Wednesday, January 27, 2010

There's no sex in "eczema."

When I read a recent tweet about an author's male/male Amish erotica story, I gasped,

"You can't do that!"

And then I corrected myself. I can't do that. She can do whatever she likes, and if she does it well, it should sell nicely on the e-market. It will be years before I see such a book on my to-be-read mountain of mass market paperback romance, but it may happen. I'm personally thrilled by the breadth of ideas romance novels now embrace and look forward to innovation in the genre.

I actually don't believe in bad ideas--only poor execution. Any writer of sufficient skill and creativity should be able to write a romance that works, regardless of premise. I, for once, contemplate rhinoceros-shifter erotica involving their incredible tentacular wangs, but I know I'm not skilled enough to pull it off.

(There's a pun in there, somewhere.)

And yet, certain topics NEVER appear on my bookshelf . . .

Eczema, or psoriasis or Herpes of any simplex. Heroes and heroines never have common skin conditions. In the 43 books I have ready to pass on to someone else, I've never once seen the word "suppuration" (though I admit to avoiding zombie romance). Author Connie Brockway has speculated on twitter that you could give a hero poison ivy in a romantic comedy, but otherwise agrees there's no bringing the sexy back after a rash.

Wheelchair erotica.
Although wheelchair users have active, creative sex lives too, they don't make it into mass market paperback. Sure, your protagonist may be temporarily "trapped" in a chair, but when it comes to saving the day and winning her heart, paraplegics need not apply. I believe there's market for novels that show people with disabilities experiencing glorious sex and life-long love. Write them, and the readers will come.

(Oh, wait . . . was that another pun?)

. No heroine has one. No heroine ever has (not even in deep back story). No heroine contemplates one. I think have seen mirror characters hint vaguely at the possibility in "secret baby" plots, but no one uses the "A" word. I know romance writers of every political, religious and ideological stripe. Regardless of what our personal feelings and experiences have been, this topic is the biggest taboo of all (and one that won't be debated in my blog comments, by the way. I'm interested in why authors as a strategy shy away from the topic. Today I'll be moderating, so please keep it analytical and civil. If I can tell by your comment where you fall on the debate spectrum, it probably won't get through.)

(Huh. My choices here probably help answer my question, don't they?)

Hero in poverty. Historical ares the exception: I've seen a few "Baron Must Marry Money To Save the Estate Someone Else Impoverished" plots, but never in contemporaries. Alpha males have mega bucks. Their wealth is their manhood and the two are well-matched in size.

Inspirational erotica.
For some reason, inviting Jesus into the bedroom with the hero and heroine means I, the reader, must be locked out.

So tell me, where am I wrong? What good books have you read that break any of these taboos? What are some no-nos in romance I haven't yet mentioned? And can anyone remember who is working on the m/m Amish erotic novel?

Friday, January 8, 2010

My Husband, My Virgin

Well, not any more.

This week I had the novel experience of having my non-romance-reading husband read one of my works-in-progress (WIPs).

I resisted this, and so did he. But in the end, it was a smart move. Because he wasn't expecting any specific genre conventions, because he doesn't have any professional need to keep me happy, because he has a personal (and financial) investment in my success AND because he's a hyper-logical-critical-analytical sciency dude, he brought sharp eyes, a sharp mind and a new vision to the book.

"Why is she doing leaving the house to go to the graveyard?" he asks.

"Because the epic battle HAS to happen there," I explain.

"Yeah, but SHE doesn't know that."

And it goes on . . .

"Did you realize you left this typo on page 6? And this one on page 25? And this one on page 33?"

"Shut up," I reply, and get out the orange pen.

"Why does she get up in the hero's face about this painting?" he asks.

"I explain that later."

"Oh yeah? Well I'm confused right now."

And Mr. Smartypants is correct: If he is confused, if anything I write throws him out of the story, it's my problem and I need to correct it.

After all, someday soon, some gal's gonna be laying on a lawn chair with my book in one hand and a margarita in another. She'll have her eye on that volleyball game at the other end of the Lido Deck. If my words don't flow seamlessly from my page to her brain in the first (and probably only) read, she will put that paperback down (cracking the spine) and watch the game. She might pull it out again for the plane ride, or she might not.

One chance. That's all we really get until we're La Nora or La Christina or La Susan or La Jenny. These authors have a loyal (and more forgiving) fan base--as opposed to the Virgin Reader, who is much less tolerant of plot holes (even if she doesn't know the phrase), rambling prose, and who will lose respect for us as authors if we forget the "l" in public.

Until I achieve La-Hood, I do, at least, get to cuddle up with my Hawt Virgin. And my orange pen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Personal Nine of Oh-Nine

1. I wrote a paranormal romance novel.
2. I drafted and began revisions on a contemporary romance.
3. I mapped out five more contemporary romances.
4. I finalled in a contest.
5. I judged two dozen contest entries.
6. I attended a regional conference and made a live pitch.
7. I meandered through a wild fantasy draft, which I will now sit on for two years.
8. I learned that I'm a "project" person rather than a process person.
9. I found a coherent, organized, simple approach to editing. (Thank you, Todd Stone.)
10. I gained some basic insight into my own goal-setting processes (Thank you, Bob Mayer).

And I accepted that I suck at math.