Sunday, December 20, 2015

Believing in Magic

Merry Christmas! This crazy time of year has, strangely, brought me back to writing because I realized what threw off my mojo. I shelved a book before I was finished and started another one. That was a message to myself that what I wrote didn't matter. I'd stopped writing for me and started writing for the market. I realized this a few months ago, but still couldn't get back on the horse. I think this is because I lost any sense of urgency to get anything done. I'd lost hope.

Well, I have slapped myself back to writing and thank goodness for that. It really is a part of me and when I'm not creating, I'm in a slump. Writing is the source of my magic.

Magic plays a big part in our house around Christmas. Yes, Jesus or Saturn or Odin is the reason for the season (we go with Jesus even though I completely get the roots of the Winter Solstice celebrations -- I think the meaning the celebrants impart into the celebration gives it authenticity). But we also have Santa. Call him a marketing figure created by Coke or creepy stalker who watches you sleep, I don't care. He's magic and when kids believe in him, their sense of wonderment and optimism is contagious. It abolishes all the skepticism, depression, and stress that comes with the season. Because Santa is watching. And Christmas morning when there are things under the tree, it's proof that faith is rewarded. Santa is more than a carrot on a stick, he's potential and limitless possibility -- something we grow out of way too soon.


My oldest is eleven and in the sixth grade. She informed me she no longer believes, but she was waiting for me to confirm or deny. I left it in the air and made a joke about Santa bringing kids that didn't believe in him socks for Christmas. She's still going to go to be too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve and her heart will race when she finds her stocking. She's on the edge of the age of not believing and I want her to hold on because there is a joy that comes with belief in magic.

As for me, I think I must hold on to some innate belief in order to keep plodding forward with faith that someday I'll write the right book. Either that, or I'm insane (reminiscent of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell where only the insane could see magic). Either way, I just entered the Golden Heart contest. Again.

I hope I never reach the age of not believing.


Monday, October 12, 2015

Come Undone

A couple of Romance Writer's of America conferences ago, based on what the agents accepting pitches were asking for, I realized I needed to write contemporary romance. The genre is more than just something that happens in current times. They tend toward small towns and quirky people where the setting and supporting cast is as important as the main players. I started out to write something with a Northern Exposure flavor set in small town California. It was a beach town and after my husband gave his two cents (realtor) that a beach town wouldn't be dwindling, it became a mountain town similar to Idyllwild. Then I got a really good response on my paranormal romantic thriller and put this story away to work on another thriller.

I've just unearthed it and begun rereading. It has been out of sight/mind for long enough that my writing was no longer familiar. Pardon my lack of humility, but I really enjoyed it. I felt her anxiety and laughed at her self-deprecating humor. I related to the book and wanted to read more. That just means I have to write it.

Thank you to Mary Wine for telling me to write about a costumer. She also inspired the Hobbit wedding.

To read the opening pages of my work in progress, Come Undone, click below.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Back on the Horse

I am the biggest obstacle to my writing. There are those moments when I could believe in muses gifting me with a story. Then there are those moments (many, many moments over the past year) where my writing is forced with the hope that if I write something, the right thing will happen. The result usually involves many mindless Facebook games, deleted pages, or the urge to nap.

When I have experienced writer's block in the past it's always because I wasn't writing the correct thing. Something was critically wrong with my story and I couldn't work forward until it was fixed. This past year has been different. I think I stopped trusting myself and my vision. Rejection took its toll and I think, on a subconscious level, I no longer believed that the right story lay within me. I lost the joy of writing for writing's sake and could only see my failures.

My critique partner would ask me about this every time she saw me. I didn't see what was happening because I was still writing, sort of. Hardly producing, but I would open the file and change it enough to have to save at the end. She saw me flailing and wanted to help, but I didn't see it. She asked if I was done with writing. I said no, but I wondered.

So, here it is. I am not done with writing. What I am done with (until I freak out again, there's a full moon, menstruation, out of ice cream, whatever) is writing with the goal of getting an agent/editor's attention. I'm writing for me. I'm writing what will make me smile, cry, or surprise my husband with unsolicited physical affection. I will write because it makes me feel like I'm fulfilling my potential.

And if an agent/editor ends up liking it, bully for me. If not... well, eventually sometime something I write will be the right thing for the industry and then I'll have a whole backlog of completed manuscripts for my future readers.

In honor of my wake up call, my next post will include the beginning pages from a work in progress than I'm disinterring and going to finish (if it kills me, goshdarnit). So stay tuned.

The video linked below is twenty minutes but worth your time. I have thought back on it many times over the years, especially when I don't feel the creative genius percolating and try to force it. It helps me to realize I can't control everything (serenity prayer anyone?) and the stories that need to be told will be told.



Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hell if I Know

I have no idea what I'm doing. It's true. It doesn't matter if we're talking about teaching, parenting, writing, sewing, breathing.. I have no clue. I'm just making things up as I go along and hoping no one notices. Luckily I've become good at faking it, but that doesn't change the fact that I feel like a fraud.

I have these moments of clarity when I think, "Hey, I'm a grown up now," or "Wow, I've been teaching for fifteen years," or, "My kids are still alive!" and think I may be competent. But then I wake up the next day and have to fight my own self doubt again.

In The War of Art author Steven Pressfield calls this niggling doubt of being an impostor "Resistance."

Resistance lurks and preys on insecurities. What makes me think I'm good enough to write a book that people want to read? I'm just me, how can I design and sew a dress that looks like anything other than bits of fabric an overweight mom threw together in her kitchen?

Sometimes Resistance floors me, filling me with doubt and self loathing. Then there are the times that I square my shoulders and flip it of and write because I love writing. I know that dress looks great because I trust my judgement (except when I don't). I am so full of ideas, of color, of energy, how can I not create?

Creative outlets, in writing or teaching or parenting, are where I find fulfillment so how can I let Resistance make me complacent and willing to be mediocre? In order to believe this about myself I have to redefine success to the act of creativity rather than any sort of external validation. Of course, this makes it easier to listen to Resistance when it tells me my books are terrible, but in the end I trust the spark inside me that pushes me to keep truckin'.

So, KERPLOWWWIE! I will continue to spray the world with my creative juices (ewww) because 1. I can. And 2. It makes me whole.



Who cares if I'm just making it up as I go along? Isn't that what creativity is?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Words, Words, Words

I remember using the "n" word as a child (the 1970s) with my friends when "eeny, meeny, miny, mo" had different words than it does today. Yes, I'm white. No, I did not live in a white supremacist community/family. At the time I didn't understand the history or the impact; now the word gives me the creeps. As a teacher I've dealt with students who have used the word to hurt, knowing full well the impact, but having no empathy for the recipient. I like to think caring will increase with age (hooray for optimism).

Today I used the word "tinker" and the woman with whom I was speaking winced. Based on my life experiences, tinker was a commonly used word and, at the time, didn't seem negative -- as far as I knew, it's just what the travelling people were called. I gather by the reaction today that the word's connotation has changed. Or, perhaps, the word always was offensive and I wasn't aware (innocent ignorance - the same could be said of the word in the first paragraph). Either way, I was embarrassed by my usage today.

In my historical manuscripts I strive to use accurate words for the times. If I question something's historical authenticity, I look it up just to be sure I'm correctly representing the era. That said, values have changed since the fifteen seventies and the significance of historically accurate terms to the modern reader may seriously impact the reading experience. My most recent research was on the terminology for early condoms (one nickname: scum bag.... ewwww).

Bearing in mind the reaction of the modern reader, I do not put faggots on the fire. I do not call ladies wenches, but nor do I use the term to imply a woman of ill repute (wench meant female and was not rank or morality specific). As much as I avoid addressing the hygiene norms of time in order to maintain reader buy-in to the romance, I keep obsolete, though era appropriate words to the minimum. As far as words go, black people in Tudor England would have been referred to as Moors or Ethiopians (to name a few examples) and were present during this time, not only in a slave capacity. I wonder if, at that time, there was objection to the generalization and massive grouping of a people comprised of many tribal identities. Either way, during those times, they were certainly considered more socially acceptable than those known as Gypsies or Romany. That said, I would never disparage the Gypsy people, even in a historical when that would have been the attitude of the day. It could alienate the reader.

The question this brings to mind is: should I? Should I aim for historical accuracy despite the potential for reader reaction? I think the answer lies in whether I'm writing historical fiction or historical romance. I addressed abortion in my second manuscript, but I did so keeping in mind the modern reader response rather than the Elizabethan attitude toward it. I did this to be safe, if not true to the era (and worked it into my main character's arc of self acceptance). Today, abortion is controversial and involves the question of when life begins. All my reading of Queen Elizabeth's court shows there was no such moral quandary.

These same issues were prevalent when I performed in a living history group. How much history do you sacrifice to the need to be entertaining/non-offensive? It's a delicate balance that can be upset by a single word.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Dear Blog

 Dear Blog,
          I've been working on an alternate project lately and can't really tell you about it. Rest assured that I am still writing, but I took a left turn at Albuquerque and who knows where I'll end up.
          I've been mulling over a question. I strongly believe that a writer should be true to themselves. That said, how smart is it to keep being true to yourself when rejection after rejection tells you that you are on the wrong path? There are only so many times you can tell yourself that you just haven't found the right agent yet before you come to the conclusion that the problem is with yourself.
         I know, dear blog, that you are on my side. I know you think I'm a great writer with manuscripts the world has been waiting to see. Thank you for that. I just think that, perhaps, it may not be the manuscripts that I have already written. That leaves me with the problem of figuring out where I go wrong. The latest rejection told me there was a problem with the pacing. Does that mean it's too fast? Or too staccato? That I don't give enough breathing space? I don't know.
        This brings me back to my first point. I'm taking a break from querying, pitching, or putting myself out there at all. I need to focus on my craft and find my voice. I also need to confirm whether my voice is in genre fiction or literary fiction and go all in.
        As for you, blog, I think I'll return to the premise of building my craft in my posts. Does that mean you'll still hear about Irish dancing? Well, I don't think that I can avoid including that. I hope you don't mind.  But, for the time being, there will be no conference/pitching posts because that's not where I am right now.
        Are we cool?

        Yours,
   
         Erin Spock

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sure, I Can Make an Irish Solo Dress...

You see the price tags on the USED dresses and think to yourself that you have years of sewing experience. You even have experience in costuming. You can embroider, you can bead. Hell, you once made a dress that weighed almost forty pounds, a little baby Irish dress has got to be cake.

Well, it's not. It's so much more than a dress. It has to hang correctly when stationary and when moving. The skirt has to be weighted to stay down, but light enough to pop up with kicks. The bodice can't be form fitting, but should show the dancer's posture and form. The sleeves should always been in the down position and hang correctly that way, but the dancer needs to be able to fix her wig.

For my first dress I was worried about putting in a zipper. One YouTube tutorial later and the zipper was the least of my worries. In the long run, my biggest struggle (construction-wise) was with the sleeves. The detail work took some getting used to as well. I hated the idea of working with glue and opted to stitch on all the beads. This resulted in a dress that, up close, had a home-made quality. I still think it danced well, but I was too stuck in my own vision to consider resale.

This is a good source that answers questions about Irish dresses. I also found this very helpful when it came to patterning and applique. Then there is always just looking at the dresses, figuring out how the professionals pieced them together (this has been the most helpful). To look at some of the big name designers, click on the images included in this post.

I had a similar experience when it came to writing my first book. I'd always been a big reader, but didn't think, "Hey, I could write this," until I started reading romance (my Mom's Fabio collection). I realize now that I didn't have a respect for the genre or the writers at that time. Not until, years later, I struggled with my own story arc did I really pick apart what made a good book and gain appreciation for the nuances of the story building.

My first book was a labor of love, based entirely on my vision of how it should be. No, it didn't/hasn't sold. There's been interest, yes - but ultimately I hear that it's more like historical fiction than historical romance.

Just like with my first solo dress. I received compliments, sincere ones about how pretty the dress was. But was it an Irish solo dress? I'm learning.

My point here is that, from the outside, sometimes things look simpler than they are in reality. This is not new news by any means, but it's a lesson I learn over and over again. Knowing this has made me a kinder person, less critical. I appreciate the work that goes into making something great so much more than I did when I was full of unjustified confidence.

And thus, I am finished with another adequate blog post.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Aphrodisiac Flash Fiction

I wrote this short piece for Romantic Friday Writers a in 2012. Since then, this is the post most of my friends recount to me when we discuss my writing. I thought I would re-post it just for fun (and to keep my posts more regular, a goal of mine).


Aphrodisiac Schmaphrodisiac
The goose was rubbed down with honey and citrus. I had been drawing cup after cup of rendered fat away for the past three hours. Oysters chilled on their bed of ice in my sink with only a little of my blood still staining the drain from my first practice shucking. The artichokes were steaming and the olive oil, caper, and dill drizzle was setting, drawing and blending flavors. The wine had been decanted, my prized Waterford red wine goblets, polished.
I had eschewed my regular floral perfume for a spicy cinnamon body lotion. My hair was loose, my cleavage bountiful. I had followed the Aphrodisiac Cookbook to the letter, but knew if all else failed, I could count on my breasts.
One way or another, I was going to get laid tonight. No, not 'laid'–seduced. My needs were basic; I wanted to be wanted. I wanted to feel. For so long I had been a wife and mother. Toward the end, when the Huntington's had disabled the man I married, I was more caretaker than wife. Now, with Jason finally at peace and the boys in college, it was time to be a woman again. I blinked away the threatening tears and checked my eyes in the mirror. The mascara was definitely worth the eight dollars, though the lip stain looked too contrived. Grimacing, I wondered if I should have colored my hair. The strands of silver among the auburn screamed, "Old lady." And no one seduced an old lady. No, they helped her open jars and cross the road. My skin was still smooth. Without the grey, I could, maybe, have pulled off thirty-nine. With the grey I was every inch of forty-seven. I ran a finger over my brows, and gave myself a smile. I looked... well, I look like me. And Mr. Harris, David, already knew what I looked like.
The chimes sounded. He was here. I took a deep breath and slipped my bare feet into the kitten heeled slings I bought years ago for a Caribbean cruise but never wore. They still felt sexy.
He stood in the doorway, tall and clean cut in his casual slacks. My son’s former soccer coach, I’d never seen him in anything but his team jersey and sweats.
“Good evening, Mrs. Walsh.” He smiled and brought his hand from behind his back. Roses.
I blushed like an idiot and took them, my smile  so big it hurt. “Gemma, please.”
“Sorry. Old habits.”
I stepped back and he stepped in, wiping his feet on the rug. I should have moved further back—I was too close, in his space. Before I could, he took my hand.
“I’ve been looking forward to tonight for a long time.”
His voice was deeper than I remembered. He was holding my hand—should I squeeze? Pull away? Stay limp? I blushed again, burying my face in the roses. Jeese, you’d think I was sixteen, not someone who couldn’t open jars.
“David,” his name sounded decadent on my tongue, “would you like some wine?” I gestured with the bouquet, but stayed beside him, my hand warm in his.
“Umm, yes,” he cleared his throat, “Or no. Not now. Christ, I’m no good at this.”
“Good at what?” My voice was breathless.
He stepped closer, tracing my cheek with his finger. My breath caught in my throat as he leaned toward me.
            “This,” he whispered. Lowering his head he brushed my lips with his. His hand cradled my jaw, his fingers spearing back into my hair.
I leaned closer and he pressed his mouth more firmly against mine. Closing my eyes, I melted into him and he wrapped his arms around me.
The roses fell to the floor, the timer on the oven beeped, and the wine continued to breathe. None of it mattered. This man, David, he wanted me, grey hair and all, without aphrodisiacs.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

Naughty, Naughty Me

Today I packed up my classroom and completed all the check-out procedures at my school. While I waited for my exit interview with my principal, I decided to work on one of my blog posts on a school computer. Our filters are really ineffective, but they worked today and I was blocked. Not only was I blocked, I was given a summary of all the reasons.


Wow. I guess this is what I blog about. I'm pretty daring. One might even say I'm naughty. The block made me laugh, but I couldn't explain it to my colleague because a parent walked in.

I'm not sure what else there is to say, Diladele Web Safety said it all. I do wonder, though, why the terms 'free,' 'petite,' 'tour,' and 'teen' were blocked. As for 'blonde,' that goes without saying.

Maybe this should be part of my blog tag line.

Spock Writes Romance
The blog where you'll find erotic sexual content such as anal fetish porn, twats and more twats, rape, fetishes, blonde whores, sluts with fingers, full frontal, a few more whores, and much, much more!

Man, I hate the word twat.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Defining Literary Fiction

In jumping the romance ship (sort of) I have to acquaint myself with norms for the much broader umbrella of literary fiction. That said, it seems there are no norms other than telling a good story. Then again, that could be said for any of the genre fiction categories -- the underlying factor that makes them genre is that the bulk of the story meets a certain angle. In my case, romance requires an emotionally satisfying happily ever after. All of my manuscripts meet this romance norm, but the romance between my main characters does not always meet the aspect of fantasy implicit in romance, hence the switch.

Part of my research brought me across "Literary Fiction vs. Genre Fiction," a Huffington Post article by Steven Petit. I agree with much of what he says about the difference between genre and literary fiction except for the distinction that genre fiction is to entertain and literary fiction is an expression of the writer's being. Gotham Writers points out that "literary and genre fiction aren’t exclusive of one another." Every thing I have written has been an expression of my soul and I would argue that many author's of genre fiction put themselves into their books and consider them art, albeit art that entertains. Art is successful when it draws forth an emotional response and I like to flatter myself that my writing does just that (even with a happily ever after). Maybe that's because I am amazing. Sure. Why not? 

I struggle with maintaining the norms of one sub-genre of romance. My historical romances are too  chick lit and historical fiction to have a clear shelf space (and I've heard this from my critique partner, my beta readers, AND industry professionals so it's insane that I'm only now accepting it as truth). My paranormal are too historical and thriller/suspense to even be categorized under romance at all. The only clear genre fiction I have in the works (notice it's not finished) are my contemporary, but contemporary romance in itself is also skirting the boundary of chick lit, so bully for me.

In short, I think good writing is "Literary Fiction is comprised of the heart and soul of a writer's being, and is experienced as an emotional journey through the symphony of words, leading to a stronger grasp of the universe and of ourselves" (Petit).  This description can apply to all genres and gives me hope of being successful as I look into a new pool of agents and publishers.


For now I'll ignore the niggling doubt that reminds me many of the agents I have queried in the past represent more than romance. That said, if they saw something more like literary fiction in my manuscripts, wouldn't they have instigated the change? Or were they looking only for romance norms since that was the description they started with?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Romantically Retarded

I have been boy crazy for as long as I can remember. I also have been horribly insecure about it all. For a long time I could NEVER let someone know I like them because that made me vulnerable. And God forbid that someone like me first- - I would assume something must be very wrong with them and instantly and irrationally dislike them. I had (have) issues and owe a few boys an apology.

The result was the only boyfriends I had were ones who I hunted down and trapped. The couple that pursued me didn't last long and left me feeling creeped out even if their only sin was liking me more than I liked them. My husband doesn't know how close I came to bolting based on pure fear/freak-out after he brought up the idea of marriage before I was ready to talk about it. The thing is, I don't believe in soul mates. I believe you chose your love and then love your choice. The whole idea of something 'meant to be' is anathema to me.

And this is why I shouldn't write romance. In fact, I don't think I do write romance after all. Yet again, like with relationships past, I was forcing something to be something it wasn't.

My love stories are way too practical and involve people deciding they want to be together instead of NEEDING to be together. I lack the magic. I like to read romance and enjoy the love-conquers-all story, but I also enjoy science fiction/fantasy. I guess I see true love and dragons under the same light. No wonder I don't write it convincingly.

I am now researching the possibility of marketing my books as literary fiction with strong romantic elements. That's a different set of norms, industry players, etc...  I'm starting over (only with several books already written) and have a lot of work ahead of me.

Wish me luck.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Creative Outlet

My first dress.
Currently for sale, btw. :)
I just finished my third Irish dance solo dress. The first two were for my oldest daughter and were true labors of love. The third was made for a good friend who was in need and I rose to the occasion. Of these experiences, the third was by far the most stressful. Why? I was making it to someone else's specification. Whether or not they liked it mattered. The quality of my product would be judged by someone other than myself. AND I was on a very ambitious deadline (one week).

Overflowing with insecurity, I did the final fitting and tried to read every micro-expression, gauge every raised brow, every assessing glance. Did they like it? I couldn't tell -- they said they did, but there was that momentary look of confusion when they looked at it, the hint of disappointment. It crushed me.

My second dress on left.
The dress on right is a school dress.
They asked me to make the dress because of a desperate need, and, because I recognized the need I agreed. The moment money changed hands, I went from a friend doing a favor to an employee providing a service.

In the end, the young dancer had a very elegant dress. When she was on stage she beamed and held herself proudly. When she danced I knew she loved the dress.

Let me be clear that I am not complaining about the experience; I'm detailing the stresses involved as they relate to my growth as a Irish solo dress designer/seamstress. The biggest life lesson here was how difficult it was to make sure we all had the same expectations. Despite sketches, swatches, and explanations, I wasn't able to explain my vision to my clients OR (worse) understand their vision/expectation. We thought we were all on the same page, but I could tell by the look on their faces that the dress wasn't what they imagined it would be. Did I deliver a good dress? Yes. Was it what they wanted? Ehrrrmmmm... not sure. Probably not.

My third dress (and first commission project)
I have my own perspective on solo dresses. First, I don't want them to look just like everyone else's dress. What's the point of it being a solo dress if it's a carbon copy of this year's trends? So far every dress I've made has been quality, elegant, and met all the performance costume guidelines (the one linked is only one set. There are small differences between different regions). Solo dresses are supposed to get the judge's attention, but I'd rather have that be because it looks beautiful on the dancer rather than because the dress punches you in the eyeball. I want my dresses to move well, fit well, and suit the dancer. Of course I don't want it out of place in the line of dancers, but I don't want it to blend in either. That said, not everyone will like my designs.

This ties in perfectly with my experience in writing. It must be a common thread in all the creative production professions. Making what you believe in compared to making what you think will sell. Communicating your vision and inspiring others to feel as strongly about it as you do... it's all the same beast. Of late I've felt more satisfaction in designing/creating dresses than I have in writing -- perhaps because with the dresses I can see them out there, dancing. My books sit idle, waiting.


My dresses are entry level solo dresses so far, not elaborate enough for Worlds (above). 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Death by a Thousand Cuts

This is Sam Elliot. It was actually the 'mustache rides" t-shirt that made this win over all the other images that came up under my "crazy mustache biker dude" search.

This is what I must have looked like today at Princess Nails when I had my brow waxed and my insanely huge mustache threaded. I'd noticed a few hairs that were darker than blonde and though I should take care of it before I go downhill fast. I can't just wax my lip thanks to the cold sores I get whenever that space is abused. Hence, threading. Holy Mary, Mother of God. I left with tears streaming down my face, trying to smile as I paid for this torture.

Why subject myself to this? Well, I'm going to a writing conference.

What does my mustache have to do with writing? This is the big question. The real answer? Nothing. However, in an effort to look like a well-groomed, confident, competent, not-crazy person, I put a lot of time into getting into my writerly character. This involves shaving my legs regularly, not just the day I need it, so that my skin looks healthy, nourished, and isn't covered in red bumps. It also involves reacquainting myself with my flat-iron and make-up bag. It means a more regular skin regime, not just using a daily moisturizer with spf30. Why? Because most people put more effort into their appearance than I do on a daily basis and, during a conference, I have to fake it in such a way that it seems natural. It's akin to Renee Zellweger putting on weight and taking on a job at a British publishing company to prepare for Bridget Jones's Diary (only much less cool.) I pretend to be socially acceptable and hope it sticks for the duration of the conference.

The amount of which I simply do not care about how I look would astound most people. This is offset by occasional bouts of caring, but not enough to actually do anything on a regular basis. At conferences I plan to promote myself like a high priced whore (without the sex). It's what I always do. Usually I'm sort of hyped about the process, ready to conquer the world, and the Stanislavskian character development/method acting begins a good month in advance.

Not so this time. I leave tomorrow for Los Angeles and I just gave in to the self-inflicted pressure and took one small step towards my packaging (losing the mustache I didn't even know I had). I made the monetary investment and allowances for time away from my family a while ago, but I haven't committed to my pre-conference prep. Why? I don't seem to care. Yeah-- I know, it's dumb. I mean, I care like crazy about getting published but, lately, when I think about pitching, I just get tired. I don't know if can be that go-getter who is serious about her career (I am very serious, btw), smiling at strangers and trying to network. I think the problem is that there is only so much abuse a person's ego can take. How many times do I get told the industry doesn't want my manuscripts before I start to believe it? I might be there already. I'm pitching my finished work this time, but I've stopped seeing them as viable and count only on my works in progress when I think about the possibility of that first deal. I've lost steam.

This could be a good thing. I mean the high-on-life social butterfly I force myself to be at these things hasn't worked. It's possible I come off as on crack (not the first time I've heard that) and am off-putting. Maybe, the new, relaxed conference version of me will be more appealing. Heck, maybe I should just go for hard-to-get and make myself a challenge. If you can spark MY interest, you might get to represent my three historical romance novels, two supernatural romantic suspense novels, and possibly my contemporary romances (if you're lucky). I'll be aloof and mysterious. Come and get me.

Yeah, I don't have high hopes for that either.  So, as it stands, I will probably doll up (professional with personal touches that speak to artistry) and pretend to be gregarious then sleep hard for a week. We shall see.

If you see me at the California Dreamin' Conference, please say hello. I'm friendly even if I'm not naturally outgoing. Or, maybe I will be on crack and say hello to you first. Who know's? It's a mystery.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Not the Usual Entrance

I'm blogging when I should be sleeping off the anesthesia. Good idea? Probably not. But I'm moved to blog and therefore I should.


I had (TMI warning) a colonoscopy today. It was Karma's way of teaching me a lesson. You see my mother gets a colonoscopy about once a month and when she's not being probed, she's thinking about it, scheduling it, prepping for it, or talking about it. As a result I took to writing it down for her randomly on her home calendar and white board whenever I visit. So, here I am at thirty-nine having a colonoscopy while fate points a finger and says, "Ha. Ha."

What does this have to do with writing? Romance?

Well... romance.

The backdoor is slowly becoming a plausible source for penetration in mainstream romance. Not my cup-o-tea, personally. Seriously, never going to happen. Never going to write about it happening between a man and a woman as if it's something sexy. Maybe I'm not open minded enough or whatever, doesn't matter. Exit only. Thank you. My opinion.

The first book I read that included anal sex caught me by surprise. First I thought he was just being messy with the oils, then overly cautious when he donned two condoms. But when the hero entered the heroine from "not the usual place" I had to reread a couple times to make sure I understood. I can't remember the title or author and my Google searches gave me nothing. The story involved a woman pretending to be a gypsy psychic while she scammed the haut ton in order to get vengeance against the family that wronged her. The leading man forcefully seduces her (not rapey enough for me to shut the book then and there -- no means no) and then BAM, in the butt. I'll be she was surprised. I certainly was.

Since then, with the rise of romantica as a sub-genre, I've read it multiple times. Usually the author handles it well and since I'm invested in the story of the characters, the fact that I find the act off-putting is irrelevant to the overall story. Lady Chatterly's Lover, one of my favorite books, includes it (I was just too unwordly to understand what "the Italian way" meant when I first read it), but the story is about so much more than sex that even now that I know it doesn't detract. The entire story is about finding that "connexion," and though the sexual content is prominent it's really just part of that process. I think all successful romances use sex as a way to further the character's emotional growth and, in that, can go to all sorts of lengths as long as it's consistent with the characters. This is why, to me, Sylvia Day's Crossfire series doesn't come across as abusive while Fifty Shades does.


What do you think about the broadening scope of sexuality within the romance genre?

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?

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