Technology fail and an important subject

So, last time I posted I said I was off to look at furniture.  And I did.  I even found some and got it home and everything, but have a managed to take photos to share with you?  I have not.

Or, rather, I have, but then the batteries ran out on the camera and I don’t have any more, so I can’t put them onto the computer.

Oh, okay, it isn’t just that.  I mean, I could go to the shop and get some more, except that would require walking, because my car blew up the other day and what with all the furniture moving and whatnot around here lately, I am BROKEN and tired and coordinating my fingers to type is about as much as I can manage at the moment.

So…

In the absence of pictures of furniture (which I’m SURE will be as fascinating to you as they are to me), I want to share a post I came across recently which got me thinking.

It’s about the depiction of rape and rape victims in romance stories and it’s here.

This is a subject dear to me.  I have not (yet) depicted rape victims in any stories I have written, but my girly thriller (one of my current works in progress) does include a victim of domestic abuse.  I did an enormous amount of research on the subject before even starting to write that story and it has been a constant concern to try to get the character ‘right’.  I feel a responsibility to real people in the situation to present her in a way that they will recognise.  That’s partly because I don’t want to trivialise the subject to non-victims and partly because I think one of the purposes of stories is to tell us that we are not alone and that we can overcome the demons that beset us.

G.K. Chesterton apparently once said, about children and scary stories, “Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

I think the same is true of modern stories of the dragons that exist in grown-up lives.

I’m not saying that every story needs to deal with the darkness in the world.  But if they do, I think they need to do it well and realistically.

What do you think?  Do you like stories that deal with dark subjects?  Are they appropriate in romances?  I’d be really interested to hear your thoughts.

Genre and Expectations

This isn’t the post I intended to do today.  It was going to be about movies and what they can teach novelists about their art, but that will have to wait, because the universe is prodding me to talk about something else.  (I’ll have to crave your indulgence if it gets a bit long as I’m working this out as I go.)

First, Chuck Wendig started a conversation over at his blog about genre and whether we need it or whether it gets in the way of people telling the stories they want to tell.  Chuck being Chuck, it was expressed a bit more explosively than that, but that was part of what it was about.

I basically agree with this.  I think genre and naming it is a useful tool for marketing books but it doesn’t really have anything to do with whether a story is good or not or, and – this is the important part – whether there is an audience of readers who would like it.  But publishing is a business and most businesses like ‘sure things’, or as close to sure as can be arranged. So, in the print-only past, many genre-bending stories, which readers would have loved, struggled to find publishing homes.

The digital revolution has already, and is continuing to, change that. Publishers are more willing to take risks, people have the option of self-publishing and books can stay on the virtual shelf forever and take time to build a readership.  All of which means that we are now getting more books that don’t fit neatly into genre slots and some of them are doing very well thank you.  People like me, who don’t care what a book is classified as, as long as I love the story, are very happy about this.

BUT… not all readers are the same.  Had I responded to Chuck’s post (update: I have, now), I would have said, ‘but what about the romance readers’?  Romance readers LOVE their genre and its mores and perhaps more than any other group of genre fans, can be very protective of them.  Many romance readers do not want their genre bent or messed with, as its traditions are the very reasons they read it (and its multifarious sub-genres).

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The perils of idiom

If I may, I will start with a story.

When I was at university, my friends and I, as most young women do, took a keen interest in clothes.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say at this point that this in not translate, in my case to a reliably glamorous, or even particularly presentable, look.  I was more your experimental dresser.  You might see me in elbow-length gloves one day and a tatty old jumper the next (and I was almost always barefoot, but that is a story for another day).

Among this group, the highest compliment one could pay to something someone was wearing was to ask if you could have said garment when the person died.  Like this:

“I LOVE your shoes! Can I have them when you die?”

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Wednesday WIP: the perils of research

For those who aren’t up (or is it down?) with writerly abbreviations, a WIP is a Work In Progress.  I have a couple on the boil at the moment, along with several on the proverbial back burner, where they can just stay until these others are finished!

For one of the current ones, I had to do some research on key logging software.

I knew about key loggers in the vaguest sense from warnings I have received about hackers.  They are programs that the sneaky hacker tries to load onto your computer to track what keys you hit, with the aim of finding the strings of keystrokes that are passwords.  Which they then use to steal your money, one imagines.

But I had no idea that you could go out and buy the software, quite legally.

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Self-Publishing and Writerly Etiquette

I have a problem.

Well, not so much a problem as a poser.  I am in a quandary.

Recently (as regular readers will know) I launched myself into the Tweetgeist and am now a regular, some would say prolific, Twitter. (Some would probably say other, much ruder things, but I am not paying attention to them. ;))

One of the things I like about Twitter is the chance to ‘meet’ people.  In the short time I have been on Twitter I have met funny people and sweet people and people, like me, who are working hard at this writing thing and trying to navigate their way through the brave new world that is publishing these days.

My problem relates to the latter.  One of the people I have become friendly with is a writer who recently released a self-published novel.  (Actually this applies to several people I know on Twitter, but I am thinking of one in particular.)

Because I like this person, I acquired the novel in e-book form and read it.

And now, I don’t know what to do.

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Creative Commons: The Answer to the Fanfic Question?

Last week, I posted about the now infamous (for all sorts of reasons) 50 Shades of Grey and some of the ethical and legal questions its existence raises.

One of those issues is copyright.  In short, if work is the subject of fanfiction, who owns the rights to the resulting writing? We aren’t talking here about the right to be recognised for having created a piece of writing, but the right to exploit that piece for profit.

For completely original writing (insofar as anything is completely original – we are all products of our influences) the distinction is clear and supported by existing law in many countries.  The author owns the copyright, until they assign those rights to someone else (such as in a publishing deal).  There are exceptions, such as if the work is created as part of your paid employment, in which case the employer usually owns the copyright.  (This applies to magazine articles I wrote while editing a magazine, for instance.  But it is seldom the case with fiction.)*

But things get hazy when the work is created as an offshoot of something else and with the input and contribution of a community or communities, as is the case with fanfiction. Continue reading

Fifty Shades of Grey and The FanFic Question

I will start with an admission: I haven’t read 50 Shades of Grey.  Nor am I likely to.  It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with it, necessarily – although the excerpts I have read online are not encouraging me to race out and get it.

But if I want romance with sex hot enough to peel the cover off the iPad, I’ll get me some Denise Rossetti, or Mel Tescho or Keziah Hill.  Or, if I want it more m-rated, but still hot and other-wordly, I’ll go for some Kylie Griffin, or Tracey O’Hara.  I mean, seriously, people.  It’s not as though sex and the dark side – be that vampires, werewolves, BDSM, or whatever – were invented by Stephanie Myers, much less E.L James.  Sure, a lot of people like 50 Shades, but there are many fabulous erotic romance and paranormal writers out there and I’d rather start with the ones I know and/or have had recommended to me.

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