Monday Musings–#metoo

I am very tired today but I feel like I need to talk about this. Please forgive me if it’s a little confusing. I’ll come back later after I’ve had a nap.

Here’s the thing going around facebook:

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

I am incredibly fortunate that I can’t really add me too to my status. I suppose I could count cat calls as sexual harassment, but I don’t feel like it rises to the standard that so many of my friends have experienced. I don’t want to minimize their suffering so I’ve only said #ibelieveyou.

And yet. . . a lot of my books have harassment and sexual assault as an integral part. You’d think I was trying to work through something in my past and that is definitely true about a lot of the aspects, but not this one. I can’t tell you why. Maybe because there is this rose-colored glasses look we have when we think about the Victorian period or the 19th century or the good-old-days. I am fascinated by the period, obviously. And I really want to wear pretty dresses and go to balls and wear gloves. So basically be rich during the period. It would be fun. But there are very dark parts of the 19th century and while I’m not comfortable to write about some of it, the rape culture of this time–I just can’t seem to shut up about that.

It’s still here. Right now, in 2017. Unlike the Victorian era most people understand that women who are raped are victims, at least in terms of stranger rape and a house being broken into or something like that.  We seem to be iffy about date rape. And regardless of what we understand, we still ask that Victorian question–what did she do to deserve it?

Nothing. A woman does nothing to deserve rape. Nothing, all right? Nothing.

And so I posted this on my facebook page today and I’m posting it here. It irritates the hell out of me that I have to say this in 2017. But I do.

Women don’t “ask for” rape. The not asking is the very definition of rape. If she “wants it” she says she wants it, and then it is not rape. If she doesn’t say she wants it, she does not want it and if you take it, that is rape.

If a woman dresses skimpily, she may be looking for a sexual partner. If that partner isn’t you, then she did not dress for you. If that partner isn’t you, but you decide it is and act upon it, that’s rape.

If a woman dances stark naked down a street, she may be looking for a sexual partner. If that sexual partner is not you, and you decide it is and act upon it, that is rape.

Clothing and makeup do not define rape.

No more “what did you do to make him” bullshit. NO MORE.

We have been taught by society–sometimes by parents or teachers or others–to ask women who tell us they’ve been sexually assaulted what they did to make that guy think they wanted sex. So much so that it’s the first thing that might come to our minds. Well that first thing is wrong and it’s time we reprogram our brains. All of us. Men and women. Too often we do not back up other women because we have taken “precautions” to avoid being sexually assaulted. We feel vindicated or superior, but we are NOT. This thinking just proves we are victims too and we’re buying into our victimhood.  Not of rape, but of a society that has convinced us that it’s our responsibility to not be raped–not society’s responsibility to protect us. We are 51% of the earth’s population and we contribute to humanity every damned day. We shouldn’t have to dress in a certain way so that the other 49% won’t attack us. That’s just bullshit.

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Wicked Widow is up on Amazon!

Click on the really pretty cover to check it out.

WICKED WIDOW 2-3

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Monday musings–Decorating in my books, Rereading The Wild One–and an apology

living-room-581073_1280So, I reread The Wild One this weekend. Before I asked Kensington for my rights back, I downloaded both it and Wicked Woman on my kindle. I discovered that when the book was e-published, they left out scene breaks in The Wild One. I believe–I’m not certain–that they left out a few on Wicked Woman, but all of them are left out of The Wild One. I apologize for that. I didn’t know or I’d have said something. Not sure they would have changed it, but I could have tried. That will be corrected, of course, when I get the new book up under the original title, Wild Card. It will take several months.

I loved reading the story! It’s strange to discover, now that it’s been almost 10 years away from either book being published, how much I really loved these books. Granted, I’ve spent weeks working on Wicked Woman, now Wicked Widow, making changes, but not to character, plot or even much dialogue, because I love all of that.

Today I’m working on last little things. Making sure that the revisions I did in terms of room decorating is consistent. That’s a thing with me. I love “decorating” the rooms, but it’s not a huge deal. I’m more interested in what characters are saying to each other. Sometimes so much so that a room looks one way in chapter 3 and then in 13 I’ve forgotten and I’m so excited with what I’m writing then, that I just throw in some quick description instead of going back to find what I originally wrote. That’s something I really need to work on before I start writing. The thing is,

That’s something I really need to work on before I start writing. The thing is, though, what I think it should look like in one chapter might change later because suddenly I need a different atmosphere and that is more important than it was in the earlier chapter. So in some ways, it’s always going to be a problem. But you do what you do, right?

 

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Monday Musings–First scene, Wicked Widow

Boston Massachusetts, 1854

Shivering in the wind slicing across Long Wharf, Morgan Turner squinted up at Captain Montgomery’s counting room, which was, as promised, the last office in a long, tall brick building—last office, last hope.

A lump formed in her throat as she scanned the black windows. Did she dare break in? If she was arrested, the police might connect her to the husband she’d left dead on her bedroom floor. A vision of a black-hooded hangman rose in front of Morgan, his eyes gleaming death as he pulled a rope over her head, gloved hands securing it tightly against her windpipe. Her throat clenched. No, she could not risk it—

Another icy gust penetrated her filthy cloak and once-pristine blue satin gown. The tangy ocean air mixed with the pungent smell of wet wood, freezing her lungs. But could she bear another night such as the last, cowering in a damp alley, frightened by a roving gang of drunken men? If they found her—rape or hanging, which was worse?

The gang lived here, the hangman in Philadelphia.

Morgan slunk around to the back of the building where she found a shuttered window and an old, silvered board. Taking a deep breath, she strengthened her resolve. She could do this; how often had she and Amy laughed over similar escapades?

She shoved the board against the window. Wood splintered, glass tinkled, thankfully muffled by waves crashing against the wharf. Morgan stood on tiptoes and peered into the gaping hole. Silhouettes of furniture greeted her, sleeping witnesses to the profitably employed. Respectable, honest people.

Wincing at the ugly comparison to her own character, Morgan wrapped her hands around the windowsill and pulled. Her feet fought for purchase against the rough stone. A minute later she slid through the window and fell to the floor with an undignified thump, grateful for the layers of stiff crinoline petticoats that prevented shards of glass from cutting her. Pushing back her hood, Morgan rose and adjusted her itchy, blond wig. Her eyes fell upon a box of coal next to a big potbelly stove. Heat!

In a trice, she’d lit an oil lamp and the stove. While warming her frozen fingers, she surveyed the office. It was well appointed; Captain Montgomery appeared to have prospered since she’d last seen him. Not surprising. During her disastrous voyage across the Atlantic two years earlier, he’d calmly sailed them through a hurricane and brought them into port ahead of schedule, master not only of his vessel but of Poseidon himself. And still he’d found the time to offer her, a newly grieving widow, solace and assistance.

Rashly declined in favor of marriage to a man she scarcely knew.

Her heart lurched. A grieving widow then, she thought; the Wicked Widow of Philadelphia now. Her latest actions would surely revolt the soft-eyed but ever-so-proper captain.

Her eyes passed over a globe and a gold-framed painting of Boston Harbor, hanging behind a flat top desk of black walnut. At the corner of the desk sat a jar of gumdrops.

Gumdrops! Oh, oh, oh! Her hollow stomach jerked in excitement as she charged across the room.

She ripped off the top of the jar and shoved several in her mouth at once. Food, oh sweet, glorious food! Was there more? Sifting through the desk drawers, she discovered a tea box. A few minutes later, Morgan Turner, formerly Lady Morgan Reynolds of Westborough, widow of Richard Turner, and of Charles Weatherly, and of Bart Drumlin, sat down to a dinner of gumdrops and black tea.

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Monday Musings, Wicked Widow

book-759873_1280I’ve set the (e-book) re-release of Wicked Widow, formerly, Wicked Woman for Thursday, October 5th. Basically I’ve taken what I’ve learned about writing in the last 10 years and used it in editing Wicked Widow. For example

Mistress, her mind repeated with deliciously wicked excitement.  No longer a lady, no longer a wife, but a woman so far beyond respectability that she needn’t adhere to society’s rules; she was, in fact, expected to break them.  A twinge of guilt tugged at Morgan’s conscience, but she dismissed it, concentrating instead on how best to perform her new role.

has become

Mistress, Morgan’s mind repeated with deliciously wicked anticipation as she leaned against the back of the sofa, a carelessness her mother would have detested. She was no longer a lady, no longer a wife, but a woman so far removed from respectability that she needn’t adhere to any of society’s rules. She was, in fact, expected to break them. A twinge of guilt tugged at Morgan’s conscience, but she dismissed it, concentrating instead on how best to perform her new role.

It’s not a lot, the change of excitement to anticipation, but anticipation is a much better description. The addition of her leaning against the sofa back gives the reader a better feeling of place.  “Carelessness her mother would have detested” is a stronger reminder of how far she has “sunk” and how strict her upbringing was. One of Morgan’s motivations in the book, what gets her into so much trouble, is her rebellion. It’s stronger if we know it wasn’t just the biggest rebellion–that her parents were trying to force her into marrying a man she hated–but the little things as well, that she could not even relax when sitting on a sofa alone.

So those are the edits I’m making, adding little things like that along with some description here and there. The word count will stay about the same, though, because I’ve been ruthlessly deleting tag lines.

“Not enough to surrender to your demands.”  He stared at her a moment  before saying slowly, “You know, I’m rather enjoying this.  Something about that pose strikes me as seductive.”

is now

“Not enough to surrender to your demands.” He stared at her a moment. “You know, I’m rather enjoying this. Something about your pose strikes me as seductive.”

Same dialogue, but it moves faster.

And:

“Every day.  It’s a mere half mile to my counting room, and I should have appreciated the exercise,” he said.  He settled his black-gloved hands in his lap.

is now:

“Every day. It’s a mere half mile to my counting room, and I should have appreciated the exercise.” He settled his black-gloved hands in his lap.

Also, I put quotes at the beginning of each chapter in my indie-published historical romances. I did this because my favorite romance novels when I was young were by Mary Stewart and she put quotes from poems and plays etc at the beginning of her chapters. I absolutely adored reading those quotes. I didn’t put them in the traditionally published books though. I didn’t even ask if I could. I was very sure they’d say no. But I still love them! So I’m adding them in Wicked Widow, and tweeting some, facebooking them. I’ll try to put a few here too.

The book now starts with these two quotes:

A lone, poor woman

Shakespeare

There’s no such thing as chance;

And what to us seems merest accident

Springs from the deepest source of destiny

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

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Monday Musings, Romance vs. Sexual Exploitation

I wanted to talk about something fun today. Wanted to talk about re-reading Wicked Woman and getting it ready for re-release. But I can’t. Today, no happy fluffy feelings.

There’s a controversy going on in the romance community about a book that crosses the line. I haven’t read the book, but the gist of it is this: A couple has two children, a boy and girl. The son dies tragically and the couple can’t seem to get over the loss. To save their marriage and their family–now consisting of father, mother, daughter–they move into the woods to live in isolation. The wife dies, the man and his daughter end up in a torrid affair, and it’s all “fine” in the end because–wait for it!–they are not related. She is adopted.

This is not acceptable.

No, that’s not strong enough. THIS IS WRONG.

People have a right to write what they want. They have a right to publish it. People have a right to read it. They can call it romance.

I have a right to say that it is WRONG.

Amazon and other retailers have a right to say no, they won’t publish it, which they did. This is not banning. This is business practice. “Banning” would mean not allowing it to be read, as in keeping it out of a library. To be crystal clear, if my town library banned this book, I would be okay with it. People have a right to ban books they believe are dangerous. This book promotes a sexual relationship between a 40-year-old man and his teenage daughter as romance. That is dangerous.

And this woman is selling her book that way on her website, as “dangerous” and “taboo”. Which is perfectly legal. She has a “you may not have the strength to handle something so taboo and titillating as this book” trigger warning. That’s not so much a trigger warning as it is a veiled insult to people who believe a sexual relationship between a 40-year-old man and a teenager, who is legally his daughter, is something to be shunned. I have read people saying that if the trigger warning were better, it would be all right.

It is WRONG.

Have I read the book? No. I haven’t read Mein Kampf either. I know what Hitler promotes is toxic. I don’t want to fill my head with those toxins. I don’t want to fill my head with the poison of the sexual abuse of a teenager in the guise of romance, either. I know the sun is hot without touching it. I know a scorpion’s sting hurts without having ever seen one. I know I’d run away from a man walking down the street with a bloody shirt and bloody knife in his hand because I make judgment calls for the sake of my health and well being.  Don’t tell me I can’t judge a book without reading it. I can. I will. I have.

It’s fiction, I hear, as if that makes it all right. As if we haven’t seen throughout the course of history how much power fiction has to change minds, to alter perspectives, in writing as well as in performance art. Laws have been written because of fiction. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was so explosive in its time that it ignited the abolitionist movement, which started a civil car that ended slavery in the United States.

Words are power. Fiction is powerful. It is not a “mere” anything. We have to stop pretending that something wrapped up in “fiction” has no impact. IT HAS IMPACT. The impact of fiction is enormous, and the writer who wields it has a responsibility.

Will this book be that powerful? No, not on a global or national scale. It’s just a book sold on a website. But it does have an impact. First on the women (and men) who have been the victims of sexual abuse, particularly if that abuse was perpetrated by a family member with the implied or actual power of his/her of a supervisory role. These people are scarred for life and although they live, breathe and enjoy their lives, the scar is still there, the hurt is still there. Calling this kind of relationship “romantic” and implying that it is consensual is devastating. I’m not such a victim, but I know that for years they have had to combat the voice in their head, often from the abuser, that says “you know you like it” or “but I love you” and the terrible second guessing that makes them wonder if they are responsible for their abuse or if it wasn’t so bad.

I am going to take a few sentences to directly address these people: YOU ARE NOT RESPONSIBLE. It was that bad. It was not romantic. You do not have to justify your feelings. The perpetrator is a criminal even if the law has not deemed it so. You have my compassion and my respect for continuing to live your lives and not letting your abuser destroy you. This concept is wrong. Period.

Back to everybody. The problem is people will read this book, toss it aside, and go on to the next believing they were not impacted because he/she would never do this, would never allow it, would vote against it, would fight it. Are you sure of that though? Positive? Will there not be something in your subconscious the next time you hear/read about the sexual assault of a child that makes you wonder if they “wanted” it, like the teenager in this book thinks/says? You should consider that.

The bigger problem comes from the people who read this book, who are sexual predators. People who may have yet to abuse a child but who, upon reading this book, believe their feelings and their plans are justified. Who are told by this book that the twist of their minds is not sick. Who might then act upon it. Will it happen a lot? I don’t know. But if it happens once, that’s enough.

I do understand that the vast majority of people who consume erotica and porn are not predators. They’re just everyday people who want something a little spicy in their lives. And in that, I am torn. I am struggling, and maybe my opinion will evolve over time, but this is where I now stand :

1) This book is not romance, should not be sold as romance, should not be promoted by anybody else as romance, and if you do, I am suspicious of you. I can’t help it. I question your morality.

2) Honestly, I question your morality if you promote it at all. I won’t question your morality for reading it. But the promotion, yeah. I do.

3) A trigger warning should not, in this book OR IN ANY BOOK, be written in such a way that you are insulting a reader. If you do that, you’re an ass.

4) When you’re done reading it, you should have a little conversation with yourself to remind yourself that THIS IS NOT ROMANCE. In the real world, this is WRONG. In reality, a sexual relationship between a parent (and genes do not matter–it’s the family structure and the parental bonds that make a parent) and child is immoral, illegal, toxic, poisonous etc. You should do this to counteract whatever subconscious message has wiggled its way into your brain.

5) Romance writers should be standing with the women (and men) who have been abused, not with the woman who wrote this. I can’t believe I have to say that. OUR SISTERS (AND BROTHERS) WHO ARE VICTIMS AND SURVIVORS COME FIRST. We are writers, yes. We believe in freedom of speech. But we are human beings first. Who we are, how we treat others, should always be most important.

Deep breath.

I’m going to end with this. I have written books that have questionably abusive moments between hero and heroine. I own that. I have tried to redeem those relationships. I believe, strongly, in the redemptive power of love. It’s the reason I write romance. Maybe I don’t always get there, but I try.

But love cannot redeem everything. And the sexual abuse between an adult family member and a child (and in my mind people fall into this category even beyond teen years) cannot be redeemed by “romance.” It ain’t happening. Not. Ever.

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Monday’s Musing on Wednesday

lion-2449282_640I’m a very tired writer. I did a talk a couple weeks ago right after I finished my historical romance website. Then I went on vacation, Staycation really. Home most of the time although we did go for a night to Vermont (where I stayed at an old, Victorian-era hotel) and a night in Gloucester, MA. Pictures on all of that later. Or you can check some of them out at instagram.

But for all that, I hate not posting at least an occasional blog post. So. Right now I’m working at formatting books to make them prettier and more cohesive across all platforms. That requires a lot of organization, something that does not come to me naturally. At all. I am determined, however!

I’m also working on getting Wicked Widow (formerly Wicked Woman–I got my rights back and I’m going back to my original title) jazzed up a little bit, then formatted and a new pretty cover. After that, I’ll work on Wild Card (formerly the Wild One) and I really want a new cover for Shadows of the Soul.

While doing all of this, I realized these books are only currently available on Amazon. I don’t know how that happened. I thought they were at least at B&N but I guess now. Which makes me wonder if I should do Kindle Unlimited? That doesn’t matter as much, I think, to readers, but it’s something I have to debate–ie: agonize over.

I figure this will all take me about 2 weeks. Possibly 3 to get print books out.

In the meantime, here’s a picture I chose for Wicked Widow.

Ward and Morgan for BlogWhat do you think? Obviously the sword will have to go, but I really like the rest. The red hair works for Morgan (although her hair is more brown with red highlights) and the man I supposed looks a little like Ward. More important, it’s who Ward would like to look like.

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