Monday, April 30, 2007

Sex in Fiction

I'm writing mostly fantasy now, but it's romantic fantasy, and it could as easily go the other way, to fantasy/paranormal romance. I got my start in romance, writing Harlequin/ Silhouette/ Mills & Boon series books. Those of you who've read the Rose books know they have sex in them. I don't think I've written anything without it--I know I haven't published anything without it. Some of the books I've written have more than others. I was surprised when I got through New Blood and only had one sex scene in it--but that's because of who my characters are. They have issues. A lot more issues than Kallista and her crew ever had.

I've found it interesting that most of the male-written fiction has a lot less sex in it than that written by females, despite the stereotype of the sex-crazed male, and the ones that have sex tend to do more "closing the bedroom door" than female authors. And while I haven't done any real statistically significant studies (which seem to me to be impossible anyway, since quality of writing is a pretty subjective thing), most male writers don't seem to write sex scenes as well as women writers. There are some who do. And most of them write romance. (Harold Lowry, who writes as Leigh Greenwood, and K.N. Casper are two good ones.)

I'm heading in a round-about way for my point. In a rather scholarly discussion of the romance genre begun by a Princeton University class in "American Best Sellers" on Romance by the Blog a couple of weeks ago, someone asked about romance and porn and the difference between them. And some of the respondents got into a discussion about whether romance gets labeled as porn because it is, at least in part, about women's sexuality, which can be threatening to some people. One of the respondents (Robin) had this to say:

IMO the vast majority of women are conflicted *in some way* about our sexuality. I don't know how much of this is a function of patriarchal assumptions about gender roles and how much of it is some kind of policing mechanism among women that is only *partially* informed by patriarchy (at what point do we take responsibility for our own agency as women?!), but I think the ambivalence emerges within Romance fiction ... and I'd even go so far as to say that much of what shows up in Romance is some effort to grapple with this ambivalence, to put it out in the open and to work it out somehow.

I quoted this, because I couldn't say it better myself. I do think a lot of the "policing" in romance fiction--and in other fiction by women--is done by women.

My Rose books are out of the mainstream when it comes to the relationships between the characters. They've had some pretty harsh reader reviews at Amazon because of that. (I haven't read any of them since I saw the first one--why inflict them upon myself?) I won't say the reviews were all by women, because I don't know. But I'd wager most of them are. The men who've read my Rose books (guys tend to want more bashing and gore than most fantasy books have--though the Rose books have plenty of swordfights and such) have liked them. Still, given the current uproar in the romance-reading world over rape in romance, and the letters I've received on the sex in my books--all anecdotal evidence to be sure--I'd say that women are the quickest to react, and to condemn when a (female) writer steps outside the "zone" to explore these ambivalent areas that make us squirm.

I won't be buying or reading the "rape" book (You'll have to go elsewhere to find out what I'm referring to.) because it's not one of my fantasies. Nor will I be reading any more books in the Silhouette Desire series because the heroes have gone too close to that abusive edge for my comfort even though my first published books were Desires, and I have a lot of good friends still writing for them. I hate that I won't be able to support them any more, but I don't buy books I don't read, and I just can't read those books any more. I hate that editorial/ marketing decisions have transformed what was once one of my favorite lines into something I just can't handle. But this is a personal issue.

Just because I don't like very "alpha" heroes doesn't mean I think nobody should write them. Just because I don't care for submissive-female erotica doesn't mean I think they should be banned. Obviously more women prefer that sort of erotica than the other way round, because several of the erotica publishers won't even look at stories with dominant women. And if someone wants to write rape-fantasy stories, I'm not going to say she shouldn't. I'm not going to buy them, because I don't like that kind of story, but I don't like really scary romantic suspense either, and that's certainly not going away.

I guess my point is exactly like the points made by lots of other people. If you don't like whatever sexual episode might be in a story, don't read it. If you do, and if you decide to post a review about it, try to be cogent in your reasons for disliking the story. But under the fiction umbrella--whether it be romance, fantasy, mystery or literary--an author should feel free to write about whatever kind of sex he/she wants to write. It's a way to explore part of what makes us human, and the mixed-up feelings that go along with something so important.

Friday, April 27, 2007

More Flowers

Had to mail some stuff today--the fella went to the post office to pick up the mail, but I had things to mail off, so I did my post office-park-ball fields-6th Street circuit, and when I got back to the house, looked to see whether the apricot-colored iris was open. It was, and gorgeous, of course. There was another new iris open too--the sun was really bright so the pictures are a little glare-y on the white petals, but I'm just tickled with how pretty they all are. I guess I won't snitch a piece of the pink one from the yard over on Main Street just before the park, even if I like it a lot. Not much place to put it...

We're heading to Memphis (yes, there is a Memphis in Texas, just like there's just about everything else) tonight to check out an estate auction for the old Memphis Hotel B&B. Ought to be some cool stuff, though I don't know what we'd do with anything more than what we have...

I'm just blithering on here to get some words to wrap around the flower pictures. Talked to the older son last night, and Little Bit--his boy who just turned 3 this week--loved the Tow Mater pillow/doll we sent. Every little boy needs a squishy Tow Mater. Now I have to get the package ready to send to the daughter (& family) for her birthday. Some of it is stuff I've been meaning to send since Christmas. (Yes, dear, this means the cactus blossom painting I've been promising...)

I'm still typing in story. I stalled out today--at about quitting time--when I ran into a big chunk of exposition I'm seriously thinking about leaving out. But I think I'll go ahead and type it in, then when I print everything out, I'll be better able to figure out where to make the cuts and how to transition from one part to another. I am tightening it up pretty good as I go. Synopsis is still 16 pages long, tho. But part of that is because a fantasy needs its universe explained, and New Blood is a new universe. I've typed in 200 pages, and have more than half yet to go. Groan. It's going to be WAY too long. sigh.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Prebby Flowers

That's how Doodle Bug says "Pretty Flowers"--or at least he did at first. He's the 4-year-old autistic grandboy, and he works very hard to make his words come out properly. He talks a little slowly, but he's very careful with his words. Anyway, this blog entry is called "Prebby Flowers" because I have some in my front flowerbed.

These are the iris right outside the front door. I've never had any of the maroon-with-white iris before, but I did have some of the Batik iris (the purple streaked with white) in our previous house. Last year, very few of the iris bloomed, but we've had a wet winter (and a very long one, but the snow didn't seem to hurt anything), and everything is blooming like crazy.

Now these iris are under the bay window, as you can see. The apricot one isn't quite open yet--I'll try to get out and take a picture of it tomorrow... (Hmm. That reminds me. Better take the battery out of the camera and charge it up. It was telling me I needed to do that.) But I thought the blue picotee iris were pretty. And if you look on the right side, you can see the rose buds getting ready to bloom. A few are open already, but they're not where I could get a picture with the iris. You can see a little bit of the blue sage behind them... I'll have to find the picture where I got more of the sage... Can you tell I like blue flowers? (The roses are red.)

Um. So. This week, I worked on revisions for New Blood. (The Victorian blood magic book, remember?) I think I have the chapters all revised. Need to input the revisions on the synopsis yet. Then I want to let it sit a while longer and go over it one more time. Then I need to type in the rest of the story, and make notes about the changes and revisions I want to make there. Some I can do while I'm typing in, but I think there are some structural changes that need to be made. And that's not so easy to do while typing. I was rather amused today when my horrorscope said that I needed to put away my artistic project for a little while and go back to it later. Exactly what I intend to do. :) Once it's typed in.

I had to take time today to judge some contest entries that were due on Saturday. I enjoyed judging them, but I missed the e-mail that said when they were due back, and there wasn't anything in the packet. I learn a lot myself when I judge contests. It makes me realize what's missing in my own writing--and I need to go back and ramp up the emotion one more time when I go through the chapters again.

Mostly I wanted to share my prebby flowers with you in this e-mail, but I can whine too, right? I burned my hand Saturday. Burned it bad. Bad second degree burn. (Disgustingness alert! Don't read more if you are easily grossed-out.)

It blistered up Saturday night, and popped. Then it blistered up again on Sunday. Bit fat quarter-inch swelling ugly blister. Monday a.m. it got a little hole in it, and all the water leaked out, and kept leaking until today, when it basically ripped open. So I put antibiotic on it and put a bandage on it (which wouldn't stay on my palm), and have been babying it. But it's still pretty icky. I'm just glad it was on the thumb side of my lower palm. I could still type. So there. That's my whine. I'll share more flower pictures with you soon. I didn't even show you the all-maroon ones. Or the white ones. Or the two-toned maroon-and-yellow ones... Yeah. I got prebby flowers.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Quick Monday Post

Running in quick while dinner is cooking (probably ought to go start the rice in a minute) to get something up here. It's been a...well, a sorta busy week. I did a lot of sitting around and reading. I re-read a lot of stuff. Re-read Eileen Wilks' Blood Lines, re-read the 2nd and 3rd "Kitty" books, Kitty Goes To Washington and Kitty Takes a Holiday. I like them better than the 1st book, though I like it okay. But I also had a lot to keep me busy.

Sunday, we had folks over for Sunday dinner, and I cooked on Saturday. Cooked WAY too much roast beef spaghetti...but that's okay, because it freezes real nice. I need to tear up the last roast and stick it in the freezer. Jan left a pie for us to eat. Fortunately, it's a kind that the fella can eat, if he doesn't eat the crust.

Oh, and I tried a new recipe that anyone who likes Southwestern cuisine ought to like. It's polenta topped with black-eyed peas flavored with cilantro and tomato. I really liked it, and it was easy to make, since I bought packaged polenta. (Had to buy it in "the big city" but it was available there.) Kinda hushpuppy/tamale-ish, and since I like both hushpuppies and tamales, I liked the polenta.

There's a college music department concert tomorrow night. The community choir got invited to sing along, so I've been going to the noon choir rehearsals, and tonight is the dress rehearsal (though we don't have to dress, just show up and work out all the glitches). There are some fun songs. I've really enjoyed the challenge. Wish us luck. It should actually be a good concert. It's sounding good in practice.

And today I printed out the 1st 3 chapters of New Blood to start revising tomorrow. I won't be going to town tomorrow, so I ought to be able to get quite a bit done. I hope. I have my notes. Just need to keep hold of all the threads.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007



Yep. All the way from the very first page to the very last, with more scenes and background info than it needs, that I need to slice out, and not enough emotion which I'll need to add in. But It Is Done. The bad guys get theirs, the good guys get theirs, and I have all the scenes (and then some) I need. Now I have to type the sucker in.

And it's going to be too long, as usual. (sigh) But I have already IDed some things I can cut, so that will help. (I don't need that much exposition...)

Today, I took a break. I put receipts in my accounting program. I worked on my weekly and quarterly goals. (Okay, yeah, I know we're already into April, and it's Wednesday, not Monday, but I've been busy!) And then I read. Okay, I went to choir practice, except choir practice got cancelled, since the pianist couldn't be there, so I came home, and then I read.

Whoever it was that recommended Anne Bishop's Black Jewels Trilogy, you were right. The books are Fabulous. I have been glomming onto Bishop this week. I ordered Belladonna (I had a coupon, so I bought it in hardback), and the 3-in-1 edition of The Black Jewels. I stayed up all night Saturday reading all three Black Jewels books one after the other. They were so wonderful. So this week, I bought the Dreams book, and another one called The Invisible Ring. Read them both already. Plus one by Vicki Pettersen that was pretty good, and I can't remember the title right off hand, but it's a debut novel and just out on the shelves.

Tomorrow, it's back to work for me. Typing the fingers to the bone. I'll probably just type in this week, and next week, work on revising the first three chapters again. I think now that I've finished the book, it will be easier to get the nuances right.

It's sorta like the portrait I'm attempting to paint. The tiniest change can make a huge difference. Hopefully, I can get the book right-er than the painting...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Back Around to Friday

I thought of all sorts of things to write about earlier this week, and never got here, and of course, I've now forgotten what any of those things were that I wanted to write about. So now, I have to just write about ...stuff.

This has been a good week writing. I'm really close to the end of the book--in the middle of the black moment--and got 37 pages written so far, which is really good for me. The fella wants to go to another auction tomorrow, and I have a few things I want to do in Amarillo tomorrow, so I'm going to go with him. I'm going to take the WiP with me, and the contest entries for a contest I've agreed to judge, so I'll be able to get some stuff done while at the auction. I hope.

I'm trying to learn how to do podcasts, so I'll be able to post some here, but so far I'm having trouble with the microphone. I can't seem to get it to work. (sigh) So I may go get me a new one. The mike worked with the old computer, but I'm not sure it's working with the new one. I need a new driver, maybe...

Been reading books too. Discovered a new author I like. I bought Anne Bishop's Sebastian, and loved it, so I picked up her new one, Belladonna, and it's really good too. So now I have a 3-in-1 trilogy of hers to read. Maybe I'll take it tomorrow too. But I really need to work.

Monday, April 09, 2007


We have some seriously cute grandboys. The oldest one is now in kindergarten and learning to write. And he addressed the envelope they just sent us (by means of their Wunka Bob who stopped off to visit before coming home for Easter). Not ALL the address, but our names.

It's kinda hard to mess up "Gigi"--but I am now married to "Granbaddy". We were amused. And we now have some seriously cute school pictures of the seriously cute boys. They called us to say Happy Easter last night. I'm amazed how well the little one talks. He won't be three till the end of the month, but he just chattered away on the phone.

Easter was very nice, but there were snowflakes falling when church let out. It did warm up a little bit today, which was good, with the boy heading back to school. (He got a speeding ticket--for shame!)

And today, I got 8 pages, and my hero got himself kidnapped. He didn't mean to get kidnapped, but you know how bad guys are. They do stuff. Bad stuff. These bad guys think they're the good guys...but don't bad guys often think that? Hopefully, the heroine will find him tomorrow.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

White Easter??

Yes, we are having a white Easter. Or we will if the snow doesn't melt off any more. This is Texas. It's not supposed to snow after the iris bloom. (I've been afraid to look at them since it got so cold today.) But it's out there snowing.

Yesterday, we had Art Club. That's why I had to hike over to the Methodist church. Except I didn't hike, because I had a big casserole dish hot out of the oven to carry over. So I loaded up my car and drove the half block to the church, then I drove back and parked in my drive, and walked back to the church. Across the street, past the parsonage to the alley just beyond it, down the alley maybe 5 yards/meters and in the back door of the church. That's how far it is. Yes, I'm a wuss. But I had to carry a big sack full of pans of rolls (Sister Shubert rolls are Teh Best!) too.

Then at the end, it had started to drizzle and was very cold, and I only had on my suit jacket, which had no buttons, and I had a lot of stuff to carry back home, so I walked home, clutching my jacket closed to stay warm, and got my vehicle, drove back, double-parked in the alley to load up, and drove back home again. Yeah, I know. I'm bad.

As the youngest of the hostesses, I appointed myself head server, running plates into the lunching ladies while Fredie Jo and Ruth and Frances served them up. (Rhenda couldn't be there.) (And I ain't exactly a spring chicken...) Then we ate lunch, and an artist from the little town around our county lake gave a talk about art. (Hey, it's the Art Club.) She brought three of her Western realistic paintings and talked about composition and color and perspective and stuff. I enjoyed it a lot, because composition is something I struggle with. Of course, I prefer a more impressionistic style (I am just not a big detail person.) and I tend to do more still lifes and landscapes, but maybe there's a story in the paintings... She said she likes for all her paintings to tell stories. And she paints horses and Indians and cowboys without any kind of reference or model!!! Needless to say, I felt totally intimidated. (sigh) These are my horse pictures--the race picture is supposed to look blurry.

Then I came home and wrote. I was really excited about getting so much writing done Thursday, and I was excited about where the story was, and about getting that much closer to the ending, so I got 5 pages written Friday. Which made me happy. Because that made 33.5 pages on New Blood for the week, and my goal was 30 pages. I'm almost through the trial. Just need to have them dismiss the charges for lack of evidence. Then we'll be at the kidnapping.

The son is home for Easter. He wants to pick up his power tools and some other things to take back to Baylor. We went in to town this morning because he announced that he really needed some shorts (and of course wanted Mom and Dad to spring for them), and we were thinking we could get there and back before the snow got bad. (Which we did, since it isn't snowing now at all.) But it snowed on us while we were in Amarillo--just on the side of town where the mall is.

And Penney's was having a sale, so I bought 2 pairs of pants--they were on sale, and then if you used a Penney's card, they'd give you more off. So I bought a T-shirt and a skirt the fella found and thought would look good on me, too. I'm getting rid of all my fat pants. I still had a few pairs I've been wearing, but I haven't lost enough to go down another size, so I'm getting rid of the big ones anyway. But I needed a couple more pairs of the right size. Then we went to one of the Japanese "cook it in front of you" restaurants. I discovered that I like Monkey Balls. Still don't like most "regular" sushi, but I liked the Monkey Balls...

And now we're home again, and since the boy is off hanging with his friends, I'd like to pull together a little synopsis for Old Spirits. Wish me luck. :)

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More progress

It's a good day. Okay, so I forgot that I was supposed to head over to the Methodist church this afternoon to help Fredie Jo and Ruth and Rhenda and somebody else decorate and set up for Art Club tomorrow, but hey, I got NINE (count 'em, 9!) pages written this morning.

In the same length of time it took me to write four (4) measly pages last week. Yayyy!!! (picture Kermit the frog running in circles waving his skinny green hands in the air, going Yayyyy.)(That's how I feel.)

Okay, nine pages isn't so much, when I have ninety pages left to go. But hey, if I can keep it up, in 10 days, I'll have the book finished. If 90 pages will get the rest of the scenes in. Actually, I'm probably already over my targeted word count. (sigh) But 9 pages is more than I've written on a single day in a very long time, and I'm happy.

We're just about to begin the actual trial. The 9 pages were working us into it, and getting the magic spell started. Now, the trial itself. Can't wait.

Though, since I have to make a potato casserole tomorrow, and hike myself and the casserole over to the Methodists by 11 a.m., I may start on this after choir tonight. We're starting some really cool spirituals. With hard alto parts. Fun!

But really, the book is getting totally cool.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The Writing Progresses--Again

Apparently I've used that as a title for my blog before. Sometimes that's all you can say. That the writing progresses. And it really is a very satisfying feeling, when it does.

I like to make scene lists, just note down the various scenes that need to take place, sometimes through the whole book, sometimes in a locale of the book. Then I get to mark off the scenes as I write them. That's the best feeling, though sometimes, I think--"Okay, I've written that scene. Why am I not to the next scene yet?" We will see if that's stuff that needs to be cut out later. I'm one of those who would rather overwrite and then cut away than have to add.

Anyway, I have written the love scene. In fact, I think I wrote two of them. (looks) Yep. Two. Okay, it took me a long time to get these people to this point, and I guess we all got a little excited. So that's all done, and now the bad guys have shown up again, and the heroine is getting arrested. We're on the fast track to the black moment and the end. Yayyyy!!!

Depending on how long it takes me to write the trial, and the kidnapping and the rescue and the grand denouement, I might be able to finish this by Tax Day!!