Friday, June 28, 2013

Sorta-Interview with, um, Myself

As I’ve mentioned before, I suck at promoting myself. I have the marketing skills of an emu, and trust me, emus are notorious in the wild for their lack of self-promotion. Nonetheless, I’ve recently floundered about in the dark, bumping into things and knocking objects over in my attempt to find promotional deals and reviews and such. (Interestingly, I’ve noticed a lot about promoting oneself involves spending money; I must have given out 10 copies of Hunted Dreams over the past month.) In spite of my clumsiness, I’ve managed to score a few wins.

One of these wins was my personal favorite review from Bitten by Paranormal Romance. Although the reviewer gave my beloved Hunted Dreams only 4 out of 5 howls, the reviewer really captured the tone I tried to convey in the book. No one else has really mentioned it, which made me wonder if I’d been successful.

Not to creep out the reviewer or anything, but I’d like to engage with her rather lovely review.

Katana is one of the mentally strongest people I have read about it a long time.  She is constantly kept drifting out of one nightmare and into the next, yet somehow she manages to hold onto the thin strands of her sanity.  When Reed appears out of nowhere during one, she actually tries to rationalize his presence as part of her subconscious.  It doesn't take her too long to figure out what is going on once he nudges her in the right direction though.  

Yeah! Yay! I’m ecstatic that someone recognized the strength and emotional complexity of Katana! I wanted to make her gentle but incredibly strong. She’s been through a lot in her life, and you’d better believe she can handle anything.

Reed was a little more confusing and the plots within plots that were wrapped around him were sometimes hard to unravel - for the characters and the reader.  

Yes, I know the plot twists and turns with Reed are complex. I hope they’re still understandable and engaging.

The secondary character, Cor, was the perfect bit of stress relief throughout the whole story.  Hunted Dreams is rather dark at times, and Cor was the ray of light to keep things moving along.

I love Cor and Jade. Jade was the majorest minor character in Hunted Past, and it was a treat to bring her into this story as well. Maybe someday I’ll write a story where Jade finds her true love. Or maybe Cor, although I’d have to publish it in an entirely different genre, since she’s a lesbian. Unfortunate that LGBT romance and straight romance cannot exist side-by-side in a genre and often with the same publisher. Grumble, grumble.

Hunted Dreams is much more psychological than many paranormal romances I've read.  With almost all of our two characters interaction happening in the dream realm, the symbolism they both brought with them into the dream world was at times very thick and other times so subtle it was missed completely until the end where everything fell into place very nicely.  This was a fantastic read, but it does require a little concentration.

How sick of a puppy am I that my favorite part of this review is her calling the book dark? When writing Hunted Dreams, I kept thinking the novel skirted the edge of a deeply psychological version of the horror genre. I honestly worried it wouldn’t be publishable as a romance. You can imagine my surprise when no one ever mentioned the book’s very dark tone. That said, for folks who, like me, love some horror along with your romance, this is a psychologically twisting (twisted?) novel that, as the reviewer pointed out and because of its symbolism and plot twists, requires some concentration.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Elle Goes Artsy

I’m going to share a little secret with you. Shhh – don’t tell anyone. See, I’ve always wanted to be a visual artist. Not instead of being a verbal artist. Oh, no. I want to be an artist with many hats, a modern-day da Vinci, if you will. (Well, minus the science and anatomy stuff. And the scruffy beard, of course.) Thing is, I don’t have a lot of visual-artistry talent. My latest theory is that my mother only had so many artistic genes. She gave half of the writing ones to my oldest sister, half to me, and she tossed all the visual ones at my younger sister.*

So, no drawing, painting, sculpting, or other fun visual artistry in my future. However, I’ve often wondered if, buried deep within my psyche, lurks a talent for pointing, shooting, and Photoshopping. I have no evidence to back me up, but in this realm, and much like Nicolas Cage and acting, I refuse to let lack of talent hold me back.

Given my secret desire to be the next Annie Leibovitz, you can understand my excitement when I heard my editor and friend, Frannie Zellman, say we needed pictures for the cover of our forthcoming poetry anthology, Fat Poets Speak II. (The first edition, Fat Poets Speak, is available and chock-full of awesome, body-celebrating poetry. You know it’s a quality selection when it features seven or eight of my poems in there.) :)  I’m currently on vacation in Florida and North Carolina, but I shoved aside sorta-in-laws, teaching duties, and romantic obligations, grabbed a cheap-but-usable digital camera, and started snapping shots like a boss. I manipulated lighting, I used angles, I tried to leave lots of blank space or pack it full of diagonals. I mean, hey, two years ago, I totally dated a photographer for a month. I must have picked up some moves, right?  

Whether or not we fat poets use any of the pictures I shot and edited in very basic photo software, I had a blast doing it. I may not be exceedingly talented, but why let that stop me? And if I also get to share my attempts with the world, how much of a bonus is that?

Oh, and before you ask, no, I am not the model in the pictures; I’m not even remotely adept at taking time-delayed shots. No, I am the creative madwoman behind the camera.


* You can see why I eschew the science-y stuff.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

For two days, Hunted Dreams is FREE!

Picture this: You, lemonade, a lawn chair on the porch. The only thing missing? A good book. Luckily for you, I have the solution to your tragic booklessness. 

For the next two days -- June 19 and 20 -- Hunted Dreams is FREEEEEEEE!

Yep, you read it right. Free, as in no charge. Free, as in "Yay! The best book of all time can be mine with only two clicks!". Free and clear as a politician's conscience, my friends.

That said, should you consume all this literally-priceless yumminess and decide you'd like to share your opinions on it, I would be eternally grateful if you'd write an Amazon and/or Goodreads review. Regardless, though, the book is free for two whole days.

Come 'n get it here!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Sheroes, Because We Don't Do Insignificance... Or Drugs

Rereading my latest blog posts, it occurs to me I’ve never explained my word choice for the protagonists populating my literary worlds. I write hetero romance (for now, at least), which means there’s a girl main character and a boy main character. In most of my stories, the girl protagonist is pretty clearly the main-er character, but in some of them, like Hunted Dreams, my scenes are divided pretty equally between the sexes. When speaking about these two character staples, most folks I know use the terms “main characters” or, if they’re, like me, a fan of melodrama, heroes and heroines.

I won’t use the term “heroine,” and not just because it sounds like a narcotic substance. (Creepy, right?) Words ending with “ine,” “ina,” “ita,” “ette,” and “ess” annoy the heck outta me. See, these words have one thing in common: added at the end of a word, they all represent it in a feminine and/or diminutive form. “Señorita” means “little señora,” “waitress” means “female waiter,” and “bachelorette” means “female bachelor.” As my old friend,, says of “ette,” “English nouns in which the suffix ETTE designates a feminine role or identity have been perceived by many people as implying inferiority or insignificance.” Word,

My women main characters are neither illegal substances nor inferior. Thus, I will not use “heroine.” I’m fine with calling her a hero; what’s good for the gander, and all that. But a few years ago, I heard someone – I think it might have been the indomitable fat lib activist, Marilyn Wann – use the term “shero,” and I was hooked. See, I’m not against specifying sex via words; I’m opposed to using suffixes that imply smallness and insignificance. 

My partner’s ex once grumped that “shero” shouldn’t exist because “hero” isn’t an inherently gendered term. She thought I was using it in the same way some feminists change “his-story” to “her-story.” Don’t get me wrong – I think such wordplay is thought-provoking and useful. However, while my decision is mired in gender politics, my goal is a slightly different one. I don’t hate “hero” for having the dreaded “he” in it; I simply don’t want to use a diminutive form of any word to describe the greatness of my women characters. 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fat Sheroes: A Weighty Matter

"You *think* I'm feeling passion, bub, but I'm
really just trying to catch my breath
in this corset."
Tall or short, brunette or blonde, mousy or (more likely) modestly and understatedly beautiful: Romance sheroes tend to come in a variety of packages. The two things that stay the same? Their youth and their thinness.

I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to my gills of the endless parade of young, thin sheroes.

When it comes to portraying younger peeps as if they have a right to all the wisdom I’ve collected as a spicy-smart 38-year-old, I admit I’m as guilty as anyone; my main characters all clock in at under 35. But this is my blog, and I can darn well ignore my faults for now. In this blog post, we’re talking the problem of size diversity – or lack of, therefore -- in the romance genre.

Enter Katana, my plus-size protagonist. I’ve mentioned this in prior posts, but in case it escaped your attention, the shero in Hunted Dreams is fat. I never specify how fat, exactly; I mention her sexy tummy rolls and reference the soft skin of her arms and under her chin. But I don’t exactly provide her weight or calculate her BMI. See, I like the idea of readers of all shapes and sizes of chubby, husky, fluffy, or fat projecting onto her and, for once, finding their body size represented.

Shocking though it may be, I didn’t invent the fat, female protagonist. My big sister, Lauri J Owen, for one, writes books featuring a seriously kick-ass, fat main character. Lynne Murray also writes novels with a fat and savvy, crime-solving shero, and Frannie Zellman, my mentor and friend, writes lyrical stories in which fat characters feature fleshily and prominently. All three of these authors even include characters whose ages (gasp) boil over the magical cut-off of 35.

In reviews of works by authors of fat sheroes, one set of questions inevitably pop up: How much does the shero’s weight matter? Is the story “about fat”? Should it be? Me, I don’t care. Maybe a shero’s fat fundamentally shapes the book, maybe not. Whatever. See, thinness is often threaded throughout the narrative of mainstream romances (think her tiny, trembling body or how loins-firingly adorable she looks wearing the hero’s overshirt the morning after), so I have zero problem making larger sheroes’ body size a big, fat deal.

All that said, in my book, I really didn’t paint her fatness in dripping, neon-orange letters. After much thought, I decided to kind of slip Katana’s fatness into the mix.

Okay, well, I might have included a little bit of size politics, all sly- and implicit-like. Body warrior that I am, I quite consciously made Katana’s foil, the sociopathic Maricruz, the very bloom of delicate femininity. I admit, it tickled me to play up her delicate scent, her creamy skin, her limpid eyes, her rosebud mouth... all while she punches the hero in the face. This isn’t to say thin women are evilly, inherently deserving of villainhood, of course. Heck, some of my best friends are thin! (Sorry – I couldn’t resist.) But still, isn’t it kind of a nice change of pace to find a fat woman seducing the sexy hero while a thin villain watches from the shadows, stroking the corners of her mustache (metaphorically, of course)?

Hunted Dreams isn’t about fat. It is, however, about a strong, self-confident, and self-rescuing fat woman. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s like Sleeping Beauty, except the fat shero is the one wielding the sword. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Failing the (Bechdel) Test

Normally, I’m a pretty ascetic media consumer. I don’t own a TV, almost never go to the movie theater, am pretty selective with my book choices, and get most of my news through Facebook and word-of-mouth. During my recent stay with the Southwestern chapter of my family, I wallowed in a positively pornographic amount of media: movies, mainstream novels, and tons of television. I’m not ashamed to admit it shocked my monastic media sensibilities.

I’ve whined before about the dearth of positive representations of fat persons in media, and I stand by those gripes. I’m also cranky about the lack of roles for persons of color and with disabilities, although during my recent media glut, I found a few more than I expected. The complete lack, the screaming absence, of older persons is something I will perhaps discuss another time.

For now, I’m interested in discussing the Bechdel Test, and how unfortunately rarely media pass it.

For those who don’t know, this test appeared in 1985 in a comic strip named Dykes to Watch Out For. Below is its very simple formula:

1. The medium must have TWO named female characters.
2. These characters must talk to one another...
3. …about a topic other than men.
Let’s take a minute and ponder this. In 2013, almost 30 years after Bechdel threw down her gauntlet, how many movies, books, and TV episodes can you name that regularly, or even occasionally, bring together more than one woman, let alone let them discuss something substantive? And how sad, how downright shameful, is it that most of our media can’t even meet these ridiculously basic criteria?

After nine days of wallowing in the absence of meaningful female interactions, I’m eagerly renewing my vows of media chastity. I want nothing to do with media that don’t honor the vast complexity – heck, the very existence – of women.

Till more media start catching up, I plan to continue my hunt for the elusive female-inclusive books. In the meantime, it remains my solemn and proud duty to create them.