The Discussion Itch

Not long ago, I told a friend that one of the few negatives of this authoring business is the inability to take part in discussions on some of the forums. Darned if right after that some really tempting discussions didn’t crop up here and there. My hands were all but itching to start typing. So I sat on them.

I’m not sure if this blog format works very well for discussions, and maybe no one but me is feeling itchy, but since I still am, I’m giving in to the urge to speak my piece here. The topic that most tempted me was a discussion of how much realism you like/want in a romance. The OP actually used Sing as one of the books that made her start the thread, and while the discussion veered off topic and IMO into silly stuff too quickly, the original question is the one that provokes me.

In the past I’ve mentioned that I first wrote Eyes in rebellion against things I didn’t like in the romances I was reading. Lack of realism was one of those things. Yes, I understand that a romance is in many ways a fantasy. I don’t want guts and gore all over the pages; I don’t want to spend time in the bathroom with H or h. In westerns I certainly know that I’m ignoring a whole lot of the uglier aspects of life back then when it comes to, for instance, flies, smells and dirt. However, pretending characters never needed to eliminate, women never menstruated, the air always carried a trace of lavender scent, the hero could get up the day after a beating that should have killed him and take raw revenge on the bad guys, or the heroine can leap to her feet after an experience that would give most of us PTSD and fall orgasmically into the hero’s arms creates a wall banger for me.

Figuring out where to draw the line is, of course, the problem. Since it seems I may be towards one end of the fluffy vs. realistic spectrum, I obviously need to be careful not to go too far but I don’t expect to change much in my feelings on this subject.




17 Responses to The Discussion Itch

  1. mesadallas says:

    Don’t change anything that you are doing. You have a very good sense of balance for giving your readers the “realism” that many of them are now craving, while still hanging on the the basic HEA, and love conquors all plot-element that women will always want in a good romance novel.

    As far as wanting to join in on forums- I can only comiserate. Must be like having a cast on your leg that’s itching like crazy and you can’t get in there to scratch- even the knitting needle won’t reach.

  2. mesadallas says:

    Ellen, I just left All About Romance. Today’s blog article by Pat Henshaw is titled “Cowboys-Ridin’-Ropin-Lovin'” and you are mentioned as one of her favorite western authors! Readers who are reponding to the article have also mentioned your books in a very positive way!

    I also explored a sight called Pistols and Petticoats. Have you heard of it? They feature authors of western romance who write articles about their books- how they came to write them, what research they used, excerpts from their novels ect.

    I saw one book featured that sounds pretty darn good so I’m going to order it. It’s called “The Texans Irish Bride.” A big plus for me is that the hero’s name is Dallas- which just happens to be my own husband’s name! Yee-haw!

  3. Hey, mesadallas,

    I can’t imagine changing because of discussions, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t enjoy the back and forth. Did you ever read the threads on Themes You Hate and others like that in the Amazon Romance forum? Basically, someone somewhere hates every theme you can imagine, but overall I think the secret baby theme is the one most often mentioned. You’ll notice that didn’t make me take Laurie out of Sing, although I will admit it did make me rethink how she came to be a secret.

    I’m off right now to check out AAR, and I’ll look at the P&P site and check out that book too.

    I can’t believe your husband is a Dallas. When I read the Lorraine Heath books with Dallas, Houston, and Austin as the brothers, I rolled my eyes. Tell me your hubby doesn’t have brothers named after other cities. ~Ellen

  4. mesadallas says:

    Nope. Everyone thinks he must be from Texas because he was raised on a ranch and wears cowboy boots and knows horses. His family origin is Welsh and “Dallas” is actually a Welsh name.He has one brother named Dennis and a sister named Colleen- which are also Welsh-in origin. The city of Dallas was named for a past governor of Texas who was named Dallas and I think he was also Welsh or Irish.

    Have to admit I sort of rolled my eyes too when I read Heath’s books about the brothers named Dallas, Houstin and Austin but I also had to supress a smile because when each of our sons were born my husband tried his best to get me to name them either Houstin or Austin. I didn’t bite. We wound up naming them Nicholas and Dustin.

    Now you know where the dallas in mesadallas comes from. I think it’s a really cool name for a guy -but then I do have a bias.

  5. McD says:

    Just keep writing the way you are Ellen. The thing I love is the realism in your scenes especially between the H/h. And the love scenes are so realistic.

    By the way I love the name Dallas too mesadallas. In fact in LH’s Texas trilogy I love the names of Dallas, Houston and Austin. Doesn’t sound cheeseball to me at all. Maybe because I’m not American.

  6. mesadallas says:

    Woops – forgot to answer your question about the amazon threads. I don’t go there every day- just don’t have time- but I do glean through every few days or so. Haven’t really paid attention to themes yiu hate, but yiu are right, every theme has those who love them and those who hate them. In the right book I think a secret baby is just fine. The theme I personally hate is a herione who pretends to be a boy or man and the hero really thinks she is. Come on- how could someone really think that just because a woman dresses in male attire that they are a male?

  7. The Welsh/Irish connection is interesting. I think of Colleen as an Irish name and never connected it with the Welsh, but I do know both go back to the same Celtic roots.

    I sent a sample of The Texan’s Irish Bride to my Kindle but haven’t read it yet. The $7 price on the Kindle book is kind of a stopper. I know for those of you still buying physical books things are different, but with the Kindle I get kind of stubborn about prices, and I’m not sure that’s one that the library will have.

    I saw your rave reviews of Heath’s Parting Gifts in other places, downloaded it and read it a while ago. Yes, I got sniffly and liked it although probably not so much as you did. For some reason I couldn’t get past the physical description of the real love hero. Usually if I don’t like something about a physical description I just change it in my mind and that’s that. For instance, women with breasts that could nurse sextuplets with quarts to spare who have handspan waists or heroes built like football players (I like men with necks) get modified into something I can stand. I’d have to go back and reread to figure out why I failed at that kind of modification this time, but I did and it kept me from being really happy with the story. It’s amazing the little things that can make a difference for one reader, isn’t it?

    I think my most hated theme is the whole big misunderstanding thing. Occasionally it’s actually some big enough event for people to get upset over but more often it’s something so stupid that trying to work a whole book around it is just a waste of time – or worse it’s some woman acting like an idiot over some small thing and what really should happen is the guy decide he wants more than a hyper-emotional dimwit with humongous breasts and a wasp waist and walk away, and vice versa if he’s a hopeless jerk. ~Ellen

  8. P.S. I agree that the girl disguised as boy thing wouldn’t work for long most of the time, but I feel like I’ve read about some woman who managed to fight in the Revolution disguised as a man. I bet she wasn’t a golden haired raving beauty though. ~E

  9. mesadallas says:

    I also have read about some woman who was in the army for quite a while disquised as a man before it was discovered she was a woman and kicked out but I think it was the Civil War or the Indian Wars- if we are thinking of the same one. I do rememember there was a photo of her and she was not only extremely homely she was built like a half-back for the Green Bay Packers. Might have been Calamety Jane but I can’t remember. I guess I have to stand corrected that some men have been fooled by women in male attire- but hardly the ones as described in romance novels.

    I’m with you on the big misunderstanding. It’s usually some trivial or stupid thing that could easily be cleared up with a simple question. I don’t know how many times I;ve been reading a book with this in it and I’ve just thought “geez, why don’t you just ask.”

    Yes, Colleen, Dennis,Dallas are names you are just as like to find in Ireland and Scotland as well as Wales- all Celtic names.

    Don’t really know what is was about Parting Gifts by Lorraine Heath, but for some reason it just really grabbed at me more than most romance books I read. It seemed more like a traditional novel than a romance novel to me. I loved the way Heath wrote not only about the love between man and woman but the love between parent and child and brother for brother.

    I just looked up the price of a paperback for The Texan’s Irish Bride that I saw on Pistols and Petticoats. $14.00 and some change. Didn’t expect it to be that much. I also don’t like the cover but…the reviews on amazon were favorable… the plot still intrigues me… the excerpt I read was pretty good… plus the hero’s name has me hooked if nothing else, so I’m going to give it a try.

    What did you think of the Pistols and Petticoats site?

  10. McD says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I recommend another author on your blog Ellen. But I recently read ‘Sunrise Over Texas’ by M.J. Fredrick. This is the first but won’t be the last I read from this author. It was a very good historical western romance.

    If you’re looking for an author to read Ellen or mesadallas I would definitely try her. I know she’s written other books in different sub-genres of romance and am unsure if she’s written other westerns.

    Download a sample before you buy. I have read ‘The Texan’s Irish Bride’, but I thought this one was better.

  11. Hey, McD, hi. Just looked up Sunrise Over Texas and it sure is more in my price range for the Kindle edition. Sent a sample to my Kindle. After at least 5 years without so much as a sniffle, for the second time in the last several months I’m down with some weird disease. It’s not really a cold but trying, and I’m feeling so tired that sitting on my rear and reading is about all I have the energy for right now.

    mesadallas – the P&P site looked interesting but it was also one of those that at first glance seemed kind of mysterious. I’ll have to look harder at it some time. I do think I noticed it once before and they don’t review indie books – but then neither did AAR. 🙂 If AAR were a single person I could go meet, I do it just to hug her.

    There’s now another thread starting on one forum about what is an HEA that has me itchy. It kind of links to the question I asked here sometime ago about do you feel the hero has to be or end up rich? For me, no. Just as in contemporaries I always tend to see divorce down the line, extreme wealth makes me think of mistresses and distanced, unhappy people. I know those are prejudices from my own raising and circumstances, but that’s what affects everybody’s taste in stories. ~Ellen

  12. Oh, and P.S. – no, of course I don’t mind talking about other authors’ books here. I pretty much don’t mind talking about anything so long as it’s civil. I’ve already proven I’m going to make you all read or skip over dog stuff every once in a while. ~Ellen

  13. mesadallas says:

    Sunrise over Texas looks really good but I don’t have an e-reader. Maybe this Christmas.Thanks for the recommend though.

    Ellen, are you sure P&P won’t review indie books? A lot of the ones I saw sure look like they are from indies including The Texan’s Irish Bride but I could sure be mistaken. If P&P doesn’t review indie books I think they are really missing the boat- especially with your books.

    I saw the HEA thread and no, wealth doesn’t make one bit of difference for me. If two people truly love each other than being rich or poor is secondary- and I think no matter what time period people have lived in there have been good marriages and bad ones. In the real world outside of romance novels not all marriages end in HEA, but there are still those that do; My own for example. My husband and I met and married under circumstances that really could make for a good contemporary romance novel. Many people thought we didn’t stand a chance but we are still together after 30 years and still in love with each other.

    I think when we talk about historical periods we really tend to box people into an era stereotype thinking that most people had great marriages in the 1800’s as compared to today. No matter what period of history people have lived in they have all had the same human emotions – some have found and lived/live HEA and some have/did not.

  14. I know in my head that there are good modern marriages, but I don’t see many around me, so when it comes to reading romance, I do better with suspending disbelief in historicals. It’s not that I think historical marriages were better; it’s that I know getting out of one was next to impossible. My guess is the majority of women back then led lives of what we would now consider quiet desperation.

    Absolutely, if you aren’t one of the anti-ebook people, put a Kindle at the top of the presents you’d like next birthday, anniversary or whatever. Sampling, instant gratification, no piles of books all over the house. Wonderful invention. If the mainstream publishers didn’t have such stupid and unrealistic ideas about pricing it would be perfect.

    No, I’m not sure about P&P, and I looked at it sometime ago. Will investigate again. The Texan’s Irish Bride shows a publishing company, but admittedly a lot of indies form their own companies rather than letting it all hang out there like us lazy folks. ~Ellen

  15. McD says:

    I don’t have an e-reader either mesadallas. I have the free application to my pc from Amazon. That way I can download samples to see if I like a book.

    Reading at the pc is not as handy or as comfortable as reading an e-reader or print book. But at least this way I can still read books that are only e-formatted.

  16. mesadallas says:

    Sure, I’ve known tons of people whose marriages didn’t work but I know just as many who have had happy long-tern ones. I agree with you wholehartedly that while many marriages in the 1800’s may have lasted it didn’t mean they were espeacially happy- for many women they were trapped until the ‘death do us part” came around.

    I’m pretty illiterate when it comes to technology but I really do want to put the e-book on my list of wants. Have you been peeking under the bed in the guest room to know that’s where I have boxes of books stashed? Both my keepers as well as my TBR pile?

    As much as the plot of The Texan’s Irish Bride seems to appeal to me, the title is pretty lame and that’s something else that really bugs me about romance novels- titles. Why do so many authors work so hard pouring their sweat out and exhausting their creative genius then give their book some unimaginitive, boring title? That’s another reason I like your books. You come up with great titles.

  17. I am very pro-Kindle. My only regret is I can’t get every book I want to read for it. I had a Rocket Ebook way back in 1999 and loved it too. It was backlit and that didn’t bother me at all. You can control the brightness and I had mine turned down quite a bit. I’ve been thinking about indulging in a Nook. The Denver Library loans ebooks and Kindle’s format is wrong. I can also rationalize it in that I’d like to check my own books in the Nook format.

    mesadallas – thanks for the title compliment. As I’ve said before, I’m pretty pleased with my titles so far. And I’m starting to wonder if there aren’t as many as 50% of all western romances with “Texas” in the title.

    The other thing that I wonder about sometimes is descriptions. The description of a book is pretty important in drawing someone in or not, and a lot of them are just plain terrible. Not enough to really give you an idea of the story, or confusing, or with typos. And not just indies. Some of the big pubs have descriptions that are excerpts from glowing reviews that never give any idea of the story at all. Along with overpricing and putting so much material in front that the sample is only a few pages of the story if you’re lucky…. Some of them really don’t seem to grasp the ebook concept at all. ~Ellen

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