5 Reasons to See 50

We are still two weeks away from the premier of 50 Shades of Grey and the controversy is already heating up. Twitter was abuzz this morning with giggling-behind-my-hand, junior-high level salacious comments about guys getting some action if they take their date to see it. The purveyors of outrage porn have started the ground-swell of indigent (and mostly completely misinformed) anger. (But hey, if it gets you retweets, why bother researching before you speak.)

I didn’t feel the need to tell the world that I will be going to see it, with a date, and plan on enjoying the hell out of an interesting love story featuring two beautiful people, a great soundtrack and some beautiful scenery. But the level of crazy already surrounding this movie has me wanting to at least throw my perspective as a romance writer into the mix. 

What is it about elevators?

Before I explain why you might want to see it, let me add a few disclaimers. This film is based on the books that are not great literature. Public success and great writing usually have an inverse relationship especially when it comes to writing about sex. It also isn’t a how-to primer on BDSM. If you read one of those you would see that E.L. James did some research, but she barely touches on this complex, widely-varied sexual community. It also isn’t supporting the abuse of women. The main female character is a willing, albeit naive, participant. It’s really a pretty simple story with no political or instructional agenda. 

So, why dedicate another blog post to it? Why am I going to see it?

1. It’s a love story–a sexy love story, something we are so sadly lacking in America. I love to go to the movies and I can’t tell you how many times I have had the time and desire only to find that my choices are either Hot Tub Time Machine 2 or more death and gore in two hours than I want to see in a lifetime. Reading a book or seeing a movie is all about how it makes you feel. Personally, I want to feel sexy rather than moronic or grossed out.

2. I like that these books and this film are at least opening up a dialogue about different types of sexuality. The BIG news that emerged from these books is that not everyone likes their sex the same way. Reading about it and learning doesn’t equate with signing up and joining in. Half the stuff on social media is misinformed or childish, but at least we are talking. And it has couples talking and possibly admitting that they might want more than decades of rote sex with each other.

3. The movie might lead to more couples having more sex and I can’t see that as a bad thing. I am all for women and couples finding the books or movies that turn them both on. It can’t be repeated enough that the way to turn a woman on is through her brain. We need to think sexy thoughts, a lot of them, in order to push the massive, running to-do list that we all carry out of the front-and-center position in our brains. Two hours of beautiful people talking and acting sexy just might do the trick.

4. If this movie does well in theaters then we might get more sexy love stories in the future. I like the idea of us being a more sexy and less violent nation. I would love to see a steady stream of different types of love stories pouring out of Hollywood. (And a steady stream of writers getting big, fat checks for their romance novels being made into movies. Self-serving, but true.)

5. This is sexy done for women by women on a big budget movie. I teach a film class so I can say with authority that Hollywood has not often been open to the idea that women are sexual beings and not just the reluctant or exploited objects of male lust. The female lead character in this film may seem to be an innocent led astray, but the outcome of this romantic tug-of-war for power says otherwise.

So there it is, my two cents worth. And as I do with all my blog posts I will now tweet, post and pin it; hoping to add a slightly authoritative (or at least well thought out) voice into all that crazy. 

Join me and add your two cents and comment. Will you see the movie? In theaters or at home? Did you read the books? Are you ready for more sexy and fewer violent films?

Cheap Reads

Not so long ago my buying order for books looked like this: check the library first, used bookstore second, kindle third. I knew I could find any book I wanted for my kindle, but it was always the most expensive option. 

It was only three or four years ago that most of the books I read were paperback. Now, I rarely pick up a real book and ebooks have become my first choice. Not only are books being released and new authors being published at a rate the library can’t begin to keep pace with, but all that competition has brought some aggressive price discounts to ebooks. 

I ran my first sale for the past two weeks on the first book in my Burnouts series and I discovered some great websites that will send you an email daily or weekly with a list of books in your favorite genre that are free or have been discounted–love it!! I found several books that were on my “to be read” list already and saved a few bucks on each. 

Here’s a few of the better organized sites that I found and subscribed to (for free, of course).

http://choosybookworm.com/ – I met the very helpful owner, Jay, through my promotion. (Amazingly patient man with new/lost authors). Not only do they have an extensive list of free and discounted books, they also offer a read to review program. You can sign up for a free copy of a new book from an author in exchange for agreeing to give a review. It’s a great place to find new, exciting authors and give them a boost (because we LIVE for reviews).

readcheaply.com – This site has several subcategories for romance books, but covers all other genres too. I also like that you can specifically request only deals for kindle or nook or whichever device works for you.

https://www.bookbub.com – This is the largest site for free and discounted books, but it is also very expensive for an author to place a book on their list so many newer authors cannot afford to use this option. It’s a great place to find deals on older books from established authors or discounts from established authors. 

Although I write in the romance genre, all these sites have books listed in every genre including kids books. Don’t forget that you can gift books through Amazon to someone’s email address. It’s a great way to share your favorite books with friends and family for free or a dollar or two (and no shipping!)

Popstars, Friends & Lovers are Headed Your Way

So, this was me on Friday.

I finished the first draft of Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. I’ve been writing like a woman possessed for the past month. If anyone has been wondering why I haven’t called or written or texted it’s  because when I set a deadline, I hit a deadline. And because I was dying to share this story with everyone who has told me they are waiting for it. 

There is still some work to be done. I am shopping for a proofreader, working with the goddesses at Deranged Doctor Designs on a cover and having it beta read. But we will get there, my latest labor of love will be available as an e-book (at first) and I’m here to make the big announcement today. 

Mark your calendars.
To prepare you for this sequel to my debut novel I am going to be sharing the first few chapters of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story on my blog.  Starting next Monday. This might inspire any of you sitting on the fence to read book one before book two (always works better that way). 
Then …. I will also post the first few chapters of Popstars on this blog in the weeks before the release. 
Finally … I will debut the cover for Popstars here, on my blog. 

In other words …. keep an eye on this blog.


Dare to Dream

In a review of Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story the reviewer noted that she didn’t like the fact that the burnouts didn’t seem to have much ambition. It’s true, they don’t. But ambition comes from dreams, specifically dreams that you believe have a chance of coming true. It’s dreams that the burnouts lack and that lack is the theme of my second novel, Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale. (note the new addition to the title!)

One of my favorite scenes in the first book was Ben and the burnouts having breakfast together when he was kidnapped. It’s career day at school and the burnouts don’t feel the need to be there. It’s a traditional skip day for them and that alone speaks volumes about the prospects these kids see for their futures. When they question Ben about his plans the differences become clear. He has a dream, and a clear plan to reach it, and a family that supports him in his dream. 

I Wanna Be a Rock Star …

In contrast Casey hopes to get a job at a local factory and MG has unrealistic dreams of herself and Carrie moving to New York and walking right in to glamorous jobs. Carrie, Gina and Steve have no specific dreams for the future because no one ever told them they could. Dreaming starts at home, in families that tell their kids that they are not only allowed to have a dream, but the family will put time and money and love into helping make that dream come true. I agree that their lack of aspirations is frustrating, but I wrote it that way because it establishes one of the results of their home lives and also opens the door for so much to happen in book two.

Once out of the cocoon of high school outside forces start to define their lives. If you don’t have a specific plan and people to help you keep on track, you tend to drift with the flow and hope for the best. Even Ben finds his dreams changing as life happens to him in book one. 

I’m spending most of the day on most days writing Popstars, Friends & Lovers: a dreamer’s tale (again, cool new addition to the title) and I love the complexity of this theme. Popular culture tends to show dreams as a one size fits all kind of thing. We are told we should dream and dream big; then we should relentlessly go in the direction of our dreams and never, never give up. Until you have a movie star’s body, face, spouse, house and paycheck you have not made it. 

I can’t wait to dispel that myth. Through MG and Steve and a bunch of new characters I’m turning that cliche, Disneyesque idea on its head. Because its only when we grow up and figure out what we truly want from life that daring to dream becomes powerful. Book two is all about those dreams, the ones that when they do come true bring peace-of-mind, contentment and love (cause it’s a love story – after all). 

Mommy Porn

When the 50 Shades of Grey trailer was released last week the controversy started again. Is it porn? Is it porn specifically for women? Is it (lets go for the worst thing possible here) mommy porn? (cue the doomsday, horror movie sound track)

50 Shades 50 years ago

Personally, I would say it is not porn. I would call it a romance novel with an erotic element, and compared to other erotic romance novels, its kind of tame. If you took out all the sex scenes you would still have a story, specifically a romance about a girl and a guy who change in order to become a couple. (Pretty standard romance stuff).

So why the mommy porn moniker? Media hype. The phrase manages to combine two elements that our society believes should be diametrically opposed. Based in the antiquated madonna/whore idea is the belief that any woman who has given birth simultaneously erased all hints of her sexuality. Unfortunately women have believed this myth, bought into it, then shut down the sexual part of themselves. (Which was equally unfortunate for the men they were married to.) Fear of bucking the social norm still keeps so many women from admitting that they have any interest in anything sexual.

Would it really be such a bad thing if a married woman with a few kids managed to turn off the incessant stream of grocery lists and school agendas running through her head and instead remembered that sex can be exciting and fun? I argue that sexy novels do more good for marriage than harm. 

I saw an old man attempting to thumb through a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey at Costco once. He was so nervous and immediately stopped and walked away when he saw his wife approaching. I wanted to tell him to buy the book plus a nice bottle of wine and something that didn’t need to be cooked for dinner. Then go home climb into bed and read it to his wife. Something tells me that, love the story or hate it, they would have had some fun, exciting and interesting conversations (and probably much more) that night. Opportunity missed. 

One of the arguments against erotic romance books (especially this one) is that it has women fantasizing about someone either than their husband. I can see where that could be a problem … if Christian Grey was real and living in your neighborhood. But he’s not. He is pure make-believe and guaranteed to never show up and lead someone astray. Even the real-life movie version, Irish actor and underwear model Jamie Dornan, is highly unlikely to be out trolling your neck of the woods looking for a middle-age woman driving a minivan full of kids.

Actually, romance novels can bring discord to a marriage. Women who read about men who work at staying in shape, know how to dress and have a working knowledge of female sexual anatomy and desires, often do start wanting some of that in their own lives. But being the eternal optimists we are (and really loving souls) we more often than not

try to get more of what we want from within our marriages. 

I’m not sure how many couples will go see the movie on Valentines day (the release date). Through the books and movie and others like it, women are just starting to acknowledge that they are still whole people, still sexual beings and we quite often like to take those baby steps in the safety of a group of our peers. Like the man at Costco, there is a risk (oddly enough) in admitting our desires to our spouse. But the benefits … 

I’m not specifically recommending these books, but I am recommending more romance reading (which works out well since I am a romance writer.) There are so many sub-genres within romance: historical, western, vampire, etc. I guarantee there will be one that will curl your toes and make you go “squeee”; that will wake up (or possibly start) all those wonderful dirty thoughts that will have you packing the kids off to bond with grandma so you can “review the finer plot points” with your spouse.  

Torrenting is Stealing

I dread the day my teens move out. I might run out of topics for my blog. I started this morning with a lively discussion on torrenting (pirating) music and movies with my teen. As an author of an e-book I take pirating personally. I’m amazed at the cavalier attitude of teens in general toward this practice.

The most popular argument, and my personal favorite, is that since teens don’t have enough money to purchase all the music and movies and e-books they would like to own, that justifies taking free copies from sites that haven stolen them. I love this idea and I kind of hope it holds up in court because I can’t afford any of the Christian Louboutin shoes I want. How awesome would it be to just saunter in to one of their stores and take a few pairs since I’m too poor to buy them. I’ll post a pic of my new shoes when this idea becomes a legal precedent.

Which leads to the argument that shoes are a physical item where there is cost involved in producing each item. Teens say it’s different if it is something that you can make infinite copies of. “But, doesn’t your favorite band have a right to make money from their work?” I contend. “Yes, but they make tons of money so they can afford to have some not paid for (notice an avoidance of the word ‘stolen’). These teens have no problem playing judge and jury with the unseen finances of musicians and authors they claim to love. It left me wondering exactly how much the band, actor, author is allowed to make before their fans decide that they have enough and the rest should be free. I guess they reference the communist manifesto for a precise number.

I’ve also been told that those who are stealing wouldn’t pay for the stuff anyway, so they should just be ignored. This problem is huge and growing worldwide but that isn’t a reason to ignore it. I’m not sure how this will play out as these teens enter the work force and send their lovingly-crafted work into the internet ether. My guess would be that those who work in creative industries will see the value of their work has diminished and along with it their ability to earn a decent living. Having helped themselves to free music, movies, books, photographs, etc. since childhood pirating could become the standard rather than the exception. 

The other thing I can’t see is the new business model that will probably spring up to replace the current one. I’m not one to subscribe to gloom and doom predictions. I do believe that an enterprising musician or marketer or some kid who knows how to make a buck will find a way to both pay the piper and allow the listeners to feel like they are accessing it all for free.The never-ending evolution of making the almighty buck has never let me down.

Until then I will continue my campaign. It will take frustration and anger on the part of all who produce electronic intellectual property to bring about change. It will take drawing attention to the problem and not allowing the value of our work to be diminished to nothing. I might not still be writing when a new business model evolves, so until then, I need to make money from my work. I’ve got a more shoes to buy.

If I Die Young

I went to the funeral of a young, beautiful, vibrant woman who died of breast cancer this past week. It was a heart-breaking event that caused me to pause and reflect on my life, on how I will or want to be remembered and on how I spend my time. It took two planes then a nine hour drive to be able to go to her funeral, but it was worth it. 

Tricia was no shrinking violet. She was smart and strong and spoke her mind and I loved that so many people were there to honor her for being such a strong woman. She and I shared the fact that we are married to very smart men. Even though she was younger than me, I loved the way, and studied, how she held her own in debates with him. She spoke her mind and never shied away from Thanksgiving table debates. I didn’t really find my voice until recently and there are times I still consider taking the soft-spoken, sweet girl route and not rocking the boat. I’m glad she rocked the boat, that she had strong ideals and wasn’t afraid to share them.

We were also both moms. Her girls got up and read a poem at her funeral and I was amazed at how much of not only her physical beauty they posses, but also how much of her strength. I’m not sure I could have done the same at their age. You could see that though they were devastated by the loss of their mother, they both have her spirit. I could see the amazing women they will become, in part due to this tragedy. Some are crushed by an event like this, others are forged by it. 

I was struck by the ways her family embraced and celebrated her feminist ideals. Her pallbearers were all women, the preacher spoke of how important it was to her that her daughters not believe in a world that limited women, a woman from the church sang “I Did It My Way.” 

Funerals are important for the living. They give us closure and allow us to grieve together and comfort each other, but this one, for a young mother, did more than that for me. It strengthened me and made me more committed to writing this blog, writing novels, jumping out of airplanes, getting tattoos, and basically not living a chicken-shit life any more. It confirmed all the positive changes I’ve made in the past few years.  

I didn’t allow myself to get into thoughts of why this had to happen to her. I don’t believe there is some master plan or reason for such a tragic death. But I do believe that we can choose our reaction to it. I’m using the deep sadness I feel about her death to reaffirm my life. Because of Tricia I will continue to be stronger, to have opinions and crusade for causes I believe in and to raise my sons to be good men who appreciate strong, smart women.