inched his body through the dark toward the cold air, his shoulder joints protesting the unnatural position they’d been forced into. Based on her voice, Pete guessed the woman’s age as mid-thirties. But he was probably wrong. He’d met many clients in person after speaking to them on the phone whose voices matched their looks not at all.

“Why am I here?” He maneuvered into a sitting position, a challenge with his hands behind his back, and put his feet on the ground.



The Unbelievers by Lisa M. Lilly will be released in September, 2014.  If you'd like to be notified of the release date, please click here to join the author's email list


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Work, Wine, Twitter & The Hop

I've met many fun, kind and talented people through Twitter. One of them is fantasy writer Kyle Newton, whose sense of humor I love, and who tagged me in a blog hop. His blog is required reading for me when I need inspiration or want to laugh or both. 

As for what I'm up to (required questions for hopping):

1 – What am I working on (or struggling not to work on in my version of the hop) –

Here's the crazy thing I discovered - when you work for yourself, it's hard to not work. In contrast, when you work for someone else, you can count on resentment keeping workaholism in check, at least a little, because you ask yourself, "How dare they ask me to work every single evening and weekend? Who do they think they are to demand that?" Unfortunately (or fortunately for my bottom line), I seem to have pretty high expectations of myself as an employee. But I'm really nice to work for, so that helps balance it. Right now, I'm trying hard not to work on Book 2 in my Awakening series, as I want to take a fresh look at the manuscript after being away from it for at least a month before I do final revisions. This feels a lot like when it's 7 at night and I'm at my law office doing just one more thing before I go home. It can wait until morning. Really.

2 – How does my work differ from others its genre?

I first got on Twitter the same year I published The Awakening (yes, I waited until just before I published the book to learn about Twitter - probably not a good idea but I was working a lot -- see above). That's when heard about the Bechdel test for movies. It's a pretty minimal test -- does any (named) woman character talk to any other (named) woman character about any subject other than a man? It's pretty scary how few movies pass, no matter what the genre, and a lot of novels in my favorite genres -- thriller, suspense, horror, occult -- also barely pass. Without being consciously aware of it, that always bothered me, as did how often women are victims of crimes in books and movies. (See Stranger Danger, Comic Con and Girls Gone Gore for more on this.)  So when I wrote The Awakening, I wanted both a woman protagonist and an experience that reflected my own life, where women have been great friends, colleagues and mentors. That's a little unusual in the occult/thriller genre, though it's becoming more and more common. (Part of why I love the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer is it passes the Bechdel test all the time.) 

3 – Why do I write what I do?

When I was a kid, books were magic to me, as were libraries. In first grade, we had a substitute teacher and she read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us every day for twenty minutes. It was my favorite part of school ever. After that, I constantly pressed my hand against the backs of closets, hoping to push through to the land of Narnia. Though I've read less fantasy as I get older, books still take me to other worlds. Part of why I love writing is that temporary immersion in an entirely separate world and in the lives of people who don't exist outside my head and on the page. 

4 – How does my writing process work?

It involves tea in the morning, usually Earl Grey or Earl Grey Creme (from Teavana - if you haven't tried it you are missing out) and sometimes in the evening (try Republic of Tea's Banana Chocolate if you want one without caffeine -- tastes like a banana split). Evening writing may also require half a glass of wine. My favorite is Meomi Belle Glos Pinot Noir if I want to splurge, otherwise Yellow Tail Shiraz works. Why half a glass? More than that and I'll fall asleep, as I practice law in between writing during the day. Opi Malbec is also good -- about $13 a bottle. Oh, wait, did you really want to know about the actual writing? I spend a lot of time outlining, perhaps a month or two, then race through a first draft as fast as I can (ideally in 2-3 months), then spend three or four times that long editing. I like the editing and revising process most of all the writing stages, as I feel like I have more control. Not that I have control issues, at least no more so than anyone who loves spending time with people she created who live in worlds she created and face obstacles she created. (But, seriously, overall, I'm a pretty healthy person. Just ask any of my characters.)

Tags:

Now it's my turn to tag, starting with, in honor of my love of the Narnia chronicles, fantasy author A.R. Silverberry, author of The Stream and Wynando's Cloak and winner of too many awards to list (though I'm being a little lazy - you can actually see them here): http://www.arsilverberry.com/

and J. Lenni Dorner, urban fantasy writer and author of the Existence book series. Read about the author and series here: http://jlennidornerblog.what-are-they.com/

and Jessica Samuels, a writer I met on Goodreads when I read part of one of her works-in-progress about a vampire in retail (who could resist that?). Visit her here: http://wolfdreamer25-myjourney.blogspot.com/p/writing-book-reviews.html

---------------------

Lisa M. Lilly is the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. If you'd like to be notified of new releases, including The Unbelievers (The Awakening, Book 2), click here to join her email list.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

From My Mother's Bookshelves (Favorite Books Post No. 3)

My mom and dad had in their bedroom three large bookcases, which I thought of as my mom’s because nearly all the books were hardbacks she’d bought from book-of-the-month clubs she’d belonged to in the 1950s and 60s. The books had a slightly musty yet dry old paper and cloth smell I love to this day. Most of them had plain cloth bindings with titles that were barely visible on the sides, as the paper jackets had fallen apart and been discarded.

My favorite book on those shelves was The Elegant Witch. Set in England in the early 1600s, the writing style and sense of irony remind me of Jane Austen, but the plot and mood is suspense/mystery. Protagonist Margery, youngest sibling and misfit in her Puritan family, is sent to live with her kinsman Roger, a Justice of the Peace in the small town of Pendle. Mysterious deaths and illnesses occur often in Pendle and accusations of witchcraft are common. Margery is smart and brave, and she helps Roger with his Justice of the Peace duties and helps unravel the source of the evil in Pendle. (See my full review here.)

Another favorite was The Emperor’s Lady about the life of Empress Josephine of France. It starts when she’s a young woman embarking on an arranged marriage to a pompous young man. I was fascinated by this woman who married, divorced, established a fashionable Paris salon, married Napoleon, was crowned Empress and died without her crown. Josephine was smart and went after what she wanted. She was also unconventional, engaging in infidelities, giving her husband business and political advice, and warring with her in-laws, who spent a lot of time trying to get her set aside because she could no longer have children. The Emperor’s Lady sparked a lifelong interest in France. I was thrilled when despite living on a very tight budget, my mom and dad sent me on a week long school trip to London and Paris, though my parents hadn’t been to Europe themselves and rarely took vacations at all other than to visit family. During the trip, I visited Malmaison, Josephine’s country castle.

I also loved a book called The Concubine, a fictionalized biography of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII. This portrait of Boleyn is far more flattering and probably somewhat more historically accurate than the later book, The Other Boleyn Girl, that was so popular a while back and was made into a movie. In The Concubine, Anne is portrayed overall as neither victim nor villain, but as a complex woman struggling to make the best of the limited options open to a woman in her social position and time period. Over the years, I read several biographies of Boleyn and continue to be fascinated with her. I’ve also read and reread The Concubine to study how author Norah Lofts created such a strong character.

That my mom had a number of books about women, real and fictional, who were strong and didn’t allow themselves to be boxed into the roles society dictated for them isn’t surprising, though when I was a young adult I would have thought it was. While my mom encouraged me to become educated, think for myself, and take advantage of opportunities she never had, as two smart, determined women who were certain we were right (most especially when we disagreed with each other), we often clashed. Over forty years separated my mom and me, so our frames of reference for women’s roles, religion, work, and nearly everything else differed significantly. But at my mom’s funeral, my godmother – a very great lady who recently passed away – gave me a gift. She told me she wished I’d known my mother when my mom was a young woman. Gloria said my mom had done all sorts of things that women her age were not supposed to do. Took trips to New York and California at 18 years old with just another girlfriend and no chaperones, earned her own money, bought her own car, waited more than a decade longer than her friends to get married. Talking with Gloria, I realized that the very traditional, conventional mom I thought I’d had was probably not that different from me after all. It only seemed so because we’d been born in such different times. If I’d thought more about what my mom kept on her bookshelves, I might have realized that sooner.

---------------------

Lisa M. Lilly is an attorney and the author of Amazon occult best seller The Awakening. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in numerous print and on-line magazines, including Parade of PhantomsStrong Coffee, and Hair Trigger, and a short film of the title story of her collection The Tower Formerly Known as Sears and Two Other Tales of Urban Horror was recently produced under the title Willis Tower. She is currently working on The Awakening, Book II: The Unbelievers.  Click here to join her email list.