Selah March

October 1, 2006

Paging The Nearest Proctologist…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Selah March @ 9:52 am

Last night, at 9:18 PM Eastern, I sent my Ellora’s Cave “Cavemen” anthology submission out into the cold, cruel world. It was a scary moment.

But onward and upward. Next I’ll be working on PBW’s ebook challenge — something dark and sexy just in time for Halloween. I’ve already designed the cover, which I love, and it will serve as motivation when I hit that inevitable “three weeks in and this story is going nowhere and don’t I have some towels to iron and refold or chrome fixtures that could use scrubbing?”

After that, I have two (count ’em!) novellas due for the Amber Heat imprint of Amber Quill Press by January. Looks like a busy holiday season for me this year, which is all good. I tend to get depressed at Christmas, but if I’m facing deadlines and writing furiously, I’ll be fine. Writing is my Prozac of choice. Nothing has ever worked better for me.

I’ve been reading and commenting widely about Laura Kinsale’s latest diatribe against Political Correctness in romance and how it’s managed to undercut necessary conflict and make everything too bland. Kinsale insists she’s been misunderstood — she wasn’t talking about rape or “forced seduction” — although she mentions that specifically in her original blog post — and has grown frustrated with what she perceives as a lack of understanding of her point.

Maybe I don’t get her original intent either, and I apologize up front if I’m misrepresenting her views, but I admit to this knee-jerk reaction when somebody starts blaming “PC” for their woes: what a crock.

Because if you have to write abusive, asshole heroes — and I’m not even talking about rapists here, necessarily — in order to create believable conflict in your stories, then PC has nothing to do with your problems. You just lack imagination.

I’m talking about the “old-fashioned Alpha male heroes” who used to smack their heroines around, lock them in rooms, dungeons, towers and hotel suites, mock them, call them names and generally treat them like shit because THEY were the males, and THEY knew best, dammit. Yeah, those kind of men exist in the real world, and certainly were easier to find a century or two ago. But are they really the guy you want your heroine to spend the rest of her life with? Even if he falls at her feet and grovels at the end of the novel, how can you be sure he’s not going to revert to type — “type” being “asshole control freak” — the moment she puts a foot wrong according to his rules?

I never believe the Happily-Ever-After in the books that feature these kind of men. Maybe because I’ve met too many like them, and it literally takes a crowbar to the head to change their perspective…and even that is a temporary fix. There’s been a lot of talk about the “politically incorrect” fantasy life of women surrounding this issue, and how paranormals are now used to give us that fix because the vampire/werewolf/angel hero can behave in a politically incorrect way and be forgiven for it because he’s “different.”

Not buying that, either. Even in a paranormal, I prefer my heroes to act like REAL men, and REAL men don’t need to be abusive in order to take charge and lead. The truly strong don’t have to ride roughshod over those they proclaim to love.

Is there really no conflict to be found between well-written characters unless one of them abuses the other? I find that incredibly hard to believe. Not only that, I’ve proven otherwise by writing strong, Alpha males who AREN’T abusive, and I STILL managed to find the conflict that puts the HEA in jeopardy.

If a person of my limited talent and experience can do it, surely a brilliant mind like Kinsale can pull it off.

Am I saying no one should write the asshole hero? Hardly. If that’s what blows your skirt up and you can find a readership — and I’m sure you can — then go for it. I’d never tell anyone what they can or can’t write, however personally distasteful I might find it. And I’m definitely not going to start in with the “we have a social responsibility to write healthy men, healthy women, and healthy relationships to serve as examples to our readership” crap, because THAT truly IS the death of good conflict. I LOVE dark books, I LIKE to see characters traumatized, brutalized and otherwise driven to the edge. But not by the guy whom the heroine then commits to spending the rest of her life with. For me — and this is just my opinion — there’s nothing romantic about marrying an asshole.

And I refuse to accept that it’s the only way to create good conflict, or that writing strong men who aren’t politically incorrect (read: abusive) is a sure-fire road to Bland Land. There is plenty of conflict to be mined in good, well-intentioned people who are NOT misogynistic control freaks. I don’t care how good they look in their riding breeches/cop uniform/jeans and flannel shirt — for me, an asshole is an asshole is an asshole. Even if he’s “tortured.”

The Preparation H is that’a’way, dude. – Romance of Dubious Virtue


  1. I read alot of paranormals but somehow I seem to have missed the politically incorrect heros who treat the heroine like dirt, thus bringing conflict to a story.

    I read bodice rippers back in the day and liked them, but would have been apalled if anyone in real life treated me that way. Now, a few(!) year solder I can’t pick up an old 70’s romance and see it the same way.

    I guess I didn’t get her point, nor have I found the romance novel world depleted of good books to read.

    Comment by Becca — October 3, 2006 @ 8:04 am | Reply

  2. Hi! I was looking at the guidelines for the Amber Heat Wave contest, and I was pretty excited. I’ve been submitting my fiction to various magazines without any luck, but I think that I could submit something good for this contest. You’re an experienced author of the Romantica genre so I thought that you would be a good person to ask about the number of sex scenes that should be in a short story of that size. I want it to be a natural part of the plot. Thank you for your help.

    Comment by Sami — October 3, 2006 @ 6:24 pm | Reply

  3. Well gee, Sami, I’m very flattered. Not sure I’d call myself all that “experienced,” though. I often feel like a newbie compared to a lot of folks.

    I can say with some authority, however, that first and foremost Amber Quill is looking for a well-written story. While they DO want explicit sex to be part of it, how much sex, in terms of word count, is somewhat flexible.

    The story that won the 2006 Heat Wave contest for me (“Her Black Little Heart”) had one longish sex scene — about 2800 words out of 12,000. However, a lot happens in that scene that ISN’T sexual — important conversation and a true turning point in both the plot and the relationship of the characters. It’s crucial, in my humble opinion, to make your sex scenes move your plot and/or characterization. Otherwise, they’re just window-dressing.

    If you go the Romance Divas board (link below) you’ll see a forum devoted to last year’s contest and hosted by Trace Edward Zaber, Editorial Director of Amber Quill. He probably can answer your questions better than I.

    You may need to register and ask for permission to view this thread.

    Good luck, and thanks for asking! 🙂

    Comment by Selah March — October 3, 2006 @ 7:16 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks so much for your answer! That was much more than I expected. You’ve ‘made’ it so that makes you experienced. Thanks again for the info and the link. That will help me so much!

    Comment by Sami — October 3, 2006 @ 7:56 pm | Reply

  5. Anytime, Sami. 🙂

    Comment by Selah March — October 3, 2006 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  6. I just read your comments on my short story and I am so grateful! Thank you, thank you! That meant a lot to me. You have no idea. Thank you so much again!

    Comment by Sami — October 3, 2006 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

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