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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Political Correctness vs. Accuracy

From Wikipedia, here's the definition of Political Correctness-- Political correctness (adjectivally, politically correct; both forms commonly abbreviated to PC) is a term which denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts.

See the guy in the photo. That's the Marlboro Man. He was created the year after I was born. I grew up seeing him on tv ads and on billboards He, along with Joe Camel, the Lucky Strike guy, and a whole host of others were part of popular culture during my day.

I mention this because I was sitting here writing. The scene was my hero, agitated, staring toward the horizon, alone with his troubled thoughts. I was trying to think of ways to "show" his agitation when it suddenly dawned on me that just a few short years ago, I might have had him make a smoke, strike a Lucifer on his bootheel or thumbnail, then grind the hot match head into the dirt. But not anymore. Why? Because these days it's not politically correct for a hero to smoke. I'm not even sure why it popped into my head. It just did. Which got me to thinking about all the things we don't write about anymore because they're not socially acceptable. Well, it's my opinion that we've become so attuned to political correctness, we've lost something in the process, which is historical accuracy and the authentic flavor of times past.

But back to the smoking guy in the white hat. The Marlboro man usually did wear a white hat. Because he was the good guy. These days, the villains are usually the only persons who smoke. Because smoking is bad so it must be cast in a villainous light. Is this accurate? No, of course not. But think about the smoking man in the X-Files who left his trademark butts lying everywhere. That guy was the very definition of villain. The message is clear, but it's not historically accurate.

The fact is, the American cowboy of the Old West had about a 50% or better chance of being a smoker. Most all cowboys carried "the makin's" (a pouch of tobacco and rolling papers) in their pockets. Not only did they smoke tobacco, they chewed it in mass quantities. Why else did they have all those brass spittoons in every saloon.

Please do not think I am for one second advocating smoking. I'm not. I'm just trying to make a point about how all this political correctness has affected us as writers. And, frankly, I don't get it. We can write about murder, torture, vampirism, pagan gods and demonic heroes, etc. etc. and yet we don't dare have a guy light up when he's stressed. Does that make any sense at all?

Other than the slavery issues in Civil War romances, what other things can you think of that have become taboo subjects in our romance novels. As fiction writers, do you think we should always tailor our stories to conform to political correctness?


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chaos Winding Down

For the past week, I've been up to my eyeballs in chaos. I was right in the middle of an edit on my manuscript and haven't gotten back to it yet. I've done nothing but shuffle things around the house, trying to find some place to put them. Oh, I got all the major stuff done. It's the little things that are driving me to distraction.

The good news is, my son left his job in Richmond and walked right into another one here at home. It just so happened that my husband's part-time lady had to stop working for personal reasons, so my son stepped into her position. For the past three days, he's been at the store, learning the ropes.

Meanwhile, I finished reading "Pieces of Sky" by Kaki Warner. All I can say is, wow! It reminded me of--and yet it was not the same because it didn't go into a lot of daily life detail-- the reason why I fell in love with western historical romance all those years ago and decided those were the kinds of stories I wanted to write. Remember those? The historicals that actually had a story to go with the romance? I'm not going to give out any spoilers but I will say that parts of the story were absolutely haunting and will stay with me for a long time. If you love westerns that are all realism and no fluff like I do, then I highly recommend. The romance was beautifully played and kept me on the edge of my seat right up to the very end. I did NOT know for certain how this one was going to end. But I will tell you that I closed the book at the end with a weepy smile on my face.

I received "Open Country," the second book in Ms. Warner's Blood Rose Trilogy, but haven't even had a chance to look at it yet. Why? Because the moment it arrived, hubby snatched it and put it on his nightstand. He's one of those people who must read each night before he falls asleep, so it looks like I'm second in line to read the book. Again. He did the same thing with "Pieces of Sky."
Happy reading and writing!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Turtle Tale

We live in the country, so we see all kinds of wild animals out here. Mostly, they're the cute kind, sometimes not. An example of that would be the copperhead hubby killed in the garage last week. Not so cute.

Anyway, back on the afternoon of May 30th, I went onto the back porch with Molly. I hadn't even sat down when Molly (who started having a fit) and I heard something scratching at the storm door that goes into the garage. The weird thing was, it was scratching from inside the garage, like it was trying to get out. The bottom of the door is aluminum, the rest glass. The glass was raised for ventilation, but I wasn't about to go over there and stick my head inside to see what it was.

So I go back inside the house, through the laundry room, and peek out the door into the garage. The mystery scratcher was a huge snapping turtle. The moment I stepped into the garage, the thing turned to look at me. I slipped over to the wall where hubby keeps all the tools and grabbed a big flat-bottomed snow shovel. Okay, so I've got the tool for removal, now how to put it to use? I had a devil of a time getting behind the turtle because every time I moved, it turned toward me. Finally, I went for broke and shoved the shovel against the turtle's back side and started sliding it as fast as I could across the garage floor. I shoved it right out the big door and then pulled it down so Mr. Turtle couldn't come back inside. He didn't look too happy as the door was coming down.

A little later, hubby came home from work. I told him about the turtle and we went out to see if we could spot it in the yard. It was nowhere to be seen. I was surprised because the thing had to really put on the speed to get gone so fast. Then hubby noticed a furrow in the nice, thick mulch he'd just put down in the shrub beds. It looked like a miniature plane had crash landed in the mulch. He looked closer and saw that the turtle had buried itself in there. So he got the hoe and plopped Mr. Turtle out of there. Turtle was very unhappy about this treatment and latched onto the hoe handle. Then--like me--hubby used the snow shovel. Unlike me, he actually scooped up the turtle and carried it down to the edge of the yard and released it into the woods.

Now you would think that's the end of the story, but it's not. The next morning--May 31st (I remember the date because it was hubby's birthday)--hubby was on the back porch having his morning coffee when he yelled for me to come out and look at something. The turtle was back. It was down in the yard acting really strange. It was stretching up on its legs as far as they would go, then dropping down to the ground. It did this several times before hubby and I decided a closer investigation was in order. We walked over to see what it was up to, which apparently upset it, because it decided to leave. As it turns out, Mr. Turtle was a Mrs. She'd dug a hole and was in the process of depositing her eggs. So we had a nice, neat hole full of turtle eggs, but she left without covering them. Hubby gently put the loose dirt over the eggs and we placed a patch of moss over the disturbed ground to disguise it from predators. Every day after that, we went out to look at the nest to make sure it hadn't been disturbed.

For the past week, we started to think the eggs wouldn't hatch. We knew they took anywhere between 60 and 120 days, depending on the temperature. (we looked it up online) With the heat wave we've been having, we figured it would only take the minimum amount of time. Then, today, the baby turtles came out of their shells and left the nest. I hope at least some of them survived the trip to the pond across the road. Happy birthday, baby turtles!


Friday, August 20, 2010

What I'm Reading

These past several weeks have been good writing days, and nights. In fact, a couple of times last week, I pulled an all-nighter. I haven't done that in years. Though it was exhausting after the fact, I was in my good place and had to keep going. It felt wonderful because I was getting something accomplished.

So I finished one manuscript--still putting a polish on that one--and am well into another. But for the past couple of days, that's all come to a screeching halt. My son is back! Not officially because he still has to go back to Richmond and work one more day at his job and pick up the last of his things from the apartment. But he actually is back. The reason I say that is because his bed and most his things are in his room again. As of today, he nearly has things put back the way he wants them. Computer and gaming system all set up and good to go. His clothes are in the closet and the drawers. It's hard to believe a year has gone by already.

Anyway, the reason my progress came to a halt is because as my son moved in, I had to move out all the "stuff" I had stashed in his room while he was gone. Good grief. You should see my office. Since I had no ready place to put all the "stuff," I just piled it in here and now my writing cave looks like a room from that Hoarders show. I have no idea where I'm going to put it all.

Okay. Enough of that. I wanted to tell you that I'm reading the first book in Kaki Warner's "Blood Rose Trilogy" titled Pieces of Sky. I'm far from finishing it, but that's okay. I'm reading a little every night before I go to bed and savoring each page. Yes, savoring. It's been a long time since I've said that about any book. To me, Pieces of Sky reads more like a straight western than a romance, which is mighty nice. I started out many years ago reading and writing straight westerns, so it's like going home again. Make no mistake, this book does have a very fine romance. What makes it so different is that it's not written with all the romance "language" we've come to expect and are expected to write. This book actually has a lot of story. And it's gritty. The grittier the better. I love it. And while I understand I won't find any explicit love scenes, the dialogue more than makes up in the explicit department. Yes, the language is about as gritty as you can get, but it isn't vulgar, unless you object to cussin'. When Ms. Warner did a guest blog at Petticoats & Pistols a couple of weeks ago, she said you wouldn't find any heaving bosoms or throbbing manhoods in her stories. And she was right. But what you will find is realism, characters so well written they seem like actual people, and wit written by the freshest voice I've seen in many years. I look forward to reading all her books (which number exactly two, so far). I hope she has a very long career and doesn't lose that freshness that makes her voice so unique.

Happy reading and writing!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Another week has flown by. I finished the manuscript I was working on. See the cute mile marker. Writer friend Taryn Raye made a whole set of these, in two different designs, for me a couple of years ago. I'll bet she thought I lost them. I still have them, Taryn, and thank you!

Anyway, I finished the manuscript a couple of days ago and now I'm busy ripping out its guts and rewriting. Sounds gruesome, doesn't it. It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

Speaking of gruesome... Hubby killed a copperhead in our garage yesterday evening. OUR GARAGE! I'm so freaked out. It's going to take a while before I feel comfortable again. We've always treated the garage like it's an extension of our house because it's attached. We've got so much stuff out there. And to think there might be something more hiding amongst all our boxes and bins. Brrrr! Gives me the creepy crawlies. Hubby says he's afraid to go prowling around out there now, too, and will have to wait until the dead of winter, when it's zero, to look through everything. This would not have happened if we still had Little Man. Since he's been gone, we're overrun with wild critters. At any time of the day, you can look out and find squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and (it seems) every kind of bird on the planet frolicking in our yard. By all reports we've heard, snakes are plentiful this year, too.

In other news... My son will be moving back home in a couple of weeks. He's been wanting to come back for several months now, but the lease on his apartment isn't up until the end of August, so he had to stick it out, work, pay rent, and wait. I'm thrilled that he was responsible enough not to walk away from his responsibilities and do what he wanted. After a year, it will be yet another adjustment for hubby and I. While we're happy he's coming back home, we've also gotten used to him not being here. It's hard to believe it's been a year already.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Dorchester News

Publisher's Weekly has some jaw-dropping news about Dorchester. They are adopting the e-pub business model. In future, all their books will be released in digital. The titles that sell well will later be available in print-on-demand. Dorchester will no longer be doing mass market print books. Wow. I'm still in shock. If you want to read the PW article, here's the link.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Lost Weekend

No, I'm not referring to the classic old movie. I'm talking about the past two days. I spent all day Saturday trying to figure out what was wrong with our desktop. No go. So I went ahead and crashed the thing and started it over from scratch. The difference in this time and times past--I had everything saved elsewhere so I didn't lose anything. Needless to say, I didn't get any writing done over the weekend. But I wrote over 1,600 words on Friday. Two steps forward, one step back.

Of course, crashing the computer couldn't be the end of it. I was trying to fast bake a couple of potatoes last night and broke the microwave. Then today, hubby went out to mow the yard. He'd only made a couple of passes around the perimeter when one of the back tires on the lawn mower came right off the rim. We tried to fix it back on, but that was a no-go, too. He's taking it to work with him tomorrow so he can stop at a garage and have it put back on the rim.

Hope your weekend was better than mine. I can't wait for tomorrow morning.