Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Is That Erotic Romance or Erotica or Porn?

As people choose their Halloweenie costumes, some will be drawn to the salacious. Halloweenie. Get it?

What is it about sexually-charged costumes that attracts men and women to choose them (not for trick or treating, thank goodness; the phenomenon seems limited to house parties)?

This is also a topic for discussion on a couple of the writing groups I belong to as well as the subject of multiple blog posts. What is the line between pornography and erotica? A lot of us have wrestled with that and settled it in our own writers’ minds.

What is it about titillating text that causes us to buy it and read it? When folks ask me what I write, I tell them “naughty and nice” allowing their brains to fill in what that means to them.

The whole question has come up again (so to speak) because of the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. New York Times Best Seller List? That is unprecedented for a book, much less three, in the genre.

In one of my critique groups I was challenged on one of my naughty books they were helping with. “Is that what you want to be known for?” I was asked. My response that I just want to be known was met with little support.

Clearly people who don’t read much erotic romance have pre-conceived notions of what it must be. Dirty for the sake of being dirty. All about physicality rather than emotionality. Commercial. Provoking acts of exploitation and abuse. You get the idea.

I avoid pornography. But not because I am offended by sexual acts. I’m a farm girl, as I tell my husband. Lucky him that I think pretty much anything goes if it’s not hurtful and mutually agreed upon. We are sexual beings. We are meant to have sex.

Pornography, however, is boring. How many ways can they stick it how many places? I mean really. I want characters who are impacted by the act, not just holes in a mattress. What are the implications of the sexual act(s)? That’s why we read these materials.

I don’t read widely in erotica and erotic romance, either. But I do read some, mostly as mentor texts for my own writing. I find that while I just love writing sex scenes (and practicing before writing), I really don’t enjoy reading them so much. Weird, huh? I expect love scenes to be integral to the plot, not just pasted in for titillation.

Here’s a recent blog by Maree Anderson on the same topic that I know you’ll enjoy:  http://www.mareeanderson.com/porn-erotica-erotic-romance

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Speaking of Brides as Prostitutes . . . Dolly Arthur: A Prostitute from Not So Long Ago

Brides used to be sold (see previous blog entry--thus the reference here.)

Some of my family and friends are concerned about my interest in prostitutes as maybe being not quite, umm, healthy. But, good grief, they’ve been with us for a long time. Shortly after the population increased (post-Garden of Eden), we find reference to “harlots” in the Old Testament.

Sex for sale. Old, old story still being retold today.

We even have a family story about it. My maternal grandmother died when my mother was five, and the family was split up for a while. Then Grandpa married Lily1 (Lily2 was the stuff of horror tales, but Lily 1 was a good guy except for one little thing!)

This was the teeth of the depression in one of the most depressed states even in good times: West Virginia. Grandpa married Lily1 and brought the family back together, and purportedly, she was a good stepmother, keeping the passle of kids clean and fed. But money was always tight. Grandpa worked nights in the mines. And that’s when Lily1 worked, too. Oh, dear. Grandpa divorced her, a really big deal in those times, and the family was dispersed again.

But, I’ve always had sympathy for Lily1. I wish I could have met her because she was clearly a pragmatist. A girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do for survival of her new family. I even admire her, but perhaps I shouldn’t go so far.

So when I came across the name of Dolly Arthur (Arthur being my maiden name), I was intrigued. Here was a contemporary of Lily1. And do both sides of my family include sporting women?

Well, I don’t know. I haven’t seen her on any branches of the family tree, but it could be. Even if not true, I’ve done some reading up on old Dolly. For some reason Blogger won't let me upload a picture, but you can Google her. She was quite the looker!

Born in Idaho in 1888 as Thelma Dolly Copeland, Dolly knew she couldn’t make the same money from serving men in a restaurant as she could if she served them relative to their baser tastes. She left Vancouver, where she was working at the time, and headed for Ketchikan, AL in 1919 where she opened her establishment catering to fishermen, loggers, miners, and town residents. Interestingly, at the time, drinking was illegal in Ketchikan but prostitution was not.

Dolly’s place, and Dolly herself, was known for providing companionship, not just sex, in an isolated area with far fewer women than men. And men paid well for both. She charged $2 for each, and she is said to have made $100 a day--a huge amount at that time.

In keeping with the location, Dolly’s house wasn’t an elaborate Victorian affair such as you might equate with San Francisco. Her furnishings were simple and durable rather than ornate.

Dolly had a long-standing relationship with a man who wandered in and out of her life over the course of 26 years. She knew he was unfaithful (wasn’t she?), but she could always count on him coming back. You can still see Dolly’s house at 24 Creek Street, which is now a museum. When she died at age 87 (in 1975), big West Coast papers carried her obituary in tribute to one of the real pioneers of the Pacific Northwest. She was quite a gal. And not that much older than Lily1. Circumstances and location make all the difference.

Is this fascination with prostitutes was where Streetwalker came from? Could be. Could be.

Want to read more? Check out:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Bells are Ringing . . .

Lil Bro is getting married in a couple of weeks. In Iowa. In November. Sigh!

He and NuLove have been planning this wedding for quite a few months, but I don’t really think they know what they are doing. I mean, getting married, good. Thumbs up! But I’m sure they’re ignorant of where all this tradition stuff comes from. In fact, would anyone do any of it if there was general knowledge about wedding customs?

I’m here to blow the lid off the multi-gazillion dollar wedding industry!

For example, this blog title refers to the custom of ringing bells for a wedding. That originated to scare off evil spirits who might mean harm to the new couple.

Tying the knot”, meaning to get married, goes back to Ancient Rome when the groom would untie the knots on the bride’s girdle to consummate the marriage.

Groomsmen? They were the kidnappers of the bride and to establish ownership of the bride, she was “carried over the threshold”. The bride stands on the left of the groom at the wedding ceremony because the groom would hold/restrain the captured bride with his left hand, leaving his right hand (sword hand) free to fight off her defenders. Nice, eh, and certainly relevant in today’s world. NOT!
Wedding rings were initially woven circlets around the woman’s ankles and wrists to keep her from running away. So apt today, right?

Giving the bride away goes back to the old custom of the bride being property transferred from father to husband--for a price. Umm, isn’t that the definition of prostitution?

The bridal bouquet was of herbs and spices and meant to frighten off evil spirits.

Tossing rice meant wishes for a bountiful harvest (very important in NYC) and many children.

The first wedding cakes were thrown at the bride, not eaten by her, to ensure her fertility since wheat is a symbol of fertility.

Bridal showers originated when the father disapproved of the groom. Because of that, he would not provide what she needed to set up her household, so her friends had to.

And of course, bridal veils. Those hid the face of the bride-never-met, I guess so he couldn’t change his mind at the last minute. Alternatively, it was so evil spirits wouldn’t ruin the ceremony.

Enough! But trust me, this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Wow! Are you superstitious? Do you really want the happiest day of your life tied to pagan rituals? Maybe a courthouse wedding with a judge IS more in keeping with your beliefs. Dump the paraphernalia of tradition and make this day your own!

Read more. I used a lot of resources to come up with this list, including, but not limited to:

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Dear Advice Columnist . . .

And the winner is . . .The Quick and the Dedd! Thank you to everyone who voted. Follow the development of this story now through the end of November at my writing blog, www.samwriteaway.blogspot.com

 In keeping with the theme from the last blog, I wanted to share with you another source I use for story themes or subthemes: advice columnists.

OMG what a treasure trove! The three major ones I can follow in my newspapers are: Dear Abby, Ann Landers, and the well-named, Carolyn Hax. I cut their columns frequently to throw into a novel potpourri folder. It is bulging.

While Ann and Abby are similar in the number of questions per column and length of answers, Carolyn is different. She often has only one question with an extended response.

Abby and Ann tend to be, while direct, kinder in their responses and supports offered. I intuit that Carolyn doesn’t give a flying leap about sugar coating the response. She is direct and often snarky. I like it, by the way. It’s refreshing to hear someone call out a miscreant.

Carolyn’s voice is distinct, but I think you would be hard pressed to tell Abby from Ann without the by-line. The tone of Ann and Abby is one I tried to re-create and mock (Sorry, Ann and Abby), in a short story I wrote for my Land’s End short story anthology.

Sometimes I don’t cut out their columns, but I make a computer tickler file for the story line by introducing potential subplots, character names, and fold it in with other story lines (like from the daily paper astrology fortunes). I’ve talked about my extensive tickler files before that contain the dozens of stories I’m sure I’ll write one day!

Brooklyn and his wife, London, make a party game out of the advice columns. One will read the question, and the others will generate responses which can be scored correct by matching the columnist, or by majority vote, be considered a better response than the columnist! Isn’t that clever of them? But, then again, they are both novelists!

Until next time, mine the paper for story ideas. Life is happening everywhere, just waiting for you to catch it and share.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Relationship Quotes

This morning was your last chance to vote. Thanks for helping choose my NaNoWriMo topic!

Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Then you know how many times people post advice or aphorisms or motivational quotes. Sometimes with attribution, often not.

I thought I would share with you some of the ones I have collected from there. I’m sure you have your own you could add. If so, feel free to do so in the comments section below.

For writers, I think these quotes could easily function as story premises. Take #1 below. Can’t you see a story about the persistence of love? They encounter various travails, sometimes he gives up, sometimes she does, but in the end they work together and never give up, together.

Or the last quote on the list: I see a humorous book where the straitlaced friend and the adventuresome one have conflicts over each of their behavior patterns. Then the straitlaced one unlaces her straits and does something REALLY stupid, and who is there for her? Right!

So take what you want from this list, add to it, and you will never lack for story ideas! Oh, and you might want to run your relationships with some of these ideas in mind.

A perfect relationship isn’t actually perfect. It’s just one where both people never give up.

If you love someone tell them because hearts are often broken by words left unspoken.

Men are like coffee--best when they are strong, hot, and don’t let you sleep at night.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.   Plato

Hurt me with the truth, but never comfort me with a lie.

Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change.   Noelltty.tumblr.com

You can’t start the next chapter of your like if you keep re-reading your last one.

We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.

Love is friendship set to music.   Joseph Campbell

Good friends don’t let you do stupid things--alone.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Okay, Okay! I'll Write You. Just Get Out of My Head. Deal?

Don’t forget to vote at the poll at the bottom of the page for the story you want me to write for NaNoWriMo. Thank you for your help!

Since I am in the throes of prep for NaNoWriMo (I type for 9 straight hours to build stamina--not real words, I just type letters), I thought it might be fun to talk a bit about being in the flow, being visited by the Muse, and other ways writers think to describe that magical kind of writing where it just seems to happen.

With each book, there has come a time when I lose track of everything and the language flows out my fingertips onto the computer page. It is amazing and it is uncontrollable. There are many more times when I chug along, hoping to make the day’s word count while it is still the day.

But for two of my books, Lucinda and Streetwalker, I lost control to my heroines. I truly felt as if I were channeling them, not writing my own creation. The feeling is so palpable that I have a tickler file on a writer who has that experience and is channeling another’s words and ideas until she decides to take control back--if she can.

Lucinda was my first completed novel. It’s historical fiction that takes place in two time periods that alternate chapters to tell the story of how Lucy solves Great-Aunt Lucinda’s murder 70 years later. I am an early morning person, and I wrote then. But I found myself with a tape recorder in my car to capture scenes for the book as I drove to work. I worked into the night! It was bizarre how Lucinda ensnared me. Turns out, it wasn’t Lucy’s book at all. Lucinda demanded star billing.

The other book in which the MC wrote the story was Streetwalker. Carrie’s story of prostitution, abuse, and sexual addiction absorbed me every bit as much as Lucinda had. I could not stop writing. I wrote at my “off” times. And I wrote the story quickly, just as I had written Lucinda, even though, to my knowledge, I don’t even know any prostitutes.

When characters take over the story (or a section of the story), I have learned to step aside and let them. And that’s great if that’s the manuscript I’m working on. But I’ll tell you, sometimes I’m working on a manuscript and another story starts batting at me for attention. It demands I notice it.

What I have learned to do is make a tickler file for that story--a special folder with pages inside the folder to put down plot points, scenes, character descriptions, etc. That’s the only way I can get them to shut up and let me write.

Writers are weird people, aren’t we? What do you do to stifle the stories?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Is NaNoWriMo A Cute Stuffed Animal? Uhh. No.

We interrupt our regularly scheduled show for this
service announcement.

Today will NOT be about sex, weird or otherwise, or relationships, or
sex toys for fun and profit, or any other reason for showing up here.

I need your help. I am entering the NaNoWriMo this November,
 and I need your help selecting a story to work on.

Here is a blog entry being posted on all three of my blogs this week
trying to get enough people involved to pick a story. Here goes:

Is NaNoWriMo One of those Cute Boutique Animals for Grandparents to Buy?
Someone in one of my FB groups asked that (cute, huh?), so I thought I would rip it off, err, borrow it for the title of this blog. No. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a non-profit organization, so any donations made are fully tax deductible.

NaNoWriMo is my new Pillsbury Bake-Off. For years I said that I was going to enter some of my delectable dishes in that contest. One year I finally said to myself, “Put up or shut up.” So, that year I entered 4 recipes. None were ever even acknowledged, let alone placing in the competition. I call them my Pillsbury Bake-Off Losers”--and I still make them.

Same thing with NaNoWriMo. I want to enter. I want to be a winner. But, I just never got around to it. So this year, “Put up or shut-up.”

The rules are pretty simple: you write 50K words during the month of November and upload at the end for a word count to verify. 50K? You’re a “winner”. Has to be done from scratch, but it’s on the honor system. You can plan in advance, write character sketches, and do research--just no composition of scenes or chapters. 

That sounds pretty clear.

What shall I do? I have tickler files with dozens of story ideas. I kind of wanted to work on my Slippin’ into the Future book (daughter/father relationship complicated by dementia) or book two of my culinary mystery series (Prime Rib and Punishment) or even book two of my erotic romance “Sex Sells” series, but you can’t have written any of it--honor system--in advance, and I have.

So digging deeper into the tickler files I find three plots that really, really interest me. (Who am I kidding? There wouldn’t be a tickler file if it didn’t really, really interest me!) So help me pick one of these three! Vote below or with your comments. As a side note, I have never written a novel in any of these genres, so I am stretching myself that way, too.

1)    My paranormal rom-com I call my Quick and the Dedd series. Isabella Quick owns a security agency: I.Q. Security, “Your intelligence is safe with us”. Isabella is hard-boiled divorcee, carries a gun, votes Republican, and is a founding member of the N.F.A. (National Firearms Association) .Riley Dedd, a widowed hunk, was one of her investigators. He was a liberal on social issues, but tough on crime. That is, before he was killed by an unknown assailant. She had a thing for him, sexual tension between them, but it was never pursued. He’s been dead now for several years, but recently he has been appearing to her in her dreams. At least, she assumes she’s dreaming brought on by stress. When he finally convinces her he’s real, but a ghost, they set about getting his murderer caught and convicted. Working title: The Quick and the Dedd

2)   Another paranormal takes a different tack. My tagline for this maybe-series/
maybe-single title is, “Djinni are the new vampires.” 28 year-old Gwyneth Catrin (Welsh meaning for the two names: luck, happiness and pure) Warlow, who recently broke up with long-time boyfriend, receives a letter from a Welsh solicitor regarding an inheritance. She is the closest living relative to her great-uncle, Emrys (Welsh meaning: immortal). She arrives in Wales to claim the estate left to her. It is all hers to dispose of as she wishes with the exception that she is not to touch anything in the attic. Emrys was a world-traveler and collected many things. All in the attic is to be gathered up by a mover and burnt without an examination by Gwyneth . She of course does and uncovers an artifact that is home to a djinn, Abdul Wahid (Arabic meaning: Servant of the Unique One). Complicating things is Uncle Emrys who has tricked the djinn into giving him partial immortality, and trouble ensues when he shows up. Working title: I Dream of Djinni.

3)    Number three is Sci-Fi medical thriller. I clipped news items from three disparate events that I combined into a story idea.  There is a document that always makes the list of undecodable text--the Voynich Document contains unreadable text and illustrations of strange objects and flora. The second news item detailed a mystery sunken craft in the Baltic Sea. And the third was a description of a strange new illness (named Morgellons) which causes open sores, sprouts of strange fibers on the skin, and a feeling like bugs crawling on the skin. All three cool, huh? The story premise is that Dr. Nia Parker, a marine research microbiologist is recruited under the pretense of discovering a cure for Morgellens but in actuality it is a secret government group out to discover more about the alien roots of the disease. A cryptologist, Dr. Rhys Fenner, was similarly recruited under false pretenses. He is given pieces of the document, presumed to be an ancient accounting of the disease, to decipher. The two form an immediate disdain for the other since each their needs are at cross-purposes and each is told to share info in isolation. He thinks Nia is in over her head, and she thinks Rhys is a prima donna. When they discover the government agency may be a rogue group set to control the alien resources for their own purposes, the two form an unwilling bond to fight the group.

Vote--tell me which one you’d like me to write and update you on.

Recap: 30 days; 11, 669 words per week; 50,000 total words. Now if I subtract the time I’m at my brother’s wedding in Iowa and add those days’ word goals to other days, I can still do this. On average, 1667 words per day or less than 7 pages. Pshaw! Nothing to it!  Find out more, and sign-up yourself, at www.nanowrimo.org

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Infidelity and the Married Woman

The vet handed Maggie Baxter a plastic specimen bag containing a pair of size-tiny lavender thong panties extracted from her dog; but they were not hers. Or rather, they were hers now since she'd just paid $734 to have Dr. Carter surgically remove them from Kona's gut.

This is the opening to Jackie Bouchard’s honest, wrenching tale, What the Dog Ate. Her tale of a husband’s infidelity and betrayal and how Maggie deals with it, hits us where we feel it most. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s heartbreakingly real.

If one of my friends were to ask, “What is your deepest, darkest, scariest fear?”, I’d have to say (excluding the safety of all family members), infidelity.

That might sound weird because I have the most wonderful marriage, but all around us are stories, movies, TV shows, songs, and friends’ stories about a straying spouse. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s sordid, seemingly clueless tale is just the latest. If it can happen to Maria Shriver--beautiful, accomplished, talented Maria--couldn’t it happen to any of us? Shiver!

DH and I will be watching a show in which one spouse, typically male, wanders. He is contrite. He begs for forgiveness. He claims temporary lapse in sanity. He wants to move on and put it behind them.

I snort. “No way,” I advise the injured wife. “Don’t believe him.”

“That’s pretty harsh, isn’t it?” DH suggests cautiously. “Isn’t there ever room for forgiveness?”

Hmm. Is there? And why would he ask that question???

Yes, in theory, there can be forgiveness. I admired that Hilary Clinton chose to work on her marriage instead of tossing Bill aside (as I was inclined to proffer were she to ask me). Yet, could I be so magnanimous?  Would I be a patsy setting myself up for future hurts? Could I every truly “forgive and forget”? Would I ever trust him again or would I always be looking for the next slip?

Here is an interesting take on whether women make men cheat. Check out the video at http://bit.ly/PcsAf6 Interestingly, one expert contends that untrusting women precipitate the behavior.

Here is a link to a woman’s story of how she got beyond infidelity to an even better life and learned to trust again. http://yhoo.it/Q0ExBl

And that’s what it comes down to for me--trust. Trust is the most precious part of a relationship. If trust is broken, what is left? “Love”? Right!

Love is an undefinable, maybe even just chemical, if you believe some reports. But trust is foundational. Trust allows us to be in love, one of the riskiest ventures we ever undertake.

Trust is what lets you, dog-like, expose your vulnerable underbelly. Once kicked there--by infidelity, abuse, or another trust-breaker--you are much less likely to expose the underbelly again. Something is missing from the relationship.

What about you? Could you “forgive and forget”?  Would you “stand by your man”? Or would you say, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice . . .?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Case for Eclectic

Recently, a FaceBook group I belong to, Chick Lit Goddesses, asked us to use one word to describe our writing style. There were wonderful answers: “quirky”, “snappy”, “clean” (!), “sassy”, “true”, and so on.

I didn’t know what to write.

So, I “walked away” from the FB question and did other stuff. Meanwhile, the question of what one word describes my writing kept percolating in my brain. I just had to wait for it to be brewed.

I went back later and typed in my word, hit the return, and sent it out to my group trepiditiously (Is that a word??? Who cares. I am a neologist.).

My word? “Eclectic”. I even got one Like from someone.

So why eclectic? Though that does help explain why I couldn’t think of a word--I write in so many styles the tone and impact I want to create changes with the genre.

Some writing critique group partners have urged me to not write in so many genres. If I stuck with one, they argue, I might be able to get really good with it instead of being only okay in a half dozen. I kinda do get it, but the stories bang at my head, demanding to be written and written in a specific way.

So I write historical fiction, comedic plays, short stories, culinary mysteries, erotica, paranormal romcom, and women’s fiction. Eclectic, yes?

The good news about eclectic is you may never get proficient in one genre, but you for sure never get bored or writer’s block. There’s always another piece waiting if one story line won’t play nicely.

So do I write “Romance”, well, yeah. But I don’t know that I set out to do it. The story dictates how much relationship stuff is included. It’s a secondary story line in Mission Impastable, my culinary mystery, but in Streetwalker (erotica) and Lucinda, historical fiction, the romance/sex/love predominate.

How do you describe YOUR writing style or the style of your favorite novelist? Leave a comment below and let’s chat about it.