Where are the Muses

So, sort of ironically here, I was lacking inspiration on my blog post for this week and saw the The Daily Post’s word of the day. Writers, and other artists, like to talk about the mythical muses quite a bit. Anymore, we tend to use the word as a manifestation of our creative side. Oftentimes, when we can’t manage to find the right words or the motivation to create, we blame the muse for not showing up or for not talking. We impress upon others and ourselves that working on our project would be so much simpler if inspiration would just talk to us!

Unfortunately, the best way to find the muses is to stop waiting for them to show up. There’s a couple of ways to go with that idea. First, you could toss out the need to be inspired all together, but let’s face a fact. It feels great when you have a muse perched on your shoulder. Inspiration makes your mind fly with ideas and for a brief, happy time, your creative work feels completely golden. Those moments in the zone are the moments creatives truly enjoy. The world and its worries are left behind for the glorious joy of making something.

So consider a different mental approach if you’re having trouble finding the muses. The best way to find anything is to lure it out into the open. If muses love creativity, then start up your project and do some work. Draw a line, write a sentence, find a prompt, whatever you need to just begin. Don’t worry about the muse showing up or whether or not inspiration will strike you. The practice of creating will bring them out. You’ll have tiny whispers that blossom into full blown muse-irific tangents if you simply keep working.

That’s not easy advice, especially when you’re struggling. And it’s something you hear a lot–“Just write every day and it’ll happen!” how many of us have read that over and over? Thing is, sometimes that’s all you can do. Butt in the seat, words on the page, pencil marks on the paper, chords on the instrument–somedays that’s all you’re going to have. Keep at it though. My own ability to knit stories together is growing, and I’ve watched friends go from struggling to write a few hundred words to writing a couple thousand in the same amount of time. Practice has made all the difference. Sometimes those muses still elude us, but showing up and getting to work makes it much more likely we’ll find them. Don’t worry. Lay out the bait of some creative thoughts and those muses won’t be able to resist showing up.

Feel free to comment or share your own thoughts about muses!

A US Magic School History

Oftentimes, when I go to criticize something, I do so because I was really hoping that the product would be better. Why did GoT have to have more rape than the books? Why can’t a woman-loving-woman survive this season? When I get truly disgruntled, I begin thinking of ways to fix the problems. Last time, I ranted about J.K. Rowling’s Ilvermoarnuy (okay, I still haven’t learned how to type that). And since I have such issues with it, my imagination is determined to spin up a ‘what could have been’ for a US-centric wizarding school system that brings its history into play. (US-centric because they didn’t really teach Canadian or Mexican histories in my schools and this subject alone is so massive that I worry about tackling it in one post).

Okay, ahem—

Let’s start with, there were no magic schools before Europeans came over because they weren’t needed. Native tribes taught magic to their children in the fashion their culture dictated and that worked for them. Oh, and since I’m changing stuff up, we’re going to implement this rule–Magic does not need a fucking wand. A wand is a tool to strengthen your magic. Native tribes had (and have) their own instruments to assist their magic users.

Colonization begins. Seeking a place safe from the scrutiny and persecution of their homeland, a group of young British wizards settled deep in the Massachusetts forests around 1637. As time goes on, young magical students who need them managed to stumble their way into town and in 1654, the town establishes the first magic school in the colonies. (This town’s name, btw, shall be Arkham. Yes, Lovecraft’s Arkham. He came across it one day, stayed a while, saw a bunch of weird shit, and a wizard incorrectly modified his memory–unable to get it all. It left Lovecraft a little messed up).

The Massachusetts school grows as the nation does, sending letters to students who live all throughout British American colonies. Problems in the wizarding community arose when the slave trade brought so many people to America that there was a substantial amount of magical children born to owned parents. Abolitionist and equal rights wizards argued that the children deserved to be taught at the Massachusetts school, but slave-owning wizards and their supporters argue that those children shouldn’t be taught at all. In 1817, the southern wizards establish a school in Georgia (in the woods somewhere between Atlanta and Athens). They claim it’s because the northern school is overcrowded and just too far away to send their children. Only a fool considers that the only reasons and tensions in the wizarding community mirror growing tensions in the US Congress.

In 1819, another school is founded outside New Orleans with the sole purpose of training young black wizards. The founders of this school chose a secluded spot in Louisiana’s swamps and to this day, the school has a reputation of having the best protective wards. No one has ever stumbled across this school on accident and the students have always felt safe here. Two years after the Civil War ended, this school announced itself at a meeting of the Americas High Council and demanded the same rights and privileges as the other schools. Only ignorant textbooks will claim that the school began in 1867 (though that misinformation was spread in the wizarding community for a long time).

As pioneers expanded westward, the wizarding communities followed. Several villages were founded on the principles of ‘utopia,’ but most of these failed. One that worked was not too far from St. Louis. Since the crowding of the east coast and the hunt for opportunities drove so many westward, these wizards realized that both the Massachusetts and Georgia schools were too far away and too likely to be overcrowded quickly. They began a new school in 1854.

With continued population growth and the migration westward, even the St. Louis and New Orleans school quickly became overcrowded. In 1871, a new school was founded outside San Fransisco. For the first time, the school’s students were not predominantly one color or another. Not even one culture dominated this school, creating a mixture of Chinese, Irish, Black, Southern, and Northern cultures. (Causing the seniors of 1899 to declare the Year of Celebration, having at least one day a week where they skipped class to celebrate one of the many holidays.)

And yet still there were students who needs weren’t being met. With the dramatic changes to the Native tribes’ populations, there was a fear that their way of magic would be lost entirely. At the same time, many Hispanic wizards believed that the other schools weren’t providing their children with the education they wanted. Two prominent wizards met at one of the Americas High Council meetings and after an all-night discussion, came to the conclusion that they could help each other out. They co-founded a school in northern New Mexico in 1896.

–so that’s one idea for the founding of six major magic schools (meaning that they have more than 100 students per year taught) of the US. (I did see a post on tumblr that suggested four or five schools, but it only went into locations (the only specific one they mentioned was New Orleans I think) so that was one of the seeds for this history as well (and sorry I can’t remember where I saw it)). There ought to be several smaller schools as well, due to philosophical differences if nothing else. Maybe sometime in the future, I’ll go into how the 20th century changed the wizarding schools and what they ought to look like today.

Editing, and why it’s not my enemy anymore

You hear writers grip a lot about the editing process, and for good reason. After you get done with a project, the last thing you want to think about is the changes you’ll have to make to it. Sometimes, we get that little voice that blocks us from writing in the first place because Oh God, we’re going to have to go over this again and fix it all! That’s why during NaNo writers remind each other to go bury that inner editor, abandon it for as long as possible just to get that draft out!

Unfortunately, that inner editor can’t stay gone. Eventually in the process, we need to let that critical voice ride shotgun. If it’s well trained, it helps us catch those errors and mistakes. Note, I point out well-trained. I’m not talking about the voice in the back of your head that tells you to give up writing in general. Sometimes we blame those thoughts on the inner editor, but really, that’s not coming from that voice. The give-up thoughts come from the doubter.

The first step to enjoying the editing process of writing means separating the doubter’s input from the inner editor’s critique. The doubter is the one that wants you to lose hope, to demolish your sense of self-worth, and to wreck your motivations. That voice can sound like a twin to the editor, but it’s not quite the same. See, the inner editor wants to help you find the best version of your draft. It points to flaws–grammar or story structure, but once separated from the doubter it’s just flaws without judgment. With its help, you can go from saying ‘draft’ to ‘manuscript.’

The second part is remembering why you’re sitting with a draft. Writing is hard work, but anyone who’s involved in this stage of the process is still at it because they want to be. Part of you wants to tell the best story possible and one of the big differences is caring enough to edit. We all wish magical, perfect first drafts would spring out of our head, but we know the reality is the sweat and marked up pages. Lots of marked up pages. We’re at these pages because we have stories that we want to share with others. Editing focuses prose into a better story, making it more enjoyable for the readers.

And lastly, finishing editing is one step closer to publishing–whether you go for self-publication or submitting to publishing houses. It’s really the last of the huge steps. After the draft is this solid, you hand it out to some betas, you finish that editing and wow, you’ve got a completed work. You’ll be done.

While it’s a lot of hard work, it’s part of the process. It helps dig out the wonderful story buried and put a noticeable polish on the words. Editing is something that has to be done in order to get the best story possible. Finding ways to enjoy this part of the process is going to make it a lot easier to do. And don’t we get more done when we find a way to have fun?

Dialogue, more than the words characters spit out

In an effort to improve my overall writing, I’ve been doing what every good writing book will tell you–I’ve been reading. And reading. And when I thought I would take a break, I’d crack open another book. Some of it’s been fiction, others have been writing advice. Recently, I read through some of James Scott Bell’s works on the craft. His tips in How to Write Dazzling Dialogue are great, and they’ve helped me catch on to analyzing dialogue in what I’m reading, watching, and writing.

Which is why I’m blown away by Netflix’s Jessica Jones series again. The show is brilliant in so many ways, but the tight dialogue does so much heavy lifting. It carries you forward, makes you care, and provides the actors with fantastic opportunities to play their scenes.

I want to break down a scene here. This is in the third episode (AKA It’s Called Whiskey), and while still moving the action forward, it also provides exposition for us. At this point, we’ve got a pretty good impression of the current way Jessica is–the angry, traumatized woman who is struggling through her day to day, through a case dealing with her former abuser. What we don’t know is much about her past–It’s something Jessica hates talking about, but she and Trish have history, which the writers used to give us details about both their lives.

[After Trish takes off her shirt to reveal bruises covering her arms and shoulders. They head into Trish’s bedroom.]

Jessica: Who’s doing that to you? Is your mom back?

Trish: Just calm down, will you?

Jessica: Okay, is this why you have the video surveillance and the steel-reinforced door?

Trish: And bulletproof windows, a safe room. I made some upgrades.

Jessica: You–What you made is a fortress. Trish, what you afraid of?

[They head into Trish’s training room]

Trish: Not much, anymore. Except clowns. But that’s just common sense.

Jessica: You turned my room into a gym.

Trish: I needed a place to train.

Jessica: By “training,” you mean getting beaten purple.

Trish: [seizes Jessica and easily tosses her to the ground] No one touches me anymore unless I want them to. I let you fight my battles for too long. When you left–

Jessica: [rubbing her sore shoulder] You became a ninja?

Trish: Krav Maga. More brutal.

Jessica: Can you back off? You’re scaring me a little.

Trish: [grinning] I’ll make sandwiches.

This dialogue takes about a minute and a half of the show time. But look at the sheer amount of information here, even without the full visual to go along with it. From Jessica’s initial concerns, we see that she cares deeply about Trish’s well-being, something Jessica hasn’t shown a whole lot of and especially not in such an overt fashion. So far, Jessica has been as mysterious as possible with the other people she talks to, but with Trish, she’s asking the questions and deliberately engaging her when she typically shies away from too much talking.

We learn that Trish was a victim too, and that her mother may or may not be completely out of her life. They talk about their setting, which provides us more details about Trish. She’s confident in her security upgrades and these extra measures are what help her feel safe. In previous scenes, it’s established that she’s a radio talk show host. While we could guess that she’s worried about stalker fans that mean her harm, Jessica’s reveal about Trish’s mother shows us that Trish fears more than the average celebrity problems.

Also of note is the fact that Trish and Jessica aren’t just good friends, they’re former roommates. And this dialogue tells us that Jessica leaving the apartment was a transformation event for Trish. And Trish feels the need to prove her new abilities to Jessica–which we see when she tells Jessica the full details of the upgrades and shows her not just the training room, but some of that training. There’s a need to prove she’s okay if something happens to Jessica.

The fact that Jessica doesn’t know all these details about Trish’s life is another sign. When she needed help, Trish was someone she reached out to, but we can gather from the lack of knowledge that it’s been a while since they’ve talked frequently. Yet, their closeness is obvious. Even though Jessica’s worried, Trish is joking and open. By the end of the scene, Jessica’s initial fears for Trish’s safety are put to rest and they move on to have lunch together. They may have been out of each other’s lives for a while, but they’re obviously falling right back into their tight bond.

And there’s another layer here too. The show’s theme–victims, primarily women, overcoming trauma–comes into play. Jessica has built herself a mental fortress. She lives in a shitty apartment and says shitty things to people instead of showing that she does, in fact, give a damn about what happens to them. Trish has done the opposite, building a physical fortress while maintaining her faith in the general good intentions of other people. They’re both leading isolated lives in response to their fears. Their friendship, shown even in this short scene, is part of what gets them through this.

If you haven’t seen Jessica Jones, I highly recommend it for the dialogue and the amazing storytelling. Take just one episode and comb through it a few times. Every scene is tight with a dedicated purpose to telling a griping story. I know I plan on rewatching a few more time to catch all the great details of craft.

NaNoWriMo Tips

National Novel Writing Month kicks off on November 1st, which is this Sunday!

Okay, for those panicking (much like me), remember that nice deep breaths are your buddy. NaNoWriMo is exciting for sure, but it can be a little overwhelming even if you’ve won challenges in the past. In the last couple of days, my brain’s been running over a series of tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years that will help make my NaNo easier. I thought I’d share a few.

  • Remember, writing is fun!

This can be a hard to remember in the middle of a draft. I get thinking about everything I’ve done, everything left to go, and I lose track of why I sat down at the keyboard in the first place: Because I like it. Because I have fun telling stories and getting words out to share with other people. Sometimes, I need a reminder that, hey, this is supposed to be an awesome experience! Going to write-ins or using the message boards helps me refuel my excitement for my project. Simply knowing that other people are also working their way through the 50k challenge makes me continue pushing for my own word count. I’m able to commiserate for a few minutes (Writing can be hard and solitary) and then find my fun groove again.

  • Planning or Pantsing, anything can work.

More than a lot of hobbies or professions, writing is a lot of trial and error to find the process that works for you. I’ve had a NaNo where I didn’t know much about the book except for the main character and a bit about her world setting. My other NaNo, I knew the cast of characters and the circumstances completely. NaNo is about discovering creativity, about getting that book out of your head and onto the page. And you’ll hear this advice over and over, the writing process has to be tailored to you. I’m sure a lot of people are like me–I’ve discovered that I do best with a mix of plotting and pantsing. My words fly onto the page when I’ve got just enough planned, but not every scene mapped. If you’re feeling anxious about reaching 50k, I recommend doing some plotting. If the thought of knowing too much of the story beforehand frightens you, don’t worry about it. NaNo is all about finding *your* groove.

  • Believe that Writer’s Block is a myth

Since I started working the mantra “there is no such thing as writer’s block” into my writing practice, I’ve had far fewer creative hurdles to jump. Frequently, in the past, when I was ‘blocked,’ it was because I didn’t feel a muse’s divine inspiration, or didn’t know what to do with the characters next. Sometimes–more often than I care to admit–I was blocked because I’d driven my characters into a plot that wasn’t in their personalities. NaNo doesn’t leave time for second-guessing. Never erase during NaNo, never go back and rewrite, but I’ve found it useful to write new scenes as if I’d already fixed the problem. If I feel like the story’s not going anywhere, it’s time to add a new character or to up the tension by having the worse possible thing happen. I think Kirkman, writer of The Walking Dead, likes to joke that if he needs something to happen, he just throws a zombie into the mix. Same can be said of Lost and Battlestar Galactica. If you’re worried about being stuck, get spontaneous. Throw in something you hadn’t considered before, or ask ‘what would make the characters’ lives worse?’ You’re the writer, you’re the god of the story. You get to be Murphy’s Law to their lives. And if that won’t work, find a friend or a forum to start explaining your story. I find myself making connections and new plots constantly when I try to tell someone how the story works. It’s just the little seed I need to keep going.

  • Guard your writing time.

This piece of advice comes up frequently, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until the last couple of months. It seems like such a natural, obvious tidbit: eliminate distractions from writing time and space. I wasn’t really following it though. I started to and my daily word count jumped incredibly. For me, it means getting out of the apartment (away from my television) and getting to a quiet spot in the library, making sure to use a quiet reading room or a study room because frequently other patrons can cause disruptions (the amount of small wailing children in libraries will surprise you. I’m never angry or upset with the parents–small children cry, this is a fact of life. I simply seek the corners where it’s harder for sound to reach). It takes a lot of discipline for me, but I tell myself that I can’t go surfing on the web until it’s break time.

For a lot of others, this means telling your loved ones that when you sit down to write, it’s your time. Don’t feel guilty for carving out time for what you’re doing. You’re finding fun, you’re creating. Guard your time (and creative space like a desk, or the kitchen table while you’re working at it) like Gollum with the One Ring. Keep those sneaky Bagginses away from your Precious. They’ll have their turn with your time later. Getting your family to understand why you’re protecting like this might take a lot of conversation (for at least a year, my mom seemed to have this uncanny ability for calling me while writing, but this doesn’t happen nearly so much lately because we’ve talked about the hours I’m usually at the keyboard), but hopefully they’ll be supportive and understanding in the end.

  • Set-up a rewards system

This is one that can be really tricky for me. I like telling myself “Oh, I won’t do X until I reach the word count!” buuuuuut I often go for “Oh, well, I reached Y. That’s good enough.” This month I plan on sticking to my goals a lot more, especially since I plan on taking so much. For me, it means no catching up on last night’s episodes until I reach word count. Or delaying that bit of desert until after the writing session. I find something to keep me moving during the writing sessions and push until finish.

  • Drink enough water/Have water on hand

Okay, this is a bit of an odd one, and something that might be just me. But when I’m really getting into the groove, I start getting thirsty. In order to eliminate this distraction, I have water near me. Some people prefer their coffees or sodas, but lately, I’ve been trying to keep down the sugars at the keyboard and make sure I have enough water. Plenty of water is supposed to be good, so it’s a win-win.

  • Remember, writing is supposed to be fun!

It’s on here twice because it’s that important. This came back to me full force during the NaNo Meet and Greet the other night. I hadn’t realized that I lost the fun there for a while, but I had. Stress of getting a project done can obscure the reason for getting to the keyboard in the first place. That makes me grumpy and winds up building over time. So, I’m thinking of making it part of my process to take a minute before each writing day to remember why I’m doing this. It’s not just that the story is burning up parts of my brain, begging to be put on the page. It’s not just that these characters want to talk. It’s not just that I feel that I have to. I write because telling stories is fun. Because I like getting something in front of a reader and getting them to laugh with me or curse me as the prose moves them. I write because creating is a joy that I don’t find anywhere else.

So, there it is, my list of small reminders to make my NaNo easier. You might discover that some work for you, you might realize that none of them do. That’s how it should be. Writing is different for everyone who approaches it. You wouldn’t expect two painters to describe the exact same process even if they paint similar pictures. In On Writing, Stephen King talks about filling up your own toolbox. It takes years, and hundreds of thousands of words to find the tools best suited for your approach. I’m still constantly shifting things, picking up new ideas and chucking them when they don’t work. Don’t be fooled, writing is a science like any other art. Trial and error are a big part of the process. Don’t be discouraged by the error parts. Remember, NaNoWriMo is about the fun and joy of creating a story. Deciding to take on the challenge is already a huge accomplishment. Be proud of whatever comes next. I know I can’t wait to see what we write in the next month!

Got any other tips or tricks you want to share? Feel free to comment below! Make sure to sign up for the 50k challenge at nanowrimo.org!

Demons and Dialects and Writing

Right, so recently I started the rewrite of Possession and Other Invitations. I’m taking the story slow this time and making sure to compile all the needed notes for things that–well most of this will never get a mention, but there’s something gratifying about being able to answer literally anything about my story and world setting. This doesn’t mean I’m writing every little thing down. I focus on crafting the world setting guidelines. See, with enough principles in place, knowing every detail is easily done and doesn’t actually take up that much headspace (which when you’ve got multiple worlds competing for brain power, simplicity is a mind saver).

I made a heinous mistake in my last draft of the book when I didn’t name the infernal dialect used by the demon in the opening scene. So, I started digging through what I knew about my world and researching languages. Since I was talking the other night to my friend about how I developed character and world together for Starfell, I thought I’d share a bit of my process on how world setting and ideas affected each other to establish a world setting rule in Possession and Other Invitations.

All right, first step in adding new world building–decide which rules are relevant. World settings are huge vast, things, and while most rules will interplay, it’s easier to start with the basic block and then build up from there. In this case, languages spoken by demons, the building begins with Belief = Power. The second being Low Level Psychic Fields Exist.

Those two rules affect nearly every decision made about the world setting and are the basis for the magic system in Possession. See, the idea is that the more something is believed, the more likely it is to be true. You get enough people thinking the same thing and it starts warping reality to that thing. The opposite is true, too. If too many people don’t believe in something, it gets nearly impossible. The magic system example I like to use is a fireball. People–even the wizards of the Society–don’t believe that magic fireballs are possible in our world. That shared thought/belief creates a psychic field which in turn helps the physics of the world stay in place. Okay, that’s something that gets harder, what gets easier? Well, there’s a lot more people believing in ghosts and the ability to talk to the dead. Get a room with the right people and the right mood and contacting the dead is like flipping a switch.

Okay, I’ve got to add in the rules The Spiritual Plane Is Linked To Our World and Belief = Greater Power in Spiritual Plane. While the Spiritual Plane exists on its own, it’s highly influenced by the world. In fact, Religions have enough psychic fields behind them to create realms inside the Spiritual Plane. Possession‘s world has a multitude of Heavens, Hells, Purgatories, Nirvanas, and other after-mortal-life areas.

How does all this affect language choice? Well, Religion is a cultural aspect (see another rule slip in there?) and culture is passed from person to person primarily through language. Language then becomes a part of that psychic field that has an effect on the Spiritual Plane. That part of the plane is influenced to adapt to the language component. So human languages are spoken in the Spiritual Plane. However, many people think that demonic/angelic/other worldly languages are going to sound different, which has also had power over how the denizens of the Spiritual Plane speak.

That all sounds a bit obtuse, doesn’t it? I’ll run through an example.

Catholicism is a large, multi-cultural, international religion. In modern era, masses are said in local dialects and the religion will take on cultural aspects from where it’s being practiced. But Latin is still an important language to the religion and is still used for some ceremonies. Latin helps bind a few of the bigger Catholic concepts (one God, redemption through Christ, Heaven for the saved, Hell for the unrepentant) and gives the large psychic field a strong foundation. So, Latin is spoken in those related Hells, Heavens, and Purgatories. In fact, the older a demon (or angel for that matter) is, the more likely it will speak a dialect of Latin–assuming it lives in one of those related realms. If it comes from, say, an older Lutheran realm, it’s more likely to know a dialect of German.

I say dialect because it won’t be exactly Latin. First of all, there is no exact. There’s a standardized version, but each place that speaks it will have variance. The same is true of the Spiritual Plane. Demonic dialects of Latin are going to snarl, hiss, and spit more than the standardized according to region. The specifics of their dialects are going to be based on region. So if there’s, say, Seven Layers of Hell, the First Layer is going to have differences from those demons in the Seventh. To an outsider, it’d be like picking out the difference between the Midwestern Illinois Dialect versus the Chicagoland Dialect. A lot of it comes down to word choice (like soda versus pop), but get someone talking long enough and you’ve got an idea of where they come from. A skilled exorcist, like Wes in Possessions, is going to need to be a linguist as well. While some basic chants will work, an exorcism is going to be more efficient if the demon is bound in its native language. That’s going to take some knowledge and a keen ear.

Knowing all of this is going to help me create a naming system, so that the next time I need to name a dialect, or hell to even know what language is important, it’ll be a bit of research and then bam! idea. Uh, this was also a glimpse into the insanity of how detailed my brain can get on a subject. Deepening world setting can be easy if keep asking ‘why does it work this way?’ That’s all I did here. Just a repetitive cycles of ‘whys’ until I understood Possession‘s world that much more. Thanks for reading. Got any interesting world building factoids of your own?

Musings on Romance books

Okay, so over the last several months, I’ve made an effort to read more Romance novels because, well, when one wants to write in a genre, one should consider reading in said genre. Most of the books I’ve checked out have been in the gay romance category, though I’ve got a couple now that are firmly in the hetero category. I’ve started developing a list of pet peeves and things that I like as I read.

One thing I’ve noticed–there are way too many green-eyed protags in this line of fiction. I must have read at least twenty stories this year alone and I’d say that at least fifteen of them had one partner with green eyes. I’ll admit, if I hadn’t gotten into reading this genre so frequently, one of my own characters was destined to have that perfect, amazing shade of green. But since it really seemed to be all over the place, I switched it out for another color.

Another issue I’ve got: don’t ever reference women when the scene is male on male. I’ve seen it in a couple of works and I find the tactic damaging in a few ways. If I’ve chosen a story for it’s male/male potential, an analogy that includes a woman is jarring. Like, I understand that if the person identifies as male and so the description includes anatomy typically associated with women, but that’s not what I’ve discovered. Instead, it’s telling me about this guy with a cock feeling all flushed and exposed ‘like a maiden,’ or ‘soft like a woman.’ These references often happen when one character is submitting to another, or is the ‘catcher’ in the relationship–therefore reinforcing many of the stereotypes in the gay community and adding a flair of misogyny to the process. How is it misogynistic? By keeping firm to the idea that women belong in the non-dominant role in the bedroom.

There was one selection of heterosexual short stories that I read which almost turned me off from the genre. A majority of the women seemed to be waiting for the guy to complete her world and a couple of them glorified a relationship that did not see them as equals. (Sorry, if the guy has everything prepared and essentially ‘claims you,’ that doesn’t speak of much equality to me.) They didn’t even seem to really care so long as they got the guy and seemingly got to do what they wanted for the time being.

A positive that I’ve discovered is that I really do like this kind of fiction, when it’s done right. I’d read stories that had romantic elements to them before, but never really embraced the genre–outside of reading some Laurell K. Hamilton. I’ve become enamored of Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series and I’ll keep reading in hopes of finding several others that I like as much. Seeing two characters flirt and fall for each other? It’s a thrill.

However, if the language usage or characters are too awful, even the flirting can’t save a book. I ranted earlier this year about Ally Blue’s Oleander House, and I’ve got another book to add onto the list: Olivia Cunning’s Double Time. This book’s apparently #5 in the series, but it’s the first I’ve read. I’ll give it points for not making me wonder too hard about the other books. Without looking online, I never would have realized that it was that far into the series.

Her style is very matter-of-a-fact, with far more sentences that are telling of the action than outright description. “Partner A did this and Partner B did that.” While the style isn’t the most engaging in the universe, most of her word choice is actually fine. I wish there were a few more emotions from characters beyond ‘wanting Trey’ or ‘wanting Reagen’ or ‘wanting Ethan’ or ‘so horny,’ but okay, it’s an erotic romance. There’s going to be plenty of wanting to sex it up.

The part that bothers me the most about Double Time is the portrayal of bisexuality. First, there’s Reagan thinking that Ethan was gay when she caught him with a man. Never mind that they had been dating for a long time, she sees him with a guy and just assumes gay. (Although a plot point I still can’t understand is why Reagan continued to have such a close relationship with Ethan after feeling so betrayed by him. I get that they’d be roommates stuck in a lease, that happens all over the place, but the cheating had wrecked the romantic relationship so completely that I can’t understand why he was still her best friend.) Yet Reagan’s assumptions aren’t the worst part of this.

See, Trey and Ethan are both bisexual males. That’s all fine, but it’s their need for having both a man and a woman. Neither is satisfied without getting their hands on both sexes within a given time frame. Despite Trey wanting to put Reagan first, he’s spent much of this novel complaining about how he didn’t have a man–first Brian, and then random other men, and then he got latched onto Ethan a little but only because it had been several weeks since he’d had a cock in him. Having one character be compulsive in needing to have both sexes is a trait/flaw, but the discussion of bisexuality throughout the book heads straight into the ‘bisexuals are greedy sluts’ trope. Since Ethan takes this up too (citing his need for men as the whole reason he cheated on Reagan in the first place), it sets up a unilateral belief that bisexuals must want sex from multiple genders all the time.

All in all, I was just sharing some thoughts about reading in the romance section of the library. Even though there were complaints throughout this post, I’m learning a lot about the genre and I wouldn’t stay in these books if I didn’t have a curiosity to see how the story turns out in the end. Anyone have some Romance novels to recommend?