I’m Kathleen Freaking Dienne

Warning: The link contains language that is NSFW (not safe for work, if you’re new to acronyms). I don’t know why you’d be visiting an erotic romance author’s website if the f-bomb troubled you, but better safe than sorry.

At any rate. Kate Harding is a wonderful writer. She writes essays and blogs on feminism, fat acceptance, and more. I came to her site originally when I was asking Google for help with a friend’s situation – his wife had been a big woman before they got engaged, lost a lot of weight right before he proposed, and was back up to her normal weight before the wedding, and I was trying to tell him “Dude, this is the shape she is and all the weight loss tricks and products aren’t going to change that in the long run.” Kate says that with biting wit and incisive observation.

But what got me going most recently was this link, which was actually in response to someone else.

Women, generally speaking, waste so much time with self-deprecation. We don’t wait for the world to dismiss us. We come up with all the reasons why we’re not good enough to be successful. That’s some seriously internalized bull doots, right there. But wait, there’s more.

Erotic e-publishing is something nearly everyone does under a pen name. Some of us are doing it to protect professional reputations in other fields. But here’s the thing – out of all the various types of publishing, erotic e-publishing is the only genre where other writers sniff and say “Oh, you’re not really published.” Oh? I’m not? I’ve got a contract with Harlequin that says I am. “The standards are lower with erotic e-pubbing, anyone can break in.” There are a lot more e-pubs out there, because the demand for these stories is so high. New publishers that can’t pay well due to the lack of volume do exist – but at least they exist. New publishers don’t try to open in other genres nearly as often.

It’s for women, written by women, published by women, and acknowledges the sexuality of women, and therefore no one takes it seriously as art or commerce, despite racking up some of the most respectable and fastest growing sales numbers in the industry. And the people who write it do half the dismissing.

No. Today, I am Kathleen Freaking Dienne.

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Categories: Thinking Tags: , , ,

The Idea Fountain

I used to sit around and complain that gosh darn it, I’m a good writer, I could write books if only I had ideas. Then I would read books and interviews with authors, and see them say stuff like “the idea is the easy part.” One of them even said that her pet peeve was people writing in to say “I had this idea. Write the book and we’ll share the profit!” Now, while sharing the profit seemed silly, the concept of the idea being worthless seemed somehow unfair. And the idea wasn’t the easy part. My ideas all made for interesting first paragraphs and painted themselves into corners (or turned out to be complete ripoffs of whatever fantasy series I was reading at the time).

Now that I have actually finished manuscripts, I’d like to travel back in time and just whack myself over my silly, clueless little head. I wasn’t a writer. I was an idiot with a fairly decent grasp on the mechanics of writing. A brain used to writing breeds ideas.  The first idea I had for a story that actually came with a middle and an ending wasn’t bad, but while I was in the middle of the writing, I had another idea. I opened a text file and pinned down that wild idea like a rat in a trap on the spot because I thought I’d never have another idea again. As soon as I finished the first story, I started writing the second. While I was writing the second, I came up with a handful of new ideas. While I was writing the third, I came up with a dozen ideas, two of which were so exciting that I abandoned the work in progress and started writing them instead.

The problem now is discipline. Put the ideas into the text file, and finish something. (Robert Heinlein again – you must finish what you write!) I’ve got enough ideas in the idea file to keep writing for the next ten years at my current pace, but the new ideas won’t stop coming. I haven’t yet had any ideas like wizard boarding school or angsty emo high school vampires, but who knows what’ll pop out of the fountain spout next.

If You Pirate My Book, You Could Be Ending My Career

April 30, 2010 1 comment

There is an argument, oft-made by pirates, that by offering an artist’s work for free, that artist is gaining wider exposure and possibly more paying fans than might have otherwise encountered this artist.

I have made the argument before that the only thing an artist gets from exposure is death by pneumonia, but I will say that in the realm of music, this argument has proven to be at least somewhat true.

Here’s why I don’t think it applies to books. If you get a bit of a song in your head, you’re going to go looking for the rest of the song. And then the rest of the album. Songs are discrete elements, complete in and of themselves unless we are talking about Pink Floyd concept albums. A single pirated song could well serve as bait on a hook that, if taken, will result in the listener going out to get the album.

The parallel case in books is not pirated books – it would be single chapters or other kinds of excerpts. And those do work quite well as bait. My book contract specifically says I can use nearly a quarter of the whole book as an excerpt, just to make sure you as a reader reeeeeeeeeeeally want to pay the three bucks to find out how it ends. But no pirate site *I’ve* ever seen does chapters. No one is getting a sample of writing that inspires them to go buy the writer’s book. They’ve got the whole book, right there.

Does that possibly lead to future sales for that writer? It might. But here’s the problem with that for first time writers – if you pirate a first timer’s book, there won’t be a second time.

Sales figures are watched very closely. If someone’s book doesn’t sell, it’s an easy call for the publisher to not extend another contract. But most writers fall into a gray area. Not a runaway success, but not a failure.  There’s a line, not a hard and fast one, but definitely a line between someone whose sales aren’t quite good enough and someone whose sales are nearly there.

The hundred pirated copies might have made the difference between a second contract and oblivion.

In conclusion, please don’t pirate my debut novella, or the kitten gets it.

Fighting For Reality

April 29, 2010 5 comments

There are some unwritten rules in erotic romance that I’m okay with following. The heroes are always well-hung, for example. TOTALLY okay with that rule.

But there are other “rules” that don’t sit so well with me. Hair, for example. Real men have hair. They have it on their faces, backs, chests, and bellies. I don’t go out of my way to describe a hairy back, mind you, although I personally like it (there, I said it) but all of my heroes have chest hair – crisp, curly chest hair that holds the scent of soap and warm skin – and that hair gives my heroines tactile pleasure.

I was just reading a study where women’s preferences can be correlated to local health. In areas where the overall community health is bad, women dig men with lots of hair, thicker bones, visible musculature. In areas where community health is good, women go for thinner bodies, more delicate features, and less to no hair. The conclusion is that the heavily apparent secondary sexual characteristics are survival markers – denoting men whose genetic health gives them an advantage in an environment without a lot of available interventions.

I wouldn’t want any man who couldn’t defend me during the zombie apocalypse. Some of my heroes are gentle, kind of nerdy men, but they’re still men capable of kicking ass, taking names, and lifting heavy things. My guys don’t just act like alpha men – they look like alpha men. That means hair. Down with waxing! Up with surviving the apocalypse!

Man Up, Sacky.

April 28, 2010 2 comments

I love Dan Savage. I could go on about how he’s the only advice columnist anyone can trust, and I could babble on about how much I love his books, or I could just give you the latest reason for my affection:

You are a huge pussy, CTOAC—excuse me, sorry. Pussies are powerful; they can take pummeling and spit out a brand-new human being. What you are, CTOAC, is weak, vulnerable, and far too sensitive for your own good.

What you are is a ball sack.

I don’t think people realize the cumulative effects of having your body parts used as an insult. It’s like water on sandstone – eventually, there’s going to be a big empty space any passing animal can pee into. If you want to suggest someone is wimpy, worthless, or somehow lesser, call them something that boils down to “a girl.” A “dick” is someone who is a jerk, who takes what he wants regardless of how other people feel, who makes himself happy. Someone with power, and even when you’re insulting him with this pathetic and flaccid excuse for a pejorative, you’re still acknowledging his power. (Tellingly, “flaccid” is a much stronger insult in the context of our language and society.) But a “pussy” isn’t worth any respect at all. And when we use the words of the dominant culture to express our own frustrations, we’re declaring our support for that dominant culture without regard to the costs to ourselves.

Words matter. Don’t use them casually.

Not Period Correct.

I needed two of my characters to not have sex. Fear of pregnancy is certainly a very good reason. I thought about having my heroine count the days, but just for giggles, and by giggles I mean “because I am a hopeless research nerd,” I looked it up to make sure the Victorians knew about that tidbit.

Women didn’t know about counting the days from one’s last period to determine the fertile window until the 1920s.

Holy hell.

This was made worse by the fact that condoms were not widely available, and in some places only sold to married men.

You don’t think about just how liberating birth control was, just how great a degree of freedom is conferred by managing one’s own fertility, until you get smacked in the face with it. I have never known a time when I couldn’t just bop into 7/11 for condoms, or wander into a clinic and emerge with birth control pills, or at bare freaking minimum count days and say, eh, the curse starts tomorrowish so we’re probably clear. Also, while the consequences to getting pregnant unintentionally and outside of marriage would have had a massive impact on my life, I would not have had to cope with any societal disapproval, nor would my single mother status have any impact on my ability to be employed or rent an apartment.

What an impact this would have on a sexual relationship!

This is why good historical fiction isn’t “girls like us but in costume.” Some aspects of being a woman are universal across time and space, but other things are so anchored in context as to be meaningless without it. I hope I’m up to the challenge…

My Cover: Her Heart’s Divide

April 26, 2010 1 comment

If you are not a friend of Carina Press on Facebook (or of me/my page), then you haven’t seen my cover. My beautiful, beautiful cover:

If you do follow CP on Facebook, then you already saw my comment.

If not – look at the dude on the left. That looks EXACTLY the way Jack looked inside my head. Now look at the guy on the right. Yep, looks exactly like Ryan. Ryan has a hairy chest, but hair on covers is not fashionable. Still, I like men with secondary sexual characteristics, so I’m glad they didn’t twink the model out. Plus the back turned to the viewer looks so protective and sexy to me.

The woman looks like Lila, but Lila is a jeans and bandanna country girl, and would only wear that much makeup to the office party.

The river represents the New River, in southwestern Virginia where our tale takes place.

The swirly thing is the gateway to the parallel universe, the one that poor Jack accidentally steps through. I say poor Jack, because in Jack’s world, he’s married to Lila. In this world, Lila is married to Ryan. In both worlds, Jack and Ryan are best friends…

Overall, I could not be more pleased. I really feel like the artist nailed the cover, a real home run. Also, it proves that artists are better at covers than writers, because the fact sheet I turned over talked about afternoon sunlight, even though the climactic (no pun intended) scene happens by moonlight out on the deck overlooking the river.

I can’t freaking wait for launch! I don’t know how I’m going to survive two more months.

Two months? Well, that’s what it says on the ad banner they gave me: