Thursday, January 29, 2015

Super Sexiness

I include explicit scenes in my romance. Even so, they're pretty vanilla. I would rate my work as R for adult situations, but would I go so far as X? Well, there's full frontal, so maybe. I am not erotic enough to be romantica and I don't think I could be because I'm repressed.

Fifty Shades of Grey opened the door for erotic literature to be mainstream. Oh, it existed long, long before, but would never be on the shelves at Target (where I just saw Anne Rice's The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty on a shelf above the young reader novelized version of Frozen). Now people are more open minded to what they consider literature versus pornography. Somewhere in the middles lies romantica, erotic romance. Yes, there is a lot of sex BUT there is also a compelling story and an emotionally satisfying happily ever after. I recently read Captivated by You by Sylvia Day. This is book four about Eva and Gideon and the series will conclude when it concludes. I will continue to read their stories because I am intrigued by them, not just their sex lives (seriously, they should both have calluses on their genitals by now and/or need medical attention). I also read Out of Bounds by Dawn Ryder -- super sexually charged but, again, a good story that had me invested in the main characters. Romantica, not just about the sex (but, yes, a lot about the sex).

Given the surge of interest in romantica and the open acceptance of the book buying public, part of me wants to try my hand at it. The other part is crying softly in a dark corner. I don't think I have it in me. Really, the sex scenes are hard for me to write. I want to make it fabulous, of course, but I also need to make it reasonable and realistic. A follows B follows C because if C happened before A it would just be gross. I would include so many showers and oral hygiene that it would come across as a hygiene fetish niche piece instead of romantica. Plus, if I'm getting tired writing it, I can't imagine what my hero/heroine are experiencing in their marathon session. If it's hard for me a to read a scene without feeling sore in empathy with the characters, how can I write it?

I can't. It's not in me. I can never jump on the super sexy train and I have to be okay with it.

What do you have trouble writing?

(I actually wrote this post after looking at my viewing numbers on previous posts. Posts with sexual content were the winners, so I went there. Notice, I did not censor the woman's nipples in the image above. That's right, I went there. Taking super sexy risks ftw!)

PS. Never do an image search for 'bandaged penis.' Just don't. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Soft Horror

I accidentally discovered a new niche for my writing. I thought I was writing paranormal romance, but that brings vampires and werewolves to mind. As I analyzed the components of Possessing Karma, I found paranormal and suspense/thriller attributes overshadowed the romance. Yes, there is still an emotionally satisfying happily ever after, but the mystery and threat implicit in the ghost story is dominant. A judge in an unpublished author contest classified it as soft horror and things clicked.

My husband teases me that I write romance at all. No, not because he undervalues the genre, but because I am not romantic. I don't believe in soul mates. I do believe that you choose your love and then love your choice. I have a very pragmatic approach to relationships and, unfortunately, that has shown in my work. He says that readers want magical love, of people being sure of their feelings, etc... and I don't write that. Love overcomes because my main characters choose to work for it. I try to avoid reader-eye-rolling moments, but in doing so I might be removing some of the fantasy that appeals to readers of the genre. That's not to say I don't tell good stories, but maybe I'm not writing romance.

That said, I just wrote a chainsaw accident scene into my work in progress, Touching the Past. If it's horror I'm going for, the danger has to be more prominent instead of simply implied. Yes, my main characters will still find love with each other if they can learn to let go of the past and trust, but the paranormal elements (psychic trees) is no longer benign. The external stakes are more dominant than the internal stakes.

My contemporary work is straight up romance. Now that I've identified my problem I'm not worried about being able to make the emotional/internal components be worth everything. But as for my paranormal, soft horror it is. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Time

We are steadily chugging through January and it will be February before we know it. After February, it will be Hallowe'en again (the months in between don't count because they go by too quickly to notice) and then the next time you blink will be in 2016. It's incredible how fast time flies when there are deadlines. Even my kids are starting to notice that time has picked up its pace.

As a kid an hour seemed to take forrrrrrevvvvvveerrrrrrr. For my daughters, before they got the concept of the passage of time in terms of hours and minutes, I would label how long things took in terms of Dora the Explorer episodes.

"Mommy, when will the cake be ready to ice?"

"In half a Dora." It helped, during those times, if they were actually watching Dora. Swiper, no swiping. Good times.

Now we joke about it. The trip we took to Phoenix recently was supposed to take eight Doras but ended up taking almost fourteen. They watched Charlie's Angels (the first movie), Annie, and Tinkerbell's pirate movie (which is my least favorite), while my husband and I listened to audio books and learned more about each other (David Sedaris made me laugh and made my husband want to cut himself.)  Even though the drive took forever, we were back home and back at work before we knew it. Now the week is almost over. Sure, it's Wednesday, but it may as well be Friday. Or next Monday. It will be before I know it and there will be tons of things that didn't get done.

Given the crazy current of life, taking time to write (or do something you really love vs. something that just needs doing) is important. It forces me to sit, focus on one thing, and actually accomplish something. I did not write much in the period between August and December (school craziness), but took control of my personal time/space continuum and wrote over the winter break. I am continuing to wedge in time to write and that helps qualify the time spent as worthwhile instead of a blur of activity, laundry that's not folded, and a dance class that we're late to.

I just took half a Dora over my lunch break to write this blog post and there's no reason I couldn't have been doing that regularly over the past months.  It feels good and I'm glad to be back online. Now I'm going to take another half a Dora and read some other blogger's posts.

How do you keep time from sweeping you away?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Diversification Confusion

There a recent RWR article about the value of diversification in writing. There were a lot of good points made, that the market need is always changing and a steady brand might limit a good writer from bringing in a broader readership.

The problem I have run into with diversification is that my own writing identity is unclear. Voice is, I think, one of the most important aspects of a successful writer. Readers respond to good stories, yes, but they make a connection to the unique voice of the author.

When I was writing Tudor historical romances I knew my voice. There was a consistency from book to book that would help my readership great each book with a sense of familiarity. Yes, each book offered a unique story, but the readers knew what they were going to get.

When I branched into paranormal stories in contemporary settings I redefined my voice. Contemporary meant less formal speech patterns. It allowed the characters to be less confined by social mores. My voice changed and I liked it. Alongside all of that was the fascination with the mystical, with the supernatural -- this influenced my voice too. With this, my identity as a writer shifted.

Then I switched into contemporary. The internal stakes became primary (which is surprisingly difficult for me--I really want to throw in an external problem) and the ancillary characters play a bigger role toward building the small town setting (which is like a character in itself.) Again, shift of voice.

The problem I am left with is: WHO AM I (the answer is not Jean Val-Jean)?

Many writers, to solve the problem with name branding, write under many pseudonyms. I have always been willing to do this, but thought my agent/editor/professional something-or-other would make that decision. I realize now that I should have made that choice when I started to split into multiple writer personalities. I think it would help me compartmentalize my various voices. When people ask what I write, I come across as having no focus and this is not an accurate assessment. When writing these different areas I have focus, I just have a hard time explaining the nuances of each genre.

So, here's my solution:
Historical =  something classic and more formal than my actual name, but with a surname in the first quarter of the alphabet (for shelving purposes). Suggestions are welcome. :)
Paranormal: Elaina Fay (for my 2 daughter's middle names, Elaine and Fay. Yes, I took a page from Stephanie Laurens). And...
Contemporary: Erin Kane Spock, my actual name.

Thoughts?

At least this will help me designate an identity to my diversified voices.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Feminine Gross Stuff

It's there in the title. If you're squeamish, stop reading now.

My cake walk of a year teaching art part-time became more labor intensive when the 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts teacher quit right before school started. Being nice, I agreed to cover the post temporarily. Obviously, ELA is something I'm passionate about -- I just didn't want to invest the time necessary to be the full time teacher. English= a lot of grading. Art= almost no grading. I chose to work part time to focus on my writing and my kids.

Week one and two pass with me still chipper about the students, the learning, etc... I'm looking forward to still being able to be there for them even when I'm teaching art, I love their enthusiasm, blah blah blah.

Week three and four pass and the light at the end of the tunnel flickers out. Week five and it's Back to School night and if they get a new teacher at this point the kids are going to have a big transitional time. On top of that individually, my students are awesome: collectively they are not the easiest group of kids I've ever taught.

That brings us to today which began with the air conditioning not working (again) and the understanding that I was going to be in my classroom from 7:30am to 8pm (Back to School night, remember?). I constantly rebooted my attitude, but then something else would hit the fan (and yes, I did have a fan courtesy of no a/c - an industrial one that sounded like a train was going down the hall and even made the floor vibrate, kindly lent by the construction guys at the school ). Without going into much detail, during the last period of the day I ended up crying like an idiot instead introducing them to the joys of NaNoWriMo's Young Writer's Program.

Maybe it's harsh to say I was an idiot, but I definitely was not an adult, professional qualified to teach children. My students apologized for being less than angelic, but I realized my true reason for tears was my own sense of failure. I've been teaching for fourteen years and I can't keep it together when the room is eighty-three degrees and the kids are making monkey noises. I can't blame them or the situation, I can only blame myself. I needed to suck it up, grow up, and be professional.

My solution? Thirty minutes of sustained silent reading, and man did I mean SILENT.

So the day ends and I'm frazzled but listening to happy music in major keys as I choose a better attitude and ready myself to meet my student's parents.

And then I use the restroom.

Well, no wonder I felt crappy -- I was bleeding to death! All over the place. Serious murder scene in the staff bathroom. If CSI had come across the evidence, they would have assumed the victim couldn't survive. If I'd had a longer shirt on I would have stayed. As it was I told the male teachers I work with that I had a 'feminine emergency' and they didn't ask me more and just took up the slack (I have a great team). I made my long commute home praying that the layers of paper towels between my underwear and pants would save my upholstery. I sit at home now in my Tinkerbell pajama shorts, my underwear in the trash and my brand new, Not Your Daughter's Jeans pinstripe slacks in the wash despite my intention to only dry-clean.

The good news is that I can now blame my period. Thank you, uterus, for this out. I am not a failure, I am just hormonal and, very possibly, low on iron.

What does this have to do with writing? Not much except that this post began as an excuse for my blogging silence of late. I can make a connection though, if you like... ummmm... well, writing... maybe you can make the connection for me. I'm going to go eat some chocolate.
Why, you ask, did I feel it necessary to write this? To find a moment of zen, perhaps. I spent the drive home composing it in my head and found myself funny, if TMI. Also, I haven't blogged in a long time and have felt the lack of it. So here it is. Take me as I am, lack of filter and all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Showing Your Sketch

This past week my school provided training about project based learning (PBL) from the Buck Institute of Education (BIE). I'm happy to say that the training was not a waste of time. I came away with some great plans for the year but, even more importantly, I gained tools to help the students recognize that the crazy stuff I do in class is part of a learning process. I always considered my teaching style to be one where I tricked students into learning. Unfortunately I'm so good at it that the students think we're not doing anything until they get that "OH!" moment at the end. Lesson learned: I'm good at projects, I'm bad at linking objectives to the content in a way the kids understand.

During these workshops we participated in an exercise called "Show Your Sketch." You get a ridiculously low amount of time to draw a sketch of a person across the room... then you show it to them. The perfectionists didn't just cringe, they cursed. How can you be expected to share work that is sooooo rough? Doing so makes you very vulnerable to criticism. It's not fair for my artistic skill to be judged after so little time. The purpose of this exercise was not to show how bad we were at art, but to open ourselves up to critique early in the creative process, to be vulnerable, and to be all in it together. My colleagues and I all had that, "a-ha!" moment and were able to apply this early/often critique need to the project designs during the remainder of the workshop.

Writers are not foreign to the concept of perfectionism, insecurity, and critiques. We are constantly revising and praying for a better quality product. Critiques are gifts, even when they make us doubt ourselves. Without them we exist in a bubble. Thank God for being able to show your sketch early and often BEFORE putting it out there to be judged by the writing industry.

As much as I like to think that I'm secure in my skills and strong enough to take criticism and turn it into a better book, I'm freaking out a little right now. For whatever reason, I'm comfortable sending my manuscripts to complete strangers, but when I got a  request from a writer friend, I got all nervous. It might be easier if I was showing a sketch, or the first chapters of a book in progress: sending a completed, revised, revised again and then one more time, manuscript to a friend (who asked for it, which is a blessing in itself), someone I've known for years, makes me doubt the quality of my product. The vulnerability involved here is tremendous and it shouldn't be. I can't place why -- I only know that I'm trying to write right now, and keep wondering if she's reading, what she thinks, etc... and can't get it out of my head.

On that note, I'll put my contemporary aside and get back to planning my projects for this year. I may be teaching middle school art (which was the plan) or 7th and 8th grade English (which meets a need), so I'm prepping for both.

How do you feel about showing your sketch? Any advice for taking criticism?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Stupid Alphas

At the Romance Writers of America conference in San Antonio this summer I attended a workshop titled Deconstructing the Alpha. To be honest, I only attended because Eloisa James was one of the moderators and I have a fangirl crush that leads me to believe everything she touches will be golden (justifiably so).

I have struggled with the alpha male ever since I cracked open my first romance novel. He frequently frustrates me. Usually arrogant and domineering, it doesn't make his personality any more palatable to see that he's right in most instances. As a reader I think one of the factors that makes a book re-read-worthy is that you fall in love with the guy a little. I have a hard time falling for the alpha .

That said, alpha sex is hot (disclaimer: the modern alpha male is no longer the date rapist from the '70s -- I can't even read those plots without gagging. It's one of the only things that will make put down a book unfinished). In the workshop, the authors and editors hosting discussed why the modern woman responds to the alpha. In a world where women are expected to be super mom and super executive and super hot, it's a great fantasy to have that cave man who will carry throw you over his shoulder and be counted on to provide for his woman's every need. Sophisticate that a few notches and you have Gabriel Cross. The uber powerful, ruthless, unattainable, implacable, hard bodied demigod who has a soft spot for that one woman. The alpha is a fantasy in regard to appeal and resources, but also in that the woman tames him (breaks him like a wild mustang, painfully, without a horse whisperer) and, ultimately, she has the power because she has his heart (or other parts as the case may be).

I write about this today because I'm trying to write an alpha. I think my fatal flaw is in including his point of view. Already, I've made him too vulnerable. I went for someone who strategizes and assumes the role needed to win in a Machiavellian vein rather than a straight up confident/arrogant master of the universe. Strategists weigh probability, consider outcomes -- and this is taking me out of alpha territory. Would an alpha care about the outcome? Not really, because he KNOWS he's right. My pseudo alpha might be too human.

This my fifth book and my first attempt at alpha. I chose this course on the advice of a friend. I'm trying to hybrid the sexy hard edges of Sylvia Day with the quirky fun of Kristan Higgins and I think I have to step back and regroup. It may be like trying to cross a tea cup poodle with a Saint Bernard--what could possibly go wrong?

That I'm writing this book at all is a departure for me. Call me a whore in that I'm writing what I think will sell (versus my other books which I wrote because I wanted to tell the story). I'm not prostituting my talent completely though, because I really am invested in this story (now). It's actually the best pre-plotted story I've created so far (pantser!), but I'm worried it's not staying the course (which makes it more organic, a good thing) and who knows how it will end?

Sigh.

Point of this blog post: Do you like alphas? How do you define an alpha? Do you think seeing the alpha's gooey center is a turn off or downplays his power?
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