Friday, July 30, 2010
In "classic" romance, the man can be a total jackass, taking advantage of the heroine, treating her like garbage, and somehow redeeming himself. Even the super-Alpha-males of modern romance can get away with some pretty awful behavior, but as long as he makes up for it, all seems to be forgiven. In general, the horrible relationship mistakes made by the heroines are mild. But why?
One possibility is gender profiling. In our society, women may have power, yes, but as soon as they develop a no-crap-taken mindset, they are denigrated and often labeled as being too masculine for their own good. The way our media portrays powerful women usually perpetuates this stereotype by characterizing them as man-haters or too independent to need or want a man--which is considered a negative trait.
Another possibility is that romance readers prefer the weaker, needier heroine because part of the genre's allure is seeing the big, strong hero save her. Whether it is from evil super-soldiers or an abusive step-father, this trope is appealing. We read fiction to escape, to vicariously live our fantasies. But just because a woman is strong, just because she was a bitch for part of the story, does not mean she's any less deserving of a happy ending.
Have you read any books with atypically bold heroines? And what is your least favorite heroine characteristic?
Thursday, July 29, 2010
1. During 30 minutes of active sex, the average person burns approximately 200 calories.
2. Having sex at least once per week can lower a man’s risk of heart disease by 30%, stroke by 50%, and diabetes by 40%. It has also been shown that men with an active sex life are more likely to live past 80 years. (Are you reading this, honey?)
3. Sex Relieves Stress. A big health benefit of sex is lower blood pressure and overall stress reduction, according to researchers from Scotland
4. Sex Boosts Immunity. Good sexual health may mean better physical health. Having sex once or twice a week has been linked with higher levels of an antibody called immunoglobulin A or IgA, which can protect you from getting colds and other infections.
5. Sex Reduces Pain. As the hormone oxytocin surges, endorphins increase, and pain declines. So if your headache, arthritis pain, or PMS symptoms seem to improve after sex, you can thank those higher oxytocin levels.
6. Sex Reduces Prostate Cancer. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that frequent ejaculations, 21 or more a month, were linked to lower prostate cancer risk in older men, as well, compared with less frequent ejaculations of four to seven monthly. (Are you reading this honey?)
7. Sex Helps You Sleep Better. The oxytocin released during orgasm also promotes sleep, according to research. And getting enough sleep has been linked with a host of other good things, such as maintaining a healthy weight and blood pressure.
8. The average size of an erect penis measures between 5 and 6 inches, while the average size of a flaccid penis is about 3.5 inches.
9. Use of the condom was first noted in published literature in the early 1500s. The device was originally made of linen, and historians believe the legendary lover Casanova used linen condoms.
10. Just a decade ago, only 25% of women reported experiencing orgasm as a result of intercourse. In recent years, this number has risen to about 45%. In contrast, over 80% of women report experiencing orgasm though oral sex.
11. The vibrator, a common sex toy for women, was originally designed in the nineteenth century as a medication to combat the anxiety-related symptoms of “hysteria” (now known as menstruation).
12. Approximately 70% of people in the U.S. admit to fantasizing about group sex at some point in their life, and more than 50% of those people actually follow through.
13. Many of the ingredients in chocolate are proven to cause arousal similar in effect to sexual foreplay. In fact, some experts believe chocolate may be even more effective than foreplay for sexual arousal.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
However, I'm really kind of fuming at this point because as I was reading the final love scene between the subplot characters it began to sound familiar. Really familiar. Almost as though I’d read this same, exact scene somewhere before…
I feel as though I've been cheated out of something that could have been wonderful. And I think the author cheated herself as well. I'm sure I'll approach every new book she writes with trepidation (if at all) wondering when’s the next time the fictional world she's created—with no small amount of skill, incidentally—will suddenly, and for no good reason, come crashing down around me.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
My husband and I are in the process of moving to a new home. So what does that have to do with writing? In this case, a lot, at least for me. We’re not just moving into a single house by ourselves, but into a large home with our eldest son and his family. While the blending of three generations is going to be an adjustment, what I’m most looking forward to is having live-in critique partners. You see, my son and his wife are both writers. My d-i-l has a poetry blog and has had some articles and stories published, plus has worked as an editor for several children’s books through a local publisher and has a degree in creative writing. My son has three on-line cartoons plus a website called “Gloaming Gap” where we write “twitter” serial paranormal stories. Plus he has a background in editing. Both are extremely literary.
I can’t wait. We’ve often held lengthy discussions about writing. Brainstormed different ideas for books and stories. Critiqued and edited each other’s works. And collaborated on stories. Now, instead of having to wait for them to be online or calling or otherwise trying to get in touch with each other about a writing issue, we will now be under the same roof (okay, in separate areas, but still under the same roof!).
Yes, there are going to be a lot of issues with the upcoming move and we are working through “rules” and privacy and all the things that go with such a big change, but all of us are looking forward to being able to work closely with other writers who “get” it.
Oh, and one of the issues we’re dealing with is what will be our collective library. Because we are also voracious readers (plus I work at a new/used bookstore!). We are trying to figure out where in the new house, all those books will go! (Which is doubly funny since I swore off buying any more books until after the move, and then promptly broke my rule buy purchasing two books yesterday – one of the hazards of working at a bookstore!)
And while all this is going on, my editors at Captiva Press (who are being extremely patient) are working on my next story that will be coming out. So my next month is completely filled with moving, editing, deadlines, and still finding time to work on new stories. My current story, “The Chosen” will shortly have both a prequel (Heartmates) and a sequel (Building Love). All three are erotic short stories. Keep an eye on Captiva for them and more.
Never a dull moment.
If you’ve a mind, check out our websites:
http://burkholv.wordpress.com – if you like your fantasy warm
http://writervictoria.wordpress.com – if you like it steaming hot
http://www.gloaminggap.com – paranormal short stories for the twitter in all of us
http://www.zoidland.com – for a funny online weekly comic
Vicky Burkholder has twenty years experience as a writer and editor (actually, more than that, but that would be giving away her age.). As such, she has worked for magazines, newspapers, government organizations, epublishers, and private clients. Her editing experience includes the editing of forty-three novels, more than two hundred technical manuals, and as an award winning newsletter editor for the local Romance Writers of America group.
Her own writing spans the fantasy, science fiction, paranormal and romance lines (in addition to boring policy and procedures manuals for private and government organizations) as well as articles for the local newspaper and RWA newsletters. Her fantasy novel, Akashan'te, and futuristic, Prime Time, both recieved four star reviews from Romantic Times Magazine. She writes as both Vicky Burkholder (YA and warm adult novels) and Victoria Allen (erotic works).
Monday, July 26, 2010
A couple of years ago, I had a WIP with a tall, skinny hero. The heroine, who wasn’t initially taken with him, said he looked like Ichabod Crane. One beta reader reacted very strongly to that. In fact, she told me flat out that she refused to read a book where the hero was ugly, and she was certain most other romance readers felt exactly the same way.
Now I’m pretty sure I could find books that would refute that idea (think of all those “so ugly he’s handsome” heroes, or the ones with the crooked smiles or the slightly scary demeanor), but it did make me think. Do romance heroes have to be built like Ryan Reynolds with faces to match? How much leeway are we willing to give them before they just won’t work for most readers? And are we more flexible with heroines than with heroes?
For example, I’m always hearing readers say they want plus-size heroines, or at least heroines who aren’t model-slim cover girls. But how do we feel about the slightly overweight hero? Will we give guys as much of a break as we give women, or do we expect them to do a better job of keeping in shape?
What about the hero-as-klutz? The klutzy heroine is well-established, but do we feel the same way about the klutzy hero? Can the hero break things and not be able to fix them? If his car gives out on a back road, can he be clueless or is he expected to whip out that mag wrench and get to work?
And then there’s the whole uncomfortable topic of money. Culturally, we expect men to get out there and make a living. So how do we feel about the hero who’s broke? Or the hero who hasn’t been successful in life? Will we give those guys a chance, or do we want the hero to be the requisite billionaire-in-hiding?
Of course, those of us in the business of creating heroes can always fall back on personal tastes. I’m tall myself, so I have a thing for tall heroes (all the Toleffsons are well over six feet). I’m also not averse to chest hair, so I made the Toleffson brothers semi-hairy (although some readers found that sort of icky). But I admit, my heroes will probably stay tall and ripped (although thinning hair might be a possibility). And although I could do klutziness, I probably couldn’t do a guy who was a complete failure professionally. Personally, I find competence really sexy!
Still, I think it might be interesting to explore some of the pathways we sometimes don’t let heroes trod. I remember a chat with some of the Naughty Nine where we were doing a little brainstorming. In the course of the discussion, someone floated the idea that the hero was a whiz at cards. It struck me then that it might be more interesting if he wasn’t. If, for example, the heroine was very good, but the hero just couldn’t get the hang of it. Of course, Preston Sturges already tried that in his movie The Lady Eve—the results were hilarious (“Oh,” Barbara Stanwyck, the card-sharp, trills, “you do card tricks!”), but not very romantic. Still, it might be fun to try.
So what do you think? Can heroes challenge romance conventions? And how much will we put up with before we decide a guy isn’t a hero after all? Can we have ugly heroes or fat heroes or clumsy heroes or failed heroes? Or do they all have to be perfect guys who fall for the sometimes very imperfect heroine?
Friday, July 23, 2010
I don’t write book reviews. As an author, I’m uncomfortable publicly reviewing other authors’ work. But I read a lot of book reviews, and sometimes (depending on the genre and the reviewer), a book review will influence whether I decide to read a book or not.
Romance reviews, and romance review sites, usually come in one of two flavors – sweet or snarky. To name just a few: Romantic Times, Coffee Time Romance, and Bitten By Books are sweet – and by sweet, I don’t necessarily mean that they never give negative reviews, just that their reviews aren’t snarky, sarcastic, or unkind. Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Dear Author, and Mrs. Giggles lean to snark.
I’ve been thinking about the issue lately because a book review panel at RomCon, held in Denver at the beginning of July, generated a lot of talk. You can read Smart Bitch Sarah’s impressions of the panel, and the opinions of the SBTB community, here. (Note: SBTB comment threads, where I hang out a lot, can get very snarky. And funny as hell.)
A lot of authors, and a lot of readers, are uncomfortable with snark. Personally, I love snarky book reviews as long as they’re genuinely funny and stick to the actual story. Other than that, I see no reason why a reviewer shouldn’t write a review in any manner in which s/he sees fit.
Some people in the romance community – both authors and readers – feel that reviewers have an obligation to be considerate of an author’s feelings. As someone at RomCon put it, reviewers should remember that a book is the author’s “baby.” Someone else suggested that every review should include at least one positive comment about a book, because writing a book is hard work, and the author’s efforts should be appreciated.
I couldn’t disagree more. Not about the fact that authors work hard to write their books, of course – most do. (Come on, we all can think of authors who don’t seem to put much effort into their stories, and other authors who seem to write the same damn story over and over, changing only the names and physical descriptions of the characters). But here’s the thing – authors work hard to write their books because that’s their job. An author’s book isn’t a baby – it’s a product, and the author is asking people to spend money on it. People whose hobby or job is to review that product have a right to give their honest opinion about it, and people contemplating purchasing that product have a right to expect honesty in those reviews.
Sometimes a review is badly written. Sometimes a reviewer seems to be reviewing an entirely different book – maybe the book they thought the author should’ve written, instead of the one that was actually published. I’ve actually seen a negative review of a novella based solely on the fact that the book was too…short. Sometimes a reviewer has an axe to grind with the author. This happens a lot when Famous Author A reviews Famous Author B. These reviews are fun to read. I tend not to feel too badly for Famous Authors when they get bad reviews. They’re famous, they’re rich, boo frickety hoo. (That was snarky, wasn’t it?)
Sometimes the reviewer is a failed or frustrated author himself, and the review just seems to ooze with jealousy and bitterness. Sometimes the reviewer is a pretentious twit more intent on demonstrating her own supposed wit and learning than actually discussing the book. This phenomenon is usually found in the New York Times, the Times (of London) Literary Supplement or the Guardian, so it’s not really relevant to romance reviews.
And ultimately, of course, all taste is subjective. No matter how many books Famous Author A sells, or how many Bookers or Pulitzers or Nobel Prizes he’s won, there will be people who think he sucks, just as there are people who don’t like Citizen Kane and others who think Hudson Hawke wasn’t that bad.
None of that matters. A reviewer has an obligation to the people reading her review, but she has none at all to the author. When an author writes a book, she does so – or should do so – in the full knowledge that if it sees the light of publication, anyone who wants to write about it or talk about it or tweet about it is free to do so. It’s very, very scary, and it’s part of the job.
I can understand an author’s dismay when she gets an unfair, ill informed, or dumbass review (several of the NNN’s have suffered this recently). But, again, it’s part of the job. Writing isn’t for sissies. Besides – and I don’t think this is a controversial idea – there are some genuinely awful romance novels out there. There are genuinely awful books in every genre out there, and there always have been. No one expects a reviewer to include at least one positive comment about a mystery if they don’t like it, and no one expects a reviewer to give a spy thriller an A for effort.
I don’t think the “above all, be nice” attitude does the romance genre any favors. Romance already suffers from numerous false stereotypes. Way too many people don’t think romance authors are “real” writers. Suggesting that reviewers should always be considerate of the romance author’s feelings just reinforces that stereotype.
I feel the same way about romance blogs, where the discussions can get heated and the comments downright mean. It’s not pleasant, and I tend to avoid the really nasty threads, but such is life on the Internet. Romance readers are vehement about the books they like and the books they hate, and they have a right to express their opinions however they want.
That’s why I was appalled when Romance Writers of America refused to renew Jane Litte's membership. Jane can be extremely caustic, as anyone who’s followed her #RomFail on Twitter can attest. But RWA’s excommunication looked prissy and petty, and it reinforced the author-as-diva stereotype of romance writers. I was even more appalled at the readers who approved of RWA’s action. Whether you like Jane’s style or not, she’s a passionate and articulate defender and promoter of the romance genre. She gives a lot of valuable exposure to authors, and the Dear Author commenters buy a lot of books. Kicking her out because sometimes she’s “mean” is absurd.
One of the commenters on the SBTB thread quoted above said, “I can’t believe that in 2010 women are still trying to shame and manipulate each other with “nice”. It holds back the genre, and frankly it holds us back as people. Instead of “nice” let’s try “honest” for a while and see where that gets us.”
I think it's a good idea. What do you think?
Thursday, July 22, 2010
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Recently the "reader" me has been increasingly frustrated by the publishing industry. Since I bought my Sony Reader, my favourite place to buy books has been the Sony Store. It's just so easy and seamless to buy and download. However, in recent months, every time I go there - the books I want are not available in Canada. Just today I checked to see if newest releases by some of my favourite authors were available (Sweet Temptation by Maya Banks, The Homecoming by JoAnn Ross, Black Magic by Cherry Adair) and also Jennifer Weiner's Fly Away Home - I could not purchase any of these books. So I went to another favourite romance ebook site. Those books aren't even there.
I understand that ebooks retail sites are working with publishers on the agency model issue but in the meantime- as a reader, I'm frustrated.
And then to make things even more frustrating, I resort to going to the brick and mortar bookstore. Don't get me wrong - I love the bookstore. I still like paper books, too, and I will purchase them from time to time because if I don't, there won't be any more bookstores to go sit and drink Starbuck's coffee and peruse books and magazines.
The last three trips to the bookstore I have left empty handed. Me, who used to drop $100 easy every time I went. I wander up and down the aisles and I can't find anything that appeals to me. I've always considered this bookstore to have a great romance section - but man, all there is is freaky deaky sci fi futuristic vampire werewolf stuff. (No offence to my fellow authors who write paranormal, but it's not my first pick to read.) Where's all the straight contemporary, ones with some sexy heat? Where are the romantic suspense (and I mean ROMANTIC suspense, not a book full of shooting and killing and exploding). They don't even have new releases like the ones listed above! The one time I in desperation made a purchase, it was a new-to-me author whose book had gotten a good review at a major review site, and I paid $18 for it - and I hated it. At least with an ebook, the price is generally lower so you can make those risky purchases with...well...less risk.
From an author perspective I've heard the trends - that contemporary romance is in a slump, that romantic suspense is a hard sell to publishers right now. And now as a reader I'm seeing it in the bookstores - there's nothing I want to read.
In tough economic times with large publishers having financial problems - how do they expect to increase sales if readers can't get thier books? Or can't get the books they want to read? I know I'll be getting my books at places like the publishers we all write for here at the Naughty Nine.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
...and now we can't remember which gift was for which author. But perhaps you can help. Just match these five bottles of wine to these authors: Meg Benjamin, PG Forte, Kinsey Holley, Kelly Jamieson, Skylar Kade. Then send us your answers at: email@example.com
The winner will get to choose a book from either Kelly's or PG's backlist or a print copy of one of the first two books in Meg's Konigsburg series, Venus in Blue Jeans or Wedding Bell Blues.
Good luck and Merry Christmas!!
Friday, July 16, 2010
Then there was my daughter, Finicky. She came into this for three reasons: 1. four days without her brother 2. a chance to see the mountains 3. the Hard Rock Café. She left having decided that romance isn’t all bad—especially when they write about fairies, wizards and shape-shifters. She met tons of authors and asked them all lots of questions, loved the book store and… okay, the Hard Rock and the mountains were still pretty great for her!
Here are the other things I loved about Rom Con!
Top 10 Things I Loved About Rom Con
1. Having readers come up and love on me! Seriously, OMG…
2. Meeting my editor Lindsey and brainstorming!
3. Meeting Meg Benjamin (I’ve only ever met two of the Naughty Nine in person—Kate Davies and Meg—but I feel like I’ve been friends with them all for years! :))
4. Having Wonder Mom and Finicky with me
5. Confirmation that my crazy-writer-ways are not that crazy (at least not with this crowd)
6. That I was at the first ever event!
7. Being able to follow every single post on a Twitter thread and for once know what all referred to *G*
8. Confirming that I write for the best publisher around
9. Meeting Ashleigh Raine, Tina Trevaskis, Crissy Brashear, Carolyn Crane, Leanne Banks, Melissa Mayhue, and on and on and on…
10. Sitting next to Julia Quinn when someone told her they’d never read any of her books… then being able to tell her I’ve read every one of them three times *G*
This is actually my third romance conference but my first as a published writer… and I’m hooked! Now I just have to get the rest of the Naughty Nine to one conference all at once and people will be Twittering about that for weeks!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I love Americana music, which is big in Texas and a few other places but not exactly a sensation across the nation. One of the things I love about it is its eclectic nature. So, here are some love songs with videos that you’ve probably never heard of but might like to hear.
1. Moment Of Forever. Kris Kristofferson from a great “lost” album of the same name. His voice is pretty much gone, but listen to the words.
2. Lovin’ You Again. Emmylou Harris. A heartbreaking song about a woman who’s about to take her worthless lover back again even though she knows it won’t last and he won’t clean up his act.
3. Goodnight Moon. Jack Ingram. Lovely melancholy road song.
4. Melinda. James McMurtry. Not somebody you’d think of as singing love songs, but a great, rocking anthem with the usual fantastic guitar work
5. Smarter Than the Devil. Trish Murphy. “You’re smarter than the devil, you’re the devil in me.” Yowza!
6. I Never Cared For You. Willie Nelson. Willie’s got lots of love songs, but I wanted one you’d never heard of, so here’s an odd little gem from Teatro. There’s a long intro, that’s actually a separate cut on the album. Emmylou sings backup.
7. Cornbread. Band of Heathens. Okay, your obligatory double entendre song. Believe me you’ll be howling by the end. Plus Band of Heathens has three, (count ‘em, three) hot lead singers.
8. Don’t Take It For Granted. The Belleville Outfit. Typical tricky rhythm and fantastic instrumentals from this little-known group that ought to be a sensation by now.
9. Sea of Heartbreak. Roseanne Cash. An old song, wonderfully done. Bruce Springsteen sings harmony.
10. Dancing Barefoot. Alison Moorer does Patti Smith. Hypnotic and gorgeous.
11. All Just To Get To You. Joe Ely rocks. If you listen carefully on the original, you can hear Bruce Springsteen on backup. Here Joe’s accompanied by Joel Guzman, accordionist extraordinaire.
12. Sparkle and Shine. Steve Earle. Surprisingly sweet song from someone who's usually a lot crankier.
13. Not Enough. Emmylou Harris. Another heartbreaker from Emmylou, a woman bidding farewell to her dead lover. If your eyes don’t mist up, you’re not listening.
And now the songs I wanted to include but couldn’t find on YouTube—all can be found on Amazon and/or iTunes: Robert Earl Keen, “Still Without You,” Trish Murphy, “Blue Tattoo,” Terri Hendrix, “Long Ride Home,” Steve Earle, “I Remember You,” James McMurtry, “Dusty Pages,” Lyle Lovett, "Walk Through the Bottomland."
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
But something that makes it a little more bearable is Big Brother. Reality shows aren't usually my thing, but with the exception of the very first season, I've watched Big Brother every summer. It appeals to my inner drama queen and leaves me eager for Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings. The Stud (a.k.a my husband) and I watch it together and laugh at things like Meow-Meow. You'd have to be watching this season to get it. :) Unfortunately the Stud broke two ribs last week working on our deck, so I can't even mock any of the houseguests (Meow-Meow, seriously?) or he starts to laugh and ends up hurting himself.
So what about you guys? Any other Big Brother fans out there or other favorites shows you love that are only on this time of year? Or if you're not watching tv much, what are you reading? I'm always looking to add to my TBR.
And just to keep things interesting, leave a comment by Friday, July 16th, and I'll enter you to win an ebook from my backlist.
**Congrats to Loretta! You won the download from my backlist. E-mail me at sydneyATsydneysomersDOTcom to claim your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered. Loved reading all the comments.