Monthly Archives: February 2013

Powers of Observation

Have you ever spent time in a coffee shop or a pub? (Bar or lounge to you non-British influenced folks.) I’m sure I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy sitting in a coffee shop and reading. What I may not have mentioned before, is my enjoyment for people watching. In the most non-stalkerish way imaginable. ๐Ÿ™‚ And anyway, who hasn’t done their fair share of people watching?

Even before I was old enough to appreciate the quiet time I could get in the corner of a busy coffee shop, I liked to people watch. I remember sitting in the mall with a friend when we were fifteen or sixteen years old and watching the other patrons walk by. We’d get pretty involved and create background stories for them. We’d improvise some dialogue then laugh at our own inventiveness.

Now, I refrain from spouting dialogue, but I haven’t stopped people watching. I enjoy observing people in a common space like a bar or coffee shop and seeing how they interact. Not just with their companion, but the baristas or servers. I like to see how kind people are with each other and how animated a discussion can become.

Last night, I was out with a friend and we noticed an interesting pair in the coffee shop we stopped in. There was an elderly gentleman who was perhaps 4’11” tall and about 75 years old. With him was an elegant-looking young woman, maybe 26 years old, and she was maybe 5’10” tall. My friend and I noticed this couple, we looked at each other and both wondered out loud what the story was there. We weren’t being malicious, just curious. How could you not be looking at such an odd pair? What was the story? Who knew? I just know it was probably a good story.

Observing people contributes a lot to my work as a writer. How else would I learn how people interact outside my own family or circle of friends โ€“ side note: I don’t get out a lot and have a limited, close circle of acquaintances. I’m not complaining, I’m just explaining that if I want to see how other people act with each other, then I need to get out and see how they act. I’m not saying I eavesdrop, though sometimes you can’t help it. It’s shocking sometimes how much people will say in a public, busy setting, when you think you’re anonymous. It certainly makes it easier for me to imagine their backstory in those cases.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that you ought to be careful how you act out there in those busy places. Take care with what you say or how you say it. A writer could be sitting behind you, taking notes. ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care and happy reading.

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Discussing Erotica

There’s been a recent influx of erotica novels and stories to the mainstream in recent years. You could say the rise to infamy of a certain trilogy of novels has played a large part in this newfound popularity. Whether or not that’s a good thing, or that the certain trilogy of novels is a good barometer of what’s good quality out there, is in question. However, you can’t deny the way the new demand has opened up opportunities all over for writers of the genre.

It has also raised a lot of discussion about what’s right or wrong for erotica, about whether it’s just straight pornography, and whether or not it’s a good thing that so much content is considered a good thing. I also wonder how publishers or book sellers โ€“ I’m not sure who makes the decision โ€“ classify some novels as erotica and others as mainstream romance.

I’ve been reading romance for a long time. I was also reading some erotica before it became popular in recent years. I still couldn’t tell you what the main differences are. Maybe romance is more story-driven and less sensual but that’s not entirely accurate. I don’t think I could consider that certain trilogy of novels as erotica. As I said, I’ve been reading romance and erotica for a long time and that set of books isn’t more erotic than a lot of mainstream romance that I’ve read.

Like I mentioned above, there does seem to be a lot of debate over whether these kinds of novels are considered just straight-up pornography. Uh, no. They’re not porn. Porn is all sex, no story to speak of, no character development, nothing but graphic depictions of sex in all it’s forms. Yes, I realize this is my opinion only and I’m sure there are more than a few people who would consider what I write to be porn. (It’s not!!)

I think some of the appeal for people reading and enjoying those three novels, as well as any of the other offerings out there currently, is that they don’t know or recognize all the different levels of eroticism or romance. To them, this is the height of titillation and they think they’re reading something that’s the first of it’s kind. It’s not. However, it is the first of it’s kind for those people reading.

I do find it interesting that people who might not read a lot, are reading these stories all of a sudden. I had lunch with a friend of mine this week and she’s never been a big reader. I’ve known her for ten years and don’t ever recall her talking about books with me but this week, she said she’d read that trilogy of novels.

So because all these people are reading these novels, and the myriad of books like them, they’re also discovering that it’s OK to explore their sensuality. I had a friend tell me that, while she’s not into the whole domination/submission phenomenon, she’s so happy that since reading these books, she’s been able to open up to her husband of almost eleven years. Not that she never shared with him before but she did tell me that reading those stories let her know that it was OK to say that she wanted something outside the norm with him. Since then, it’s opened up a whole new world for them. That’s a good thing. On the flip side, it’s a little worrying that people are trying things they read in these novels, assuming that the author was the authority on sub-dom situations. Before exploring certain aspects of the sex life, do your research!!

Moving on, while I’ve already admitted before that I didn’t enjoy that particular book myself, I’m enjoying the conversations and debates that it has brought up. I love the fact that more attention is being given to the entire romance genre โ€“ whether you view it as erotica or not โ€“ and I love how it’s opening up the market for so many talented authors who otherwise might have been dismissed because of the content of their novels. I have yet to be ‘discovered’ but then again, my writing isn’t as graphic or overtly sensual as a lot of the books that are considered hot right now. That’s OK. I like what I write and I am going to keep writing what I like. That’s just how I roll.

As always, take care and happy reading.

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And They Lived Happily Ever After

I find when I read something new, I spend some of the time while reading wondering how this book is going to end. I don’t mean reading a mystery and wondering whodunit. I mean, I wonder how this can reach a happy ending. Granted, sometimes I’m reading something that might come to a rather ambiguous and not necessarily happy ending, but there’s always a conclusion.

With romance though, the desired ending is pretty basic. I don’t wonder so much about the lead characters getting together in the end. That’s the formula. Do any romance novels deviate from the formula? Not often. Maybe they don’t end up with you think they do, but in the end there’s a couple together, having overcome some kind of adversity.

My question today is, why is the most requested ending always marriage and kids?

I realize that that is the course most relationships take but why is marriage and kids such a widely required happy ending? What if a couple doesn’t have the ability to conceive? What if same-sex marriages aren’t allowed where they live? What if a couple agrees that they just don’t want those things together? Does that automatically mean that they won’t be happy in life without those things?

I’m not knocking those people who make those decisions in life, and I’m not saying that I don’t necessarily want those things myself. I’m just questioning why so often a story or novel is considered incomplete without these things concluding the story. I’ve written a few romances, mostly short stories, and only once did I end a story with a marriage and a pregnancy. And one other time, I ended a short series with a marriage proposal.ย Only those two times did that feel like the right conclusion for a story.

In my other stories, I’ve ended with declarations of love, sometimes a desire to move in together, sometimes just a promise to be better together, with no long-term plans. Yet. Did any of those stories โ€“ if you’ve read them, and I’m assuming you have ๐Ÿ™‚ โ€“ feel incomplete to you? And I don’t mean, did you wish there was more to the story or that you wish it just hadn’t ended. Did any of my stories feel incomplete to you?

With my longer story, “Breaking Through the Ice,” it was a slower build-up to the main leads even getting together. The entire story was longer than my other work but I still feel that I brought the characters to a sound conclusion. That doesn’t mean their story, or their lives, stops right where I stopped writing, but for me, that’s where the story ended. I had a few comments asking where the proposal was? When the wedding would be and when the children would arrive? It left me scratching my head. Did I miss the part where their relationship progressed to the point where they were ready for those kinds of decisions? I finished with mutual declarations of love and commitment. No, that’s not a proposal or even a request to live together. But that story would have been another ten chapters at least before I even got close to that point. ๐Ÿ™‚

Maybe I’m just being nitpicky about comments. I shouldn’t complain or make it sound like I am. I love my readers and I enjoy that some people feel strongly enough about my work to want more. It just makes me wonder why some readers need to see those things like marriage proposals or pregnancies to feel that a romance is really finished.

Except it’s not finished at that point. A relationship doesn’t stop and ride off into the sunset after that milestone. Anyone in a marriage or long-term relationship, with or without children, will tell you that the story is always going on. Always growing, always morphing into something else.

Yes, I realize I deal in fiction. I know my creations aren’t real and I can take them in any direction I want to. But they are based in reality, are they not? Don’t you enjoy reading my work because there’s a touch โ€“ or more โ€“ of real life? I like to write them for that reason. Although, I’ll admit, writing about hockey players falling in love with regular women every day is a bit fantastical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’m not saying that I’ll never write another story that ends with those things โ€“ marriage, promise of kids, etc. โ€“ but to me, I end the stories how I think they should end. If, at some point, the urge to continue the story for those couples hits me, I’ll continue with it. In fact, just to tease the hell out of all of you, I’ve just started a sequel to what was quite possibly my most popular and well-loved hockey romance. I haven’t written about these two in so long, I’d forgotten how much fun they are and how much I enjoyed writing their back-and-forth banter and chemistry. ๐Ÿ˜€ There. Have you figured it out? What I mean by telling you this, is that there are some stories that beg to be continued. If it feels right, I will continue them. I won’t just do it to satisfy the popular notion that every happy ending is the same.

The truth is, every happy ending is what you make of it. For my characters, as well. Sometimes, a couple gets married. Sometimes, they don’t. Some have kids, some adopt, some live without children all their lives. The only way to know if it’s a happy ending is to decide for yourself. For me, I’m still figuring it out. I’m happy right now but I’m not at the end of anything. ๐Ÿ™‚ How about you?

Take care and happy reading.

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More Publication News!

“Undercover,” the second novel in my TAITS series, is now available for sale again on Amazon Kindle and through Smashwords. Please click on the link to the right to find them on these sites. I’m not sure when they’ll be available on the other sites but I’ll keep you posted on that and any other publication news.

Yay!

Take care and happy reading!

 

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To Write, Or Not to Read

I recently read a remark written by another author about how they don’t read other novels or stories in the same genre as what they write. This author made this decision for a few reasons. One, it was stemming from someone’s request that the author read their own un-published work. The author had to politely refuse, and I think most people, writer or not, would agree with that decision. It’s a good idea to keep from doing that, no matter who you are. It leads to the author’s second reason for not reading other novels in their genre.

Now this next one is tricky. Yes, when reading someone’s unpublished work, you could later run the risk of being accused of plagiarism. However, there are only so many ways to tell a story that all similarities are difficult to eliminate altogether. This, the author acknowledges as well. By not reading someone else’s work, you would avoid a lot of unconscious usage of terms or phrases. On the other hand, you may end up copying something without even being aware. And anyway, reading someone’s unpublished works can later lead to legal accusations of theft or plagiarism even if you write in different genres altogether.

Someone recently accused me of copying ideas from a certain popular trilogy and writing them into a semi-autobiographical romance series. It was not true but I can’t deny that the name of the male leads was the same and… Well, that’s about where the similarities end. ๐Ÿ™‚ Obviously whatever else I wrote into the story was enough to highlight some thread between my story and the other one that this person felt compelled to point it out.

I think you could do that with just about any two novels or stories out there. Yes, settings may be different. Point in time, character names and even the genre might differ. But romances are romances. Adventure and mystery are adventure and mystery. You’d be hard pressed to find something brand new and totally original anywhere. That’s not to say you should just give up with writing completely, or reading, for that matter.

For me personally, I approach each new novel I read with an open mind. I don’t do it consciously but I crack a new book open, something I’ve never read before, and my mind is blank. Maybe that makes me sound like a simpleton, but it’s just that I treat every book as I do a new acquaintance. I don’t know anything about it, no matter what the blurb on the back says or all the reviews I come across. If I happen to find similarities between a new book and something else I’ve read, it’s because I haven’t completely lost myself in the new one. That’s my theory anyway.

Moving on, the final reason for not reading other works too similar to the author’s own โ€“ unpublished or otherwise โ€“ is because the author feels it can sometimes interfere with their own writer’s ‘voice.’ I can see their point with this, and yet, I can’t. Maybe it’s because my mind works differently and I’m able to shut off the writer part of me when I read, and vice versa. Maybe it’s because I’m just a different sort of writer altogether. I don’t know. Then again, I don’t think I’ve read much in the genres I’ve written in. I find it much more interesting to write those kinds of stories than to read them. Lucky for me, you all enjoy reading them, otherwise I’d be without any sort of audience. ๐Ÿ™‚ So that’s a personal preference on my part. (Incidentally, I have read a series of hockey themed romances. I honestly can’t recall if I started reading them before or after I started my own. Either way, I don’t think those novels affected my own. My desire to write the hockey themed stories came from my own deep-rooted obsession with hockey. :D)

I don’t know. To me, saying that I can’t read in the same genre as my own writing is like an actor saying he’ll never watch a movie similar to his own. Do you think Kiera Knightley went her whole life or career without seeing another Pride and Prejudice adaptation? Or even beyond that, do you think action stars never watch each other’s movies? Or rom-com stars? Of course, any actor you talk to would say they’re not one type of actor or another. To me, the same applies to authors.

I don’t consider myself only a romance author. I know that’s primarily what I write but that’s just because that’s what I enjoy writing more than anything right now. I’ve dabbled in other genres in the past, and more recently, but have yet to write something without a touch of romance. Again, that’s just me. But I also don’t bar myself from reading other romance novels or stories.

I suppose everyone has their reasons and differences when it comes to writing and reading preferences. I have mine, as I’ve outlined many times in the past, and today. You all know what a voracious reader I am. I could no sooner limit what I read than I could with what I write. I suppose you do have to be careful not to let another author’s ‘voice’ encroach on your own. Whether or not you have to make a conscious effort to do that is each author’s individual struggle. Maybe if I read back through some of my work, I might find more similarities between what I’ve written and what I’ve read but that might be hard to pinpoint. And anyway, I’ll always have those 50 Shades fans to keep me honest. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Take care and happy reading.

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