Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Repost: In Defense of Twilight even though I don't like it much.

I think one of the things Twilight does do well is explore the beauty, intensity, and untamed nature of a girl's sexual awakening. I might roll my eyes at the overblown language when I read about Edward sparkling in the sun, but that's exactly how it feels. I'm about to be heterosexist for a while - forgive me.

When a girl looks at a guy's chest (ass, crotch, arms, hands, back - you get the idea) and gets her first nose full of hot testosterone, your entire being flips around. Trust me when I tell you that Bella's rhapsodizing about Edward's crystalline skin is pretty damn tame compared to the things girls think about when they discover just what that turns them on.

Fiction allows us to revisit the cathartic, life-changing moments of our existences. A woman's first flush of arousal is so amazing, so overwhelming, and so important that we read to reinforce all the lessons we learn from it. We get to find that wonderful, ripe, glorious feeling of sexuality, of power, of delight in our bodies, without the negative side effects of judgment, dissatisfaction, or shame.

I think reclaiming that moment of pure ownership of our senses is something all humans must do. The chills, the excitement, the way the hormones made you feel like champagne flowed through your veins instead of mere blood - the world needs more of that joyous feeling.

If you're a writer, go write some thing that makes you remember an awakening. If you express yourself in other ways, do that instead. If you are in love, tell that someone that you desire how maddening their scent is or the brush of their skin on yours makes you moan.

Reclaim that tension that Bella has discovered again for us.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Writers helping each other.

My good friend Nancy Crampton Brophy writes incredibly witty and fast paced romantic suspense. As fellow  pre-published authors (ye gods, I love that euphemism), we help each other with plotting, character growth, and ideas. Our friends Darla Luke, Su Lute, Cassiel Knight, and Jessie Smith (who is not as round as she thinks!) call ourselves the Hooligans, and we support each other as much as we can.

Last Friday, Nancy and I had lunch. She shared with me a technique she'd found by listening to the conference tapes from a previous RWA Conference.

Renee Ryan had presented a workshop on layering. For those not obsessed with writing, that's the process of taking your draft and adding all those things that make a book memorable. Nancy really like the recording, emailed Renee, and got her notes from the workshop. Then she shared them with me.

Here is Renee Ryan's layering process:
  1. Finish your first draft. This can be a draft of a scene, a chapter, or even your whole book.
  2. Layer in movement - character movement, the world around them.
  3. Layer in the five senses
  4. Layer in the setting - after all, the environment is a character in and of itself
  5. Layer in the emotion
  6. Layer in the dialog
  7. Layer in the backstory
  8. Layer in the sexual tension
  9. (and I added this one) Layer in the theme
I've been trying this for the last few days, and I am thrilled! Breaking down the process this way has really helped my revisions, especially after all the cutting I've done. 

    Monday, June 28, 2010

    Back in the saddle. Again.

    So while I'm engaging in my massive revisions, it's time to revisit my previously posted Twilight series.

    ****
    Ok, back to In Defense of Twilight, even though I hate it: Part Three.

    As you may or may not know, I have a degree in Library and Information Science. Save the Dewey Decimal jokes - I've heard them all. We're going into the jungle of literary criticism today.

    Library school gives you amazing perspective on popular culture. The criticisms aimed at Twilight for being misleading, wrong-headed, and a bad example to our youth have been fired at writing as far ranging as Harry Potter to E. B. White to the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew to Tom Swift.

    Yes, I'm serious.

    Literary critics used to claim that reading these kinds of books as akin to feeding your child poison. After all, children are weak minded, you know. Now remember that women are told the same things about their reading choices.

    To all the people who tell me that Twilight is going to tell women to fall for a gross, stalkery freak, I have one thing to say.

    Women are not stupid.

    Could it be possible that females are perfectly capable of discerning the difference between fantasy and reality??

    When a young woman makes a poor choice in a mate, the example she's using comes from up close and personal observation of adults around her.

    Not fictional characters.

    If we honestly thought that women yearned for maltreatment, why don't we believe that every man reading a James Bond novel yearns to be shot, stabbed, tossed out of airplanes, dunked in arctic ice cold water, and have no emotional life to speak of?

    Of course that is ridiculous - because we don't think men are stupid.

    Why should we think our girls are stupid, impressionable, and helpless? Reading about Waif Bella does not turn a girl into a passive Waif. Reading about James Bond, the man with no sense of self-preservation, does not make a boy into a moron who thinks that getting shot is just business as usual.

    Twilight (and romance) is popular because girls and women know it is fantasy. They get to experience what it is like to be passive Bella, or pretend they are dangerous Edward (more on that next time), or even learn how very wet the Pacific Northwest is.

    What would the world look like if we believed that women were smart?

    Thursday, June 24, 2010

    Current Shenanigans

    This is what I've been working on lately.


    I broke down each chapter into its component scenes, figured the date/time, whose POV is the scene in, a one line description of the scene, and the page number.

    I think I'm making good progress - especially in cutting the parts that take away from the main story and making what I've got more exciting and focused.

    Wish me luck!

    Wednesday, June 23, 2010

    Repost:: Examples of the Waif

    The prototype of The Waif is, of course, Cinderella. Some say Sleeping Beauty was a Waif, but I always felt her passivity was born out of her family keeping her ignorant of her danger instead of teaching her how to save herself.

    Other famous Waifs are:

    Ilsa Laszlo in Casablanca
    Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz
    Juliet in Romeo and Juliet
    Amanda in The Glass Menagerie

    Bella fits right in.

    Tuesday, June 22, 2010

    Repost: In Defense of Twilight even though I don't like it much, Part Two.

    Today is the discussion of the Return of the Waif. *insert drum flourish here*

    For anyone who is not as insane for archetypes as I am, here is quick introduction to The Waif from The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines by Cowden, LaFever, and Viders.

    The Waif projects a child-like innocence, a soul-stirring susceptibility. She is naive, enigmatic, yet reslient. Everyone she meets wants to save her, but she can surprise people with her incredible inner strength and fortitude. She touches the vulnerable place deep inside all of us with her soft touch and wistful glance.... Her delicate fragility makes her an easy target. She always seems between a rock and hard place. She adapts to any situation she falls into without complaint. The Waif does not fight back; instead, she endures untold hardships untils she is rescued. (pg 76)

    Bella is the Waif. Her purity is not merely her virginity, but also a sense of being unspoiled by greed, temper, or the cruelties of the world. She is also trusting and (more or less) kind. I personally find she is far too good of an example of the failings of the waif: impressionable, passive, insecure, and isolated. (pg. 77) As a Waif, Bella lets other people control her destiny, rather than pursuing her own interests. She's not even sure what her interests are.

    Fairly obviously, the Waif has fallen out of favor with modern writers. I personally find it dull to write someone who refuses to act. But there is a reason why she is making a resurgence in literature.

    The Waif appeals to the exhausted side of our personalities. The Waif rarely fights back or initiates action. Instead, she allows life to surprise her and take her where it goes.

    Even the most motivated of self-starters get tired. There is something refreshing about letting go and allowing something or someone else to run your existence. And wouldn't it be restful to expect the best once in a while, rather than always anticipating the worst?

    I think readers like Bella because everyone needs someone to take care of them every so often. It feels good to imagine taking your hands off the plow and letting another person till the soil.

    I must admit, though, that I like it when a Waif decides to risk the blisters and dirt of her own labor.

    I wonder if Bella ever will.

    Monday, June 21, 2010

    Repost: In Defense of Twilight even though I don't like it much.

    I feel the urge to repost some of my favorite articles here from my blog. Here we go with my series on Twilight by Stephanie Meyers.
    ******



    I have a lot of legitimate criticisms of Twilight. I read the first book, and never even tried any of the sequels. I have a strong disdain for passive heroines, and Bella is about as passive as it gets.

    However, this is not about my baggage. It's about what makes this series resonate with so many people.

    Let's talk about one aspect of Bella's passivity - namely, that you don't have to do anything to be considered worthy of love. You just have to be you.

    We all seek to earn love - we get good grades (or bad grades), keep a clean house, save money, wear the right clothes and the right perfume, know all the outrageous sex tips, try to read someone's mind....

    You get the picture.

    But Bella is the object of Edward's obsession merely by sitting around, sleeping, and smelling really really good- all on her own. No special powers, no twisting herself into something she's not for approval, no Cinderella-type makeover to make someone notice her.

    How powerful and hopeful of a message is that?!

    You. Don't. Have. To. Earn. Love.

    It's a radical thought in a society that tells women how they need to act to 'get a man'.

    Twilight isn't my cup of tea, but it beats The Rules any day of the week.

    Tuesday, June 15, 2010

    I'm in the mood for a first kiss.

    From Dracula's Secret - Valerie and Lance's first kiss:

    Lance ambled forward, his gaze locked on her lips. He clasped her hand, caressing his thumb over the thin skin of her wrist. Her eyes stayed on him as he wrapped his other hand around her neck and, pulling her to him, touched his lips to hers. Her mouth surprised him. Such a starkly beautiful woman shouldn’t be so soft and plush.

    For a few wild seconds, she stared into his eyes, seeming to assess his sincerity.

    Then, slowly, deliberately, she closed her eyelids. Her hands wrapped around his back and held on as she opened her mouth and let him in.

    He kissed her again and again, learning her mouth. Vampires didn’t taste of old blood or decay. Valerie, at least, tasted resinous and earthy, like rosemary. Like sex outdoors on a blanket under young redwood trees.

    Their lips separated just far enough for him to look into her heavy-lidded hazel eyes. The hungry look on her face made his cock swell even harder until he ached to be inside of her.

    She scratched at his nipples with her short nails. He hissed as he pressed into her touch. He clasped her chin with one hand. Clasping the other around her waist, he pushed her against a wall. Lance smiled as her eyes widened. He had his own gifts of supernatural-level strength.

    Grabbing her ass, he lifted her. She wrapped her legs around his hips and pushed against her hot crotch against his thumping erection. Their teeth clicked in a fierce kiss.

    His hands kneaded the firm flesh of her bottom. Even through her pants he felt her muscles flex and quiver. She growled and slid her hands under his leather coat. His next powerful thrust had her raking her nails down his back. Lance offered no quarter. Neither did she. They fought for dominance with kisses.

    She couldn’t overpower him. He met her, strength for strength, stroke for stroke, then matched her, and finally controlled her.

    They broke apart. As they stared into each other’s eyes, he panted into her mouth. She took the unnecessary air into her lungs.

    Vampires didn’t breathe, except to speak or scent. Oxygen, like alcohol in humans, made them euphoric, light-headed, and uninhibited. The undead hated being out of control. Her pupils dilated until the barest ring of hazel held. What would she do?

    Valerie dug her hands into his hair. “More.”

    Photo by Michael Baxter, the world's greatest photographer.

    Monday, June 14, 2010

    Jennifer Crusie rocks my socks.

    For those who aren't familiar with the romance genre, a little back story.

    Here's part of what Wikipedia says about Ms. Crusie:

    Crusie was graduated from Wapakoneta High School, and then earned a bachelor's degree in Art Education from Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio.[1] She has two Master's degrees. For her first, from Wright State University in Professional Writing and Women's Literature,[1] Crusie wrote a thesis on the role of women in mystery fiction.[2] Her second master's degree is an MFA in Fiction from Ohio State University.[1] She has also completed work towards a Ph.D. in feminist criticism and nineteenth century British and American literature at Ohio State University.
    So we know we're dealing with a driven, intelligent woman who loves romance and who can discourse intelligently on the themes and motifs of romance fiction. On her website, Ms. Crusie discusses her writing process and analysis of genre fiction.


    I have to recommend this one, if only cheer about someone mentioning V. Propp's and Claud Levi-Strauss' theories on literature and myth.

    This Is Not Your Mother's Cinderella: The Romance Novel as Feminist Fairy Tale.

    Friday, June 11, 2010

    Shoes for a Friday afternoon.

    Does anything say "Lovely Summer Fun" like polka-dots?




    And does anything say, "Come into my parlor" more than Zebra striped stilettos?

    Thursday, June 10, 2010

    The importance of friends.

    Once upon a time, I wrote this poem:

    Hit and Run Lover
    I always thought Self Esteem
    and I would meet
    in a meadow full of
    wild flowers,
    run
    into each other’s arms
    (with, of course, the “Ode to Joy” in the background)
    and then walk hand in hand
    together for all time,
    exchanging blissful, soulful looks.

    Alas!

    Self Esteem is that
    inconstant lover who
    throws me against an alley wall,
    snakes a hand down my pants and
    ravishes me until I’m senseless
    with delight.
    Then runs away, giggling,
    while I lean against the wall,
    gasping and limp, damp and
    wailing
    Wait!
    Can’t I have just a little more of that?

    I sent it to non-writing girlfriend who gave me very wise advise:


    Maybe you should go a different route with the “bad lover”.  Perhaps that LOW self esteem is something like this: he’s a big bastard that you occasionally fall for, you know it’s wrong but it’s habitual.  Then suddenly he’s out of your life and you like AHHHH!!  I feel like ME again.  Hello HIGH self esteem.

    It was a revelation, not just writing wise, but personally. Could I imagine that feeling good was the default state, instead of constantly doubting myself?

    So I tried another poem.

    The Seduction of Self-Denigration


    Like a lover who sneers behind your back, it sneaks into
    your life
    wearing the mantle of virtue –
    productivity
    modesty
    simplicity
    humility.

    It promises people will
    like
    admire
    pet
    praise
    love
    you.

    It’s got all the right words, and all the right moves. This is everything
    you ever wanted.

    This one is smooth. Fine. And oh, so sweet.

    Beware.

    It’s sick sweet like cotton candy, like heroin, like a bitter
    addiction with honey on its tongue.

    As with every bad lover, you
    discover it
    lied
    about itself and you.

    All the things it promised
    (love and delight and all the joy you can devour)
    haven’t shown up.
    They never will.

    You feel sordid and dirty and
    dissatisfied with the
    arrangement.

    Kick it out.
    Promise yourself never to let it back in.
    Bad lovers always knock again.

    Tuesday, June 8, 2010

    Feminism for the day!

    May I recommend The Feminist Hulk? Smashing the patriarchy with purple shorts and class!

    For example:

    HULK POLITELY REQUEST CHANGING TABLE IN MEN’S ROOM. HULK CHOOSE NOT TO EMPLOY SMASH IN THIS MOMENT. MULTIPLE TOOLS FOR CHANGE.

    Friday, June 4, 2010

    Whew.

    I feel much more like me. Yay!

    Today, I will attempt to write as poorly as I possibly can - I want to create the worst, on-the-nose, overblown, rambling crap ever placed on the page.

    Mostly because that's what happened yesterday, so I might as well roll with it.  Life is short, after all. It is better to write very very badly than to not write at all. :)

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    Ick.

    I have managed some sort of throat/upper chest infection, with a dry, hacking cough that really really sucks. I've got my cough syrup with codeine, and I'm going to bed.