Rosalie Stanton

Romance With Pitchforks

EROTIC ROMANCE AUTHOR.

PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN SACRILEGIOUS HUMOR, IRREVERENT BELIEFS, AND TOO-HOT-FOR-PRIME-TIME SEX SCENES.

VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.

Deliverance from Sin - Coming Soon

Deliverance from Sin, Book #5 in the Sinners & Saints series, is officially through edits and be available for preorder on September 20.

This is the most intensely personal book I’ve ever written, but it’s also the one of which I am the most proud. For readers of the series, I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

If she learns the truth about what he is, there’ll be Hell to pay.

Demonic trouble always finds Varina, no matter how far she runs. When she learns her late father left her something at their ancestral home, Varina is drawn back to a place she never thought she’d see again.

Ever since the world almost ended, Campbell, Sin of Pride, has been nursing scars both inside and out. Ashamed, he’s determined to keep his head down until he’s back to his old self. Yet when he learns that Legion, the biblically notorious demon, has escaped, Campbell has a choice—capture it, or advertise how low Pride has fallen.

Varina has been chased by too many demons to believe Campbell is a normal man. Yet she sees herself in his haunted eyes, and realizes he’s like her—a demonic-possession survivor. Despite reservations, Varina lets her walls down, and slowly accepts the possibility that she might not have to go through life alone.

Though deception is part of the job, lying to Varina is the hardest thing Campbell has ever done. But as they get closer, and Legion gains strength, the truth is bound to come out. He just doesn’t know what it will cost him.

Reader Advisory: This book contains some graphic violence and recollections of physical and emotional child abuse.

Hellion - A Demonic Love Story

It’s been a while since I celebrated a release day. I’m a bit rusty. And this is an emotional release. Not as emotional as the next one will be, but emotional nonetheless.

Hellion was initially going to be bundled in a multi-author release. Since 2015 ended up being a clusterfuck, I was relieved when the project was abandoned. While I felt I had found my stride with Sera and Colin, my leads, my father’s illness made any time away from work sparse, and I was often too exhausted to devote any time to writing.

Then one day, after my father’s health had seemingly been on the mend, I opened my outline for Hellion and remembered how excited I’d been for it. So I began writing, and I quickly re-fell in love with the characters.

The road to release was still a long one. I completed Hellion in late September/early October, right around the time my father’s cancer came back swinging. I sent it to my betas, received their comments and insight, started to rework it, but I was devoted then to my father’s health needs. In November, I decided to tackle NaNoWriMo because, hey, everyone needs to torture themselves at some point. By the time November ended, I had just around 20k left to write on Deliverance from Sin, and my dad’s health was worse than ever.

On January 2nd, he died.

Eventually, I started working on Deliverance from Sin again. Once I had momentum, I couldn’t stop working on it. So I worked until it was done.

So then I had two completed novels. One to go to my editor at Totally Bound Publishing, and the other to be self-published.

Now Hellion is out, with thanks to my editor, Bonnie, my amazing betas, Terri Meeker and Kim McCoy, and Anja Cota, who provided a drop-down gorgeous cover.

Deliverance from Sin is also under contract. It’ll be released in November.

That's me in 2014, about an hour after I had my head shaved.

That's me in 2014, about an hour after I had my head shaved.

In other news, I am participating for the second time in Shave to Save, in honor of my father’s memory. Already I’ve been incredibly touched by the donations from Terri Meeker, Cassandra Chandler, and Elizabeth Ashford. The event takes place in October, with the intended fundraising goal set at $4,000. So yes…expect more fundraising posts in the near future.

In the meantime, enjoy an excerpt from Hellion

Even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments

Life doesn’t cut you breaks. Life doesn’t give a shit. 20160226_122044February 26 was my father’s birthday—the first since his passing. I took the day off to reflect, visited the bench we had planted in his honor, and bought a lunch that would have maybe come close to satisfying his legendary appetite. Then I returned home and put on Harry Potter, my computer on my lap as always. What can I say? I multitask.

Sometime in the afternoon, I received a text message from Cecilia Dominic, asking me if I had seen the email. I hadn’t, and I was perplexed. So I logged into my account, and suddenly the day wasn’t just about remembering Dad anymore.

I have never shared this here—I always wanted to keep a professional distance between what I do creatively and what I do for work. But that distance isn’t needed anymore, so here it goes. In 2012, just a few months after Aaron and I married, I was hired as a content editor by Samhain Publishing.

It was literally the job of my dreams.

The next three years were some of the best. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the most talented authors producing material today, and made really strong friendships with people I might not have connected with otherwise. Working with these authors has been one of the most rewarding things I've done professionally. I love all of them so much. I love their work. I love being a part of that process. I love the process. I love everything about this world.

My writing, though, was a casualty of my career change. No, I didn't completely stop; I did revamp Lost Wages of Sin, Sex, Sin and Scandal, Firsts and Forbidden Fruit. Most of what I've done these past three years is rewrite, though I managed to finish something new in the form of Sins of Yesterday, and another novel over the course of last year that I have yet to publish. But my authors always came first. If I had time to write, after all, I had time to work.

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Last year, right after Dad got sick, I made the decision that I would start scaling back at Samhain. There were several reasons for it—having two jobs (I also work for a marketing firm) meant twice the catch-up, and I was so behind when I took off to take care of my father. The scaling back was going to be a slow process, I knew, as I was determined to wrap up the things I had already committed to, but I knew there would come a day when I wouldn’t be so loaded down and could refocus. I could not stress about work when caring for Dad, and in the free moments I had, I could apply myself to the things I enjoyed for me.

Then Dad got really sick—sicker than before. The day after New Year’s, he was gone, and I entered that horrific hell of numbness reserved for those who have lost someone suddenly. And it was sudden. He was very sick, yes, and I had resigned myself to the likelihood that he wasn’t going to get better, but no one was prepared for him to walk into the hospital on New Year’s Eve for a checkup and never come out again. We all thought he had months at least.

He didn’t. He had hours.

January 2016 was the longest month of my life.

522_TheGift1I know now, as I came out of the fog, that a part of me had decided to leave. It took a couple weeks before I cognitively made the decision. My career as an editor felt over to me, but I was determined to hang on because I genuinely love the work and the people. Still, even after I decided to leave—quietly, and with no exit plan firmly in place—I knew I still wanted to edit, just on a lighter schedule, and with the option to say “no” if I was booked with work or deep in my own writing project. So I set up my editing website, Evil Eye Editing, with the intent to launch publicly after I was officially gone.

On February 26, my father’s birthday, I received word that the publisher was closing, I had been let go, and everything tumbled from there.

Dove-doves-32938347-1600-1200There are a thousand and one other people out there who have felt the closing much, much harder than I have, though arguably no one more than my former colleague, Mackenzie Walton, who lost her mother two days after the announcement (and on her birthday—god, I hurt so much for her). Still, even though I was prepared to make this my last year at the company, I didn’t think it’d be this soon…nor did I ever imagine it’d happen like this. And in the already altered state of my warped reality, everything has felt like a really bad Twilight Zone episode. I don’t think that has really set in yet, much like my new normal without my dad. It was so much all at the same time. I know the other editors, staff, and authors are likewise still feeling this sense of unreality, so at least in that, it’s something I can discuss with others.

But those emotions—the sadness and the shock, the periods of grief—are exhausting, and for your own health, it’s necessary to get out of that headspace. That’s what I’ve been trying to do these last three weeks. Decompress, digest, and acclimate to my new reality. It’s an odd sensation from the sidelines—I feel so much for my authors, my coworkers, for everyone involved. I hurt for them, I commiserate, and I mourn the loss of a truly fantastic company. My experience there and the opportunity to do that, to chase the thing I’d always wanted to do, changed me for the better. It was a hell of a ride, and I’m going to miss it. God, how I’m going to miss it. I knew I was going to miss it before, back when my leaving was an eventuality. I’ve realized, though, how much I’m going to miss it now. I’m going to miss every part, but especially working with my authors. They were what made my job fantastic. They were what made me want to stay and say “yes” some more, even though I knew I shouldn’t.

Yeah, I’m going to miss that a lot.

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But when I think about that and find myself nearing a dark corner, I remember this: I’ve also missed writing.

This last year has taught me that you can love all the things, but you can’t do all the things, and you certainly can’t do all the things all the time, which is what I’ve been trying to do for far too long. You have to make time for you. I have the genetic makeup of a workaholic, which is good for productivity, but not always for creativity. And if there is something you love, you should do it. We don’t have a lot of time here, so we have to make the most of it.

So that, friends, is my belated 2016 resolution.

Until next time, be good to yourself, and to somebody else.

Field of Dreams

Be good

  JohnStephensBurkI noticed this over the past few months. Whenever someone would leave the room, my father would say, “Be good,” by way of parting. He did this with friends, family members, doctors and nursing staff. I thought it was an odd way to say goodbye, but I didn’t put the pieces together until earlier this week, as I received an outpouring of condolences, anecdotes, and information.

From the mid 1970s to the late 90s, my father was a radio personality. This was, to hear others talk, the golden age of radio. Back when you listened as much for the disc jockey as the music. I knew my father was beloved, even if years had passed since his voice was heard over radio waves, but I don’t think even I understood how much. Though he hated country music, he was best known for his twenty-year stint at a local, popular country music station. I shared his disdain for country, so I rarely listened to him. I’d catch him whenever I was at school, or in other public places, but I wasn’t a dedicated listener. And when you grow up knowing your dad is on radio, there is no novelty. You just accept it.

On Thursday, the night of the visitation, I listened to my father’s farewell address for the first time. It was emotional, difficult as hell, and my siblings and I were doing our best to not break down. The words he ended his career with were the same he closed each show with: “Be good to yourself and to someone else.”

Even years after he was off the radio, that remained important to him. “Be good,” he’d say to anyone leaving the hospital room.

Grieving-the-loss-of-relationships-that-will-never-be-can-also-be-a-lot-like-thisMy father was sick most of 2015. Up until 2015, we hadn’t had a particularly close relationship. He was a deeply emotional man, very loving and tender-hearted, but somewhat detached from the outside world. Describing my relationship with him was often difficult, because at the core, he was a very good man, if not a little short-sighted. He could be unintentionally hurtful by not showing up at something or not calling you. By the same token, he wanted to avoid conflict at all cost, because he didn’t know how to address it. Trying to express your feelings to him was often a futile effort, as it would only succeed in making him feel bad about himself and unable to fix it.

Still, the love between us, at sometimes strained and in itself difficult, was very deep. So when Dad was diagnosed with lymphoma on April 1, 2015, I immediately made myself available to him. The next few months were a series of tests, appointments, and two lengthy hospital stays. He also had numerous day-long chemo stints, most of which I attended in full, or at least in part. I took him to Barnes in St. Louis for a biopsy in November, and was planning to take him back on Friday for the second round of his clinical trial.

Instead, I attended his memorial service.

Losing Dad has been intense and painful. In the week since he passed, I’ve done several things to channel my grief. I wrote his obituary, something I didn’t know I could do until my stepmom told me he would have wanted me to. I also wrote him a letter, am in the process of fundraising a park bench in his honor, and am planning a trip with my brother, older sister and our spouses to lay Dad to final rest at Wrigley Field.

12009788_661147070689345_1403843279806997175_nAll of this would’ve been so much more difficult had Dad and I not bonded in 2015. Had whatever had been wrong between us not been healed. We spent more time together over the course of his illness than we had, I think, in the last 10 years. He came to trust and rely on me in ways he never had before. Two weeks before he died, he and I were sitting in his hospital room, talking. He teared up at one point and said, “I’ve been a bad father.” I took his hand and kissed his head and told him whatever anger I’d had for the past was over, and he’d been forgiven.

Last Saturday, the last words he spoke to me were, “I love you.”

The last thing he called me was “his special angel.”

Not everyone gets that. I am so fortunate that I did. I’m fortunate that the regrets I have now are minimal. There are other things I wish I’d told him, of course, but we were given a remarkable opportunity, and we seized it. That makes the loss a bit more bearable.

I wrote the bulk of Sinners & Saints #5 in November as part of NaNoWriMo. 2015 proved to be a shitty year to try and write, with all the cancer stuff, but I had managed around 12k before NaNo kicked off. In the meantime, I outlined and planned. My hero, Campbell, I knew was going to be representative of my anxiety disorder. I knew writing him would be difficult, because what he’s going through in the book is so completely reflective of me. I’d never written a character as closely based on me as Campbell—but anxiety is so misunderstood, I felt it had to be touched upon. I wanted to show someone who is a prisoner of his own mind, yet still strong and, for all intents and purposes, normal. Campbell was that vehicle.

After Dad got sick, I decided to make the book even more autobiographical by giving the heroine a recently deceased, somewhat estranged father, as well as a step family with whom she has a tense relationship. Before Dad passed, I was nearly 70k into it the book, and I’m faced now with completing the book on the other side. Now I’ve actually gone through what my character is going through—but unlike her, I received closure. One of the things I was initially exploring with her character was how to address a death of someone you love deeply, but who died before you could make peace with whatever was wrong with your relationship.

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The book was always Dad’s. It contains some of the rawest scenes I’ve ever written, and I have to finish it now. I think it’ll be therapeutic, but very difficult. Like writing his obituary, and the letter I penned a few days ago. But I know it’ll be my favorite of my books when it’s finished because there is so much me in it. Because it’ll always be the book I wrote when Dad was sick, when Dad was dying, and after Dad was gone.

That’s where I am now. And where I’ll be later today when I start writing again.

Unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about death this week. How hard it is on those left behind, on how you’re never prepared for it, even after months of caring for someone. How large a hole a person can leave in your life. I have fewer regrets now than I would have, but I still have regrets. I don’t know if you can ever be assured there won’t be regrets, because I’ve asked myself that a lot over the past few months—if Dad were to leave, would I be at peace. I thought the answer was yes, but there’s always something. Something you don’t consider until it’s too late.

We all hear it—hug your loved ones now. Tell them you love them. Regrets might not be eliminated, but they can be reduced. I’ll add this: be good to yourself and to someone else. It’s a simple philosophy, but a beautiful one, and I’m going to go forward each day with it in mind.

Writing and Resolutions (Alternatively: So long, 2015!)

SANTA!!! I’ve mentioned this before, but I love the holidays. I do. I go a little nutty starting in October and the fun doesn’t stop until…now. December 26, I’m ready to get back to my life. In fact, Aaron and I returned home last night from Christmas festivities and immediately de-Christmassed the house. For the first time since September, my home looks normal again. Granted, the décor is a bit different, allowing for new artwork I received over the holidays, but I’m ready to get back to my schedule as I know it.

5yqAK3HcThis year is also the first where I wasn’t entirely in the “Christmas spirit”, but I also wasn’t depressed. With me, it’s usually one or the other. I’m either full-on holiday mode, or immersed in Seasonal Affective Disorder. This year I was beige, and I think this is due to how crazy this month has been. My father, who remains very ill, was hospitalized for a week and a half. He’s supposed to resume treatment in his clinical trial in less than two weeks, but his immune system was, at last word, completely shot due to his particular cocktail of chemotherapy. I am one of his primary caretakers, and as my doctor said, one of the easiest ways to make yourself sick is to spend too much time taking care of others. The hospital stint is almost an entire week behind us, but with so much adulting to do this year, it was hard to disengage and embrace the season’s festivities.

Windsor Ruins

As I said, though, I wasn’t depressed. I was exhausted, drained, and I hit a wall a few times, but I wasn’t depressed. I enjoyed our Christmas, and not just because Aaron spoiled me rotten. My gifts from my loving husband this year included a set of four wine glasses etched with my Sinners & Saints logo, a replaced/upgraded my wedding band, and a gorgeous print of the Windsor Ruins, which made an appearance in Lost Wages of Sin under a different name.

Dark SolaceIt’s expected, as the year winds down, that even those of us not prone to making resolutions start leaning in that direction. One of my 2016 resolutions is going to be to take more time to recharge, and to keep writing as much as possible, because that’s the way I remain sane. And my list of writing to-dos is considerable. I have officially received the rights back to all titles previously with Ellora’s Cave; Insatiable Need and Insatiable Craving will hopefully be re-released by the summer, after I have the chance to revisit both titles. Blackout, formerly Elevated Exposure, was re-released in August, and Dark Solace, formerly Midnight Solace, was re-released, well, today (though Amazon has it for pre-order)…and I’ve decided to make it perma-free. The FREE price-tag hasn’t made it to Amazon yet, but it’s free on Smashwords and All Romance (so feel free to report it to Amazon that there’s a lower price elsewhere to help expedite the price adjustment). It’s such a short story that it seemed better and fairer to readers to offer it as a Rosalie Stanton sampling.

This means that I’m really only with one publisher now: Totally Bound. Well, two publishers, counting Kensington, since they acquired Lyrical Press a while back and I opted to let them keep Moving Target. I am incredibly happy author at Totally Bound—my editor, Sarah Smeaton, is amazing. I couldn’t imagine partnering with anyone else for the Sinners & Saints series. She truly understands and enjoys the world, which is a win all on its own, but she also strengthens each book with her insight and attention to detail.

I believe, though, in looking forward to 2016 and my new writing goals, that I’ll be self-publishing all non-Sinners & Saints work. The whys come down to three primary things:

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  1. Price control. This is the big one. With so much competition, I want to be able to offer readers a price in line with other e-books. While my old-school line of thinking believes that a higher dollar amount on a longer book is reasonable, I understand that’s not the world we live in anymore. I want readers to feel comfortable taking a chance on me. The Sinners & Saints series is my home and my preferred world, but readers have no reason to try it out at its current price-tag, especially without having had a taste of what they’re getting in tone or style.
  2. Creative control. This one should be self-explanatory, and this is something I have at Totally Bound to a reasonable degree. But I like the idea that I can write over 100k and not worry how this will affect the price-tag, and my books are getting longer and longer. I also like knowing that I can write about the things that are important to me—that nothing is off limits, and I wouldn’t have to censor myself. I don’t mean writing taboo—none of the things that would otherwise appear on a “do not submit” list. But religious or political themes that are considered edgy? Sure. I’d love to be able to not feel like I have to adjust in order to be marketable.
  3. I’ve been burned before.

Burned!

So what’s on the horizon for 2016? Well, I am planning on finishing Sinners & Saints #5 in January. I’m also going to really dig into at least one contemporary project, as well as Sinners & Saints #6, edit and release Hellion, and work on the re-releases of four books. Whether all four will be re-released in 2016 is a different story—like I said, I’m aiming in summer for at least two of them. I’d like to think everything is achievable this year, but if 2015 has taught me anything, it’s that life is truly unpredictable. I’d be further along in my 2015 writing goals were it not for…well, a lot of things I didn’t anticipate this time last year.

Dream BigI guess my writing resolution for 2016 would be to write as much as I can. My 2016 word-count goal is 200k. It’s not much to some and a shit-ton to others. To me, it’s taking what I did in 2015 and upping it a bit. If I can hit 200k in 2016, it’ll be upped to 250k or 300k in 2017. Seems fair.

 

I hope everyone has had a lovely holiday season. Here’s to next year.

 

We'll have to muddle through somehow

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It’s almost become a cliché, how many of us are in the dumps around the holidays. I’ve had my fair share of blue Christmases in years’ past. As a kid who struggled with depression, my holiday memories from the teenage years on are spotty. I’ve always loved the holidays to an obsessive degree. I decorate, sing carols, go into debt for my friends and family out of want to shower them with gifts. Always have. Yet the warm fuzzy feelings I nostalgically regard the season with seem forced each year. I’m guessing a part of that is the fact that Christmas is better when you’re a kid and regard the world with some mysticism. As an adult, you are jaded by real-life responsibilities and experience, unable to realistically live in a bubble throughout the so-called most wonderful time of the year.

imagesThis year, I don’t feel down necessarily, but I’m not where I want to be, and I think a part of that is my feeling of responsibility toward others. It’s hard for me to embrace the spirit of the season when the people closest to me are going through hard times—either in the form of the silent killer known as depression, or in the form of the less-silent killer known as cancer. Then there’s the world itself, torn apart by ugly rhetoric, usually spewed by the same people who claim to be God-fearing Christians espousing American values, when in fact they are the mirror image of everything they claim to hate. There’s the way Americans have loudly stated we don’t care about the suffering of others. There’s the perennial War on Christmas, people shouting at others on how to celebrate and why. And pretty much every time we turn on the television, there’s news of some new mass shooting.

There’s a lot of ugliness right now. And it just keeps coming.

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The world is a depressing place at times, and when everyone is shouting around you, you feel small and helpless. I feel small and helpless in a number of ways now—whether it’s in the larger scale of trying to demonstrate empathy toward those people claim we should revile or fear, or, more personally, helping people I love as they wander through a forest I know well. At any given moment, we as people are placed in situations beyond our control. Sometimes, though, our lack of control is striking and obvious. This is one of those times.

People have a lot of metaphors for depression. I’ve taken to calling mine a forest. I’ve been lost in a forest of my own creation more times than I can count, though as I’ve gotten older, I’ve been able to find my way back out with more and more ease. On occasion, I’ll find myself in a corner I haven’t visited in a while, or even one I didn’t realize existed…but the forest can’t go on forever. And the thing about that forest is once you find the way out, it seems simple.

I’m not in a forest right now. Rather, I’m pacing the perimeters, occasionally wandering in but mostly staying on the border. I’m watching for what’s inside, and trying to pull others out.

And the waiting itself is its own special hell.

No matter how much you try, you can’t force anyone to get themselves out of their own forests. I want to, and I often find myself marching back in to make sure they’re with me. But my goal is to move forward, and that means staying on the path I know without getting distracted by every shady offshoot that comes my way. At some point, you have to accept that you are not responsible for someone else’s happiness, at least not to the degree where it threatens your own. Even if the person in question is someone you love—making yourself sick to make them better doesn’t do any good, especially if you can’t see that your efforts are having any sort of impact.

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Depression is a disease, but it’s one unlike any other out there. It can be externally motivated, but there is always—always—an internal factor. You can’t ignore the internal factor and hope the external works out. That’s treating the symptom without paying any mind to the disease itself. Tending to symptoms might make the condition seem like it’s getting better, but without in depth exploration and, at times, painful rehabilitation, the disease will just return in one way or another.

But I can’t make others see that, or understand it. I can present my case, and I trust I’m understood, but there’s knowing and there’s Knowing.

That’s one person I love. I know she’s suffering right now and I want to help bring her out, but every time I venture back into the dark, it becomes harder to get back out. Because when you love someone who’s hurting, a part of you can’t help but assume that hurt too.

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Then there’s my father. My father with whom I’ve had a complicated, at times painful relationship. This week we made peace. He said the things I needed to hear, and I replied with things he needed to hear. All it took for us to have the relationship I’ve wanted was the threat of him dying.

Neither of us knows if he’ll be here next year.

I keep trying to not think of that. Most of the time I can. When he pretends to be happy—or better, when he is—I can focus on other things. Things like getting him to his treatments, talking to his doctors, being levelheaded so I can relay information back to him. But when he’s morose, when he’s dying in his mind, that’s when I can’t handle it. Because there’s no cure for morbid thoughts—trust me, if there was, I’d have found it by now. I don’t know what to say then, and not knowing what to say or do—not being able to help…

Well, we’re back to where we started.

In the interim, my wonderful husband is doing everything he can to get me in the Christmas spirit. He’s playing Christmas songs every time we’re together, making sure our Christmas tree is lit when I get home, getting excited over all the things he’s shopped for, and taking me on tours of holiday lights around town. He’s even volunteered to watch the Christmas movies that hit me in the feels.

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I saw some posts on Facebook earlier tonight about lacking the Christmas spirit. In one such post, the person I love who’s suffering through depression right now chimed in her agreement. And I felt a little sick. My mind goes to what can I do to make it better. How can I help. And I felt that along with the underlying fear I’m experiencing regarding my father’s health nudge me back toward the forest. But as much as it pains me to admit it, I can’t make others happy. I can’t force them to be better. Because depression isn’t a mood, it’s a sickness. Just like the cancer that’s eating away at my father. It’s easy to think a movie or an uplifting speech will help, it’s easy to think you can delve back into the woods and lead them out. All I can do is focus on the external contributing factors—of which there are several—and try to treat the symptoms so she can fight the disease, unencumbered.

With this comes the understanding, though, that I can’t assume the weight of others’ happiness. It’ll crush me, particularly when I fail.

20151213_201657So despite everything, I’m going to try. I’m going to look at the beautiful tree my husband and I decorated, enjoy what time I do have with my father, and apply my other focus on helping she who needs me in practical ways, but not at the expense of my own wellbeing.

And I’m going to write. Because the easiest way to get lost in my forest is to neglect the part of me that loves telling stories.

Smile

Jessica-Jones-Trailer Ever since I watched the first episode of Marvel's Jessica Jones, I've been trying to sort through why it resonated so heavily with me.

This article pretty much nails it.

JJ-official-trailer-2Aside from a realistic look at abuse (which coincides with a powerful metaphor for abuse), the authenticity in Jessica Jones' portrayal of women is exactly the sort of thing we need to see more of in media of all types. Jessica herself is a very good person at the core, but very, very flawed.

Yet we never doubt that she is our hero -- even with her flaws and fuck-ups and abrasive attitude, even with any number of victim-blaming attributes that could easily be assigned, particularly in the fashion of modern victim-blaming. We never stop rooting for her, feeling for her, or doubting the abuse she endured was real and traumatic. Yet she isn't cowed. She isn't mentally weak, and she sure as hell isn't physically weak. In this, we get the very real message that these things can happen to the strongest people. That the people who endure this sort of abuse aren't asking for it.

Jessica, for this reason, is my favorite character in the media right now...and I can't wait to see how she evolves in future installments.

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Inconceivable!

12244631_1664803317101299_5590513166191967837_oSo, a few things have happened in RomanceLand over the past few weeks. One of them being that there have been not one, but two outed plagiarists (boo, hiss!). The coverage for the first plagiarist was pretty epic, and even making the Washington Post. In the land of online scandals, this is already yesterday’s news to everyone not directly affected by Harner’s actions, (though, as I said, we have news of a new plagiarist, so the WTFery lives on!). That said, the plagiarist news is all over the place, so I’m not going to go over how douchey plagiarists are, the violation of theft, or what that other douche at the Washington Post categorically dismissing the romance genre. Yes, I know, we’re trashy people writing trashy books and you’re better than us because you say so. If you happened to miss all that, I can refer to you to the following: Jenny Trout’s article in the Huffington Post

Smart Bitches Trashy Books

41AocG2MD3L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_On the subject of romance itself, I will also recommend Maya Rodale’s Dangerous Books For Girls (The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained). Rodale’s exploration of the subject is detailed, if not quite scholarly (though she clearly did a ton of research and interviewed numerous Big Names within the industry) and I pretty much agree with everything she says. So much so that I’m giving a copy of her book to my sister-in-law for Christmas. (Penni, if you read this, just act surprised).

There seems little point in rehashing the arguments that others have made in defense of the genre—especially since this news is a month old now—except to say that it’s annoying that any such defense still needs to be made at all. But when all of this was occurring, I saw a few comments from romance detractors that recycled a few oldies but goodies when it came to the reasons romance sucks. The one that lent me pause is one I’d heard many times before, but not really considered. That is that romance is unrealistic; it gives women unrealistic expectations in relationships.

fiction-versus-nonfiction-2-728Now, first of all, romances are generally shelved in the fiction section of bookstores and found in the fiction sections of online retailers. Alongside literary fiction, science fiction, horror, mystery, and any number of other works that involve worlds that don’t exist and/or characters invented by the author. Fiction is often a heightened representation of reality, but very rarely claims to be reality. That’s why it’s called fiction.

Definitions. They have a purpose.

Yet as I was thinking about romance novels, impractical dalliances that they are, I found myself wondering, well, why.

Why are they unrealistic?

6262827244_d47aa87988People meet every day. They fall in love every day. They also break up, cheat, and get divorced every day. People die every day. These are not subjects taboo to the romance novel. Many times you’ll meet a hero or heroine who has suffered through a truly bad relationship, and whose journey is one fraught with complications, doubt, anger and eventually healing.

The trend nowadays in romance seems to be moving toward relationships of equals. Where the man and the woman (or man and man, woman and woman, multiple partners, etc.) might have their differences, from everything ranging from ideology to upbringing, but work to understand each other in a healthy, meaningful way.

In the criticism I’ve read regarding romance, a few things are sure to come up:

  • Unrealistic relationship expectationsbusinesssocks-434
  • Unrealistic sexual expectations (Because women shouldn’t expect to be sexually satisfied in their relationships)
  • It’s pornography for women (Grow up)

I’ve been reading romance in one way or another for fifteen years. I’m about to turn thirty-one. I’ve been in exactly one relationship (we just celebrated eight years), and one of the reasons was my impossibly high standards. As a teenager, I wasn’t prone to date. The guys who asked me out were, for the most part, not my type. Sometimes I turned them down, other times I did what society demanded and “gave them a chance”. Giving them a chance ended up backfiring. For a while, I held onto the belief that my must-haves were too demanding.

What were my must-haves? Mutual admiration and respect. There are other things too. We all have our laundry list of wants and needs when it comes to potential romantic partners. Must be funny, intelligent, and so on. The thing is, by the time I met my husband, I was more or less convinced that my ideal partner didn’t exist, because of the propaganda I’d heard regarding the unrealistic expectations that reading romance novels had prepared me for.

But here’s the thing: no romance novel worth its salt will try to sell Love-isnt-fantasy-300x300you fish oil. Romance novels don’t claim that relationships—even the best ones—will be without fault. That there won’t be arguments or speedbumps. No romance novel I’ve ever read has posited that an ideal couple agrees on everything. Even with the HEA, readers have an understanding that the HEA doesn’t mean “and they never quarreled about anything ever again”.

The claim that romance novels are unrealistic is problematic on two levels.

  1. It presumes that women are so feeble minded they can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality.
  2. It implies that good relationships are unrealistic, and women should therefore be expected to settle.

To Point #1, romance is the only fiction genre that routinely gets slammed for being unrealistic. Fiction by nature is, as I said before, a heightened representation of reality. We understand that when we pick up a romance novel, we’re not reading an autobiography. We grasp that it’s not real.

e2QC1ptNow, are all romance novels created equal? No. Individual romance titles themselves might very well be unrealistic (and I’m not just talking about paranormal, fantasy and science fiction). But the romance community is pretty good about smelling BS. There are numerous romance-specific blog sites out there that have built reputations on their tendency to rip apart titles, and call out unrealistic relationships when they see them. Women aren’t stupid. We know when something is unrealistic, and we know the difference between reality and fantasy.

Reading just one romance book will provide no one—no one—an accurate representation of the industry. Because there isn’t just one type of romance out there. If you pick up Fifty Shades because it’s the one with the memorable title, you’re not going to walk away with an accurate understanding of the romance genre. If you pick up one of my books, you’re not going to walk away with an accurate understanding of the romance genre.

Romance is like a buffet full of all your favorite foods, and foods you hate, and foods you haven’t tried—foods from all across the globe. You couldn’t go to that buffet, have a single plate, and walk away with an understanding of everything offered. You might see the other options under the warmers, but without trying them, you can’t accurately judge their taste. Similarly, romance isn’t something you can pigeonhole. Yes, there are identifiable beats, and some publishing houses adhere to strict formulas because they know what sells for their brand. But that is just one small serving off an unlimited menu.

050ff4fdc3370341939510bea15d5b073008c4-wmOn Point #2—the claim that romance novels are unrealistic implies that good relationships are unrealistic. For a long time, after I started dating my husband, I expected the other shoe to drop. He is funny, kind, intelligent, and respects me. I thought surely he was an aberration, or I just found one of the good ones.

Here’s the thing: if I’d bought the line that I’d have to settle for something else, I don’t know where I’d be. I know now, after eight years together, that I’d rather be single than with someone I didn’t respect like I respect my husband, or have the respect I receive from my husband. I respect myself too much for anything less.

As a society, we place a ton of emphasis on the need to couple. As women, if we’re single by a certain age, it’s because there’s something wrong with us. If we’re childless, it’s because there’s something wrong with us. If we’re happy being single and/or childless, it’s because there’s something really wrong with us. We’re conditioned to believe that any relationship is better than no relationship. That getting married is on the checklist of life, and we shouldn’t expect too much from our partners. We should be satisfied that we have a partner at all.

Say it with me: bullshit.

equal_rightsOr better yet, why? Why should we settle for anything less than what we want? What we deserve? Why should we be surprised when the people we date aren’t complete assholes? When finding a decent human being who treats you with respect, a decent human being you enjoy being around, is considered anything other than normal?

Instead of lampooning romance novels, authors and readers as building unrealistic expectations, perhaps we should look at why these expectations are anything other than completely attainable.

Because in most modern romances, the happily ever after means the characters love each other, understand each other, accept each other, respect each other, and treat each other like equals.

That’s not unrealistic.

What’s unrealistic is the expectation that we should settle for anything less.

Fear Itself

childrensreport2013-banner-cc qs2I started writing a blog post a few weeks ago, and was then distracted by Real Life™ and a few other things. Since then, horrific events have occurred in France and the internet has exploded into a frenzy of nastiness and us vs. them. I am of the belief that the right thing to do is rarely the easy thing to do—if it was, more people would do it. So in support of the men, women and children who need our help, I’d like to share the link to Refugee One, Children of Syria, and Care. These are people who have faced horrors unlike anything we in the Western world can conceive.

#PeaceForParis and the refugee crisis are not mutually exclusive. Peace is achieved by recognizing each individual’s inherent worth, not by demonizing an entire culture for the crimes of a few. Certainly not be demonizing the very people who are fleeing the same terrorism we claim to stand against.

That’s all. Back to business as usual. I hope to have my blog post up this week. Preferably later today...but this issue has been on my mind pretty much nonstop since the horrific acts in Paris, and the subsequent response from the nation's leaders.

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Love in the Time of Conferences

Hello, friends, it’s been a while. Though not by design. I kinda just glanced at the calendar and realized September was almost over. 20150918_171321A lot happened in September, and a lot is still happening. ORACON was a smashing success (yay ORACON!) and I got to hang with some of my favorite people, including Candice Gilmer, Cassandra Chandler, Elizabeth Leandre, Heather Snow, Allison MerrittEllen Harger, and meet others, including Candace Havens from Entangled Publishing. It was an action-packed, informative day, and I know for a fact at least one person—ahem, Kimmie—left inspired.

Conferences are hard to describe, really. You hit the ground running and exhaust yourself before you even get out of bed, especially if you’re a part of the behind-the-scenes team. Even smaller affairs like ORACON can absolutely take it out of you. Ours is a modest convention, but a powerhouse all the same. And it’s great for smaller communities, especially when attending larger conventions—whether due to time, distance, expense, or all the above—seems impossible.

Among other things that happened at ORACON, 20150919_172846placed 1st in the Weta Nichols Writing Competition in the Category of Paranormal/Sci-Fi/Fantasy among fiercely stiff competition. Seriously, Allison Merritt’s work is amazing. And when I awoke the morning after receiving the results and confirmed the whole 1st place thing wasn’t a fever dream, I (finally) finished Hellion. It still needs a heavy edit before I send it to my crit partners, but I’m hoping for early 2016 as probable release dates, depending on what I do with it.

I really like the world in Hellion, but at the end of the day, the Sinners and Saints world is where I feel most at home. So I’m finally writing Book 5—full on this time. I keep waffling between projects, but the truth is, this is where I want to be. And the timing is great, too, since I’m about to leave for a few days for the Deep South, where I (for whatever reason) do my best writing. I hope I can crack this book out between now and year’s end. That’s my goal, anyway.

fwyw0And yet…

As much I’m screaming “yes” to be back in Lucifer’s playground, Book 5 is definitely competing for attention among other projects. I have half a dozen things I want to be writing and at least four things I want to be rewriting. Yet I am not a fulltime author, and I don’t think I’d want to be—writing’s what I do for me, and it wouldn’t be fun if I was always worried about the bottom-line. So I’ll tackle these things as they come up, and as the mood takes me.

What could go wrong?

(don’t answer)

Creative Attention Deficit Disorder

Misbehaving OTHER SITESLet’s get this part out of the way first, shall we? Blackout and Forbidden Fruit have been bundled in a collection titled Misbehaving, which is available exclusively at Amazon for $1.89. Yes, I feel a little like Jay Sherman every time I do that…but honestly, what choice do I have?

So I made a prediction on August 5 in Mid-Year Review (Alternative Title: Close Enough) that I would be finished with my WIP, Hellion, by the end of August. I was so bold as to say that it was an entirely achievable goal.

It is now August 31. I guess you know where this is headed.

dark-n-sexyNow, I will say I made a REALLY nice dent in it. According to my outline, there are only 2.5 chapters left, plus an epilogue. But things happened, as things are wont to do. Things like work and…well, work. I was making nice headway with my 1k/day pace until WORK happened. The fact that this coincided with the book’s first sex scene made for a perfect storm of procrastination. I am not at all ashamed to admit that writing sex scenes is my absolute least favorite thing in the world to do. I love my genre—truly—and I don’t want to not be in this genre, but sex scenes are brutal. There’s only so many ways you can write them. Well, only so many ways I can write them, I guess. My characters typically aren’t into kink (sorry). But sex itself is such a repetitive act, and I am always so aware of the words I am prone to use and abuse, and other words/phrasing I hear when reading erotic romance, that I strive for it to be different and good and as cliché-free as possible. This is a hard recipe to nail and it leads to constant struggle.

phrasing

All that said, Sera and Colin (Hellion) have finally made with the sex, which means I can get back to the plot. If they’ll let me. I swear, these are two of the chattiest characters I’ve ever created. I’ve done my best to not reread what I’ve already written in an effort to not stall on the writing by rewriting, so these numbers are inflated by how I’ve felt writing them and not an accurate representation of the story, but as the book’s author, it feels to be broken down by 90% Banter, 5% Sex, 5% Plot.

write-all-the-thingsInsofar as what comes next, I’m not certain. I can’t stress how much I love writing the Sinners & Saints series, and I’m returning to my roots in Book 5 with the setting (the Deep South), but my contemporaries are performing so much better than my paranormals at the moment—did I mention the 2-for-1 Misbehaving collection is available for $1.89 at Amazon? I did? Good. The part of me that writes for love is at war with the part of me that wants to be loved—that sounds dramatic, but it had a nice cadence to it, so I’m keeping it there. Really, what this comes down to is I have ALL THE THINGS I want to write and, with my work schedule(s) and this much time to write (you can’t see it, but I’m representing my writing time with my thumb and index finger, and the measurement is approximately three hairs).

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The I mentioned above contemporary also received some really good feedback in the Weta Nichols Writing Competition. It didn’t advance to the finals (though Hellion did! Guess Sera and Colin can keep chattering after all!) but reading the judge’s remarks got me excited to continue it. But I want to write Book 5, too.

Toby

A few years ago, I wrote Sex, Sin and Scandal (originally published as Sinfully Scandalous) and Know Thine Enemy at the same time, which was a fun experience. I switched off chapters, and the result was I had two books completed at the same time. I’m considering doing that again for the contemporary and the next Sinners & Saints book.

sbtbI suppose the only thing that’s keeping me from committing to that are the re-releases. Ripples Through Time, A Friend in Need, Insatiable Need and Insatiable Cravings are all out of print—some longer than others. All demand an edit, some of them an extensive revise. Ripples Through Time is changing dramatically—since it had such a poor run the first time, I doubt anyone will notice—and I have a good bit of that written. The other books I’m extending—not by much, but enough. It’s hard for me to work on new things when older material is sitting around collecting dust, and will—at least in my head—be easier to get ready for distribution.

I’m not really looking for a solution. Just hoping one comes to me. Maybe I can switch off three books instead of two, and get everything accomplished that way. Who knows?

What say you, internet? Contemporary? Paranormal? Re-releases? All of the above? I can’t say I’ll follow any offered advice, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting it.

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What? I figure I might as well be honest.

(PS. Get TWO sexy stories for the price of one in Misbehaving, exclusively at Amazon! …wait, where are you going? I won’t mention it again. I promise!)

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One hell of a conversation

3xzs4 I became interested and active in politics in the early aughts. Alongside my best friend and many of our peers, we turned our disgust with the political landscape into activism. We campaigned, we donated, we protested. I marched through the streets of Washington DC with the National Organization for Women (NOW), vocalizing my support for reproductive rights. How did I end up there? It was a spur of the moment trip during which the aforementioned best friend, Kimmie, came up to me and said, “Hey, I’m hopping a bus to DC with a bunch of strangers for the NOW march. Wanna come?” And the only way to answer was, “Fuck yes.”

tumblr_inline_mm6dwdQfP01qz4rgpKimmie pursued a degree in politics and government, which launched her into a period of campaigning and volunteering. I maintained my interest in Creative Writing (whoda thunk?) and even though I was assured by friends, family and culture itself that my English degree would be, well, useless, I decided to follow my passion. Still, I remained enthralled with the political process. I followed Bush’s reelection like a hungry vulture. I worked for the Kerry campaign—not as tirelessly as some, namely Kimmie, but with gusto. I plastered my VW Bug with liberal messages and anti-Bush bumperstickers—and if you are familiar with my neck of the woods, you know that it would have been less effort just to slap a big target on my back window with the message, “Go ahead and vandalize me!”

Political dissenters got the message, as it was, without guidance.

tumblr_l950oxMwgc1qb2xivo1_500But even as we approached Election Night in 2004, the hopeful messages of victory I received from like-minded students were awash in a dark cloud of dread. A very real part of me knew the election wasn’t going to go our way. It wouldn’t. I’d so badly wanted to Kerry to be President Josiah Bartlet that I’d ignored what he really was—the guy who was going to lose.

In fact, right before the election, Kimmie and I attended a viewing of Rocky Horror Picture Show held on my college campus. I wore, in addition to my fishnets and hooker boots, a hat, to which I had pinned a Kerry 2004 button. Someone I didn’t know came up to me, giddy, and pointed at my head.

caf60c182f4bb12f898807d1508936c5“Just a week until victory!” he declared.

I blinked, shoved down the dread in my stomach, and nodded.

That is the moment I recall most from the campaign—not the hours spent at the phone banks or the door-to-door canvassing, or inevitable arguments with my Bush-loving friends and family. It was the knowledge that a week away from Bush’s reelection, I knew I was about to experience my first political heartbreak.

tumblr_mbvs3y7Xhr1rnpgulo1_500That didn’t stop me from plunging head-first into a grief-stricken coma after Bush’s victory speech. I lost interest in everything. I’d never cared about anything the way I cared about the 2004 election. The part of me that knew Kerry was going to lose took a back-seat, waiting to scream, “I fucking told you so!” at the devastated idealist. I was beaten and bruised.

In 2006, I joined the McCaskill campaign for Senate, but I was still gun-shy. I cautioned myself—as someone might in returning to a restaurant that gave them food poisoning the last time—not to go all in. But as Election Day neared, and 2006 proved to be a huge rebound year, I became invigorated again. Not enough to dedicate myself to the Obama campaign the way I had Kerry’s—by that time, I was trtempt the wrath_zpsi7rr7g4pying to graduate, dating Aaron (my now-husband), and balancing the next phase of my life with the parts of the last phase that I wanted to keep. But Obama, I had high hopes for. I believed, genuinely, that he could be our President Bartlet. I didn’t have the dread going into that Election Day I’d had with Kerry’s. And though I knew better than to tempt fate, I remember whispering to Aaron, who was canvassing with me on Election Day, that I had a good feeling.

tumblr_mig7zyqMSs1qzsv6uo1_400But of course, life isn’t like it is in the movies—or on The West Wing. Where I was enraged with Bush during his presidency, I have been disillusioned by Obama. I learned the truth of the “they’re all the same” pieces of fortune-cookie wisdom I’d heard when campaigning so actively for Kerry. I shed my allegiance to the Democratic Party, registered as an Independent. It’s something sure to gain groans, but for me, it was necessary to divorce myself of what I’d wanted and face the reality of what I got. The change was symbolic more than anything. I had once been a proud Democrat. I wasn’t anymore.

Through it all, though—giving my anger toward Bush voice, sharing my exasperation with social issues, and going through the same disillusionment with our current president—was Jon Stewart. Saying what the rest of us were often thinking. wc2fPoJI’ve been in denial most of the year, namely because even when I knew the day would come eventually, I couldn’t accept that eventually would happen so soon. But shortly after Stephen Colbert announced the end of The Colbert Report, a part of me knew Jon Stewart would follow. Lennon and McCartney had broken up.

It’s so strange to be in mourning over something as overly insignificant as a television show, but to me and many other people, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was more than the kid at the back of the classroom harpooning spitballs toward authority figures—he was in a unique position to be the voice of the exasperated, the frgiphyustrated, and the politically fatigued. Sure, he did so while making us laugh at our outrage, and on occasion he got us even more riled. After national tragedies, of which there are far too many, viewers of The Daily Show knew Jon Stewart would vocalize our combined anger and sorrow with eloquence. When a politician did or said something stupid, horrific, or just plain cruel, Jon was there to tell them what the rest of us wanted to say.

He might not have changed the world, he did something incredible. He made a generation of disillusioned people realize they weren’t alone. During the Bush years, and especially after the reelection, I turned to Jon every night to connect, even remotely, with people who shared my beliefs. With people who needed to laugh, and needed to know we were being represented somewhere.

TobyI’m in the reddest corner of a red state, and over the years, I’ve become even more unapologetic about my beliefs. I’ve changed my mind on a few issues—I no longer want to ban any gun, for instance (though I am still a staunch supporter of gun control). However, the older I get, the more myself I am determined to be—the liberal, heathen erotic romance author, and no, I won’t be shamed. My family, for the most part, has come to accept this. I say for the most part, because I was recently ejected from my half-sister’s life for sharing an article from The Atlantic (without commentary) on why the Confederate flag should be retired. The same bible-thumping, gun-loving, Religious Right quoting sister, who had no issue with my frequent posts about religion and social issues, decided that the Confederate flag was the idol worth defending. That smarted, but not nearly as much as the blanket lack of support I received from my father (our shared parent), even after I had abandoned my life for 6 weeks to take care of him while he was ill. My stepmother removed me from hers and my father’s Facebook accounts over the issue, and I was cautioned to respect others’ views after I and several others had been called idiots and assholes.

That’s family.

tumblr_m28nv1kfXs1rrbmuao2_250Now, Aaron, Kimmie, my mother and most of my friends and coworkers are like-minded. The blue population in my red corner has become more prevalent over the years. Still, we’re a community that earlier this year overwhelmingly rejected an anti-discrimination law. Yes, where I come from, we’re pro-discrimination. Home sweet home. And in times when I didn’t feel as connected as I do now—when my circle was smaller and I felt more isolated than ever—Jon Stewart provided me a lifeline.

I’m fortunate enough to have gotten to see The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report in person. Neither episodes were particularly memorable, but the experience was. As was Kimmie’s and my trip to Washington DC for the Rally to Restore Sanity. We even ended up at the same hotel as 74431_536508975138_3081539_nthe cast, and while we didn’t get to meet Jon himself, we did get another John. And we had an amazing time.

I didn’t want to watch The Daily Show after Jon announced he was leaving. I watched clips as they populated my Facebook feed, and lamented to others about his impending departure, but for someone who was able to say the things I couldn’t—or at least in the place so the people they were being spoken to heard them—the idea of goodbye was like closing a chapter forever on my life. And I know, as I write this, how melodramatic it sounds. I know, I know, I know it’s a goddamned television show. But there’s a reason the end of The Daily Show was a big deal for so many of us.

Last night, I finally saddled up and watched the final episode. Up until that moment, it was Schrodinger’s episode—as long as I didn’t watch it, it wasn’t over. But all things, especially the good, come to an end. Which brings me back to where we started.

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But to Jon’s closing words, I want to say this: thank you for the conversation. Thank you for making me laugh at things that should have made me cry. Thank you for giving my political frustration a voice, and my political idealist an outlet. In these later years, while I didn’t watch every episode, it was a comfort to know you were there. And I know you’re not going away forever—hey, maybe there will be a podcast or something down the line. But being that this part is over, I just needed to say how much your silly 4 day a week half hour show meant to me.

Thanks for the laughs.

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© Rosalie Stanton 2016