Thursday, 29 December 2016

Families of Choice and Connection

There's a joke in our family that people never leave it, we only suck others into our orbit like a giant black hole.  That's probably why I like to explore the balance of the responsibilities of family and finding your own path in my stories.

I believe family is important and vital in everyone's life, but that families aren't always determined by DNA connection.  A family are the people who you can call on no matter what is going on.  The ones who will help and support, even when there are disagreements.  There may be judgment but there is also willingness to take action when needed.  Sometimes families are friends, sometimes they're relatives, but family is always there, like a scar.  It's not always pretty or comfortable, but it holds everyone together.

Without the safety net of family standing at your back, the world is a terrifying and overwhelming place.  But at the same time, it can be hard to step away from the encompassing network and find your own place.

Finding the right balance between accepting the support (and limitations) of family and pursuing one's own goals, dreams and ideals is unique to each person.  No one can tell anyone else where the magic balancing point is.  Some people will be happy mostly on their own with only one or two connections to rely on.  Others will be happiest when enmeshed in a Byzantine maze of hundreds.  The more connections, the more obligations are placed on the individual, but the more people are available for help when needed.  Help for everything from someone to grab coffee with to delivering shoulders to cry on.

So this holiday, I want to say thank you to all the families out there.  No matter what form, how large or how small: thank you.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Weekly Update: Dec 18 to 24

Weekly word count: 1700

A great total for the one day of writing I did this week but not a great amount for the week.  But I am giving myself some slack because it's been difficult for me over the last few weeks.  I'm hoping to get some more energy in the new year.

I got my line edits back, so I'm going to spend the next two weeks concentrating on getting those done.  Luckily, I should be able to do that while the kids are around and playing with their new toys.

I hope everyone reading this is having a happy holiday and enjoying themselves.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Ink Tip: Back Blurbs

I've been spending a great deal of time lately crafting the back blurb for Inquisition.  Luckily, I'm friends with a number of writers who are great at back blurbs and they gave me some great tips which I will now pass on to you.

The three paragraph structure:  This is one of the most common formats for romance novel back blurbs.  It's an easy way for experienced readers to recognize a romance novel.  There's one paragraph each for the hero and heroine, and then the final one for the main conflict of the story.  Each paragraph should be short, no more than three or four sentences.  Keeping the pacing of each paragraph quick generates excitement in the reader.  If possible, end each paragraph with a hook.

The personality, job and problem character description:  Book blurbs have to be brief and catch the reader's attention.  There's a lot of information to squeeze into a short space.  Giving the character's personality, job and problem can hook a reader and allow them to identify characters they would like to read about.  For example: Exuberant toy-maker Santa Claus has an overwhelming management job and his chief Elf isn't making it any easier.  Or Shy and quiet would-be solider Steve Rogers is desperate to impress the U.S. Army and fulfill his dreams of being a hero.

Judicious use of keywords: Readers scan blurbs for certain things that interest them: secret babies, marry-then-fall-in-love, shapeshifters, vampires, soldiers, firefighters, small towns, urban adventures, suspense, humour, the list is endless.  Make sure that the blurb reflects the book's tone and clearly shows its genre and other hooks.

Edit, edit, edit: Don't dash off your blurb as an afterthought.  Spend time making sure every word counts.  Get it as perfect as you possibly can, then put it aside for a week and look at it again.

The blurb is like the first three minutes of a date, it's the author's chance to create a connection with potential readers and convince them to give him or her a chance.  Happy connecting!

Monday, 19 December 2016

Weekly Update: December 11 to 17

Weekly word count: 2800

It's been a rough week creatively.  It started out reasonably well with a few good sessions but then life took an abrupt turn to the left.  A rough day at my day job left me dispirited, my son got sick and needed some Mom-cuddle time, and then my own bout of illness.  Unfortunately, it shut my imagination and determination down.

I've weathered these sorts of things before.  As I wrote a few weeks ago, I'm no stranger to fighting my way through depression. But it bothers me that this week breaks an almost 3 month streak of making my weekly writing goal.  It actually bothered me so much that I dreamed about it.

I dreamt I was setting up my table at a conference, one with a number of my favourite authors: Tanya Huff, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Jessica Andersen, among others.  I was so excited to be counted among them.  I had everything arranged and was feeling proud.  I pulled a box of books out from under the table and opened it up to find an unfamiliar cover and title.  I pulled out another, panic beginning to build, and found another unfamiliar cover and title.  I kept trying, pulling out box after box and not finding my own novels.  I felt horribly ashamed that so many of my writing heroes would think I was unprepared.  And I felt crushed that I didn't have my own books.  I woke up near tears.

I try to pay attention to my dreams.  They're my emotional early warning system, telling me that something is brooding beneath the surface.  Now is the time to deal with it, keep reminding myself that reacting to life is not a character flaw and, most importantly, make sure I find the time to get back to the keyboard.

Next week is going to be a challenge, with all the holiday prep that needs to happen.  But I will find the time and get myself back on track.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Under the Covers: My Director's Commentary

I know I might be in a minority, but I enjoy watching films with the director's commentary.  I like hearing how the movie was put together, how choices were made.  Knowing that Indiana Jones initially planned an elaborate sword-fight that got scrapped because Harrison Ford had a cold and realized it made more sense for his character to shoot his attacker.  Or that the famous "It's game over" speech in Alien was improvised on set by Bill Paxton.  Or that Joss Whedon initially planned to have the Hulk "sniff" out Loki's true self among illusionary duplicates in Avengers.  It's why Bruce Banner makes several references to being able to "smell the crazy" on Loki.  But it was decided that the scene would play better if Loki didn't bother to take the Hulk seriously.

I like knowing the behind the scenes of decisions behind writing.  When I met Roxanne St. Claire several years ago, she explained how she began writing the Barefoot Bay series as a request from her editor to do a small town contemporary romance series.  At the RWA National Conference, I heard Sherry Thomas talk about how she began writing to get out of post-partum depression.

With Revelations, I decided to do a chapter by chapter commentary, sharing references, such as a request from a family with a handicapped child to include that child in the story.  Where I didn't have time to fit in research details, I've included them in the commentary.  I explain where I found inspiration and share credit for ideas which came from friends and family.  I enjoyed sharing it and did it again with Metamorphosis.  You can find them both by clicking on the book's page and finding the mirror.

I'm looking forward to doing it yet again for Inquisition.  I go through each chapter and write a few paragraphs for each one.  It's a fun way to look back on how far the story has developed and where it began.  And it's a way to say goodbye before launching into new stories and worlds.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Weekly Update: December 4 to 10th

Weekly word count: 5200 words

Despite a slow start to the week, I've had three good writing sessions this week, each 1500 to 2000 words.  The new story is coming along well.

I also had a fabulous informal get together with some ORWA and former-ORWA members.  I find sitting down with other authors to be incredibly useful and, frankly, encouraging.  It's nice to be able to talk with someone else in the same boat.

One of the more interesting discussions we had was about how we use facets of our own lives and backgrounds to create characters and plots.  A theme I've tended to notice in my own work is the balance between meeting responsibilities and being true to your own self.  It's something I struggle with in my own life, meeting all my responsibilities in my job and with my family while also making sure I don't subsume myself in those responsibilities.

I've been thinking about what to do for 2016 and I want to continue both the Heroine Fix and the Ink Tip monthly features.  I'm looking forward to examining more modern heroines, like the ladies from Agents of SHIELD, Conviction, Travellers, Criminal Minds.  I also want to looks at heroines from books, like Tanya Huff's characters or Lisbeth Salander.  For the Ink Tip features, I'm still thinking of whether or not a more precise theme might be helpful.  

In another two weeks, I should have the next round of edits back for Inquisition.  Then it will be time to work on the front and back matter as well as the teaser for book four.  I'm looking forward to pulling quotes for quote cards and doing up the director's commentary, chapter by chapter.  I'll be putting it up for pre-order for January 1st.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Heroine Fix: Have A Little Faith

(Warning: there are spoilers below for both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel)

It's the Christmas season, so it seems appropriate to talk about vampires and those who slay them.  For my final influential heroine of 2016, I'm going to take a look at Faith Lehane, the other Vampire Slayer, played by Eliza Dushku.

I'll admit that I was a latecomer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  The first episode I saw was Bad Eggs in Season 2.  The show quickly hooked me and I enjoyed all of the characters (Willow and Buffy will get their own Heroine Fix in the future, promise.)

But none of them intrigued me quite as much as Faith, the Dark Slayer.  Admittedly, I have always been a sucker for a tortured hero with a dark streak (Batman, Wolverine, the Punisher), but this was one of the first female tortured heroes that I could recall.  I wanted to know more about Faith's background and why she hid her true self behind a mask of flippant sarcasm and defensiveness.

I watched her descent into the Dark Side with baited breath.  When she accidentally killed a human, mistaking him for a vampire, the pain on her face broke my heart.  Especially when she decided to hide it and blame Buffy for her error.  When she felt rejected by the Scoobies and joined the evil Major Wilkins, I was shouting at my TV.  Eliza Dushku did a fantastic job at showing Faith's ambiguity.  She was enjoying playing a role as an "evil" person, enjoying the freedom from responsibility and expectations, but couldn't enjoy what that role required her to do.

I knew that Faith wouldn't finish as a bad guy.  Even though she was stabbed and in a coma, I expected her back and scanned every episode's guest credits, waiting for the inevitable return.  When she returned in season four and tried to take over Buffy's body and life, I could see that she just couldn't keep the mask up.  Her true self was breaking through and she was either going to have to destroy her own heart or give up the persona she'd hidden behind.  When she begs to be killed because she's evil, it was another heart-breaking moment for me.

I wanted to capture that kind of character depth in my own writing.  I wanted to show a heroine who has done some terrible things but is still a good person at heart.  I wanted to show how tempting it can be to give up on the constant grind of trying to do the right thing in the face of overwhelming odds.  But it's not something which can be sustained and it ultimately leaves a person empty and damaged.

In my first book, Dani is a broken heroine.  She's struggling to find a balance between what she needs to do to live and what she can't do if she wants to live with herself.  Eliza Dushku and the character of Faith were a strong inspiration for how to achieve the balance of doing horrible things and showing the torture it causes to her soul.

Faith found her peace by accepting responsibility for her actions.  She went to prison and then broke out when the world needed another Slayer in the final season of Buffy.  She didn't lose her dark sense of humor or her quick thinking, but they became tempered by maturity.  She discovered that while responsibility might weigh her down, it also provided a foundation that lifted her up.

I find Faith's character arc much more interesting than Buffy's because she made so many of the wrong decisions but still found her way back to being a true hero.  Rather than a hero triumphing over overwhelming odds, Faith is a hero who reminds us that no matter how far we think we've fallen, we can still climb back up.

Heroine Fix will be back in the new year, on the second Thursday of each month.  Next year, I'll be looking at more contemporary heroines from books, television and movies.  For January, we'll have another trip to the Whedon-verse and look at one of the ladies in Firefly.  Happy Holidays and New Year!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Weekly Update: November 27th to December 3rd

Weekly word count: 5300

It's been nice to concentrate on writing again, although there have been a number of days where I've had to deal with everyday life things which I've been pushing aside while I deal with editing.  

I've been doing a lot of research about the music industry and songwriting.  I'm enjoying putting together the new manuscript and I'm in the early excited stage where I can't wait to share it.  But there's still a lot of work before it'll even be ready to share with my early readers.  I'm trying to think of at least a temporary title.  (Since I'm planning to pitch this to an agent for the big New York publishers, they will probably decide on the title which ends up on the book.)

I'm also trying to think of a title for book four of the lalassu.  Those who follow me regularly know that titles always come slowly for me.  I'll have to sit down with my friends and do some title brainstorming over the holidays.

On the personal side, I managed to decorate our house for the holidays over the course of this week.  I usually try to get it all done in one day and end up being cranky, frustrated and decidedly non-festive by the end of it.  This time, I did it in short spurts and I'm not wiped out, so I think I have a new strategy for upcoming years.

Next week will probably be less productive but I still want to get at least 4000 words done.  

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Writing Through Depression

Hi, I'm Jennifer Carole Lewis and I suffer from depression. 
(Okay, that opening is indulgent but it felt like the right way to begin.)  I've known that depression was a problem inside my head since I was a teenager.  In the last few years, I've learned that it's been a recurring problem going back generations in my family.  But no one ever talked about it, so I ended up going through it mostly on my own.

In some ways, I think the fight to keep going through depression also helped to prepare me for the struggles of a writing career.  I've had practice in dismissing the not-so-little voice inside my head which tells me that my failure is inevitable and deserved.  I've had to learn how to force myself to keep going when every emotional and gut reaction inside tells me to give up.  There is nothing which any critic can tell me that I haven't said to myself a hundred times over and far harsher.

I also think my depression is linked to my awareness of the difficulties in the world around me, which also drives my writing.  I don't believe I have a distorted view of reality, but I certainly find myself drawn to stories of injustice, struggle and determination.  Unlike in the pages of a book, real life doesn't offer any guarantees of a happy ending.  Sometimes it seems as if it gets caught in the dark moment without ever moving on.

So I make myself keep putting down the words, despite the chorus in my head.  I remind myself that I know these feelings are a lie, that they have never told me the truth of any part of my life.  When the world feels too dark for romance, I concentrate on the darker aspects of my plots.  I remind myself that if I give myself time, I will feel better one day.  And that day will be sooner than I can imagine when I'm caught in the middle.  If it's really bad, I give myself permission to have a break from the grind and I take care of myself.  I'll even ask for help from my friends and family.  They remind me that it's worth it to keep trying and their belief in me counteracts the lack of faith I have in myself.

Even in my darkest moments, I believe in a world that can be better.  I believe people can and do change.  I believe that love has the power to inspire and transform.  And I believe that stories are a critical part of what drives the human race forward.  Those are the four corners that I use to support myself when I don't feel like I can do it any more.

I know I'm not alone out there.  J.K. Rowling used her depression to create the Dementors in Harry Potter.  Melanie Rawn openly acknowledged her hiatus from writing was due to her own bout of depression.  I hope that maybe by speaking out, I'll make it easier for someone else to speak out about their own struggles.  Meanwhile, I'll keep fighting my own battle and trying to work the alchemy to transform it into something meaningful.  

Monday, 28 November 2016

Weekly Update: Nov 20 to 26

Weekly word count: 2000

Editing countdown: All chapters done, 7 days until deadline

First round of edits are done and I think Inquisition is now solid.  Next is the line edit, which will go through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb and catch any errors.

It will take 3-4 weeks for the line edit to get back to me, which means I should get it back after the holidays.  Which gives me a month to concentrate on the new manuscript, as well as begin serious plotting on Book Four of the Lalassu.

Now comes my least favourite part of the whole book creation process: doing all the incidental writing: back blurb, legal disclaimer, front matter, back matter, etc.  But at least it's offset by also getting to set up ARC reviews and other promotional stuff.  It's nice getting to hear back what people think of the story and I know there are a number of people who have been eagerly awaiting it.  It's almost there.  Promise.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Ink Tip: Creating The Dark Moment

Over the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of thinking about dark moments.  In a story (book or film), it's the moment where it looks like failure is inevitable, usually right before the big resolution.  The hero or heroine's quest looks impossible, their attempt to create a new life is in shambles and they can't return to their old life, and the couple will never be able to unite.  I'll leave it to you to decide which real world event might have got my thoughts trending in that direction.

Creating a good dark moment is a real challenge for a writer.  It can't seem forced or artificial.  The external and internal conflicts have to both come together to block the goals in a way that feels organic to the reader, but still leaves them clutching the book and frantically turning pages to find out how it ends.

The seeds for a dark moment have to planted in the first few chapters.  The character's fears, insecurities, desires and goals all come into play.  These are what determine the main conflict throughout the story.  To use an example from film, in the movie America's Sweethearts, at the beginning, Julia Robert's character, Kiki, is consumed by her work as her sister's assistant and harbours a schoolgirl crush on her sister's ex-husband, Eddie, played by John Cusack.  She's stuck in believing she's no one special, doomed to always be the bridesmaid.

Eddie is still in love with his ex-wife, Gwen, played by Catherine Zeta-Jones.  He wants to cling to the stories they told in their movies, of a perfect pair of soulmates.  He's in a crisis of confidence as a man and an actor, not knowing where to go now that his celluloid-inspired world has vanished.

In the film's dark moment, Gwen tells Eddie that she wants him back, with Kiki in the room.  Kiki is heartbroken, assuming Eddie will chose Gwen over her.  She will go back to being ignored and ordered around.  Eddie doesn't want to tell Gwen the truth and realizes his lies have cost him Kiki's trust.  Externally, the film executives are pushing Gwen and Eddie to reunite in order to generate publicity for their work.

All of those critical choices are set up in the beginning.  We see the executives pushing Gwen and Eddie's personal life as a distraction from their own problems from the first few minutes.  We see Eddie's obsession with Gwen and Kiki's lack of confidence.  So it is believable that Eddie might choose Gwen over Kiki and that Kiki won't fight for their relationship.

Without a good dark moment, the happily ever after feels meaningless.  Even though every genre audience knows that the hero and heroine will succeed and end up together, if the tension isn't built realistically then the payoff isn't satisfying.  True love has to triumph over big obstacles because novels and movies are about bigger than life situations.

So to make sure the dark moment reaches its full potential, a writer should ask the following questions:

- Are both the internal conflict (the character's own prejudices, fears and doubts) and the external conflict (the character's goals or external danger/challenges) involved in coming together?  If the conflicts don't peak simultaneously, the dark moment can become too bleak (if it stretches too long in the plot) or lack power (if it feels like half-measures).

- Have the conflicts (and the characters' reactions to them) been set up realistically throughout the plot?  Does the audience see plenty of opportunities for the characters to display both growth and setbacks?  The dark moment must be tied in to the ongoing tension in order to have an impact.

- Is the dark moment consistent with being a test between the character's greatest fear and their greatest desire?  Choosing between material or professional success and love is a classic trope and it works precisely because it's a big emotional draw which works realistically with either choice.

- Is the character balanced between their new life and their old life?  Both sides should be able to exert equal pressure and an equal lure on the character.  Throwing aside an old life for something new and untested is frightening.  After the dark moment, there should be no doubt that the character is willing to face that fear to have something new.  That's why the rest of the story proceeds quickly after the dark moment.  The character has overcome the obstacles, leaving nothing to block their desires or goals.

These questions can help a writer to avoid the common challenges with the dark moment (it didn't feel real, it was too easy or it came out of left field).  And with the dark moment properly set up, the step into the light will feel all the more satisfying to both the author and the reader.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Weekly Update: Nov 13 to Nov 19

Weekly word count: 2900 words

Editing Countdown: 6 more chapters done, 42 out of 46 total, two weeks to deadline.

I'm really pleased with how the editing is going.  I'm nearly done and I'll have a few days to put it aside before going through and doing the final read-through and polish, which is what I was hoping for.  Now it's time to start thinking about when to set up the pre-order, organizing a cover reveal and talking to bloggers about doing ARCs.

I did get some disappointing news that my short stories weren't accepted for the Behind the Mask, although the submissions people said they'd really enjoyed them and would be interested in any full-length submissions I'd like to send in the future.  That's an encouraging note to concentrate on.

It's going to be nice to get back to writing only for a few weeks, instead of trying to both edit and write.  It's been really interesting doing the research into the music industry and how pop songs are created and what happens on tour.  There's a lot of new terminology to learn and understand, but I like getting into new worlds.

My kids will also appreciate my having some weekends free and I'll be able to do some Christmas preparations.  Maybe I'll even find some time to install the shelf I bought at IKEA over a month ago, which will let me unpack the copies of Revelations and Metamorphosis that I ordered two months ago.  There's a wild thought.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Let's Play With The Language of Love

I'm a word nerd.  I love the English language and how it's like the Blob, continually absorbing more and more from all around it.  I love how it's possible to play with it, inventing words and references.  I admire Shakespeare and Whedon for their ability to sculpt with the language, creating whole new worlds of expression.

Words change and grow over time.  Their meaning can change radically over the centuries so as to become unrecognizable.  One of my favourite scenes in Sleepy Hollow was where, after two and a half centuries, Ichabod complains about linguistic shift, picking on the words awful and intercourse.  Awful used to mean "full of awe" and was used for transcendent experiences.  Intercourse used to refer to any type of interaction, not just the sexual.  Abby looks at him and says "So in the 18th century, if I went out with a guy and we had some awful intercourse, we'd have a second date?"

But those aren't the only words to transform.  I was watching the documentary American Slang and they had a whole section on the language of romance.  The very word romance originally meant "Roman-derived" instead of to do with love and relationships.  It became specialized due to two factors: the fall of Rome and the continual use of Latin as a common language.  French, Spanish and Italian are all derived from Latin roots, they are the "romance" languages.  As the Dark Ages progressed, it became increasingly difficult for the geographical regions of the former Empire to understand each other, unless they used classical Latin, which no one used as an everyday language.  Important works, such as treaties, philosophical and religious works, etc. were done in Latin so they could be universally understood.  Popular tales of history, love and adventure were done in local dialects and eventually became known by the short-hand as romance.  (Which makes romance officially the oldest genre of literature, I believe.)

Ever been called a hussy or a floozy?  (Probably not, since those mostly went out as insults by the fifties, but work with me.)  Hussy is a shortened form of hausfrau, or housewife.  Scholars aren't really sure how it came to have a pejorative sense, but it appears to have been a gradual transformation over several centuries.  Floozy is the shifted "flossie" referring to silk-worm floss (as opposed to sensible wool or cotton) and became a derogative term for people (mostly women) more concerned with fashion than their moral characters.

Most people know that honeymoon comes from the tradition of giving newlywed virgins privacy (a month = moon) and alcohol (mead, a honey based drink) in order to facilitate sexual success and encourage conception.  But did you know that mate is likely a shift from the word meat, and meant someone that you shared meat with?  This is in contrast with your companions, who you shared bread with (com + panis, with bread).  Meat is much more valuable and sharing it signified a deeper and more committed relationship.

I'm a firm believer in the power of words and I believe that Archimedes was wrong.  You don't need a lever to move the world, you only need the right words at the right time.  Playing with words can be incredibly satisfying.  I'd love to do a futuristic slang someday, the way Whedon did for Firefly, but I'm still serving my apprenticeship as a wordsmith.  English is a challenging language, always growing and evolving.  Which is why I love it.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Weekly Update: November 6 to 12

Weekly word count: 3100

Editing countdown: 7 chapters edited this week, 37 total done, 10 to go, 3 weeks to go

I pushed myself a lot this week because I know next week is going to be very busy for me.  There's already one day where I know I won't be able to edit at all and three more where it's going to be a challenge.  I don't want to fall too far behind my deadline but it's nice to have the end in sight.  Also nice that the deeper I get into the manuscript, the fewer changes are necessary.  Mostly I'm having to do minor tweaks and seeing comments of enjoyment from the editor.

I also went through a bit of a confidence crisis for my new manuscript.  When I begin a manuscript, I usually give myself the first ten chapters as a pantser rather than a plotter.  I know roughly where I want to go for my main plot and the romance plot, but discovering the other subplots is the fun part.  This time, about halfway through chapter six, I hit a roadblock and had no idea where I wanted to go next.

I took 3 days to recover and research and get my head back in order.

I went back and I'm rewriting the first chapters with a much stronger setup.  I like where this story is going and it's giving me an opportunity to explore some new territory.  I've done 2 days of writing 1500 words each in a very short period.  To feel the words flow so smoothly is a great feeling.

I've been doing some thinking about the monthly Heroine Fix feature.  I've been paying for Facebook ads to get some publicity for it each month since July and I'm not seeing a big boost in people coming to my blog page.  Originally I planned to try it for six months, which gives me another two months, so perhaps I ought to just keep going and see if the numbers build.  Promotion is not my area of expertise and it's not an intuitive skill for me, so I'm just trying different options to see what works.

That was one message which came through loud and clear in Eve's workshop last week.  No one has a guaranteed path to promotion success anymore.  Any tactic with the slightest success quickly become saturated and useless, leaving authors with the choice of trying to shout in a crowd or try a wide variety of different options and hope to stumble on something new.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Heroine Fix: Lois Lane - Too Stupid To Live or Hidden Depths? (Spoilers)

(Fair warning: this post does have some spoilers for Superman Returns and Batman v Superman.  If that matters to you, bookmark this to read after you've seen them.)

Two things happened recently.  First, I found Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman on CraveTV and happily discovered I still enjoyed its kitchy, campy, soap operaish storylines.  Second, I saw an article describing Lois Lane as a Too Stupid To Live heroine.  It got me thinking.  Lois isn’t one of the heroines I aspired to be or wanted to model a character after, but does she really deserve such a condemning title?

I’m not a Superman fan.  (In the DC world, I will be a Bat-girl until the day I die.  Just a fact.)  Like everyone else with even a passing familiarity with the franchise, I’ve rolled my eyes at Lois’s apparent obliviousness. It’s hard to respect a woman who can apparently be completely fooled by eyewear accessories.  And it’s even harder to respect someone whose character only seems to exist to be rescued from increasingly improbable situations.

This panel should be followed by an immediate face palm.
But the more I’ve looked at this character, the more I’ve wondered if she’s gotten a bad rap.  She was designed in the 30’s to create tension.  Since Superman is morally incorruptible, invulnerable and physically superior to anything which might attack him, a vulnerable Lois was necessary to create any kind of suspense in the plot.  The question isn’t whether or not Superman can save her, but will he get to her in time?  Having him continually rescue strangers wouldn’t have created the same drama for the audience.

Despite the narrative limitations on her character, Lois actually has some redeeming qualities.  Especially when we consider the time period that she was created in.  She is independent, not married or looking to get married.  She is a reporter, fighting for stories in what was an entirely male dominated industry.  And she’s a successful, respected reporter, which is actually an Agent Carter-like achievement for the forties, fifties and sixties.

She was actually good at her job... even if she insists on calling herself a girl-reporter.
One of the reasons used to justify the Too Stupid To Live title was Lois’s relentless choices to throw herself in the path of danger.  There’s a valid argument there, but there’s also a valid argument on the other side.  She is ballsy, determined and fearless in the face of danger.  And most importantly, her character was that way before she met Superman.  She threw herself into danger before there was anyone to rescue her, suggesting that she was confident in her ability to rescue herself.  She goes into danger because she doesn’t stand back and allow others to do the work and reap the glory.  I may not agree with how her exploits are written, but they aren’t completely indefensible.

Some incredibly strong and talented actresses have taken up the daunting challenge of playing Lois.  Each has brought some interesting depths to the character.

Margot Kidder: Canadian.  'Nuff said.
Margot Kidder played Lois in Superman I through IV.  As furious as the endings of both Superman I and II made me (time travel rescue and mind-wipe respectively), her character isn't a weak damsel waiting to be rescued.  One sequence which sticks out in my mind is her sneaking into the bottom of an elevator to overhear the men inside.  She's hanging onto the machinery, risking a plummeting death, while her male cohorts are busy shrugging.  She's not doing it to get attention, she's doing it because that's what's needed to get the story before anyone else.

Terry Hatcher: My name is first on the marquis.

Terry Hatcher is probably my favourite Lois, especially since she played the character in the one Superman franchise which I enjoyed: Lois and Clark.  She is relentless when she's pursuing a story, even stealing one from Clark on more than one occasion.  She's determined and independent, not wanting help from anyone.  She's also fiercely protective, defending Superman and Clark when they're in trouble.  

Kate Bosworth: Single Supermom
Kate Bosworth in Superman Returns is probably the Lois I respect the most.  The storyline was an interesting premise: Superman comes back after 5 years away.  From Lois's view, he disappeared without warning or contact.  She's moved on with her life.  She's raising her son on her own.  She won a Pullitzer for a story about why the world doesn't need Superman.  She challenges Superman the most, out of all the Loises.  She's definitely not his cheerleader any longer and doesn't spare him the hard questions.  And we find out that she's protected her son to keep anyone from finding out that he's half-Kryptonian.

Amy Adams: New Lois on the block.
 Amy Adams plays Lois in the latest Superman franchise: Man of Steel and Batman v Superman.  The Too Stupid To Live article focuses on her in particular as during Batman v Superman, Superman has to stop battling the big monster to go rescue Lois.  Granted, that particular narrative moment didn't impress me either.  But it wasn't Lois who annoyed me.  She threw a Kryptonite spear into a watery pit to keep Batman from killing Superman with it.  Since she's well aware of Superman's secret identity and they're romantically involved, that's a justified move.  However, she realizes the spear is necessary to kill the big monster and goes after it, knowing that Superman can't do so without risking death from radiation poisoning. (And he's busy with the aforementioned monster.)  That's helping to save the world.  The writers are the ones who decided to seal up the hole, trapping her with a rising water level so that Superman had to come back and save her.

I would have much preferred her getting the darn thing out and then having a moment with Batman, possibly threatening him before giving him the spear.  That would have been more consistent with the character through the rest of the movie (and she'd already had a couple of damsel in distress moments).

I'm still not a Lois Lane fan, but having spent some time considering the matter, I'm willing to grant her some more respect.  Maybe someday we'll get a Lois who breaks the mold completely and casts off her damsel heritage.  I'd be curious to hear what people think: would that destroy the integrity of the Superman franchise or have we outgrown the need to have Lois exist only to give Superman someone to rescue?

Monday, 7 November 2016

Weekly Update: Oct 30 to Nov 5

Weekly word count: 2100

Editing countdown: 6 chapters this week, total 29 chapters done, 28 days to go

I've gotten the first five chapters done of my new manuscript.  Still no idea for titles.  It's now time to start doing some serious research on the music industry and the process of creating a tour and making a record.

I took Hallowe'en off from editing and writing and we all had a great time.  My two boys enjoyed showing off their costumes to the various neighbours.  Now we know who is a Whovian in our little neck of the woods.

Unfortunately I didn't get to go to the Author's Lounge last week, mainly because I thought it was on Sunday and it was actually on Saturday.  I felt so embarrassed but luckily, there will be another one next month.

I did get to go to the ORWA meeting and it was amazing.  Eve had plenty of good tips and advice.  The biggest challenge with promotion today is that anything effective is quickly swamped by authors, drowning out potential readers.

Next week, plan is to buckle down.  I'm a little bummed out with not being able to participate in NaNoWriMo this month.  It always hits during editing season but I'm rooting for all my friends and fans who are participating.  Keep me posted on your progress!

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Never Stop Learning

Recently a friend and I were having a discussion.  She was trying to decide whether to pursue graduate studies when she finished her university degree or start seriously working on getting a job in her chosen field.  It took me back to my own decision on academics or life.

My family places a great deal of respect on academic credentials.  Most of the compliments my sisters and I received as children had to do with how smart we were and how one day we would likely have Masters degrees or possibly Ph.D.s.  I assumed it was an inevitable trajectory.  Elementary school, high school, university, graduate work.

About halfway through my university degree, I started realizing that I wasn't particularly enjoying academic life any more.  I loved going to lectures (and was such a huge nerd that I would go to classes I wasn't registered in) and having educated debates on various issues.  But I didn't enjoy the cramp it put on my creative mind.  I had to give up recreational reading in order to get my class reading done (usually I had reading assignments of about a thousand to fifteen hundred pages per week) and biweekly 5000 word papers took up most of my creative writing energy as well.

It came as a real shock to realize that something I had planned and counted on wasn't what I wanted to do.  I spent a long time wondering if I really didn't like it or simply was dealing with bad classes (One idiot of a professor insisted that Christianity was unique among world religions because it was based on a historical figure... unlike Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism, I guess - dude gave me a bad grade when I pointed out the error).  

I started to realize that the halls of academia were not filled with men and women struggling to find higher truths and knowledge to improve humanity's lot in life.  Instead, there were only people.  People with blindspots, prejudices, ambitions and delusions of grandeur.  There were some amazing professors whom I was honoured to learn from, but I began to realize that most of them saw their classes as a waste of time or an opportunity to stroke their own egos.

I began to question whether or not I really wanted to spend the next 6-10 years of my life fighting for a place among them if that wasn't the life I wanted.  The real clincher came in my third year, when talking with a professor I greatly respected.  She asked me what my plans were after graduation and I confessed that I wasn't really sure any more.  She thought for a moment and then told me that she'd be happy to recommend me for a fellowship to pay my way, but that she didn't think I'd be happy pursuing a Masters.  She advised me to head out there and spend a few years paying the bills to purge the academic expectations from my system.  Then I could sit down and figure out what my real vocation was.

I hesitated, pointing out how much I enjoyed certain aspects of university life.  She laughed a little (I was so serious!) and said that she had no doubt that I would keep learning my whole life, that I enjoyed it too much to let it go.  And moreover, she was certain I would be able to keep my mind open, incorporating everything I learned into new and more comprehensive understandings of the world around me.

Since graduation, I like to think I've proved her right.  I seek out new areas of knowledge and I'm starting to grasp how complicated the world can truly be, despite how much we want it to be simple.  So many things are interconnected and interbalanced, it can be hard to figure out how to shift things without sending the entire system into a collapse.  I found my passions in my family and in writing.  I accepted that work is always going to be a 9 to 5 endeavour that gives me the money to pursue what I really want, instead of a stepping stone to a high-powered career.  And I may not be able to afford new semesters at university, but I can always find new books at the library or documentaries to watch to increase my knowledge of the world around me.

To me, the happiness I've carved out for myself is much more valuable than an alphabet soup of letters after my name.  Even if Dr. Lewis does have a nice ring to it.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Weekly Update: October 23 to 29

Weekly word count: 2200
Editing countdown: 6 chapters this week, 23 chapters done, 5 weeks to go

I've hit the halfway mark for editing Inquisition.  Which feels pretty good because I've also hit the halfway point for my time available to edit.  Barring catastrophe (looking at you, Universe), I should be good.

I've also been busy getting my kids' costumes ready and the Hallowe'en decorations.  The costumes are good to go.  There are still a few bits and pieces to be done for decorations.

Next week is ORWA's November meeting with a workshop on building your readership with Eve Langlais.  I'm looking forward to that one.

My Kindle Countdown deal for Revelations went well.  I got a nice spike in sales as well as a spike on Kindle Unlimited.  I'm also getting good interest in Rose on the Grave, which is nice.

I'll have to start doing some serious thinking about whether or not I want Inquisition to be part of the Kindle exclusive program.  Having the first two books available on Kindle Unlimited is a good way to gain readers, but do I necessarily want the whole series on there?  I don't have a good answer to that as yet so I think I'll put out some questions to ORWA and get some opinions.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Ink Tip: Dealing with Consent in Romance

I’ve heard a number of spirited debates about the responsibility of romance writers when it comes to portraying healthy relationships.  One of the trickiest to negotiate is the issue of consent.

At their heart, romance novels are fantasies.  Real world inconveniences don’t come up so going to bed with wet hair doesn’t lead to snarled rats’ nests and tables never break (unless for dramatic purposes) and kids don’t come down with the flu on date night.

But at the same time, romance novels also offer a chance to normalize certain behaviours in the courting process.  Because a romance reader will vicariously experience many more relationships through the books than in real life, the stories can subconsciously provide a pattern for how a relationship should proceed.

Many romance authors consciously decided to include condom use as part of love-making, hoping to make it more common.  They gave readers a number of different scripts to use in their own lives, transforming asking for and using the condom into a sexy experience.

But what about things like making sure both partners are okay with the level of contact, intimacy and kink?  By definition, nothing can occur in a fantasy which is against the fantasizer’s will.  Even if the fantasy involves the illusion of a lack of choice, nothing makes a fantasy dissolve faster than actually having something done against a person’s will. 

This is a tricky concept for most people to understand.  For example, if a person likes the Bad Sexy Cop fantasy or a multiple partner fantasy, then it can be harder to understand why he or she might not be a consensual partner during a real life scenario.  Some psychologists have said that disgust is the key to understanding the difference.

Suspending disgust is a sign of intimacy.  The idea of sharing a French kiss with a loved one is appealing.  The idea of an unwelcome stranger sticking their tongue in your mouth is disgusting.  The consent is what makes the difference.  So a person can engage in a perfectly consensual act but then be unwilling to engage in that same act at a later time or with another person and that is a perfectly human and natural thing.

BDSM romance has been something of a trend since 50 Shades of Grey sparked with the general public.  But what concerns actual practitioners is the fact that a large number of stories don’t show the negotiations which lead up to enacting the fantasies, the use of safewords and attention to both partners’ level of comfort during the scene and how to take care of both parties once the scene is completed.  

Romance has always been an opportunity to raise issues that concern women and a way to explore women’s sexuality.  This is why I think romance writers have a responsibility to making sure the fantasies presented contain enough reality to help their readers.

The stories that I enjoy make it clear that both hero and heroine (or hero and hero or heroine and heroine) are willing, eager participants in what occurs between them.  They give asking for a kiss a sensual buzz and make the conversation part of the anticipation.  And that lets me enjoy the fantasy.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Weekly Update: October 16 to 22

Weekly word count: 3700

Editing countdown: 6 chapters done this week, 17 done total, 42 days to deadline.

Another productive week.  I took a day off from editing to work on my kids' Hallowe'en costumes.  (It's one of my few domestic skills.  I'm only a passable cook and we have a cleaning service, but I can sew and craft with the best of them.)  Now one of my children has a Dr.Who jacket (11th doctor, Matt Smith) along with a fez hat.  The other has a muppet costume sewn out of blue towels and a red cape so he can be Super Grover 2.0.  There's still stuff to be done, specifically adding a pocket to the coat for his sonic screwdriver and making the sash and belt for Super Grover.  But for the most part, costumes are complete.

My Whovian fan of a son has requested a TARDIS front door and a Dalek pumpkin.  I have some ideas and hopefully I can pull them off next weekend before the big day.

It's been tiring trying to keep up a consistent pace and still fit in writing time, but it is working.  I'm making good and consistent progress on the manuscript, which is still completely without title (or idea for title).  Which is fine, titles usually come late in the process for me.

I will be grateful once the editing process is done and I can share Inquisition with everyone and get back to concentrating on writing again.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Gem in the Dirt: My Self-Publishing Journey

There's been a lot of buzz lately about indie publishing.  It's saving the industry, it's killing the industry, it's a godsend, it's a curse.  There are more opinions than people to express them.

I'm indie published.  Which means that I did not go through one of the traditional New York publishing houses or a small press.  I accepted a deal directly with Amazon, a deal which is available to anyone willing to abide by the terms.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how I wanted to pursue my publishing career.  I knew I wanted to write stories.  I've been doing that since I was a kid and "author" is a job which allows for a fair amount of flexibility, something I need in my personal life.  I knew that if I wanted my writing to be more than handing around stories to friends and fans, then I needed to treat it as seriously as my day job.

I joined professional writing organizations, specifically the Romance Writers of America and the Ottawa Romance Writer's Association.  Both of them are known for their professional resources and as promoters of skilled writers.  I joined critique groups and tossed out my first manuscript as it became apparent how much I still had to learn about the craft of writing.  I spent hours each week in front of the keyboard, fighting to keep it in my schedule.

Eventually I had a new manuscript, one I was proud of and ready for the next step.  I began sending it out and was met with an odd mixture of deafening silence and encouraging rejections.  One of my good friends, Theresa Morgan, shared how she'd had the same experience.  Publishers told her that no one would be interested in her sheikh romances, but she'd decided to self-publish them and found a healthy niche market.

I decided to see if superhero romance would be a similar undiscovered niche market.  I hired three editors and spent a grueling six months polishing my story into a brilliant shine.  I hired a cover artist who told me I'd have to wait a few months but then came back to me a few days later with a design he said he couldn't get out of his head.

I hired a company to help me set up blog tours to get my name and my book out there and then, on February 1, 2015, I released my creation into the world.

I got encouraging feedback from reviewers and bloggers.  Those who read the book loved it, with an incredibly small number of dissenting votes.  (Out of over 60 review copies, I only had one return a negative opinion.)

That was when the real work began.  The endless grind of promotion and ensuring that new people saw the book.  And I was still trying to write the next book, manage my family and household, and keep my day job.  I look back and I'm still not sure how I did it.

But I did.  On February 14th, 2016, Metamorphosis joined Revelations on my Amazon author page.  And in March 2017, the third book in the series, Inquisition, will be added.  I also put up two Halloween-themed short stories, Whispers in the Dark and Rose on the Grave.

The work is starting to pay off.  I've gone from having irregular sales to seeing at least one spike in my royalty report for every month.  I've used the tools that Amazon offers, including Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Countdown Sales.  I've had a number of people share with me that my book has appeared on their Amazon Recommends emails and suggestions.  By having my books exclusively through Amazon, I've reaped the benefit of their sophisticated promotion and I'm grateful for the support they've offered.

In some ways, I see my achievement as more impressive than those who got triple and quadruple digit sales in the early self-publishing days of 2013 and 2014.  I put out my first book into a market which contained over 6 million options and still managed to convince people to give it a try.  I worked hard to ensure that I offered quality rather try to put out quantity.

There will always be those who point to the plethora of poorly written works out there and decry self-published authors.  But the point isn't that every self-published author has to be amazing.  The point is that Amazon gave an opportunity for the few diamonds to shine among the masses of coal, allowing both the industry and readers to realize that they had missed out on some of those precious gems. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Weekly update: October 9 to 15

Weekly word count: 2700

Editing countdown: 7 chapters this week, 11 chapters total, 49 days left to deadline

This week was the release of Rose on the Grave and to celebrate I put Revelations on sale.  There's been a lot of interest and I've learned a lot about targeting Facebook ads.  I was surprised when one of my ads got rejected for having "too much text" even though it had considerably less text than an ad which ran fine a few days earlier.

Definitely a busy week with the latter part spent plugging a plot hole.  I think it flows much better now.

It's been a grueling schedule but so far, I'm keeping up with it.  I'm a little brain dead (at least the part of my brain which isn't preoccupied with editing), so I'm afraid I won't be doing much on social media.  I'll try to stick my head up periodically and remind people that I'm still here.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Heroine Fix: Scarlett O'Hara: Never Hungry Again

Scarlett O'Hara certainly captured the public attention since she first appeared on the pages of Margaret Mitchell's book Gone with the Wind in 1936.  Vivienne Leigh's portrayal of the character in the 1939 epic film stands as a classic.  The story continued to hold the public's interest, sparking Alexandra Ripley to pen a sequel, Scarlett, in 1991.  The sequel was made into a television miniseries in 1994.

Scarlett is a difficult heroine to get behind.  She's shallow, vain and manipulative.  She spends the entirety of Gone With the Wind longing for another woman's husband, steals her sister's fiance, uses both slave and convict labour to undercut her competitors and seems more driven by greed than any other character trait.

By all logical examination, Scarlett is an unlikable heroine.  She should have disappeared into history.  But there is something about her which continues to intrigue and draw fans to her camp.  Perhaps it is because Gone with the Wind ends just as she realizes her errors.  She's on the cusp of a major character change, leaving readers and viewers to wonder if she will be able to persuade Rhett to take her back and live a happier life.

Maybe it's because despite her unlikable exterior, there is something attractive about Scarlett.  Even in the beginning, she's vibrant, flirting with the boys and clearly enjoying every second of their attention.  There's an innocence to her, an innocence which extends to all the Southerners pre-war.  She shares their certainty that the world she knows will never change.

But of course, it does change.  When the war collapses everything Scarlett knows and has always counted on, unlike the others around her, she steps into the gap.  She protects her sister-in-law (despite her own jealousy), taking Melanie and her newborn baby on a perilous overland journey through occupied territory.  She works in the fields, dragging her pampered family along with her so that they can all eat.  She shoots a Yankee soldier intent on robbing and assaulting her and her kin.

This is Scarlett's first transformation: from spoiled and pampered princess to shrewd and stubborn schemer.  With the complete collapse of her society, she abandons all the rules.  If it is a dog eat dog world, then Scarlett is determined to be the final one sitting there with a knife and fork.  She demonstrates her intelligence and determination, facing society's scorn as she launches a lumber business, a store and struggles to restore her family's plantation.

Her decision to marry Rhett isn't inspired by sentiment or affection, but by practicality.  Whenever I've watched the film, I've seen hints of vulnerability develop through their marriage.  I think she cares for him, but can't let herself trust in him.  Not to mention feeling torn between wanting to be accepted as a Southern lady but not wanting to be left helpless again.

Personally, I always found the end of Gone With the Wind unsatisfying.  Aside from the inherent racism and other issues, it's not a complete romance.  It's why I prefer the sequel, Scarlett, where she completes her character arc and finally reunites with Rhett.

The sequel's Scarlett finally learns compassion and loyalty to more than herself.  She learns the difference between surviving and living.  But she's still strong, vibrant and intelligent. Now she's no longer afraid to show any of it.

In the end, it's the mixture of traits which I find inspiring about Scarlett.  She's actually an unusually well-developed character, particularly for the time period when she was created.  She's a modern CEO, almost fifty years before anyone would have considered it possible.  She's attacked in the same way that many modern women are attacked, called unfeminine and overly aggressive.  But she is successful in her business endeavors, outwitting her male competitors.

As a heroine, she has many flaws, perhaps too many to truly overcome.  But it is those flaws which lend depth to her strengths.  She's human, which is quite an achievement for a fictional character.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Weekly update: October 2 to 8: Release of Rose on the Grave

Weekly word count: 2800

Editing countdown: 4 chapters done, 55 days until deadline

I'm trying something a little different this year.  Last year, from October to February, I concentrated almost exclusively on editing Metamorphosis, with only brief periods of new writing.  This year, I'm going to try and give myself one or two big chunks of writing time per week as well as my goal of editing one chapter per day.  I'm hoping that I can get some good progress on the first book my new series.  I've still got the fourth book of the lalassu simmering in my back brain, though.

On Tuesday, I will be releasing my latest Spirit Sight short story, Rose on the Grave.  It's in review on Amazon right now.  I'm very excited to share the beautiful cover done for me by Samianne.

Rose on the Grave is a continuation of Jessica and Greg's story, begun in Whispers In the Dark.  After their harrowing encounter with the demon box, both of them are dealing with fresh scars.  Jessica's freshly bloomed medium gifts seem to have shut down and Greg isn't sure if his continuing nightmares are signs of trauma or of some dark entity still lurking in his mind.

When the pair are invited to investigate Rose on the Grave, a haunted bed and breakfast, they find themselves increasingly on opposite sides.  They are quickly drawn deeper into a world of ghosts, fraud and strange powers.  Otherworldly messages warn of dramatic changes to come and send them on a mission to rescue a little girl named Bernie, a name that readers of Revelations will find familiar.

As part of the release for Rose on the Grave, I'll be putting Revelations on sale on and from October 11th to the 17th.  I wish I could put it on sale in Canada but unfortunately I don't have that option.  (Maybe some of my Canadian readers can contact Amazon and ask for Canada to be included in the Kindle Countdown deals?)

I'm very excited to share this newest installment of the lalassu world and can't wait to hear what people think.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

A Romance Reader: Loud and Proud

Sarah MacLean wrote a wonderful article last week on how bashing romance novels is basically a form of slut-shaming and it inspired me to write about some of the most common complaints about romance novels and why we should completely ignore them.

Myth # 1: They push women to equate happiness with being with a man.

Romance novels always have a love story as a central aspect of their plot.  It's part of the definition of the genre.  By the logic of this myth, one could also argue that mysteries encourage murder and vigilante justice, but we rarely hear Sherlock Holmes being accused of pushing people towards a life of crime.

The urge to connect with another person (male, female, alien, whatever you're drawn to) is one of the most fundamental human drives.  Romance novels celebrate that connection and acknowledge it.  But it's not just about finding love.  The heroines in romance novels don't just find a mate, they also achieve their other dreams, be it careers, families, contests or whatever else their hearts desire.

Romance novels encourage women not to settle.  The heroine goes through a character arc, beginning with an uncomfortable situation where they are bound by expectations and their own fears.  As the story goes on, she gains the courage to go after what she wants, rather than what she's been told to expect.  That usually includes an exciting and passionate relationship with a man (or woman) that is a partnership of equals, based on attraction and respect.

So romance novels don't hang the heroine's happiness on a man.  They recognize that a satisfying relationship can be part of the overall package but it is only a part.  They are about the heroine finding happiness period, in all its varied forms.

Myth # 2: They are poorly written and formulaic.

Romance novels make up 5 to 7 % of print book sales and 45 % of ebook sales.  (Source,

That's a lot of books and the quality of them can vary significantly.  There are poorly written romances, just as there are poorly written books in all genres.  But the majority are well done, with some reaching incredible levels of excellence.

The charge of being formulaic is back-handed way of attacking the quality of the writing.  All stories are essentially formulaic.  They need to follow a certain structure or else the reader doesn't find them satisfying.  The pattern applies across every successful story from Shakespeare to Tolkien to Star Wars.  The structure is like the foundation of a house.  Without it, it doesn't matter how grand or beautiful the plans are, it will all collapse under its own weight.

This myth can be countered by pointing to authors like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Kristan Higgans, Roxanne St. Claire, Sherilyn Kenyon and dozens, if not hundreds, of others.  Attacking the genre as a whole based on its weakest examples is a sloppy argument.

Myth # 3: They're just thinly disguised porn for bored housewives.

There are two parts to be debunked for this myth.  The first is was covered in Sarah MacLean's article.  Sex is a part of romantic relationships and romance novels include satisfying sex, even if the novel itself uses the "fade to black" technique rather than showing it.  There is a huge range of detail, ranging from explicit erotica which explores various fetishes to sweet romance, which only shares the first kiss and leaves everything else behind closed doors.  The only universal is that the heroine's pleasure and wishes are given priority.

The second part to this myth is the assumption that wives and mothers (and by extension all women) should not be interested in sex.  That we should not desire multiple orgasms and a caring partner.  As New York Times journalist, Natalie Angier, explains, the argument that women can have a satisfying sex life without orgasm holds as much weight as the argument that some homeless people like living outdoors.  Dismissing women's pleasure was supposed to have become obsolete in the sixties and doesn't really deserve any further serious consideration.

Women don't deserve to be shamed for their sexuality or their sexual desires.  Instead we should be proud to claim them.

Myth # 4: They encourage a hetero-normative approach to relationships.

For those unfamiliar with the term, basically this myth boils down to the concept of embracing diversity.  The one-man, one-woman approach to relationships ignores bisexuality, homosexuality, menage and polyamory.  I will acknowledge that there is still plenty of room to increase the level of diversity in romance, but I would also challenge its critics to find another genre with more representation of all cultures and desires.

Romance has always encouraged diverse and minority voices.  The sheer volume of books out there allows all kinds of niche markets to be successful.  The success of 50 Shades of Grey allowed women to voice their interest in BDSM (though I'd recommend Opal Carew instead).  Menage fiction allows women to explore the fantasy of being with multiple lovers.  There's a sizable collection of LGBTQ romance.  Almost any variation of human sexuality is represented.

Myth # 5: They present an unrealistic version of relationships and romantic love.

This one is perhaps the hardest myth to debunk.  Passionate, lasting romance which is based on mutual respect is rarer than it should be.  But should we give up that dream?  Should we stop encouraging women to reach for that star, to believe that they can have all that they desire without having to compromise or settle?

Too often, women are encouraged to compromise.  As an example, despite my deep and abiding love for Hugh Jackman, I can't stand the movie Kate and Leopold due to its ending.  I hate that the heroine chooses to abandon a career that she clearly enjoyed and was talented at to travel back to a time when she would be considered a second-class citizen, to be with the man she loved.  I would have liked it much better if he had found a way to make his way in modern times, supporting her and giving her the peace and her support to pursue her dreams.  The latter is the kind of story that one finds in romance novels.

One can argue that the stories are unrealistic but I'd say that the flaw lies more in reality than in the stories.  The more stories there are about women whose partners support them rather than the other way around, the more women will be willing to try it in real life and find out how it can work.

So don't hide your love of romance.  Put it front and center and take pride in enjoying stories that encourage us to have all our dreams.