Saturday, December 30, 2017

No Means No

 Click the image for a fun sidetrack.Bodice Rippers.

It's a term I've used in the past to mock the romance genre. It comes from an era of romance where the young virtuous ingenue is seduced by the experienced rake. She fights her own desire and, when she gives in, it is often under duress. It's the scenario where she said no but her body said yes. Now I consider that disgusting, it's rape made titillating. It also summarizes the value system of an era where good girls couldn't say yes... and it taught men that no didn't always mean no.

But romance novels did not create this norm, they were a symptom of it. The female readers during this time responded to these books because it was a representation of the social values they were living. Sexual fantasy was just that, fantasy. But the limits on a woman's right to claim her own sexuality was not a fantasy.

These were the romances I started with. In fact, these stories impacted my view about love and sex. I'm still trying to get over that.

Today's romance novels still frequently have an alpha man. The difference between the old school tropes and today's characters is that he's butting heads with an alpha woman. It's a meeting of equals. Unless you are reading a niche book about BDSM or rape fantasy or straight-up porn, mainstream romance is about a woman who is competent and powerful in her own right. She may or may not be virginal. She may or may not be young. Or thin. Or white. Or heterosexual. And there is no concern about whether or not a woman can acknowledge her own desires. If she says no, it's because she means no. And, an equally important shift, she has the right to say yes.

Romance has changed as the writers have changed. While it is still a market with, predominantly, women writing for women, that is not exclusive. A good story is still a good story, and (imo) the only thing keeping the romance genre limited to a specific section of the bookstore and a specific demographic is the prejudice in place against the genre.

(While I could talk at length about the ingrained prejudice against romance based on sexism and the patriarchal norms still lingering that want to limit women's sexual agency, this is a post specifically about the changing face of romance.)

So bodice rippers have had their time and the romance industry has evolved. It's to a point where the term has been reclaimed by the industry in much the same way as racial or homophobic slurs are used by people within the culture to take away the power of the word. We have taken ownership of the insult and know that, as a genre, we are above it.

*Click the image above to go to the BuzzFeed link, "19 Things Fabio Is Actually Thinking On Romance Novel Covers."

Monday, December 25, 2017

I Wish You a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

I wish you and yours a wonderful holiday and hope for 2018.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Courtly Scandals

Courtly Pleasures is a stand-alone story within a trio of books. Each of these books can be read individually without the reader feeling like they missed an integral part of the story. I, personally, like this about romance. I love getting to know the families and friends of the hero/heroine of a story and then get to see their stories. I love getting a glimpse of the hero/heroine, happy in their life together, during the next novels. It keeps me buying that author again and again because I'm not ready to release that world just yet. And, if I read one out of order, the story is not hurt - it just makes me curious about what came before. In fact, it's fun to see the heroine I loved in book five as a young girl with scraped knees in book two.


When I started writing, I wanted to create a rich world where the readers would want to come back. So far the reviews are strong and I have readers wanting to know what comes next for Frances and Henry. Their love story may have resolved, but the world they live in is continuing. Courtly Pleasures ended at the start of Christmas time. They will spend the twelve days of Christ's Mass at home with their children, Jane, and the goodly members of their household and tenant farms.

Mary made the choice to stay on in London with her previous mistress, Anne Cecil, the Countess of Oxford. Mary is not exactly a servant; she is a gently reared young woman placed in a prestigious household to better her chances of marrying well. As a companion to the lady of the house, she would help with some tasks, but really be there for company. She served Frances in this capacity and now has returned, by choice, to Lady Oxford. Why? Because Mary felt she was needed.

Anne Cecil has recently married the Earl of Oxford and, for her, it was a love match. Although I took some liberties with exact incidences, I tried to stay true to the type of man he was reported to be. As for Mary, I'm not sure what she thinks she can do to make the situation for Anne better, but she's going to, at least, be there for her friend. Whether or not Anne wants her.

Courtly Scandals is Mary's story. It is set over the twelve days of Christ's mass with Queen Elizabeth's court. The cool head and practical nature that was a rock to Frances is useless in the face of unrestrained revelry and Anne's capricious friendship. Mary must adapt and start thinking about herself for once.

While Mary is a fictitious character, both Anne Cecil and her husband, Edward (Ned) Da Vere, the Earl of Oxford, are real. I have portrayed them in their approximate ages and stage of their relationship circa 1572. The image featured to the right is a portrait of the Earl of Oxford, 1575.

If you enjoyed Courtly Pleasures, you will enjoy Courtly Scandals. If you miss Frances and Henry, don't worry, they'll be back again at Holme LeSieur for Jane's story, Courtly Abandon (estimated release date July, 2018).

Courtly Scandals is available for pre-order now. I look forward to sharing the cover reveal with you (I look forward to seeing it myself!).

Friday, December 15, 2017

Transportation and Communication Norms: Modern vs. Historical

It is hard for us, with our communication and transportation technology, to envision a world where someone in one town may never, in their life, visit another town that is fifty miles away. Stories in a historical setting have to balance a very fine line between historical accuracy and the modern reader's ability to suspend disbelief and commit to a story. Sometimes a concept is just so foreign that it is impossible to apply. In the case of Courtly Pleasures, the figurative distance between Frances and Henry can, in part, be linked to the literal distance.

Today it would take two hours and thirty-eight minutes to get from Holme Pierrepont (the basis for my fictitious Holme LeSieur) to Hampton Court Palace, depending on traffic. In the sixteenth century, it would have taken at least four days for a lady and her entourage to travel the one hundred and forty four miles -- and that's just travel time. This doesn't take into account the personal items (what a modern traveler might expect but on a much larger scale, literally. I had an Elizabethan gown and underpinnings that weighed forty pounds) and the household furnishings (I don't know about you, but I don't bring tapestries, bedding, beds, etc... with me when I travel) both for the wealthy traveler and their servants and their companions and their companion's servants... There is no guarantee of hospitality at the final destination and the hotels of the day consisted of rooms above a tavern, good only for a night's stay. And let's not forget able bodied gentlemen to act as outriders to both clear the way and ensure safety of the traveling party

And all this effort could only be successful if the roads were in good condition (no department of transportation to maintain a paved surface clear of potholes, flooding, and ruts) and free of bandits (no police force).

Travel was difficult and not undertaken lightly.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of The King's Post, by R. C. Tombs

I don't mention any of this in my novel, Courtly Pleasures, because it would take away from the story. However, without laying out the challenges of distance and travel, readers may not be able to put the enormity of effort the simple act of visiting London required into context.

The challenges of travel directly impacted the communication systems of the time. With no post office, any letters would have to be delivered by a paid courier and without any guarantee when or if they would reach their destination. My main character, Frances, would have had someone on staff that she sent with missives to her mother. That courier would wait and bring a reply, but he still had to deal with traveling.

Can you imagine if the only outside information you received was filtered by word of mouth or in inconsistent letters from relatives? You may hear about goings on in the world, but long after the events occurred. You may not know that your brother's wife died or that there was a battle in Scotland or that the Queen was sponsoring exploration in the New World. Today we suffer from an overload of information. If a celebrity wore a certain dress to an event, we know it immediately, even if we don't care. It's hard to imagine a time where we would be ignorant of anything outside the immediate bubble of our household or village.

We have such a wealth of resources at our disposal that it is hard to grasp a time where people did not. I recently, in an interview, stated that I like modern times because of flush toilets and penicillin. Add to that the easy access to any question at the tap of a keyboard and the fact that I can talk, face to face, with my sister in Switzerland. The world has become much smaller...let's hope the distance between us does also.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Countdown to Release Date

Courtly Pleasures is coming out on December 4th, 2017.

This is actually happening.

I have been pitching and querying and stalking agents/editors/publishers and creating a web presence and trying to write the 'right' book and... Rejection was normal. Getting that yes answer was mind-blowing.

Publication is entirely new.

A handful of reviews have been made available to me, some fantastic and some less fantastic - but that's how readers (real readers, people who don't have to be nice to me) should react. A reading experience is entirely subjective. I will simply have to develop a thick skin, but so far I haven't had any hurt feelings; it's just been interesting to see.

You can still pre-order my book. You will be charged on 12/4 and the book delivered to your device. Pre-orders help pump up my opening day results and my rankings with the e-book sellers. The more clicks/purchases/reviews, the higher I move up on the list when someone looks up historical romance, and that puts my book in front of more people.

The Amazon link is in the side bar right below the countdown, if you are so inclined (which I hope you are).

This is actually happening!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Process from Contract to Publication

I signed my contract in mid-August and received my first round of edits toward the end of September.

The first round of edits was content based. While there were some grammar/punctuation/word choice changes suggested, it was about the smoothness of the read. These came directly from my editor. The comments had to do with going deeper into my main character's points of view, fleshing out scenes, etc... This was the most difficult for me because it addressed my story. It's easy to fix a misspelling, but harder to accept that you missed a critical aspect of the character. That said, it wasn't as emotionally painful as I expected. All the comments made sense and the changes were all toward making it a better story. That round of edits were due in the first part of October, so I had about two weeks to complete them.

I received the second round of edits a week later (mid-October). These were the line edits and dealt mainly with typos, spelling, or grammatical errors. Based on the notes, it seems that there were two line editors who went through the manuscript. Some corrections embarrassed me and some surprised me. I learned a few things about hyphen use but still don't understand why they would delete my ellipses (...) and then replace it with another set of ellipses (I'm assuming it has to do with formatting, but it's still a mystery). Overall, this process was smooth. It was due a week later.

Round three was the galley edits. This is the book, coded for epub and not easy to change at that point. Part of me wanted to write it off as done but I am glad I didn't. I listened to it read aloud and caught so many things that would have been downright embarrassing. After all the pairs of eyes that had gone over the document, there were still issues and it was no longer a document that could be easily fixed. I will never again be critical of minor editing errors in published novels.  Those edits were due the beginning of November and then the galley was made available for professional reviews the next day.

So from the end of September to the beginning of November, Courtly Pleasures went from manuscript to novel. It's out there right now for industry professionals to read and review prior to release. The release date is just over three weeks away.

The whole things was less than three months from the date of the contract. It's been a whirlwind and I'm a little stunned.

Things I've learned:

  • I can keep to a deadline.
  • That when a an adjective has a modifying word before it, you use a hyphen even if it isn't a regular compound word (inky-black, broad-shouldered).
  • To use the read aloud feature during the line edits so the galley version will require little (if any) changes.

Now I have to focus on promotion. This is intimidating because I'm not extroverted at heart (I categorize myself as a friendly introvert) and I'm not a business/marketing expert (but I'll learn). Wish me luck.

As for business/marketing...
 Available for pre-order now!
Courtly Pleasures is available for pre-order now. 
Click on the image above.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Humility and Pride

I had a great conversation with a student today about balancing pride and humility. I teach art and, though not every person feels pulled to artistic expression, everyone is capable of producing something they're proud of. You have to take the time, be patient with yourself and be mindful. The finished work may not be a master work, but it can be something you step back, look, and say, "I did that!" with pride.

Getting to that point, however, takes humility. Without humility we cannot grow. Humility opens us up to learn new things. I'm not talking about modesty or self-deprecation, but the real understanding that tomorrow can be better if you let it.

I think we get socially trained to be overly modest about accomplishments as if being proud of yourself is wrong. For many people it is difficult to honestly say, "thank you" when you receive a compliment. Many will deflect anything positive with something self-deprecating. I understand that not everyone may not believe positive words about themselves, but they need to give the bestower of the compliment the benefit of the doubt that they believe it, that they are sincere. Shrugging away those kind words is not only rude to yourself, but to them.  It's taking humility too far and making it harmful.

So, from my bounty of wisdom, I'm here to say that you have to balance the humility and pride. Pride alone is unhealthy--as is humility, sin and virtue aside. It's the combination that will lead to growth and self acceptance. This will end up on an inspirational poster someday. Probably with a puppy.

Where the heck is all this coming from?
Well, I'm dealing with positive reinforcement from my publishing house and quelling the urge to point out my flaws and fighting my humility when I should have allowed myself to be proud. I'm also dealing with line edits and finding out rules about grammar/punctuation I didn't know (and I used to teach English!). With the line edits, I had to fight my stubborn pride and absolute belief I was right and learn something new.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Being a Writer

I am just about to send my edited manuscript back. At this point I'm going over it again and again to see if I missed anything and to clean up the new content.

Receiving the edits made the fact that I'm going to be published finally become real. As I work toward applying the edits, I feel like I'm working toward a real goal. It makes it feel like a legitimate job and not something weird I do alone when I have time.

Writing had become almost a burden. If I wasn't writing then I was giving up. If I was writing, it was hard to justify why I was taking the time to write a story when I could be doing productive things like laundry. I had so many stories in my head, but either the story or the writing had some flaw I didn't understand, something about it that made it not viable. It's hard to motivate yourself to write despite that.

I would tell myself that the fact that I started and finished books was an achievement in itself and I didn't need validation from external sources. While I still felt good about what I had accomplished, I must have needed that validation because it was becoming harder and harder to write.

As I do edits for Courtly Pleasures I can see the finish line on this project. It restores my optimism (or insanity) for my writing and my faith in myself. New stories are percolating. Old stories with kinks are resolving themselves.

I'm excited about writing, about being a writer, again. Of course I'm excited about Courtly Pleasures being published but, more than that, I'm excited about the next story and how it might unfold.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Applying Edits

My experience with the first round of edits was...
Scary? No, not once I got the document. The worst part was the anticipation.
Exhilarating? No, it was just a job I had to do.
Insulting? Not at all. There were changes to be made and I made them. I wasn't offended. I suppose I could have been, but the editor always explained her thought process. Hey, it's all about putting the best version of your book out there and that means honest critique and collaboration.

I received a Word doc full of tracked changes and comments. 90% of my job was to accept the deletion/insertion of the tracked changes. This included a format change here, an 's there, an m dash changed to an ellipses, etc... All little things.

The editor also noted story inconsistencies or times when more explanation was needed. A few new scenes requested, a few scenes deleted. Everything she said made sense to me. None of it was insulting to my word baby or my ego. The challenge for me was to hold the history teacher in me in check when I was asked to explain some of the social norms or the roll of nobles and gentry at Queen Elizabeth's court. I had to severely edit myself to address specific questions.

I was nervous about the edits, but they've been smooth. I understand the expectations and that is more cut and dry than trying to write a book in the first place.

The next step is line edits. I like to think it won't be too messy. I'll let you know.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Receiving Edits (alternatively titled: Holy Crap!)

Over the years I have posted blogs about treating every critique like a gift. Whether or not I agree with the critique, the reader took the time to read my manuscript and give feedback. That deserves gratitude, not argument. It took me years to train myself to put this understanding into action. It is a knee jerk response that, when my book baby is threatened, I must defend it.

Here's the thing: if I have to explain why I did x, y, or z to the reader, then it wasn't well done. I won't have the opportunity to pop my head in to where my reader confused by my creative decision and explain that the scene is an example of my heroine as an unreliable narrator. Beside that being super creepy behavior on my part, it is just evidence of bad writing.

Ergo: Critique = Thank you.

But now I'm at that next stage and have an editor (insert little happy dance here).

I'll be getting my first round of content edits within the week and that could mean ANYTHING. I hope my critique=thank you training will come in handy but, more than that, I hope I can be an educated, professional adult with enough sense of self to make this experience a rational one and not take anything personally. Ultimately, any perceived criticism will be coming from the shared goal to make my book successful.

So bring it on, awesome editor, I can take it like a reasonable person and not be crazy. I think. I hope.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Accepting the Changing (already changed, actually, years ago) Publishing Industry

Today's blog was inspired by the Debut Author's page of the monthly RWR magazine. I've been watching it for years and, though I haven't compiled the data into a cool pie chart or anything (I should, but I'll bet RWA have this information already) it looks like the larger percentage of debut authors publish independently and the very few that have publishers are with a small, boutique press. This confirmed what I already knew, that not only did e-readers change the publishing industry, they changed publishing houses need to risk investing in untried writers.

This is not new news.

That said, I've had a hard time adapting my own expectations of the road to publication. I started out with my query letters to agents and the few big names that accepted unagented submissions. I pictured my novels on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. I'm not a total dinosaur, so most of my queries were sent via e-mail, but when I first started some agents still required hard copies. This was ten(ish) years ago.

Now, when it comes to the querying, most agents and publishers have an online submission process. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Convenience aside, it is symbolic of their hands-off approach to new submissions. It's probably much easier to dismiss a file than pile of pages that was carefully prepared to specifications.

I've really struggled with the fact that the big publishers do not accept debut authors. It seems like the industry expects and WANTS authors to self publish first.This really messed with my long term plan and it's taken me awhile to come to grips with the change. I hate it, but have to get over myself and work within these parameters.

Besides, the change makes sense. It's like that job at McDonald's that you had during high school so you could show work experience as you interviewed your way up the employment ladder. An example from the genre would be the well loved trope of the reformed rogue who's been around the block and knows what to do in bed. You rarely see a virginal hero in romance and, I guess, publishers don't want a virgin author either. Self published authors have sales numbers, reviews, a readership waiting so when the publisher picks them up, they're a sure thing. It cuts down on the risk of investing in a newbie.

I have pitched to a few boutique publishers that are simply a label away from being self-published. They'll provide you with editing and a cover, but you do all the marketing. It may be worth it to some rather than pay the roughly $500 it will cost for professional editing and an okay cover, but to me, the only good thing about self publishing is lost in this deal--autonomy.

My biggest hurdle in choosing the self-pub route (and I still haven't committed to it) is that I really need the validation that acceptance by an agent/publisher provides. There are so, so, so many poor quality books and I'm afraid to join their ranks. If my books are not good enough for a publisher to stand behind, they're not ready for publication.

The good news (for authors like me) is that most of the major publishers have smaller, niche imprints that publish in e-only. This removes the risk of investing in a print run, but still offers the professional editing/cover/marketing services of a major publisher. This route won't put me in a brick and mortar book store, but it's a step in the right direction and will save me from myself and the possibility of putting a low-quality book out there with my name on it.

Of course, I am warming up to self publishing. I'm really almost there. It's only taken a bunch of near misses to make me feel my books might be good enough combined with hundreds of flat out rejections that have made me tired of playing the game. I'm even at that point where I waste time looking up book cover art.

I am currently waiting on a yea or nay from another interested party. I'm not optimistic, but must have some hope or I'd be more invested in the steps toward self-publishing. I am getting myself ready for that eventuality because pitching has become something like banging my head against a wall and, really, I should be writing.

I will finish up this post by telling you that accepting self-publishing as a viable option has really freed my writing. I'm not writing to anyone's formula. I can tell an authentic story without bending it to meet genre norms ( I wrote a virgin hero and I'm not worried about it).

If you are interested, here is a link to data compiled for RWA 2016 showing trends in sales. It may just be my translation, but the data really promotes self-publishing.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

History Happened. Really. So Get it Right.

Allow me to jump back into the blogosphere with a short rant about historical accuracy.

I like writing with historical settings. I have written fantasy and struggle with consistency. I have to draw maps and create cultures and magical systems and naming traditions. When writing with a historical setting, it's all been done for you. Thank you, people who came before, for laying it out for me.

That said, research is required. No matter how much I think I know, I am constantly second guessing and double checking. Whatever the era, there is a plethora of resources available (online, for free!) to help fine tune the details of your novel. You don't want to fudge because you lose credibility as a writer, no matter how great your story may be.

The following points stand out to me both as a reader and a writer.

1. Language
When writing a story set within the Elizabethan Era, I found myself looking up the word Machiavellian. Certainly Machiavelli had existed and been published prior to this time. But even though the educated may have read his work, would his name have been equated with the theme of his writing? No. It's a more modern term and would be inappropriate to use. Word choice matters when it comes to making your setting real. I just read something set in early Victorian where they used the word "perp" in reference to the bad guy and it broke me out of the story completely.
To become comfortable with the word use of your chosen era, read work (primary sources) from that time. If you are uncertain, Wikipedia is a decent and easy resource to double check (I once looked up "cunt" because I wanted to confirm period crude slang for that particular body part. The table full of youth pastors meeting behind me became suddenly silent when it popped up in 100 pt font on my screen. Good times.)
Whether or not you choose to write in dialect (I did originally, but then an acquiring editor at Avon told me to nix that), make certain the speech patterns are consistent with the era, the class, and the setting. Consider period slang, contradictions, and forms of address while still making the dialogue accessible to the reader.

2. Names
I have found church records for marriages, baptisms, etc... from the years I write online. Even if you cannot find direct resources of the names of commoners, looking at the names of the royal families of  will tell you the trends of the time (people tended to name after the people in charge in homage/butt kissing). Depending on your era, historically people were not creative in the name department. Even today there are some countries that have lists of approved names. Learn about the culture of your setting. Are sons named after fathers? Do children take their mother's maiden name as a middle name? Does their birth date figure in to their naming (saints days)?
This can be frustrating because it limits creativity OR it could be a relief that you don't have everything to choose from. I've seen many authors nod to historical naming with the character's given name and then play with nick-names. Personally, I'd rather read about a real guy with an old fashioned name like Edwin than an archetype who goes by Rogue (just in case we didn't understand the archetype)

3. Norms
This is the biggest challenge for me. You want to write something historically accurate that the modern reader can relate to. If your main character is a woman (and mine always is) you have to be careful not to give her modern thought processes. Women's rights were limited but for a woman in that era, that would be all she ever knew and would be, if not content, at least resigned to her lot in life. Depending on the era you are writing there are very specific thoughts about religion, ethnicity, and class systems. Modern readers may see oppression or racism or elitism while the historical characters see it as the way of their world. How you write it will make all the difference. For the historical characters, these aspects of society were normal but can be off-putting for a reader. Finding the balance between historical views and modern sentiment is tricky. Have fun with that.
Being consistent with social norms extends to casual interactions, introductions, conversations public and private, forms of address, seating at the table, manners, class distinctions, etc... It's the biggest aspect of historical setting and what gives the read a feel of authenticity.

4. Costumes
Again, as with norms, it's hard to make historical fashions something the modern reader can comprehend. People have preconceived images of what is attractive now and it's hard to merge modern aesthetic values the historical. Consider your characters from the skin outward, being sure to include their undergarments (or lack thereof) and the correct names for the items. I read a book where the corset was referred to as a busk (a busk is the solid, removable insert in the center front of an early corset). It may be sexy by today's standards to have your heroine forgo her chemise beneath the corset, but consider that the chemise protects the outerwear from sweat and the skin from the coarse, heavy, boned corsets. Research. Look at portraits from the era, look at patterns for construction, and read about the way the garments would have been worn. You can find primary source fashion plates but many of the reenactor websites can be a good resource (they take their attention to accuracy very seriously).
I have to be careful not to make my books a treatise on historical costuming because I love the details. I end up trimming my descriptions down to the bare minimum. I want the reader to picture the character in the gown and how she feels, the impression she leaves, rather than the pleating at the waistband or the embroidery on the shoulder epaulets. It's actually hard for me, but no one wants pages and pages of dress description, they want the story. The dress only matters in how it furthers the character and plot, but it should be accurate.
One positive in understanding all the layers and the way they fasten is that it will help you also undress your character later. :)
The only area where (my personal feeling) it's okay to deviate from historical accuracy in costuming is in the area of hygiene (especially if your work is sexually explicit). Enough said.

1751 Countess of Coventry
A renowned beauty

Ultimately the story has to take dominance over all these details, but working in the true flavor of your chosen era will make the story richer and let the reader truly immerse themselves in your world. Granted, not every reader knows whether or not cotton would have been worn by medieval Scottish peasants (it wouldn't have) but you still owe them accuracy rather than hoping no one will care/notice. It's your name on the cover and your credibility at stake.

You may be asking what gives me to right to lecture on attention to detail in historical romance. If you don't want to take me seriously as a writer (I get that), at least consider this from a reader's perspective. I never read another book by the author that called a corset a busk.

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.

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