This book’s kinda giving me the willies.

And I’m only 50 pages in.

Right now I’m reading The Actor and the Housewife, and I just don’t quite know what to think. Here’s the blurb:

What if you were to meet the number-one person on your laminated list—you know, that list you joke about with your significant other about which five celebrities you’d be allowed to run off with if ever given the chance? And of course since it’ll never happen it doesn’t matter . . .

Mormon housewife Becky Jack is seven months pregnant with her fourth child when she meets celebrity hearththrob Felix Callahan. Twelve hours, one elevator ride, and one alcohol-free dinner later, something has happened . . . though nothing has happened.

It isn’t sexual. It isn’t even quite love. But a month later Felix shows up in Salt Lake City to visit and before they know what’s hit them, Felix and Becky are best friends. Really. Becky’s husband is pretty cool about it. Her children roll their eyes. Her neighbors gossip endlessly. But Felix and Becky have something special . . . something unusual, something completely impossible to sustain. Or is it?

A magical story, The Actor and the Housewife explores what could happen when your not-so-secret celebrity crush walks right into real life and changes everything.

This part is what gets me: “It isn’t sexual.”

My. Ass.

Now, look, Sister Hale. I realize that I shouldn’t be coming to this novel from the perspective of a romance reader, because it’s not a romance. (I know it’s not because the library cataloging block told me it isn’t. It says it’s “chick lit,” and library cataloging blocks don’t lie.) But I am coming to it from a romance reader’s perspective because it’s whispering naughty thing in romance’s ear at this point. Yet I don’t know a die-hard romance reader in the world who wouldn’t tear her hair out.

Becky Jack (the main character) is, thus far, what we romance readers would call TSTL.

Too Stupid To Live.

Also? Flirting *kofffallinginlovekoff* with someone while you’re happily married is a HUGE romance no-no.

I had to take a break from the gore of this woman’s squished IQ and blog it. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to finish the book, except . . .

I must get back to the trainwreck that she is. I should turn my eyes away. Look somewhere else. But I can’t.

PSA for LDS publishers

Y’all probably don’t read my blog. I curse muchly and there is “sex” in my banner, not to mention a bare nekkid lady.

Before you read any further (if you are still reading or the least bit interested), please go to these websites and study them. Ignore the content; I want you to see what they’re doing. Then come back. I’ll wait.

B10 Mediaworx.

My Bookstore and More (mostly Samhain Publishing‘s titles, but look under the “manufacturers” tab and see the other e-book publishers).


Ellora’s Cave.

Baen Books.

Zumaya Books.

Project Gutenberg.


Back? Cool. Now, please go here:

Amazon Kindle.

Sony e-book reader.




Palm Pre.

A more complete list of e-book readers.

Did you understand what I wanted you to see? Awesome!

As a consumer of e-books, I would like to offer you a friendly suggestion, which is to embrace the digital distribution of your titles. The e-book publishers I linked are making money hand over fist. The devices I linked are the way people read e-books. This will grow.

You probably don’t understand the seduction of having an entire library in your palm, and that’s okay. There are lots and lots of people who say they won’t give up print for anything, and then they get to live with an e-book reader for maybe two or three days, and they’re hooked.

There’s also something very seductive about being able to log onto an e-bookstore and download a bunch of books onto your device immediately. No driving. It’s all about impulse. I can talk myself out of an Amazon purchase because it involves shipping time. It leaves the shopping cart and goes into the wish list, never to be seen again. I don’t even want to go to a bookstore anymore.

I’ve now encountered three small LDS presses and individuals somewhere in the LDS publishing arena dismiss e-books as so much of a passing fad, a waste of time or, worse, think that “e-book” is synonymous with “PDF.” I simply have to shake my head at their short-sightedness.

Be on the cutting edge of the digital age of books. Take a cue from the church’s rabid embrace of the interwebz and streaming audio and its ability to reach its members nearly effortlessly.

But beyond that, the take-home message here is this: E-bookstores are dangerous to the health of my checkbook.

Want to know the real reason I don’t buy anything from Deseret Book, Zarahemla, Signature Books et al? No e-books. I want to read your books; really I do, but I’m not going back to paper unless you give me something terribly compelling. I buy e-books on impulse. Impulse. Hear that? IMPULSE.

Please give me a reason to throw my money at you in the middle of the night when one of your titles catches my eye. Pretty please?

Tab A, slot B

If you remember, about 100 years ago in blog time, Eugene got lambasted all over the bloggernacle for his book, Angel Falling Softly, for various crimes from “not very spiritual” to “sacrilege” to calls for his excommunication or at the very least, pulling his temple recommend. Eugene’s tab did not fit into the proper slot.

A while back, I came across a blog I keep a little eye on and had commented just to clarify a point. Yesterday I noticed that “Anonymous” had chastised me for acknowledging that my book is filthy (it is) and for dropping the F-bomb in the first line of the story. The chastisement was something along the lines of, “You call that quality Mormon fiction”?

::gallic shrug::

Well, A) “quality” was used in terms of how well the book is designed by the publisher and how well it is constructed by Lightning Source and B) I don’t consider it Mormon fiction.

People have different tastes. Nice, sweet, nearly conflict-less LDS fiction wasn’t cutting the mustard for me with regard to sparkle and (dare I say it?) lust (which doesn’t have to be consummated, but could we acknowledge its existence?). Fiction by Mormon authors out in the wild might be my brand of wild but it’s short on philosophy and faith. Genre romance of any stripe, inspirational to erotica, suffers the same lack of one for the other, so it’s not us. It’s a general lack of crossover between faith and sex.

Slot B47c&&2kd existed, but there was no correlating Tab A47c&&2kd to put in it.

I, Random Reader, wanted my slot filled. I’ve been wanting it filled for a long time. And it remained empty, growing cobwebs. I wasn’t writing it, either, because I wanted to “get” published and you don’t “get” published with a mixture like that.

So I said, “Fuck it. I’ll write what I want.”

As far as I know, I only have 1 (count ’em, ONE) LDS reader who’s managed to get past the first page. That’s okay, too. I probably made a mistake in vaguely hoping I could find a small audience amongst my own who, like me, wanted something titillating and faith-affirming (er, maybe) at the same time. Or, at the very least, not anti.

What I didn’t expect was the positive reaction from non-members who found my portrayal of us as human and extremely fallible, struggling with matters of faith and sexuality, as sympathetic and relatable—and who found the addition of faith to these people’s lives just another layer of their personalities.

Eh, don’t get me wrong. Plenty of people haven’t liked it also, for various reasons including the politics and my prose style and the fact that my characters aren’t, well, very likable at times. But…I don’t like everybody else’s books, either, so no harm, no foul. Regardless of all that, though, who liked it, who didn’t, why or whatever, the fact of the matter was that for this consumer, the market had an empty slot. So I carved out my own tab. And lo and behold! I’m not the only one who liked the shape and size of that tab.

All the foregoing is to say that this past weekend, I was blessed to brainstorm projects with two religious types (one protestant, one Catholic and independent of each other) who also like the s(t)eamier side of genre romance. It doesn’t hurt that I love these two writers’ work already, but these two projects are so outside their creators’ norms AND they are outside of, well, everybody’s norms. And I love them for it. I would never have thought of these two ideas, but these ladies did and their tab fit my slot.

Now, ladies, hurry up and finish those things. I know this publisher, see…

Don’t you like ANYTHING?

I’ve been stewing about this for several months, but perhaps my problem could be alleviated by not hanging out on litrachoor blogs, where it’s the nature of the beast to say what you don’t like about a particular work.

Anyway, at one niche blog I hang out on a lot (but don’t post much because I have nothing constructive to add, whether positive or negative), there are a couple of posters who comment on each and every literary offering (whether they’ve read the work or not) with a *sniff* and variations on a theme of “I don’t like this.” Usually for weird X reason.

I get that. I don’t like everything I read, either. Whether I say so is a function of A) how lazy I am that day (I can’t be arsed to sign in and comment a negative), B) how confident I am in my own scholarship (as in, I’m not a litrachoor type nor an intellectual nor even a pseudo intellectual), C) whether I actually liked the work or not (I can be arsed to sign in to make a positive comment or to take a counter position to the negative poster if I feel strongly enough about the negative comment).

Aside: Oh, I forgot. Good litrachoor criticism means you are not allowed to A) like it and B) say anything positive about it.

However, what I don’t get is the constant not liking of everything that’s posted and feeling a need to say so. And! Worse! When the commenter enumerates how the work lacks everything s/he thinks it should have, that it isn’t what s/he thought the work would/should be, i.e., “Why don’t you people write what I want to read?” while yet not actually writing anything him/herself. Especially in a niche that has precious little to offer the world to begin with. If you don’t like what’s there, write it your owndamnself.

Another aside: Why am I stuck on having been instructed in novel-writing techniques by someone who’s never written a novel (nor, as far as I know, a novella, or a short story)? And teaches an adult extended education class on the subject?

The latest offering was a poem. I liked it, and while I’ve not traditionally been a fan of poetry, Th. and Tyler (and Tyler again and Th.’s posting of May Swenson) and some dude named Danny Nelson are all seducing me to the dark side.

This was not a constructive post. I realize this. I try to offer some solution to whatever I think is a problem if I start to bitch, which is why I’ve kept a lid on this for so long. But, look, not every work that’s posted or linked is a piece of crap.

And if you think every work actually is a piece of crap, do something about it instead of hanging out on litrachoor blogs and trashing everything that walks by.


The problem of genre: “Grit Romance”?

Labels are terribly useful to the majority of human beings. I find them useful insofar as I understand the definition of the label used, although this is usually a 50/50 proposition for me. As a method of efficient inventory control and meeting customer expectations, genre labels simply can’t be beat. The publisher knows which buyer to go to and the bookseller knows where to shelve it.

question-mark-715902But lately, there’s been a lot of cross- and mis-labeling going on inside genre fiction, leading readers to scratch their heads and wonder, “This isn’t X. Why did they put it on X shelf?”

Science fiction with romantic elements or a science fiction romance or a romance with a science fiction backdrop?

Fantasy, ditto above permutations.

Paranormal, ditto above permutations.

Speculative fiction/steampunk/cyberpunk, ditto above permutations.

Suspense, ditto above permutations.

Erotic! and ditto above permutations.

Mystery, ditto above permutations.

Spy, ditto above permutations.

Whatever other genres I missed, ditto above permutations.

A reader may or may not be willing to go along with the story regardless what it is and where it takes them (that’s the kind of reader I am), but some buy books specifically on spine label, cover cues, and back blurb so that they can get exactly (or pretty close to it) what they want.

Today, some independent publishing friends and I have been discussing our books, about how disparate our stories are, how we view ourselves in completely different genres, and how our books all have one thing in common: They are not classifiable, except by “drama.” (Well, why can’t “drama” be its own genre? Or is it? I don’t see it used anywhere.) They’re all a mix, all dark and gritty, with romance and a happily-ever-after (the one and only real requirement to be considered romance).

I don’t know how to classify The Proviso. I never did. Drama? Yeah, plenty of that. Family saga? Check. Epic? Uh, most definitely, as it takes place over the course of 5 years. But epic what? I can’t think of a book I could compare it to. Healthy doses of religion and spirituality mixed in with money and explicit sex? What? What’s anybody supposed to do with that? It’s not LDS romance/literature/fiction (defined as anything that could be sold at Deseret Book/Seagull), although I could call it Mormon fiction if a criteria of “Mormon” is that a Mormon wrote it. I call it a romance because I see myself as a romance writer.

The editors at one publishing house liked The Proviso, passed it around to get a roundtable opinion, but ultimately rejected it. “We don’t know where to put it. The religion isn’t going to go over with our erotic romance readers and the explicit sex isn’t going to go over with our inspirational readers.” That was good to know.

I know that RJ Keller, whose Waiting for Spring, got the attention of several agents, was told that she would have to extensively revise her book to be commercially viable. Most egregiously, she’d have to cut out the drug references, except…the drugs is the keystone of her plot. Hello? She finds her book marketed on all the free sites as a romance, but she does not consider herself a romance author.

Kel pointed me in the direction of Lauri Shaw, whose book, Servicing the Pole (that title’s as ballsy as using The Bewbies for my cover), had a lot of interest, but would have required extensive changes in order for it to be considered commercial. This is from Ms. Shaw’s website:

However, when professionals who were interested in selling my work insisted I’d need to make drastic changes to Servicing the Pole to make it a commercial prospect, I had to ask myself if the end justified the means. After all, these people were able to guarantee me little to nothing on the front end.

I was told that the book was too dark. That I’d have better luck catching the reader’s fancy if I made the story into something upbeat. The suggestion I took the most issue with, though, was that I ought to transform Emily into a more ‘likeable’ character. To do so would have been to change virtually every theme in this story.

I’m proud of the story I’ve written. It’s a story I can stand behind.

Servicing the Pole also has a happily-ever-after (or at least a happily-for-now), but I don’t know how Ms. Shaw labels herself as a writer, as I have not spoken with her.

Note: Our books are all dark, gritty, nasty, twisted, with a happily-ever-after. That is what’s genre-busting about them.

You can call ’em drama or epics or family sagas, or whatever you want.

Kel calls ’em “gritty romance.”

Gritty romance.

I like it.