Thursday, August 28, 2014

Reading Smut

Mission impossible: Reading Smut

So, I haven't been happy about the response to my novel three years ago and have been working on expanding my horizons. The YA world was smothered with paranormal romances involving vampires, werewolves, shifters, angels, fairies, and so on. Next, distopian literature took over with apocalyptic worlds, survival of the fittest motifs, and struggling to keep one's humanity. I was riding this one out. I mean, I can be dark, but not that dark. During all this, fantasy has always stayed strong so I dabbled in that. This manuscript needs work, but I feel I was able to write fantasy almost as well as paranormal romance. In fact, the only major differences in my series are including magic and another world. At 33, I fully know myself, but how am I still lost as to what my niche is, my calling? I must write; it's never been a choice but a kind of affliction, yet I still cannot find what really calls to me. Fantasy, realistic drama, coming of age stories, paranormal romance, horror, adaptations, suspense, romantic comedies-- the list of what I've tipped my pen to goes on. All I've done, I consider decent but nothing stands alone as the opus of my life. So I started many different projects this last year and abandoned them, which is unlike me. I want to write something publishable which had taken the fun and art of writing out of it for me. So I read instead.

Then I stumbled across New Adult fiction. Now this intrigued me. Having characters only a couple years older than my previous ones could allow many more, rated R actions granted, things to happen to them. And then I accidentally read smut. I'm not a goody-goody scared off by a little sex in a novel, but by no means am I your avid Fifty Shades of Grey fan. When younger, we used to read these books aloud at the pool I was lifeguarding at in order to laugh at the terrible and cheesy wording: "he slayed her with his flesh sword" and "he pierced her with his engorged member," for example. So the genre was only bait for mockery to me.

How do you accidentally read smut? I downloaded a free novel that was labeled as YA and clearly was meant to be labeled differently. It was hard core sexuality, graffically told, and the only thing that kept me reading was trying to see the plot out, which was a cliffhanger and not a good one at that. I did not want to continue the series, nor did I find any quality to the writing besides seeing it out. Grammar issues, awkward metaphors and bad analogies, no character development, and a terrible POV made it weak. I mean, don't write in first person if you reveal other characters' thoughts, unless they're literally mind readers. Of course, being an aspiring writer, I deplore those that ruin the self published venue. Not everyone is meant to be an author (maybe myself included), but this novel did something to me. It made me realize that even the most widely published and purchased genre still had room to grow. Maybe I should "sell out" and write a romance novel. Only now I'm thinking it's not selling out, but instead opening my repertoire, my portfolio to include this genre. I tell myself it needs to be done to improve myself as a writer, but really I'm thinking that I need to try to find my niche. I'm scared that if I never try writing everything, I won't find what best suits me and then I will never be successful. It is the blessing and curse of being the renaissance woman--well rounded and knowledgeable in many things but never the best at anything.

Now to make a real attempt at writing a good romance novel, I must do my research. After reading a varying amount of free novels, mostly terrible but what do you expect when they're free? Problems that arose were flat characters or well rounded unlikeable characters, skewed or inconsistent point of views, extremely predictable plots or plots that made absolutely no sense that were just a bunch of sex scenes strung together that got really boring after a while. By far the most annoying aspect was a lack of vocabulary or variation in word choices. This made every romantic scene play out exactly the same. On the other side of the spectrum was the horrific use of cheesey innuendos; I really had never heard of some of these quips authors used for the male genitalia before. In between these spectrums of awkward books were some good ones; sadly some of these just lacked in plot--too realistic and most of us can get realism at home. Romance is intended to allow the reader to escape into a fantasy. One thing I dislike about it is that most fall into a formulaic helpless heroine must be saved by strapping hero, a plot that is supposed to kindle our primitive Neanderthal roles (see above photo). I read one where a sex slave, although he never used her that way, stayed a helpless sex slave and was reprimanded for attempting to escape. That was all. She didn't grow as a person or become free; he didn't learn anything either or set her free. The feminist blood boiled in my veins. Surely he should realize it's wrong, she that she can overcome adversity. This was one of the worst, since I got absolutely nothing out of it--meaning, entertainment, or an inkling of any use of my brain. 

Totally turned off romance novels, I borrowed a Nora Roberts novel, Charmed. After all, she's a best selling author, rich as sin now, and sells books before the ink dries. Surely this had to be good. All I can say is, it wasn't bad. It entertained me, engaged my attention, and was a quick read. I enjoyed her much more than a Nicholas Sparks novel I put myself through--too sappy, I was quagmired--because it wasn't over killed with cheesey unrealistic dialogue. The writing was good, never did weird innuendo appear or tacky euphemisms assault me and remove me from the moment. In fact, she's a very poetical at times. She even interweaves fantastical elements of witchcraft into a realistic love story. However, I was awaiting a twist or turn in the plot that never occurred. I knew exactly what would happen throughout the novel on page 20. Considering it was over 250 pages, it was a bit frustrating that everything I thought would happen did. Second, the characters were well-developed in that their stories were fleshed out, pasts explained, families included, etc. But something was lacking. I didn't feel connected to then, sympathize with their situations, or care much about them at the end. I almost wanted to just get the extremely predictable book over with. I found it distracting that she changed points of view between the characters constantly without much warning--an extra space (but this was probably publisher's doing). Also, I find it difficult to believe a male's perspective written by a woman ;and vice versa); attempting to do it myself, it's very difficult. Roberts's attempt was the best I've seen but expressions like, "I'm a guy, what can I say," after a description of her breasts seems weird to me. Not being a guy, I wouldn't know, but I doubt men prescribe themselves as being males when having lewd thoughts, much like us girls don't really cry at a sappy movie thinking, "oh, I'm such a girl."

Clearly, I'm not a Roberts fan, who is one if the best out there. So does that mean I shouldn't read or write romance novels? I mean, I don't like what apparently so many millions of women adore. Yes, I hated The Notebook movie (predictable, poor acting in places, and full of melodrama); I loved the old people's story and Gosling's physique but that's about it. So yes, I'm weird when it comes to what I think is actually romantic. What I've learned from researching smut is that even though there are tons of these books from the good to bad, flops to successes, it is one of the biggest industries that seems to have room to grow.

In summation, I think I will attempt either a romance novel or New Adult romance over the next year. I'll see where this road takes me. Perhaps I'll learn a bit more about writing at the least or sell a book at the best. You never know where each decision you make will take you...maybe to your niche in life.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Breaking Down the Confident Woman

This title is two-fold. First, it can be taken as breaking down the modern confident woman. Second, it can be how society attempts to undermine womanhood by attempting to make a confident woman literally break down.

Being a confident woman in society is difficult, maybe even as difficult as it was during the Suffrage movement or before women fought for equality. The main enemy doesn't seem to be just men, but other women. Both slgenders together have reinforced throughout society that being confident is actually a bad thing, when in reality it is far from. Some of the most successful women in history put aside their insecurity demons, ignored society, and accomplished great things.Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Elizabeth Cady Staton, Susan B. Anthony, Madame Curie, and many more women have tackled so many feats during a patriarchal reign. Despite the astounding history that proves to us that a healthy confidence level equals success, society attacks the modern woman. In fact, there are many negative myths created about them that people buy into. 

Debunking the myth: a confident woman...

1. Is a hard core chauvinistic feminist.
A lot of people still cringe at the word feminist, since in our modern age it has taken on a negative connotation. Feminism actually means to believe in the equality of men and woman socially, economically, and politically. No where does its definition say that women believe in the inferiority of men. Society really wishes to say a woman is a chauvinist if she looks down on men, but we misuse the word chauvinism, much like our misuse of feminism, and apply it only to men: chauvinist pig (another sexist crime). Chauvinism actually is "excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for one's own cause, group, or gender" according to Google's dictionary. This is really what people mean when they use the term feminism in a negative way. So yes, most confident women are feminists (in the true sense of the word) and proud of it. They believe they have the right to be equal to men if they so choose (you can be a feminist housewife if it is a choice to be so). However, rarely have I ever come across a chauvinist woman who is truly confident. If she must put down men (even if she is a lesbian or asexual), she has a bounty of insecurities that attack another gender; sometimes she has been burned or treated poorly by the opposite sex--this would indeed take her confidence away. Therefore, most confident women are not axe wielding man hating beasts. They simply see men and women as equal autonomous beings that cohesively coexist.
Feminist Ryan Gosling - feminism Photo

2. Looks down on others.
Society tends to jump to the conclusion that when people show confidence that they see themselves as superior to others. They believe a confident woman is a snob. This myth is by far the most ridiculous. A woman can love herself, know herself, and be confident about herself and her abilities. Just because a confident woman doesn't let people's opinions get the best of her and bring her down, it doesn't mean she's ignoring that opinion or advice. It doesn't mean the adviser or critic is beneath her. Usually she is listening, values that opinion, but she just doesn't let what one person says rule her life (like insecure folks do). She most likely values other people as well since a confident woman realizes that a person's worth is completely subjective. Self-worth is easier to measure and understand and she transfers that understanding onto others. Therefore, not many people are considered "worthless" to her (rapists, molesters, murderers, etc.--these she looks down on). She values most people's roles in the world and personally in her life. Those who feel she is looking down on them most likely are insecure themselves. Also, if she does look down on others, she has some deep-seated insecurity issues going on. Because those who truly believe in themselves have no need to disqualify the achievements of others; instead they celebrate their friends' successes.

3. Is a frigid bitch.
This is a tough one. A lot of men and women claim someone is a cold bitch because she has wounded their pride. Perhaps she belittled the guy that was hitting on her and couldn't pick up her cues of disinterest. Perhaps she is harder to get into bed than he hoped for. Perhaps she didn't fawn and empathize over her friend's "huge" problem because she wisely knows that said friend just wants attention or that the problem is minuscule compared to the major issues in the world. Acknowledgement of the flaws of others (like drama queen above) is a cardinal sin in our society but only if the confident woman sees herself as above these issues, which brings us to number 4.

4. Believes she's flawless.

The number one reason people hate confident women is because they're...confident. Society views that as they believe they are perfect. This is far from the truth. A confident woman knows she has imperfections, that there's no such thing as a perfect person, and those that strive to be are headed for a downfall.
She knows everyone of her flaws, and she has embraced them. She doesn't let people pointing them out get to her and she loves herself despite her flaws. We can self analyze, to not do so is being egotistical, not having confidence. Egotism and confidence are not synonyms, which is something people don't understand. Another thing overlooked is envy. Confident women are often scapegoated by those with poor self-esteem. They attack the confident woman because they're jealous, not because she makes more money, her kids are angels, or her husband is a saint (which most likely aren't always true) but because she likes herself. Many women dislike themselves when they shouldn't, so a woman who likes herself is a threat, an outsider, and ergo must see herself as perfection itself. This is not true; she merely doesn't let her flaws consume her. Diets, excessive exercising, the latest fashions, and the hottest trends don't rule her life. She may partake in these things but she doesn't let it rule her. Appearance and material items are only small factors in which she bases her decisions. She rules her own life, not society, and this intimidates and irritates self-conscious women.

5. Has it completely together.
Along with flawlessness, some assume confident women have their shit together, as in everything in life is planned, organized, and goes on without a hitch. After all, these women have less drama in their lives than most. This togetherness, however, is just a facade. Yes, even confident women become unraveled by stress and drama, but they rarely create that drama themselves. They are confident and don't outwardly seek attention through kicking up a ruckus. Instead, a self-assured woman will pick up the pieces of a terrible situation, put it back together, and persevere on. She finds pleasure and contentment in how she handled the situation rather than pats on the back from others. She doesn't whine, wheedle, and look to be saved by an imaginary prince charming. She does it all herself and even has trouble understanding others who let themselves get knocked down and don't ever get up again. But she surely doesn't have it all together; she works hard to keep things stable in life but always knows, and is prepared for, there's a curve ball around the corner. In fact, some thrive on challenges.

Overall, the confident woman is not to be feared, ridiculed, or attacked by people. In fact, she should be revered and we should all desire to become her. There's no better dream than being yourself without the worry of others' opinions and more importantly to love yourself. So learn to be confident...

Love yourself
Be yourself
Don't let anyone bring you down
Cut out poisonous people
Set goals and tackle them
Admit your faults
Celebrate your virtues
Always look for the good
Defeat the bad 
Don't look back
Believe in yourself

Monday, August 11, 2014

It is what it is

It is what it is...

I use this idiom all the time, but I hate it. Why do I use it? Well, it's better than saying to my students or other people, "you're sh@$ out of luck," or "I refuse to change my mind or the situation." It ends all arguments since someone cannot disagree and childishly say, "no it's not." It's just as bad as "let's agree to disagree." 
For example, I'll have that student that will approach me with empty excuses to why he/she was unable to turn in any papers or do any of the work over the semester and has ignored all my reminders and warnings. Suddenly, this student shows up at my office at the end of the semester looking for a miracle to pass the class. I usually break it down to these students by pointing out policies in the syllabus needed to pass, then I show them mathematically the inability to pass. In desperation, most of these students refuse to see mathematical and linguistic reality. They become irrational and try to convince me that there must be a way to pass without doing the work (they don't say it in this way, but just refuse to come to terms with the reality of the situation). In the end, I resort to, "it is what it is." Only then do they seem to understand the finality of the situation and give in. 
Idioms come in handy because we universally understand them. But why are they necessary to use? Surely in the above situation as a student you should be able to grasp that you won't pass if you don't do the work, period. But that doesn't seem to be enough. The idiom "It is what it is," is said to be "used when a person, place or thing is behaving in accordance with their nature, so that behavior should be accepted or expected even if it is not what you would like" ( This makes sense in the above example. The "nature" would be the students' awareness, via syllabus, of due dates, expectations, assignments etc. and the professor holding them accountable for these assignments. So in the end I suppose I'm saying to the student, "I know you don't like it but this is to be expected." It seems obvious in this situation but given the background of some students and inferior public school systems, some of these kids probably passed high school classes by handing in something at the last minute regardless of due dates, or worse even passed without doing any work. In these instances, "it is what it is" is like a bitch-slap the face. A cruel and bitter sting of how life suddenly is so unfair to them.
I also end up using the ridiculous expression when working in the restaurant industry. I'll get those people who demand a booth, because for some reason they are so much better (even though where I work, they aren't padded), when there clearly aren't any open. I survey the restaurant, estimate how long the quickest booth to leave will be and explain the wait time. Often I'm met with a disgusted expression and shock to why they must wait at all. What I want to tell them is, "I'm not f$@*ing Harry Potter and can conjure a booth out of my a$$ for you." Instead I use the handy, " it is what it is, sorry." Every now and then that expression doesn't quite do it for them and they get angry because as we asininely tell them the customer is always right. In this instance, it's the reverse of students. Now I have to break it down: there are no booths open and you have to wait for one. Here, a simple idiom will not suffice. The customers have this huge self entitlement that they personally deserve the best, what they want should be given to them no matter what, and mere employees are their personal slaves for the next hour and must follow their orders. Here, the idiom is null and void since they believe they are right no matter what with complete disregard for reality. 

As the Rolling Stones state, "you can't always get what you want" people. The world doesn't work that way restaurant guests and students. As much as I hate the expression, the world, our country, our customs, they are what they are. So students do your work and customers be prepared to wait for your picky desires. It is what it is after all.