Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thoughts that keep a writer up nights...

With apologies to Will:

To write or not to write, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous critics
Or to take pen against a sea of reviews
And by opposing, end them. To dream, to mark,
No more. And by ‘to mark’ we mean to end
The heart-ache of the thousand critical words
That books are heir to, ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To dream, to write
To write perhaps to glory! Ay, there’s the rub!
For in that glorious writing what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mid-list coil
Must give us pause: where’s the respect
That makes us glorious for so long life?
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time
The reviewer’s wrongs, the proud reader’s incredulity,
The pangs of despised love, the royalty delays,
The insolence of booksellers and the spurns
That writers of their books must take
When she herself might her quietus make
With a sharp-tongued quip? Why would authors bear,
To grunt and sweat with weary fingers
But for the dread of fixed obscurity,
The too-familiar country from whose bourn
No writer returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather write within the lines
Than fly to genres that we know not of.
Thus paychecks do make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And great novels of pith and moment,
With this regard, their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

It isn't just "smut" anymore!

The Power of Smut

Many people—particularly people in the publishing world—tend to view erotica or erotic romance as a…shall we say….less than worthy literary pursuit. Whether you’re reading it or writing it, it’s viewed as empty, mindless, titillating entertainment for the masses. And, granted…I do believe there is some erotica and porn that falls into that category. However, to slot all erotica and erotic romance into that category is a gross misjudgment.

I firmly believe that literature—ANY literature—has the power to have a huge impact on the reader. Whenever you lose yourself in another world, in another character or set of characters…you are, in effect, taking on their experiences. Living their life. Sharing in their struggle. And that can have profound implications.

I know it did for me! I grew up in a very devout, and in some ways, strict home environment. Particularly when it came to matters of sexuality, I had allll kinds of hang-ups over what was right, acceptable, good or sinful. There were words that, all on their own, seemed to have the power to consign me to hell! Imagine that. A mere set of 4 letters that, if uttered aloud, had the power to land me among fire and brimstone for eternity. Many of these issues and fears spilled over into my marriage, making my sexual life…a challenge, to say the least. But then, for a variety of reasons, I started to expand my reading horizons. I began reading romance…and then I began writing it. And THEN I began to read and write EROTIC romance. And the doors began to swing open.

Those “evil” words began to lose their power over me. I began to see and accept that there wasn’t just ONE way to interact sexually. I began to expand my own sexual horizong (much to my hubby's approval! lol) And the more I read, and the more I wrote, and the more I EXPERIENCED other sexualities—even if it was vicariously—I began to identify with these “people”. I began to realize that sexuality in ALL its forms is good and fun, and that what any one person—or group of people—do consensually behind closed doors in the privacy of their own home, or their own club, or their own community for that matter, is perfectly acceptable! And it’s none of my damn business! In fact, I attended a Gay Pride parade this year for the first time, and it was an absolute blast! A celebration of sexual diversity and acceptance that I found refreshing and exciting.

Whether or not they’re going to hell for it? Well, I don’t believe in that anymore, but that’s a topic for another blog.

My point is that it isn’t “just smut” anymore. Whether it’s tales of homosexual or bisexual exploration, of the BDSM community or even of transgender adventures…the more stories of “deviant” sexuality that we read about, the more REAL these people and their issues become. And the less likely we are to judge and be afraid of them. It’s much harder to hate Josh, a twenty-seven-year-old rock star who loves music and kids and is struggling to accept his own attraction to another man, than it is to hate a group of faceless, formless, “homos”.

Not only is erotica a way for women to validate and explore their OWN sexuality…But I firmly believe it can be a way to promote tolerance and understanding for people of all sexual persuasions and in all walks of life.

Has anyone else found their views and/or opinions affected or changed through books? Not even necessarily erotica, but through any form of fiction? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Calling On Your Life Experiences

Real life can sometimes be the pits. There are schedules, telephone calls, emails, bosses, co-workers, relatives, kids. Wow. So much to do, so little time.

All those things that make you holler out, "Calgon, take me away!" can also be gems when it comes to your writing. Have a boss you can't stand? Make him the villain in your book and kill him. Is your sister a nag? Give her monster kids who destroy whatever they touch. Do you have a friend who always brags about everything she has? Have her invest all her money in a company that goes under. Ah, yes, revenge is sweet.

Too mean, you say? Okay, how about the special friend who can't seem to get a fair break? Give her the hero and let her live happily ever after. Do you have the best brother in the world? Let him find his dream job. Are your parents wonderful? They bought the winning lottery ticket!

Do I use real experience in my books, you ask? Of course. I doubt if there's an author who hasn't drawn on something from her/his life and used it in a book. Do I use real people? Yes and no. I borrow from a person's life, but rarely pattern a character exactly after a real person. I want to keep my friends. :-)

You can add the good in with the bad. It's your book, your story. Call on all your life experiences, or those of the people close to you, and use them. Add your own personal touch. Real life may be stranger than fiction, but it can also be glorious.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Writers Write

How many times have we heard it? Writers write. Every day.

When you go to conferences or read “how-to” books, this phrase appears and is repeated and enunciated as if this is the missing line from the Sermon on the Mount.

A huge part of my soul rebels when I hear this. Lawyers don’t try cases every day. They get weekends. Teachers (some of the hardest working people I know) get holidays and summers away from students.

What is it about writers that we don’t get a day off?

When we read tales of other famous writers and how they accomplished their greatness, it seems inevitable that the words “he wrote every day, including holidays” crop up. Arrgh. What happened to the lazy (but successful) writers in this world?

I’ve come to the conclusion that very few exist.

So after years of thinking I’m never going to follow in the footsteps of the great and prolific, I had a little revelation. I don’t physically plant my backside in the chair every day. I can’t. I have a day job and a life that sometimes takes precedence. That’s the way it works. But even when I’m at my most stressed and busy (or maybe because I’m at my most stressed and busy) my mind is working…crafting stories, fine-tuning dialogue or just wandering to create the next wickedly hot sex scene I need to write.

But—and this is a huge but—having said this, we can’t use this as an excuse not to actually put the words on paper. I know dozens of “writers” who’ve never actually written a word. They research or craft plot lines or take classes on how to write. They like to say they are writers but getting the words to fill the screen can be hard work, and it’s not for the faint hearted.

So, while I’m not convinced that writers have to write every day, I do believe we have to write. That’s the compulsion in our brains that drives us to share our stories. When I’m particularly stressed, I find spending thirty minutes at my computer, working on my next werewolf tale, gives me a little peace.

And it reminds me what I really love…and that’s to write.

Have you found a particular schedule that works for you?