The Creation of an Author, Part 3: What’s With All This Romance, Anyway?

One question I get asked a lot is “Why Romance?”… Most people who know me probably think I’m one of the least romance-minded people in the world.  *laughs* Truth is, I’m probably one of the biggest romantics you’ll ever meet.  I’m just not one of the most traditional romantics.

Most people think of romantics as people who believe in happily-ever-after, are interested in lots of lovey-dovey public displays of affection, and (in the case of women) have what psychology refers to as “Cinderella Complex” – ie, someone’s going to sweep them off their feet and change their lives.  If that’s what you think of as “romantic,” hey, more power to you – but it personally makes me gag. Strange sentiment from a self-proclaimed romantic, yes?

Here’s what I believe (and this is my personal feeling, so I don’t expect anyone to understand or agree):

I don’t believe in happily ever after.  I never have.  Call me a realist about this part of it, but I know beyond any doubt (and I always have), that we as human beings don’t get to determine what makes “ever after.”  We don’t steer our own course when it comes to death (unless you like to indulge in self-destructive behavior or plan to commit suicide – neither of which I recommend), and I don’t believe we directly have any influence over what happens after we die (I’ll save the whole argument of reincarnation vs. ascension for another time and place).  So I consider it arrogant to assume that love is forever.  I firmly believe it can last as long as life, however.  I do believe that, in rare cases, when it’s strong enough, it can endure lifetime after lifetime, beyond the boundaries of death.  But in time, I do believe that love changes, becomes something else.  So I’m more inclined to a “happy-as-long-as-we-can-be” philosophy.

It’s not every girl’s dream to be rescued, or to have some Prince Charming ride in and sweep her away (truth is, I’ve always found that aspect of Fairy Tales to be a little on the creepy side).  But just because a girl prefers to face her own perils doesn’t mean romance doesn’t appeal to all women, no matter the size, shape, age, or sexual orientation… And certainly no matter how much one might protest or claim otherwise.

Some of us are quite capable of solving our own problems, tilting at our own windmills, and facing our own demons.  Some of us kick ass when it comes to taking care of our business, and we certainly don’t need another person to step in and save the day.  We’ve got it well under control, thank you very much.

But does that mean we want to spend our lives alone, or facing an existence built on something dull and lifeless, or even frightening?  Of course not.

Every girl dreams of being a princess (even if some of us are far more Xena than Sleeping Beauty). Not literally, of course, but at least in the eyes of someone else.  We want to be special, to be seen as someone beautiful, awe-inspiring, and beloved. We want to feel as if we’re the most important person in someone’s life, and to know that they compare every other woman they meet to us, and find those others lacking.

It’s hardwired into us to crave grand gestures of love and affection – some symbol that tells the world just how special we are to someone else.  For a lot of women, that’s what an engagement ring is all about.  It’s what lavish weddings are all about.

Plenty of people (women included) scoff at romantic fiction.  They call it trash, written porn, smut, etc, etc.  I can promise you this – none of those people have ever actually read a Romance novel.

Are there novels that are explicit?   Of course there are.  But then, there are Horror novels that are graphic about blood and terror.  There are adventure and action novels that are over-the-top with violence.  Crime novels that are almost too ghastly and grisly with their details, to read.

What is it about Romance that so sends people running?  Could it be the unwillingness to face their own deeply-buried desire to be truly loved?  Perhaps it’s that they’re stuck in our prudish society’s mindset that anything involving sex should be shunned.

Personally, I think it’s the former.  Porn is a billion-dollar industry for a reason… People don’t have a problem with sex.  People have a problem with love.  The idea of facing your own emotions, of admitting that you want more, that you’re looking for something spiritual as well as physical, is something that sends a lot of people (both male and female) running for their lives.

Romance novels are about more than sex.  They’re about connection, about love that’s true, deep, and abiding.  About the emotions that are tangled up inside of sexual desire, and about letting go of the desire, to get at one’s heart and soul.  And they make us face our own wants and needs – make us step up and say, “Yes, I do want more from this relationship than just sex.”  They’re not about perfect people, or larger-than-life situations.  They’re about ordinary people who discover the most extraordinary gift of life – the ability to love and be loved.  In short, Romance novels are about every girl’s dream come true – not the perfect man or woman (after all, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” person), but the perfect match of two hearts and two souls.


As for the level of sexuality in some Romance… Well, I don’t personally have a problem with it, as long as it’s kept tasteful.  Personally, I’m not by nature a physically demonstrative person when my emotions are truly engaged.  Instead, I’m more likely to get quiet and retreat inside my shell.  Am I afraid of my own emotions, sometimes?  Hell, yes.  I’m afraid of getting hurt, of being taken advantage of, because I care too much, or give too much.  Once the floodgates open, it’s often difficult to stop the emotions, and I’ve got a long history of pain caused by letting others actually see what they mean to me.  So, instead, I either get very quiet, or I turn into a clown.  People may think nothing bothers me, that I’m either aloof or goofy. Truth is, I’m neither.

There are many times I’ve been accused of being too logical and not at all romantic. Truth is, while it’s easy to express and explore my romantic side on paper, I’m far less comfortable expressing it in real life. Not because it’s not there, but because what’s missing is trust. I have a long history with broken trust, and early experience with overwhelming physical trauma. Both have made me hesitant toward physical contact, and even more hesitant toward reaching out to others, emotionally. So, I turned my attention toward writing about relationships that are troubled, but capable of overcoming that trouble. I write strong women with damaged trust and a desire to fix their own lives — sometimes even a desire to not even let anyone else into their lives. I write strong men who are secure and strong enough to show the heroine how important she is to him, and let her be an active partner, not just a window-dressing prize to be rescued.

This is what it means, to me, to write Romance.

The Creation of an Author, Part 2: Facing the Fears and Doubts

Lately, I’ve been considering the fact that, in terms of my knowledge of the publishing industry and how it works, I don’t know anything, really. I know books. I know research. I know what makes the one become the other. Basically, I know the creative end of things. But I don’t know how to sell.

It’s not that I can’t talk about my work. I can talk about my books and ideas until I’m blue in the face (and everyone else is suitably bored to tears, too, I’m sure), but selling myself or my work? That’s not something I’m very familiar with or good at — particularly the former. I’m terrible at selling myself or playing myself up. I’m more likely to point out my flaws and faults than the things I’m good at.

I keep hearing how I need to be more aggressive about my advertising, and my promotion. Truth is, I don’t know how. While I can and will stand up and shout down the whole world on someone else’s behalf, when it becomes about standing up for and talking about myself, I’m just as likely to not make a peep. Even the “behind the scenes” glimpses I give you all, here, are extremely difficult to write. I spend more time questioning whether or not I should, whether or not it’s worthwhile, than any other part of it.

There’s a reason for this. I’ve spent too many years trying to not be noticed. I spent a childhood abused and ridiculed by my peers, and feeling never quite good enough for my family’s expectations. I learned to hide behind my written words and my cheerful, agreeable disposition, to bury myself in something other than the pain that confronted me on a daily basis. I never believed I was worth standing up for, and even after all these years, I still haven’t quite found the guts to become an in-your-face selling machine. I’m way too afraid of being outright rejected again, in a way that has the potential to destroy me.

Do I question whether my work is good enough? Every damned day. Even months (hell, years) after publication, I can look back on a book and point out at least 10 flaws I’d love to correct. 20/20 hindsight, I know, but there it is. I appreciate the good comments I get, but I always seem to gravitate to the criticisms, trying to find ways to turn them into something I can put to work for me, and use help me improve. While this might seem like a very good thing (and it is, in many ways), it also means I don’t talk about my accomplishments — I talk about my failures.

My biggest fear, career-wise, is that no matter how much I write, or how good others believe I am, I’ll never have the guts to actually make my dreams come true. I’m terrified I’ll spend my entire life being that author everyone says “Who?” when you bring up the name. Do I want to be the center of attention? Hell, no. But it would be nice to know that I’m actually being seen. I’d gratefully settle for mid-list. I don’t have to be the best out there (I’m not convinced I ever could be), but I’d like to know that I’m worth something to someone.

And now, I think I’m done rambling, for the day. Have a blessed and wonderful day, dear readers.

The Creation of an Author, Part 1: A Glimpse Into My Writing History

So I’m sitting here at my computer, playing games because I can’t write (hunching over to write this is difficult enough), and wondering what the hell I’m doing, anymore. I have series bibles mocking me from the shelf directly in front of where I’m sitting, and if I didn’t have to go to “work” (EDJ), I’d have them spread out all over the place, working on my books.

I spend a large amount of my time either writing, planning things to write, or thinking about writing. It’s a curse…lol. I’ve been writing ever since I could hold a crayon (yes, I did say crayon!… You don’t want to know how many books I managed to deface as a child before my parents figured out it would be smarter to give me a notebook, even if what I was “writing” was basically gibberish… Hey, I was 2… I hadn’t figured out the whole written words thing, yet). In my mind, I was writing fantastic stories about my friends… Telling their stories. At the time, my parents (and a great many more, I’m sure) chalked it all up to a highly active imagination. Not me. Those “imaginary friends” of mine stuck around long after the whole process became no longer cute or tolerable to others. I couldn’t help it – they’re as real as I am, even if they’re not visible on this plane.

Eventually, telling the stories I was told by someone else got old. I wanted to write something else. And I discovered a love of fiction that’s stuck with me. A desire to craft characters and situations I can’t always be sure are complete fiction, but which I remain fairly convinced are. Who knows, right?

Over the years, my fascination with science colored how I approach fiction, and it’s become not as much about “This is how it is” as it has been about “What if it was this way? What would it take to prove it?” And a new, speculative angle to my fiction was born. This is where I’ve mostly stuck, since. It’s where I feel at home, blending the possibility of the paranormal with facts, science, and characters who embody both.

Friday Q & A: The Book Soundtrack

color graph

Someone recently asked me this question, so I thought I’d extend it to all my fellow authors, as well:

Do you write with a “soundtrack”?

My answer:
Personally, I’m a music person (I grew up immersed in it), so I always have both a “series soundtrack” and a separate soundtrack for each book I write… a playlist of songs that keep the creative juices flowing and help me get into the “zone” of a particular book (it’s part of the secret to how I can write multiple books in multiple genres all at the same time, without ever confusing things… As soon as the “soundtrack” for that book starts, I’m instantly in that “zone”… Since I use the same soundtrack when drafting the storyline as I do when I’m writing, my brain’s conditioned to the pattern by the time I start writing…:) …)

If you have a question you’d like me to answer about writing in general, my process, my books, etc, please go to my FAQ Page and leave your question at the bottom of the page. I’ll select questions to answer on my blog every Friday, and those and other questions will be posted to the FAQ page, as well.

It’s All Geek: Perspectives on Science and the Paranormal (and why I write both, simultaneously)

I can’t tell you how many times I hear “But if you’re so science-minded, why do you write Paranormals, and believe in the paranormal?” Like these two things are mutually exclusive, and acknowledging one excludes me from acknowledging or understanding the other.

This is a stereotype I’m sick of. So let me set the record straight, once and for all. Parapsychology, the paranormal sciences, and physical science are not mutually exclusive. They never have been. The base concept of science is, in itself, to explain the unexplained. Let’s take a look at a few established principles, and a few conceptual theories, to explore what I’m talking about.


A mere five hundred years (plus or minus change) ago, the science of the day declared the Earth flat, and that the heavens revolved around the Earth. This planet was, by established science of the day, the center of the universe. The concept of space flight wasn’t even a glimmer, and the established medicine of the day often involved the judicious application of leeches, for everything from poisoning to excessive bleeding (I’d love to see someone explain that one!).

The people who dared to challenge this established science of the day were labelled insane or heretics. They were often ostracized, sometimes imprisoned, and in some cases even put to death for daring to challenge the established science of the day and/or look for explanations to those things deemed inexplicable, at that time.

Thank goodness we’ve come so far, right? But have we really? When science declares something “hogwash” or “ridiculous” without exploring the possibilities inherent within it, that science loses its ability to truly function as it should – it loses the flexibility to bend and explore new dimensions and possibilities within our universe. Without that flexibility, without the “what if,” most of the science we take for granted today would never have existed.

I firmly believe that science holds the key to unlocking the potential of the human spirit. As Einstein once said, imagination is more important than knowledge. Anyone can spout knowledge. Being able to imagine how that knowledge might be put to use is of far greater value. While science seems content to study the human brain at length, it fails to explore how that brain chemistry might apply to things which, today, appear “paranormal.”

“Paranormal,” by most basic definition, means “outside of the normal.” By this definition, in the 1500s, the law of gravity, for example, would have been considered “paranormal.” So would Columbus’ assertions that the world was actually round, rather than flat, or Copernicus and Galileo with their “crazy” theories regarding the heavens above us. A mere hundred years ago, the computers we so take for granted as part of “normal” life were considered “science fiction” and completely, utterly paranormal, by the word’s definition.

Medical science will be the first to admit they do not have all the answers to how the human brain works, or even what it might be capable of. By this very admittance, they lay the groundwork for the possibility of eventually being able to empirically test for and gauge things like clairvoyance, clairaudience, Psychokinesis, telepathy, and a host of other parapsychological conditions. I firmly believe that, in time, science will uncover the root of these types of abilities, and will be able to study it very effectively, and therefore expand our knowledge and use of such abilities, taking them firmly from the realm of “paranormal” and into the realm of “normal.”

By the same token, I believe that science will one day progress to the point of being able to prove, conclusively, the existence of the spirit (human and animal) and its ability to survive corporeal death. Already, we see rapid advances in the methodology and equipment used to study and document potential hauntings, and I believe that if these advances continue to happen, and people continue to strive for that understanding, someone will stumble into the same kind of “eureka!” moment Archimedes did when he figured out volume displacement.

To understand why I believe this, I will apply some simple, established science. Namely, the First Law of Thermodynamics (otherwise known as the Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter). It states that neither energy nor matter can be either created or destroyed. They simply change form to fit new conditions or environments. Medical science proves that the human body is animated through a complicated and not-completely-understood system of bio-electric signals, chemical reactions, etc. Basically, the human body is a kind of living, working biological battery/computer. We put off a tremendous amount of energy, in the form of heat. This is best seen in how our bodies begin to overheat when we are exerting a lot of energy, thereby requiring our bodies to kick in their onboard coolant system (sweat) to help cool us down. When we exert energy in a focused manner, we do so by transferring said energy to another activity or object – say, picking up a box. The energy our bodies generate through the use of fuel (food, water, air, etc) is transferred into kinetic energy, which allows us to grip and lift the box, at which time the kinetic energy is changed into force energy, applied against gravity to lift the box.

So, if we are batteries, with all this stored up energy at our disposal at any time, when we die, what happens to all that energy? The Law of Conservation of Energy and Matter says that it has to go somewhere. It can’t simply disappear. Rather, it must change form to fit its new environment and situation. In time, this energy might be absorbed into other things which utilize energy, or it might continue to absorb energy from around itself, taking on a more definitive form. In both of these cases, it would be following the Law of Conservation of Energy, and by the same token become the energy source known as “ghosts” or “spirits.” Since a large part of the energy we store up is stored in the brain, logic would follow that the energy released to a new form during death would retain some measure of its former use, at least for a while. Those electrical pulses that carry information and accumulated knowledge around the brain could retain some kind of energy “memory” which would allow for the intelligent interactions experienced by paranormal investigators.

The same principles of scientific thought can easily be established to many areas currently deemed “paranormal.” As such, I say with confidence that I do not actually believe there is a division between the paranormal and science. Instead, I think the one (science) simply hasn’t yet arrived at point where it is capable of empirical measurement of the things we at current deem “paranormal.” But I do believe the time will come when these fields of study collide, and I don’t believe it is very far off, either. In the meantime, I will continue to write my geeked-out, scientific paranormals, and enjoy the hell out of knowing that, on this front, I’m ahead of the curve.

Demoralizing Creativity: Artistic Careers and Popular Misconception

ZappaFound this on Facebook (I assume it’s correct, but I haven’t verified… I just agree with the sentiment, wherever it came from)

And, by the way, it’s not a “hobby”… I don’t mind giving away free books – to people who are actually going to review them. I don’t mind sharing my work, with people who actually want to read it. But this isn’t a hobby, it’s not a “cute little pastime,” or any of a thousand other insulting little turns of phrase you might come up with. Writing is my career. It was my very first occupation (even before I learned to actually write the alphabet), and it’s always been my goal to write full-time. Having to work another job in order to pay bills is a frustration I have to put up with, but that other job is the “moonlighting” one… that is the secondary job, whatever it happens to be, at the time.

So every time you think you’re not hurting anyone by downloading a pirated book, every time you think it’s “okay” to demand free access/free copies of books that no one has paid for (I’m not talking about borrowing from the library – libraries buy their books, to lend), think about this – if you went into work tomorrow, and your boss said “By the way, you’ll be working for free from now on. We’ve decided it’s okay not to pay you, because we decided it doesn’t hurt anyone if we don’t.” how long would you keep working there?
So why do you expect an author to work for free?
Writing is a career – so be a responsible human being: Buy a book if you want to read it (whether hard copy or e-book), and if you get a free copy from an author, realize that it’s not a right — they’re doing you a favor, and return the favor by spreading the word – tell your friends, post a review, comment about it on social media. If you want to call yourself a “fan” then show it by acting like one – your support tells the author you give a damn, and inspires them to keep writing. Stealing from us just tells us you don’t respect us or care about the work we do, and takes away our desire to keep writing.

Human Condition: Writing Strong Characters

The one question I get asked consistently that still baffles me when I get asked it is “Why do you write strong female characters?”

*blinks* I don’t.

I write human characters. I write women and men (equally) who have faced or are facing their most difficult battles. Men and women with scars that run deep enough to make them wary of life, and people. Men and women who have made mistakes they would give anything to undo, been the victims (and then survivors) of horrors and crimes that test the human spirit and one’s ability to survive.

I don’t see the distinction between a “male” and “female” role – human beings, as a species, can be heroic, courageous, strong, and compassionate in equal measure. They can also be petty, vengeful, self-absorbed, and all things villains are made of.

I write heroes and heroines that aren’t just cardboard tropes, because “perfect” people don’t exist, and they’re impossible to live up to. The hero who always does the right thing isn’t just boring, he’s impossibly difficult to aspire to be. As humans, we all stumble, we all fail, at some point. Sometimes it’s the little things, and sometimes it’s big ones. It’s not about the stumble, or the fall. It’s about how we pick ourselves back up afterward, how we set about making things right, and how we learn from our experience. My heroes quite often face monumental mistakes or self-created demons — they suffer regrets, and they have very real fears. They understand human nature, and they’re neither afraid of, nor threatened by, the strength of their female counterparts. While they often have strong protective instincts, they’re also highly aware of their female counterpart’s ability to take care of herself – sometimes, they’re even awed by it. :)

Likewise, my heroines aren’t all pristine little virgins who are all sweetness and light. Many of them have equally dark (and sometimes darker) pasts as their counterpart heroes. They come from histories of abuse (either externally- or self-inflicted or, in some cases, both), they’ve made mistakes, and they’ve struggled for everything they get in life. These heroines are kick-ass not because they’re inexplicably tough, but because they’ve had to become tough. Their struggles have taught them what to hang on to, and what to let go of. Who to trust, and when to pull the trigger. They don’t quake in the face of demons, because they’ve already looked into their own darkness, and come out the other side, stronger. They use their own demons to fight the world’s demons, and they’re not afraid to stand side-by-side, or toe-to-toe, with their male counterparts.

I write these kinds of characters because they give each and every one of us hope. They let us see that there’s no pit too deep to crawl out of, no issue too insurmountable to claw our way out of. I write these kinds of characters to remind myself and my readers that the human spirit is indomitable, that we can survive anything. I write these kinds of characters to show people it’s okay to be strong, that there’s no reason to be afraid of strength, in either ourselves or in others, as long as we remember that strength is not about power. My characters are there to remind us of the difference – that strength is about abandoning the quest for power, about making ourselves vulnerable. Vulnerable to each other, and vulnerable to our own demons, our own past, our own selves. My characters teach people to strip away the outer shell of “everything’s just fine” lies we show the world at large, and take a deep, long look into our insecurities, pains, and personal failures.

And that, dear readers, is why I don’t write just strong female characters. I write strong human characters.

Legends of Tirum

Legends of Tirum