Hot, Hotter, Hot as F***

Ah, Amour!If you’re reading some of the more popular Romances these days, you may have noticed the sex has gotten a whole lot spicier. Odd to think at one time various works of such classic writers as Henry Miller, Vladimir Nabokov and D.H. Lawrence were banned in this country because of a sexual content which would now barely raise a eyebrow. This is, of course, not to say more lurid works weren’t out there. Ask your grammy if she ever heard of a Tijuana Bible, and if she doesn’t slap your face, she just might surprise the heck out of you. But if books you can now buy from the drugstore spinner are jalapeno enough to singe your fingers, how can you tell the difference between what’s hot, hotter and goodness! gracious! hose-me-down!? Well, here’s a handy little thumbnail to help you sort it all out.

Romance is the story of the journey lovers take to their happily ever after.

Erotic Romance is the story of the sexual journey lovers take to their happily ever after.

Erotica is the story of a lovers’ sexual journey. Period.

So as you can see, it’s not really the sex per se as much as how the sex is used as a plot technique. In Erotic Romance, as opposed to more “traditional” romance, the sex is more defined, ie, a spade is a spade is a spade. Nix the hammer of love, darling, and call it what it is. In Erotica, this concept is stripped (oh, dear – forgive me) of all pretense, and goes straight to the good parts (no flipping necessary).Yet, as in all writing, just because its temperature has gone well beyond the hard crack stage, it doesn’t mean its quality should be compromised. Bad writing is still bad writing. Just because we’re looking to be bad, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get it good.



Congress is where the real crazies are

We're here for you, Orlando

There’s no disputing the fact that anyone who finds logic in what happened in Orlando over the weekend needs to have their brain examined. The Pulse massacre was a tragedy beyond comprehension, but that’s not what I’m referring to. What I’m talking about is the members of Congress who patently refuse any kind of gun control, even to the point where it makes about as much sense as comparing apples to recliners.  They even refuse to bring up a bill that would ban persons on the No-Fly List from purchasing weapons, a bill that had a slim chance of passing after the shooting in San Bernadino.  That’s why I’m so proud of my Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) who  joined with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) in a filibuster. The Daily Beast quotes Murphy as saying, “I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can,”  tweeting Wednesday morning before taking the podium. “I’ve had #enough.”

So have I. If you have too, then for fuck’s sake do something about it.  Contact your representative in Congress and email, call, visit–do whatever it takes to make your voice heard. And don’t forget to remind them they’re one election away from becoming as voiceless as the rest of the American people now feel.

The View From Here

1322856746795_1293238The first person Point of View comes easiest to most students, and to most new writers, so it surprised me one day last semester to receive an essay written in the second person point-of-view. Now if you’re unsure or unaware what second POV is, take a gander at the opening line of Jay McInerney’s 1984 novel, Bright Lights, Big City:

You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy.

This slice of hipster lit from the ’80s employs a liberal use of the pronoun you, and that’s what made it such a topic of literary conversations at the time. Writing second POV is uncommon, as it requires the reader not only to step into the head of the protagonist, but into his very character, not an easy to do, and often, it’s done badly. Consequently, it’s not something I come across often, and it’s always a surprise when I do (especially from students!) So, what of other POVs, namely first and third? Is one more popular than the other? Or more difficult? And why?

Hands down, the most common POV is third. Third POV may be omniscient, in which the thoughts of  every character are open to the reader, or limited, in which the reader enters only one character’s mind at a time. Third POV allows the author to lend his or her own voice to the expository passages, enabling more stylistic freedom, as well as getting into the heads of several different characters to access their most intimate thoughts. Still, there can be danger in all this. Too many POVs can dilute the writing, cluttering it with too much information from secondary characters that have no bearing on the plot. A best practice is to keep POVs to the main characters, two or three maximum. Another pitfall is head-hopping, shifting from one character’s POV to the others without a scene or chapter break. Head-hopping can be confusing but even worse, it lowers the tension, and the reader loses that fluttery anticipation of experiencing the plot unfold like a safecracker chipping away at a combination lock. Still, third is the easiest and most popular POV, allowing both the writer and the reader rich and expansive prose.

First person point-of-view, on the other hand, is even a more intimate experience, as a character narrates the story, their thoughts and observations depicted in his or her own dialect, colored by their own worldview. The pitfall in this is that worldview is limited to their own, and they can’t possibly be privy to information outside of their own sphere. And because the reader can only know what the narrator knows, and that worldview may be tainted by perception or prejudice, they run the risk of being taken an unreliable narrator. An example of this is when prose is written in the POV of a child, or someone with diminished mental abilities as William Faulkner did with his character Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. Even so, it’s a POV I’ve written in often and one I always enjoy reading, as it adds a realism and anticipation to the book, when the reader becomes one with the main character.

Whatever POV you choose, it should be one you’re comfortable with, and one you shouldn’t let the market dictate. There are schools of thought that say the first-person point of view is outdated, but two of the last few years most popular books, Water for Elephants and The Help, were both written in first POV, the latter written through the eyes of four women. And then there’s those who say head-hopping is perfectly acceptable. My opinion is it’s just lazy writing. After all is said and done, just write the best book you possibly can, and if it is, it’ll find its way into your readers’ hands.


What am I doing? No Effing idea

6c1e0c571b3446778fce1e30f6a1de9eIf you regularly read this blog you’ll recall I finished a book a couple of weeks ago. So yesterday, being the self-flagellating writer that I am,  I started a new book.  This one is going to be longer than the last one, over 100k words and a much more intricate plot. Normally I fly out the gate, the words shooting out of me like verbal vomit. (Okay, gross allusion, but think the alphabet, not masticated grilled cheese and tomato soup). Most of the time, the first three chapters are the easiest I write as I always have the opening in my head, and within a couple of days I usually have them down. But with this book? I spent all day and ended up with half a page. Half a page! I should be totally ashamed of myself. I once wrote a 50,000 word book in five weekends. So what’s the deal?

A long time ago I discovered the cure for Writer’s Block, or rather I discovered it doesn’t really exist.  So-called writer’s block only happens because you’re doing something wrong. It could be any number of things from writing outside your character’s logic, to veering too far from the ultimate goal. But I found the surest way to “cure” it was to turn things 180 degrees around, to give your character a perspective from the other side. If they’re going North, have them go South, if they’re running away from something, have them run toward it instead, don’t let them get that promotion–get them fired instead or better yet, quit. Have them act instead of react or visa versa. You’ll never get anywhere by skating the perimeter. Bust through it and see what happens.

But I digress. Because I don’t have Writer’s Block. I have something so much worse. I have stared this new project right in the eye and I have come back intimidated.

Has it happened to you? Have you had this terrific plot rolling around in your head so you do all the prework, plot the story to two sequels then clearing your calendar, you finally sit down to write. Then all at once the enormity of the thing starts looming over you like the Empire State atop Everest and you start cringing, that expanse of white screen as terrifying as an Arctic blizzard, and you wonder how the hell you’re ever going to get out. So now what?

I suppose I should take the advice of a friend of mine, so simple it almost seems ridiculous: Just write the book. Just write the book. Just write the book. She has it on a sign over her desk so she never forgets it. Just write the book because if you don’t, like a car that never leaves the driveway you’ll never go anywhere, and you’ll sure as hell never get the book done if you don’t.

So I will just write the book, but that in no way signifies I have any idea what I’m doing!