Sex Positive Romance Writing is Not an Oxymoron Here

This book is so much more than it’s cover.

On the surface “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” is a simple, funny,easy read.  I designed it that way.  It’s meant to be something fun you can start and finish on one vacation because sometimes you need a book that doesn’t drag on forever and require major brain cell usage. 

But, if you look closer, and scratch beneath the very cool pink surface, there’s a lot more there.  There is trend bucking galore.  I love NA books, but I started to feel like the world of new adult romance had become over populated with motor-cycle riding, tattooed, angsty man-whore heroes and the equally ubiquitous cavity-inducingly sweet, virginal, damsal-in-distress heroines. In response to these archetypes I created Ben – a geeky, polite, virgin hero, and Carrie – his sarcastic, funny, sex-loving heroine.  

Wait, hold the phone … she loves sex?!?!  

Yep, and her friends do too.  I’ll pause here to give the overly offended time to exit (mumbling “I always knew there was something wrong with her.”) and everyone else time to switch gears to this burgeoning new idea – women can like sex and it doesn’t make them a whore or a slut.  It makes them human.  

I’m excited to be part of this new idea in romance writing.  I’m ready for more unapologetic, fully-human female characters.  And equally as important, I can’t wait for more male characters who value a woman for more than being previously unclaimed territory and smokin hot.  

I’m sure some of you are wondering how this works … she’s not a slut, but she loves sex?  Well, first you have to let go of the idea that women have absolutely no control over their lust once they lose their virginity. I’m not sure who started the idea that once we have one guy we just can’t seem to stop ourselves from wanting any and all guys – that we become indiscriminate, grabbing at any low-hanging fruit (visual pun).  My guess would be that the idea came from the guys who would fall in the low-hanging fruit category – a marketing campaign of sorts from the bottom rungs of the male gender.  There is no magic presto-chango that happens to a female upon losing her virginity. She’s the same person she was the day before with a little more life experience tucked under her belt. (Check out this fantastic post on the whole concept of what actually constitutes losing your virginity from Girl on the Net.) 

My novel is not a morality play for or against premarital sex.  It’s a slice of reality.  Some of my girls have sex, some don’t.  Some regret it, some don’t.  Some enjoy it, some pretend too.  What they don’t do is apologize to anyone for the choices they make. 

But there is still more hidden in this deceptively simple story.  There is also some really steamy realistic sex.  If you love erotica that features Cirque-du-Soleil gymnastic style moves, this is not the book for you.  If you want to believe that a well-used gym membership can make some guy is so studly he can defy that fact that 80% of women cannot come by penetration alone, this is not the book for you.  I think these myths hurt women more than help them, so I left them out.  

If you are still with me–welcome to the trend, and while I support this trend, I promise not to be preachy in my books.  For those who buy my novel for an easy read by the pool with too many margaritas, don’t worry, you won’t be disappointed.  The shiny, pink fun is there, and if you are interested, a little social history-making underneath. 

This Side of 50

Yesterday was it, my big 50 and I’m still here today.  (Probably because I didn’t try to party like I’m anything less than 50).

I had a wonderful day, starting with breakfast at my favorite place, Waffle House.  I’m a total sucker for waffles and cheez hashbrowns.

Me, my waffle, one of my fav. men, and one crabby dude behind me

I started preparing for yesterday two years ago, on my 48th birthday.  It was not my best birthday (in fact, it sucked) but it started the ball rolling for a heap of changes in my life. That day started this blog with my first post “I’m Not Supposed To Be Having This Much Fun.”  Whether I’m supposed to or not, I’m still having a lot of fun.  In the past two years I started this blog, wrote and published a novel and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane attached to one very cute Brazilian; all things I never would have dreamed of doing at one (low) point in my life.  And I’m not done yet.  I’m working on a second novel and I have my appointment scheduled for my tattoo.  The party continues. 

But more important than these wild (at least for me) actions are the fears I am conquering with each one – fear of heights, fear of rejection, fear of making mistakes, fear of what others will say, fear that I’m actually a moron and everyone just forgot to tell me.  There’s still more, lurking in the darker recesses of my mind, but I’m slowly coaxing them all out, naming them, taming them. 

Last night my brother asked if I was ever going to grow up.  I told him, “No.  What kind of fun would that be?”  But the reality is that I am growing up and all my crazy is part of that process.  To me a mature, evolved person is not one who sits home, having given in to fears and given up on crazy dreams.  A truly mature soul knows that the odds are not in their favor,  that others won’t approve or will think they are crazy, that there can be negative outcomes; then they go ahead and do it anyway.  Because they (I) know that a life avoiding all the pain and risk isn’t really living. 

That’s my report from this side of 50. 

My Musical Muses

One of the new trends in publishing is for a writer to list the music that served as inspiration for a book.  I like this trend.  First, it let me know that I am not the only writer who relies on some musical muses to get the creative process going.  Second, by sharing it my readers can also get a little insight into where my head was when I created a certain scene or chapter.  There are some songs that even influenced the entire book. 

My taste in music is eclectic.  About the only thing I don’t listen to on a regular basis is country music, but if you’ve read my book you know the only song referenced (twice) is “Pretty Little Adriana” by Vince Gill.  I wasn’t kidding when I said that I only gave him a chance because he was so easy on the eyes (Carrie quote). 

For your listening pleasure (if you are so inclined) this weekend, I present my playlist for “Burnouts, Geeks and Jesus Freaks: a love story” with a few notes about why or how these songs influenced me:

Chapter 10 – Party at Chuck’s house
“Lunatic Fringe” – Red Rider
 I’ve always associated this song with those who live their lives on the fringes of society and the crazy assortment of people at Chuck’s house definitely fall into or close to the lunatic category.

“Can’t Find My Way Home” – Blind Faith
An absolute classic about feeling completely lost and having given up hope of something better, which is how I see Carrie at the end of the chapter.

Chapters 12 & 13 – Ben kidnapped and party at MG’s
“Tongue Tied” – Group Love
It’s a party song with the lyric: “take me to your best friend’s house,” need I say more?

Chapter 21 – First date
“Pretty Little Adriana” – Vince Gill
Even if you are not a country fan, Vince Gill is easy to listen to.  When you listen, enjoy the pic on any of his album covers.  (I met him once, he is just as sigh-worthy in person.)

Chapter 24 – Camping road trip
“Nothing Left to Lose” – Matt Kearney
Just a great road trip song; the freedom of getting away, somewhere, together.

Chapter 26 – It would be a spoiler, so I can’t describe the chapter
“Summertime Sadness” – Lana Del Rey
I cried when I wrote this chapter and every time I heard this song for a long time after that.

End of Chapter 30 – Ben deployed
“Days Go By”  – Dirty Vegas
The music and repetition in this song always brought up the image of the sameness of hot days in the desert.  The words really fit Ben’s frame of mind.

Chapter 34 – Operation Callahan’s Fish Camp
“Love is Won” – Lia Ices
I have no idea what the lyrics to this song mean, but the sweet ache in her voice and the beautiful echo made me think of a couple slow dancing, alone, to a song on a radio that would echo across the lake.  

General music
“Come Undone” – Duran Duran
This just seemed to fit Carrie and Ben who turned to each other when they came undone. 

Enjoy – Have a great weekend!  Read and Review – 50 by 50! 

TFS Wednesday – The Foodie Factor

I’m a Taurus.  (play cheezy 70’s disco background music) and I’m a lover of all things sensual (Floaters sing, “float on” in the background) especially food.  Mmmm, yeah, I love me some chocolate, dark chocolate, ya know what I mean.  And pasta … baby, I’m a foodie.  

If you don’t get the above reference, please refer to “Float On” by the Floaters, 1977.  It’s groovy.  

And me … not so groovy, but definitely a foodie.  My horoscope told me so when I read it for my birthday month, but I pretty much knew that already.  My love affair with food goes way back.  I was a cookie stealer from a very young age.  Oreos called to me and damn if my mom didn’t put the cookie jar where I could reach it if I climbed on a chair, then the counter, then the top of the fridge.  Too easy.  

I’ve planned entire vacations around eating.  If  I’m going to see one of the 7 wonders of the world my main thought would be, “but what are we going to eat there?”  

I swear I’m not out on some tangent, this does tie into TFS Wednesday.  It has to do with knowing yourself; your wants, your needs, the things that thrill you to no end.  If you try to lose weight by giving up those things … give up on that diet plan right now.  If you are not a foodie, this may not apply to you.  

I know people who can eat the same thing day after day, year after year.  Food is not one of the ways they get their kicks.  It’s just sustenance and something they have to do to keep their engine running.  For them, almost any diet will do.  These are the people who give up bread (the white soft fluffy stuff) and sugar (gasp!) and live a healthy, skinny spartan life.  These are also the people who like to write diet books, assuming that everyone will also be content to live on only veggies and lean protein.  

I can do that, for a week or two.  I’m such a foodie that there are lots of veggies I love and lean proteins.  But after week two, or as soon as any holiday, vacation, opportunity for something different comes along, I’m moving on to other (probably less healthy) foods. 

It always cracks me up when I hear studies that cutting sugar and white bread from you life can increase your life expectancy by a few years.  A few sucky years!  Assuming I’m not hit by a bus before then, I can’t image that I will be sitting in an old folks home, thrilled to pieces that I’ll be there another year or two because I suffered through decades of no chocolate cake.  

So the foodie diet, the one I have been talking about since I started this blog, is all about having that cake but not the whole thing (or even 1/2 of it).  My birthday is this weekend and I will pay homage at the alter of GiGi’s cupcakes, but my 1 ginormous choco-worship cupcake will probably last through at least four meals.  That way I not only consume less fat, sugar, calories (fun) in one sitting; I spread out the fun, making my food thrill last even longer. 

A line up of one guilty looking cupcake and his lemon accomplice(?)

All I Want For My Birthday

Is reviews.  Seriously.  

I don’t know how many of you out there in blog land are sweating out what to get me for my big five-oh, but let me solve this for you right now.  I would love a review from you for my novel.  Just a few stars and words on Amazon and or Goodreads will thrill me in a way you can’t even imagine … for two reasons:

One – every review makes me feel more connected with my readers.  I’ve put something very personal out into the internet-osphere and now I desperately want to know how it is faring.  Ideally, I would be able to talk to each person as they read.  I want to know what made you laugh (assuming you did) or cry (ditto).  Was there a part you wish I had left out or added more to?  How did you feel when it ended?  Baring me sitting in front of each and every person who reads it and bugging them every few pages, I would be satisfied (more like thrilled) to just have a short note from you telling me what you thought.  The fact that others are interested in those notes leads to 

Reason two – a first novel by an indie author lives on reviews.  Not that my novel is expensive ($2.99), but I would also want to know if others liked a book at all before I would be willing to spend any money on it.  Reviews give potential readers a hint of what they will be getting.  I always read them myself and base my purchases on them.  Don’t you?  

I understand you have to read it first, but I promise it is an easy read.  It’s a ‘curl up over a weekend and get lost in a fun story’ kind of book.  I wasn’t trying for too much pain and suffering (from my characters or my readers).  

So I am asking for 50 reviews for my 50th birthday.  Since 961 people got a free copy (and that’s not including my beta readers and editors), there will hopefully be at least 50 people who would like to make me the happiest camper around and give me a review.  

April 27th is the big day … twelve days from today.  I guess I’m blowing out my candles a little early (like I could blow out 50 candles) and making my wish now.  To all of you who hear my wish and review, an early thank you.



One Hit Wonder

Not that I have had a hit (yet), but I am already experiencing the difference in creating your first public creative work versus your second.  I am not surprised there are so many one hit wonders out there. 

Essentially, I wrote the first book for no one but myself, and maybe a few friends.  I solved each question and dilemma with gut check of what felt right for me.  I created the story I wanted to read and I am amazed how much I still like reading it.  I still don’t cringe and wish I had made it any different.  

My first love, about first love.

That was all before I entered the world of self-publishing and books reviews and genre discussion boards.  Opinions on writing to sell books and trends and over-saturation are in my head and hard to completely ignore.  There are other voices in my head now, critiquing each choice and it is more difficult to hear my own voice, my gut check, through the others.

Don’t get me wrong, writing is still a blast.  I really do get to day dream, then write it down and call it a (fledgling) career.  But I am also spending part of my day marketing book one, and sometimes having a hard time finding the right audience, the right blog reviewer, the right words to explain the unique, creative story I made.  I find myself doing a lot of “well, it’s not this, and it’s not that, but it has a little of this and a little of that.”  Sometimes comparison is the only way to describe something new.  I want to say, “just read it, then you’ll get what I’m saying.”  Marketing my unique voice has its unique challenges.

Of course, that is part of the benefit of having a book two.  Hopefully I will already have an audience who read book one and understand my unique voice and look forward to book two.  

If you lose touch with your unique voice when creating that second book or album or painting, you lose the audience that fell in love with your work in the first place.  You become a one hit wonder.  

Thank God it’s spring because walking has become an important part of my creative process.  Walking seems to help me clear the “you really should’s” out of my head:  you should follow trends, you should have your second book ready to be released immediately after your first, you should add some vampires, zombies, astronauts or angels to your new adult romance.  

My gut tells me I should write to please me, that my unique voice has a place and purpose.  Time to get back to writing and listening to it.