Gratuitous Sex

I love a good story, so when my friends talk about a new TV show that is wonderful, I listen. And when I have time, I will watch it. But I am leery because many times the show, especially on the “premium” channels, will suddenly lose the story in order to show two people having sex.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve written romances, and mine all include sex scenes. I have no problems with sex scenes…when they are appropriate to the story. But too often the scenes on the TV shows are gratuitous. They’re there for throwing sex on the screen, not for advancing the story. They’re there because sex sells, not because it helps characterization, or plot, or conflict, all of which are good reasons for sex scenes. It’s a writing issue, not a moral judgment.

I stopped watching a certain paranormal series for that reason. I was on the fence about the show, but was interested enough to continue. Then came the gratuitous sex scene. There was no reason for it except titillation. I stopped watching. It happened again yesterday. I was watching a show about colonial America, and two characters have sex. They have completed a dangerous assignment, and they are angry with each other because of how they had to behave. One of these characters has just learned her husband is dead, and the other has a wife. I get it. It’s the release, it’s the sudden revelry in success after danger, it’s a celebration of being alive. Except. Except the concept of honor and decorum which has been portrayed as huge elements of both their characters has been conveniently forgotten and thus undermined. I might have bought it if they were so caught up in the emotions of their success that they tear the clothes off each other and do the act without thinking, but it was a slow, relishing of each other. For me, it didn’t support what the writers have established.

The same is true for nudity. First of all it’s not a big deal. I have long thought we make too much of showing the human body. We all have one set of parts or another (generally speaking), and while we can enjoy those parts, parts are thrown on the screen just for the shock effect. Sorry. If I wanted to see a pair of boobs, I can look down my shirt. Does that sound hypocritical? First I say we make too much of it, then I say TV shouldn’t show parts. No, what I’m saying is that using body parts for shock effect is wrong. I believe it perpetuates the drooling culture, which should have disappeared long ago. When a show like Games of Thrones, an intricate, political, and gripping drama, can be reduced to nudity jokes by comedians, it’s a sign of gratuitous nudity.

Look, sex is boring unless you’re doing it (Of course, I have the same opinion of viewing sports). The act itself looks rather funny too. In writing there are only so many ways to describe a fairly basic act. It’s the reason I don’t read many romances any more. The sex is the least interesting part of the book and now there is an emphasis on the sex instead of the why. (That and the emotional baggage characters carry these days, so I can’t believe in a happy ending unless these people go through serous psychoanalysis.)

Maybe I’m a prude.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Harry Potter und der Orden des Phönix by JK Rowling

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

What I do wrong. . .

In which I look at bucking the trends and its consequences, especially when it comes to series.

My career took a twist when my agent left me. I took stock of my career, regrouped, and have decided to take the direction I was pointed in. But I still don’t “follow the rules” in a lot of ways. I will be releasing a new book soon (stay tuned–I’m not giving information now because I want to give it a big send off, but here’s a hint: Daylight Saving Time has nothing on this book) and unlike everything they tell you when one self-publishes, it is NOT part of a series. It is a stand-alone novel. A complete story in one book.

I have a lot of stand alone books. It’s not that I don’t understand the appeal of series–I do. I’ve written three trilogies myselfTriSet (although one only has two books in it because the third book was never optioned. Someday I will write that third.) It seems nowadays every book is the starting point for a series. Heck I have a fantasy making the rounds right now that is the start of a series. But it’s a planned three books and it’s done. I suppose I could continue in that world if it takes off, but this story is three books. I was prepared to continue all my series if they took off, but they wouldn’t have been the same characters, just the same world. And I wrote stand-alones too.

Look, a series is great, but frankly after about three books, I’m bored with reading them. I want to get to the end. Harry Potter is an exception. I loved every one of those seven books and couldn’t wait for the next one to come out when they were, shall we say, fresh (although an argument can be made for Order of the Phoenix as being a bridge book). But, and perhaps this is blasphemy to the Potterheads, I’m glad the series is over. I loved every minute of it, but the story is now told. I would happily read (and have) other works by the author, but Harry Potter has an end and I’m glad for it. It’s wonderful for what it is and more would just ruin the experience (for me, but this is my blog). Frankly, I made it through Chronicles of Narnia only once (re-reading is my metric for excellence) because I didn’t care after about book three. The same is true for many of the ongoing romance series. Love the first few, but then I’d had enough. In fact, sometimes I resent having to read several books to finish a series just because I want to know what happens. I usually end up skimming.

When I make a list of my favorite books, many are stand-alone : Ready Player One, To Kill a Mockingbird (look at the controversy its sequel started–I ignore the sequel), And Then There Were None, Dandelion Wine (although there is a sequel, but it’s not as good, so I ignore it as well).  Some are part of a series: Huckleberry Finn (but it is so different from the first book in the series, and nobody reads the Tom Sawyer Detective novels), Bewitching (but the second book didn’t make nearly the impact). I would say the one area where I am willing to read more than three or so books is mystery. Agatha Christie is wonderful, and although she hated Poirot , I enjoyed the character, but each story was its own and there wasn’t a never-ending story arc.

There is a famous fantasy series that I have never started because it’s too long–too many books. I’m sure they’re fun, but really, I want a story to end, and then I want to move on to something new.

But that’s me, and that’s what I write. I complete a story and move on. If I like an author I will try their other books. It’s the voice that draws me in, and the voice will appear throughout the author’s body of work. I don’t need the same story dragged out. And if stand-alone books is the reason I don’t become huge, I can live with that.

I break other rules too–like being almost impossible to market (look at the covers of my last series)–but not writing in one series is the biggie.

–Gabi

What I am reading now:

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett

The Mast Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

 

 

 

The Series Killer

No, not “serial.” That is not an error. In which I show my excitement for the supposed demise of series novels. What ever happened to the stand alone novel?

I heard from a second and totally unrelated source that novel series are losing their appeal (for romances–I can’t apply this info to other genres; please chime in if you’ve heard something). For me, this is good news. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a series (romance) and grew tired of the same setting over and over. Sometimes you can tell the author just didn’t want to write another book in this world. There are exceptions–Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, for example, but each book had a complete story, connected only by family, well, connections–but most of the time, I enjoy a novel and then forget the details. I remember the warm feeling I got while reading it, but when I pick up a second or third novel in a series and am taxed to remember which cousin introduced the oldest brother’s mother-in-law’s grandchild to the American relation, the story loses its punch for me. Series work for me when the story in the series isn’t dependent on previous works; where I don’t have to know that this character is the niece of the neighbor’s second cousin who gave the duke’s half-brother who is now married to the uncle’s sister-in-law’s vicar’s daughter a beating when they were children. In other words, if I can’t pick up a book out of order, read it, and enjoy it, it isn’t the work for me.

I can hear you saying hypocrite right now. I have published two and a half series. The first are tied together by family, but you don’t have to read them in order, they do stand alone, and you don’t have to know the history to understand them. My second series was cut off after the first two books were published (I still have plans to finish that third one, but a few other things have to happen first before I do), but it wasn’t by my choice. And the last series are definitely connected stories that I hope can be read and understood without reading them all, but there is a story line that arcs over all three books, so you’re better off reading all three. These are also fantasies, though, which leads me to my next point.

I don’t mind series in fantasy or sci-fi. Movies or books. Star Wars was fantastic in part because of the ongoing story. But Indiana Jones are all stand alone. I love Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series (book three appears soon this month). My only fear with series like that is that they become successful and the publishing houses want to extend them to more books. If this story doesn’t end in this book, I’ll be pissed (American sense, not British sense). You can write new stories in the series, but finish the stories first. That’s why I like Once Upon a Time. They finish stories, then throw the characters into new situations. That I can get behind. And of course, I’m still waiting for GOT to finish. Two more books to go. Ugh.

So back to me (it’s my blog, I can be narcissistic if I want). Most of my books are single title, stand-alone books. Yes, I could finagle a second book in the series, but the stories would involve different people and a different story. So if you’re tired of series and just want a fun read, try one. (Fantasy romance recommendation: The Falcon and the Wolf; historical recommendation: Temptation’s Warrior, To Tame a Rose, or one I shall be putting up soon called The Sea Eagle–stay tuned; Even Ever Yours is totally stand alone, although technically it’s part of a series, but they’re not connected in the way you think and every story is an individual story and has no effect on the next). I have a couple of manuscripts I’m working on that are totally stand alone.

And if you like series, I have those too. I guess there’s room for both.

What are your thoughts?

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N Holmberg

The Complete Set

I’m torn. If a book intrigues me, I love to find out it’s a series. I don’t mind waiting for each book to come out. That was part of the fun in the Harry Potter series. The anticipation for the next one. Re-reading each one before the next came out. Speculating about the plot. And how much fun we had getting the midnight release. I’ll never be able to read those books again for the first time.
Sometimes, however, reading a complete series can be too much. The reader has to slog through recaps so that new readers aren’t lost if they start with book two or three. And frankly, I miss stand alone books. I’m willing to follow an author even if the books aren’t connected.

I recently read a series where the author’s voice was amazing and sucked me in, but I didn’t like the story enough to get lost in them. I still read them all (I guess we’d have to count that as a success for the author), but I found myself criticizing rather than enjoying. By the end the list of things that didn’t work for me was long, and yet I wanted to finish.

And then there are the series that don’t finish. It happens a lot in publishing. An author’s numbers aren’t good enough, so they drop her, or her editor leaves and the new editor doesn’t want to keep her. With self-pubbing, the possibility exists that the author might finish the series on her own, but on the other hand, one has to move on as well.
If you’re the type of reader who likes to wait until a series is complete to read it, you’re in luck. My Time of Transition series is now done. The three books, THE WISH LIST, AS YOU WISH, and WISHFUL THINKING, are all available now. Spread the word. I could use your help in keeping this world alive.

–Gabi

Books I’m reading now:

Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore