Romance = Underground Writing???

“Romance fiction is widely reckoned to be a very low form of literature. Maybe the lowest, if we’re not counting the writing at Groupon, or on Splenda packets. Romance fiction: probably the worst! An addictive, absurd, unintellectual literature, literature for nonreaders, literature for stupid people—literature for women! Books Just For Her!

Low or not, romance is by far the most popular and lucrative genre in American publishing, with over $1.35 billion in revenues estimated in 2010. That is a little less than twice the size of the mystery genre, almost exactly twice that of science fiction/fantasy, and nearly three times the size of the market for classic/literary fiction…. people are devoted to something.” (Maria Bustillos, Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing)

Bustillos argues that Romance novels are feminists documents  written almost exclusively by women, for women and about women. The underlying belief in the novels is that love conquers all and this solution she feels is ‘feminine’ (I don’t agree with her on that point. )

She explains her title:

Romance literature is underground writing, almost never reviewed or discussed in newspapers or literary rags, or at a dinner party. One is supposed to be embarrassed to have a taste for it. [It is] …a literature without pretense.

I say… let  literary snobs call our stories trivial. Let the critics denounce them as lurid, bodice ripping adventures, or worse, soft core porn. They are missing the point. The modern romance is about women finding strength within themselves to live full lives. I believe the essence of the romance story  is: LIFE IS ALL ABOUT LOVE.

Who in their right mind would fault that?

Any comments?

What is Appropriate?

How far can we go?

My reflections on  life this week:

Valentine’s Luncheon with the Ladies: Our local RWA chapter held their annual Valentine’s luncheon last weekend and it was a blast. It’s a warm, supportive group of writers who share everything (even their rejections).

Reality Bites: Ugggh. I pulled out a manuscript I was letting rest. The tone is so inconsistent it makes the plot non-nonsensical. It slides from humour one moment to gritty tension the next like Janet Evanovich meets Hitchcock. My heroine bobs like a cork on a sea of emotions. Oh well, I’m learning and that’s my main goal. Bad writing doesn’t improve with age like wine,  it improves with work.  I’m pushing up my sleeves and settling in, dreaming of a day when I can read this manuscript and say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s the story I wanted.”

What is Appropriate? I read a line in a newspaper this weekend (I think it was the Vancouver Sun) that talked about the people behind Two and a Half Men liking the fact that what is deemed “appropriate” on TV has become a moving target. That got me wondering, first, what is appropriate and second, does “it” or should “it” move?

Is there no longer a line in the sand, a line no writer would want to cross, in fear of offending her audience?

For me there is. For example I stopped watching a popular TV drama (NCIS) when they showed a scene of a woman licking heroine from the open intestines of her dead brother, because she was a junky. For me, that was going too far. I blocked an individual on Google+ author’s circle last week, because she chose to put up a photo of a woman in bondage. Sorry, too far.

But…does my having a “line in the sand” mean that there exists, or needs to exist, a cultural line. After all, people like breaking taboos, and what is considered a taboo in society changes. Hmmm. Does being  PC (politically correct) mean that we have to adhere to a belief in “moral relativity”? That would mean that a subject is appropriate as long as someone in the world believes it is. Hmm

I tossed that around for awhile, and decided that I believe that there are some things which society needs to keep on the other side of the line, specifically the things which can hurt others, like child pornography … Whether someone farts in a story doesn’t matter to me, but if someone does something to hurt a part of society, that is another matter.

And…I have to say it. I hate it when writers fall back on breaking the latest taboo breakable subject to get attention. Remember when the taboo subject was gays? child sexual abuse? transmission of AIDS?  How cliche now. A good story should rely on something more than that.

UH..and I’m still learning what.

What do you think?

How to Create a Website in 3 Steps (with 10 thumbs)

If I can do it, you can do it.

Trust me, you can create a simple, good looking website that doesn’t break your bank account without having to bribe your neighbour’s nerdy, nine year old  child with video games.

Why bother? Here are my reasons:

  1. My website has the content I want on it, organized the way I want it organized.
  2. It looks exactly the way I want it to look.
  3. I can change any part of it in an instant from any computing device, including my phone.
  4. It’s cheap.

Believe me, you can do it. I have ten thumbs and I managed. Here is my “non-geek speak” advice for you if you want to build a website of your own:

Step 1  – Content (i.e., Know what you want to say to the world, and what you don’t want to say.)

Decide what you want on your site and organize it, in your mind, or on paper, into pages. For example, for me that looks like:

  • Page 1   Home Page (note: all websites have a home page that all the other pages are linked to, serving as an introduction/table of contents for your site)
  • Page 2  LovinDanger Blog
  • Page 3  Bio
  • Page 4  Contact Information
  • Page 4  Books

Step 2  – Graphics (i.e., Know what mood, feeling and branding message you want to create with pictures.)

After research and experience (details I won’t bore you with) I decided to use WordPress for my Blog (free and easy to use) and Go Daddy for my website ($129.00 for two years). Both platforms have “ka-zillions” of templates that create different mini environments for your content to live and breed  in.  Go through the template sections and look for ones that “fit” what you are writing. Yes, getting custom work done is possible, but not cheap, and the result isn’t always what you want. (been there)

Step 3 –  Bite the Bullet and hit the buy button (i.e., Jump in, the water’s warm.)

This was the hard one for me. I wanted to create the website, see what it looked like and then pay for it, kinda like trying on a prom dress, but with Go Daddy you can’t do that. I had to bite the bullet and buy the “Website Tonight Economy Package” first, and then design my site. I don’t regret it.

Once I’d paid for my package, the website fell together. I chose a template, played around with the fonts, and colours, inserted my content onto the appropriate pages and I was up and running. I got stuck trying to link my blog to a page, but it took only two quick phone calls to the tech guys and it was loaded. I now have a functioning website that’s all mine.

Soooo….If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines thinking of expanding your writing platform to a webpage, or if you’re tired of chasing your nerdy nine year old webmaster to fix up your site, consider doing it all yourself. It really is do-able.

Yes, I know my website isn’t perfect, but then that makes it a good reflection of me, and it gives me something to work on when I’m taking a break from writing. Check my baby out: www.Jo-AnnCarson.com and tell me what you think.

Chandeliers, London Fog and Saturday Mornings

Reflections on my week of writing:

Living in Interesting Times:

“In what could be a landmark moment in the struggle between old versus new technology, Amazon has announced that it now sells more copies of its Kindle ebooks than traditional paperbacks.”  (Richard Adams in The Guardian)

Word Count: Steady 

Body Count: Increasing

Social Media: Check out my new website, http://www.Jo-AnnCarson.com.  It took a lot of blood, sweat and curses but I did it!

One of my favorite places to write:

It’s become a ritual. On Saturday mornings I  slide out of the house, at dawn, with my laptop on my back and a few coins in my pocket. I wander along the harbor taking in the stillness of the ocean and the freshness of the salt air. There are only ducks and a few people out this early. I pass the man who does his karate Kata’s with a sword in an open space, the odd dog walker and a few street people. My destination is a cafe downtown. The staff  welcomes me in from the cold, like I’m a long lost member of the family. I order a medium London Fog (Earl Grey tea, steamed milk and a half shot of vanilla). The tall ceilings and large windows give the room a feeling of spaciousness and freedom. The large chandeliers give it a touch of the eccentric. Music plays in the background. I settle into the back corner. People come and go, enveloping me in a steady human hum of  laughter and camaraderie. I relax into a working frame of mind. Words begin to flow, characters swirl in my head and my elusive plot opens up. I love my Saturday writes.

Do you escape to a favorite writing spot? What’s it like?

Alpha Male meets Janet Evanovich

Normally, I keep my romance writing “thing” away from my six foot five, alpha male husband, but Saturday I wasn’t feeling normal. I wanted to see One for the Money, a movie adaptation of Janet Evanovich’s novel. I wanted to see it badly. My daughters and girlfriends were busy, so I twisted the arm of my other half.

What can I say? He likes my cooking. He agreed to go.  There are no tanks, or cowboys in the story, so I kept telling him it would be funny. It was my only hope. My stomach twinged as I imagined his response to Stephanie Plum, the bumbling, kick-ass bounty hunter.

I think I patted his arm one too many times, because he began to furrow his brows. “It’s not like The Black Swan is it?.”

“Ugh, no.” I winced, wondering how he would respond to the steamy Ranger character.

“And it’s a love story?”

“Yeah, kinda. There’s one heroine and two,” I coughed, “handsome heroes, and…”

“Uh huh.”

But his response to the movie surprised me. He laughed at all the funny spots and cracked up when the Grandmother shot the turkey. In short, he thought the characters were great and enjoyed the zany plot.The finances of the bond company irked him, but that’s a minor detail.

I enjoyed the movie, but not as much as the book. Evanovich brings her characters to life, so brilliantly they live in my head long after the story is over. On the screen, I found them two dimensional. But that’s me. Make no mistake, I did enjoy the movie. I recommend it and would give it 7 stars (on a scale of 10).

So why am I writing about this?  My movie date reminded me that good writing transcends genre. It reaches out and captures the heart and imagination. …and in Evanovich’s case –the funny bone.

Comments?

One for the Money – Movie Trailer on You Tube

My Synopsis Fantasy

Looking back on my week of writing:

  • Idea: Don’t worry about all the books I want to write, focus on the one I’m writing. (paraphrased from Norman Mailer)
  • Word Count: Growing.
  • Social Media: Hooked. Isn’t admitting it the first step?
  • Research: This week, I learned, that Centrale Bibliotheek, the public library near Centraal Station in Amsterdam is the largest library in Europe.
  • Gripe: The limits of my creative energy.

My Fantasy

Fear comes  in the wee hours of the night, haunts your dreams and  eats away in the corners of your mind. It stalks you through your day like an unwanted shadow. It knows your weaknesses, for you are its prey.  Make no mistake, if you are not careful fear will rule your life.

So what do you fear? Creepy bugs, monsters under the bed, random terrorists, …running out of chocolate…?  Fear. We all fear. Some of its big and some of it’s little, but it’s all paralyzing.

My greatest fear, at the moment, is writing a synopsis.  Compressing my sixty thousand word baby into two thousand words takes more than a well structured girdle. I don’t want to leave out characters I’ve been living with for months, or amputate pieces of plot that have swirled in my head so long that they have melded with my internal circuitry. So what can I do?

I have a fantasy. I will hypertext the lot.  Wouldn’t that be nice? Imagine my whole synopsis neatly typed on one page. Every second word would link to other pages, but I would have managed to stay in the proper ‘word count’ and said what I wanted to say.

My fantasy goes farther… Imagine a computer that could take my hyprertexted synopsis analyze it, with some random algorithm a fifteen year old savant who doesn’t need to shave yet has  devised, and instantly know whether it’s sell-able. Who knows what the future will bring.

Yeah, I know… I need to get my head out of my digital fantasy and write the wicked thing.

Do you have any advice on synopsis writing? Any favorite drinks to help me through it? Maybe a preferred chocolate treat? How do you do it?

Stephen King’s Basement

Dover Castle, Kent

Stephen King talks about  inspiration:

There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust …He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level… You have to do all the grunt labor… while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you….[But] he’s got the inspiration…[He’s got] the bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. Believe me. I know. ( Stephen King, On Writing, Scribner, 2000, p. 144,145)

Before I go to sleep, at night, I don’t talk to a cigar smoking guy in the basement. He’s not mine. He belongs to Stephen King.

I talk to the ladies.  Wearing sexy, black lace lingerie held together with red ribbons they listen to me. There are at least three of them and more in the background, and they look like they came out of a saloon on Gunsmoke. They have long, dark  curly hair pulled up into loose buns, with tendrils falling down, and wise eyes. Why are they ladies? Why do they look like that? Who knows. I tell them what I have to figure out for my story, and they  surprise me in the morning.

The power of the subconscious fascinates me. I’m trying to not analyze it. I tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I understand the creative process as long as it works.

My thoughts on craft for this Monday morning.

What’s in your basement?