Saturday, January 30, 2010

Naughty Words

I was reading a book by a popular historical romance novelist recently and was struck by the abundant (or for me overabundant) use of "naughty" words. The "c" word for male genitalia and the "f" work in particular. It got me thinking whether in our effort to "write sexy," we romance novelists are over-relying on naughty words and what readers think about them. I realized that for me at some point the balance tips from "sexy" to definitely "not sexy."

I'll state up front that I use these both of these words in my novels. The "f" word very infrequently (maybe a couple times in six novels), the other fairly often. To me the "c" word is the best of not a lot of great choices, and when used appropriately, the sexiest of the bunch. When I started writing in 2001-2002, the "c" word wasn't used nearly as much. When I sold in late 2004 I remember asking my then editor whether it was okay for Random House (the copy editor at the time kept trying to change it). Now I think it's entered the romance vernacular, and I'm wondering whether I really need to cut back on it. "C" this and "c" that really started to bother me in the book I mentioned. But the problem is what else to use.

I'll admit to an immature, middle-school-age-kid squeamishness for the word "penis." Don't like it, never will. Not sure why, maybe it sounds too clinical? Other clinical words I don't like: clitoris, vagina, scrotum, etc. Non-clinical "naughty" words that give me the ick factor: juice, "c" word for women, quim, and the "p" word for women. When I read these words in a romance novel, they COMPLETELY stop me and take me out of the sexy moment. Some more than others. IMO the word juice and dripping should never be used in the same sentence, LOL.

On the other side are the euphemisms. Euphemisms for male genitalia in particular are often the source of many of the jokes made at romance writer's expense. When someone uses something like "man root" or "magic love stick," it's not hard to see why. :) Some authors abhor all euphemisms for genitalia. Catherine Coulter has a really good workshop on this that I've seen a couple times. For the most part I agree with her, but there are a few I don't mind in historicals (i.e. "staff" is fine).

I love when I come across an author who can write really sexy, intense love scenes (and create great sexual tension) without the graphic descriptive words. Linda Howard and Tara Janzen comes to mind, but I'll try to think of some others. Victoria Dahl and Shannon McKenna are a couple of authors that do use more graphic language, but IMO do so to maximum effect, writing some of the hottest, sexiest love scenes out there.

So I thought I'd see what you guys think. Do naughty or graphic words in love scenes bother you? Do you think romances are overusing some of these words? What hits the "ick" button for you?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away!

I know California needs the water (we've been in a drought for three years), but after four big storms with more to go, I've had enough! No singing in the rain for me.

I think I've definitely hit the winter doldrums (and I'm sure I'm getting absolutely NO sympathy from those of you in Seattle or the midwest). Admittedly, it's nothing like the below freezing winters we spent in Minnesota, but the dark mornings really seem to mess up my internal clock, and the past few days I've been really dragging.

I'm taking a mini-vaca this weekend to Disneyland for my son's birthday, but I think it's supposed to rain a little down there, too. Sigh. Hawaii is calling my name . . .

How do you guys beat the winter blues?

Monday, January 11, 2010


Alas, this is not about my going on a spa vacation, but is the term I just coined for the part of the writing process that is probably the most important (and most fun) for me. Basically, it's the time between sending in my last book and starting the new one. It's the time when "the world is my oyster," and I'm thinking about all the possibilities for the characters and plot for the next story.

During this time--in addition to catching up on all the home stuff that has been ignored, i.e. cleaning closets--I tend to read a lot, pick up a craft book or two that I've wanted to read, and review historical information to keep it fresh in my mind. This time around I read SAVE THE CAT. It's one of those craft books I've heard so many wonderful things about, but never picked up. Craft books tend to fall into two groups for me: those I love (small number) and those that psyche me out (the vast majority), so I'm often hesitant to read them--especially when writing. I LOVED STC. If you are a writer and haven't checked it out, I highly recommend it.

Unfortunately, with tight deadlines I don't have as much time as I'd like for rejuvenation, and I have to force myself to take at least a week to "do nothing" other than maybe make notes about different ideas I have.

I usually have about a month between the due date of my previous book and turning in the synopsis for the next. Sounds like a lot of time, but it really isn't. Revisions also have to be done in that period so if they are big (cross your fingers they aren't), this can get very tight. I need at least a solid week to do the synopsis, assuming I have the characters and big turning points already worked out. It's tempting to sit down at the computer and start working on the next story right away, but I don't give in. For me, thinking time (consciously and sub-consciously) is more important at this stage than getting something on the page. I need to give the ideas need time to macerate.

Contrary to my "type A" personality (LOL), I am not an outliner. Nor am I a "pantser." For those unfamiliar with the terms, outliners are writers who write from outlines and pantsers are writers who "write by the seat of the pants" (i.e. with nothing). I fall in between. I like to have a flight plan to know where I'm going, but don't want all the details filled in. Because I have to turn in a synopsis for my contract, that has pretty much become the flight plan. But basically, I like to have the characters nailed down and the big "turning points" worked out--although sometimes even those change.

Anyway, it works for me. But process is always changing, and I'm always thinking of ways to make it better (i.e. the magic bullet). I started using SCRIVENER for my last book and absolutely love it. It's a writer's program specifically for Macs (not available to PC users). After reading SAVE THE CAT, I went out and bought myself a bulletin board (actually cork strips that attach to the inside of a cabinet) to pin notecards to. As the late Mr. Snyder so brilliantly points out, it's a great way to waste time. :) (Although he also points out, wasting time is really thinking time). I keep telling myself that . . .

So that's my brief foray into this writer's process. I'll try to take some pictures of my office (and spanking new bulletin board strips) UPDATED: here they are. Ready for a peek inside my lair?

I've only put up one cork strip, but you get the idea
Mr. Cooper at work. As you can tell, the window seat cushion is still a work in progress (Mom, are you listening???)
The filing cabinets look so orderly, but inside is a different story. :) The roses are from my local RWA chapter. We get a rose for every sale.
My main working area (I use two monitors--the "portrait" monitor on the left is perfect for one page blown up to 150%).

On a different note, I ventured back into the movie theater this weekend to see LEAP YEAR. Loved it. Amy Adams, Ireland, Sexy Irishman, what's not to love?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Can you believe it's 2010 already? Seems like just yesterday we were worrying about Y2K problems and celebrating the millennium.

Ah, well, I guess the good thing is that I'll have three HIGHLAND GUARD novels for you this year. THE CHIEF is only about 2 1/2 months away (March 23rd), THE HAWK at the end of summer (August 31st) and THE RANGER just in time for the new year (December 29th). It's going to be a busy year! I really hope to be able to mix in a trip to Scotland this year, I have to keep that website up to date. :)

On a very sad note, I came back from Tahoe on Sunday to the horrible news that a friend of mine, fellow Scottish romance writer Kathleen Givens, had passed away unexpectedly. Kath was the very first author I met after joining RWA. I was a huge fan and introduced myself to her at a book signing at the Orange Country RWA conference in 2002 or 2003. Her incredible generosity had a huge impact on me. From day one, she took me under her wing, giving a newbie not only encouragement, but going out of her way to introduce me to industry people (including her editor, booksellers, etc.). We tried to get together at conference every year, and it's so sad to think that I won't see her this July to catch up. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

If you haven't had a chance to read her before, you really can't go wrong with any of her books.

On a happier note, I just turned in THE HAWK to my editor today! Very exciting. It will be my 8th published book, but it is actually the 10th manuscript I've finished since I started writing in 2002. I have two regency historicals that I've never really tried to sell. I ended up selling my first two books (which were both Scottish) and didn't want to muddy the waters. Maybe some day . . .

I'm looking forward to a week of spring cleaning while I wait for my revisions and starting thinking about THE RANGER. With another tight deadline, I'm not going to have much of a break.

No New Year's resolutions for me, what about you? Any projects you are starting or wanting to get done?