Monday, July 30, 2007

Pleasure in Her Bodily Charms

That's a quote from page 62, Volume one of The Sexual Education Series in Ten Volumes by Dr. David H. Keller, then the assistant superintendent of Western State Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee. These petite red-clothed volumes were published in 1928, and I discovered them in a tiny antique store in White River Junction, VT last summer.

Volume one is titled Sex and Family Through the Ages. Chapter one, The Beginning of Life discusses ". . .the one constant effort (has been) to obtain happiness" from the beginning of time. The good doctor's comparisons are fascinating, to say the least.

"For some reason, known only to herself and the God of Nature, the female stickle-back (a fish) is a modern woman in many ways. She is very fond of club life, refuses to stay at home, scorns the advances of her proper mate and whenever she has a chance eats her baby stickle-backs with a great deal of pleasure."

No, wait--it gets better.

"Under such circumstances it's hard to see how the tribe (of fish) exists. It would die out in one generation were it not for the male. (He builds the nest, yada yada). Then, he swims around hunting for the club of the independent females, and finally isolates one from her comrades. He drives this female to the nest, forces her to go in and stay in till she lays an egg or two." This brilliant male, the hope of mankind, then lets her go while he rounds up another ten or so females. He cares for the eggs by himself, poor soul. "He is a fearless fighter and a wonderful mother. It may be that if women continue to assert their independence, it will be necessary for man to imitate the stickle-back's conduct."

Our hero.

Here's the entire quote from page 62, chapter six titled Love and Marriage. "The man has the desire to possess the woman and take his pleasure in her bodily charms. The woman longs to be conquered and under that longing is the great desire, no less great because it is so often unrecognized, to become pregnant and, by giving birth to a child, to become a mother. "

The good doctor goes on to discuss the sacrifices necessary for a successful marriage, by both the male and female. And his thoughts on spiritual love are eloquent; "the relation of one soul to another, the molding of one spirit to another." Of course, he's pretty sure at the end of the day the woman needs to do most of that molding.

These volumes are a treasure. They go on to discuss sex and society, the prostitute, care of the aged, sexual life of men and woman after forty ( I was glad to hear there is one ;) ), sexual diseases and deviations . . . they go on and on. I'll share more words of wisdom on Thursday; try to curb your club-hopping, child-eating tendencies until then.

What are your research or old book treasures, either at home or in your public library? Does reading old text help you historical writers embrace the mindset of another time? And hidden among the antiquated ideals, do you ever find a grain of truth?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Inspire: to fill with high or reverent emotion. . .

Inspirational romance.

When I mention the term to those who've never read any romance, they are confused. How can a romance novel (i.e., smut) be connected to something inspirational (i.e., pure)? To those familiar with romance and it's many genres and sub-genres, there is still usually a moment's hesitation. If you haven't read one, you're not sure why you would.

If you haven't read one, you don't know what you're missing.

When I read my first inspirational romance, "Leading Lady", by Lawana Blackwell, I had no idea it was inspirational romance. I knew it was a Victorian story, and I loved the cover. After I read it, I felt happy and satisfied. Job well done. Then a year or so later, I bought an anthology of Victorian romances, "English Carols and Scottish Bagpipes" by Pamela Griffin and Jill Stengl. Again, I adored the stories. This time it didn't take me quite so long to figure out they were inspirational, but they were Christmas stories, and I love holiday stories. No problems, even though the little radars were humming in my head.

I really, REALLY dislike being preached to.

It never happened. Not in that story, or next, or the several that followed. Instead, every time I read a well-written inspirational romance, I learn something more about the art and craft of what we do, the skill of subtlety that can be applied to any story, in any genre.

Writing romance is a tricky, tricky business. The romance must be the story, and for many/most (goodness, this will be a blog for another day) adults, a sexual relationship is a key component to romance. Most bestselling novels have a least a few detailed scenes that leave no doubt as to the couple's physical compatibility, and they do it WELL. And no one part of a romance novel is the easy part to write.

But to watch an author unfold the story before your eyes, to watch her mold the conflicts and characters and acknowledge their physical attraction while making sure the emotional components always take center stage--Wow. It's poetry in motion. At Nationals I picked up "Missionary Daddy" by Steeple Hill. I haven't read it yet, but I am looking forward to it, as I've never read a contemporary inspirational. I'm sure I'll pick up as much from it as I have from the others. And I'm reading Rita winner Tamera Alexander now; both her story and her skill are inspirational indeed.

Is anyone else fond of inspirationals? Do you look to other genres (paranormal, suspense, contemporary) to inspire your own work? What are your favorite finds, to read if not to write?

We'll swing in the opposite direction next Monday and talk about my set of 1928 sexual education texts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Friends, I Have Lost A Day...

Harry does that. He sucks the outside world into a black hole, one where children sit glasses of water by my side and order in pizza unnoticed. They know interrupting me is futile, and the hospital really is only six blocks away. I cannot finish these books in less than one sitting. I cannot walk away.

Yes, well, perhaps that is extreme, but then so is the end of the Potter series. It is a BIG DEAL, because we choose to make it so. Harry and the rest of the motley crew have a special place in our hearts and on our bookshelves. My mothers keeps a set of pristine, untouched copies, along with her assorted H.P. collectables . Our books have creased spines and smudged pages; our truck CD player brings his world to life.

He's not the only thing we read; far from it, but he is special, as millions of fans around the world know, and deserves a bit of my undivided attention, here at the end.

Thank goodness for series. I want the characters I love to continue their journey through my life. Thank heavens for Amelia Peabody, Mary Russell, Stephanie Plum, Anita Blake.

And thank heavens for well-written fan fiction, in which my favorite characters (Snape!) lead the lives they deserve.

Who do you want to live forever? Which character(s) do you wish had their own set of never-ending stories? And how to you feel about writing a series?


Kelly, Alice, Christina-- send those snail mails to and I'll be sending a book your way :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Joy of Discovery

In heaven, there will be a Books-A-Million (my personal favorite) that never closes, and every book I want is free. Authors are all hanging out in the coffee bar, ready to discuss each and every character to my hearts' content. Sounds a lot like Nationals, yes?

Well, some of my Fed Ex boxes have arrived, and I've made my way through two new (to me) titles so far. Neither is in my usual genre, and I have loved, loved each second of exploring the way they build their world and craft their characters.

"A Reason To Live", written by Maureen McKade, is a historical western set right after the end of the Civil War. Laurel Covey is the amazing heroine, a nurse who keeps a journal of her patients' last requests and then journeys to bring their final words to their families. Creede Forrester is the tormented hero who learns of his son's death from Laurel, and accompanies her to the families she must reach.

What a heartbreaking, compelling, sensual story. I sent off a note to Ms. McKade as soon as I returned home, letting her know her book kept me up one night until I reached the end.

The second book is "Every Which Way But Dead" by Kim Harrison. It's a play on Clint Eastwood, for pity's sake; that's an automatic buy in my house. Anyway, fabulous witch and bounty hunter Rachel Morgan lives with a vampire and a pixy, both her partners in a harsh alternate-reality Cincinnati teaming with crime and action. The world-building in this book is amazing. I would love to see the spread sheets Ms. Harrison must create in order to keep all these details straight. And the best thing of all--it's wickedly funny.

So yes, she gets a note as well.

I have quite a list of automatic buys, but there is real satisfaction in adding to that collection of names.

So what new treasures have you dug up lately? Have you finally read an author that's been turning out best-sellers for years? Or is a debut author rocking your world?

And yes, someone will win a book! Time to share this wealth. ;)

Monday, July 16, 2007

Friends I've Yet to Meet

There are no strangers in romance.

All you need is a smile and the slightest bit of eye contact. Those awesome name tags that swivel and bob around as the perfect accessory are pretty darn handy as well. Add a bundle of ribbons and multi-colored pins and you're all set.

Hello, world, my name is ------ and my world revolves around romance.

And in a crowd of three thousand, no one thinks you're crazy. Remarkable.

I've been reading for several weeks now that the first time at Nationals is intimidating. Perhaps in the past, but that word wasn't appropriate for Dallas in the least. I'd say fabulously frustrating was more on the mark; so many, many opportunities, and so little time! The workshops were eye-opening, the lunches and speakers impressive, and the book signings enough to make a person break out in a happy dance of joy.

And when I was ready to drop from exhaustion, the most perfect hotel mattress I've ever slept on was waiting, along with long conversations with my girls, who simply wanted me to remember a signed ARC wasn't their idea of an appropriate trip souvenir.

I've never waited for concert tickets or an opening night movie in my life, but I do stand in line until midnight for each Harry Potter book, so waiting two hours to visit with Lisa Kleypas about Mine Til Midnight was a pleasure. Visiting with all of the authors was a pleasure, but so was talking with all the authors-to-be, in elevators and bathrooms and waiting to buy a cup of coffee.

I got to meet one of my writing partners in person, which was the biggest joy of the trip, but all the strangers I visited with as well confirmed my belief in the power of a happy ending.

Endorphins indeed, Lisa! These books, in every genre, do make the world at large a happier place. It just doesn't get any better than that.

So all you first timers--do you believe each trip will be as wonderful as the first? Those who have been before--is the first time the best time, or does it just get better? And those who have yet to go--is Nationals on your list of "have-tos" , or are you planning on enjoying conferences closer to home (something several authors told me is a very smart idea)?

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Warm Welcome. . .

. . .to friends old and new, brought together by the power and the majesty of the written word. A little pompous, but true. Nothing is more influential to millions of people the world over than thin pieces of paper covered with standardized fonts or scrawled pencil lead.

I happen to enjoy my written words wrapped up in a thick historical romance . . . or a historical mystery, or a side-splitting contemporary comedy. I also confess deep admiration for inspirational romances, and have read Stephen King's work as well, although horror is not my cup of tea. On the other hand, I adore the over-the-top drama of a timeless gothic story, and have also developed an appreciation for well written erotic romances.

I will also re-read E.B. White any time I'm given the chance, and adore Junie B. Jones and the Little Critter.

I like books.
I assume the feeling is mutual. Book store owners certainly view me with with great affection.

I also adore research books. I love big glossy pages and musty tombs overlooked at the back of flea markets and used book stores. I love to hoard bits of information in hopes that someday I'll find use for it in a manuscript. Mostly, I love the feel of a book in my hand; I'm especially partial to the new larger paperbacks. Larger print (I'm not 25 anymore) without the weight of a hardback. But I'll take them anyway they are printed, and not worry about their mismatched presentation on my overflowing bookshelves.

They aren't there for decoration. They are there to be opened and creased and folded and thumbed through until a page or two comes fluttering out.

So which volumes have you loved to pieces? Any that necessitate a double buy, just so you'll have an extra on hand? Any too special to loan, even to the best of friends?