Monthly Archives: April 2012

Commander Jane Shepard

Commander Jane Shepard, Alliance Navy, Earth. Sentinel: Renegade. Mass Effect 1-3
Whether you chose to play her as a paragon or a renegade, she is arguably the toughest woman in the galaxy. Her sole purpose is to defeat the Reapers from destroying all sentient life. Everything she does from the second she is taken over by the Prothean Beacon and given a vision of how the Reapers will decimate the galaxy is geared toward that all consuming goal. The galaxy is in jeopardy and no one in power will believe her. So she makes it her life’s work to fight the hierarchy and the enemy on a 360-degree front. It doesn’t much matter if you chose to make her a space born kid who grew up on Alliance ships, or a trouble orphan who joined gangs on Earth to stay alive and join the military at seventeen. She is and will become the greatest hero the universe has ever seen.
Bioware designed Commander Shepard is a completely customizable character. The player choses gender, history, fighting style and appearance if not going with the default. I personally want to jump the bones of the default male Shepard. Between his voice and how dead sexy he looks in those Alliance BDU’s, I’d climb paragon Male Shep like a tree if I could. Is it wrong to be hot for a video game character?

Pretty darn close to our Jane Shepard.

Alas, I digress… Whichever visual appearance the player selects appears throughout the gameplay and cinematics giving the ultimate in personalization and bringing your own character to life. Our Shepard (my husband and I play together… he battles and I make all the decisions… perfect marriage, right?) has black hair, the action girl bob (a trope amongst video game females) tucked neatly behind her ears, ice blue eyes, strong cheekbones and full, pale lavender tinged lips. She is plain, yet beautiful, strong yet soft. She is a soldier, not a fashion model. If you wanted her to be, you totally could, though she’ll still walk and sit like your high school gym teacher. Put her in that hideous dress in ME3 and she’ll walk around like she’s got combat boots on and an assault rifle strapped to her back. She’s only graceful in combat. Just saying.

There’s no denying that Shepard is a tough bitch whether it be paragon – the ultimate do-gooder or renegade – the chick with a chip on her shoulder. She is so tough she died, spaced after her ship exploded and was burnt up in a planet’s atmosphere, to be resurrected, two years later, better… stronger… faster. (Let’s not even touch the Jesus comparisons so inherent in the character – even the name cries out biblical comparisons).
If you play Shepard as renegade though, she is one BAMF (badass mother fucker). Her responses to people when they’re having moments of doubt and weakness make you ashamed that you cried at the age of five for falling off your bike and skinning your knee. She has no time for uncertainty, insecurity and petty concerns. She’s so bad, but oh so good. The exceptional voice talent of Jennifer Hale, with her gritty, throaty resonance lends credence to the idea that fluffy girly-girls just ain’t gonna get the job done. However, there are moments when Shepard’s empathy and compassion can bring tears to your eyes. There is a subtle sensitivity and gravity to her words that reaches out and touches your soul. You feel and experience her pain. She is unwaveringly loyal to her crew and her mission. Her sometimes-awkward advice to teammates in new situations for their species, being in love or learning how to maneuver emotionally, are often hysterical. Her sarcasm is on-point, though most of the best lines are delivered by her snarky fellow teammates. Despite being a dyed in the wool soldier, she is a skilled negotiator. Her directness is her asset. She seeks to help others and unite races that have been at war for centuries despite their fundamental differences and grievances. The driving motivation is to bring all of the strongest races together for the imminent final battle for existence.
Shepard’s weakness, if any, is her single-mindedness. She is consumed by her quest. At times, she may make the hard decision of leaving people to die. Sometimes, that unwavering drive can lead to betrayal of friendships for the cause. Much of this is experienced in the third game where the success of the mission is paramount. Join at all costs. Fight or die. She loses people along the way but has no time to grieve. The brutality is pushed down deep and swept aside to be dealt with in brief moments of guilt and tender uncertainty. This is usually where her love interest will provide moral support.
What is so fantastic about the three games in this series are the interpersonal relationships and the development of loyalties along the way. As Shepard, you have a stable of lovers to choose from. The female version of Shepard can romance both male and female characters. (In 3, Male Shep can be gay too… oddly kinda hot if he chooses to romance Kaiden.) But Shepard is so badass that she can romance other species. Our Shepard chose Garrus, the hard face-plated, bird/lizard-like, charismatic and humorous turian. Their mating is so potentially dangerous that the salarian doctor sends them instructional vids, creams and analgesics and warns them about the potential of anaphylactic shock if tissue is… ahem… ingested. They can’t even eat the same foods because of opposing amino acids in their system. Yet, she propositions him to ‘let off some steam’. How badass as is that? What ensues is the most awkward and endearing love story between two vastly different people brought together for a cause. Garrus will follow her into hell. She doesn’t even have to ask.
I’ve truly become a die-hard fan of this video game series with its majestic visuals and its broad sweeping scope. The virtually infinite possibilities for stories within this ‘universe’ could have fans salivating for years to come. But what classifies this as a staple in my inspirational repertoire is the personal investment in the characters. Over one hundred hours of game play and these people become your family. You care about them and their fate. You are integral in their story. You become the hero.
You become Commander Shepard.
Fit or die.
Check out wiki for more info on all three of the Mass Effect games.

Queen Badass: US Marshal, Mary Shannon

US Marshal, Mary Shannon, In Plain Sight
Baddest Badass in the whole damn town… yup, just stole a little bit of Jim Croce there.
When I think of a strong female character with layers and depth, I immediately go to Mary Shannon, portrayed by the amazing Mary McCormack. Tall, thick, as in curvy like a real woman, blonde and gorgeous. Mary is a US Marshal assigned to the WITSEC program in Albuquerque, New Mexico. WITSEC is what we more commonly refer to as ‘witness protection’.  She deals with criminals, but more often than not, innocent witnesses to crimes. The challenge for both the witnesses and the WITSEC officers lies in the adjustment period of having to give up everything and everyone they know to do the right thing. For families, this is extremely hard. In almost all cases there is turmoil, which Mary takes in stride. What is so great about her, and consequently makes her so good at her job, is that she doesn’t put up with the bullshit. Mary takes no prisoners. She’s sensitive to their concerns however, she is more concerned with keeping them safe and not dead.
Mary’s badass trademark is her snark. She is the poster child for sarcasm, dry wit and abrasive demeanor. She is not a warm fuzzy woman. If anything, she eschews feminine wiles and carries herself as one of the boys. She frequently mocks witnesses and everyone within a twenty-foot radius, most notably her best friend and partner, Marshall Mann. (Yes, I thought it was interestingly odd that his first name is Marshall, as it so happens to be his occupation. I’ll discuss him later on in the post.) Anyway, people who know her are pretty much used to her cantankerous ways. Newer, less confident people tend to give her a wide berth. Some of what she says can be down right offensive. However, she calls a spade a spade. And a good amount of the time she’s right. When it comes to witnesses, she’s always right.
The irony of Mary lies in her family and personal life. It’s a hot steaming mess. Her mother, Jinx, and her sister, Brandi, are alcoholics, in or out of recovery depending on which season. Her father left when she was seven to live life on the run because he robbed a bank only to start another family some years later with another woman. Mary got the surprise of her life when her half-sister showed up at the door to inform her of this. There is a little brother too, who Brandi befriends and subsequently goes to live with and fall off the wagon after she flees from her wedding. Needless to say, Mary did not take the news of a new family well, already having feelings of abandonment this was the icing on the cake. She also had a wonderful, sweet boyfriend, a local hot Hispanic baseball player named Raf. They were engaged for a period of time and she eventually had to tell him what the nature of her job was. He became worried, protective and hovering… none of which sat right with her. Poor Raf came to realization that Mary would never be capable of totally committing to him and had to set her free. Raf was such a loving guy that you couldn’t help but feel for him. But Mary, in her dysfunction reminds me of a wild horse. She is skittish around sentiment and rears up in fear. She abhors change. God forbid, her desk is moved or there’s a new person in the office. I liken all of her quirks and control freakishness to the fact that she is an alcoholic’s daughter. It’s textbook compensation. She is the older sibling, the one who maintains order. She is a fixer. Brandi, is the weaker one, the one who follows Jinx and needs to be taken care of. She is constantly in chaos. See the link to Adult children of alcoholics on 
 One of the most dramatic changes in Mary has been throughout Season 4. She becomes pregnant by her ex-husband who she was married to for a minute back in the day. He comes for a random visit and they bump uglies for a night. Oops, smart Mary – remember that wild horse that can’t handle a saddle analogy – is now pregnant. The show had to do it. Mary McCormack was pregnant with her third daughter. It would have been ridiculous to film around her girth and it provided a great juxtaposition and character development for the woman who could not be tamed. All throughout the season and during her pregnancy, Mary intended to give up the baby to people who wanted one and who could take care of her properly. She never want a child nor to have one grow up in the chaos that was her life. And all the while, she fought the system and continued to work while she was pregnant. Even up until the end when she was caught in the cross fire during a take down in an ambush to kill a witness. At this point, she gets the award for being colossally stupid, but she is still badass to the bone when she comes out of nowhere to shoot a bad guy down. It also marks the significance of where Mary fits in Marshall’s life as he choses to cover her with his own body instead of his girlfriend.

Now let’s address Mr. Marshall Mann…. Marshall is the sanity in Mary’s life. He is her stability and the port in her storm. He frequently calls her on her bullshit – the only one she allows to do so – and doesn’t let her get away without seeing the truth she so fastidiously avoids. She is always annoyed with his Cliff Clavin-esque tendencies toward trivial knowledge and useless information. He is extremely intelligent, sensitive and very protective of her. His devastation when she was shot at the end of season 2 was heart wrenching. His utter speechlessness and shock when she told him she was engaged, days later because she didn’t know how to tell him, was soul crushing. She let him see the ring and for some reason he put it on his pinky. And then couldn’t take it off. The symbolism in that was both hysterical and traumatically sad to watch for the remainder of the episode. It is clear that he is in love with her but understands her as that ‘wild horse who will never be tamed’. He has since tried to move on with the police detective, Abigail – who Mary has a chilly, almost begrudging acceptance. Will they ever wind up together? That remains to be seen.
As I write this, there are only a few episodes left of this fantastic show. Who knows how it will end for Mary and Marshall. Personally, I’d love to see them together. I’ve shipped them from the very beginning. I completely love their nuances and their loyalty to each other. Tonight’s episode finally touches on the missing father arc. Stephen Lang of Avatar and the late Terra Nova (another show I really liked but was cancelled) plays her father. This was something that needed to be addressed and should give great insight into Mary’s character. It will be interesting to see it play out.
So, what should we take away from Mary as an example of a great female character? At face value, she’s strong, independent and doesn’t take shit from anyone. But she has layers to her personality, insecurities and fallibilities that make her imperfect. She’s not the plucky heroine; she’s not the sexy femme fatale. She is a real woman with real desires and real problems, despite the extraordinary job she does. She tries and fails. And she grows, kicking and screaming, but it happens. If I could take one thing away from her to apply to my personal life, it would be her courage of self in the face of those around her. She is true to herself and her passions and go to hell if you don’t agree. I’m getting there…
Check out this blog I found a while ago and it got me thinking. It chronicles a woman’s journey, following in Mary’s footsteps toward becoming a Real Life Badass Woman.

Defining Badass

If I’m going to examine female characters for their worthiness to be included in my “Badass Female Character Compendium”, I think I need to set forth some parameters. What qualifies them as badass? Let us define, shall we. (This is of course my own definition and should be used with caution out there in the real world… just a little disclaimer.)
To be a female badass she must have:

  • Tons of attitude: She can be snarky, bitchily sarcastic or genuinely humorous. She exudes confidence most likely in her job or occupation/calling. She may even be a little cocky, but not arrogantly so. Above all, she is steeped in independence. She may need or rely on the people around her, but when it comes down to brass tax, she is totally capable of doing it all by herself. She is no shrinking wallflower to be taken care of by anyone.
Maj. Sam Carter, Stargate: SG1
  • Tote a gun: Yep, she knows about firearms, can shoot ‘em, disassemble ’em, and maybe even modify ’em. This classification can reach to a variety of weapons depending on genre. She knows how to wield one and isn’t afraid to use it.
    Agent Sarah Walker, Chuck
  • Physicality: She is unafraid to get physical with anyone and I’m not talking about sex… I’m talking about fists and head butting. She is skilled in combat, and if not, she has a natural instinct for self-preservation. Bad guys can come at her and she will fight to the death to break free or save a life.
  • An honor code: She will always fight for what is right. Whether it is saving her planet from invaders and extinction, or railing against corruption and crime, she stands by her morals and her code of justice. She may do bad things, but it is always with the intentions to do Good. She will fight and sacrifice for those who cannot fight for themselves.
Agent Dana Scully, The X-Files
  • Aptitude: She will have copious amounts of brains. She is intelligent, knowledgeable, and educated. Her skill set is a benefit to her cause. Her logic, strategies and wisdom are valuable tools in her arsenal and utilized frequently.
  • Imperfections: She will have flaws and vulnerabilities. No woman is perfect. There will be parts of her she may try to hide, ignore or fight against.  They may be a weakness and a possible burden, but she doesn’t allow it to ruin or rule her life. She struggles, but she perseveres. Her vulnerabilities make her stronger and more human.
Lara Croft, Tomb Raider
  • Sex appeal: Yes. I know. Cliché and misogynistic. I should turn in my own badass card, but then again the point of being a badass is that I don’t give a shit. This is what I believe. A woman doesn’t have to beautiful to be a badass but of course, let’s be real – it doesn’t hurt. Beautiful women have proliferated the action industry, mostly because of the 18-40 male demographic. But I have to admit, if I could sport a pair of leather pants and thigh high boots or kick some ass in a pair of 6 inch Manolo Blanhiks, (that is if I could stand in them for more than ten minutes), I so would! If my ass was tight and I could haul a RPG on my back, or run around in a metal bustier and a pair of angel wings, I’d be all over that in a heartbeat. Whether it’s in a combat uniform or a tight little outfit… I’m not gonna lie. It’s hot. Does it always have to come in that package? No. But who doesn’t want to feel hot and sexy and capable at the same time? It’s part of fantasy and fiction is fantasy.
    Mary and Marshall, In Plain Sight
  • Counterpart: Last but not least, she needs a partner. This partner could be romantic or a best friend. Someone to fight the good fight with, someone who has her back – even if it’s not at first, and someone who supports her to the bitter end. He or she becomes the yin to her yang, the peas to her carrots and the anchor or buoy to her soul. They will ground her, guide her and hold a mirror to her when she needs it most whether she likes it or not. They will be her equal in intelligence and inner strength and fight along the same fundamental principles of her goal. They may be in opposition with her in ideology at times but when their relationship is strong, they will come together on common ground. He, or she, will be her soul mate. A badass character without this integral counterpart may be in a constant search for meaning and will be out of balance until she finds that person.

This is the lens that I look through when defining a badass woman.  Its scope can be broad or it can focus down to the minutest details of what makes a powerful woman tick.  I like this definition and it suits the fictitious women I’ve admired for a lifetime. It may not describe or even fit all female characters, that is for certain, but it works within the confines of my examination. I’m celebrating those women in fiction who kick ass and take names. 
She is the badass action heroine.

Why Badass Heroines and Writing

Ok, so being badass isn’t new. I’ve stumbled onto a few blogs celebrating the virtues of being a badass woman in the real world. They are awesome and I admire their views – women sounding off on what in their own lives constitutes being badass. I personally like to think of myself that way – as a kick ass woman who stands by her convictions and tackles every day with the idea that she can make a difference.

So what is badassery? Yes, I’ve dubbed a new noun. Badassery – (n.): the state of being a badass. Is it a mindset? A philosophy? A tattoo on your forearm that dares anyone to defy you? A way to wear a great pair of kicking jeans and a motorcycle jacket? The ability to raise a functional human being in this world without having to kowtow to the sheep masses who can’t make an independent decision unless its presented to them via mainstream media? Possibly. Maybe it’s one, a few or all of those things. Or maybe its just running on your treadmill to the dirty, gritty voice of Sully Erna belting it out as the front man of Godsmack to lose those extra forty pounds. I would venture to say that all of those things qualify as badassery in real life. And some, if not all, may describe me or at least the woman I want to be.

As a writer, I live a decent part of my life immersed in fiction, whether it’s in a book, on TV, in the movies, or in a video game. I have always been drawn to strong female characters. One of the very first women I wanted to emulate was Wonder Woman. Linda Carter made Diana Prince a goddess with a boomerang hairband and a lasso of truth. And she could kick ass in a pair of red-hot boots. I was eight. This fascination soon evolved into Colonel Wilma Deering, Erin Gray of Buck Rogers. Athena on the original Battlestar Galactica – she was a Viper pilot for God sakes, and Diana, the Queen Lizard Bitch on V

Let us not forget Princess Leia. I loved her best when she disguised herself as a bounty hunter to rescue a frozen Han from the disgusting Jabba the Hut. Obviously, my eleven-year-old mind didn’t understand the male fantasy of the bikini clad sex slave. What it did get was that these women fought beside men for truth and justice. AS EQUALS. 

I played all of these characters with my Barbies. I even went so far as to make Voutfits out of red fabric and felt. I stole my brother’s pistols from his action figures and strapped them to the thighs of my badass Barbies with an elastic hair tie as a holster. I even knew that tight black spandex pants translated as hot, kick ass woman. What did I know? I had never read comics. Didn’t even realize the Jean Grey’s and the Black Widow’s existed. All I knew was there were heroines on television that I adored and wanted to be. I created OC’s to insert my own characters into these worlds without even knowing that I was writing fanfiction.

Years later when I returned to writing out of frustration to find books I really wanted to read, I asked myself what did I want to write about? What inspired me? I had moved on to Dana Scully, Major Samantha Carter, Buffy and the Charmed Sisters. Now, Brenda Lee Johnson of The Closer. And then it hit me with Mary Shannon of In Plain Sight. The woman is the epitome of badass. If I could tote a gun, shoot at bad guys and have the balls to say half the stuff she does, I would be a woman to be reckoned with. Mary Shannon is a warrior. She fights for what is right and protects others from ‘bad’, much to her own sacrifice. She cares for the people under her protection, her family, and her one friend. She is not perfect, in fact her personal life is a hot mess, yet she still gets up every day and gets the job done.

These are the kind of women I admire and want to explore in my own writing. I want to look at the warrior women, who do amazing, strong things and examine how they balance those achievements with living in a real world. How do they maintain their humanity in the face of the evils they see everyday? What do they have to come home to when the bad guy is in jail, the terrorist are annihilated and the (insert alien/vampire/ghoul here) have been vanquished? Of course as a romance writer, I want to know that she has an equally heroic man fighting by her side so that she can at least get her groove on and have a “Happy For Now” with the potential for a “Happily Ever After”. Her partner will honor her badassery, support and admire it and above all, love her for it.

So to that end, this blog will serve two purposes: 1) I will explore what makes amazing strong female characters badass and 2) Provide a platform for the evolution of my own stories that celebrate women in their badassery.

I am a writer, a mother, a teacher and a woman constantly seeking balance in her life. Join me and my characters in that journey.


~ Indigo