Tuesday, October 31, 2006

And a merry All Hallow's to you and yours...

Having spent the best portion of the past several days feverishly tapping away on my keyboard, I find I'm woefully behind in the merry-making. My children are appalled at the lack of pumpkinage happening on our front stoop, and there's nary a peanut butter cup nor a stick of gum in the house for the expected hordes.

But I conquered it, dammit. The PBW Ebook Challenge of 2006 is officially MY BITCH. Heh.

You can find my offering -- a melancholy little novella on the theme of death and love titled "DARK OF THE DAY" -- here.

Wishing you many creepy returns of the day. :)

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Friday, October 27, 2006

The One Where The Long, Pointless Ramble About the Care and Feeding of My Conscience Leads Up To a Book Recommendation

Once upon a time, not very long ago, I was a professional book reviewer for a local newspaper. (I can hear PBW gritting her teeth from here.)

Due to the type of paper it is, and the kind of community in which I reside, the books I was given to review by the Arts and Entertainment editor were largely "literary" in nature. Which is to say, not genre fiction.

I didn't enjoy it much. While I'm perfectly willing to read "literary" fiction for entertainment when I'm in the mood for it, I found reviewing it tiresome. The same slight variations on a single theme kept cropping up: the meaninglessness of life, the hopeless, surrealistic absurdity of human existence, the inevitability of death after much suffering and strife...yada yada yada fishcakes.

It didn't take long to figure out that, given my natural tendency toward melancholy, this type of fiction isn't healthy for me. I left my position at the paper and have staunchly refused to formally criticize any writing since then, though I've had offers from a few online review sites to join their staffs.

This is largely due to my belief that you don't shit where you eat. A lot of stuff my mother told me as I was growing up turned out to be just so much useless nonsense, but one thing she did impart that's held me in good stead was this: "It's nice to be smart, but it's smarter to be nice." Now, some may say that a parent would never give that sort of advice to a male child, and it's only women who are expected to be nice in order to get along.

My response would be: tru dat. But how much more kind and compassionate a world would it be if everyone, male and female alike, were taught to consider others' feelings before they speak or act? In this case, men may be getting the short end of the stick.

Which is not to say that anyone should roll over and play dead when true corruption or evil is afoot (see: every political post I've ever made, particularly the ones aimed at the past RWA management), because "nice" only goes so far in making the world a better place. But we're not talking about that. We're talking about book reviews.

And I'm not saying that good, honest literary criticism doesn't have its place, either (sorry, PBW). I'm just saying that it neither has to be mean-spirited nor hurtful beyond what is naturally painful about having one's work held up for public review and sometimes called "less-than-perfect." Or even "really-REALLY-less-than-perfect."

As a writer attempting to break into the romance genre, I believe it behooves me to cut my fellow authors a break. I make the assumption that they're all doing the best they can -- because that's what I'm doing -- and who am I to publicly call their work crap, however I may feel about it in private?

Having said that, I really don't have a problem with the choice other authors have made to review within their chosen genre. That's THEIR little red wagon, as Uncle Stevie would say. I only know what works for me and my conscience.
All of this is leading up to the fact that I never publicly pan another writer's work, and very rarely do I praise books, either. But today is one of those days where I feel like I need to make a recommendation.

The "Dante Valentine" series by Lilith Saintcrow (so far two titles in release: WORKING FOR THE DEVIL, and DEAD MAN RISING, with a third, THE DEVIL'S RIGHT HAND, due out next summer) contain some of the best world-building I've seen in a long while. Detailed, logical and fascinating world-creation makes me turn a nasty shade of envy-emerald, but lemme tell ya: Saintcrow's got the goods.

I will give one warning: these books are neither for the squeamish nor for the reader looking for a light-hearted "happily-ever-after" romance. They are dark and painful. The protagonist is tortured -- sometimes literally -- by horrific events, both past and present, and is left heartbroken and grief-stricken more than once. They are a series, which means each book may -- and, in the case of the first one, does -- end in what may be termed an "unsatisfying" manner as per the RWA's definition of Romance-with-a-capital-R. But I was okay with it and I LIVE for those happy endings.

Also, I have to say that I find the central romantic relationship riveting. Seriously sexy and believable in a way that only the romance between a demon and a Necromance can be. ;)

Do I have any criticisms of the books -- the storytelling, the characterization, the writing itself?

Well, of course I do. Nothing's perfect. But I'll be keeping them to myself, thankseversomuch. Nice to be smart, smarter to be nice.

Thanks, Mom.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Nothin' Like a Kick in the Ass

So PBW made her usual Thursday-ebook-challenge post this week on the topic of slackers like me.

Read it here.

Subtle she ain't. But reading it at 5:30 this morning was a more effective jolt than a triple-shot of espresso.

Today? Is a writing day. Four thousand words, if it kills me. And if does kill me, I'll go with a sense of satisfaction and a determined grimace on my puss.

Yeah, yeah, I know. EVERY day should be a writing day. I'm working on it. Way of the Cheetah, indeed. Most days, I'm lucky if I attain Way of the Box Turtle.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Friday, October 13, 2006

It's All Good

So this morning at around 4, I had this nightmare. In it, the editor to whom I recently submitted wrote me a long email explaining how and why the story I'd sent her was WRONGWRONGWRONG and bad and not good, and could never be salvaged in any way from its wrong-bad-not-goodness. Then she showed up in person to reiterate these sentiments.

Later in the same dream, my husband attempted to add a front porch to our house. He did this on the evening of Halloween, and did quite a bad job of it. Especially the steps, which apparenlty weren't actually ATTACHED to the porch. So when the little trick-or-treaters came...well, let's just call it carnage and keep moving.

It was a very realistic dream. And when I awoke? I felt better.

Because really, anything occurring in the next several weeks falling short of THAT horror show? BONUS!

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Unattractive Wallowing, Nice Review on the Side: Order up!

There's a storm a'comin'. And the name of the black, swirling clouds I see on the horizon? "Rejection."

Remember how I said I sucked at self-promo? It's still true. But there's another part of this business I find more terrifying, and this fear is the one that cripples me. If anything is going to cause me to fail, it's my difficulties with handling the Big R.

I know all the little mantras others use to help them get through it. "They're not rejecting YOU, they're just rejecting your STORY. And it's not that the STORY isn't good, it's just not RIGHT FOR THEM AT THIS TIME."

Uh huh.

So I try to prepare myself. I gird -- my loins, my heart, my spirit. I fortify by reminding myself how many other people will receive that same letter. I'm not alone -- the company in this particular batch of rejections is truly vast and stellar.

I tell myself some stuff. I literally sit and talk to myself in a snarky, snap-out-of-it-already tone, stating over and over that this is just entertainment. Fiction. No one lives or dies. No one's home is washed away or blown up or shaken apart. No one gets a telegram (do they still send telegrams?) from the government saying their husband or son or brother or father is missing in action.

"Perspective, you silly bint. Stop wallowing. It's stupid and unattractive. YOU HAVEN'T EVEN GOTTEN THE REJECTION.


Yeah. Thanks, self. I feel so much better now.

In other news, LIE TO ME received one hell of a nice review from Joni at TwoLipsReviews.com:

"Selah March tells a riveting story... once in the heart of it, you'll be left clutching the edge of your seat and anxious to find out how it all unfolds and whether or not the hero and heroine have a chance at making a life together. Sensational is the only word to describe this tale of espionage, suspense and last, but not least, two lost souls searching for a love they never thought possible!"

And for dessert? A smack to the head for being such an irritating, whiny-assed, petulant loser. :p

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue
(Newly redesigned for your viewing pleasure. Or whatever.)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Paging The Nearest Proctologist...

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.

SelahMarch.com - Romance of Dubious Virtue