Uncategorized, Writing. Whatever it takes.

Romance Writers–The Dregs of the Publishing World?

Why are romance novels and romance novelists looked down upon?

It’s easy to dislike something you’ve never tried and difficult to try something you’ve been told you must dislike if you want to be seen as a mature, thinking human being.

People who have never and will never read any novel that could possibly be construed as a romance have a low opinion of them and the novelists who write them because they have chosen to have that opinion without thinking for themselves. They have likely been told by people they admire that they must have that opinion, and speak it loudly, if they expect to be taken seriously as connoisseurs of the written word.

I once had a Child Psychologist (not a person expert in adult human psychology) tell me my books were “damaging” to women because my readers would “develop impossibly high expectations” and “such books are what lead to high divorce rates.” Her message was that women are so weak-minded they can’t differentiate between fantasy and real life, whereas men can, which is what makes those one-man-single-handedly-saving-the-world books safer, psychologically speaking, than women reading about romance and love and how that can affect their lives, their children, and communities. Of course, if those world-saving heroes get to bed six or eight women during the course of the novels, but that’s okay. It’s just “male fantasy.”

I suspect the almost universal belief that all romance novels are “trash” may have been established by a few male professors in the day when certain magazines with titles containing words like Romance, and Confessions, and True were popular and beloved by many young women. If those short “true” accounts were “trash” (they were seldom true, and many were written by men in the forties and fifties, according to statistics I’ve read), then anything to do with romance must also qualify–at least according to the detractors. Luckily, I wasn’t prejudiced when it came to reading books written by men, but many men have a much harder time dealing with books written by women.

I grew up and was educated at a time when about fifty percent of my contemporaries (the half of my class with penises) insisted on telling me books written by my gender must, by definition, be “bad” or “poorly written” because the characters in them didn’t go in guns blazing or fists flying to settle differences. Books without those elements were boring, not at all “exciting.” If a book dealt with human feelings, human frailties, and if the conflicts could be resolved without death or arrest or both, it had to be “trash” because those touchy-feely factors scare the hell out of a great many readers. I feel sorry for people who were, and still are, so afraid of their own emotions that reading a romance might make them feel crawly or even cause them to shed a secret tear or two.

Instead of trying to ascertain why they have this strong aversion, such people perpetuate the belief, and speak it loudly from their lofty university pulpits or bar stools, asserting that most women can’t write “real” books because few women understand the way the kill-or-be-killed world works. For them, there is no such thing as men or women experiencing personal growth throughout the story in which finding love—that is love, not just sex—is the main goal. If a reader cannot accept that a character’s admitting to his or her weaknesses and learning to overcome them makes them stronger, if they cannot accept that redemption is possible, they will never understand the romance genre. Those same people likely consider “redemption” a dirty word unless the novel has at least a thousand pages and takes place in a theater of war or as a result of that war.

When some men write what they consider romances, chances are there is no happy ending, and “a lesson has been learned” so the reader will have to think and ponder what the author of the book really meant. If I have to
wonder what conclusion I, the reader, should draw, and why I needed to learn that lesson, I consider the book poorly written because the answer is too often obscure. As a reader, I want something deeper than that, and I don’t like being told “you’re born, you die, and life’s a bitch.”

So, if you think that’s romance, I’m here to disagree and tell you, “Uh-uh. Nope. No way. Not this reader.” That kind of “romance” doesn’t work for me. I want a woman and a man (or a man and a man, or a woman and a woman) with serious, deep-seated differences that keep them at arms’ length despite their desire to be together. Their problems must be a whole lot more difficult to solve than say, geography or a misunderstanding that could be resolved by an open conversation. Whatever conflict keeps them apart needs to potent enough that the reader will ask, “What the hell are they going to do?” A good writer of romance novels will solve those problems with common sense, a considerable degree of human psychology, and a lot of caring, without killing anyone or anything. We want our happy endings, because, pal, without that, what we romance writers call, a H.E.A. conclusion, (Happily Ever After) it just ain’t romance.

You don’t like ’em, don’t read ’em, but fucking quit telling the world they are “bad,” and even worse, “bad for women.”

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Reviews 23, 24, 25, & 26 of 30 for 2017

Winning Casey, by January Bain ****

Free-spirited Casey Madison loves finding buried treasure and hidden artifacts from times long in the past. What she does not love is all the university protocols she must, as an associate professor of Archaeology, abide by. The story opens with Casey in a cold, damp cave outside Dawson in Yukon Territory, where she finds an old hoard of Klondike gold, with which she barely escapes alive. Her sorority sisters, a group of like-minded women, are as cheered as Casey over the great find. But she still has a bit of vacation time left and wants to use it before buckling down to work—and meeting her new department head, whom she knows will be another one of those nit-picking, protocol-loving, stuffy professors she’s learned to despise. CaseyWith approval finally granted for the new class syllabus she’s proposed, “Mysteries and Lost Treasures of the World”, she flies to Oak Island, Nova Scotia, to see what she can learn about the famous Money Pit.

There, a handsome hunk falls nearly at her feet when he stumbles into a deep hole dug by other treasure hunters on the island. Still, as attractive as the man is, it doesn’t take long for Casey’s interest to turn to dust. He is no other than Professor Truman Harrison, the newly appointed head of the Archeology department where she teaches. Nevertheless, she’s not about to give up her opportunity for gaining first-hand knowledge of one of the prime sites she means to use in her new course. Besides, the professor smells good…

Truman can understand Casey’s determination to hold him at arm’s length. After all, he’s her boss, but everything about her intrigues him to the point he must know more, so he’s not about to give up. His permit to explore on Oak Island is a strong drawing card and he doesn’t hesitate to use it to his own advantage, knowing how eager Casey is to do that.

As the two explore together, and talk of past exploits each has enjoyed, Casey comes to see she’s found a fellow adventurer in Truman, but he’s still the head of her department and she knows she must proceed with caution. Ms. Bain delivers a tale of mystery, romance, and danger. Highly recommended, but too many incorrect word choices and typos drop it from 5 stars to 4.

 

Race the Rising Tide, by January Bain ****

Cole McClintock, a recent hire with the TETRAD Group learns his new partner in an undercover operation is a woman who sends him into a tail-spin at first sight. She tangles up his emotions like no one else ever has. The best he can do is ignore the situation and get on with the job. At least, he has every intention of doing just that…

Gabriella Banks doesn’t hesitate to admit she’s a complicated woman, and one of deep inner strengths, firm opinions, and strong beliefs, which may, in her opinion, be responsible for her main problem. She doesn’t like to admit , but her total lack of a sex life troubles her. TideWhen she and Cole McClintock are teamed up to go undercover in Vancouver’s Chinatown, she resents him for reminding her of what’s missing from her life. He also makes her want something she knows she shouldn’t want under present circumstances.

While the two of them race to rescue a kidnap victim before it’s too late, they both know this is no time for hormones to get in the way, but they find themselves powerless in the fight against their mutual attraction.

This author is very good at making location as much of a character as the living beings in her story. Her descriptions are sharp and well-envisioned. Ms. Bain’s writing showcases her use of the language and her knowledge of how to choose words to create the effect she wants. But a note of warning: if strong language is not your thing, there is a great deal of it. While I have no objections, when and if appropriate, to the four-letter words liberally peppering this book (I suspect editorial demand for them), perhaps in an attempt to make the characters seem more “contemporary” and “edgy”. I’ve read other novels by Ms. Bain and know she has an excellent vocabulary and is more than capable of get her point across without the gratuitous use of “fuck”, which brings me to one of the worst books I have ever read…

 

 Scrooge McFuck by May Sage *

Despite the feminine author name, I was left with the impression this book was scribbled in a hurry by a seventeen-year-old boy from the UK, in love with four-letter-words and gleeful in his desire to shock and make fun of romance novels. I’ve been reading (and writing) contemporary romance, some of it humorous, most of it sexy, for many years. My novels have been published in the UK and the US and translated around the globe with many good reviews, which frequently mention humor as well as a believable love story. This book, however, doesn’t make the grade for either humor or romance and despite it’s catchy title, is definitely not a Christmas story.Scrooge

The author faithfully adheres to the “formulaic” rule so many detractors believe must be  followed in a romance—writing the once-typical (1960’s) wealthy, bad-tempered, rude, crude boss as a “hero”, a more-or-less “feisty” heroine in desperate need of her job, so she takes his bad manners like a lady. The heroine is equally crude, though mainly in her thoughts, not words. Unrequited lust builds within each, though neither character acts upon it… Then… Wow! Wouldn’t you know it? She gets sick, he learns she and her sweet little five-year-old daughter (who has the vocabulary of your maiden aunt–“my mother is ‘feeling poorly'” and other such unlikely phrases), are living in a New York tenement building. Hero-Boss magnanimously moves mother and daughter into his palatial home and immediately becomes a nice person, looking after the sick woman and the unbelievably well-spoken little girl, which suggest the author has no knowledge of kindergarten age kids.

It seems all the adult protagonists can think of is fucking, being fucked, and wishing they could fuck. I don’t object to the word. I have used it in my writings, as well as in my  casual speech, but this would-be romance author seems to believe that mere physical attraction to curves, green eyes, a “great rack”, and tattoos must lead inevitably to sex, which act is, in the writer’s mind, equivalent to romance and “lo-o-ove”. Never mind there has been little if any prior indication the story might bring the reader the Happily-Ever-After ending customary in the romance genre. Instead, at first chance, the adults leap into bed together and the author writes THE END. Not my kind of writing, little boy. Please go paddle in some other genre pool.

And now, to get out of the romance genre entirely, here’s a well-founded book from a newbie I do admire…

Terms of Enlistment, by Marko Kloos ****

A fast paced book, TERMS OF ENLISTMENT introduces Andrew Grayson, a kid from the public housing slums of the next century, where the North American Alliance stretches from the N. Pole to the S. border of Mexico. In Basic Training, which will bring smiles of familiarity to anyone who’s gone through any similar mind-numbing course, he meets another recruit, Halley, and the two begin a relationship. Terms of EnlistmentFollowing graduation, Halley is allocated a berth in the Space Navy, and slides easily into the Officer Track while Andrew gets stuck as a grunt. His first real task, helping put down a welfare riot is a horror-show in which Andrew is injured. As a result, he’s allowed to change career directions and, still missing Halley, gets himself assigned to the same ship she’s on.

Humanity now occupies—if precariously—many far-off planets orbiting stars similar to Sol. Not all, of course, are particularly Earth-like, but with the need to deplete the home-world’s vast overburden of population, terraforming is necessary. Andrew and Halley find themselves bound for one such planet and, while it first appears things are going well, they soon learn different…

This is clearly book One in an ongoing series. Undoubtedly, many readers will follow it, though it’s not a five-star read.  The author may further develop his “voice” as the series progresses. The rapid pace of the novel works well with its  present tense delivery and his  firm grasp of military jargon.

 

I apologize for having fallen short of my promised number of review blogs for this year. My companion blog, Just Asking Why, may explain in part. It appears later today.

 

 

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Today’s reviews are Books 18 & 19 of 30 for 2017. IRREPARABLE HARM, and AFTER: FIRST LIGHT.

While out riding the waves aboard La Niña our little cabin cruiser, I didn’t get in as much reading as I’d intended. Instead, I downloaded a large whack of Robert A. Heinlein books and spent my vacation partly on Earth, partly on Secundus,  and ended up on Tertius with the other members of the Long Family, which I joined years ago. Now, well rested by my vacation, I’m home again and ready to read, review, and write. Hope everyone else had as satisfactory a break from normal as I did.

Anyway, here are a couple I read just before leaving…

IRREPARABLE HARM ****

By Melissa Miller

This legal thriller captured my interest in the first page and held it all the way through. Sasha McCandless is a lawyer, small, smart, and dangerous. When she finds Federal Marshall Leo Connelly in her apartment, poor Leo wishes his current investigation hadn’t been responsible for what Sasha considers a B & E. Sasha, in eager search of a partnership with her law firm, is willing to do almost anything to achieve her goal… Even teaming up with Leo, whatever the cost, even when he insists she’s in danger and he’s the only one qualified to keep her safe. Safe from whom? Herself, him, or the bad-guys he’s certain want to do her harm–irreparably.
This well-written book has only one problem in my view—it’s too short. I was ready to read on and on, but then, there was no more. This seems to be a common thread now, so I’ll have to look for book 2… and 3… and 4… and so on–and believe me, I will. Sasha McCandless is a character easy to follow.

 

AFTER: FIRST LIGHT ***

by Scott Nicholson

I always enjoy a good post apocalyptic story that keeps me reading until well after bedtime. AFTER: FIRST LIGHT is written as a prequel to the series AFTER: — and didn’t keep me up long.

 

In this prequel Nicholson delivers a short-story with some well-defined characters and a credible threat. Following a solar storm of unbelievable ferocity, all electric and electronic devices on Earth are rendered useless. Billions die worldwide. This leaves the dwindling numbers of survivors wallowing in fear and disbelief, certain the “government” will fix everything soon—they need only wait. Those who do understand what’s happened know there is no government, there are no effective armed forces, and people are going to have to fend for themselves.  Those who do survive the panic-riots and the inevitable, zombie-like “Zapheads”.

The author’s concise method of introducing the problem, the aftermath, and those who try to survive—as well as those who can’t—are mostly likable enough for the reader to root for. This quick, but fairly good read dropped several points in my estimation by the author’s introduction of another danger that, to me, is not at all plausible.  Things were dire enough without his giving into the immature and creating zombies to please the kiddies. Too bad, Mr. Nicholson. I’d have enjoyed the series if you hadn’t tossed in something out of comic books.

 

 

 

 

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living life as it comes, What writing's all about

Reviews #13 & 14 of 30 for 2017 Kena the Good Hyena / Kena la hiena buena, Books 1 & 2, by Gabriela Arellano

I’m delighted to feature these two bilingual children’s picture books, KENA THE GOOD HYENA / KENA LA HIENA BUENO.Kena Hyena

Similar in tone to the ever popular Berenstain Bears books, Books 1, Being The Best, shows how good behavior can make any child’s life run smoother, and that being selfish and boastful can lead to unhappiness at school.

The second book, When Dad’s Away, illustrates the way a child mKena 2ight feel abandoned and unloved when Dad has to go far away to work. But it also reassures the child that distance is no barrier to love.

But, more important to me, as a writer, is that the author has aimed her work at young children and their parents of two different linguistic groups. During my years in Costa Rica I was struck (unfavorably) by the small number of people of all ages I saw reading for pleasure. On buses, on park benches, on beaches, it seemed few read anything but school texts or newspapers. Even large bookstores featured little fiction—especially for children. This may not be the case in other Spanish speaking countries, but to find a book like this is a real pleasure regardless of where it might be read and enjoyed because not only does it encourage adults to read to their children, it will surely help English speakers learn Spanish, and perhaps vice versa. Though in my experience it was the “Gringos” (myself included) who needed to learn, far more than the “Ticos.”

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living the Writing Life

Review # 12 for 2017 A Merciful Death ***** By Kendra Elliot

Merciful DeathA Merciful Death *****

By Kendra Elliot

Mercy Kilpatrick, an experienced FBI Special Agent, is called upon to return to the community where she grew up to investigate the murders of two men she once knew. She was raised to be prepared for the worst that could happen to society, but the society of her own family deserted her when she most needed their support. Fifteen years before, she left town at the age of eighteen and built a life for herself, apart from those she loved. Mercy hides her estrangement from her parents and siblings from her FBI partners, making her return doubly awkward because she’s on edge, nervous about being recognized and probably shunned. When she meets the new Chief of Police, Truman Daly, they begin to work together comparing notes of past and present. It soon becomes clear that the very events that drove her away in the first place have an intrinsic connection to the current victims, one of whom was Chief Daly’s uncle. Mercy has never told anyone the full truth behind her reasons for leaving home and family. But knowing Truman Daly has as much at stake when it comes to solving the mysterious links, she wants to come clean with him, but he’s a lawman, too, so she doesn’t dare.

Ms. Elliot paints a vivid picture if life in a “prepper” community, and the attendant stresses that lead to inevitable conflicts between different factions with the same goal in mind, but whose methods are at odds. Set in the countryside if eastern Oregon, this story brings to life the sights, sounds, and smells of an area she clearly loves. Highly recommended for fans of both mystery and romance novels, though the romance plays second fiddle to the crime-solving,

 

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Book Reviews from Rider of The Waves, Living the Writing Life

Reviews 8, 9, & 10 of 30, for 2017

Preserving Hope *****

Book 2 in the Aliomenti Saga By Alex Albrinck Preserving hope

Book 1 Reviewed this site

Suspend disbelief—and enjoy!

 

In Preserving Hope, Will Stark, a 21st Century man is carried forward in time beyond his own era, then taken back to the historical period one thousand years before his own birth. There, his task is to infiltrate an Aliomenti village hidden in a forest in medieval northern England. The Aliomenti had once been normal human beings, serfs, living on and farming the land, when a small group of men believed they could, with the right diet  of herbs to enhance mental abilities in their laborers, produce more intelligent, stronger, and better workers, thus increasing the profitability of their lands. This proved true, and the Aliomenti came into being. As a newcomer, Will must try to fit in with the villagers as well as help them toward their goals of mental, physical, and financial superiority. Though Will has been imbued with many of the strengths known to the Aliomenti as Energy, he must conceal this fact while helping improve their lot.

His main focus, though, is the security of a young woman, motherless woman, Elizabeth. Her safety is key not only to Will’s personal survival, but to that of an entire line of her descendants. Elizabeth’s father, Arthur, the highest-ranking man in the Aliomenti village, is cruel and his determination to maintain dominance over the others endangers Elizabeth’s life. All Will can do is protect her in secret, and help nudge the Aliomenti along the path he already knows they must travel. With his knowledge of future technologies and methods, he tries to guide them into becoming better traders and better builders, which will add to Arthur’s profits. If the village leader sees what can be done with hard work and ingenuity, Will hopes to reduce a portion of Elizabeth’s misery of some of her agony,

Arthur, however, is a selfish, stubborn man with no feelings at all for his only child…

 

Mason ***

Book 1 in the Remington Ranch Series Mason

No way to run a relationship.

 

Gina Delaney, successful photographer whose work is being shown in a posh, New York art gallery, needs to go back to Montana to help her elderly father move east to live near her. There are two major problems—her dad, Al, doesn’t want to sell the ranch he can no longer run, and Gina fears when she returns to make things happen the only way she sees possible, she’ll inevitably run into Mason Remington, the man who broke her heart ten years ago.

When Mason learns Gina’s back in town, he knows he won’t be able to stay away from her. It’s a small place. They’re bound to meet. When they do, of course things heat up like they always did before. Mase has no problem with this. He wants her. He’s spent the last decade wanting her. It’s clear her body has no problem with the desire springing to life between them, but she will not give in.

Gina can’t let herself succumb to the physical attraction she and Mason share. It would be wrong. She’s engaged to marry Liam, owner of the NY Gallery. Not only that, she cannot bring herself to trust Mason. What she heard him say about her just before she went off to college preys on her mind. Even if he does think he loves her now, what about his actions all those years ago? He claims not to know what he did to break them up, but she’s not buying that one.

When Gina’s engagement to the NY man falls through, Mason sees no further impediment to him resuming his affair with her, but again, she refuses to talk things out with him. As the story winds on, both Mason and Gina realizes they have a long way to go before than can reach Happily Ever After—but are they both adult enough to take the chance of accepting the person each other has become during their time apart?

I could have awarded more points but for Gina’s childish intransigence and Mason’s inability to understand he didn’t have to control everything.




 

Code Name: Money Man ***

By Mark Arundel Money Man Cover

 

“We want you to kill someone.”

 

The former elite SAS trooper has been kicked out of the army, the only real life he knows. He has no home, few friends, and no money. When the offer of employment comes from what might or might not be the Foreign Office, the ex-trooper is taken aback. Yes, he has killed before. But not the way an assassin might. He killed in combat, not in cold blood. However, the money sounds good, and he doesn’t have many options. Still unsure if he can do as he’s asked, he accepts the position and flies to Tenerife in the Canary Islands where the job is to be done.

From there, things go sideways. The action bounces from one cliff-hanger to another. None of the opposition that continues to crop up is who or what he thinks they are. With the truth cloaked in shadows and lies, the trooper only slowly begins to catch on: He’s part of a plot to expose a mole deep inside the British Secret Service.

This book would have a higher rating if the punctuation hadn’t been so lacking. Too few commas and periods created a tough trail for a reader accustomed to knowing who’s speaking, when he finishes a sentence, and when he begins another.

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Review # 5 of 30

This book is so good I hope everyone will reblog my review of it.

A Novel Lifestyle

The Rainbow Virus *****

By Dennis Meredith

This is by far one of the best books I’ve read in the last twelve months. Robert Louden, a somewhat disfavored FBI agent has been getting crap assignments but when seemingly random individual citizens in California start turning up with inexplicable color changes; blue, red, green, orange, yellow, and shades in between, the suspicion grows that this may be the result of a strange virus. Then, a common element turns up; the newly “colored” people are all patients of an allergist who’s given them injections. rainbow-virusBut the allergist is as mystified as everyone else, so what can Louden do but go to work, as ordered, with the CDC? As Louden and the old CDC master, Doc, whose partner is the beautiful but unapproachable and unpredictable Kathleen Shinohara begin to gather facts and follow evidence, they realize little is what it first seems to be. The…

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