Competition

I’m in a pensive mood tonight.

The RITAs are the annual awards given out by the RWA (Romance Writers of America). That’s kind of a big deal, all around; there’s a lot of prestige attached to winning a Golden Heart. Romance being the genre that it is, I have just as much of a chance as a self-published writer as any other traditionally published writer.

I’m aware that this is not really usual, in other genres. Consider the Hugos, or the Nebulas; the corresponding awards of the SFWA (Science-fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). I’ve never actually heard of any self-published author winning either, and the SFWA only started accepting self-published writers as members in 2015. It’s all very… political, I guess, is the best word.

I question whether I would even want to win an award for my writing, sometimes. I wonder whether I want to take part in that kind of competition. I’ve never desired any approval from my peers; I accepted, as a consequence of taking up this pen name, that I would always be divided and distant from them. I accept that the price of unfettered narrative is true anonymity.

Knowledge of the author makes things complicated. It changes how a piece of writing is read. Knowledge that a work has won awards changes how it’s read as well. I would rather my work be read as it is, with no bias or assumptions. I want it to be read freely, for pleasure.

I’d also prefer if people liked it and wanted to read more, but I don’t mind if it’s not liked.

//shay

A hundred words

She was my first love; he was my second. Both alike and different, I loved them; hot and cold, I loved them; through anger and fear, I loved them.

Seeing them together was a knife in my heart, in my head, in my hand. Seeing them together drew me to the apartment, with the spare key I had kept; up the stairs and into the bedroom. Seeing them together, I saw nothing else.

The blood was my release. The blood was healing, nourishing, seeping into my skin. All their blood, to ease my pain.

And I would never love again.

Movies I don’t enjoy

I was recommended to watch a movie; sci-fi, which is not usually my preference, but this was one financed by Google and published on YouTube, so I thought it worth a look. I managed to watch the first five minutes before getting bored and wandering off.

I expect more of non-Hollywood movies, I suppose. This one was yet another white-man-hero-with-hidden-identity schtick that had a reasonably interesting premise and absolutely no character engagement that I haven’t seen a hundred times before. People talk about romance being formulaic; presumably they haven’t seen any of the many superhero movies released in the last decade that are all variations on a theme of white-men-save-thing/world-in-different-costumes.

The hypocrisy bothers me. People who would dismiss romance out of hand are all too ready to gush about superhero movies as if they’re something new, unique and different. I have to wonder whether this is a gulf in entertainment aimed at women versus that aimed at men, which likewise does a disservice to fans of either genre.

So it goes. I think the best movies are those that are fantastical or superhero, but grounded by something as human as a love story. It’s just a shame that the vast majority of big budget special effects movies immediately default to the huge, world-spanning, life-or-death crisis as an overarching plot line, and romance is usually sidelined.

//shay

Purple Prose

Ever heard about this? Purple prose. I couldn’t say whether it came from trashy romance books specifically, but they’re very much connected to it now. The idea of purple prose in romance comes from the sex scenes.

Speaking from experience, it’s the kind of prose you find yourself reading when the author has to intentionally obfuscate the fact that sex is happening. Harlequin, Mills and Boon, and the progenitors of the paperback romance genre are what I usually associate with it now. I’ve read many books that would likely be called trashy romances, and they all have that feel of purple prose when the main characters’ relationship evolves into getting naked.

It’s a strange experience to read about two characters doing things, and suddenly the whole scene descends into barely concealed phallic metaphors and odd references to euphoria in order to describe two people having an orgasm. I think this is why erotica has taken off so fantastically well; erotica is basically romance, but with the purple prose replaced with normal prose.

I’m still rather fond of the whole style of purple prose in romance. It’s a strange cultural artifact, a wink-and-nod to the fact that women have always wanted media that catered to their sexual desires, even when it wasn’t socially acceptable to be explicit about it.

//shay

On the truth of romance

One of my favorite romantic comedies is The Mirror Has Two Faces. It’s about Rose, a nerdy English lit professor, who marries Greg, an equally nerdy math professor on the agreement that their relationship will be purely platonic, and then hijinks ensue. It’s an interesting, adorable movie, and I highly recommend it if only because Barbra Streisand and Jeff Bridges act their asses off, but one part of it has always stuck in my memory: Rose’s lecture on the nature of love and romance. It speaks to me as an aspiring writer, and I want to share a little of it here with you.

Experts, scholars and my Aunt Esther are united in one belief: True love has spiritual dimensions, while romantic love is a lie. A myth. A soulless manipulation. And speaking of manipulation, it’s like going to the movies and seeing the lovers kiss… The music swells, and we buy it, right? So when my date kisses me, and I don’t hear strings, I dump him.

The question is, why do we buy it? Because, myth or manipulation, we all want to fall in love. That experience makes us feel completely alive. Our everyday reality is shattered, and we are flung into the heavens. It may only last a moment, an hour, but that doesn’t diminish its value. We’re left with memories we treasure for the rest of our lives.

I read, ”When we fall in love, we hear Puccini in our heads.” I love that. His music expresses our need for passion and romantic love. We listen to La Bóheme or Turandot, or read Wuthering Heights, or watch Casablanca, and a little of that love lives in us too. So the final question is: Why do people want to fall in love, when it can have such a short run and be so painful?

 

I think it’s because, as some of you may already know… While it does last, it feels fucking great.

Romantic Tropes

Seems like it’s important, I guess, to keep writing this. To write every day, even if I don’t feel like it.

I’ve been reading up on romance tropes. Not because I don’t think I can write romance – I can, and how – but because I want to generate ideas, and I don’t want to use tropes that are overtly sexist.

Take the Shut Up Kiss, for example. Woman is talking about something important, and the man decides to silence her with a kiss. It’s so traditional, so common, but also kind of horrible in a “she-didn’t-consent” way. It’s vaguely insulting as well, like he didn’t want to listen to her and thought the best way of demonstrating that fact was to force himself on her.

Lots of romance is messed up. Erotica, at least, doesn’t usually pretend to be anything but what it is.

I still wonder, which one do I want to write? Truth be told, I don’t know. Erotica is going to get boring, if I have to write the same sex scenes over and over again.

//shay

On the finding of people, perhaps behind the couch

“The issue is finding someone…”

I hear you, man. Goddamn people, always getting lost, just like my car keys. (Nah I’m just kidding, don’t leave yet!)

So look – this is another thing the lovelorn say. How to find someone? Cosmo tells you shit like ‘hang around the Apple store’, which, once again, is the dumbest crap I’ve heard in at least an hour or two. Also – it won’t work. All that’ll happen is the nerds employed by the Apple store will constantly ask if you need help, and then stand at a safe distance giving you the evil eye when you tell them no.

Here’s a way to find someone that actually fucking works.

Step 1: Pick a thing you like to do. It’s gotta be something you really like a lot, because:

Step 2: Do that thing as hard as possible. Doesn’t matter if you’re good or not, because that isn’t the point of this exercise. It can be: playing music, giving fashion advice, critiquing modern art, taking detailed measurements of eyebrows, directing porn videos. Who cares? It’s a thing you like to do that other people also do. As long as it’s legal, you’re good.

Step 3: Go online, or somewhere local, and find other people who also do this thing. You’ll have lots to talk about, because you’ve been doing this thing like whoah. Go out and find as many people as possible, on forums, in Meetup groups, on Facebook, whatever, all who do this thing you like to do too. This is the age of teh interwebs, and I guarantee that, no matter how odd your interest, there are others out there for whom it is also the most awesome thing ever.

Step 4: You will find friends. This is good! Just try to meet and talk to as many people as possible, and make as many friends as possible. Through natural human friendship osmosis, you will eventually end up with a strata of friends, from the very close to the mild acquaintance. Continue making friends until you find a few people who rustle your sexual jimmies.

Step 5: Remember what I said in the last post? Find a thing that you and the person you’re into both like to do, and ask to do it with them until maximum levels of fun have been attained? Bonus! You don’t have to find a thing! You already know the thing! It the thing that brought you into contact with each other! THINGCEPTION!

Step 6: From this point on, it’s a matter of doing the thing together and eventually bringing up the subject of indulging in sexy times. If they don’t want to do the thing with you, or indulge in sexy times with you – eh, you win some, you lose some, and at least you still have a friend who might be able to help you in your search. Rinse and repeat as necessary until you’re banging bits with someone, and now you’ll have something to talk about when you’re done with the orgasms.

See, this is the method that seems to be most successful, kids, because it’s the one that’s worked for THE ENTIRETY OF FUCKING HUMAN HISTORY. People get together, bound by a common interest, and it is guaranteed that some of them will be mutually attracted and sexy times will ensue. In order for you to find a suitable person, you just have to get out there and meet as many people as possible, and having a common interest means it’s a hell of a lot easier to meet people, talk to them, make friends, and someday jump in the sack with them.

You do not need to dress up, or put on some kind of attitude, or hide your weirdness, or basically pretend to be someone you’re not in the hopes of impressing your preferred gender. You are not a bird, and you do not need to put on mating displays, for gods’ sake. Down that way lies disappointment and bad romantic comedies.

Now… I’m sure some of you are saying, “But I’ve tried that, Shay! And I’m still all on my lonesome and no one wants to do the horizontal mambo with me!” Well, have some patience, my dears. I’ll get to that in the next post.

//shay