Thursday, June 28, 2012

Naked I Came From My Mother's Womb

Warning -- some might find this blasphemous or, at the very least, irreverent. Read on at your peril.

There was a woman in the land of Yuppies whose name was Erin; and that woman was imperfect but curvaceous, and one that feared socialized healthcare and eschewed Jehovah Witnesses during dinner time. Her substance was solid, yet jiggly in spots, and she had a mediocre, middle class household; so that this woman was fair to middling in her general social strata.

Now there was a day when the powers that be had a pow-wow. They considered the woman, Erin. They knew there were none like her in the earth. They decided to screw with her most mightily.

And there was a day when her husband was returning from bowling. A phone call came unto Erin and said, “Shit, I was just in an accident,” and the Uninsured Teenager’s father’s car fell upon Brian’s Camry and there was damage. Before that was yet resolved, the editor with the publisher interested in Erin’s book, Courtly Scandals, for whom Erin had made revisions and waited with great expectation, left the employ of the publisher. Then the new editor came unto Erin via e-mail and rejected the manuscript. And while Erin was still disappointed, she fell down the stairs. The great fall smote her foot and she was unable to walk upon it for 8 weeks. And while that foot was still healing, a great Jeep failed to stop in time on the 163 South and crashed mightily into the rear of Erin’s favorite van, causing both the bumper and lift gate to be replaced, and later, the stereo. And while the replacement was underway and Erin’s smote foot was healing, Erin’s boss came unto her, to inform her that the Mosaic program Erin had been instrumental in developing and been teaching in for the past four years was being dissolved. But lo, the boss promised a comparable job for next year, but could not say what it would be. Then Erin arose, albeit on wobbly feet, and did not tear her clothes or shave her head or exclaim anything meaningful.

Again there was a day when Erin returned to teaching and there was much grading to be done and retraining of the students who, in Erin’s absence, erroneously considered her their buddy and not an authority figure. Erin was glad she did not shave her head. And then the school year ended without issue, but Erin and her children were smote with a dreadful illness. And then, while still suffering from the cold, Erin’s doctor spoke of menopause and requested an ultrasound of the female bits. Thus Erin scheduled her probing without rejoicing. Then, while she waited, she received a letter from EDD denying a large portion of her disability. Erin wrote a letter of appeal and swore mightily.

And while Erin was awaiting the violating procedure with distaste and not buying groceries, a Volvo did misjudge her action whilst waiting to turn right on a red and bumped into the new bumper of her favorite van. And in this, Erin was pissed off. She yelled a foul word, unheard by her children.

The rest of this chapter is unwritten. I hope the stupid sequence of unfortunate events end here.

I have always found the Book of Job odd. It’s the only one in the Bible that shows a conversation between God and Satan – so it reads more like Hebrew mythology to me than the inspired word of God. I’ve always gotten a kick out of the pissing contest nature of it. In line with other culture's deities, it shows how much havoc pride can cause. I imagine the group that included it in the Bible decided it was a good allegorical message about holding on to faith in the face of disaster. In fact, in looking for images, I found this (I edited it just a little; however, if you were going to be offended by this post, you probably are already -- so what's one swear word?).

All jesting aside, good things have happened this year as well. Counting my blessings just wouldn’t have worked with the theme of Job. BTW, I do know that many people have it worse than I do. I was just having some fun.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Try It, You Might Like It

An acquaintance, when asked if she read romance, responded, "I refuse to answer that question." Her voice was thick with derision, her mouth a sneer of disgust. She may as well have been asked if she liked to eat her own poo. I'm not exaggerating - it was that bad. At that point the attempt at conversation died.

An analogy:
I have never eaten Pho (this is unrelated to the poo comment above). It does not look appealing, but I know a lot of people like it. If it were served to me, I would politely try it. I hope I would give it an objective try, without being predisposed to disliking it because it looks sort of slimy. Who knows? Maybe I think too highly of myself. Maybe I'd be like my seven year old and gag through the whole swallowing process just because I'm in a snit (Lily did this with honeydew melon yesterday). Ideally, whether I liked it or not, I would treat the entire culture of people who love it with respect.

Back to romance...

My brother is not my target demographic. He's a 34 year-old (Yes, ladies, he's single! Sagittarius, stormy blue eyes, good with kids and Skyrim) white male - an entomologist. His book of choice is usually fantasy/sci-fi, but he does read humorist essay collections. He has read all my books. His feedback has been invaluable. Even more to the point, he did not suffer through my books. Yes, he loves me -- but he would never have read after book one if reading my romance novels was like pulling teeth. I don't think he ever felt like his intelligence was being insulted or that he was reading porn. If you asked him if he read romance, he'd probably say no because that's not his first choice -- but I guarantee that he wouldn't make you feel like jackass just for asking a question.

I know I go off on romance prejudice frequently -- but that's because it throws itself in my face so often (as a romance writer). When I first started writing, I told people I was writing historical fiction. That, while not a lie, was not the truth entirely. Yes, I write romance. I am proud of my writing. I know that someday my books will be published and that I will be a better writer with each book. If you sneer at what I do for unexplained reasons, that's fine. I don't need you to validate me. I hope, for your sake, you enjoy something.

But I do want to know, have you ever read a romance? Or is your disgust based on ignorance? I suspect the later.

I'm taking a risk that my brother and/or "the acquaintance" may read this blog post. We'll wait and see what happens. I'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


I'm off to a good start on my new w.i.p., Possessing Karma. This is my first contemporary, but luckily since I do live in current times, it's not too much of a stretch. :) The paranormal aspect is also not entirely new to me. The story involves a haunted historical building.

For a time during my childhood, my family lived in Ireland. My parents managed a hotel and we lived on the property. The hotel had begun its life as a hunting lodge in the lat 1700s. It later became a boys boarding school before evolving into a hotel during WWIIish. While I never saw anything that I would be willing to swear was supernatural, I definitely felt something (blog post about this here). You can chalk it up to a hyperactive imagination, but it doesn't really matter. What matters right now is that it felt real to me and that gives me a great experience to draw upon when writing about a haunting.

Of course, I was never possessed by a horny ghost, or by any ghost - so that's all new to me.

I introduced my first 250 months ago while I still more in developing stages than real writing (you can compare the two here if you like). Now I'm actually starting the story where the story starts (my mantra). Here are the first 292 words of Possessing Karma. Please let me know your thoughts regarding the hook, the character, setting, etc... Thanks in advance. :)

“What on earth…”
Kay’s voice echoed through the empty room. Where was she? Looking around she took in the polished oak floors, the elaborate crown molding at the ceiling, the Ikea boxes and bags stacked by the wall.
Her new condo in New Orleans. “Home,” her voice echoed through the almost empty room.
She mentally retraced her steps. She remembered the airport in Los Angeles, stepping into humidity in New Orleans. The taxi driver speaking gibberish, one way streets, construction, then finally the bright yellow painted bricks of her new home. She remembered putting the key in the lock, stepping inside to the scent of fresh paint… then nothing.
How had she ended up half naked and dripping wet on the floor?
Sitting up, she ran her hands over her hair. It was damp but not soaked through. Slicking it away from her face, she tied it in a knot on top of her head. Her bra, white cotton and perfectly serviceable, was spotted with water drops, her nipples a dark contrast through the damp fabric.
Maybe she’d passed out. Air conditioned air port, hot parking lot, air conditioned taxi, steaming streets, jet lag, airport food… it wasn’t an unreasonable assumption. But then what had happened to her clothes?
“Was I assaulted?”
 Refusing to panic, she stood barefoot in a puddle on the waxed wood. Though undone, her jeans were still on. Running her hands over her body, she felt no injuries. There was nothing outside the norm, well, not really – but her underwear was uncomfortably askew. Kay ran her fingers along the elastic at her thighs, putting everything in place.  What should have been a perfunctory motion sent shivers through her, her body tightening, aroused.
What the hell was going on?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Genre Norms

Ava Donja at Silk and Stone had a post about Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. I am not agreeing or disagreeing with her opinion of the book, I will comment on her statement about genre norms.

Ava qualifies romance as "having an emotionally satisfying happy ending where the good guys are rewarded and the bad guys are punished."  I tend to agree with her synopsis.

Romance Writer's of America defines romance as:
A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around two individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as he/she wants as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.

An Emotionally-Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love. 
Ava's novelette, Mind, Body, and Spirit, meets the norms. Boy meets girl, attraction, conflict, resolution, and lots of sex (even some hair pulling, if you're into FSOG type stuff). Does that make it less enjoyable read? No - I kept it on my Kindle, alongside Hearts in Darkness, and will probably reread it. Is it cliche? Well, what isn't? It's what the authors do with the norms that make the difference.

This is where criticism of romance is the most strong. Romance promises you a happy ending (take that how you will). How can anyone take the story seriously when you know it will all work out in the end? I would answer that the enjoyment is in the journey itself. Yes, I know the hero and heroine will live happily ever after, but as they get to know each other and discover their love, I'm getting to know them. I get a glimpse of their lives, their worlds. Cliche ending? Sure. But the same can be said of all genre fiction.

  • Sci-Fi - cool hero uses cool gadgets to save the world(s)
  • Fantasy - chosen one discovers destiny and saves the world
  • Mystery - super detective solves the mystery
  • YA - angst filled, under-appreciated teen comes to terms with self (eventually)

FSOG  breaks genre norms -- that is, if it was intended to be a romance. There is (spoiler alert) no emotionally satisfying ending. In this, it leans more toward how people define literature vs. genre fiction. Literature tends to be darker, leave loose ends, not end happily-ever-after. I know that is a gross generalization. Does that make FSOG a literary fiction novel? I'll let you answer that question.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Write What I Know

I am a white, thirty-six year old college graduate. I grew up exposed to western culture. I was raised with middle class values and a firm appreciation of capitalism and the possibility of improving my lot in life. I am a heterosexual woman. My father wanted me to go to a good college specifically so I would meet my future husband amongst the throng of young men set on succeeding in life (I was always a little offended by this). This is my basic background. Since people write what they know, I write about white women (exception of Karma) and their heterosexual relationships. Because I am a history major (in my adequate college, already married) and active in Renaissance faires, I feel comfortable writing about the Elizabethan era. I know what it's like to wear a corset, farthingale, bumroll, and forty pound dress. This is my element.

In a recent blog post on Teach Me Tonight, one of the quoted articles addressed the "ethnocentricism, heteronormativity, and cultural imperialism," of mainstream romance genre fiction. I really enjoyed the author's voice in this and did not disagree, given I've never been a proponent of romance novels as a form of feminism. It did, however, make me think about why I made the character and plot choices I do. It's because of who I am and what I find engrossing. Making the assumption that this is true for all authors, and given my 'brand' of character/plot is not outside the mainstream norm (much),  this issue is more about what publisher's choose to put forth versus what is being written or the writers themselves. Since publishers only publish what they think will sell and heterosexual, western cultural values based novels are being put out there, one could assume that people who want these stories are the people buying the books. So then is it the supply that determines romance norms? Or the demand? My local bookstore is in Temecula, California -- yuppie central. There is an itty-bitty shelf for GLBT literature. There is no erotica section. Romance spans three aisles. I have noticed that most titles in my local store involve white protagonists -- again, I assume this is a result of marketing analysis in regard to what sells given Temecula's demographic.

My point here? Publishers are providing what readers want to buy. All readers? No. Most readers? Yes. Are romance authors shoving their values of what is attractive, honorable, sexy, moral, etc... down reader's throats? No, the readers are choosing to swallow it (take that how you will). If indoctrination is happening, than the readers are drinking the Kool-aid . I have drunk this particular Kool-aid hundreds of times and will continue to do so -- but then again, I am the target market.

I write this today because my stories include a message about self worth, about acceptance. I like to think readers would respond to the characters and story and my stories would have a positive impact. I hate to think of my writing as making someone feel worse, make them feel like an outsider looking in, like they were being judged. Then again, chances are excellent that if you are not in the target market for my books (which, for the record, are not published... yet) you won't buy my book, so it will be a non-issue.
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