Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Meet the Girls of A Kind of Magic

Sometimes I don't know what to blog about. I tell myself I could blog about what I'm currently writing, then I laugh heartily and dismiss the idea.

If I blog about my WIPs, I might treat them as though they're real books that are actually going to happen, which will immediately make me want to stop working on them.

I work on a lot of things at once in order to head off the THIS IS AWFUL freakouts. When I freak out about one project, I just work on something different for a while.

But I feel far enough along in my first F/F book, A Kind of Magic, to talk about it a li'l.

The story centers around Jemma, a 26 year old grad student and part time magician who performs weekends at a local BDSM club. Her magic show includes things like making butt plugs disappear, getting out of handcuffs without a key, and turning a flogger into flowers. Her assistant is her Domme Tara, who's happy to let Jem take control onstage, as long as she's the one in charge in the bedroom.

Trouble is, lately Jem's been wondering what it would be like to explore her Domme side. But Tara's no switch, and getting to dom her Domme is seeming more and more like a hopeless fantasy for Jem. Until Jemma jokingly attempts to hypnotize Tara onstage--and it works. Suddenly Jemma's got a willing sub at her beck and call and has to figure out how to undo the damage--unless they can both agree it's not really damage...

A Kind of Magic was part of the original trilogy of ideas I had when I first started to think seriously about trying to write erotic romance. The other two were By His Rules and Wacky Wednesday. So it'd be cool to see all three of those plot bunnies turned into real live...whatever plot bunnies become. Books? Or this?

So if I don't freak out and stop working on it, I'll be polishing this one up soon and looking for a home for these girls!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

This Week in Dragonisms

Another round of mishaps in my ever volatile relationship with Dragon Naturally Speaking Voice Activated Software (11.0). Dragon and I were working on my new novel The Subs Club one night, and I wondered: would Dragon be able to handle the intricacies of a laundry room sex scene involving clothespins, a butt plug, and a tub of Vicks?

Spoiler alert: No.

Here are some of my fav mistranslations:

What Dragon Wrote: But with a perfect rhythm, I soon realized. The rhythm of stalking.
What I Actually Said: ...the rhythm of fucking.

WDW: until the blues craze the base of the plug. 
WIAS: until the blows grazed the base of the plug

WDW: And then sent me his arms around me, and his palace pressed against my ass. I whimpered as Hume ran is cock against the base of the log. 
WIAS: And then he put his arms around me, and his pelvis pressed against my ass. I whimpered as he rammed his cock against the base of the plug.

WDW: As I attended, he reached up and benched my aching goals. 
WIRS: I don't know what I said for "as I attended", but the second part was definitely "reached up and pinched my aching nipples." Dragon had sports on the brain.

WDW: and made a casual crap for my arm 
WIAS: and made a casual grab for my arm.

WDW: and without any notable rank or more excitement, spread some monster my cock. I squirmed and teared up as the birth started.
WIAS: and without any notable rancor or excitement, spread some onto my cock. I squirmed and teared up as the burn started.

WDW: and proceeded to clean up wages by Jews as quickly as I could
WIAS: and proceeded to clean up my jizz as quickly as I could

Wages by Jews is totally my new super bourgie indie folk band name.

Thanks, Dragon.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Heart Oscar Season

The part that has to do with writing: BY HIS RULES is now out in paperback! Actually it’s been out for a while, but I didn’t realize it until recently. That’s how on top of things I am at the moment. But I got my author copies the other day, and they’re shiny and lovely.


Since I love movies, and since my birthday always falls right around the time the Oscar noms are announced and the Golden Globes are held and all the best picture contenders are in theaters at once, it’s been a longstanding tradition in my family to see how many nominated movies we can manage during my b-day week. Now that I’m far from home in Alcatrazabama, I’ve tried to carry on this tradition with random volunteers. Here’s what I’ve managed to see so far, and my completely unasked for ranking and opinions:

1. Les Miserables. I’ve been obsessed with the stage show since I was sixteen and used to die as Eponine over and over in my room. I normally hate movie adaptations of musicals, but in this case, color me impressed. It’s just as big and beautiful and epic onscreen as onstage. I may never be able to look at Anne Hathaway without crying again. Also my dog hates me because I will not stop serenading her.

2. Argo. Too much fun. A great example of how to take interesting source material and Hollywoodize the crap out of it (I mean that as a compliment, in this case). I’m always impressed when I know a story has a happy ending, and yet the storytellers can make me believe for a minute that it’s not going to be okay. Tense, exciting, funny, and scary—and even better when you read BBC's interview with RL Houseguest Mark Lijek, who claims he enjoyed the movie but good-naturedly acknowledges that all that stuff at the end? Never really happened. They pretty much just walked onto the plane. Still, bravo, both to the real life tale and the gunfire-ridden, will-Carter-wire-in-time? movie version. “Argo fuck yourself” indeed.

And the 70's mustaches--oh, the 70's mustaches.

3. Zero Dark Thirty. Ooh, Controversy! Oscar Ban! The movie is pro-torture! Seriously Martin Sheen & Co, WTF? You know what the movie really is? A dark, disturbing, and realistic look at a war where there are no winners, just people who give up aspects of themselves and in some cases their lives in an endless cycle of violence. And, um, WE DON’T CENSOR ART, right? If we don’t like K-Bigs possibly playing fast and loose with the truth, then what about Argo? Or, you know ANY MOVIE EVER THAT SAYS “BASED ON TRUE EVENTS?” Is truthiness okay if it makes America look badass, but not if it makes us look like assholes? As bleak and tense as The Hurt Locker with a fantastic performance by Jessica Chastain, totally worth a see.

4. Lincoln. I like this movie. I do. I’m just not nuts about it. DDL is amazing, as always. The scenes of corruption and Congressional mayhem are fun. But lately I kinda feel like Stephen Spielberg is just filling in the blanks in the Give Me An Oscar Formula. Which is probably unfair of me, because it is a good movie. Just didn't blow me away.

5. Django Unchained. I saw this on my actual birthday, because nothing says “I’m turning another year older” like watching people get ripped apart by dogs and muttering to myself, “That’s what time is doing to you. Metaphorically.” I have a love-hate relationship with Tarantino. There’s always stuff about his movies that I enjoy, and I can never quite write them off as self-indulgent gorefests, cuz dude’s got something going on style-wise. But I rarely connect with his films on any kind of emotional level. Ultimately I don’t care about much in Django except Christoph Waltz. And that scene where Jenny didn’t do a good job making the bags.

So that’s where I am now. I’m tackling Silver Linings Playbook tomorrow, and then waiting around for Beasts of the Southern Wild and Amour to get here. I’ll be honest, I have no idea what Amour is. I think I missed my shot at Life of Pi.

Friday, January 11, 2013

What Makes a Great Romance?

Okay, this post is a day late because I was too lazy to hunt for internet yesterday. But yesterday was my one year anniversary of being a published author! (You can't see it, but a champagne cork just popped in my cabin and confetti exploded.)

It's been a great year, and to celebrate, I have collected all of the answers to the question "What makes a great romance?" that I have received from people I've interviewed on this blog over the last year. 'Cuz every time I interview someone, I ask them that. I say it's just for kicks, but really, I ask because I don't know.

So sit back and enjoy, and please, share your answers as well!

September Adams: There are several important – well, non-negotiable – requirements for a good romance. One is sexual fusion between the main characters. And yeah, I mean fusion in a scientific way. Another requirement is forced proximity. I read that in a romance novel how-to once, so I can’t claim that one for my own. The last requirement is a fair amount of romantic/sexual adjectives. And when I say fair, I actually mean excessive. I saw a great list once in a “How to Write Erotica” book and it’s been the closest thing to a Bible I’ve ever owned. 

Katey Hawthorne:  Characters who don't suck. There are so many awesome ways to work a romance angle, but I seriously think the thing that makes a story great is a character I want to see win. With romance it's sort of double-important because it's so closely focused on the emotions of the people in question. If they're annoying--as in too perfect or too blah--I just want to throw things and stomp around.

MC Blackman: For me, the same foundational things that hook me into any good work of fiction: interesting characters that I care about enough to spend several hours of my life with, and who I think about when I’m not with them. Smart, fundamentally solid writing is essential. Also, a compelling story. Sorry, but sex isn’t enough to sustain my attention. I’m that reader who skims through the sex to get back to the story (I still read all of the words, but faster). If the writing or the story feels amateurish, too contrived, too clever, too formulaic, too shallow, too gratuitous, or too overwrought, I’m out.  

My Mom: Unbelievably naive and idealistic people who crush each other’s dreams, let each other down, then continue to love each other anyway.

Lisa Henry (This is her never-before-published answer because I, um, just realized that while she did send me this answer back in July, I forgot to include it in her interview. Sorry, Lisa!): The first thing you need is characters that people will give a damn about. Then you have to make them give a damn about each other. With me, it's all about the flawed characters. I like to read about, and write, characters who grow and become better people because of love. In fiction there are actually more rules than in real life. This means that in romance characters really have to earn their Happy Ever Afters. And I'm a huge fan of that. I love it! 

Kay Berrisford: A good romance should be slightly frustrating, but in the best possible way. Okay, so what do I mean by that? Basically, when you’re reading a good romance, you’re so desperate for the two MCs to sort things out and get together that you want to turn over the pages quicker than you can read. Apart from you don’t want to turn over those pages and rush it, because you’re loving the story and you want to spend as much time as possible in these people’s company. So a really good romance is always a book you can’t put down. You need to read it in a single session or dash back as soon as possible. It really gets under your skin.

As for the exact ingredients e.g. setting, level of conflict, that’s all subjective as far as I’m concerned.  Personally, I like a high level of conflict between the MCS—lovers to enemies is a trope I adore—and an interesting or high concept setting (preferably fantasy or historical).  And, of course, I love ANGST, ANGST, ANGST, TORTURE, TORTURE, ANGST.  But none of this is essential like the above, just my taste.

Huge thanks to everyone who sat in the hot seat over the last year! Thank you for answering this question for me.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Why We Talk About It

I read an article from The Atlantic the other day about 50 Shades of Grey. It was kind of interesting, proposing that it’s not the BDSM in the story but the number of times the female MC orgasms that readers find exciting. The comments section was depressing—lots of “BDSM is depraved” and “if you like it, there’s something wrong with you” and “subs are willing abuse victims,” etc. 

The article linked to another article from about alt lifestyle advocates who are upset about the way 50 Shades paints BDSM (the whole “childhood trauma leads to BDSM” myth and the idea that it’s cool if you’re a Dominant man to find yourself a na├»ve young woman with no interest in BDSM and hand her a contract). The commenters on this one seemed to lean more toward, “Who the fuck cares? The books are shitty.” And, “Why do people feel the need to share what they do in the bedroom?”

I found this interesting, since similar comments have been made in the gay rights debate to avoid actually talking about gay rights: “Why do these people want to flaunt their sexuality?” “What they do in the bedroom is their business; I don’t want to hear about it.” Essentially reducing homosexuality to sex. Here’s the thing: what happens between homosexuals in the bedroom is exactly what happens between heterosexuals in the bedroom. But there is a culture, a shared history of discrimination and abuse, a struggle for identity, for respect, and for the rights most people take for granted that goes along with being LGBTQ. That’s why we talk about the LGBTQ experience—not to give ultra-conservatives nightmares about buttsex or carpet munching.

BDSM maybe isn’t a direct parallel, since BDSM is essentially about what goes on in the bedroom. But it’s also about identity, culture, and the struggle against alienation and discrimination. Participants have lost jobs, divorce settlements, and custody of their children through being outed. There’s also a lot more to BDSM play than sex. And when people misunderstand what BDSM is—or decide they don’t want to try to understand it—we run into problems. See: the comments on article one.

I’m inclined to agree with commenters who point out that readers are responsible for telling fact from fiction, that 50 Shades is beach fluff not worth getting in a tizzy over, and that a novelist has no direct responsibility to be accurate, to moralize, or to educate. I also see the point of advocates who are like, "great—this trilogy is going to be a lot of readers’ first exposure to BDSM, and it perpetuates some stereotypes the community’s been battling for a long time."

What I don’t quite agree with is the “shut up; who cares what you do in the bedroom?” mentality about BDSM and BDSM fiction. While it would be nice if we lived in a world where no one cared what anyone else did in the bedroom, our reality is that advanced societies still have sodomy laws. That some people stand to lose a great deal if someone finds out what they do in the bedroom. And that we still giggle and whisper when we talk about sex because it’s “dirty.”

Yeah, maybe some people involved in BDSM talk about it to “flaunt” what they do. But I think the main reason people talk about it is that dialogue increases understanding, awareness, and compassion. We don’t have to all go around sharing the gory details about our sex lives. But I don’t think there’s any harm in open, honest dialogue about the different kinds of things people get up to in the bedroom.

We’re not in fifth grade anymore, right? We don’t have to giggle, blush, or put our hands over our ears and LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA….

So I say let’s talk about it.