Are there rules to sex?

“It’s about knowing your limits Anastasia. I mean, I’m all for pushing limits, but…”

(p. 61, Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James)

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James has captured a significant chunk of the reading market with its blend of romance, erotica and taboo breaking edginess. I’m visiting Vancouver Canada this week, and everywhere I look I see women reading the book. Perched on chairs on B.C. Ferries, walking in city parks, standing in malls… They don’t seem to care if the cover shows. I haven’t seen such enthusiasm for reading since Harry Potter. Go figure!

The 50 Shades trilogy has created it’s own sub-genre called “Mommy porn” by the reading public. So what is James doing right? What is she doing wrong? Are there rules to writing good sex?  And if so, what are they?

My guru in the “writing sex department” is multi-published writer, Mary Buckham.

I highly recommend her comprehensive, on-line course, Sex on the Page. She’s offering it only once this year, in September.  Check out her website for details. I recommend it for three reasons:

  1. the information she provides is thoroughly researched,
  2. she includes interviews with other authors, and
  3. she interacts with her students.

It’s an exceptional learning experience. And did I mention, she has a wicked sense of humor?

Mary is approachable. You can ask her anything which is important when it comes to dismantling the mysteries of sex on the page. If you take her course, let me know how you liked it.

Leaping Pink Salmon Remind me of Writers

Let me explain. I live on an estuary, and the Pacific pink salmon run has begun. Hundreds of their flashy silver bodies  leap into the air and splash down into the water, as they gather outside the mouth of the river  waiting for high tide so they can swim up and spawn. (I might add, that spawning means the end of their life cycle, but by some peculiar trick of nature, they don’t seem to mind. They look happy dancing in the air. I chalk it up to salmon chemistry.)

Anyway…With fish runs come fishermen, in all shapes and sizes, with a wide range of gear and ability. You can see where I’m heading. Some come in gait waiters and walk up to their chests into the river to cast.  Others perch on the side of the ocean and make long casts that look oddly poetic, like something out of a Hemingway novel. Some come with coolers full of food and families to keep them company. Others stare at the water with great seriousness as if they could make it divide. Canoes, kayaks, row boats, motor boats and funny looking rubber dinghys that look like over sized lifesavers with men bobbing in the middle appear off-shore. While the fishermen are great in number, their catch isn’t. We’re three days into the run and I’ve only seen one fish caught. Remind you of something?

The whole fishy scene got me to thinking about writers and how we looked before we pitched at the nationals. Yup, just as road weary as the fishermen, nervous and determined.

…and talk about lines, hooks and sinkers!

So with that in mind, I wish all my fellow writers good fishing. I hope you land a big one:)

…and yes BJ I know they don’t really look like that:) I’ll try to get a picture soon.

Carburetors and Coffee Beans

The strangest things  happen when I’m out and about with my writing friends. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s true. It  leads to a few interesting tales spinning in my mind.

Take last Saturday:

D. and I were heading to a Chapter meeting in Victoria and we’d stopped to stretch our legs at a coffee place before the Malahatt (mountain pass).  There was a biker’s store right next door, and a number of Harleys were parked gleaming in the summer sun outside.

While D. was in the powder room, I made myself comfortable at a table  with my coffee. Two men sitting ten feet apart were carrying on a conversation loud enough for me to hear.

The skinnier one, in leather with a bandana and scruffy face said to the other one: “Yeah, women. My last one said to me. You won’t believe this, but she said to me, ‘Carburetors don’t belong on the kitchen table.'”

His friend, also dressed in leather, but with a paunch belly sticking out beneath a black t-shirt, grunted. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”

“And she said,” continued the first guy with a voice filled with incredulity, “‘Motorcycles don’t belong in the living room.'”

“Women, eh,'” said the second.

Then my friend D., a proper looking lady who writes regency historical romance came out with her tea and we talked duels.

Crazy…but true:) Gotta use it somewhere.

Texas Uses a Steinbeck Character to Measure Justice

A bizarre tale of life intersecting with fiction:

“Lennie Small is an iconic literary character — a well-intentioned, mentally disabled giant of a man.

He and his long-suffering friend George Milton are the two central characters in John Steinbeck’s 1937 heartbreaking novella, “Of Mice and Men” — in which the combination of Lennie’s strength and mental disabilities get him into serious trouble.

Now, in Texas, Lennie Small — Steinbeck’s fictional character — is being used as a measure of a person’s mental fitness to face the death penalty.

Yesterday, Marvin Wilson — whose IQ was measured at sixty-one — was denied a stay of execution. A decision based, in part, on how Mr. Wilson’s intellect compared to Lennie’s. Only hours later, Mr. Wilson was executed.

John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas, is speaking out. He’s an author and journalist himself — and he’s outraged at the state of Texas, and its misappropriation of his father’s writing.

We reached Thomas Steinbeck at his writing studio in Santa Barbara, California…” CBC RadioAs it Happens,podcast

Can we get any crazier? I’m not making this up. Do people not realize there the distinction between fictional characters and real people? It’s worrisome.

In the interview Thomas Steinbeck said he is, “…desperately angry,” over what has happened. That it’s an,”…insult to John Steinbeck,” and an “…insult to his writing.” A “…bizarre idea of justice.”

What did the man in Texas do?

Erik Oster wrote in “The Faster Times”:

“Wilson, who was convicted of killing a police informant two decades ago, was declared mentally retarded by a court-appointed neuropsychologist but found to be accountable for his actions (and declared not mentally retarded) by the court. While the Supreme Court banned the execution of mentally retarded criminals in the 2002 ruling of Atkins v. Virginia, they committed the oversight of allowing states to define for themselves what constitutes mental retardation. Whereas most states would recognize Wilson’s IQ of 61 as evidence enough that he is unfit for execution, … – the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has invented a non-clinical, non-scientific set of factors to measure mental retardation called the “Briseño factors.”

The “Briseño factors,” writes Salon, “were inspired by Lennie Small, the fictional migrant farm worker from the famous novel Of Mice and Men…”

…Wilson’s attorney told Salon that “not a single clinician or scientific body uses or even recognizes the ‘Briseño factors’ as valid.” Yet, it seems a good enough loophole for Texas to work around the Supreme Court’s ruling against the execution of mentally retarded prisoners.”

Wilson is, ” the the 245th inmate executed under Gov. Rick Perry.” (Salon).

Why is Starbuck Swagger so Popular?

It’s an age-old problem for writers. Why is one piece of  writing  preferred over another? Sometimes, it’s obvious. Intriguing sexy titles shoot blog stats skyward.

But putting “sex” aside, what’s it all about? Answer: darned if I know.

For example, my post Contemplating Starbuck Swagger, continues to get hit after hit (141 in total, which is a lot for me). It’s particularly popular in Thailand. Go figure!

My most popular post is, You Gotta Love Trolls (i.e., 148  hits on the first day). I  pulled all the troll lovers out with that one, not realizing that I was referring to a restaurant owned by a man who’s last name is Troll. Who knew so many readers love trolls?

…Back to my coffee issue. Is it the Starbuck part, the swagger part, or my combination that keeps pulling readers into the Starbuck Swagger post? You gotta wonder.

…anyway…that’s what I’m wondering as I listen to the blues and plot my next chapter.


3 Reasons I Love Research

I’m struggling with a heat wave (I’m a wimp when the temperature goes over 24 Celsius (75.2 F) and it’s been hitting 30 (86F)!!!) but today it feels cooler, so I should be more productive. I’m getting back into my writing routines after the mind bending experience of RWA12.

Currently I’m attempting to work on two new manuscripts.  I’ll see how that goes.

Anyway…at the moment that means I’m doing a lot of research, and I love research.


One – I learn things I’d never stumble upon if I didn’t go looking.

For example:

  •  by questioning local musicians about their guitars I learned that most start out on one they found in a closet, or an attic in the home they grew up in. They love their “first” to death and never part with it.  What a lovely detail to make a character come alive.
  • reading several sources I learned that art crime is the fourth largest international crime after drugs, money laundering and illegal arm shipments.
  • there are places high in the mountains on the Haida Gwaii that were left untouched by the ice ages.

Two – It grounds my story while letting my imagination fly.

Each piece of information is like a nugget of gold. When used properly in my story it creates verisimilitude. At the same time it opens up all kinds of ideas in my mind to further the story. How sweet is that!

Three – It enriches my characters, setting and plot.

Each details adds depth to the story. Doing research is like opening a treasure chest for a writer, with layer upon layer of precious gems.

My Fave RWA12 Moment

Pat and I had our picture taken with the famous Romantic Suspense writer Allison Brennan.


“Gosh, that’s a hard question,” I said to my friend who asked me what my favorite RWA ‘thing’ was, and then I just answered from my heart. It was the one to one conversations I had with authors during book signings, after workshops, in hallways….

I learned so much from the published authors. I asked all my crazy questions and they had answers for me. For example, I now have a clear understanding of the difference between Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense books. It’s a 50/50 versus 70/30 romance to suspense kind of thing.

The national conference offers an array of learning experiences. From the moment you arrive (actually even on the bus to get there) you meet writers and authors who engage you in conversations about craft, best sellers, agents, editors…you name it. All the topics you want so much to learn about. It’s like a little piece of heaven.

And the words they use. Oh my goodness they are incredible. One established writer kept checking on me when she ran into me in the hallways. When my time to pitch neared she said to me, in a beautiful southern drawl that I will never forget, “Now they’re going to be young, but you don’t worry about that. Why I got underwear that’s older than them…” The warmth of that woman stayed with me right through my pitch. I had to work at not thinking about underwear during my sessions. Meeting her became one of my fave RWA12 moment.

Her warmth, encouragement and wisdom…epitomizes my RWA experience

You gotta love the RWA experience.