The Un-Romance: Consent, Coercion, and Winning Favor

“Don’t worry,” my boyfriend said.

He was relaxed in the driver’s seat of his truck, tapping his fingers gently on the steering wheel.  His face was flushed from our earlier argument and my declarations of displeasure – I’d complained that he was way too possessive, and I didn’t really love how he always demanded to know where I’d be and when – but his voice remained soft and calm.  “Just stay calm,” he instructed again, and drove past the exit that would have taken me back to my small apartment, to my friends, to people who knew me. “I’m not going to let you run away from the way we are together.  We belong together, no matter what.  So we’ll talk this out as long as it takes.”

He’d never been violent with me, though his embarrassingly possessive nature, his obsession with my schedule, and his over-the-top declarations and acts of love both concerned and mortified me. I’d had more than enough, and I didn’t want to talk it out or be together.  Yet here I was, locked inside a truck with a man who had no intention of returning me to my home, even though I’d stated clearly and repeatedly that home was where I wanted to be.  His need to prove our love was greater than any need I had to feel safe, and I wondered what to do as he sped up to pass yet another exit.  I was excruciatingly aware that both my phone and purse were out of reach, tucked away where I couldn’t get to them.  So I did the only thing that made sense to me at the time:

I punched the window of the truck with my hand.

It accomplished nothing, of course, beyond causing bruises that would take days to fade.  But the dull thud got his attention.  And as he glanced over at me, I unbuckled the seat belt, unlocked the door, and wrapped my fingers around the door handle.  I remember that I spoke with absolute calm and absolute conviction.  “If you do not turn around and take me home right now,” I told him, “I am going to throw myself out of this truck.”

Spooked either by my tone or my intensity, he turned around and he took me home.  But that isn’t what I remember.  What I remember is that after I got back and shared the story with family and friends – expecting a horrified “he did what?” – the response I got instead was, “Well, it was a little crazy, but he acts like that because he loves you.  It’s kind of romantic, in a crazy way.”

And that is the myth I refuse to write: the myth that love inherently involves coercion and the slow erosion of resistance.

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Why I like to write working-class men.

A long while back, an editor I knew at a Certain Publisher of Heterosexual Romance described to me the sort of man they wanted in a romance novel: good-looking (of course), smart yet flawed (sure), “alpha” and commanding in personality (my inner feminist weeps, but okay) and rich as holy fuck.  Upper-class.  Elite.

Sigh.  I stopped listening after that.  It’s not that I have a problem with writing (or reading) rich men.  In fact, nothing is so much fun as writing a man who has everything and still struggles, or displays startling flaws.  But I can’t help but chafe against the notion that a wealthy man – a commanding master-of-the-universe-man – must exist at the heart of every romance fantasy.

I like to write working-class men.  I don’t like to romanticize them, and I don’t buy into the idea that a dirt-under-the-fingernails way of life automatically renders a man a saint, but I like to write them.  I like to write them because they are real, and complicated – and maybe because they most reflect what I know.

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Halloween Short Romance Poll

giphyIt’s the time of year for candy corn and pumpkins and, yes, Halloween romance.  I’ll be posting a romantic short story on my blog for free to celebrate the season – and now it’s your turn to decide what you want!

Comment here with which of the following options tickles your fancy, or tweet me (@reallexistone) your choice!  You have one week from the date of this post to get your votes in so that I can have the story written in time for the holiday.

Your choices are:

  • a pagan romance on Samhain
  • a bedraggled parent experiences a trick-or-treat misadventure
  • a costume party takes an unexpected turn
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Halloween Giveaway!

I am giving away one free copy of one of my published novellas – In The Margin or Physical Therapy – for free!

All you have to do is the following:

1) Tweet at me (@reallexistone) letting me know you’d like to be included in the giveaway, or…

2) Leave a brief comment on the “Contact Me” page here on the blog with the subject line “Novella Giveaway.”

You have until midnight on October 30th, 2014 to enter.  I’ll throw the names into a magic Internet hat, pick the winner, and send you a novella of your choice by email!

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Twitter Takeover!

This is how I look when I write romance:


And speaking of romance and writing – isn’t this a glorious segue - I’ll be doing a Twitter takeover of the Torquere Press (@torquere) account tomorrow from 2-4 pm (CT) – that’s 3-5 pm for you Eastern Standard folks.

You’re welcome to come talk shop, say hi, or whatever you like – and my novel from Torquere will be out in February of next year, so keep your eyes peeled for it!

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Heart and soul: when did you start reading romance or erotica?

My love of romance started in my younger years as my own personal rebellion against sexual ignorance.

In my first year of middle school I had a friend whose home I visited and her mother read romance novels: those drugstore bodice-rippers with muscled men clutching women in their arms.  My friend and I used to sneak them out from her mother’s underwear drawer, giggling and wondering what it was that made them so forbidden.  We opened them immediately and, lifelong readers of everything from cereal  boxes to schoolbooks, commenced our exploration.

And immediately stumbled onto a sex scene.

And in retrospect it’s funny, because the “sex scene” I read then is now, to my adult mind, hilariously vague and full of euphemisms: her wanting his “strength” and him wanting her “warmth” until they “joined.”  But as a kid, man, it was scandalous.  I blushed through the whole thing – but I came out on the other side more knowledgeable about what sex at least entailed and that it could actually be, you know, pleasurable.  Raised in a fairly strict environment, I’d never so much as had a bird and the bees talk and up until that point only knew that sex was a vaguely unfortunate and sinful thing that people did to make babies.

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Romances Don’t Have To Be Realistic.

We’re living in a time where the most important thing - even and especially in fictionis being “real.”  Authentic.  Gritty.  Batman broods.  Game of Thrones as a series delights in subverting and undermining viewers’ and readers’ hopes.  And the protagonists in our media have as a whole become flawed and much darker, at times impossible to love and at times themselves unable to love.

In the midst of this, it’s no surprise that people would roll their eyes at happy-ever-after romance.  And with our cultural emphasis of late on Real Live Flawed Humans, it seems almost foolish or naive to write stories in a genre that generally offers happy endings and a steady belief in love and relationships.

But it isn’t.  It isn’t foolish at all.

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Physical Therapy Release / Come Say Hi On Twitter!

So tomorrow is the release date for my steamy little novella Physical Therapy, published by Ellora’s Cave.  To celebrate – and because I have chained myself to my desk to finish writing another novel – I’ll be hanging out on Twitter.  You’re welcome to join me!  I’d be thrilled to talk shop, answer questions, or just shoot the breeze with any of you lovely people.  So pop by any time after noon (EDT) and drop me a line.



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Don’t buy your ebooks through Amazon if you can help it. Here’s why.

So as an author I have a big stake in the debate over Amazon: to buy from Amazon, or not to buy?

I’m actually not interested in addressing the Hatchette mess here, nor will I go into any of Amazon’s other issues – though they do need to be dealt with and they speak, I think, to Amazon’s ethos as a company.  What I would like to say instead is that when you buy an ebook from Amazon – an ebook that might be available from other venues – you actually cut into the writer’s profits.  More importantly, you can often get the same ebook cheaper elsewhere.

Many book publishers make their texts available on a variety of platforms.  My novella In The Margin is available at Dreamspinner Press and on Amazon and also elsewhere.  Ditto with my upcoming novella Physical Therapy.  Here’s the kicker: I see less royalties from Amazon on my books than I do through the Dreamspinner or Ellora’s Cave sites.

tl;dr: Amazon isn’t the only game in town, so don’t be fooled into thinking so.  The ebooks you download from Dreamspinner or Ellora’s Cave will work just fine on your Kindle – plus they’re often cheaper, you can browse through other similar artists you might like, and you can directly support the publisher while giving the author a bigger cut to boot.

What’s not to love?  Plus, if you do find Amazon problematic for the reasons I already referenced earlier in this post, then this is just one more reason for you to shop for books elsewhere.

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Physical Therapy Available Now!

physical therapy

My new novella, Physical Therapy, is now available for purchase!  Find it at Ellora’s Cave here or through Amazon.  Formerly published as Adagio, it’s been revised and expanded into a much fuller text.  Here’s what you can expect:

Forced to take ballet lessons as part of his rehabilitation after a season-ending hockey injury, Chris shows up at Stafford Music and Dance Academy with a vow that this will be his only class. However, after meeting his kind but melancholy ballet instructor Arren, he suddenly finds himself interested in more than just the lessons.

As Chris struggles with ballet and Arren struggles with the painful accident that ended both his dance career and his belief in his own abilities, the two men find comfort in their growing desire for each other. Tempted by his instructor’s good looks and grace Chris soon realizes that he’s just the man to encourage Arren to lose his self-restraint—and to reach once more for his dreams. If that means catching Arren in the studio alone and engaging in some super hot and seriously naked therapy of his own devising, then all the better.

If you like hot ballet instructors and stubborn hockey players, this one’s definitely for you.


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