Category: get this

Cale McCaskey Talks About the Problem with Romance

So I’m on twitter one day this week and I see a RT that looks interesting. I click over and find this post titled: THE PROBLEM WITH ROMANCE NOVELS.

First, I’ve been around far too long to be surprised by anything anyone says on the web anymore. Second, being that I’ve heard almost every slur against the romance genre there is I’ve become numb to much of it. Third, most of these opinions don’t matter much anyway.

But I’m linking to it now because I want newer authors to see the kind of thing romance authors have been dealing with forever. I can even remember a teacher in high school trashing the romance genre while I was sitting there in class thinking, WTF?, this dude, this bald fat fuck, is wearing mismatched socks, a pilled sweater vest, gum-soled shoes, and he drives a goddamn Rambler…which at the time was twenty years old.

Before I link to the post, I thought I share this from the post, verbatim:

Because romance novels do sell so abundantly in our day, I’ve noticed more and more articles about, and interviews with, romance writers where they are as often as not put on a pedestal—as though they somehow belong in the same class as authors of much higher standing.

All I can say is I’ve been writing romance for many years. I’ve had more books published than I can count. Some have sold more than others and I’m never quite certain what will resonate with readers. I just write with the intention of pleasing my readers, not with the intention of being put on a pedestal or being classified anywhere by anyone. And, not everything I’ve had published has been a romance. A good deal of my gay fiction is considered “gay lit,” especially my older works. Some books and stories were in different genres and I’ve used pen names more than once. I’ve even been in “gay lit” anthologies that have won literary awards. So does this mean my pen names are in different classes than my real name, Ryan Field, that I use to write romance? And does this mean that my pen names should be in a “much higher standing” than my real name? As a writer, not an author, I’m not even certain those questions make sense.

Of course this is a personal opinion and Mr. McCaskey has a right to voice his opinion in any way he sees fit. I didn’t comment on his blog because I do respect his opinion and I didn’t want to intrude. The odds are I’ll never go back to his blog again after this post.

He also says this:

I think it’s safe to say that no Ivy League school will ever teach out of romance novels as part of the curriculum.

This may or may not be true. I do remember I took a course on contemporary fiction in college, here, that covered romance novels. It’s not an ivy league school but it is a well respected university with a campus in Wroxton, England. And now, as a graduate of this school, I’m writing in the romance genre. All this aside, my first thought was how Mr. McCaskey knows so much about Ivy League schools. I can’t help but wonder which Ivy League school he attended. I tried to find it in his profile but didn’t see anything other than this:

I’m a sexy, single, white male with a really big, uh, wallet. (It’s where I keep all my I.O.U.s). I also write a bit.

It’s an interesting description.

Here’s the link.

And if you have time, check this out. It’s a real gem. I don’t know where Mr. McCaskey is getting his information about romance novels, but I’ve always been told the one place where romance authors tend not to go is adultery and infidelity. In fact, I’ve seen comment threads explode on the issue and I rarely go there myself because I’m not a huge fan of adultery or infidelity. If I want to read about adultery and infidelity I’ll read Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” where there’s plenty of it going on.

So She "Hates Writing Sex Scenes"

Last night while reading a few pieces about the debacle in the YA community where authors are attacking reviewers (it’s dismal at best), I decided to check out social media and I saw something that made my jaw drop. An author who writes m/m erotic romance posted she didn’t like writing sex scenes. I kid you not. I would never joke about something like this. And I’m trying hard to write this post without being snarky. I would never mention names, but here is the exact quote, verbatim.

I hate writing sex scenes. Why can’t I just say, “They had sex,” and move on to the rest of the book. 🙂

One reason I find this interesting is because as an author of erotica and erotic romance for over twenty years, I’ve never felt this way a day in my life. I look forward to writing the sex scenes, and work hard to make them move the story forward without being too obvious. The only thing I’ve ever blasted in erotic romances I didn’t write was that there weren’t enough sex scenes. I can’t help find it fascinating that m/m erotic romances will be constantly chopped apart for too much sex, and yet the erotic romances with too little sex are praised to the heavens. Evidently, there’s a reason that passed me by.

Readers who buy and read erotica of any kind, from romance to hardcore BDSM, are buying this partly for the sex and partly for the storyline. It’s a combination that goes hand in hand and if an author cheats or skimps on one or the other it’s going to show. When I see this all I can think about is how screwed over the reader is.

Another reason why this statement was interesting to me, to the point of disturbing, is that if an author doesn’t like writing sex scenes, and she would rather just write, “they had sex,” and move on, why on earth would this author be writing erotic romance or erotica in the first place? Jonathan Franzen obviously doesn’t like writing sex scenes (I’ve read “Freedom”) and no one can fault him for this. So he writes what he loves and deals more in strong characterization and emotional conflict than sex. And I’ve never felt cheated by anything Jonathan Franzen wrote in spite of the questionable sex scenes.

Sometimes I wonder how many erotic romance authors are writing erotica because they think there are more publishing opportunities in the genre than in other genres. And then I start to feel sorry for the reader again. Because if this is the case, these authors are shortchanging themselves and the reader.

Maybe the comment I saw was posted in jest. There is a smiley face at the end. But would a dentist post “I hate pulling teeth, I wish they would just fall out on their own,” on social media? If he did, I might take him seriously and I wouldn’t be paying his office a visit anytime soon.

At the very least, if you’re an erotic romance author and you don’t like writing sex scenes, be smart enough to keep this information to yourself. It’s not something I would joke about, especially when intentions can be misinterpreted so easily these days on social media.

So December 3rd is Take Your Kid to a Bookstore Day?

I had to pause when I saw this notice over at GalleyCat.

Evidently, tomorrow, December 3, is take your child to a bookstore day. Here’s the link. You can read more here.

“What bookstore will you visit with the kid in your life? Founded by novelist Jenny Milchman, the new tradition urges parents to pass along the joy of bookstore shopping to the next generation.”

Check it out: “Have a look at our Bookstores page to see a map of the almost 150 bookstores participating in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day–and add your bookstore to the map! Also see our Books page for the children’s book we loved best this year. And finally, here’s how you can spread the word about Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.”

The first thing that popped into my head was what I just finished reading in Steve Jobs’s biography. One of Jobs’s biggest ambitions, according to this book, was to reform education with technology. Among many things, he wanted digital books to replace text books we all used to carry around when we were kids. And it will come eventually. I have no doubt about this.

The second thing I thought about when I read there’s a Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day were my own nieces and nephews. At this time, in my family, the kids range from infancy to new adult. With just my sister and one brother alone, we have six that range from six to twelve years old. And these kids don’t go to bookstores and shop for books. They would laugh in my face if I even suggested this to them. They are reading e-readers, tabelts, iPhones, and iTouches. And they do read. I’ve seen it myself. They aren’t just playing games and having fun. They even know more about e-readers and tablets than I do.

The third thing I thought about were the realities of raising kids nowadays. My sister is a teacher; her husband a doctor. My younger brother is a detective; his wife works in corporate sales. The little free time they have is spent rushing around to their kids events, not flitting off to bookstores.

I’ll admit the concept of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is nice, in an old fashioned, nostalgic way. I love it from a romantic standpoint. I also like going to old time drive in movies, too. Though I think infants and toddlers are still having fun with kiddie books, once they are over six you can forget about it. They tell you what they want to read and how they want to read it. It’s as if technology is inbred in the kids of today, because they don’t even have to work hard to use these things. And I have this feeling that even if there still are people out there who will take their kids to bookstores tomorrow, they won’t be doing it for long.

Publishing Credits…Putting the Cart Before the Horse

This is one of those posts I’m on the fence about writing. Partly because I understand eagerness and partly because I also get a little frustrated when I see too much enthusiasm and not enough product. And I don’t want it to sound like a rant; it’s not.

In other words, I’ve been reading about a gay m/m author for the past three weeks or so who sounded interesting. His creativity with social media impressed me and I thought his work might be interesting.

But when I did a search on amazon to check out his work, there was nothing there. Not even his name came up. Then I checked google, Kobo, smashwords, and goodreads and found nothing in any of these places either.

I started to wonder about this and asked a friend. It turns out this guy isn’t a published author, a self-published author, and he hasn’t even written enough to viably query an agent. He doesn’t have a blog, a newsletter, or a pen pal. It reminded me of an episode of The Golden Girls, where Blanche decides she wants to become a romance writer. But then she realizes how difficult it is to actually write a romance novel and claims she has “writers block.” That’s when Dorothy replies something to the effect of, “Blanche you can’t have writers block. That’s impossible. You have to have written something first in order to have writers block. If that were the case, we’d all have writers block.”

Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. I can’t wait to read and help promote new authors I love. I do it all the time. It’s important for authors to build publishing credits, too. And it doesn’t matter where you build them, just as long as you actually write something that people can read.

But I do fall short on patience when I find out someone is so enthusiastic they start promoting themselves before they’ve written or published anything. People like me, who have worked hard for the last twenty years as writers take this seriously. We know rejection; we know how hard it is to sacrifice long hours of our lives even when we don’t know it will pay off in the end. We know what it’s like to query agents and suffer more rejection in a year than most people experience in a lifetime.

So before you start talking about being a writer and promoting yourself on social networks, write something. At least start a blog and put a little effort into it. Otherwise no one’s going to take you very seriously.

Books Stores Charging Admission…

I came across this piece in the NYT this morning and thought it was interesting.

I have to admit that since I’ve been working in e-publishing for the past four years almost exclusively, I’ve lost track of a lot of things that are connected to print books and print publishing. I don’t even go to book stores anymore. I buy everything online and read on my Kobo, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

I have to admit that I often miss the old days (I’d still be working on a typewriter if I hadn’t been forced to change), but I’m not sorry I made the plunge into e-publishing at all. And as a reader, my e-readers have only enhanced my reading experience.

As for charging admission to author book signings, I’m not sure about that. It’s not like they are going to make big bucks at five and ten dollars a person, and they might lose the clients they already have. I owned an art gallery in New Hope for ten years, and I know how the book store owners feel. I used to wish I could charge admission to tourists, especially on holiday weekends. I often felt more like a free museum than a gallery. But I didn’t want to insult potential clients, and I’m glad I never did it.

Come Meet the Author, but Open Your Wallet

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
To see authors at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, Calif., customers can buy a gift card or the book.

Published: June 21, 2011

Independent bookstores, squeezed by competition from Internet retailers like Amazon, have long done something their online brethren cannot emulate: author events. And now many bookstores say they have no choice but to capitalize on this grand tradition.

Bookstores, including some of the most prominent around the country, have begun selling tickets or requiring a book purchase of customers who attend author readings and signings, a practice once considered unthinkable.

“There’s no one right now who’s not considering it,” said Sarah McNally, the owner of McNally Jackson Books in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. “The entire independent bookstore model is based on selling books, but that model is changing because so many book sales are going online.”

The Boulder Book Store in Colorado caused a stir in April when it announced it would charge $5 a person to attend store events. In April, Kepler’s Books, an independent in Menlo Park, Calif., began charging customers a $10 gift card, which admits two people to each author appearance. (They also have the option of buying the book in exchange for admission.)

Ms. McNally is overseeing the construction of an event space in the lower level of her store, a warmly lighted shop on Prince Street. As soon as the space is ready, she said, the store will start charging admission to its events.

Bookstore owners say they are doing so because too many people regularly come to events having already bought a book online or planning to do so later. Consumers now see the bookstore merely as another library — a place to browse, do informal research and pick up staff recommendations.

“They type titles into their iPhones and go home,” said Nancy Salmon, the floor manager at Kepler’s. “We know what they’re doing, and it has tested my patience.”

The novelist Ann Patchett, who is currently on a three-week book tour for her new book, “State of Wonder,” appeared at a ticketed event at Kepler’s last week. While she said she was sympathetic to bookstores, she is concerned that people who do not have enough money to buy a hardcover book — especially students or the elderly — might be left out.

“I wouldn’t want the people who have no idea who I am and have nothing else to do on a Wednesday night shut out,” she said. “Those are your readers.”

While e-book sales have exploded in the last year, sales of print books have suffered, hitting brick-and-mortar stores especially hard. But the independent bookstores that have survived the growth of Amazon and the big bookstore chains have tried to retool over the years to become tougher, more agile and more creative in finding new sources of revenue beyond print books.

Anne Holman, the general manager of The King’s English Bookshop, an independent store in Salt Lake City, said an industrywide discussion began a few years ago about whether to charge for events.

“We don’t like to have events where people can’t come for free,” Ms. Holman said. “But we also can’t host big free events that cost us a lot money and everyone is buying books everywhere else.”

The bookshop now requires book purchases or sells tickets for around half of its 150 annual events, up from 10 percent five years ago.

Heather Gain, the marketing manager of the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass., said that in recent years the store had begun doing more events that required the customer to buy a book, constantly reminding them that “if they aren’t purchasing the books from the establishments that are running these events, the bookstores are going to go away.”

“We’re a business,” Ms. Gain said. “We’re not just an Amazon showroom.”

Halloween Costumes…

Typically, I don’t dress my dogs up in anything. I know they don’t like it, and I don’t like to force them into doing things they don’t like. When I rescued Lex, she came with a shopping bag filled with doggie clothes from her previous owner. The first thing I did was donate all the doggie clothes to my local SPCA, along with the bag of awful dog food there were feeding the poor thing.

But this weekend my nephews thought it would be funny to put Halloween costumes on the dogs. The one on the left without a costume is mine, the one dressed as a leprechaun is my mother’s dog, Emma. And if you knew Emma, you’d know how much she hates this sort of thing. She is the female version of “Marley,” in the book and movie, “Marley and Me,” and there’s nothing dainty or delicate about her.

Facebook, Twitter, and now there’s "Twitteleh"

A friend of mine sent me this and I thought it was both funny and smart at the same time.

I’m on both facebook and twitter and I’m finding that the posts I enjoy most are the ones I see from friends and family and other writers and publishing people I know. These are the posts I care about. I like to know when my buddy Ryan blogged. I like to know when Holly or Lori made an announcement about something important. Dana and the other ravenous romance writers always keep me informed; I love their posts and tweets. And I never miss my nephews’ posts. They are both away at school and I don’t see them that often. Actually, I even enjoy reading the fan posts from Ryan Seacrest. He’s always up on pop culture, something that interests me as a writer, and the posts are always positive and informative.

I’ve even learned a few things from facebook posts by Neil Plakcy, a writer and editor who knows how to use both facebook and twitter very well.

But the facebook posts and tweets I care the least about are from people endlessly promoting something to me and other people who don’t care. And, how effective can these promotional posts and tweets possibly be when they are annoying more than half the people they are trying to attract. I have a rule: I give them a week. And when I start seeing nothing but promotional things, I click “hide.”

So the vid isn’t just funny, it also has some merit that a few facebookers and tweeters should take to heart.

Comment Moderation For a While…

Unfortunately, I had to start moderating comments. I have one of those sneaky little blog trolls with too much time and not enough balls to leave his or her name.

I hate losing anonymous comments on my blog. But due to the fact that this blog focuses heavily on LGBT content, and I’m an openly gay writer, I can’t say that I’m surprised. I was expecting it.

I’ll reopen the thread to everyone in a few weeks. And if the troll returns, I may even have a little fun.