HomeReviewsInterviewsStoreABlogsOn Writing

An Unkindness Of Ravens…

Sunday, July 20, 2008
Posted in: random rambling

I just love that title.

That’s all I wanted to say.

I just read an interesting RTB column (yeah I know, I nearly died of shock too) by Angela Benedetti, called Do You Self Insert? Sounds kinky doesn’t it?

Apparently an NY editor claimed that M/M will only work in print as erotica, not as romance, because women only read M/M for the sexual thrill of seeing two men together, but when it comes to reading them on the basis of a long term monogamous relationship, they want to be able to place themselves in the story.

Angela writes:

So all right, Ms. Buchanan is obviously unfamiliar with the m/m end of the industry and is repeating the common wisdom she’s heard from other important people on the New York end of the romance genre. I’m sure those same people were just as dismissive of the commercial viability of erotic (het) romance before Ellora’s Cave proved that there’s a huge market for it. The larger publishers will figure out how big the readership is for m/m romance eventually, and then they’ll all be scrambling to bring out m/m romance lines. That’s not really what I wanted to talk about, though.

Instead, what I’m curious about is the inherent assumption behind her statement, that all or at least most het romance readers insert themselves into the story, putting themselves in the heroine’s place as they read.

Re the M/M issue? I think the editor is talking out of her arse, but to be honest, I’d rather discuss the self-insertion question.

I can honestly say that not once in all my reading years have I ever tried to put myself in the heroine’s place. I wonder how true that is of other romance readers?

I once knew a woman on a group list who was obsessed with a certain fictional romance hero, so much so that if anybody ever tried to ‘claim’ that particular character, even in jest, she would go absolutely mental. And I don’t mean, in a joking way either. I think she had a bit of a screw loose. I of course antagonised her at every given opportunity, by pretending to steal said fictional character away from her. Childish I know, but oh so much fun.

I think she’d actually convinced herself that she was in love with this particular hero. I’m not talking about jokingly coveting a particular character, because I understand that a lot of readers, have done that at one time or another (Sarah, you know The Rev is still mine right? *g*). No, this woman really believed that she and this fictional hero belonged together. *Shudder*

I guess when I think about some of the RFGs (Rabid Fan Girls) out there, I wonder if the self-insertion ‘myth’ is as much of an urban legend as we think it is?

Remember this post? Of course you don’t. I barely remember it myself.

Anyway, the post was about a reader who was basically dissing romance, but I wasn’t actually dissing the blogger, for dissing romance. (Erm, did that even make any sense?) No, I was just highlighting some of her comments, the majority of which I actually agreed with.

Anyway, it took nearly two years, but the original author of the quoted piece, found my post yesterday, and decided to leave a long-assed comment.

She starts:

I’m the one who wrote that review. Would have been nice if you’d addressed any of the salient points in a rational manner.

She doesn’t appear to have even read my comments, or else she wouldn’t have started off on the defensive so soon.

She continues:

And, if you must know, I’ve had long discussions about writing and publishing and public perceptions of genres with numerous writers, many of them romance writers.

I know what the pitfalls are with the business. I know what the demands are. And I know what the view of romance is.

You see, she sounds reasonable doesn’t she?

Well, at least she did until she wrote the following:

Answer one question: How many romance writers have the reputation of Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Peter Robinson or George Pelecanos, just a few of the mystery writers who are considered top-notch by any reader, no matter what the genre?

This one has elitist book snob written all over her.

As for being considered top-notch by any reader, the only Ian Rankin book I’ve read is Exit Music, and although I liked it, I could think of several romance writers whose prose I much prefer. This is just a personal thing you understand.

I’ve never read Michael Connelly, but I’m willing to bet none of his books would resonate with me the way a Dorothy Koomson book would. As for George Pelecanos, never read him, (I heard that The Wire is great though) so I couldn’t possibly pass comment, but I’m willing to bet, I wouldn’t find his books half as interesting as some of Linda Howard’s early stuff. *g*

Anyway, Aquaria continues:

How many romance writers have been nominated for book of the year awards, or even a Pulitzer like, oh, mystery’s James Lee Burke?

Although I concurred with many of her original comments, she’s delving into the realm of Deep-Seated Book Snobbery now, methinks.

Does she honestly believe that being nominated for a Pulitzer automatically means that that book was the best in its genre? If so, then I think she’s deluded. Oscars anybody?

So many books win these prizes because of marketing spin, and buzz created by the publishing house, and sometimes the media. You go and talk to Average Joe or Jane on the street, and you’ll find they have no idea who won Book of The Year in 2007, but they can tell you what Harry Potter was thinking in the third book, on Chapter eight, paragraph 6.

Winning these great literary awards don’t automatically equate to financial success. Remember my post about Mary Gaitskill? The National Book Award nominee who was broke, and living in a student dormitory with her hubby? There was a write-up about her plight in the New York Times, as I recall.

Aquaria continues:

If you’d read any of these authors you would understand why they aren’t just thriller writers, but serious artists as well. Or how about Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, Terry Pratchett, Jim Butcher or Neil Gaiman from Sci-fi? How many romance writers have been nominated for book of the year awards, or even a Pulitzer like, oh, mystery’s James Lee Burke?

So, Gaiman is an artist, but Nora Roberts isn’t, by virtue of the fact that she writes romance?

She says that she knows how romance novels are perceived by people outside the genre, yet she sarcastically asks how many have been nominated for book awards? Anybody who knows anything about the romance genre, wouldn’t even bother asking such a ridiculous question.

BTW, I have no idea who James Lee Burke is. Does that make me an ignorant slut? *g*

Romance doesn’t get a fraction of the respect that those two genres get. But, as postulated in my blog, writers and fans in those two genres also don’t get raving lunatic hysterical if you point out flaws in their genres. They have some semblance of critical analysis going on.

What? Is she truly saying that there aren’t lunatic fans within mystery and sci-fi?

Look, I left the genre and came back to it. It took only six months to realize that things had changed–but for the worse. I see no mention here of the increasing dumbing down of the heroines of these books. The writers are so inept that they think TELLING us their heroines are smart is the same as having a smart heroine. It’s not. It’s pretty dang sad when one of the dumbest heroines of the 70s is a frickin’ rocket scientist in comparison to the average romance heroine of today.

Hey, I’m the first one to complain about pussy-arsed heroines, who are as dumb as rocks, but they aren’t all like that. Methinks she’s generalising a bit too much here. If all the heroines were like that, I’d have given up reading romance books years ago.

It’s sad when most of the writers keep trying to re-write Pride and Prejudice, and can’t begin to have characters as smart, strong and fully-developed as Jane Austen did 200 years ago, when women were literally chattel. I don’t expect every writer to have her skill at the craft, but, jeez, can’t they give their characters some backbones and brains?

She has a point, but once again, this doesn’t apply to all romance writers. Plus, it’s all subjective anyway, one reader’s dumb bitch, is another’s nuclear physicist.

I found this next bit a bit presumptious:

By the way, why do so many romance writers leave the genre? Publishing is rife with them–Tami Hoag, Sandra Brown, Catherine Coulter, Janet Evanovich, and so forth? Could it be because it limits them as writers (Janet Evanovich says as much, outright)? That they have to adhere to a ridiculous formula with very little wriggle room, book after book after book? Could it be that they hate having their books taken from truly beautiful and poetic stories of 200,000 words and shoehorned into bare-bones formulae of 80K? Do any of you even understand a fraction of how this business works?

Patronising much? I guess she’s talking about the old HEA huh? So many people seem to have a problem with that particular romance staple, don’t they?

Another thing: Do you think I haven’t been to AAR and all the other places? I have. I’ve seen the female pack mentality at work when discussing romance books. Criticize anything, and it’s hysteria all around. It doesn’t take too many instances of that before someone just leaves thinking that romance readers are a bunch of immature Heathers.

She makes a good point, after all, we’ve witnessed some of J.R. Ward’s RFGs haven’t we? But it’s not like readers throwing hissy fits is exclusively a romance genre thing, is it?

Since my birthday, when TTG awesomely bought me a personal trainer as a prezzie (I had asked for a treadmill, but the trainer is way easier on the eyes) I’ve been trying to live a healthier life.

Over the Christmas period, I’d put on a few pounds, and I have to say, I’m not overly comfortable with excess pounds on my body. So in March, I decided that enough was enough, and with the help of a few well-timed gifts from TTG, (including my very cute pink NIKE rucksack, and matching water bottle) I decided to start my journey towards A, a thinner waistline, and B, a more healthier way of living.

I was always a sporty person, but I found that because I hadn’t been regularly for such a long time, the gym was kicking my ass. The only bit I was enjoying was the 30 lengths in the swimming pool that my regime demanded, but I kept on with it.

Anyway, three months and many lost pounds later, my body is smokin’ hot again, if I may say so myself. *g*

I put myself on a clothing ration whilst my arse, and my waistline was growing, because I didn’t want to get comfortable with the excess weight. I didn’t allow myself to buy any designer gear (OK I cheated once or twice, but that’s all) so Next, and Marks and Spencers, and Wallis became my by best friends. Seriously, Marks and Spencers clothes have improved by leaps and bounds. For you Brits out there, check out the Autograph range.

Anyway, on Saturday, TTG and I attended a gala/charity event, (I bid on a Cristiano Ronaldo shirt which had all the players signatures on it, but the bidding went up to £2500 ($5k) and as much as I love United, there was no way I was parting with that kind of money) and for the first time in ages, I was able to wear a dress that revealed some skin. TTG thought I looked hot, but more importantly, I thought I looked hot, and a good night was had by all.

It seems like such a small victory I know, but I’d gotten into so many bad habits, like skipping breakfast, then eating late at night (Sometimes my real life is ridiculously hectic) that having the discipline to stick to the healthier regime, even though my daytime life hasn’t changed one iota, seems like a huge achievement to me.

Anyway, what’s been your greatest personal achievement this year?

Seriously?

The only books I’ve read where the heroine is actually the rescuer, is La Nora’s In Death series. One of the reasons I think Eve Dallas resonates with so many readers, is because she is so unlike the traditional romance heroine. So why can’t there be more Eve Dallas-type heroines in Romanceland?

It annoys the heck out of me when the heroine is a cop, and she’s the one who is ultimately rescued by the hero, who is not a cop. What is up with that?

Do we romance readers always need our heroines to be rescued by the hero?

I’m currently reading Toni Blake’s Tempt Me Tonight and I’ve got to the part where the heroine, who’s a successful attorney (she’s a shoe-in to make partner) living in Chicago, is contemplating moving back to her hometown of Bumfuck to open up her own little diner, and to of course be with the hero, who’s a car mechanic.

I haven’t gotten to the end of the book yet, but I suspect that Trisha (our heroine) will eventually end up giving up her job, and moving to Hicksville to be with Joe (our hero).

Whatever happened to the hero making the ultimate sacrifice and moving to Chicago to be with the woman of his dreams? Not just saying it, but actually doing it?

One thing I’ve noticed is that whenever there’s a question of distance between the hero and heroine, it’s always the gal who has to give up her apartment, and her job. What annoys me is that it usually turns out that the heroine wasn’t happy being an accountant/lawyer/doctor in the first place, and was just waiting for the right man to come along to rescue her from the drudgery of putting bad guys in jail, being able to afford Manolo Blahniks and healing the sick.

Honestly, it’s enough to drive my borderline feminist senses crazy.

Hi my wonderful readers, (well some of you are wonderful, the other one per cent who are haters really should find something better to do with your time, this blog is evol, evol, I tell you!) apologies for the blog being incommunicado yesterday. My blog designer’s webhost suspended her a/c for no good reason, (and without giving her prior warning either) then took twenty-four hours to rectify the problem. If it happens again, I’m so gonna slay their arse on here.

Anyway, some good news first of all, it appears that our 90 Day Jane isn’t going to kill herself after all. It was an experiment. An art project apparently.

Whatever happened to making a can-opener in the shape of a duck? That’s what I did for one of my art projects at school. It would have never occurred to me to pretend I was going to commit suicide. These crazy kids today.

Anyway, in other news, TTG and I decided to have an anti-Valentine date last night, which was fun. Tonight we’re going to stay in a hotel which is just ten minutes up the road from us. The house renovation is coming along nicely, but it does mean that the kitchen, the lounge, the dining room, and the conservatory are out of bounds, so we thought it would be good to book a nice hotel for the evening, and take advantage of the room service facilities. Although to be fair, I’ve been in London and Herts for the past three days, doing the hotel thing, which should get boring, but never does, unless I’m staying in a budget hotel, which unfortunately happens every now and again. *Shudder* (I know you appreciate what I mean Lori.)

Thanks to all you guys who sent me an e-mail letting me know that you missed my blog, even though I was only gone for a day. *g* It’s lovely to be appreciated.

And a special thanks to Syb, for helping me keep you guys informed.

Now, what’s been going on in Blogland over the last 24 hours?

Apologies for the lack of post. It’s been a busy old Easter for TTG and I.

We found our house. It’s an absolutely fabulous, Five-bed house, with a huge backyard, and the double garage that The Boy wanted. We put an offer in, so fingers crossed that it’s accepted.

Went to see my nephew this weekend. He is just so damn adorable. I could just eat him up.

Two of my friends also gave birth this week. One girl and one boy. They are both absolutely adorable.

We had a visit from a school friend I hadn’t seen in seven years. She had both her babies with her, except they weren’t actually babies anymore. They were nine, and seven. Sigh. Where does the time go eh?

Anyway, talking about babies, I finally read Nora’s Born In Death last night. Fabulous as usual. I do love, love, love Eve and Roarke’s acerbic banter with each other. How cheesetastic was the ending when they were all in the hospital? Who needs Hallmark eh?

I also managed to read Anchor and Storm (see below) and actually, I enjoyed it. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was fairly easy for me to overlook the imperfections and concentrate on the actual story.

I also finally got round to starting Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. I gave in after chapter two. It might have just been me, but I was bored to tears after just a few pages, I knew I wasn’t going to manage the full 704 pages anytime soon. I’ll possibly keep it for the next time I have to visit my doctor, I’m pretty sure I’m due for a smear test soon.

I finally read Dorothy Koomson’s, My Best Friend’s Girl. Shit, but that book made me cry. Very sad, but uplifting at the same time.

Whilst TTG and I were away, I also managed to read a Nicholas Sparks book, that’s been on my TBR forever and a day. The Guardian was a good way to pass a couple of hours, but it didn’t blow me away. The only writer who can head-hop worth a damn is La Nora, but even then it can get a little tiresome, (sorry Nora) thus I found myself getting a little pissed off by the time the time the heroine started figuring out that one of the men in her life was a nutjob. Sigh.

I’m off to bed now because I don’t feel all that great, but I’ll be taking Annie Solomon’s Blind Curve with me. I’ve always had an affection for physically impaired heroes and heroines, ever since I read that Sweet Valley High book, where that deaf girl goes out with that wanker high school jock, and reforms him. Regina whatshername, and Bruce Patman. Ahhh memories…

Anyway, in Blind Curve, the hero, who happens to be a cop, goes blind. That’s all I needed to know.

So, what are you guys reading?