Archive for July, 2011

My Books on your Nook

My books are now available, through the diligent work of Republica Press, for the Nook via BarnesandNoble.com. Click here.

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Neil Gaiman’s top 10

Neil Gaiman’s top 10.

I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan (Sandman rules!) and came across this. I have only read one book on the list, Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light, and that was a while ago.

So… my top books. These are just books I like/love/enjoy, in no particular order.

1. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. — A hilarious look at the end of the world. After the anti-Christ is misplaced, a demon and angel search for him, along with the original Hell’s Angels and a number of other characters.

2. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen. — Not much else to say, is there? A wonderful study of people and relationships, with their feelings and words deftly rendered.

3. War & Peace, by Leo Tolstoy. — Yes, yes, I know. But it’s not as bad as you think. It’s a soap opera, really, and if you can keep up with All My Children, you can read this.

4. Crime & Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevsky.  — What can I say? I majored in Russian Studies. This was the first major Russian novel I read (but in English) and I was surprised at how readable it was. It’s just a crime novel, but the suspense is in getting the confession, not in finding the culprit.

5. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock — I’m a big science fiction/fantasy fan, and I re-read this series every year or two. It’s a dark sword-and-sorcery epic, full of magic, sorcery, love, murder, betrayal and everything else Moorcock could fit in. What more could you want?

6. … In Death by JD Robb — this is a series of novels by Nora Roberts about a policewoman, Lt. Eve Dallas, in mid-21st century New York city. A dash of murder, a little romance and a pinch of sci-fi. Good stuff.

7. Emma by Jane Austen — Another nicely done work by Ms. Austen, this time focusing on a woman who thinks she’s helping everyone else, but doesn’t see her own faults.

So, I didn’t hit ten, but that doesn’t mean anything. I’ve read tons of books and picking a favorite is difficult.

Interview at AfterDark Online

Ray Sostre, who runs the up-and-coming site AfterDark Online, and is a really nice guy to boot, has posted an interview with me at his blog, The AfterDark World. I hope you enjoy!

Excerpt:

How long have you been writing erotic stories, and what other genres do you write?

I have been writing for a couple of years now, pretty much just erotic stories although I’ve varied the genres a bit within that. I’ve written contemporary romances, some nonhuman stories featuring shapeshifters, witches and vampires, and a few “one-off” stories that could qualify as stroke stories. I have other stories in the works in other genres, including sci-fi, but just haven’t had time to develop them.

Why romance?

This was a recent question I got from my mom.

We were visiting, and my husband mentioned he was reading my latest work in progress. Now, Mom is great, but not entirely comfortable with my writing. Some of it is simply that it isn’t her choice of genres to read, such as the paranormal romances. In addition, I guess any mom is entitled to get a little weirded out when their daughter writes about sex (no matter that each is a full grown woman, and has had two kids). So Mom asked about the story, and I gave a vague answer that it was a romance. Then she said, “Why romance?”

Sigh. She said it in that tone that I’m sure we’ve all heard reserved for romance novels, and for erotic stories. The tone implies that it’s not “serious” enough, and hence not worth the time to write. Or read, I suppose. Now, I don’t know what they think I should be writing. Mystery novels? Big treatises on the human condition? Historical fiction? Since science fiction and fantasy suffer from a similar disdain, I’m guessing they don’t mean that.

I believe my reply to the question was “Why not?”

Then I started thinking about it, and I think “Why not?” is a reasonable answer. It probably could have done with more discussion, but we didn’t have a chance. So I’ll ponder it here.

So, why not write romance? Why is it “less” than any other genre? True, I’ve read some crappy romance stories — predictable, unoriginal in premise, and even poorly written. On the other hand, I’ve read a number of them that are well-thought out, -researched, and -plotted. Is it just because there is frequently a HEA that people dismiss it? Because that’s unfair.

I’ve said myself that there was a time I was rather dismissive of the romance genre. I’m not quite sure why. I was a big sf/fantasy fan — another genre, as I’ve noted, that is often looked down on — and part of me just was not interested in love stories. As I got older, though, I did find I liked the romantic sub-plots that ran through a lot of books. I proofed a paper for a friend of mine about romance novels and came away more informed than I had been, and the idea of the strong heroine stayed with me.

So why romance? Because I’ve found I like reading — and writing — about people finding each other and overcoming the obstacles to be and stay together. Because I like a little escapism after another freaking headline about the debt ceiling. Because it’s just nice sometimes to read about love winning out in the end, even if it doesn’t conquer all. And you know what? It’s harder than a lot of people think to write about people and relationships.

I’ve noticed two basic trends with romances, paranormal or otherwise. One trend has a common threat or enemy that brings the protagonists together, which gives them added reason to fall in love, stay together, or whatever. The second is the type that covers the more mundane issues people face in relationships. I think the latter is more difficult to write, but perhaps more rewarding.

Try it — try to come up with two people who have enough similarities to want to see each other and enough differences to make it interesting, then add the usual trials and tribulations people go through. I’m not talking about blackmail, cheating spouses, or things like that. I’m talking about the times when people say hey, what are you doing? What do you mean by that?

My first real stab at this was, I think, Nothing Gets Through. In that one, the main character Dominic Baddano has a family history that leads him to keep people from getting too close to him because he doesn’t want to be hurt again. So Dom is more the “bad guy” in that story; that is, the fault in the relationship issues lies more with him than Lani Montgomery, the female lead. It comes to a head in the middle of chapter three.

“I told you I don’t like to talk about my family,” Dom said, defensiveness tingeing his voice. “You didn’t seem to have a problem with it.”

“I didn’t, not really,” she said, wiping at her eyes again. She snapped her carrying case closed. “I didn’t until I read the profile. Somehow you could talk about all of that stuff with a stranger, and let strangers read all about it, but you couldn’t, or wouldn’t, tell me. Someone who cares about you. How could it be easier to let strangers know than to tell me?”

“If you have a problem with me talking to the press, you’d better get over it,” he said. He knew that wasn’t the point, but he was angry.

Now Lani did laugh. “Is that what you think?” she asked, standing up. Reflexively, Dom did too, although he didn’t know what he planned to do next. “Is that what you do? Change the subject to divert someone when they get close to the truth? Close to you?” She shook her head. “I care about you, Dom. I really do. But I’m not… not a placeholder, not someone you can go to when it’s convenient.”

“I never said that!” he snapped. His gray eyes blazed with lightning.

“That’s the problem!” she returned, now angry herself. “You never said anything!”

The next time I tried something like that was in another hockey romance, Numbers Game. In this one, a 25yo hockey player, Anatoli Strelkov, meets a 32yo woman, Sara Brooks — various issues were up for grabs here. Sara is insecure about the age difference, having recently had a man more her age break up with her for a younger woman. Anatoli doesn’t understand why Sara is so cautious about things; at 25, he sees things more in a black-and-white fashion, and he hasn’t had a similar experience.

I won’t pretend I’m trying to do great studies of the human condition. I’ll leave that to others more talented (and interested in it) than I. But why romance? Well, why not? It’s something we can just about all relate to, and it can help to read about someone in a similar situation, even if that someone is fictional. Why is it so enriching to read Anna Karenina (which I have, twice!), about a woman who leaves her husband for another man at the cost of her son and eventually her life, yet it’s so awful to read about, say, a shy teacher who’s approached by the bad-boy mechanic and they fall in love and get married? Why can’t we read both and enjoy (well, maybe not “enjoy” Anna Karenina, exactly) both?

Why not?

In defense of HBO’s “unnecessary” nudity – Game of Thrones – Salon.com

In defense of HBO’s “unnecessary” nudity – Game of Thrones – Salon.com.

“Game of Thrones” is an HBO series based on a series of books by noted sf/fantasy author George R.R. Martin. The full title is something like “Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One.”

I was excited to see the series advertised; decent sf/fantasy series go begging on television, and in movies most times. I hadn’t read the books at the time — I haven’t followed the sf scene in a while — but I was a big sf/fantasy fan and when I saw a cast including Sean Bean and Mark Addy, I had high hopes. I was not disappointed. I read the first book between the ninth and tenth episodes, and have since read the second book (“A Clash of Kings”). So while I “spoiled” the end of the series for myself, I was still pleased at how it’s all going. Martin has constructed a world that’s well defined and has gone to the dependable medieval-ish world with kings and queens that gets the viewer/reader wrapped up in the power struggles.

And there’s sex. Plenty of it.

The article cited above notes an L.A. Times column that criticizes HBO and GOT for “unnecessary” nudity. Of course, to my husband, no nudity is unnecessary. Like airplanes, he feels that a show with nudity can’t be all bad (and I suppose if there were nude pilots, he’d be beside himself).

So what about the nudity? Quite honestly, I don’t much care. One thing not mentioned in the LAT article is that GOT-TV covers a lot of bases, sexually speaking — there’s incest, f/f sex (not really lesbianism, as the f/f sex is for show), and one implied homosexual act between Prince Renly and (if I recall) a knight named Ser Loras.

And it’s not as though the GOT creators pulled all this out of thin air; a great deal of it is in the source material, although nearly all of that is straight sex. And I have to say, if I wanted to go off on a tangent about the sexual content of the material, I’d note that the books have children involved. In fact, those characters were aged a few years for the TV series. The most notable would be Danaerys Targaryen, played by Emilia Clarke. In the book and series, Danaerys is basically sold by her older brother, Viserys, to a nomadic warlord named Khal Drogo. Viserys is fixated on regaining the throne that his family lost, and is looking to “sell” his sister to Drogo for an army that will help him. Viserys isn’t much on cultural differences, despite the advice he receives from Ser Jorah Mormont, a Westerner like himself.

Sorry, I digress. At any rate, in the book, Danaerys weds Drogo in a strange and foreign ceremony, and that night they consummate the relationship. Now let’s look at some differences — in the book, Danaerys is thirteen years old. Drogo is, let’s say, in his late 20s, perhaps early 30s; I doubt his people, the Dothraki, celebrate birthdays. Also in the book, Danaerys is nervous, but intercourse with Drogo is at least implied to be pleasurable. Well, surely HBO could not have a 13yo girl enjoying sex; imagine the outcry. So instead, we have an adult Danaerys (age unspecified, but she easily looks 18), who suffers through sex with her husband. No one said much, that I could see.

But sex makes people act funny, let’s be honest. And despite the advances of women and minorities, the TV world is mostly run by older white guys. And hey, GRR Martin is himself an old white guy. Plus, there’s always been the problem with sex and violence. It seems it doesn’t matter how many people you have shot or stabbed or otherwise bloodied, you’ll likely get no worse than an R rating. But — whoa ho — try to show two people in love, or at least like, and physically expressing it, and you either have to cut it or get an NC-17. The movie Blue Valentine is the most recent example of this.

So is the nudity and/or sex in Game of Thrones “unnecessary”? I don’t think so. I don’t think it detracted, as is pointed out in the Salon article, it can reveal various things about the characters.

Plus — and I believe this was left out of the LAT article — for all this is a fantasy set in the “Seven Kingdoms” of “Westeros”, the story is in the familiar Middle Ages trappings. And, back in that time, women didn’t have a whole lot of options. If they were nobility, they may have had more, but probably not tons. The one thing the women could do was use their sex, their body, to obtain their goals or protect their objectives, and no doubt many did. If GOT is exploring this, and not ignoring this, then fine. That was the reality, and pretending it didn’t happen, and/or trying to adapt it to our standards, doesn’t make it any less real.

People have sex all the time. All kinds of sex in all kinds of ways. Yet we in the U.S. have a really hard time dealing with that. We can watch robots destroy Chicago a mere decade after actual destruction, that killed real people, occurred in New York City. We can have “torture porn,” in which sadistic people put other people through disgusting tests, and it’s a blip on the radar. But a breast? Run for the hills! Won’t someone please think of the children!? Gak.

So keep the nudity in GOT. I mean, under our clothes, we’re all naked, right?

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