Monday, March 20, 2017

A Rant Against Romance Novels...

  Well, once again this week I did not get my post out at the appointed Sunday time (sorry about that). However, taking the day and going out on a date with my wonderful fiancee is what gave me the inspiration for this post, so I guess it's not a bad situation all things considered?

  Basically today is going to be me ranting about the atrocity that is the romance novel genre and why I think it's damaging. Damaging to writing standards everywhere and to the female psyche it's geared to.

  Let's get started...



  The Harlequin Romance Novel is a pretty huge cliche/eye-roll for both writers and readers everywhere - yet, they are still being written and published at a ridiculous rate. At Chapters yesterday with Jonathan as we perused the shelves and laughed in derision at the titles under the Romance genre, I was aghast to realize this section was pretty much as big as the Fantasy section in the other corner of the store. Even thinking about that now is a bit of a horror.



  We stumbled upon titles such as "Seduce Me, Cowboy" and "His Amish Teacher" and others of a similar, cheesy nature. It seems that romance writers/readers have a few set male stereotypes dominating their genre.


  • Tall, dark and handsome rich guys
  • Tall, dark and handsome Scots
  • Tall, dark and handsome doctors
  • Tall, dark and handsome bad boys
  • Tall, dark and handsome cowboys without shirts standing in a field (or on a beach in their jeans and cowboy hats as one cover depicted)



  I have a personal vendetta against the cowboy ones because I have grown up in the cowboyiest place short of Texas and I'm here to tell all you fantasizing female romance writers that this IS NOT HOW COWBOYS LOOK OR ACT OR EXIST. COWBOYS DON'T STAND AROUND GAZING SEDUCTIVELY INTO THE DISTANT FIELDS WITH THEIR SHIRTS OFF OR UNBUTTONED AND MOST OF THEM DO NOT HAVE HUGE, OILED MUSCLES FROM FARMING/RANCHING. YOU DO NOT BECOME A BODYBUILDER FROM WORKING ON A FARM. SORRY. 

  unless you're me of course jk lol

  As for the rest of these rather stupid and WAAAYYYY overused tropes, first of all, no. Second of all, just no. 

  I do not proclaim to be any great romantic expert or male aficionado, but I have come across a fair number of guys in my nineteen years and never met anybody like the males depicted in romance novels. Maybe I haven't met enough guys? Maybe I haven't been involved in enough sketchy, bad-boy romances/love triangles? I'm probably just innocent and naive and all that...but I do have one hypothesis and I'd like to pretend that I'm actually right. You can let me know whether you agree or not...



  So, female romance writers and readers, you know those over-photoshopped magazine ads of super skinny models with flawless skin and hair and perfect bodies? Those pictures aimed at all of us and our insecurities, meant to make us hate ourselves and strive for an unachievable female beauty ideal? Yeah? I'm about to drop a bombshell on you, you ready?

  The guys you portray/read about in your romance novels are guys to whom you are doing the EXACT SAME THING. 

  Those jacked, broad-shouldered, sexy, tall, dark, handsome, cardboard cutout, "perfect" men are your unachievable male ideal. And yes, it's just as damaging as the unachievable female ideal is to you. 

mindblown

  I'm sorry to burst the bubble of your romantic fantasies i'm not really but i'm trying to be kinda nice but really guys, if you wonder why men you read about don't exist it's because they freaking don't? You're training your brain to expect something that isn't real, just like guys who stare at pictures of hot babes. It's the exact same thing, you cannot logically pretend it's different. If you think that women should not be idealized and held to some fake beauty standard (and they absolutely should not be) then maybe don't do it back to guys? Maybe?? 

  This isn't just a body image thing either, the personalities of men portrayed in romance novels is partially nonexistent and partially filled in with a base, bad-boy persona that has long ceased to be cool and has never, ever presented the promised of a healthy relationship. If this is how you expect and fantasize men to act and then whine about "not being able to find good men" well...

this might be too harsh...maybe
  On an even more extreme (and moral) standpoint, in my oh-so-humble opinion, romance novels are pretty much just straight up women's porn and are doing no more good for female minds then other porn does to the minds of men. This is unhealthy. Unhealthy for ALL involved. It is not a "guilty pleasure", it's just plain guilty. It is doing neither you, the people around you, those whom you have a romantic relationship with now or in the future, or society in general any favors. In fact, it's only inflicting damage. 

  Don't believe me? Check the facts. There are an endless amount of studies and research poured into the effects of porn on the male brain and certainly there is just as much of an influence on the female mind as well. Even if your romance novel doesn't have explicit sexual scenes, there is an element of emotional manipulation as well that - for females anyway - is just as bad, if not worse, for your brain.

  I see this especially in the Christian fiction romance that is stocked on shelves today. All the historical romance, contemporary, Biblical, Amish, etc romance fiction is chock-full of what I am tempted to call "soft emotional porn" that can totally have an effect on a woman's mind and her view of romantic relationships - especially if they believe that it's all totally safe and good and they aren't using any discernment or good judgment. As a young woman who, while not being super interested in romance as a genre, did read some Christian fiction romance as a teen, I definitely felt that there was a certain amount of emotional manipulation going on and I don't believe for a second this didn't have some effect on me. I certainly was set up to think of men completely differently then I have found them to be in my actual experience. While this was not devastating to me, it certainly had some lasting effects. I think that if you're going to write this way under the Christian fiction genre then you should be sensitive to the fact that young girls will be reading this as some of their first experiences with romance and maybe treat it as your duty to portray properly and take a little responsibility. Please.



  At this point I'm probably sounding entirely like a prude. My argument against this would be simply that I'm not. I am comfortable to read books and series such as "A Song of Ice and Fire/Games of Thrones" in which there is a lot of sexual scenes. I think the difference there is that there is some (often harsh) reality at play and these romances are never idealized. Usually quite the opposite. But, to me, when romance is portrayed outside of stereotypes and cliches and with some actual realism and gravity, then there is much less danger of being deceived into looking at it as an ideal. Absolutely you should use discretion and discernment and not read what makes you uncomfortable when working through heavier content, but I think there is a difference between seeing sexuality portrayed impurely upfront and seeing sexuality portrayed impurely through the rose-colored glasses of romance novels. One is showing you something wrong, the other is showing you something wrong and trying to tell you it's right. 

  My personal belief is that the romance novel as a genre is deeply flawed. On the surface it is entirely ridiculous and embarrassing to me (and many others I know). Yet why do so many women keep coming back to it? 

  Because they're looking for something there, something that a romance novel will never, ever be able to satisfy.

  Ladies, if you're looking for a romance story, start looking for a *good* one. I have read incredible romances set in books that have absolutely nothing to do with the romance novel genre. In fact I think this is the best way to search for them. Love and romance is one of those things that the harder you search for, the more you focus and obsess on, the stronger you desire, the further away it slips. To me the beautiful thing about romance is that it shows up when and where you least expect it, and those instances are far more fulfilling than any cheesy, re-hashed romance novel ever could be. Trust me. Just start reading stories and you'll begin to find it, here and there. Real romance and love will transcend a hot cowboy on a cover and has a much greater ability to lift a romantic spirit. 

 

  
  Now that my initially sarcastic post turned rather somber, let's lighten the mood a little. To help solidify in your mind that romance novels are pretty much confirmed trash, here are some of what I found to be the most hilariously bad romance novel titles. Enjoy. 

  (PS. I apologize if some of these are less than "family friendly", they were just so bad I couldn't help it)

  • Seduce Me, Cowboy (this was the worst one Jonathan and I found yesterday)
  • The Wall-Street Were-wolf
  • Seduced Hearts: A Body-Tingling Romance
  • Kill or Be Kilt (not even kidding)
  • Grumble Monkey and the Department Store Elf
  • Falling for Santa Claus
  • A Prairie Dog's Love Song
  • Fangs In Frosting
  • Me Bear's Baby
  • For Real
  • Mermen Are Coming For You
  • Prick of the Thistle
  • One Night, So Pregnant!
  • My Sinful Surrender to a Highlander Werewolf
  • Heartbreak on a Stick
  • Happy Birthday
  • Learning the Dingo's Quirks
  • Waking Up Married (the horror)
  • Operation Cowboy Daddy
  • My Bosses Gasses
  • Tentacles of Trump
  • In Deep 
  • In Deeper
literally me the whole time i researched these
  I hope you had as much fun reading this list as I did finding it. Among the tears of laughter I am shedding there is also this sense of horror, shame and embarrassment creeping up upon me with the knowledge that other humans actually wrote, published, sold and bought these things? I am not sure what to think about humanity right now.

  Well, hopefully you enjoyed my rant. Are you a romance novel writer/reader? Hopefully I didn't offend you too much, I do have a lot of strong opinions on this subject. Do you agree? Disagree? Discuss with me in the comments below!


Monday, March 13, 2017

The Sorceress and the Squid is BEING EDITED

  Hey guys! How is your Monday? I know I'm a day behind for my post - I apologize. I was working at my local Christian camp's All Girl's Spy Camp weekend - which was a blast. I was in charge of a cabin with three seven-year-olds and that was...interesting. Especially when I had to operate yesterday on 3 hours of sleep from the previous night. Le sigh.

  But anyways, today I am going to talk about my novel that is currently hanging out at the editor's, getting all cleaned up. Some of you may have heard that exciting announcement through Twitter, Facebook or an earlier blog post. I'm really excited to see how it comes back and to finish all the polishing in order to pursue it to publishing.

  If you know nothing about my novella-turned-novel "The Sorceress and the Squid" then read on, my friends and hopefully you will be enticed to pick up a copy when there are copies available!


THE SORCERESS AND THE SQUID

In the magical land of Perth, divisions between the Old Kingdom and the New have waged for centuries. The humans have long harbored a mistrust of the spell-casting Fae and vice versa. In the midst of this conflict, Estrella the Sorceress lays waste to the Training Academy for Human Warriors, making an enemy in the soldier, Jalen. During their standoff, Jalen is turned into a squid and Estrella, unable to restore him to his original form, takes sympathy on him and travels west across the Sea to bring him to the Wizard in hope he can be saved. But is there more to the unrest in Perth than meets the eye?


  THE BACKGROUND...


  This is my second full-length novel that I've fully completed. I really enjoyed writing this one because it was purely fun and just kept growing and growing as I went. The world got a little bigger and the conspiracy a little thicker and the magical elements a little more complex. It surprised and entertained me while writing - which is an awesome thing to experience. It also taught me a lot about myself because each and every character in the story (aside from the Wizard, Morana, the Commander and the King) are based on myself and real people around me in my life. I know, I know, that's like one of the major rules in writing that you SHOULDN'T BREAK: inserting yourself or people you know into characters. Yeah, it's probably not the best plan in every situation, I grant that. Things can get awkward and people could be offended. But I think there are times when this can be pulled off. I think it worked for my story especially.

  The inspiration came from a conversation I had with my boyfriend (before he was my boyfriend) about him being a secret ninja squid - thus inspiring the squid part of the story. The sorceress piece came after we started dating. He complimented me by referring to me as "casting a spell on him" and then my brain did a couple turns and the rest is history. I didn't immediately start writing as that all happened in late 2014. I started the story in fall of 2015 and finished in spring of 2016. I've been editing since and now am on the road to publishing - a thrilling concept.

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM THIS STORY?


  A lot of different things. There are obviously a lot of, er, more ridiculous elements (such as soldiers being turned into squids by angry sorceresses). But for all the light-hearted tones, there are just as many dark and mature ones to balance it out. There are themes of loyalty and betrayal, of doing the right thing at one's own personal sacrifice, of not getting mixed up with the wrong people and many more. There are cabins in the mountains and pirate ships sailed by elementals and haunted woods with vampires and nymphs, wizards and sorceresses, princesses and goblins, warriors and squids. It's a big, crazy mess of fun and frolicking and tons of traditional fairy tale elements all jumbled together. As for darker elements, there are victims of abuse, orphans, elements of fairy-tale racism, revenge, self-sacrifice, disability, and dark magic.

  As far as what range of readers this would appeal to? I think that almost any age could enjoy this story - so long as they enjoy fairy-tales and fantasy. There are elements for everyone.

  Want to know more? Feel free to ask! Please do!


WHERE CAN YOU READ MORE ABOUT TSATS?


  Glad you asked. ;) I have made a few blog posts about this novel on here...

  Here I talked about the Girl-Is-Foil-to-the-Guy's-Character trope and how I unconsciously went against that while writing TSatS.

  Here is the day I finished the story and introduced it.

  Here is the original first chapter.

  Here is the original second chapter.

  And here is my Pinterest board for the story.


  Well everyone, there's a bit of another look into this story. I know I've probably overshared about it, I'm just so in love with it and I think that it could be a really neat read for others. I'm so enthusiastic about sharing it with people and I can't wait to get it out into the world and into the hands of readers. If you would like to be one of those readers, please, let me know below! I would love to chat further with you about the story and am so excited to share it with you soon! Be on the look out for future posts regarding the publishing process! Happy Monday, everyone!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Have You Read Enough CS Lewis??




 CS Lewis is one of my most favorite authors ever. He has such an amazing way and gift with words, everything of his I read just blows me away. Which is why today I am asking you, dear reader, have you read enough CS Lewis? This is an important question. Like, astronomically so. If you haven't read the proper amount of CS Lewis have you really even lived? No. Definitely not. So I am here today to give a checklist of the CS Lewis must-reads and why they are must-reads.

  Get ready to make a list and run down to your local library or bookstore to start reading these magnificent classics!


1. THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA (The Magician's Nephew, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Horse and His Boy, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle)

Set in the fictional realm of Narnia, a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals, the series narrates the adventures of various children who play central roles in the unfolding history of that world. Except in The Horse and His Boy, the protagonists are all children from the real world, magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Aslan to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation in The Magician's Nephew to its eventual destruction in The Last Battle.

  Of course everyone has read the Narnia books. What self-respecting child has foregone the opportunity to walk through the wardrobe into the magical realm of Narnia (I'm literally itching for these books on my bookshelf now that I'm talking about it.)? Certainly these are Mr. Lewis' most famous and widely-read stories - and for good reason. They were my first introduction to both CS Lewis and fantasy itself and have since remained among my most favorite stories of all time. If you are among the like, two people ever who haven't had the privilege of reading the Narnia series I recommend you start here. Once you get deeper into other CS Lewis books things get even more mind-blowing and Narnia is a great way to start into the fascinating and very intense world of CS Lewis' writing.

2. THE SPACE TRILOGY (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra and That Hideous Strength)

Out of the Silent Planet (1938), set mostly on Mars (Malacandra). In this book, Elwin Ransom voyages to Mars and discovers that Earth is exiled from the rest of the solar system. Far back in Earth's past, it fell to an angelic being known as the Bent Oyarsa, and now, to prevent contamination of the rest of the Solar System ("The Field of Arbol"), it is known as "the silent planet" (Thulcandra).
Perelandra (1943), set mostly on Venus. Also known as Voyage to Venus. Here Dr Ransom journeys to an unspoiled Venus in which the first humanoids have just emerged.
That Hideous Strength (1945), set on Earth. A scientific think tank called the N.I.C.E. (The National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments) is secretly in touch with demonic entities who plan to ravage and lay waste to planet Earth.

  If you are unfortunately unaware that CS Lewis penned a magnificent sci-fi/dystopia trilogy that includes space travel, the most unique and beautiful aliens of ever, newly created planets, evil organizations, Roman mythology, political conspiracy, Christian theology, dystopian overtones, British legends with an actual Merlin coming alive and walking around 1940's England then, my poor, poor friend, you are MISSING OUT.

  Seriously, if you really loved Narnia and you also have any amount of interest in sci-fi or the 40's or mythology or political conspiracy then you should definitely stop what you're doing and go READ THESE BOOKS. I will even forgive you if you log out of my blog post to go do it. They are seriously amazing and ridiculously underrated. If you haven't read The Space Trilogy what are you doing with your life? I promise that your experience with these books will be life-changing (although I don't think one can read a CS Lewis book without some sort of life-change).

3. THE GREAT DIVORCE

The narrator inexplicably finds himself in a grim and joyless city, the "grey town", which is either Hell or Purgatory depending on how long one stays there. He eventually finds a bus for those who desire an excursion to some other place (and which eventually turns out to be the foothills of Heaven).

  This was my second venture into CS Lewis novels and left a profound impact on my life. The whole concept of the story was so fascinating and the way that Lewis time and time again delivers simple and honest observations about the finer and yet most obvious points of reality never ceases to blow my mind. This is a short book, easily read in an afternoon, but not easily forgotten. The ideas and image from the scenes of Heaven will stay with you long after reading the last page.

  What more can I say about this completely compelling and thought-provoking novel? Why, that you should go and read it of course!

  Also, if you are a Christian, this book is going to deeply challenge some of your beliefs and views on the afterlife, I don't think that CS Lewis intended his vision to be portrayed as fact at all, but I do think that there is much to be gleaned from this image of Heaven that he paints.

  If you aren't a Christian, I'm pretty sure you can and will enjoy this book. It's too epic and interesting to not.

4. TIL WE HAVE FACES

A retelling of Cupid and Psyche, based on its telling in a chapter of The Golden Ass of Apuleius. This story had haunted Lewis all his life, because he realized that some of the main characters' actions were illogical. As a consequence, his retelling of the story is characterized by a highly developed character, the narrator, with the reader being drawn into her reasoning and her emotions. This was his last novel, and he considered it his most mature, written in conjunction with his wife, Joy Davidman.
The first part of the book is written from the perspective of Psyche's older sister Orual, as an accusation against the gods. The story is set in the fictive kingdom of Glome, a primitive city-state whose people have occasional contact with civilized Hellenistic Greece. In the second part of the book, the narrator undergoes a change of mindset (Lewis would use the term conversion) and understands that her initial accusation was tainted by her own failings and shortcomings, and that the gods are lovingly present in humans' lives.

  I read this just last year. I don't understand how Mr. Lewis was so blessedly gifted in the realm of fictional inspiration, but man...this story is another one of his many masterpieces. Again, so ashamedly underrated that it hurts, but I do my best to promote his other works to the best of my ability.

  This story is a beautiful retelling of the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Each member of the small cast of characters, particularly Orual, is wholly fascinating and likable (in my opinion). If you've ever wondered about the "How could a loving God..." question then this is an excellent book to read.

  It's an excellent book to read anyway.

5. THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

A Christian apologetic novel written in a satirical, epistolary style and while it is fictional in format, the plot and characters are used to address Christian theological issues, primarily those to do with temptation and resistance to it. First published in February 1942, the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle's mentorship pertains to the nephew's responsibility in securing the damnation of a British man known only as "the Patient".

  One day I was really feeling under the weather and pulled this book off the nearest shelf to entertain me in the throes of my discomfort. I was finished in an afternoon, unable to put it down. It was at once incredibly interesting, convicting and startling - as most of CS Lewis' books turn out to be.

  Theology on demons seems very few and far between and to read about these creatures watching over a specific person and possessing a frightening level of intelligence in how to cause him to stumble the best was certainly disconcerting - but not unwelcome. I really enjoyed this story because it opened my eyes and my mind in a lot of ways to the spiritual activity around me. Well, well, well worth a read for Christians and non-Christians alike.

6. A GRIEF OBSERVED

A non-fiction reflection from author and theologian C.S. Lewis on the process of grieving for his wife, who died of cancer after three years of marriage.

 I also read this last year (on a CS Lewis fix) and since the book is very, very short I got through it quickly. I would recommend not reading it TOO fast though, there is a lot to be taken in here. Whether or not you have ever lost a loved one this is a book to touch any soul and really make you think about the life you're living with the people around you and also about death and what it takes and how to move through it. It is NOT a light-hearted read and may even bring some tears, but more than that it will get you thinking - not just with your head but with your heart - and that I believe is the most beautiful and universal affect of CS Lewis' works.


  Well, there you have it, folks. My very favoritest CS Lewis works and why I think you should go out and make them your favorites too. It's a personal mission of mine to make the lesser known CS Lewis classics known to those around me because I truly believe that everyone should read them. That includes YOU. So, what are you still doing here? Go out and get yourself a copy of something on this list and start on in!

  What's you're very favorite CS Lewis book? Or have you not read any CS Lewis at all (you poor, poor soul!)? Let's remedy that, if there's a book on this list that you haven't read that stands out to you let me know which and why and I will encourage you to give it a shot! Happy reading everyone!



“Hell is a state of mind - ye never said a truer word. And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind - is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.” 
― C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce