Friday, April 29, 2005

the good and the bad

I got a second half-time job today, which will last for two months. The good part about that is the $$$ - I definitely need them. The bad part is that it cuts my writing time down to just evenings and weekends. I guess I'm just going to have to be even more disciplined. (No, no - put those whips and chains away )

Oh, well, at least I'll be able to afford to buy a book every now and then. I've only bought about 4 this year so far, and I've had to resort to my local library for reading fixes.

I 'celebrated' the new job today by buying a book - Gwen Hunter's Shadow Valley. Although our small town, being a university town, is reasonably well supplied with bookshops, we are talking small, and there's not much more romance in the bookshops than the limited range in the local library. (There is, however, plenty of Literature. The university influence is strong.) I know nothing about Gwen's book other than the back cover blurb, but it was the only Mira romantic suspense I found in the shop I was in. I haven't started it yet.

I feel some mail order coming on..... any recommendations of good, well-crafted, realistic romantic suspense?

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Under the deluge

Sorry, I've been deluged with general life and work stuff and haven't posted for days. Not that anybody really probably notices, but hey, just in case someone comes by here who's been before, I thought I should mention that I'm not dead. Yet. Despite the evidence to the contrary.

I'll try and put up a scintillating post tomorrow or at the weekend.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Plot? Character? Logic??

It was the DH's birthday yesterday. He's not into major celebrations, so we just had a quiet day at home, and in the evening we watched - for the second time - the DVD of the second Matrix movie.

Okay, so it's kind of fun. Kind of. If you can get past the wooden acting, nonsensical plot, incredibly bad script, total lack of any internal coherence, and the way over the top ridiculous fight scenes. All those guys coming at him, he's fighting for ten minutes straight at high speed, and the man doesn't raise a sweat or even breathe heavy??

And people criticise romance for being plotless fantasies. ;-)

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Drawing the line

There's been some interesting posts on various blogs the last few days. My poor cold-befuddled brain keeps going 'wow' and then overloading, because there's more than it's currently capable of thinking about. Rosario's post on RTB about heroes, scoundrels, and where we draw the line, was the latest one I read, so it hasn't got totally lost in the murkiness of my brain yet. I posted a comment over there, but it got me thinking about my attitudes in reading, and also in writing.

I like reality in my romances - while I read for pleasure and enjoyment and a break from work, I don't read to 'escape' my world - I want to see the good things in it affirmed. So, my preference is not for 'fantasy' characters. Okay, so they can be slightly larger-than-life, but I want them real. And to me, the fundamental basis of any lasting relationship has to be respect, so if I can't respect a character - hero or heroine - for at least something, I can't believe that they're capable of giving respect and loving.

And because of that, I find it very hard to accept any hero or heroine who knowingly commits violence against the other. There'd have to be a damn good reason for me not to throw the book at the wall. Maybe it's because I spent too many years working in youth and women's refuges, but yes, I'm fussy about violence and particularly sexual violence.

One of the biggest, most damaging myths about sex is that sometimes a man can't control himself. I draw the line there and refuse to perpetrate it in contemporary romance. A man always has the choice, and if he chooses to override a woman's concern, then he has already dehumanised her in his mind and there is nothing of respect or romance or love involved.

That doesn't mean everything has to be prissy-prissy sweet. Gaargh. I said I like reality, and my reality is fairly gritty. But I do have a problem with the way the whole 'redemption' notion is handled sometimes - almost as though these bastard characters realise their wrongs, and miraculously with the heroine's love, change overnight into better human beings. Yeah, sure. Watch out for those low-flying pigs.

Don't get me wrong - I like heros who are hard, tough, on the edge. I'm currently writing a hero who is, in some ways, something of a bastard. He's fiercely tough, bitter, a loner, an ex-con who's had to literally fight for survival at times, and he's more than capable of violence. He's also, with regard to a couple of issues, walking a fine line morally - some might think, immorally. Will he be 'redeemed'? Uh, no. He's done the things he's done for good reasons in the circumstances, and given the same circumstances he'd do them again. But he respects those worthy of it, and he respects the fiery cop who is the heroine right from the beginning, even though he distrusts cops. And that respect comes before (okay, not long before ;-) ) the attraction that flares between them, so the attraction is not simply physical, which makes it all the more powerful - and dangerous. Their first sex scenes are pure raw passion and need; nothing polite or tender or gentle. But even though he has all this violence and anger bubbling inside, it's not at Kris personally, and he makes damn sure he doesn't take it out on her.

I mean, let's be honest about these really, really tough guys - if they're tough enough to face down violent crims and survive the life they have, they're sure strong enough to control their sexual urges if necessary, and to control the violence within. That's what makes them heroic, in my mind.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Recommended reading

There's a great discussion about female sexual archetypes in romance, including contributions from authors, over at All About Romance's At the Back Fence column.

I won't make any comment about it just yet - other than 'Wow' - because it's full of interesting thoughts I want to contemplate further, and given that I've got a really bad cold, my 'contemplate' function is somewhat scrambled just now, as is my ability to remain coherent for more than a sentence or so.

But go read the article. It's great.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

More on being proud

Congratulations to first-time novelist, Katharine Davies, on winning the £10,000 Romantic Novel of the Year award yesterday I'm going to keep my eye out for her book.

At the awards ceremony organised by the Romantic Novelists' Association at the Savoy Hotel, London, the Chair of the judging panel, Danuta Kean (see also post below) said: "I feel like asking all of you to shout, 'I am a romantic novelist and I am proud of it.' "

Certainly, Ms Kean.

I am a romantic novelist and I am proud of it!

Anyone else want to join in the shout????

Friday, April 15, 2005

Being proud

In today's Guardian, there's an article by Danuta Kean, chair of the RNA/Foster Grant Romantic Novelist of the Year award, about being proud of writing romance. In it she says:

It is about time romantic novelists got angry, reclaimed the word's proud tradition and celebrated good writing that makes the pulse race as much as the mind.

And over in Romancing the Blog, Nicole - one of the respondents to the request for feedback and suggestions about RTB - wrote in part:
I’d love to hear about the appeal of romance from a writer’s perspective. Why they write what they do as opposed to something else.

I'm not an RTB columnist, but I thought I'd answer that question from my perspective, anyway ;-) I write romance because I believe in it, and because I believe that love and loving relationships are vitally important to us. While I read and enjoy a wide variety of romance, what I write tends to be gritty and, I hope, realistic. That's a conscious choice on my part, based on my own world view. My stories take place in the real world, where apple pie doesn't cure everything (unfortunately!), and there are many shades of grey; where love is not portrayed as simple or easy, but is all the more powerful and empowering because of that. I hope, when I'm eventually published, that readers will find that ultimately affirming and uplifting, and that my stories will resonate with their own experience of relationships.

But I do hope that there aren't as many corpses in my readers' real lives!! :-) I didn't actually intend to write romantic suspense when I first started, but I had an overwhelmingly strong idea for a premise for a story which happened to involve a detective's response to a murder, and things have just snowballed from there.

I'm proud to be writing romance. I've found the whole process of writing an amazing and demanding challenge - weaving the character's emotional responses to each other in the light of the experiences they are undergoing and making that authentic is no easy task. But it also incredibly rewarding, when something works and the words flow :-) And I hope that my readers' pulses will race as much as their minds....

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Romancing the Genre

I've been reading Juliet Flesch's book From Australia with Love: A History of Modern Australian Populer Romance Novels this evening, and it's great. As well as looking at the genre in a broader context, she discusses Australian romance novels and authors in the past 50 years. The book is based on her PhD thesis, and it is so refreshing to read a scholarly work that values and thoughtfully discusses the role of romance fiction in popular literary culture.

I work in a university and am currently contemplating possible alternative research projects for my stalled PhD. I was discussing some thoughts with a colleague this morning, and I realized as we talked how much of the early feminist critique of romance as a genre over the years has explicity devalued women and their interests, by objectifying romance readers (Greer referred to them - us! - as 'submenials') and by denying any value in notions of romance as portrayed in romantic fiction - concepts that women value, as demonstrated by the consistent and large proportion of women who read romantic fiction.

The scholarly discourse is heavily biased by this insidious devaluing - to the extent that the questions that are asked are often based on the assumption that romance is a negative, subversive influence on women who, it is implied, do not have the capability of making rational judgements about what they read. An attitude almost bordering on the misogynist, it seems to me.

Hrmph. I'd stay up here on my soapbox, but it's past my bedtime.

Anyway, Flesch's book is great, because it doesn't fall into that trap.

And I have lots of ideas to toss around for possible research projects.

changed times

My mother mentioned on the phone tonight about a photograph of her and two other women in their government job, which was published (in the newspaper I presume) in 1972. And the caption referred to them as Mrs Keith [Surname], Mrs Les [Surname] etc. They had given the photographer their own names, not their husbands', but someone went and found out their husbands' given names and that was how they were identified in the published photo.

Yep, I'm glad that times have changed ;-)

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Confessing a deep, dark secret

(No, not that sort of secret. I have absolutely no connection with RTB, except being listed on the author links, and reading it every day :-) )

There's a fascinating discussion about fanfic over at HelenKay Dimon's blog that made me run late for work. (Sorry, I'm at work now and don't have the link handy.)

And here's my confession: I wrote fanfic once. I was about 9 or 10 at the time. But it was the first time that I wrote something, outside school, with the conscious 'I want to be a writer' thought in my head. And here's where the real embarrassment comes in - it was about Don and Judy from Lost in Space.

You can stop laughing, now. They didn't have Buffy and Harry Potter back in the early 70s, okay??? I had to make do with what I had, and with only 2 TV channels, that wasn't much. (Mr Ed just didn't do it for me.)

Of course it was a romance. There were kissing bits, too - or reference to them. I was only a kid, after all, and my limited knowledge meant that any of that stuff had to be glossed over with vague disappearing-into-the-distance-together references.

But the process of writing that story must have stimulated my imagination, because my own characters started coming alive in my head and spinning their stories. And although I didn't get really, really serious about being a writer until 3 or 4 years ago, I did a lot of daydreaming and unfocused, fun, writing in the intervening 30 or so years, purely for relaxation and enjoyment.

So with all those characters and stories, I have a very crowded head ;-)

Monday, April 11, 2005

Familiar settings

I was feeling sick and tired and a bit down earlier in the week, so I picked up Trish Morey's The Italian Boss's Secret Child from K-Mart on the way home and treated myself to a couple of hours curl-up-on-the-sofa-and-just-read time.

About two-thirds of the way through the book, one of the characters 'left the highway and crossed the train lines before pulling alongside the kerb, opposite a battered brick veneer house in a post-war building boom suburb.' As I read those words, I experienced an unexpected but pleasant sort-of thrill. I knew what that house looked like. I knew what that suburb looked like. I actually had a vivid, visual, mental picture, rather than just a general sense, because I spent the first six years of my life in a street in a post-war suburb of Melbourne (where Trish's book is set) with houses just like that.

This experience does not happen often to me. There's not a whole lot of books set in Melbourne - and fewer set in Canberra, where I spent the next 19 years of my life. And as for the small town near where I now live... well, I did come across a fleeting reference to it once in a novel.

I was a voracious reader as a child, and still read rather more than the average person, but the first time I read a book where I'd actually been to the place it was set in was when I read The Day of the Triffids at age 21, having just returned from a trip to the UK. It was quite a bizarre experience for me, because I could picture in my mind Oxford Street and Marble Arch and Hyde Park as the story unfolded.

I enjoy these rare little thrills of the familiar. Maybe New Yorkers and Parisians and Londoners don't experience it because every second book is set in territory they know well. Maybe I just notice it more than others might because sense of place has always been important to me.

Of course, since my stories are set in rural and outback areas in my part of the country, somewhat away from the usual overseas tourist track, there won't be a whole lot of readers who get that thrill of recognition. But maybe one or two will - and I hope it seems right to them :-)

Sunday, April 10, 2005


It's rare that I don't finish reading a book. In fact, it's rare that I don't finish reading one the day that I start it. But the last book I started - on Thursday afternoon - is still unfinished, and it may remian so. And the particularly disappointing thing for me is that it's by one of my auto-buy authors.

A book she wrote last year was the only category romance I've ever read that made me cry. And I don't mean sniff and wipe a tear away cry, but real have-to-put-the-book-down-for-a-while sobbing. Okay, so I was a bit hormonal at the time, but even still, it was a damn good book, and deserved the Rita it won.

So, I feel kinda sad that the current book just doesn't do it for me. The writing is good - this author has an evocative, lyrical style I love - but there are elements in the characterisations that I find really hard to accept as being admirable, yet the plot hinges on them. Her previous book had a similar response from me, although not quite as strong.

She'll still be an autobuy for now, but I do hope her next book moves away from this current trend. I don't enjoy not liking a book.


Yes, I've finally decided to make this my blog. I've had another one on bravejournal for a while, but it's been just an everyday, chatty sort of blog, whereas now I'm planning to focus much more on writing and the romance genre.

I also like the minimalist layout of this format, although I've still got some fine-tuning to do. I'll get the hang of how to adjust the template, eventually. Please bear with me - polishing the appearance while working over a slow modem with only basic html skills takes some time and patience :-)