Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Dream Not Imagined

Do you know what today is? Today is exciting. Why?

Because it's the first day of A Dream Not Imagined's blog tour, of course!

About the Author

Shantelle Mary Hannu was born in the mountainous west, spending her golden childhood years there. Since then, she has relocated time and again with her parents and seven siblings, making cherished memories in both the South and Central United States.

A Christian homeschool graduate, Shantelle has a passion for writing and all things books. From a young age she’s been penning tales with a hope of sharing with the world adventurous and soul-stirring stories that bring glory to God.

A Dream Not Imagined, a fairytale novella, is her first published book. She’s currently preparing a full-length fantasy novel for publication as well, and working on its sequel.Shantelle blogs at A Writer’s Heart: about her stories, favorite books and movies (with reviews), healthy wheat-free recipes, and hosts fellow authors, among other things.

A Dream Not Imagined by Shantelle Mary Hannu

A MAID, a PRINCE, and a DUKE. A GARDENER, a STEPMOTHER, and a secret...

Ellie Abbington, a beautiful yet unassuming young woman, quietly longs for her life to change. Too privileged to associate with the servants—too underprivileged to associate with her own family; she dreams a dream of a prince and a happily ever after.

But it could be that her own stepsisters, conniving Dezmarie and easily-influenced Adelaide, are dreaming the same dream...of the same prince.

In the end, are dreams even all they're made out to be? Especially with deep and long-hidden secrets about to be unearthed?

Author Interview

I had the privilege of interviewing Shantelle for the blog tour! Enjoy!

Kaycee: What is A Dream Not Imagined about?

Shantelle: A Dream Not Imagined is a subtle, non-magical retelling of the classic fairytale, Cinderella. It follows the life and high hopes of a maid named Ellie Abbington.

Kaycee: What inspired A Dream Not Imagined?

Shantelle: I love fairytale retellings, so I had toyed with the idea of writing a Cinderella one for a while. Then author Anne Elisabeth Stengl put on a writing contest, where the stories had to be retelling of Cinderella. I was like, “Yay, let’s go!” I just started writing and the story came. From where . . . I’m not sure. *Shrug* I have lots of stories just floating around in my head.

Kaycee: Haha, I know the feeling. What impact do you hope A Dream Not Imagined will have upon readers?

Shantelle: I hope it will be one of those warm, happy kind of stories for readers in the end. But I also would hope that it has a feel of meaning and profoundness—and leave them with the thought that God has a plan and a future for them.

Kaycee: That sounds amazing! Do you have any other writing projects planned?

Shantelle: Yes! I have piles of story ideas just waiting to be finished! ;D I’m actually polishing and preparing a fantasy novel for publishing at this time. And I started writing its sequel . . . which I should be working on more often . . . *sheepish face*

Kaycee: Awesome! Where can readers find and purchase A Dream Not Imagined?

Shantelle: I published A Dream Not Imagined through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), so you can find it on Later on, I hope to put it in other e-book formats as well, such as Nook and whatnot.

Kaycee: Thank you so much for the interview! Readers, you can find A Dream Not Imagined on Kindle HERE

But that's not all folks! Here's a chance to win a free Kindle copy of A Dream Not Imagined AND an Amazon gift card!

Click HERE to find the giveaway and to learn more about A Dream Not Imagined, the blog tour, and the amazing author herself!

Congratulations on publishing A Dream Not Imagined, Shantelle! I can't wait to read it! ^_^

Sunday, May 3, 2015

5 Strong Literary Female Characters

A little while back, I did a post titled "20 Times Stories Have Made Me Cry". This post is in the same vein, though perhaps a bit deeper than the first.

Ever since I was a little girl, I have absolutely despised sexism. I've been blessed to have been homeschooled, but even then (perhaps more so than if I had gone to school), there is sexism. The patriarchy cult was especially popular. I would find myself growing angry when people tried to force me into their standard of "modest clothing". I became irrationally irritated at my guy friends because they were always picked to pray or lead in worship. I actually grew to despise Proverbs 31 because, in Bible group (the only girl Bible group, I might add), the meaning was twisted to imply that the only aspiration women ought to have is to marry and have kids. I was angry about a lot of things when I was younger, but this is certainly the issue that rankled me the most.

Anger won't solve anything. Thoughtful discussion and civil explanation will. Thankfully, I've learned the true meaning of Proverbs 31, so I am not angry at God anymore over this issue. My current church encourages and pushes women to be leaders and warriors for Christ. I'm slowly getting over my aversion to words that- over the period of time their ideologies were being shoved down my throat- became repulsive to me. Words like "modesty", "godly humility" and, yes, even "purity". Was I right to be angry? Yes, I think it was a righteous anger. The idea of inequality for anyone still angers me, but now I know how to channel the anger into something substantive and helpful.

So! Without further ado (well, maybe one more tiny sentence of ado), here are 5 Strong Female Characters that have shaped, not just my life, but the lives of people everywhere! They are in no particular order, and I could make a list MUCH longer than this, but I feel like 5 is a good place to start.

Final ado: My family was NEVER patriarchal. My dad didn't think it was biblical, and my mom is far too stubborn to have ever bought into it. They have always treated me exactly the same as they have treated my brother. There is no gender bias in my home. However, the same could not be said for many other people I knew.

1. Jane Eyre from Jane Eyre 

Who else could have possibly started this list? Jane Eyre is considered by many to be one of the strongest literary heroines of all time, and is often considered the very first strong heroine. Charlotte Bronte, the author of Jane Eyre, was an incredibly strong woman herself- pursuing feminism objectively and logically. Bronte showed both Jane Eyre and the main male character, Edward Rochester, as humans. Neither were stereotyped or romanticized. They are both flawed individuals searching for meaning, as are we all. However, it takes more than this to create a strong female. Jane is in touch with both her life and her feelings, understanding herself with a quiet and thoughtful knowledge. She knows when she feels love, despair, sadness, and joy; yet she never lets those emotions stand in the way of her principals, though she is tempted to. She stands by her morals, despite what anyone tries to tell her.

2. Vin from Mistborn

Brandon Sanderson is a master at crafting strong female characters. I could fill up this list with characters from Sanderson novels: Marasi, Shallan, Jasnah, Sarene, Tindwyl, Siri, Vivenna... but I decided to simply focus on Vin since she is the heroine of his most popular books, the Mistborn trilogy. Vin begins the story acting and behaving like a boy- it's the only way to avoid getting killed. As her situation improves, and she becomes involved in a political scheme she can't- and perhaps doesn't want to- escape, she balances her femininity and her practicality. Sanderson has her beautifully come to terms with who she is as a person while never once stereotyping or flattening her. Her character grows as her opportunities grow. It's genius and beautiful, and such a nice addition to an epic trilogy.

3. Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird has never been a particular favorite of mine. I don't dislike it, I just never had very strong feelings either way for it. However, having the book written through the point-of-view of a child, a girl, was an incredible literary choice. Firstly, it's poignant because children see the world differently than adults. To children, everything is black and white, while adults become prejudiced based on rumors and experiences and upbringings. Scout doesn't see the convicted man as a black or a white man, but as a person, because she is a child and children often have more clarity on issues of morality than adults do. This is wonderful, but why add Scout to this list? Because she is a person. She is treated as simply a person, a child, in To Kill a Mockingbird. If the novel had been written through the POV of a young boy, I doubt there would be much difference in the telling, and that is brilliant, because it is true to the nature of children.

4. Eowyn from The Lord of the Rings

How could anyone write a post on strong female characters and NOT mention Eowyn? In my opinion, Eowyn is one of the deepest and most complex characters in the LOTR trilogy. She is a woman of paradoxes: small but strong, cold yet warm, steelhearted and passionate. Paradoxes are the symbols of a fascinating person, and Eowyn certainly is that. She is practical, thoughtful, and insightful. She is also proud, cold, and ambitious. She has her strengths and her flaws, and a combination of both lead her to defeat one of the darkest enemies Middle-Earth faced- The Witch King. She did not charge into battle because it was the noble thing to do. She also didn't charge into battle because she wanted to snub her superiors. She sought glory, and she sought to help her people. She felt like both would be best served by joining the battle, where she confronted the wraith and was able to destroy him because those seen as "lesser"- women, Hobbits, and the small things of the earth- were forgotten. She is a person whose mistakes and triumphs shaped her future, like all human beings.

I could go on and on about Eowyn, but I need to wrap this up, soo...

5. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter

I wish I had read Harry Potter in middle-school. I wish I could have read about a girl with bushy brown hair and an obsession with books back when I felt self-conscious about both of those things. I wish I could have read about a girl who proved it was okay, it was right, for a girl to be as smart as she could be. I wish I could have read about a girl who excelled beyond her friends and was never willing to compromise her education for something as petty as a crush. Hermione Granger is such an excellent role model, and is perhaps one of the reasons Harry Potter is as famous as it is. Children need to read book with characters and situations they can relate to. Girls don't need to watch servants become princesses because of a shoe, a guy, and the fact that said servant encompassed society's standard of beauty. Girls need to read about women who pursue their dreams despite the naysayers, who stand by their friends despite the danger, and who fight evil despite the personal cost.

Essentially, to create a strong female character you simply create a human being. Imagine that? I'm glad that many writers are grasping this concept, but unfortunately, there is still quite a long way to go. I was at the theater today, and three out of five of the pre-movie trailers had scenes of women taking their clothes off, not wearing any clothes, or involved in an inappropriate romantic scene. Care to guess how many men were shown provocatively removing their clothes? None.

However, dwelling on the negative won't change anything. The best thing writers can do is to simply work hard at our craft, striving to make all of our characters as realistic and human as possible, while also showing proper respect to all people no matter their race, beliefs, or gender. Hopefully, audiences will begin to notice the difference between good writing and bad writing. Hopefully, audiences will begin to prefer stories with good, interesting characters rather than stereotypes and fantasies. Hopefully... well, hopefully the hope is not unfounded. I think the culture's view of women, especially on the screen and in novels, can change. I hope I'm not wrong.

Who are your favorite strong female characters? Do you think female characters in modern literature are getting stronger or weaker?

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Age of Ultron? Beyond epic. I'll be writing a post about it soon! ^_^