Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Sarah Tolcser

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Sarah Tolcser

​Sarah Tolcser is the author of the Song of the Current series. She lives and writes in a hundred-year-old house in New Orleans. In addition to a lifelong fascination with science fiction and fantasy, she also enjoys video games, NBA basketball, and murder mysteries. The C in Tolcser is silent.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

When I’m asked what my first fantasy book was, my answer is always The Hobbit. If we’re being technical, I didn’t actually read it. My dad read it out loud to us when we were little. I’ll always love that book dearly, but as we all know, it is populated by exactly zero girls.

My very first fantasy that did have girls in it was C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was also the first time I saw something on TV (the BBC production that aired on PBS in the late 80s and had regular-sized British people wandering around in giant beaver suits) and then found out it came from a book. It felt like magic! And then to discover it was not only one book, but seven books? Double magic!

I’m sure lots of girls identified with Lucy — she of the unwavering faith and the sparkling sense of wonder. To me, she felt too perfect. Susan was a practical, motherly type of girl, and I knew that wasn’t me either (although I’ll never not be furious about what C.S. Lewis did to her). The first girl in Narnia who felt like a real girl, like me, didn’t come along until The Silver Chair.

When Eustace first tells Jill Pole about Narnia, he says, “Pole, I say, are you good at believing things? I mean things that everyone here would laugh at?” Jill replies, “I’ve never had the chance. But I think I would be.” I just love that as an introduction to a character. It’s so relatable. We all want to think we’re that kind of person, don’t we? Especially those of us who are reading fantasy books. We want the adventure. And we want to think that, if adventure came to us, we would be good at it. But would we, really?

This is why I love Jill so much. Immediately upon arriving in Narnia, she shows off while balancing on the edge of a cliff and accidentally causes Eustace to fall. Oops?

The Silver Chair, of all the Narnia books, is the one that brings the most realism to the adventure. You can feel the cold of the wild wastelands of the north. It’s the book that describes all the miserableness of camping when the weather is bad and you’re running out of food. What makes Jill Pole so relatable is that she responds to her situation by being grumpy, like we all probably would.

She makes mistakes. She forgets the signs Aslan told her for no particular reason other than laziness. Jill is the sort of girl who snaps at everyone because she’s hangry (Lucy would never). She gets bailed out by others multiple times. But in spite of all this, she doesn’t get kicked out of the adventure. She fights through her mistakes and thrives, despite having the hardest job of anyone (I mean, come on, Eustace and Puddleglum, neither of you could have asked her what the signs are, so she doesn’t have to remember all by herself? Thanks a lot, guys). In a lot of ways, the moral of her journey is that everyone is worthy of a second chance. It’s refreshing, especially in a genre populated by hordes and hordes of heroes who do everything right.

Later we find out Jill is a Girl Guide and is good at finding her way in the woods, something that thrilled me as an outdoorsy kid (and Girl Scout). She can be conniving, like when she charms the giants by pretending to be an innocent little girl, while they look for a way out of Harfang. And she can be kind, like when she rescues and defends Puzzle the donkey. Along with Eustace, Jill is one of the few characters who get genuine growth over the course of the series. By her second appearance, in The Last Battle, she’s stronger, happier, and more capable.

As I got older, I went on to discover other girl fantasy role models — Patricia C. Wrede’s Cimorene, Tamora Pierce’s Alanna, and Anne McCaffrey’s Menolly. And as I look at middle grade and YA today, I’m so proud to see shelves full of such a variety of girls having adventures in other worlds. I’m happy to be able to contribute to that with my books. But I’ll never forget where I started — and I’ll never forget Narnia and my girl Jill.

Title Whisper of the Tide
Author Sarah Tolcser
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Genre Fantasy
Publication Date June 5 2018 by Bloomsbury YA
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

The next book in the immersive fantasy Song of the Current series, set along the waterways of a magical world, perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir and Victoria Aveyard.

Just as there’s a god at the bottom of the river, there is a god who lies under the ocean. And she had other plans for me.

Caro Oresteia spent her life waiting to be called by the river god, as those in her family had been for generations. But when she’s swept away on an adventure to save the Akhaian royal prince, Markos, her destiny is sealed by the sea god instead.

For now, Caro is landlocked, helping Markos reclaim his throne after nearly his entire family was assassinated in a political coup. Without any financial or military support, Markos is desperate for allies, and Caro has fought off more than one attempt on his life. When a powerful Archon offers his army in exchange for Markos’s marriage to his daughter, Caro must choose: her love for Markos, or the fate of Akhaia? And more important: how much is she willing to risk to defy the sea god’s wishes and chart her own course?

With shipwrecks, lost treasure, old and new enemies, dark magic, and breathtaking romance, Sarah Tolcser weaves another epic story about chasing your fate.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Jen DeLuca

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Jen DeLuca

​Jen DeLuca was born and raised near Richmond, Virginia, but now lives in Central Florida with her husband and a houseful of rescue pets. She loves latte-flavored lattes, Hokies football, and the Oxford comma. Well Met is her first novel, inspired by her time volunteering as a pub wench with her local Renaissance Faire.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Please Note: This post is about the book version of Sookie Stackhouse, not the TV show True Blood. Post contains spoilers for the end of the series.

I don’t want to be that person, and say “I liked such and such before it was cool,” but I’m going to anyway. When I picked up a copy of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris and met Sookie Stackhouse for the first time, there were only three books in the series, and the True Blood television series wasn’t even a glimmer in Alan Ball’s eye. I was sucked in (oh no, is that a pun?) from the very first line: I’d been waiting for the vampire for years when he walked into the bar. I inhaled the first three books and waited eagerly for more. The books became an annual tradition, and Sookie became a friend that I got to check in with once a year. Every new installment was a chat around a kitchen table with an old friend, warming my hand around a mug of coffee while Sookie caught me up on what was going on in her life. Part of that feeling was thanks to Harris’s close writing style, where Sookie often spoke to the reader in a conversational tone. But most of it was simply because Sookie was so real. She wasn’t anything fancy. She was a waitress in a small town, with no lofty ambitions. She lived a quiet life and did her best to keep it that way. Things just kept…happening to her and those she loved.

Paranormal romance novels are often about excess. Immortal heroes drive lavish cars, drink top-shelf liquor, and throw around their black AmEx cards. But the world of Sookie Stackhouse was real. It was relatable. It was as lived-in as her home, built by her great-great-great grandfather and added on to over the years. She looked forward to a frozen pizza after a long shift at Merlotte’s. Her vampire boyfriend Bill Compton bought his shirts at Dillard’s. I could relate to Sookie; I often like a Freschetta pizza at the end of a long day myself.

But more than that, the thing that drew me to Sookie, that kept me buying the books and looking forward to that yearly kitchen-table chat, was how Sookie knew exactly who she was, and remained true to herself. Over the course of thirteen volumes, she was thrown into a world containing vampires, shifters, witches, fairies, and Elvis, and she had relationships with most of those (except Elvis; they were just good friends). Despite these overwhelming circumstances, her values and priorities remained the same. She was always honest: to her friends, to her romantic partners, and most importantly to herself and therefore to the reader. She was upfront about her faults, defending her hobby of sunbathing in her yard, knowing it was bad for her, with a “hey it’s my vice cut me a break” attitude. She was honest about who she was, describing her home as nothing fancy but she kept it clean (which usually made me look around my own dog-hair-covered couch with a twinge of guilt – don’t judge me, Sookie!). 

The ending of the series was slightly controversial – most fans wanted her to end up with Eric, but she gave him the boot – but to me it was perfect. Honestly, we all should have seen it coming. After years of relationships with various men who wanted her to change, wanted her to be something other than who she was, she ended up with bar owner/shifter Sam Merlotte. Sam, who had been the one person throughout the series who stuck up for her, supported her, and never asked her to change a single thing about who she was. He loved her for her, just as Sookie loved herself. 

Seeing Sookie have such a perfect sense of self made me examine my own life. It made me less ashamed of my own shortcomings, and made me less inclined to need to keep up with what everyone else had. I had a feeling that if I met Sookie, she would think that I was enough; I was fine just the way I was. 

Title Well Met
Author Jen DeLuca
Intended Target Audience Adult
Genre Contemporary, Romance
Publication Date September 3rd 2019 by Berkley
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

All’s faire in love and war for two sworn enemies who indulge in a harmless flirtation in a laugh-out-loud rom-com from debut author Jen DeLuca.

Emily knew there would be strings attached when she relocated to the small town of Willow Creek, Maryland, for the summer to help her sister recover from an accident, but who could anticipate getting roped into volunteering for the local Renaissance Faire alongside her teenaged niece? Or that the irritating and inscrutable schoolteacher in charge of the volunteers would be so annoying that she finds it impossible to stop thinking about him?

The faire is Simon’s family legacy and from the start he makes clear he doesn’t have time for Emily’s lighthearted approach to life, her oddball Shakespeare conspiracy theories, or her endless suggestions for new acts to shake things up. Yet on the faire grounds he becomes a different person, flirting freely with Emily when she’s in her revealing wench’s costume. But is this attraction real, or just part of the characters they’re portraying?

This summer was only ever supposed to be a pit stop on the way to somewhere else for Emily, but soon she can’t seem to shake the fantasy of establishing something more with Simon or a permanent home of her own in Willow Creek.

Cover Reveal: Spindle and Dagger by J. Anderson Coats

Hi everyone! It’s time for another cover reveal here on Pop! Goes The Reader! Today, I’m very fortunate to have partnered with Candlewick Press to bring you the exclusive cover reveal for J. Anderson Coats’ forthcoming YA historical fiction novel, Spindle and Dagger, which will be coming to a book store and library near you March 10th 2020! I’m in awe of the beautiful cover design by Jackie Shepherd with accompanying artwork by Julia Iredale, and it’s clear this is a book that’s very near and dear to the author’s heart. I hope you’re just as excited as I am to discover more about Elen and her story!

About J. Anderson Coats

J. Anderson Coats is the author of books and short stories for children and young adults. Her first novel, the critically acclaimed The Wicked and The Just, is also a story of medieval Wales. J. Anderson Coats lives and works as a librarian near Seattle, Washington.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

Spindle and Dagger has been almost ten years in the making. Books that wander into the world tend to accumulate stories, and sharing this gorgeous cover will be the first real chance I have to talk about this book.

The historical event that gives shape to Spindle and Dagger is the twelfth-century abduction of Nest, a Welsh noblewoman whose entire life was routinely disrupted by the questionable decisions of the men around her. But this story belongs to Elen, a girl who tells a desperate lie to save herself when a warband raids her home. Three years later, that lie has given her a pretty decent life — she lives with a king’s son and has nice clothes and enough to eat — but now she must live that lie every second. And that lie is a big one: Elen convinced the king’s son that he has a saint’s protection as long as he keeps her safe and near him always. The same guy who led that warband to her home in the first place.

Can we talk about this amazing cover? I’m so fortunate that the folks at Candlewick were able to get Julia Iredale to create the art. You can check out her work here. She has such an eye for color and movement, and I knew I was going to love what she came up with when I received a request from my editor to send along historical sources for Julia to look through. It made my nerdy little heart sing with joy.

There’s a lot to love about this cover, but what I might love best is the look on Elen’s face, how she is clearly giving someone side-eye. I picture her doing this often, because even though Spindle and Dagger addresses some fairly serious issues, it’s a book about complicated relationships and realizing that a situation you have convinced yourself is okay is actually not good for you, and you don’t have to put up with it, but changing it is going to be very, very hard. It’s a book about inner strength and confronting unequal power in big and little ways. Sometimes the best you’ve got is side-eye.

If you are here for:
● Strong female friendships
● #MeToo in the Middle Ages
● Dysfunctional (royal) families
● Lies that unravel
● Warbands behaving badly
● Learning what you’re capable of

Then this book is here for you.

Cover design by Jackie Shepherd, Cover art by Julia Iredale

Title Spindle and Dagger
Author J. Anderson Coats
Intended Target Audience Young Adult
Publication Date March 10th 2020 by Candlewick Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChapters

Wales, 1109. Three years ago, a warband raided Elen’s home. Her baby sister could not escape the flames. Her older sister fought back and almost killed the warband’s leader, Owain ap Cadwgan, before being killed herself. Despite Elen’s own sexual assault at the hands of the raiders, she saw a chance to live and took it. She healed Owain’s wound and spun a lie: Owain ap Cadwgan, son of the king of Powys, cannot be killed, not by blade nor blow nor poison. Owain ap Cadwgan has the protection of Saint Elen, as long as he keeps her namesake safe from harm and near him always.

For three years, Elen has had plenty of food, clothes to wear, and a bed to sleep in that she shares with the man who brought that warband to her door. Then Owain abducts Nest, the wife of a Norman lord, and her three children, triggering full-out war. As war rages, and her careful lies threaten to unravel, Elen begins to look to Nest and see a different life — if she can decide, once and for all, where her loyalties lie. J. Anderson Coats’s evocative prose immerses the reader in a dark but ultimately affirming tale of power and survival.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with India Hill Brown

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About India Hill Brown

India Hill Brown’s debut novel, The Forgotten Girl, which R.L. Stine says will haunt you, releases this year on November 5, 2019. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s likely talking about reading or writing on her YouTube channel, BooksandBigHair. She graduated from Claflin University with a BA in Mass Communications with a concentration in Print Journalism. Her freelance work has been published in Teen Vogue, Essence, Sesi Mag, Apartment Therapy, and The Everygirl. After living and working in NYC for a bit, she’s back in the Carolinas with her husband. She loves God, family, Beyoncé, and (preferably spicy) snacks.

Author Links: TwitterInstagramYouTube ChannelGoodreads

No matter what personality test I take, I’m always described as the idealistic romantic. I’m an INFP (The Idealist) on Myers-Briggs, an Enneagram 4 (The Individualist), who’s described as the creative who feels everything. This is not a mistake – I can walk into a room and immediately feel what everyone else is feeling. I’m easily lost in thought and can be content, happy even, looking at the way the sun sparkles on a body of water or shines through leaves in the morning – 9am specifically, is my favorite time to do that.

I describe this as wonderment. Like a child, I am easily excited about the simplest things. I called my mom one day to tell her about something funny a beetle did. I took a picture of a huge butterfly that landed in front of me on a walk. I could be described as sensitive, emotional, introspective, quiet.

But still – there is a large part of me that is extremely talkative, about everything and nothing. Not a lot of people have experienced the affects of my temper, but those who have don’t have nice things to say. “You can be harsh, when you want to be. You go for the jugular in arguments.” I’m torn between being the idealistic introvert or the loquacious girl who talks and talks, with a temper full of cruel things to say just lurking under the service. It all depends on the day.

For a long time, I felt torn between these two. Depending on who you ask, you’ll hear “She’s so talkative,” “She’s so quiet!” “She has a sharp tongue,” “She’s so sweet,” and each time, with each thing, I feel a little like a fraud. Is it possible to be all of these things at once?

Then, I stumbled upon one of the most life changing books I have ever read – Anne of Green Gables.

I read Anne at precisely the right time. Life was changing so fast. I had just become a newlywed, working on what would become The Forgotten Girl, and living in my third city in three years. I’d gotten laid off months before my wedding, the news and politics and everything had just become too loud, too painful. I felt the pain of each and every news story, every offensive comment I’d read. I needed time to think, to rest, to sort out my thoughts in peace, but had no time for a vacation.

It had gotten to the point where I didn’t even want to read a book with hard parts. I needed to read something to lull me, soothe me, take me back to the time when I was 9 and could pick up a book and shut the world out and, just for a few days, read something that was extremely happy all of the way through.

I devoured Anne of Green Gables and savored it. It’s a character driven, coming-of-age story about Anne Shirley, growing up on Prince Edward Island. Up until this point, I’d never met a heroine who viewed life the way I did. As an October baby, I’m also glad to live in a world that has them.

Anne Shirley was an orphan with a challenging upbringing, but clung to a hope that there was something better for her. When she was adopted by Marilla and Matthew, she embraced Prince Edward Island with open arms. She found joy in sunrises and flowers and trees and all of the things that I believe God gives us to enjoy when we just need a pick me up.

She was full of wonder and excitement for the next day and the next, though not oblivious to the tough things in life. She allowed herself to feel the sorrow she needed to feel (another enneagram 4 trait) but knew that better days were on the horizon.

I enjoyed reading and relating to her view on life, but really felt the bond when she shouted mean things at Mrs. Lynde for calling her homely, among other things that offended Anne. I saw myself in that chapter, thinking of all of the times that I’d gotten too upset, and shouted cleverly worded, extremely hurtful things at people that were so harsh I’d regret them later. I realized then, that being an intense feeler meant feeling everything intensely, not just the happy moments. Anne was known for her outbursts and stubbornness, but also her joy and optimism and daring to view things through a positive lens. This was life changing for me.

This quote sums it up perfectly: “There’s such a lot of different Anne’s in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.” 

When I finished the story, I purchased the next in the series, and I have the next two on the way. I love seeing Anne mature with that same wonderment we saw when she first arrived at Green Gables.

I tweeted once, that I want to write a story that makes others feel how I read when I read Anne of Green Gables and that is still true. I want to write a story that lets people of all ages know that it is okay to dream, to be optimistic in hard times, to feel all of your feelings, to still have that childlike wonderment.

I’d be silly to think that I’d be the first Black author to write a Black heroine with Anne’s mindset, or the last, but I do want to add one to the lineup. I want a little Black girl to pick up a book of mine, when she just needs a break, and find that solace, that little piece of joy in everyday life from a girl that looks like her.

And although Anne is a white, redheaded, Canadian girl, and I am an African American Southern girl, I’d still like to think we are, as Anne likes to put it, kindred spirits.

Title The Forgotten Girl
Author India Hill Brown
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date November 5th 2019 by Scholastic Press
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

“Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?”

On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel – only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her.

Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing…

Obsessed with figuring out what’s going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery’s grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life – and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town’s past, they become determined to restore Avery’s grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there.

But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that’s not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever – no matter what the cost.

The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery.

Her Story: Ladies In Literature 2019 with Wendy Heard

Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Wendy Heard

Wendy Heard was born in San Francisco but has lived most of her life in Los Angeles, which is on fire more than she would honestly prefer. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art, emphasizing painting, and a Master’s degree in Education. When not writing, she can be found hiking the Griffith Park trails, taking the Metro and then questioning this decision, and haunting local bookstores. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, and Mystery Writers of America, is a contributor at Crimereads.com, and co-hosts the Unlikeable Female Characters podcast.

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads

It’s 2002, and I’m falling asleep in an Art History class in an un-air-conditioned building in East Los Angeles. My professor, an angular woman with frizzy blond hair, is operating a whirring, dust-churning slide projector, droning on about classical artists.

“And after Caravaggio, Artemesia Gentileschi became the first woman painter to be accepted by the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze,” she says. “She has a hell of a story. Are you okay with hearing about sexual assault? It’s a fascinating, empowering, tragic, and relevant story.”

I straighten up. I’m totally awake now. This is the day I fall in love with Artemesia.

Many years later, I read Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, a historical novel in verse about none other than my beloved Artemesia, and it’s everything I ever needed it to be.

“She is not small. She is not weak. She will never, ever be feebleminded,
And above all, she is outraged.
The world will tell you not to be outraged, love. They will tell you to sit quietly, be kind. Be a lady.
And when they do? Be Judith instead.”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

Judith and her Maidservant, 1635, Detroit Institute of Arts

Judith Slaying Holofernes, 1614–20, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence

Artemesia Gentileschi. Born: 1590, the eldest child of a painter. In her father’s workshop, she showed the most promise of all her siblings. Her father boasted of her prowess; she was a natural.

At age 17, she famously painted the story of Susanna and the Elders. In the story, found in the Book of Daniel, a young woman, Susanna, is bathing alone in her garden while being watched by older men — a creepily familiar scenario for all of us. The men threaten to tell people she was meeting a young man for sex unless she has sex with them. She refuses to be coerced and is tried for promiscuity, a crime that carried a death sentence if a woman was convicted. Paintings of this story often show Susanna doe-eyed and shocked, but Artemesia’s depiction shows Susanna grimacing, traumatized, wrenching herself away from the lecherous men.

Susanna and the Elders by Guido Reni

Susanna and the Elders by Artemesia Gentileschi

Artemesia was interested in naturalism, eschewing the idealistic imagery of her father’s generation, and this was the power she brought to her work: the power of the truth, the power of women painted by women.

God, I love her. She was a child, a teenager, and this was the brutality she brought to her work.

“Others will tell you Daniel saved Susanna’s life. But hear this: Susanna used her voice. She spoke her truth. She could not expect her words to change a single heart, but neither could she be silent.

Her words saved her life.”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

In 1611, Artemesia was raped, as women often are. She was 21. Some say she was born in 1693, not 1690, making her 18 for the rape. The rapist was respectable, a man her father had hired to tutor her. I won’t name him. His name is nothing.

Her father waited nine months. He wanted to see if they’d marry. During this time, Artemesia continued sleeping with the man, hoping he’d marry her, having lost her virginity, which was considered an actual asset, something you could steal and be prosecuted for stealing.

“They’re not monsters, either. Not men you’d shrink away from on the street. On the contrary. They’re men you’d see at Mass, who’d give you a polite nod while they greet your husband.”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

But the man didn’t marry her, and her father took him to court for the theft of her virginity. During the trial, Artemesia was tortured in order to confirm her testimony was accurate. Her story didn’t waver. They discovered more things this rapist man was up to, none of them good. He was planning to murder his wife, for one. Artemesia and her father won the case. The man received a sentence, which was never enforced.

“Piazzas, churches named for a teenager who gave life to the Christ. Sculptures, paintings, frescoes devoted to her holiness. But the only thing about her we remember, she was a virgin.”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

After the rape, which doesn’t define her but does define the character of the man who did it, she went on to live a wildly interesting and successful life.

“There will come a day,
when this horror is not the
only color on your palette.”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

Here are just some of the things she went on to do:

● Get married (By her father’s arrangement)
● Have tremendous affairs – One of the affairs was with a nobleman, her husband knew about it, and they had a great friendship
● Have a daughter whom she loved passionately and to whom she constantly strived to give a beautiful life
● Dump her husband when he became too much of a financial liability
● Move all over Italy and to London, working as a successful painter in many different scenarios (Court painter, portrait painter, collaborative artist)
● Adapt and change her painting style over the years, both to satisfy clients hungry for current trends and to explore different parts of her own artistic self, including some softer, gentler pieces that, when painted by men, are considered “romantic,” but when painted by her are considered “Artemesia getting in touch with her femininity at last”
● Famously painted female Biblical figures as powerful, stern, unsmiling, fierce, and warlike
● Endure constant scrutiny because of her gender, and yet she never stopped painting

She never stopped painting.

“I take a length of cloth and hold it to my head – a wedding veil. I do not regret the days of make-believe, but for every time I played at bride I should have played at goddess, river, warrior queen”
– Joy McCullough, Blood Water Paint

You see why I love Artemesia. She came, she saw, she conquered. She was knocked down. She got back up. She painted fearlessly. She tore it up.

Go read Blood Water Paint, and when they tell you to smile, to be gentle, to be smaller –

Be Judith instead.

Title The Kill Club
Author Wendy Heard
Genre Thriller, Suspense
Publication Date December 17th 2019 by MIRA
Find It On GoodreadsAmazonChaptersThe Book Depository

Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her — people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles — dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.

All she has to do is kill a stranger.