I see this a lot in my reader groups: people (particularly girls) asking for recommendations of novels with strong female leads. And then inevitably, fifty people comment with various novels they love and recommend. And almost exclusively, the novels feature ass-kicking women with hyper-masculine tendencies and abilities that somehow mark them as “strong.”

And inevitably, I roll my eyes.

Now let me just say that I will be the first to admit that I’m a Sarah J. Maas fan, and she is the queen of writing ass-kicking female leads. And I am fully aware of the hypocrisy of my own stance here for even liking her books. But I will just say that any trope, when written well, can be overlooked. Even enjoyed.

But…

It’s still a trope. And it’s one I think we should address.

In today’s society, gender is almost a bad word. There’s a chasm between those who think gender is binary, and the other side who is shouting with ever-louder bellows that gender is much more than we’ve defined before. And for the sake of my own sanity, I won’t get into the nuances of that argument, except to say this: I believe gender is both binary and varied. And I believe that’s what makes humanity beautiful.

Because there are plenty of men who love ballet and art and cooking and reading and playing the piano and performing and [insert any defined “feminine” hobby or preference here]. There are plenty of men who cry at a great movie, who are tender and compassionate, who are not afraid of their emotions. And they are no less masculine for it. Because masculinity has nothing to do with what you enjoy, nothing to do with your personality, and everything to do with innate responses to the world around you.

And the same goes for females. As far as the pink-loving, glitter wearing, ruffle-clad gender norms are concerned, I am not the typical female. My favorite color is black. I like to hunt and fish. I’d rather be in the mountains. I don’t wear high heels. My cuticles look like crap most of the time.  I can’t stand most romantic comedies. And my favorite movie is Braveheart. Yet I am fully female and fully feminine and I am glad to be. I don’t consider femininity weak, lesser, or of any less value than masculinity.

So it really bothers me when modern culture purports that in order for a woman to be strong, she must take on masculine characteristics. Like it or not, women are, by nature, physically weaker than men. We are not capable of the feats most men are. Of course there are exceptions. Of course. But as a rule, my husband can do more physically than I can. And that does not make me weak. It makes me different. Because believe me, there are plenty of things I can do that he cannot.

So when authors write female leads who can fight like a man and take down most of them, it bothers me. (If you’re a Maas fan, I know you’re probably saying, “But Morgan, Aelin [Throne of Glass] is also feminine! She loves dresses and chocolates and pretty things and…” Yeah. I know. But I would argue that it is not a love of dresses that makes one feminine. Why can’t a man have an appreciation for fashion? Why does that make him less masculine? Why can’t a woman not have an appreciation for fashion? Does that make her any less feminine?) Why should the ability to fight like a man mark a woman as strong enough? Why shouldn’t innate nurturing and empathy be marks of strength? (I won’t even go into childbearing, childbirth, and child rearing. Because God help us if a man ever had to experience a contraction. But I digress.)

Let’s flip this coin and look at it from another perspective. My husband cannot and does not see the world the way I do. He does not consider the reasons behind what people do first—he considers whether or not what someone has done is a reason for recourse. Protection first. Consideration second. But not me. As a woman, I default to considering the why behind actions first. I stop to think about what makes people the way they are, and often that leads me to give grace and mercy before acting. And likewise, it often leads me to advise my husband to do the same. Where his instinct is to protect first, mine is to nurture first.

And both of things are good. Of equal importance. And equally strong.

I don’t need to kick ass in order to prove my strength. My husband does not need to watch a rom-com in order to prove his sensitivity. We can be different—complimentary—and be at our best. Strong. Beautifully nuanced.

It became my heart’s anthem to find a way to convey this genuinely. I wanted to show what I’ve learned from my own marriage—that complimentary qualities are better when they’re together. And that inherent masculinity is strength just as much as is inherent femininity.

It’s the very reason I wrote Elizabeth (the main character in The Promised One) to be the way she is. She speaks her mind. She does not think of Ferryl as superior or stronger or better. Nor does she think of herself as superior or stronger or better.

They are equal.

*Gasp.* What a concept.

My two main characters are equal. Partners. Masculinity and femininity working together. Side by side. Not in front or behind. And as their story progresses, you see this more and more. Without spoiling anything for those of you who haven’t read it yet, I will simply say that their story is one of showing how feminity is its own kind of strength, just as needed and powerful as a man. And it has nothing to do with high heels and dresses and ribbons and bows. It’s a story that shows how we were designed to compliment each other, not vie for the title of “strongest.”

Perhaps that’s the whole point. Because perhaps femininity and masculinity are stronger when they’re together.

The Promised One – Finalist: Religious Fiction

American Book Fest: Best Book Awards 2018

I am so honored and excited to share that The Promised One (The Chalam Færytales, Book I) was a finalist in the American Book Fest Best Book Awards for 2018! Nominated in the religious fiction category, to be among the finalists is an honor! You can see a full listing of the finalists and winner here. And you can read the full press release from the American Book Fest here.

Hi my friends! You have no idea how excited I am that you are a part of this journey. By becoming a VIP and joining my Lair, you are helping me in a very real way. Your support means more books, more music, and more art, to more people! I cannot thank you enough for joining me in this labor of love!

So let’s have a little fun, shall we?

Below, you will find the first chapter of what I lovingly call the Lost Novel of The Chalam Færytales series. To give a little backstory, somewhere in the midst of writing what I thought was the last novel of the series (because what was originally 3 books is now 8, but I digress), I knew that I needed to tell the story of those pesky moths. Because after all, WHAT THE HECK ARE THEY? *grins*

As the book unfolded, I knew that their story was more than a few chapters could convey. And sure enough, that story birthed into its own book in my mind. So I started writing. What I thought would be a novella—a tidy little companion story—ended up being a full-blown novel all about those moths. I couldn’t believe it! And funny enough, it turned out to be one of my favorite storylines in the series (so far).

So let me introduce you to Meren, Fa, Asher, and the gang. I hope you love them as much as I do. And I hope you enjoy this journey into a tiny world.

Also, please keep in mind that because you are a VIP, you are reading a raw manuscript. It has NOT been professionally edited yet. That means I want your input. Tell me your thoughts. Tell me ideas you have. Tell me glaring errors you can’t ignore (hahah). I want your feedback and I want YOU to help me write this book!

And one more thing: even though this is a WIP (work in progress), it is still protected by intellectual property rights. Any unauthorized duplication of any part of this work is a violation of applicable laws. (This includes screen shots, copy/pasting, or re-typing. Don’t share this folks. I will find you….)

Anyhoo…. Let the fun begin!

The Perdurables

Copyright Morgan G Farris, 2019. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.

Chapter One

The attacks—they always happened in the open air—the wind in her face, the skies clear and cool, and she a target, a beacon. A fool. She banked hard left, dodging a branch as she made for the cover under the canopy.

The attacks always happen in open air, she scolded to herself. This one would be no exception.

She flew as hard as her wings could carry her, not daring to risk the time it might cost her just to look over her shoulder, to see how close they were. The forest stretched before her—a maze of shadow and moonlight, flora and rot. She could not fly hard enough, her own breath shards of ice in her lungs.

She didn’t need to look to know how close they were. She could practically taste the foul air around them as she sped through the night, cutting through the air, around trees like a human weapon—a blade, honed for killing. Four. There were four of them this time, damn it!

Maybe they were the murderers, but she was no blade. And she was certainly no human.

But tonight… maybe tonight she was a shooting star, outrunning the darkness that chased her.

The darkness that had chased her for as long as she could remember.

She picked up speed, a streak of lightning through the damning darkness.

~

“Holy Eloah, Meren, you look like shit!”

“Thanks, Ash,” she said, brushing past her friend. She plopped down on her dandelion fluff cushion, helping herself to a huge cup of water before so much as taking a breath.

Asher stood in the doorway with his arms crossed, furrowing his brow. No, not furrowing his brow. His brow was in a constant state of furrowed. Because he was always miffed with her for one reason or another. Like the brother she never had. Or wanted. She rolled her eyes, keeping her attention on her glorious cup of water, kissed with just the perfect amount of honeysuckle nectar, ignoring the ache in her back.

Fast. She had had to fly fast this time. Too fast. Her wings seemed to scream in protest.

She picked broken leaves from her thatch of curly hair. One of these days, those bastards were going to catch up with her.

“What happened?” Asher scowled, his legs spread shoulder-width apart, his face set in a determined grimace.

“You know what happened, Ash,” she said, not bothering to look at him. But that midnight hair of his, that skin rich and dark, those thick arms peeking out from under his sleeveless oak leaf tunic—he was hard to ignore for long. There weren’t any of the legendary warrior færies left—all of them either murdered or tortured decades ago. But Asher with his human-like weapons he had fashioned himself out of bone and stone, Asher with his short temper and feral need to prove himself—he was as close as it came. One of those weapons—a bone blade so jagged she doubted it left much that was recognizable when he was done with it—hung menacingly from his belt.

“Tell me anyway,” he said, glaring at her from across the odd-shaped room.

She picked at the vines growing around her cushion, silently reminding herself to prune soon lest her little nook in the chalam tree become overrun with the nuisance growth, still not bothering to meet his pointed stare, uninterested in another one of his lectures. When he let the silence grow long and damning between them, she finally sighed through her nose, taking another long drink before she said, “I don’t know how they always find me.”

“I do.”

“Here it comes,” she said, but he ignored her, pushing off of the jamb.

“You’re too brazen, Meren. You take too many risks.” He crossed the room, one step at a time. Asher always opted to walk instead of fly when he was frustrated. She lifted her gaze to his, but showed no remorse, no apology. “It’s not safe for you out there.”

“We can’t hole ourselves up in this coven forever, Asher. Jotham is wrong. We can’t keep pretending like nothing is going on. There are more of us, I know it.”

“We’re not pretending like nothing is going on.” Another step. Another. Closing the gap between them. Towering over her like he was…

“Stop acting like you’re my father, Ash.”

That comment—he didn’t like that comment one bit. He knelt before her, gripping her chin a little too firmly, his face—his entire countenance shifting to something… Something she wasn’t sure she liked.

“I’m not your father,” he said, his tone menacing, reprimanding. “But you’ll forgive me if you scare the shit out of me too often.”

She breathed a laugh, unable to move her face for his fingers still firm on her chin. But the way he was looking at her…

“Stop,” she said, jerking her chin from his grip.

She could feel his searing gaze on her for a long moment before he finally sighed, pushing on his knees as he stood again.

“You can’t keep hoping you’ll be fast enough to outfly them, Mer,” he said, taking to her hearth, stoking the flames to life.

“I’ve outflown them every time,” she said, watching him as he gathered a loaf of bread that was probably too hard to eat.

His back was still to her as he said, “That is beside the point.”

“I’m faster than you, Asher. And I’m faster than they are. They’re not going to catch me.”

He turned to face her, the knife in his hand like an extension of his arm. “And what happens when they do?”

It was the concern in his eyes—sincere and suffocating—that kept her from exploding into a fit of frustration. It had been that genuine concern that had kept her from killing him most of the time.

She stood to her feet and padded across the shiny wooden floor, putting a hand on his shoulder.

Friends, that’s what they were. What they had always been. What they would always be.

“I’ll be all right, Ash,” she said as kindly as she could.

To her surprise, he seized the moment to close the remaining distance between them, to set down the knife he was using to slice the stony loaf and put his warm hands on either side of her face. “I worry about you, Mer.”

“I know,” she said, brushing him off. “It’s annoying.”

He breathed a laugh through his nose, the small gesture changing his whole demeanor. “When are you going to let me take care of you?”

She nodded to the loaf of bread. “What do you call that?”

“Sustenance,” he said. “You seem incapable of so much as boiling water.”

“I am not,” she protested.

He laughed and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her into a bone-crushing hug. His fiery wings flickered softly—a cat swishing its tail as it lazed in the sun.

She absently watched those wings over his shoulder before she pushed out of his arms, pressing a smacking kiss to his cheek and then trodding to her bed, plopping down on the fluffy feathered mattress.

He turned back to bread and set about buttering a slice.

“I’ll be much more impressed when you learn to make me toadstool soup,” she quipped.

He kept his back to her. “That will never happen.”

“Why?” she protested.

He looked over his shoulder, a sly grin on his mouth. “Because it’s disgusting.”

“It is not!” she barked, incensed. It was, in fact, her favorite. And had been since she was a youngling.

“You have terrible taste, Mer,” he said, still buttering the slices. She stuck out her tongue at his back and those formidable amber wings of his, lined in black, sliced with patterns of gold and crimson.

By no means a cook, Asher was, at least, somewhat aware of her needs. She was starving, after all. Which was why, she supposed, that she let him come in here, let him act like this was his home, his things. Let him feed her like she was a helpless færyling.

Just as he had always treated her like a helpless færyling.

She rolled her eyes and flopped onto her belly, turning the giant page of a book she had found on one of her ventures—a mortal story. Of prophecies, and kings, and wars, and epic love.

“I still can’t believe you made me lug that stupid thing in here,” he said over his shoulder.

It was true. The book was not færy-sized. No, it was a human book she had found. Found and then sweet-talked Asher into helping her heave it up the side of the tree and into her little home. Which, consequently, was hardly large enough for the book. She had turned it into a platform, a dais of sorts, on which she sat as she read it. Asher had suggested she throw a cushion on top and call it a bed. She had merely rolled her eyes and set about reading it.

And it had fascinated her. Page by page, she hadn’t been able to put it down.

“Why do the humans call these stories færytales?” she asked absently as Asher drizzled honey from the comb on a slice of the crusty bread. “They don’t even believe in færies anymore. They think we’re butterflies or moths or something.”

“Eloah knows,” he said. “Humans are strange.”

Strange, perhaps. But intriguing. And as Meren read more of her book, she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to meet a human. To help them as the færies once had.

To be a true færy of the Light.

He turned to face her at last, bringing her a slice of honeyed bread, biting into one of his own. “Jotham wants us to meet tomorrow,” he said around the unnecessarily large bite in his mouth.

She ignored the sight of him chewing the food and took a bite of her own. She swallowed before she said, “Why? So that he can tell us to keep hiding? Keep pretending like they won’t find us as long as we stick together?” She savagely ripped another bite, frustration mounting as she chewed on the tough bread. The butter and honey did little to hide the fact that it was as hard as a rock.

“It’s a good plan, Mer.”

“It’s a coward’s plan,” she quipped.

“I suppose you have a better one,” he said, but she didn’t answer. “That’s why you went out there tonight, isn’t it?” When she still didn’t answer, he sighed. “Meren, what is it that you think you’re going to find?”

“More of us, Ash. I know there are more of us.”

“There aren’t,” he said, standing to his feet. “They’re all dead. Just like you will be if you keep going out there.”

“So this is it?” she barked, standing to her feet. “This is our life forever? Hiding here, hoping we won’t be found?”

“It’s better than dying, isn’t it?” he yelled.

“Hardly!”

“Meren—“

“Ash, I’m tired of this! I’m tired of hiding away like a coward. I’m going to do something. I have to do something!”

He crossed the space between them, gripping her shoulders in his calloused hands. “You are one færy, Meren. One. What exactly do you think you will do?”

“Whatever it takes,” she said, and pushed out of his grip.

So there it is! The first chapter of The Perdurables! Tell me what you think in the comments, or hop on over to the Facebook group to discuss! (You must be a Patron at The Lair in order to join.)

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