Friday, February 24, 2017

Perceptions on Romance

Romance, as a genre, does have rules. A couple discover attraction/love, there are obstacles, love conquers all, and the couple lives happily ever after. There must be an emotionally satisfying ending. Other than that it's open to however the author wants to tell their story.

I find romance novels (the one's that I enjoy, that is) have strong, well developed characters that I can relate to on some level. They story lines are optimistic but that's not saying they're all warm fuzzies. There can be heartbreak, tears, death, and abject misery. But the reader is promised that it will end well. In the real world full of uncertainty, I find hope in stories like these. They are mocked for having any sort of formula (as if fantasy doesn't have the chosen one saving the world or mystery having the detective following clues to uncover the bad guy). All genre fiction has some sort of trope or norm (which is how it's categorized as genre fiction), however romance is the genre that people disparage the most (based on my own experiences, I'm not citing any studies here).


Some say that romantic fiction is looked down upon for sexist reasons. It is a genre predominantly written by women, for women. I think there is absolutely some truth to this. You can go back the early days of mass market publishing and see women writing under men's names for credibility. And while women writers no longer such a sore thumb, in genres outside fiction intended for the female demographic there are STILL prejudices. (What boy would want to read a story about a boy written by a woman? Publishers had Joanne Rowling publish Harry Potter using her initials for marketing purposes.) Although I would like to think that our society is enlightened enough for matters such as gender to impact the perception of whether or not a book is of quality, I have a feeling we have a long way to go before we're there.

My own personal opinion of why romance is so denigrated by the reading community, even by those who read romance, is because of the perception of the sexual component. If you read the genre norms as I explained them above about what makes a book a romance you may notice that sex was not included. Sex can be included as part of the story, but sex is not THE story. I'll agree that some romance readers chose books based on the sexual content, but the books themselves are so much more than sex. Every time I explain to someone that I write romance, they will bring it up.

Smut. Trash. Porn. One relative even described it as "scatological" (I like to think it was a vocabulary error on her part, but maybe not. Maybe she does see it as shit. (OR maybe she reads scatological fetish stuff--in which case Christmas is going to be awkward. (And I'm adding a triple parenthetical aside here because I'm feeling saucy.)))

Whether it's a complete stranger or close family, I see ewwww stamped on their forehead the moment I bring up my writing. I may as well admit to being in a donkey show in Tijuana (I'm not linking it, you can look it up if you really want to, but you don't. Trust me.)

I'm amazed at how people get hung up on sex as if it is the sum total of the story. Yes, most of the time there is sexual content, but if it's a well written story, that content only furthers the emotional development of the characters. It's part of the story, not gratuitous. Are sexual components of fiction outside the romance genre criticized? No. It seems the readers are willing to accept that these scenes go toward telling the story. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the Song of Ice and Fire series,these novels are not categorized as romance, but have both romantic elements and explicit sexual content but no one is embarrassed to admit they read them.

Writing a sex scene is something I do not find easy. I have to be careful to not be clinical or boring. I also have to make sure that the descriptive tone matches the way the character would think, including includes sequence of events, emotional response, and vocabulary choices. The sex scenes have to serve to further the story and not simply exist for the purposes of titillation (that would be porn). It will be as sweet or gritty as the confines of the characters allow because it is entirely based on the characters.  If it doesn't belong, it doesn't go in the story. If my main character wouldn't say something like "silken covered rod of pulsing steel man meat," I don't write it and I don't read authors that do. The character arc and story has to take precedence.

Ultimately readers want to read good stories, whether they're classified literary fiction, young adult, or even romance. It's just a shame readers are so insecure they latch onto the aspects they expect to be judged upon (or perhaps, they judge themselves) rather than the emotional experience of reading.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Lost in Translation

This post was completely inspired by my daughter's obsession with Hamilton and her recent discovery of this gem.

Personally, I think this is brilliant.

So I took the blurb from my Courtly Pleasures one-sheet (below):

An arranged marriage.
After ten years of marriage, Frances LeSieur has faded into her role. A lady wife, mother, and chatelaine, she has no idea who she is as a woman. In the midst of depression, Frances joins Queen Elizabeth’s glittering court and discovers a part of herself she never knew existed—one she’s sure her neglectful husband would never notice.

Living, not just surviving.
Henry has always done his duty to family and crown despite his own desires. When Frances asks for a separation then transforms into a confident and vibrant courtier, Henry is floored. After years of silent alienation, can he woo her back before it’s too late or will he lose her to one of the rakes bent on having her?

A second chance at love.

Henry’s service to the crown has made him many enemies. One becomes fixated on Frances. When the killer strikes, Henry realizes that Frances is more important than duty, and love is worth fighting for.

Then I used Google Translate to take it from English to Polish to Icelandic to Hindi to Traditional Chinese to Hebrew and then back to English.

After ten years of marriage, fulangxisi lesyeur its role has Faded. Wife, mother and belt, she does not know that she is as a woman, that is. In depression among fulangxisi joined Queen Elizabeth and had a great stadium never knew part of his existence, he is convinced that her husband would not have realized that to find negligence.

Field, and not just survive.
Henry holds whether your desire is their responsibility, and family crest. When fulangxisi asked to rest, and then Transformed into safe and vibrant court, Henry grounded. After years of silence, before you resort to it, it was too late, or it going to rake may lose one of them?

A second chance for love.
For the Crown servant, Henry has made him many enemies. Look fulangxisi. When the murderer attack, Henry fulangxisi considered more important than responsibility, love is worth fighting for.

Good stuff.

All of this, by the way, brings me right back into the beautiful days of News Radio and Jimmy James reading his English to Japanese and then back to English memoir with it's new title, Macho Business Donkey Wrestler.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Happy Holidays

Greetings and salutations.

For me it's Christmas time, but for you it can be anything you want as long as you enjoy it.

Winter break came a little early this year for my school district which means I have a full week to prepare for Christmas. Usually it's a mad rush over a couple of days and then it's over and the tree is down and where did time go ohmygoshit'sFebruary. Not this year. I'm going to marinate myself in all things Christmas and love it.

On that, I actually have a little time and that means WRITING WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED. Facebook, sewing, and naps will not get in the way. In fact, I am writing this blog post to start the writing juices flowing and tap into my muse (which apparently seems to be meat based on all my metaphors thus far - not a bad muse, really).

So on that note, have a wonderful holiday season. I'll update you with some good news shortly.

And this image came up when I searched "Christmas meat." 
Could be a lot worse.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Imitating Myself

My writing style has changed since I finished my first manuscript, Courtly Love, ten years ago. I am less passive and trust myself to break grammar conventions for the sake of the story. I think about pacing and the way sentences read and flow. It's not just about having a solid plot and character arcs, but about how I show the story evolve.

That said, in rewriting Courtly Love, now Courtly Pleasures and an entirely different story, is painful. It has to fit with the following two manuscripts, Courtly Scandals and Courtly Abandon. The problem is that I don't write like that anymore. What I am, in effect, doing is imitating myself.

And it's not easy. In fact, it's coming out a lot like Frankenstein,a whole made out of different parts that don't quite fit. My critique partner said I should scrap it and start an entirely new book with the same characters and let it grow but if I do that it won't fit with the next two.

I have called this book my white whale but I intend to conquer it. I just wish I could write with the excitement and energy of watching a story unfold. My carrot on a stick is that I will be able to finish Gillian and Liam's story in Call of Echoes as soon as I'm done with this beast.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Positive Consolidation of all the Self-Righteous Rants I Stop Myself from Posting

Right now American society is exploding. We're doing this to ourselves and blaming everyone but ourselves. As this happens, consider the following:

1. Some of the rhetoric the media has promoted has become ingrained as truth. Before you parrot anything from the media in support of or against, double check what was actually said rather than the media interpretation designed only to create emotional response.

2. By the time the election happened, I didn't know what either candidate actually stood for. It was refreshing to read their plans. Here is Trump's plan for his first 100 days.

3. People assume I support Hillary because I am a woman. People assume I support Trump because my husband is a small business owner. Because my job is in education, Hillary. But I'm white so Trump. Stop making massive generalizations.

4. We are currently still in the Obama administration.

5. Not liking something doesn't make it false. Truth is not predicated on whether we like it or not. Don't assume. Research. This goes back to point one.

6. Using the violent protesting Hillary supporters as representatives all Hillary supporters is not fair. Neither is lumping all Trump supporters together as racist rednecks (or basket of deplorables). This is EXACTLY the same as saying all Muslims are terrorists.

And that brings me to my main point:
7. Be kind. Ultimately the success of our country, our culture, depends on the actions of each one of us. If we are open to learning and tolerant, if we help when we see the need instead of blaming, we can be a people that are worthy of respect. Don't let fear fuel your decisions. Be proactive, not reactive and be your best self. If we all do this we will create a legacy we're not ashamed to pass to our children.

And since my blog site is technically about writing, one more piece of unasked for advice:
8. Anything you write in anger that seems righteously glorious in the moment, don't post it. Stop. Think. Reconsider. Help be a solution rather than adding fuel to the problem. I say this based on experience with my own knee jerk reactions. We need each other and to celebrate what we have in common instead of using differences to create isolation.

Just for fun, I leave you with something that always makes me smile.

Friday, September 23, 2016

I'm All Over the Place

It's true. My brain is a plate of spaghetti and I'm at least a touch ADD (attention deficit disorder) so is it any surprise my blog is so inconsistent?

I started this blog when I first joined in with the online writing communities and started growing my craft. Since then my craft has changed. I have changed. But, I still have a handful of books I want to promote and I continue to write forward in various genres.

It's been quite a journey toward finding my identity as a writer. Each time I think I know, something changes and, being a fan of organic growth, I go with it. As a result, the last ten blog posts have been about redefining myself again and again. And again.

And then I cam full circle back to writing Elizabethan historical romance. When I first started this blog, it was called "Doing it Elizabethan Style" thanks to my husband and then changed to "Hold on to Your Bloomers." It's gone through a few evolutions to the current title, "Spocktastic," which is more indicative of me rather than my writing.

The point of this blog post is to own it. It's who I am. I get distracted by shiny things and squirrels. I have moments of genius followed by moments of sleeping. Such is the nature of me and, therefore, my writing.

That said, I like to think my writing is good and entertaining. Right now I'm, as I said in the last post and it's still true, working on bringing Courtly Pleasures back to life. In the meantime, I have posted my paranormal romantic thriller, Possessing Karma, on Inkitt and it is consistently in the top romance novels with over 700 reads. While there's a big part of me that cringes that I'm just putting it out there for free when I feel like it's totally publishable, another part loves that people are actually reading my work.

And that's all for now.

Friday, September 16, 2016

My First Love

I pursued my bachelor's degree in history because of my love of historical costume. The way I'd learned history in high school, dates of wars and political events, did not speak to me. But the way I learned history through theater did. I loved how you can find out so much about a person based on what they wore. Social history, the people that led us to the world as we know it, still fascinates me.

I particularly fell in love with the Elizabethan/Reformation era courtesy of Shakespeare and renaissance fairs. The nuances of dress, the widening scope of the world, changing cultures, this was my focus in college. Because I felt history was a underwhelming subject in school the way it had been taught in my experience led me to becoming a teacher.

This era also led me to start and finish my first manuscript, then called Courtly Love. I've addressed this poor, overworked, Frankenstein of a book many times, but this time it's different.

This time I have a reason to make it right.

There is interest.

I'd stopped seriously pitching my historical romances a few years ago because I could predict the responses: the market is saturated and Elizabethan era is better suited to historical fiction than historical romance (and any other variation on this theme). I stopped even thinking about my historicals. I compartmentalized all the story lines that had built up in my mind and stored them away for another day and concentrated on thrillers. 

But interest, oh, that changes everything. The floodgates are open and I am in my element again. My musings are full of grand manors and small villages, court, dancing, gowns, changing social norms... and the stories refuse to be ignored.

So, back to Courtly Pleasures go I. My challenge there is to smooth out the seams. I rewrote it because it was more women's fiction than romance and the two books that followed had more of a romance vibe so they didn't match. My mistake was not rewriting 100%. I tried to salvage parts I liked from the original but my writing style had evolved. Now I'm remedying that error and hope to finish with a manuscript I am proud of once more.

And on that, back to work.


This is my eldest, age 4ish at the time the picture was taken.
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