Friday, September 27, 2013

Are You Embarrassed by That Romance Novel You’re Reading?

So my husband and I were at a party, and I was talking to a friend of a friend whom I’d never met before. Super cool guy, intelligent, did some kind of performance art. When I told him I wrote novels, his eyes lit up with interest and respect. Always gratifying, right?

Then he asked me what kind of novels I wrote.

I told him Fantasy Romance, and watched him just sort of…deflate. It wasn’t long before he turned away from me completely and started talking to our mutual friend whom, granted, he wanted to catch up with—but I got the distinct impression he was disappointed to discover that I didn’t write in a genre that he considered truly literary or meaningful.

I’m fairly certain he would have still given me the intellectual time of day if I wrote straight Fantasy, or even academic nonfiction about the role romance plays in our society. Romantic fiction, however, was unworthy of his respect and, I’m guessing, the classification of art or literature.

Of course, this isn’t news to anyone who writes or reads romance or erotic novels. From hiding book covers when reading in public, to tee-hee-ing over the naughtiness of the latest shades-of-whatever with co-workers, to defending it as a “guilty pleasure” when someone smirks at us about it. Romance and erotic novels have been called “bodice rippers”, “porn for women”, “mommy porn” (who can forget that little misogynistic gem), and—whether sexually explicit or not—have even been denounced as clinically addictive and at fault for women having affairs and ending their marriages.

First of all, let’s take a look at the “porn” label. “Porn” is a hot button word we use when accusing someone or something of portraying sensual or sexual content in an explicit or taboo manner. An amusing video recently appeared on titled “It’s Not Porn, It’s HBO”, referencing the overtly sexual content of many of HBO’s original series.

But something doesn’t have to be patently sexual to receive the “porn” label. When we see an alluringly framed photo of a scrumptiously fattening dessert, or watch an attractive cooking show host in a flattering outfit make a delicious-looking dish, we jokingly call it “food porn”.

Sensuality and sexiness are basic human draws. Advertisers have capitalized on this truth for decades. Artists have expressed sexuality through their work, using many different mediums, for centuries. Though sex might have once been hidden in the dark, that is no longer the case. It is, after all, how each of us arrived here (unless you were cloned in a secret lab.) It is not taboo in our country’s media. And it would take an event horizon the likes of a zombie apocalypse to shove it back into the closet.

By the way, that’s a positive thing. Societies where strict taboos are placed on sex and sexuality tend to have considerably higher incidences of sexual violence and little to no recourse for victims of that violence.

Sex is already out there being represented in a hundred different ways. Satisfying sex is healthy—mentally, physically and emotionally. Anything that portrays it (between consenting adults) as mutually enjoyable, loving and passionate is good for people and good for society. And though there are always exceptions to the rule, as a whole, that’s what the romance genre does. It characterizes strong intimate relationships between people who love each other, with varying levels of sexual explicitness.

Romance novels teach us to value intimate love. And as for the idea that they’re addictive and can lead to affairs and end marriages, love IS addictive. And if reading about intimacy and passion makes someone realize they’re missing something in their own relationship, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Healthy people who are capable of separating fantasy from reality can choose to try to bring those elements into a relationship that’s worth keeping. And if someone isn’t capable of separating fantasy from reality, they could be entertaining themselves with things much worse than romance novels.

Now I’m not saying that all romance novels are great works of literature. That would be ridiculous. Great works of literature are few and far between in any style of writing. But romance itself is not a subpar genre. Well written romance novels often contain lush poetic imagery and poignant metaphors which outshine those found in more accepted examples of literature. Not to mention, they illustrate a universal truth of the human condition. They tell us a love story. And we all want to be loved, men and women alike.

They aren’t a guilty pleasure any more than any other type of novel, film or work of art that strives to entertain us.

So the next time someone asks me what type of novels I write, and turns their nose up when I tell them, maybe I’ll figure out how to summarize all of this into one short, compelling argument.

Or not. I’ve never been particularly fond of verbal sparring. I prefer to spill my thoughts onto the page, and I choose to express many of them through romances that end in happily ever afters. And in a world that is too often sad, dark and lonely—I’d say that’s practically a service to humanity.

P.S. My newest fantasy romance, GREY’S MAGIC, just hit the e-book shelves. I’d love for you to check it out!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I Need Your Input on BOOK COVERS!

I've had some input that my covers are too cliparty and not sexy enough.  I'm going to print soon, so I need your help to choose the right cover style!

Please take a look at the covers above and let me know which you prefer.  Which would you be more likely to pick up while browsing books?

The cartoony one is my original cover with the white area removed to make it look less cliparty.  I like this style because I think it reflects the lighter tone of my book, and that it may stand out more amongst the usual sexier covers.

I like the sexy one because the style is tried & true, and because I think the hot guy may trump my reasons for liking the cartoony cover.

Please help!

Thanks ~ Dawn

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Former Band Geek's Lament

The only (school related) extracurricular activity I was ever interested in, from elementary school through college, was Band.  From the moment they let me pick up a flute in the fourth grade, I wanted to play it.  Not only that, I wanted to play it well.  And I did.  I was first chair; I won awards; I made All-State Band–the whole shebang.  That is, until I got to ninth grade.

My high school offered Concert Band, and there was no question that I wanted in.  I loved the thrill of sitting down with my flute and a folder full of new concert pieces.  Thrived on mastering difficult passages and incorporating them into the music with lilting grace.  Felt pure, magical elation when the audition process went well and I was given a solo, or placed in first chair position. 

The joy of being a part of all those instruments coming together over weeks of practices, listening to and being able to recognize our improvement, as each individual sound evolved and melded into a beautiful whole–it makes me feel alive just thinking about it.  And when it was finally time to dress up in our formal black and take our places on stage, the collective energy in the silence, just before we played the first note of a concert, can only be described as breathtaking.

My high school, however, did not allow students to participate in Concert Band unless they were also in Marching Band.  And that was something in which I had zero interest. 

Even the name was offensive to me–marching band?  What did marching have to do with that incredible musical experience to which I had become so addicted?  No offense to Sousa.  I was perfectly happy to sit on a stage and play a rousing concert of the finest marches ever composed.  *Sit* being the operative word.  Forcing me to march while I did it was undignified.

I categorically resented this draft into starchy, polyester uniform-wearing, knee-lifting, football-field service.  I hated football.  I’d nursed my grudge against it since I was three years old and my dad would sit in his La-Z-Boy, pulling the tabs off Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, and scaring the shit out of me as his yelling at the television grew progressively more violent.  He was a Dolphins fan, and they were coming off their anomaly of a perfect season and winning two Super Bowl’s in a row, so I’m sure they gave him plenty to yell about.  But that’s a story for another blog post.

I did not want to be in the Marching Band.  And to add insult to injury, I would be forced to attend a mandatory “Band Camp” during the last two weeks of my summer vacation before the school year started.  I told my mother I wasn’t going. 

Mom sympathized with my horror at the entire prospect, but reminded me that I had loved Band since the fourth grade.  She reminded me that playing the flute was one of my favorite things in the world (second only to re-reading Tolkien and devouring romance novels), and that I had always been excited about it and successful at it.  I couldn’t give up on it without at least trying to make it work.  She said maybe, just like with raw oysters and Brussels sprouts, I would find that I actually enjoyed Marching Band.

And being the (relatively) obedient and dutiful child that I still was at that age, I agreed to give Band Camp a chance.  Even though I knew I was going to hate it.  Marching in formation at football games did not equate to developing a sophisticated palate for food.

I feel obliged to point out, at this juncture in the story, that things could go either way.  Those of you who had a blast playing in the Marching Band are undoubtedly smiling in fond remembrance.  Most likely you are anticipating my 360 degree attitude adjustment, and a happy ending, where I describe how I learned to let loose and fell in love with the fun and whimsy of the experience.        

I only mention this because I would hate for you to be disappointed.
On the first day of Band Camp, I found myself on an open field beneath the kind of uncompromising sun that can only be found in the dead of a Florida summer.  Unless you happen to live in the desert or on the equator.  I was one of a gangly group of freshman, sweating nervously beneath the martial eyes of three older band geeks. 

The leader of the trio took the wordplay between “Band Camp” and “Boot Camp” a tad too seriously.  He was our drill sergeant, barking orders at us and insisting we call him ‘Sir’, while the other two toned it down with smiles and occasional jokes.  This guy was an entirely new breed of band geek.  Drunk on authority and giving his credence to rank, form and file, rather than focusing on musical technique and nuance.  Which was fine for some people, but I wanted to play the flute in a concert hall, not join the ROTC.

All of this to say that my disenchantment with the idea of Band Camp had not lessened one jot by the time we started playing Simon Says.  Now that might not sound like a particularly hostile activity, but it was during the physical movement of said activity that I realized I had forgotten to wear a bra.  It wouldn’t have been that big of a deal, but I’d recently gone through something of a growth spurt, if you catch my drift.

And not only was I suddenly feeling uncomfortably jiggly, but I also realized that I’d made the lamentable wardrobe choice of a shirt with overly wide sleeves–the kind that would provide an excellent view of my jiggling if draped open at a certain angle.  These epiphanies were somewhat distracting to my mortified teenage girl brain and, between trying not to bounce too much or move my arms the wrong way, I slipped up and forgot what Simon said.

The penalty was twenty jumping jacks.  Up at the front of the line.  While the whole group watched.

I completed my punishment with cheeks flaming red beneath the sun, counting off aloud in a shaky voice, and no doubt looking horribly awkward as I attempted to throw my arms up at such an angle so as not to flash the entire field.

I don’t remember how I got through the rest of that excruciating day of similarly pointless, non-musical activity.  The only other thing I remember about it is that someone got sick from heat stroke.  The next day, I did not suck it up and return to Band Camp.  That year, I did not play in the Marching Band or the Concert Band. 

I completed high school without ever picking up my flute again.

I probably could have found a group of local musicians to play with if I’d really tried.  Though I’d never even seen the internet at that point, and locating them without it would have been much more difficult than it would be today.  My mom would have given me her wholehearted support.  But I was thoroughly discouraged and disgusted. 

My new extracurricular activity became partying, and I embraced it with vigor.  I had a lot of fun, but I also did some really dangerous and stupid things during the course of the next four years.  I’m not saying that I wouldn’t have done those things if I’d remained in Band, but who can say for sure?

I finally picked up my flute again in my second year of college, where after one undecided year at FSU, I majored in Music Education and graduated from FAU.  I played in the Band and the Orchestra, jockeyed with my colleagues for first and second chairs, earned solos, and played as a guest with the Boca Pops.  I even joined the Pep Band and played during basketball games (while seated, of course.)  Not because I had to, or even particularly wanted to, but because I loved my band director and he needed volunteers.

My degree pretty much serves as fodder for my resume now.  I have the highest respect for teachers, but I have neither the disposition nor the inclination to be one.  I am a temperamental artist at my core, and for me it’s either performance, or nothing.  That’s something I suspected, but didn’t know for sure, about myself back then.  I chose the education degree over performance because it was a statistically more practical choice.

I still pick up my flute from time to time.  But these days I happily channel my artistic obsessions into writing. 

Sometimes I wonder, though, what wildly different trajectory my life might have taken if my musical interest had been allowed to flourish with that Concert Band in high school.  If I’d stayed on the course of my earlier successes and held to my love of the art, would that have carried over into college?  Would I have been on track to apply for a school like Juilliard, where a degree in performance might have actually been worth pursuing?

An idle question, and there’s no guarantee I would have been successful even if the answer is ‘yes’. 

I realize that my high school needed students to fill the ranks of their Marching Band, and making it mandatory was how they chose to accomplish that.  But for me, not being allowed to play in the Concert Band just because I refused to take part in the Marching Band was a soul crushing blow.   

Marching and Concert are two vastly different pursuits.  In my mind, forcing a classical concert instrumentalist to play in the Marching Band is like forcing an opera singer to perform rap.  I’m sure there are opera singers (and vice versa) who can do both with aplomb, but it should be a choice. 

Forcing kids to choose both, or else not take part in the musical experience at all, is a failure on the part of adults who should know better.  And that, my friends, is the lament of a former band geek.

A Reluctant Blogger

I think I would be more gung-ho on the whole blogging thing if I were able to whip out a quick 500 word summary of my thoughts on a subject, and then go on about my day.

But, alas, I am not a fast writer. 

I am scattered.  Easily distracted.  I am a compulsive editor and re-reader, an obsessive over-thinker when it comes to word choice.  I tend to be long winded, and I can spend an entire day writing and distilling just a few pages down into what I really wanted to say. 

Not to mention, if the coveted mood to sit and write strikes me, I would much rather channel that energy into my fantasy romance novels.

Nonetheless, I keep hearing people sing the praises of blogging as a way for authors to connect with their readers.  Or for anyone, really, to connect with fellow professionals and potential customers no matter what their market is.  My brother-in-law swears it’s expanded his handcrafted bonsai container business, Taiko-Earth Pottery.  (You should totally check him out, by the way.  He’s a talented artist and there are some super cool pictures of his work!)

In any case, I have decided to embark upon this endeavor with reluctance and the self awareness that I probably won’t be consistent in keeping up with it.  If only because I rarely have much to say beyond the snippets of stories and faerie chatter and sex scenes that tumble around in my head, and I tend to reserve those for my books.

However if you stumble upon this blog by some happy chance, and you are at all interested in my musings, I hope you will give my novels a try.  And if you don’t like one, try a different one.  There are three out there at the time that I’m writing this, and a fourth one is on the way. 

Sometimes I lean more toward fantasy, and other times more toward romance.  Sometimes more toward darkness, and others more toward light.  It really just depends on how these scattered thoughts in my brain shake out onto the page.  My novels share an internal cadence, but external consistencies have never been my strong suit.  And by that, I mean my writing style.  I am always concerned with inconsistencies in the details of my world, just not necessarily with the way in which I present those details.

And if you have made it this far into my ramblings, I thank you kindly and bid you keep reading…

- Dawn Addonizio