15 August 2013

The Perception of Romance and Sexism

I read a great article today! You can find the link to it here. I applaud the writers. I hope they continue with their study. Ladies... You've hit the nail on the head but not gone far enough. Let me give you some examples.

When my first novel (a two-book serial novel) was released, I overhead one of my beta readers (a gent with degrees in foreign languages and English) tell a friend on the phone: "Yes, there is a romance IN it, but you just have to read this plot." When I entered a SF/F/H contest that had recently added a romance category, I found myself unable to enter in that category, though my book had a romance co-plot, because their definition of romance included: "There are two POV characters in the book. The characters are rather two-dimensional and are not changed significantly by the experiences they have in the book."


You see, there exists a series of gross misconceptions surrounding romance. To be specific...

1. "Romance has a standard plotline (the formula), chosen from a short list of popular formulas." People liken writing romance to tossing a bowling ball down a lane with bumpers. That's not true. A more accurate description of writing romance, just as when writing ANY genre of work, is that you have a football field worth of room and can move in any direction. The idea that romance will have a HEA/HFN and will involve a romantic couple is no more restrictive than the idea that a mystery will involve a crime that is successfully solved.

2. "Romance is lacking in characterization." Beyond the fact that any successful romance MUST have solid characterization and realistic goals and motivations, you're not even limited to two main characters (or one or two more if it's erotic romance with menage). With writers like myself, who write in heavily cross-genre worlds, you may find books that span the epic fantasy line and contain (as my first book did) in excess of 20 POV characters, only two of whom were in a romantic relationship (though they were the two of the four central characters in the book).

3. "Romance is fluffy, brainless tripe." Mind you, I had one reader (who clearly expected that sort of book) complain to me that my books made her think too much. I never thought it was possible to think too much. To over think a situation? Yes. To think too much? Not so much. As for fluffy? Also not true. I have written a novella that ended up with a review stating: "This is definitely not a "feel good" light kind of read. This story is filled with tortured souls, lost love, and the inhumanity of man. It explores the darker part of life; from torture, bought women, and the struggle for power, we gain an insight of how a favored warrior can become a beast." (Chere Gruver for Sensual Romance) Moreover, I met a professional reviewer who'd reviewed one of my non-HEA love stories (for RT Magazine) THREE YEARS earlier. She not only remembered the details of the book, but she said: "I cried at the drop of a hat for three weeks. The book was so good, I read it four times in those three weeks." (Not every romance genre reader is looking for escapist fiction, and darker romance does exist in the market.) I once wrote a novel in which every main character was dead at the end, and it was the happiest thing that could have happened to them...sort of an atypical HEA. The book was described by a reviewer as: "the story of love, honor and betrayal unfolding against the ruthless backdrop of the warriors’ lives, mortal risks and immortal souls being at the stake." (Daria for Romance Junkies- 4 Ribbons)

And it's not just me writing gritty, realistic romance. Sherrilyn Kenyon took grief for the amount of torture in ACHERON, from some quarters. It was over the top, but his life of suffering was supposed to be over the top. I compare the people who complain about that book to the ones shocked and horrified at "The Red Wedding" in Game of Thrones. Personally, I saw the rebound on Robb Stark coming a mile away and knew it would be ugly when it landed. Mind you, though most of my books are romance cross-genres, I consider myself a SF/F/H/P author first and romance author second, but my readers come primarily from the romance pool.

4. "Romance writers write it because they can't write other genres." This also includes the "it's easy" concept. That is clearly written by people who want to believe it. It's not true of every romance writer. I started off writing poetry and non-fiction articles. I moved from there into short stories, none of which were romance. Romance and novels are the two late-comers to a very long writing life for me. I have written plenty of work that was not romance in nature, including straight genre SF/F/H. In fact, the world building in my romance cross-genres is no less strenuous than it is in my straight-genre writing. I've written straight-genre stories in my romance cross-genre worlds, and I write in 24 series worlds (including an overarching universe that contains 3 of those worlds), 23 of which already have books out on them (12 releases out in the most populated one so far).

Now... Why do these things continue? They continue because some of the more-established genres (like SF/F/H) still have an "old guard" of well-known males dominating the airwaves. I'm not anti-men or anything like that, but when there are entire blogs dedicated to how female authors in the field are "ruining" their male institution of writing in "their" genre, a war of the sexes has the stage ready set. If you read the statistics kept by BroadUniverse, you will find that sexism in the genre continues today. Since those voices already have a ready-made audience hanging on their every word, it is easy for these persons to perpetuate old stereotypes. The latest SFWA blow-up about sexism is a good example. As a woman, I was not offended by the initial picture and comments in the bulletin (by Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg), though some were. But when they responded to the flurry, they made it worse and instead of saying something as simple (and probably true) as: "We didn't realize what we said would be taken as offensive.", they used their popularity and platform to attack all women who WERE offended instead. That comes off as misogynistic and high-handed. dismissive of the feelings of others (and certainly of their work, seeing as how they worded their attack on writing women), and that's the way I see the issue of dismissing everything written by women and for women as well.

How can we stop it? We live in a rape culture, where women's rights to proper medical care are at stake, where women STILL do not earn equal pay for equal work, and we wonder why we can't stop demeaning statements about a woman's work in an established field? I don't see an end to it in the near future, sadly. Destroying these established stereotypes means destroying the mindset behind them, and bigotry is hard to burn out of a culture.

Quick additional edit: I know many MEN who write in the M/F romance field (and women who write M/M, as well), some with female pen names, some with male, and some with gender non-specific or leading initials, obscuring gender identification. Keep in mind that the backlash against romance is unilateral, whether the author is male, female, or undisclosed.

08 August 2013

Promo day coming up (with prizes!)...

Don't forget! Tomorrow (9 Aug 2013), I'll be at the LR Cafe and More Yahoogroup! I'll be talking about books, having contests, and basically hanging out.

06 August 2013


I've got a ton of new releases at Phaze Books this summer and more coming soon!  And remember! All books (print and ebook) are 20% off at Phaze until Sept 30. Just enter the code SUN at checkout!

DAAHN RISING (Xxan War #1)

Available in Print and eBook from Phaze Books! This title is an anthology re-release from the series.

BLURB- MATING SEASON- It's mating season. Zondra Daahn has hit her quickening with both feet and no warning. She's on the prowl for a male to sate her, and Evan Duncan is just the overbearing, alpha male she needs.

There are just a few little problems...


CLOSE ENOUGH TO HUMAN- Miri Johns is a negotiator for the Xxan. When it all blows up, she finds herself captured by humans, an illegal crossbred experiment used as a weapon against them. The best she can hope for is that they'll kill her without torturing her too badly first.

Aleeks Daahn is a natural-born crossbreed, raised on Earth. With Miri at the height of fertility, Aleeks may not be able to control the Xxan need to Dominate and claim his young prisoner. Nor does he want to control it. Are two crossbred Xxanians close enough to human to survive in the human world?


Available in eBook from Phaze Books! This is a new story from the series.

BLURB- Diagnosed with a chronic reproductive problem that would prevent her from having children, Abby walked away from Gabe and her dreams of a life as his mate.

Then came the curve ball. She was pregnant with his child, a child that the human doctors assured her would miscarry before viability.

What's a girl to do? Tell Gabe and force him to mourn a child that couldn't possibly survive or try to carry their son alone and face heartbreak the same way?

No brainer. Or so she thought.

Not only did Michael survive, he thrived. Now Abby is a single Hauaa to a Xxanian crossbred child, in a world where anti-Xxan guerillas are looking for the next reason to attack...and with no clue how she's going to explain the situation to Gabe.

DREAM WALK (Sanctum #1)
Available in eBook at Phaze Books!

BLURB-From the age of five, all of Sanctum has known Jaden would marry the Mage Lord's eldest female heir, but Rachel has no interest in being Jaden's mate. In fact, she denies that she is Jaden's mate and insists that the Mage Prophet who foretold it was wrong.

As a Dream-Walker, Jaden can enter the dreams of anyone who asks for his help. The only dreams he can enter uninvited are those of his mate. But when he's drawn into his mate's dreams, he finds much more than he bargained for. His mate is in danger...and she isn't Rachel. He discovers that Lara is the Mage Lord's eldest female heir, an heir no one within Sanctum knew existed.

Now it's a race against time. A rogue wants Sanctum, and Lara is his way in, if he gets to her before Jaden can.

Available in eBook from Phaze Books! This is a re-release title.

BLURB-Lady Riann Summer-Night's programs to help the lowborn find matches has brought Jaesin Park and his bond-brother Matty to a fine inn in Hanford.

Alia Autumn fears this meeting day will be her last; if she fails to find a mate or bond-sister in the morning, her high born family may decide she's unmatchable.

Being in a high-stress situation and close proximity are all these two need to find each other...or is it?

Available in eBook from Phaze Books! This is a re-release title.

BLURB- Lord Sevryn is home for a visit with his intemperate mother and spoiled siblings. Between rants about lowborns, courtesy of his mother, Sev makes a wondrous discovery; one of the maids his mother hired in his absence is his Goddess-destined soulmate.  

Or is she? Bettina is his soulmate, to be sure, but otherwise she's not what she seems. Her reasons for avoiding Sev are complicated. Mates don't hide things from one another, and there is a lot Bettina is hiding. For one thing, she's not lowborn. Raised in the lap of luxury, she decided to run rather than embrace a power that threatens her mind and heart.