mollyringle: (Default)
 I've been getting early reviews back on The Goblins of Bellwater, and most of them are good (whew). And, as ever, I could not predict what people would say, and I've already been a bit surprised by some comments. For instance, the book got an unusual compliment in this review:

"One of the best things this book does doesn't actually have to do with the story, but the fact that each time any of the characters have sex, either one or both of them have condoms ready. It's explicitly stated. It's kind of a shame that so often sex is just a spur of the moment in YA and NA with no mention of safety, either pregnancy or STDs (unless the entire book is based around those subjects). Safe sex needs to be mentioned and I'm glad it was here, especially in such a natural way within the moment."

I completely agree and am glad it felt natural, which tends to be the tricky part. I know that a lot of writers don't want to mention the birth control/protection because it's unromantic, a trip-up in the tango. But personally, anytime I'm reading a book with male/female sex and they DON'T mention protection, I spend the rest of the story wondering when we're going to find out she's pregnant. Or, with any couples, it's possible they could have caught something, but I don't suspect that in general, since STDs aren't nearly as common a plot device as pregnancies. I mean, if you think birth control is unsexy, wait till we talk about sores in uncomfortable places...

So, right--thank you for noticing and backing me up on my stance, reviewer Tori! High five.
mollyringle: (butterfly - Pushing Pixels)

What I pinned to my purse this week. Almost literally the very least I could do, but I couldn't not do it.

---

A cross-post from my Tumblr:

I’d like to share with you how our youngest child learned and dealt with the shocking, traumatizing truth that same-sex couples can marry in the U.S.:

Our 10-year-old son: I love Lionel Messi. [A famous soccer player.]
Our 6-year-old son: Are you going to MARRY him?
10-year-old: No! He’s way too old for me.
6-year-old: Also, boys can’t marry other boys.
10-year-old, me, and Dad, in unison: Yes they can.
6-year-old, cheerfully unconcerned: Oh. Okay.

(In case you wanted very anecdotal evidence that homophobia is learned, not inborn.)

---

I know I thank you a lot, but I wanted to again, for supporting me as a writer, and supporting me as a member of the LGBT community. Thank you for writing how you do. Thank you for being someone I can comfortably send this message to.

That's part of a message I got today from a young woman I've never met, but with whom I've exchanged several emails about writing and publishing--and, occasionally, LGBT issues. Look, I'm a boring, straight, stay-at-home mom who writes about fictional people, some of whom are LGBT, because I like all kinds of love stories. But I consider myself practically a poser; or at least, not really someone who's putting near as much effort as she could into being the good ally I'd like to be. So what kind of world are we living in where someone as half-assed about LGBT kindness as me is getting thanked for being someone who's safe to send a message to about such issues? It breaks my freaking heart. We've come a long way, but we have a still longer way to go yet.

If you're an ally too, and you haven't said so, say so. Pin a rainbow heart on your jacket. Chances are, someone out there is going to feel comforted when they see it. Even if they aren't feeling up to saying anything.

mollyringle: (arthur)

I finally saw The Force Awakens (loved it!), and was reading news stories about the popularity of the Stormpilot pairing (which of course I could totally get behind). I should know better than to read the comments, though. Oy.

I don't want to give these articles extra traffic by linking to them. You can find them easily enough if you want. I'll just say that even on the more liberal news sites, and even in this modern enlightened age, the comments section is still filled with remarks like, “Who cares what their sexuality is; why shove our faces in it?” and, “Ugh, if they include that kind of politically-correct crap, I’m so done with this series.”

And when I read those comments it makes me even more determined to keep including LGBT characters in my writing. Because if LGBT people can be brave enough to go about their actual lives up against those attitudes every single day, I can surely be brave enough to write fiction about it.

Plus I think the more examples of non-straight relationships people see, the more they'll grasp that love and desire and vulnerability and all the other parts of relationships are simply human feelings, not straight ones or gay ones. And that you can be happy for someone else even if what they're into isn't your thing.

(I can't not include a photo from Maurice when discussing this topic. And here, Willow and Tara too, for the women's side.)

mollyringle: (sleazy fandom)
'Of Course' Luke Skywalker Is Gay, Confirms Mark Hamill, Echoing Thousands of Fan-Fiction Prayers


From the article: "...fans are writing and ask all these questions, 'I'm bullied in school... I'm afraid to come out'. They say to me, 'Could Luke be gay?' I'd say it is meant to be interpreted by the viewer... If you think Luke is gay, of course he is."


--

Bless you, Mark Hamill. Not only are you a compassionate human being, but one who understands that what the story means to the reader/viewer is as genuine as what it means to the story's creator(s).


Edited to expand:


I shared this on my Facebook author page as well, and someone commented, "Umm, except that is not what Mark Hamill said in the article. Thinking something is true doesn't make it true."


My answer, and further thoughts:


The headline does make it sound more definitive than it's meant to be, but I directly quoted almost everything he actually said in the article. They also include a tweet from him, in which he says, "Luke is whatever the audience wants him to be, so you can decide for yourself."


Since Luke's a fictional character whose sexuality isn't directly addressed in canon, there isn't really a "true" or "false" on the question. And mainly what I'm commending is Hamill giving hope and validation to kids whose families are failing on that job.


I think it's fine and good for the writer to say publicly, "To me, the character is this, that, and the other," in addition to whatever is already established in canon. But I think it's better still for them to add, "But if you have head-canon in which he or she is something else, and you love this idea, then that's fine too, because that makes the story meaningful in a new way."


Obviously no one wants their story to be the inspiration for a murder or anything--e.g., John Lennon's murderer being obsessed with Catcher in the Rye. I wouldn't go so far as to say, "If you think this book is saying, 'Go out and kill people,' then that's valid!" I'm talking, obviously, about head-canon that doesn't hurt anyone else even if it's fancifully different from established canon. (And in any case, I rather suspect that even if Catcher in the Rye hadn't existed, Chapman would have still had serious issues and simply named some other justification for them.)

mollyringle: (Maurice & Clive)

I dread being controversial or political online, but I want honest and sincere thoughts on this, with as few in the way of flame wars as possible. My question is more or less: if you’re not a member of a certain minority, do you get to write about it? Since I’m a novelist, I’m thinking in terms more of fiction here than nonfiction or journalism.

On the “no” side, the argument is basically (I’ll just quote this blog post here), “It is not the place of a cis straight person to represent the LGBTA community in order to claim progressive thinking on their part. … By all means we should be allies and make all efforts to be diverse in our work, but we should not seek to take their stories from them when there are so many creators from the LGBTA community who go ignored in favor of mainstream medium, and who would give a far more accurate account and portrayal of their stories. The same goes for race. In that instance, write what you know is applicable.”*

Fair enough. But on the “yes” side, which I admit is the side I’ve been working from all these years, the argument is: assuming the portrayal is done with as much taste, compassion, and realistic accuracy as the author can scrounge up (as opposed to using stereotypes or playing the characters’ culture/orientation/etc. for laughs), then surely it’s better to have more types of characters in more books, no matter what background the author comes from.

Even though I’m white and heterosexual and middle-class and American and therefore boringly generic and privileged in most ways, I recognize the problem of ethnic minorities and LGBTQ characters being underrepresented in entertainment. Plus I’m honestly into some of the stories that could be told with such characters (I’ve long squealed in delight over slash fiction, as nearly all of you know), so I want to write about them. I have this perhaps naïve hope that if someone reads a book that gets them (the readers) thinking more kindly about types of people they didn’t think about very much before, and gets them seeing more types of people as fellow humans with equal status to themselves, then hurray! The book has done something worthwhile! And it doesn’t really matter who the author is, in that case.

In fact, I’m the self-effacing type of author who doesn’t want you to think about ME; I want you to notice just my stories, my characters. It isn’t about me. This becomes a problem when it’s time to get out there and market my work in person with bright smiles, which is a task that sucks the life force out of me, but I digress.

So am I wrong? Should I be respectfully backing off and allowing “those groups” to tell their own stories? I certainly encourage anyone to do so who wants to, and I don’t want those stories to be ignored in favor of mine just because I’m white and privileged and stuff (though given my superbly modest sales figures, I really don’t think anyone’s favoring my work over others, so honestly I doubt this is currently a problem).

In my Greek myth series, I have some gay or bi characters, and others I picture as black or mixed-race. I don’t make A Big Thing of it for the most part; they’re just character details, mentioned alongside what color clothes they wear or what kind of salads they prefer or whether they like loud parties. (As an introvert, I found it WAY easier to write the gay or bi aspects of characters than to write Tabitha’s extroversion--she’s the reincarnated Dionysos, and loves organizing and attending parties, and drinking and being loud. I can’t comprehend being like that. But love and crushes, sure, I get those.)

I do try to avoid stereotypes. I’d rather a book didn’t include any gay characters than have it include one who lisped and called everyone “sweetie” and wore glasses with pink glittery frames. Same goes for all the ethnic-group issues you could run up against. I imagine, if anything, I err on the side of my black characters being too much like the white ones, such that you might not even know they’re black. But then, I also went that route because for the purposes of this story, it doesn’t exactly matter what their genetic makeup is. Also, a friendly mix of races and cultures is part of the new global civilization, and I feel like we do get to be casual about it, as long as we’re compassionate to everyone.

The one “minority” I belong to is that of women, and I’ll go on record as saying I have nothing at all against male authors who write in depth about female characters. In fact, I think more of them should, as long as they follow the guidelines discussed above: avoid stereotypes, view everyone as a human with equal rights and personal subtleties, be as fair and realistic as you can.

Anyway. The more I ramble about this, the more I realize it could be an entire doctoral thesis (and I’m sure it has been for lots of people), so I’ll leave it at that. But I welcome anyone’s thoughts! If you’re gay or trans, does it bother you if straight/cis people write LGBTQ characters? If you’re black or Latino or Asian (or fill in the blank), does it bother you if generic white people write about your ethnic group?

Further good reading on the topic: Why I Am Scared to Write About Diversity, by Cait at Paper Fury

* I do love this quote from that same post, though:

“ 'You should only ever write what you know.'— Whenever I read advice like this I can’t help but feel like Mary Shelley had some fucking weird anatomy classes I never got at school, and that I’d like to try whatever Tolkien was having." Ha! Quite so.

mollyringle: (Froud - kissed by pixies)
We've been reading L. Frank Baum's Oz books to the kids at bedtime this summer. So far we've read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz and are in the middle of Ozma of Oz. Despite the rather formal and occasionally antiquated narrative and dialogue, the kids seem quite taken with it, just as I was in my childhood. And as a grown-up writer now, I still bow in supreme admiration to Baum's wildly creative imagination. Further notes, adapted from some I posted on Facebook:

Jun. 29:
Started reading The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to the kids last night. They seem to like it. Differences from the movie I'm noting now (which I once knew but had forgotten):
There's a "Wonderful" in the title.
They're silver shoes, not ruby slippers.
No long lead-in with Dorothy running away and thinking of a place over the rainbow. It's more like, "Once upon a time, CYCLONE." Which works fine, actually. (Also, it isn't a "twister" or a "tornado;" it's apparently a "cyclone.")
The good witch they meet in Munchkinland isn't named and isn't Glinda; she's just the good Witch of the North. Unlike Glinda, she is a small, wrinkled, white-haired old woman.

Yes, I'm sure there are webpages detailing all the differences. It's fun to use my own brain, though. Once in a while.

Jul. 27:
Latest beloved-childhood-film-rewatching-with-kids: The Wizard of Oz, following up on our reading the book with them. It's still mostly awesome! The Lion is the weak point, with his corny 1930s comic relief stuff, but there is still plenty of good acting and gorgeous filming to make up for that. I especially liked the Scarecrow's physicality, adroitly flopping and tumbling about as if actually made of straw. The kids really liked the movie too. (Toto was their favorite.)

And it's been long noted by Oz fans, but L. Frank Baum's books, and this film accordingly, pass the Bechdel Test, and not just barely, but soaring over the requirements. Heck, women, good and evil, pretty much rule the land of Oz. Well, the Wizard rules too, but he's a humbug. Now that I look up Baum on Wikipedia, having realized I know almost nothing about him or his life, I learn his wife was from a family of women's suffrage activists, so indeed, he was well up in the progressive stuff.

On the music side, I never noticed before that they use Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" in the score for a short time, during the fight in the Witch's castle. Cool.

Aug. 1:
The 5-year-old: I want to be the Wicked Witch of the West for Halloween.
Steve: Cool. Maybe your brother can be your Winged Monkey.
Me: And I can finally realize my childhood dream and be Dorothy. Dad can be Toto.
Steve: Or the Scarecrow.
Me: Ooh! Yes! We can have a Dorothy/Scarecrow thing going on.
Steve covers his face.
Me: I've traumatized Daddy.
Steve: I'm broken.
Kids, meanwhile, are doing a rather excellent job cackling like Margaret Hamilton.

Aug. 18:
We finished reading The Marvelous Land of Oz (book 2) to the kids last night, and ha! I had forgotten that the boy Tip turns out to be, unbeknownst to himself, the princess Ozma under a magical disguise, and he gets changed back into his true feminine form and takes the throne. Yes. Ozma is a trans woman. Kind of.

Considering that chapter came with this Glinda/Ozma illustration as the header, we can at least safely say Baum is a treasure trove for LGBTQ/progressive-thinking type fans, even if he didn't anticipate all the ways in which he might be interpreted:

ozma-glinda

(I mean, sure, this is likely a "magical kiss of life" kind of thing, but the kiss wasn't actually in the text, so, up to interpretation...)
mollyringle: (girl reading with moon)
"It is a sad paradox that when male authors impersonate women (Tolstoy as Anna Karenina, Flaubert as Bovary, Richardson as Clarissa, Lawrence as Constance Chatterley, John Berryman as Mistress Bradstreet) they are said to be dealing with 'cosmic, major concerns'--but when we impersonate ourselves we are said to be writing 'women's fiction' or 'women's poetry.'"

- Erica Jong, introducing Colette in an omnibus of Colette's work, 1974

Kind of discouraging that forty years later we're still blithely labeling things "women's fiction." Also discouraging that it took me a while to notice it's not the most progressive or useful genre name. (The positive flip side, potentially: women buy and read books these days in far greater numbers than men do, so you'll sell more if you write "for women." But defining "for women" remains problematic, I would think.)

Thousands of academic theses can be, and have been, and will be written about these matters. I'm not attempting anything huge here today. This is only a brief post in which I'll add this personal anecdote:

Recently my folks brought me a newspaper clipping of some (male) journalist's list of best novels ever, or best writers ever, or something along those lines. We all enjoy looking over such lists. But as I read it, I noted that he cited someone--I think it was Carson McCullers--as "the best female American writer," perhaps of the 20th century; I forget the exact accolade. But "female" was definitely in there.

I looked at my parents and said, "Why 'best female writer,' when he doesn't say 'best male writer'?"

My dad shrugged, as if he'd never noticed or thought about the issue. My mom looked me in the eye and pointed at me silently, as if to say, "Exactly."
mollyringle: (sleazy surprised fandom)
In my re-read of LOTR, I lately began book 6 - the final leg! Here be more musings, this time all about Frodo/Sam as the One True Pairing. Be warned.

I do honestly believe Tolkien didn't intend to make Sam and Frodo's relationship romantic. But I also know from experience that characters start doing their own thing after you've been writing them a while, and I'm sorry, Professor, but those two hobbits REALLY seem like a couple. And they seem like they have been for YEARS before this quest. Or, at the very least, Sam's in love with Frodo, and Frodo complacently humors it. I'm not even trying to be a swoony shipper here--the conditions of the quest are not exactly sexy--nor am I trying to be subversive. This is my (admittedly 21st-century) writer's instinct talking.

Sam does marry Rosie after they get home, so maybe the strain of the quest is what finally ends the relationship. I can see how the Ring would do that. (Curse you, Ring!) But up till then--really, I'm trying to bring non-shipper-ish, clear-headed analysis to this, and they STILL feel like a couple to me. I keep shrugging off one eyebrow-raising endearment only to have them voicing new ones the next page.

Yes, LOTR is a book full of close male relationships--which it would have to be, given the absence of females. But none of the other guys act the way Frodo and Sam do. Merry and Pippin are close and chummy, but theirs is more a bromance. Legolas and Gimli make a nice Odd Couple or pair of Grumpy Old Men willing to travel together after the quest, but that's about all. And Legolas does say how he, and others, will follow Aragorn anywhere because they love him so much, but that feels like a kingly-worship thing, along with an Elvish-courtliness thing.

None of them sleep in each other's laps the way Sam and Frodo do. They don't gaze at their buddy as he sleeps, find him "beautiful," and murmur, "I love him" (Sam, The Two Towers). They don't fondle each other's hands and say, "My dear" (both Frodo and Sam, lots of times). When parted from one another, they don't long only for that fellow, "for one sight of his face or one touch of his hand." (Sam looking for Frodo, The Return of the King.) In fact, only Éowyn so far, to Aragorn, has used stronger words of romantic love, and shown stronger signs thereof, than Sam and Frodo have to each other over and over throughout.

Sam is Frodo's servant, which does alter the nature of how they'd relate to each other, especially since this is a fantasy world where social norms could be different. Frodo's role as "master" could--people say--account for Sam's brand of loving devotion. Tolkien claimed he meant their friendship to resemble that of an officer and his batman in WWI. A rural gentleman and his familiar valet, perhaps, one could also say. As regards the cooking and pack-carrying and looking-after that Sam does for Frodo, sure, I accept that. But I'm sorry, Professor, my instincts say he's gone beyond the feelings of a faithful servant. Or else being a batman apparently means acting like someone's boyfriend.
mollyringle: (couple w/ umbrella on street)
I greatly admired this post in defense of the "unlikable" female character.

"We forgive our heroes even when they’re drunken, aimless brutes or flawed noir figures who smoke too much and can’t hold down a steady relationship. In truth, we both sympathize with and celebrate these heroes... But what we love about many male heroes – their complexity, their confidence, their occasional bouts of selfish whim –become, in female heroes, marks of the dreaded 'unlikeable character.'"

Fits with my experience with fiction reviews. I write about flawed humans, male and female, but when reviewers complain about not finding one of my characters likable enough, nine times out of ten it's a female character they're picking on. And not for lack of flawed male ones. It's an interesting experiment, or challenge, to ask yourself when reading, "What would I think of this character if s/he were the opposite sex? And why?"

In related news, my own novel-writing is going well. Just emailed my beta readers a draft of book 2 of the Chrysomelia Stories (that is, the Persephone series), which will likely be titled Underworld's Daughter. Hurray! It does bring in some new characters, most of them female, and I'm hoping I've made them complex enough that you are free to find them likable or unlikable as you see fit.
mollyringle: (Uncle Sam WWII - by pear_icons)
I have said this before, but once again, I am tired of the way teenage girls are not supposed to show sexual desire in, like, nearly all of bestselling YA literature. Even in the Hunger Games, which otherwise I quite admire, Katniss only barely starts noticing, after MONTHS of kissing Peeta, that, huh, it's occasionally *fun* to kiss him. And of course (SPOILERS, HI) a certain pregnancy rumor has to go hand-in-hand with a marriage rumor--because a heroic female would never have sex before marriage, even in a world where tributes stroll around naked to please the crowd.

Authors and prudish Americans at large, you are NOT doing teenage girls any favors by holding up only the chaste young women as the role models. You are indirectly (and sometimes directly) suggesting that all sexual feelings are to be suppressed and are something to be ashamed of, and that a "good" girl doesn't go beyond kissing AT ALL until after marriage. (I suppose you say the same to boys, but with much less force, because hey, boys do what they're going to do, right?) You are only giving our young women complexes, far more than you're giving them valuable role models. They're going to have those feelings whether you discourage them or not.

All I can do is rant occasionally, and of course write my own books in which teens find healthy and relatively safe ways to enjoy each other sans clothing. Which I shall keep doing. So there.
mollyringle: (Vettriano - umbrella - by c_sharp_icons)
Five stars: Distraction by J.L. Campbell

J.L. Campbell is an excellent writer, and proves it in this novel, where she takes some difficult and sometimes taboo themes (adultery, addictions, domestic abuse, sexually transmitted diseases) and writes with beauty and compassion about them. My heart went out to these three women and their lovers and families, who live through an exciting soap opera of problems as this novel develops. Though this is "women's fiction" rather than "romance"--because the romance genre often doesn't dare touch said taboo themes--there is plenty of romantic interest that had me sighing and cheering and feeling bereft as the relationships twisted and changed. Take for example Xavier, a serious distraction to the married Justine: he's tall, gorgeous, patient, understanding, *and* can play guitar and sing. Yeah, I see how she got distracted. Yum!

Best of all was the flavor that the setting lent to the whole story. Campbell excels at sprinkling enough Jamaican dialect and cultural details (foods, plants, gorgeous beaches...) into the novel to make me feel like I got to know the island, without it ever being confusing. Since I've never been to the Caribbean, and wasn't sure what to expect of the culture, that was especially interesting and fun.

From the teaser chapter of the sequel, at the end of this novel, I get the impression there'll be more coming from these characters, for which I'm glad. I want the soap opera to go on! Great beach read, whether you're anywhere near the Caribbean or not.
mollyringle: (sex/kiss-Stage Beauty)
In novels about teens, when it comes to sexual activity, it seems you usually have one of two options: "all the way" sex, or virginity. We either preserve our dewy-eyed virgin's maidenhead to the triumphant end, without her even getting her bra dislodged; or we see the couple tumble into bed and hope real hard that they used protection or else we're going to be worrying she's pregnant for the rest of the story.

You sometimes get the impression that authors don't even KNOW there are other things couples can do together. But of course they must know, because teens themselves know (I hope), and authors were once teens. So why don't we see these lower-risk, still-super-exciting intimate activities more in novels? I have to figure it's because writers are squeamish: they feel it's somehow too graphic to sketch out, say, manual sex or oral sex. I say it's doing a disservice to young readers to dodge the issue, however, because what if teens honestly do need a reminder that you can enjoy your significant other without putting yourselves at the highest possible risk?

In my teen books, I dare to enter that territory. Teens get naked together and get satisfaction without risking pregnancy or (most of the common) STD's.* Some of my teen characters are virgins, and some aren't, but all have sexual interests and sexual thoughts, because I think guilt-tripping kids for their natural thoughts is an even more grievous disservice. (I'm looking at you, churches.) In a word, I want to be sex-positive. We don't need the shame, and we don't need the clueless danger. We CAN achieve a balance of sex that's both fun and safe--even for teenagers. Especially for teenagers.

*Of course, you can get some STD's from skin-to-skin contact, or oral sex, but then you can get a truly nasty cold from shaking someone's hand. Big world, lot of microbes; take your risks as you will.
mollyringle: (sleazy fandom)
I don't in fact aim to invite a flame war, but there was this amusing moment in season 4 of The Big Bang Theory (a show that you should watch if you haven't yet, because it is hilarious):

---

Priya: Listen, Rajesh, Leonard and I have decided to see each other again, and you don’t get to tell me who I can and can’t have a relationship with.

Sheldon: Actually, he can. The Hindu Code of Manu is very clear in these matters. If a woman's father is not around, the duty of controlling her base desires falls to the closest male member of her family; in this case, Raj. The code also states that if she disobeys, she will be reborn in the womb of a jackal and tormented by diseases. If true, that seems like an awfully large gamble given that the prize is Leonard.

Raj: There it is, Priya. We're Indian. We believe this stuff.

Priya: I think it also says that if you eat beef, you need to live with cows for three months and drink their urine.

Raj: Some of it makes sense, some of it's crazy. My point is, you can't go out with Leonard.

---

"Some of it makes sense, some of it's crazy" is basically the response I got recently when (with great foolishness) I ventured to say on an online forum that it isn't wise to cite the Bible as a defense for being anti-gay, since you could also use the Bible to be pro-slavery and pro-stoning-women-to-death-for-adultery, not to mention anti-shellfish and a number of other "crazy" attitudes. It was coolly suggested that I don't really understand the Bible if I propose such parallels. Okay, some truth to that; I am not in fact a religious studies scholar. Nonetheless, it *is* almost indisputable that some of the Bible makes sense and some of it's crazy. And the parts that now seem crazy are usually due to out-of-date cultural standards (or maybe mistranslations). So, when are we ready to admit that gayness being an abomination to God is just as culturally out of date as slavery being A-OK with God?

The Big Bang Theory is comedy. They know Raj is actually objecting to his friend dating his sister because of a basic annoyance and disgust factor, not really because of religion. Religion is just a handy excuse. So, yeah. Parallel, much?
mollyringle: (Elvgren girlie)
When you write for certain genres, there are rules you have to follow, or you'll likely get rejected. And the rules for romance include a couple of--if you ask me--unrealistic and silly ones that I simply cannot always follow if I'm going to write an interesting story.

The big one is about cheating. Infidelity on the part of the hero or heroine is an absolute big-time no-no in the romance genre. Now, I understand it's a sensitive topic, and that cheating has hurt lots of actual people, who therefore don't want to read about it. However...yeah, it does happen to lots of actual people. Therefore it's a pertinent issue. And while infidelity is usually not the *best* idea, I wouldn't qualify it as pure evil in most cases either. And, more to the point when we're talking about writing, it usually makes for juicy plot twists. Therefore, though I don't want to include it in all my stories, I do sometimes explore the sticky and interesting issue of being not 100% faithful to one's significant other.

Mind you, in both the published books where I've gone into that territory--What Scotland Taught Me and Relatively Honest--I was dealing with teenagers, not married adults. Age 18 is a time when plenty of us make questionable decisions, and learn from them. I was going more for realistic coming-of-age than strictly for romance. Nonetheless, I think a love story benefits from a dose of reality--and a dose of juicy gossip.

Also: how come we modern romance novelists have to stick to this no-cheaters rule when some of the most acclaimed love stories on film--and on paper--had infidelity in spades? A couple of whopping examples off the top of my head:

Gone with the Wind: All right, it's more like historical fiction masquerading as a bodice-ripper, but it's still considered to have set many a standard for romance. And, dude! Scarlett marries two other guys before giving Rhett a chance--stringing him along all the while--and, in the meantime, does her best to seduce Ashley, a (mostly) happily married man. This would never fly with a modern romance editor. But it's a great book, and Scarlett's ruthless, clueless flirtations make for a ripping good read.

Sleepless in Seattle: Again, held up as a contemporary classic of the romantic film genre. But Meg Ryan's character, throughout, has a fiance, a nice guy, who she's sleeping with throughout most of the film, and lying to about her crush on this stranger in Seattle. Again, romance editors would send this a tidy rejection letter. But if she didn't have the fiance, she'd have no particular reason to be so conflicted about checking out Tom Hanks, and you'd have no story.

Can you think of other examples? Do you have non-negotiable rules for the love stories you read? Or are there no deal-breakers as long as the story is well written?
mollyringle: (sex/kiss-Stage Beauty)
Relatively Honest

What was I thinking? Writing from a male, British, 18-year-old point of view, when I'm completely not any of those things?

Well, in my defense, I was once 18, and that's when I dreamed up Daniel Revelstoke and began writing about him. I stole his last name from the swashbuckling-sounding name of a small town in British Columbia, which we drove through once on a family vacation. I made him English, because then his accent and tousled Cambridge-student-ish hair would make him instantly hot. I gave him a zeal (and a talent) for attracting and seducing girls. And, of course, I made him fall in love and change his ways--while dealing him some payback for those broken hearts and white lies in the past.

Nearly all women, young and old, are soft on the Don Juan character--or the Casanova, or ladies' man, or whichever label you prefer. Why? Because they're good at charming us females, of course! Naturally we can't hate them altogether when they're so good at buttering us up. But we also want to be the one who changes the Casanova, the exception to his rule. It's a common romance trope, actually. But, darn it, it's huge fun to write and read, if you ask me.

I've lived with Daniel, and his co-stars Julie and Sinter, for half my life now, so the publication of this novel at long last is a momentous personal occasion, even if the book itself is still mostly a lightweight, if twisted, romantic comedy. Oh, it's not the same manuscript I scrawled when I was 18, not by any means. I weeded out the pointless, meandering scenes and the excessive girliness, and gave Daniel's voice a chance to sound at least halfway masculine. Upon the advice of actual English people, I upgraded his dialect so he sounded modern and not like a character from a 1940s movie. (I used "bloody" instead of "damned," for example.) I cranked up the tension throughout, as well as the comedy, and toned down the soppiness. And I ended up loving my Don Juan more than ever in the process. I hope you do too. (And his roommate Sinter--oh, some days I love Sinter even more. He'll get his own novel before long. I just have to go in and revise *that* one from basement to ceiling.)

RELATIVELY HONEST is due out as an ebook on September 15--one more week. Comment here and you'll be entered to win a signed ebook, your choice of format. I'll be giving away three of them. Good luck!
mollyringle: (kodama)
I was going to write a post criticizing Pixar for having practically zero central female characters in any of their movies, then discovered someone already wrote that post years ago. And they're not the only one: just Google "Pixar female characters" for a sampling of similar critiques.

I actually like Pixar's movies quite a lot. So much that I didn't even notice the gender issue until this year, when I watched the trailer for Brave and realized it was remarkable that the main character was a girl.

But of course, guess what kind of girl she is? A princess. (*sigh*)

Pixar, I admire and enjoy you, so I'm going to keep giving you more chances. But really, take a page from Joss Whedon and Hayao Miyazaki, who, despite both being men, know how to give girls and women the center stage--and look! It hasn't scared away any of their male fans! Amazing! I assume that's what Pixar is afraid of: alienating the dads and sons of the world. Or are they just unaware of the pattern in the choices they've made so far? Is that possible, in this world of advanced market research?

What is up with this, Pixar? I want to know.
mollyringle: (my life is so thrilling)
Novelist [livejournal.com profile] kateelliott first introduced me to the Bechdel Test in this post about epic fantasy. The Bechdel Test was originally created for movies, but can be applied easily to books too. As its official page states, the test rates a movie (or a book, we could say) on the following three criteria:

1) It has to have at least two women in it,
2) who talk to each other,
3) about something besides a man.

This test has stuck in my mind ever since reading Elliott's post, because, as she says, it's kind of astonishing how many books and movies don't pass all three criteria. I do believe in basic equality, and those three simple rules seem more than fair.

So naturally it made me look at my own novels. And I'm chagrined to say that some of them barely squeak by, or might even fail. Quick rundown:

The Ghost Downstairs: Passes with full marks. Lots of female characters--in fact, more females than males. They do discuss men (it's a romance, after all), but they also discuss ghosts and jobs and stuff.

Summer Term: Hmm. I do have a number of active female characters, but most of them don't interact with each other, or only meet briefly. The two best friends, Paige and Ky, do chat a lot, but it's almost always about men. Again, in my defense, it's a romance, and of the most frothy sort. Still, they take sidetracks into movies and academics for a line or two here and there, so maybe this book gets a pass.

What Scotland Taught Me: Passes just fine. Of the four main characters, three are young women, who do plenty of interacting. Again, squealing (or squabbling) over boys constitutes a lot of their subject matter, but there are soberer discussions involving family members and career plans and ghost legends.

Of Ghosts and Geeks: (Novella; likely soon to be published--yay!) Highly silly, given that one of the main female characters is an obnoxious ghost, but it does pass. She and the living female protagonist occasionally talk of non-romance issues, but not much, since the whole point is that the ghost is obsessed with romance.

Boy in Eyeliner: (Not yet published. In revision.) Eek. This might fail! But my defense this time is somewhat better. It's from a first-person male point of view, and his main love ends up being with another man. Hopefully that regains some of my gender-equality street cred. Also, I've scattered the characters across the globe--Portland, Seattle, and London--so the three or four important female characters simply aren't in the same location at the same time, on the whole. Still, maybe I should reconsider that.

So. How do your favorites--or your own creations--measure up?
mollyringle: (Doctor Who 10 - ego)
Want a three-volume ebook set of paranormal romance short stories, for free? Of course you do! So click here and scoop 'em up.

One of my stories is in Volume Three (the one with the pretty blue cover)--it's called "Midsummer Daisies," and, for what it's worth, I sort of pictured David Tennant as the hero. You can tell by my description of his "reddish-brown hair in a tousle of controlled chaos." That story is rated PG and purely heterosexual, as are all the Vol. 3 stories. Volume One contains male/male romance that can get very steamy (woohoo, slash!), and Volume Two contains erotic male/female stories. (No, I don't have any stories in those two volumes--this time...)

Enjoy! And remember, for online gift shopping ideas that don't involve standing in line outside department stores on Black Friday, check out the comments in this post. It's becoming quite the books-and-crafts fair. Very cool. Browse, pick something for someone you love, and support an independent artist or entrepreneur!
mollyringle: (unexplained pirates - songstressicons)
I come before you once again with a fictional scenario for which I'd like some factual information. We're in the legal realm this time. I know only a little law (for instance, I'm pretty sure it's illegal to run someone over with your car without giving them your insurance information beforehand), so feel free to use small words in your answer.

Scenario: a woman is pregnant and does not want to keep the child herself. She has agreed to let the father, her ex-boyfriend, take the baby. For what it's worth, he says she's free to visit anytime, though she claims she won't want to. What do they have to do, legally, to cement the custody decision? I assume something needs to be signed. Anything more?

To confuse matters, they're both Americans, but the child is born in England. Will that matter?

Further confusing things: ex-boyfriend/current father now has a boyfriend of his own, who, all parents agree, will be co-father. Is this easily covered in the agreement? Does any state (or national or international) agency ever have to step in?

Extra credit question: there's a phase in which it seems like the two guys may have to fight the birth mom for custody. What might they find out if they asked lawyers about their chances of winning? Or would they be better off asking social workers? They live in Seattle, by the way. Presumably that will play out differently than a similar scenario in Mississippi. Assume the mother is basically fit but a smidgen unstable, and would be raising the child alone.

That's all for now. If you read my posts carefully enough, you could piece together the plots of all my novels!
mollyringle: (Hughes - Night)
I should start by saying this ramble comes from someone who hasn't read the whole series yet. I only just started book 3 (Eclipse), and the fact that I picked it up at all after the many annoyances I found in book 2 (New Moon) is at least one compliment I can pay Stephenie Meyer. I do want to know, at least on the surface, in a soap-opera way, what happens with these characters. There's also the desire to obtain the whole picture so I can ridicule it, or at least critique it, better. I admit that. But both desires are there for me, conflicting and warring and sparkling absurdly in the sunlight. I haven't had such a bipolar reaction of being compelled to read more and wanting to smack the author and the characters every other chapter since discovering Thomas Hardy about ten years ago.

As I've recently discussed on Facebook and elsewhere with [livejournal.com profile] dirae, [livejournal.com profile] kenshi, and others, the "vampiric death = sex" metaphor shines glaringly clear the more you read of the Twilight series. (And it was immediately and almost hilariously obvious in the film, with Robert Pattinson using all his considerable James Dean angst to convey vampire-Edward's difficulty in keeping his hands, teeth, and other body parts off that jailbait girl-crush of his.)

But Edward's way of dealing with it is the dull, mildly religious-conservative route: abstinence only. In some ways I find it refreshing, I suppose; a book for teens that's free of sex, drugs, or swear words. On the other hand...is that really the teen life any of us knew?

When Joss Whedon introduced his teenage heroine (Buffy Summers) to a "nice" vampire (Angel), and later a not so nice one (Spike)--well, I wouldn't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer yet (which everyone should), but much more dramatic things happened. Believe me, the subtext of "vampires=sex," and the correlating "sex can equal death," rapidly became text. Buffy's interactions with Angel and Spike illustrated it loud and clear, and with about fifty times as much fascination, humor, and heartbreak as the chilly Cullens have inspired in me so far.

Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite veered other directions with their vampire series. Rice's vampires were, she claimed, chaste, but please; every scene was about how sensually obsessed they were with each other. Brite just went ahead and made her vampires all promiscuous lovers, having them use sex to draw in mortal victims as well. You want a really sharp, horrifying picture of the "vampire sex as death" thing, even involving teenagers, go read Brite's Lost Souls.

For that matter, going back farther, anyone over the age of about 16 who reads Bram Stoker's Dracula can clearly see the Victorian horror of female sexuality inherent in the story. Demure young women get forced to taste blood, and they turn into red-lipped, heaving-bosomed seductresses whom one must stake and decapitate as soon as possible. Yet there's a thrill in it too--everyone knows that Dracula and his she-vampires are considered sexy and alluring, at least in the lives they've taken on outside the book. Within the book itself they're not exactly painted in the most flattering terms. But the fact remains, Stoker isn't afraid to let more bad things happen to more good people than Meyer seems to be. When Stoker writes about his vampire sneaking into a young lady's bedchamber, that vampire isn't there to "watch her sleep." He's there to bite her neck, feed her his blood from his bare chest, and Make Her His.

Speaking of watching her sleep: again, anyone over about 16 who reads the Twilight books is a bit troubled by the stalker-like, semi-pedophiliac nature of Edward Cullen. For whatever reason, it hasn't occurred to young teens on the whole, but a man sneaking into your bedroom night after night, without your knowledge, just to watch you sleep, is scary, not romantic. Call the freaking cops if this is happening to you. Furthermore, we adults immediately find it weird that 100-year-old immortals would want to attend high school over and over, instead of, say, college at least. But you know who finds the scenario just perfect? High school girls, that's who. And that's part of the allure of the Twilight series as a whole: we are entirely locked into Bella's first-person, impulsive, obsessive, honest, female-adolescent point of view. Even when she annoys the hell out of me, I find it weirdly interesting to read what is, in effect, her diary. I just wonder if the books might not benefit from the point of view of an actual adult once in a while too.

(Yes, I hear Meyer's writing a new one from Edward's point of view. But he's not exactly your usual adult, so we'll see...)

On a note unrelated to sex and death, but still related to realism in the teen world, there aren't nearly enough cell phones or computers in Meyer's books. The kids mostly call each other on land lines and pass each other handwritten notes. It's almost as if...gosh, as if the author is someone my age who's remembering how things were back when she was in high school. I still don't text-message, so I feel her reluctance to fake it in fiction. On the other hand, teens are eating this series up despite the anachronism. Goes to show, there's no predicting what will fly and what will crash in the world of fandom.

All the same, vampires have been done to (sexy) death. Guess I'll have to try my hand at making Greek gods, fairy folk, ghosts, or selkies the next hip thing instead.

Profile

mollyringle: (Default)
mollyringle

September 2017

S M T W T F S
     12
34 56789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 22nd, 2017 04:21 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios