Monthly Archives: March 2012

Playing with my food

For a treat with dinner tonight, we’re having smiley fries. I like smiley fries, because they display the whole spectrum of the human experience.
This one is happy:

 This one is winking:

This one is evil:

 This one is fat:

This one is skinny:

This one has a disfiguring head tumor:

 This one used to run a dry cleaning business… before the accident…:

This one is… wait.

Wait a second.

Is this one…

Huh. That seems oddly specific.

Kiss Me, I’m More Or Less Irish

I’ve talked before about how the Irish (as in, the actual, born and raised in Ireland, people actually living in Ireland) do not understand and/or are offended by the American celebration of St. Paddy’s day. This week on the internet, I’ve seen mockery over things like, “That shirt says St. Patty’s, not St. Paddy’s! You horrible xenophobic Americans!” to which I must reply, “Yes, but you should see the way some of these jackasses misspell Christmas,” allegations of racism due to our stereotypical celebration of drinking and wearing green, to which I say, “Since when the hell has ‘Irish’ been a race, and do you for real believe that in a country where lynching is still a ‘thing’ that shamrocks on March 17th constitute actual racism that requires activism?”, and the classic, “I’m going to wear black, on behalf of all the pagans who died cruelly at the hands of the Roman Catholic church,” to which I say nothing, I merely point and laugh, because neopagans with no real grasp of the historical “conversion” of Ireland are one of my most favorite chuckle opportunities ever.

That said, I’m obviously celebrating today. Usually, I throw a party. My husband said no. Two years ago, I got drunk and got a mohawk; I fear his reluctance to have an awesome party might stem from that. This year, I won’t even be going out to drink, since the early spring has brought waves of plant sex that are direct assaults on my sinuses. I can’t watch The Quiet Man, as is my tradition, because some jackass in this house messed up the dvd and put it back without telling me. I’m bummed that my St. Patrick’s day isn’t as awesome as it usually is, but there will still be corned beef (she said, crossing her fingers that her husband remembers to pick it up). And there is plenty of reason for you to rejoice, for I am going to leave a little linky-doo here for you to read my further ruminations on this most Irish-American of all holidays. Now, I’m off to watch Gangs of New York, my stand-in Irish-American pride movie. Even if Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t seem like all that Irish a name. Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s day, Right?

More Irish-American pride right this way…

Let’s have an in-depth discussion on why women read what they read.

NO. We are NOT DOING THAT. Everyone is doing that right now and I HAVE HAD IT.

Ahem.

Okay, I am really irked by some of the discussion about 50 Shades of Grey. More to the point, I’m irked by all of it. Whenever there’s a big book like 50 Shades or Harry Potter or Eat, Pray, Love, there is inevitably discussion about why it became a hit. I believe this discussion is fueled by those who just do not understand why the book is a success, and they have to analyze the phenomenon in order to “get it”. I saw this a lot with Harry Potter. I’m a fan of that series, and I would often hear people say, “It’s about kids in witch school. It’s a good idea, but it’s not well written. It’s not particularly innovative. What is driving this thing?” Inevitably, the solution would often come down to the readership (in Potter’s case, it helped that the books “grew” along with the audience, and many readers who started at age nine and up with the first book felt they “grew up” with Harry, Ron, and Hermione), or a hole in the market (middle grade books got a boost from Harry Potter’s success in the same way Twilight boosted the YA market), and ultimately, everyone seems happy with that solution.

Now, 50 Shades of Grey is subject to that intense scrutiny by people who just don’t “get it”. They want to know the secret behind the psychology of the book. They want to know what this book says about women, if they enjoy it. They want to know why this book? Why now?

I’ll tell you the secret to this book’s astounding success, and it has nothing to do with the psychology of women’s sexuality, and a whole lot to do with the psychology of our buying culture: it was hard to find, word of mouth made it sound like a big deal, and we want the unobtainable. That’s it. 50 Shades became the Birken Bag of books in a few weeks, driven by its lack of availability, and the assertion that wealthy, stylish women on the Upper East Side of NYC liked it.

Now, I’m not insulting the book in saying that, by any means. I haven’t read it, I probably won’t read it (as I rarely read genres I write in, for the same reason a chef probably doesn’t run home and make a four course meal after dinner service. I just need something different), so I’m not going to try to speak to the literary merit of the book here. However, having familiarized myself with the content based on the book description and media attention, there are a hell of a lot of books just like 50 Shades that are already out there. In fact, on sites like Literotica.com, you can get the same types of stories, some of them excellent examples of the genre, for free. There’s no hole in the market here to explain its success. There are literally thousands upon thousands of books and stories that explore the exact same themes of female-submissive sex. If you’re familiar with the current erotica/erotic romance trends, you know that many publishing houses aren’t interested in female-dominant BDSM because it doesn’t sell well to female readers, the target of those genres. There is a widespread (heh heh) demand for female subs in erotic fiction, and that demand is being met. The demand that is not being met is the demand for this specific book, and its elusiveness seems to have driven its viral success in the first few weeks of its sudden popularity: “Have you heard of [this thing]? Everyone is talking about [this thing]. I can’t believe you don’t have [this thing]. Oh well, you can’t get it anyway.” That is a pretty powerful motivator, in any marketplace.

But no one seems to be addressing this part of the phenomenon, asserting instead that its spotty availability is proof of its success, rather than the cause. The cause, a lot of morning shows, news articles, and blogs are eager to point out, is the sexual content, and the way women respond to it. I am astounded every time a “dirty” book gets a lot of press. It’s like suddenly, everyone has “proof” that women enjoy sex, have sexual fantasies, and hell, have sexual fantasies that aren’t necessarily the most feminist of feminist ideals. It has been posited that 50 Shades is popular with women because we are sexually frustrated with men (who have become more “feminized” by helping out around the house and pushing strollers, the horror, the horror, the never-ending horror) and want them to dominate us in the bedroom. You can read this assumption, written by a man, of course, here: Paul LaRosa, HuffPo. This morning, Good Morning America touted it as “revitalizing” sex lives. Apparently, women in this country will not “revitalize” their sex lives without permission from a book. A book that has received its new distributor’s stamp of approval, complete with a smack-down of the embarrassing genre it, of course, is definitely not at all even a little bit no sir a part of. From the New York Times:

“We’re making a statement that this is bigger than one genre,” said Anne Messitte, the publisher of Vintage Anchor, who discovered the book when a colleague at Random House slipped her a copy. “The people who are reading this are not only people who read romance. It’s gone much broader than that.” 

 So much about the hype and discussion of this book sets my teeth on edge. Again, I’m not hating on the books, I haven’t had a chance to read them. But I am hating, pretty hard, on anyone who uses the term “mommy porn” in the discussion. I’m hating on people who think that the success of the books speaks to some innate psychological contradiction in every woman- “Well, you SAY you’re a feminist, but you all REALLY WANT to be dominated by a man, as per this book other women have made popular.” And I’m sick, sick to death, of every discussion of a book driven to success by female readers devolving into some conversation about women’s sexuality and whether or not a book is somehow “proving” that women aren’t really into individual empowerment.

I won’t even get started on the discussions of whether or not consensual BDSM is “abuse” or speaks to a desire in women to be in an abusive relationship. There isn’t enough blood pressure medication in all the land.

50 Shades of Grey is a book. If I read 50 Shades of Grey, enjoy it, am titillated by the content, that doesn’t mean I want to live out the fantasy on the page. It doesn’t mean I think my husband should hit me with a riding crop to reclaim his manliness. And my enjoyment of a book isn’t indicative of an unhappy married sex life. Yet every time one of these blockbusters come along, driven to success by dollars coming out of female hands, we have to analyze and talk to death the reason why-or the justification for why it’s okay. Hey. Newsflash. Women like to read. Sometimes about sex. Sometimes about sexual subjects that are still, in the mainstream purview, taboo. Michael Crichton had a huge male readership. I have never once heard anyone level the allegation that men reading Jurassic Park were doing so because they had some secret, shameful desire to run from dinosaurs that wasn’t being met. No one tells men that they must be reading Jim Butcher because they secretly want to be wizards and are looking for pointers, or that the widespread popularity of those books are proof of that desire for magic in all men, everywhere. Even more infuriating is that men don’t have to go to the New York Times to explain that it’s okay for them to read what they want, because other men are reading what they want to read, too:

“Women just feel like it’s O.K. to read it,” she said. “It’s taboo for women to admit that they watch pornography, but for some reason it’s O.K. to admit that they’re reading this book.” 

You know what the “some reason” is? It’s because it just is O.K. to admit to reading whatever you want to read. Because you are free, as a human being, to make your own damn choices. If this is something women of my generation are still trying to grasp, well, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll quit getting out of bed in the morning.

As long as the Morning Shows, the blogs, the newspapers insist on ferreting out the psychology behind every book, movie, television show that is popular with women, the message is resoundingly, “Women are having an affect on the marketplace? Must be something wrong with the product, or their heads.” I’m not down for that. How about we end every future discussion of 50 Shades of Grey with, “Eh. I just like it.” and leave it at that?

It Canz Be Cover Reveal Times!

I’m still hard at work on WOLF’S HONOR, the sequel to my Abigail Barnette release, BRIDE OF THE WOLF, but I have to stop and shift gears a minute to share the big cover reveal of my March 21st release, LONG RELIEF!

Do you like baseball? Do you like blazing hot contemporary romance? Well, then this book has you covered.

Now, it’s back to the writing pit, where I will be lashed cruelly by a creature with horns and three eyes, who knows only one word in the human tongue, and that is a command to “WRITE!”.  More details about LONG RELIEF and the Hard Ball series to come!

Kirk Cameron, stop giving me stuff to blog about.

I am, at this moment, torn between two options. One of them is finish my book that is due in mere days. The other is to spend my morning writing blistering hot m/m fanfic about Kirk Cameron’s “Mike Seaver” character and his now-legally married husband, Boner, on their big, gay wedding night.

Unfortunately, I have to choose the book. Besides, we all know that Kirk can’t read, anyway. Taking in new information is considered a sin to his kind.

The Most Dysfunctional Family Dinner

“I’ve been falling down much lately,” my daughter, Wednesday, said, looking up at me sadly.
I nod, knowing that “lately” is, to my daughter, like “last night”. Any length of time, indeterminate from any other length of time. “Lately,” it was also Halloween. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“You kicked me down the stairs.”
“What?!” It’s the only time I’ve actually heard myself interrobang. “I never kicked you down the stairs.”
Mutely, with her eyes closed but stretched tall in superiority, she nods.
“The only person getting kicked down the stairs here is Christian,” my husband chimes in, repeating the inside joke between him and our son. I’ve never realized how ghoulish it sounds until right now.
My son throws down his fork. “What the hell!”
“Christian, say ‘what the heck’!” Wednesday brandishes a fork threateningly.
“Never say ‘what the hell’ in school,” Husband advises our son.
“Or heck,” Christian corrects him.
That sounds awfully puritan for a public school. “You’d get in trouble for saying ‘what the heck’?”
Son nods.
In disbelief, daughter exclaims, “What the hell?”

Late Night Real Talk

It is after midnight, and I am up. I was asleep, two hours ago, when my daughter woke, screaming in pain from an earache. Now, she is on the couch with a hot compress on her ear, watching Sesame Street on Netflix, and I am still not sleeping.

I am six days from a deadline that, at the moment, seems impossible to meet. And I feel absolutely helpless to meet it. I don’t even have ten thousand words written, how can I possibly come up with an entire novella by March 7th?

I think back on the past few weeks, when I should have been writing the book. I start by blaming my children’s school. Three weeks ago, they decided to have some staff training. To accomplish this, they gave the children Thursday and Friday off. And for midwinter break, they decided to give them the following Monday, as well. The next week, a snow day obliterated any sense of normalcy in the household. This week, two half-days and a day off.

Stack on top of those circumstances my son’s testing for an autism spectrum disorder, an hour’s worth of travel for an hour’s worth of testing, once a week, during my prime writing time. I always take a notebook, thinking I’ll write. My husband spends the time flipping through fashion magazines and openly criticizing each photograph to me. Not much writing is accomplished during this time.

The field trip, that’s something, and the preschool pick-ups and drop-offs. Some important tax papers, that I had been putting off, needed faxing. Two separate trips to the only two civilian fax machines in town resulted in nothing but lost time; the treasure department for my state can’t spring for a dedicated fax line, apparently.

On days when my daughter is not at school, her demands are constant. She’s used to unwavering attention from her classroom’s teachers- two of them, for eighteen children-, as well as the constant stimulation they provide while she is there. She now expects the same at home, and is not content to color quietly.

I begin to look at my day in hour-long chunks, hoping I can squeeze some words out here and there. 6am, get up, get the kids breakfast. By 8:30, they should have all been dropped off at school and I can return home, where the kitchen needs to be cleaned. By 9am, I can sit down to write. The phone rings off the hook. This bill needs paying, this appointment needs rescheduling. The dogs need to go out, now they need to come in. I haven’t eaten anything all morning. I have to pick up daughter from preschool at 11, what time is it? 10:30? Already? Maybe I can get some writing done while she naps. I bring her home, serve her lunch and time to wind down from the stimulation of preschool. She’s down for a nap by 1pm, finally I can write. But I have to have my lunch, as well. I fix it, and sit down to write. It’s 1:30, and my first-shift husband comes through the door, tired and cranky about his job. He wants to talk about it. Now, it’s 2:30. Finally, I’m writing. For an hour, interrupted by phone calls. How much have I written? A sentence? At 3:30 my son comes home, the signal that my work day is over. He and his sister will fight. There will be slapping and pushing and screaming, and my husband will be too exasperated by them to effectively solve the problem. He’ll become exasperated with me, too, when I lose my temper because I just. Need. To Work. My brain is already too tired from fighting for time to write. I’ll just wait until after dinner. But after dinner, after the baths, after the kids are in bed after multiple trips to the bathroom, for water, whatever excuse they can dream up, I’m tired. I give up. I go to bed. Tomorrow will be different.

But tomorrow isn’t different. Tomorrow, I get up, I get the kids ready for school. I forget the testing appointment, FUCK! I have to call the school, and they’re put out with me calling yet again when I should have sent a note. At 10am, we’re headed to the far-off testing appointment. By the time we get home, it will be after 1pm, daughter will have briefly fallen asleep in the car, negating any chance of a nap for the day, and I will be too emotionally exhausted to try and write. It’s very hard to face that your child might have a handicap, that this might be the new reality. You can’t write about something as trivial as werewolves fucking, when you’re realizing that your child isn’t normal, and your brain is busy spending that time blaming everything you did, from daring to watch television when he was an infant to having him vaccinated. Meanwhile, I guiltily give in to my daughter’s every demand for my attention, even if it means I can’t do my job, because I’m worried the concern for her brother is leaving her in the cold.

I don’t know how to fix this problem. I do know that the book will be done on time. This will be accomplished through too many late nights, not enough sleep, at the expense of the house looking like the worst home ever featured on hoarders. I know I can do the work. I know I can write an excellent book. But at what cost?

It’s almost 1am. My daughter is still not sleeping, and my manuscript blinks at me while I guilty type this blog. No one wants to read about werewolves who can’t get their jobs done, though, and sometimes, you just need to let out the bad before you can use the good.