Bad Romance


At one point in the original Gilmore Girls series, someone says to Lorelai, “You like movies right?”

And Lorelai’s reply is “Good, bad, and in between.”

Ladies and Gents, that is how I feel about the subtle art that is the romance novel. There are good romance novels (anything by Rachael Herron is fantastic, for instance), and there are the bad (Fifty Shades of Grey, I’m looking at you), and there is a whole lot of in between. Folks, I have read them all–well, a lot of them anyway, and I am not in any way ashamed.

So here’s the thing. I feel like I shouldn’t need to say, “I’m not ashamed.” But when I tell people that I read and write romance novels, a lot of the times they look at me, and their mouths are saying, “Oh that’s great!” but the slant of the eyebrows and the tilt of their head is really saying, “Huh, I thought you were smart.”

Guess which one is louder?

I won’t argue about how a good romance novel is some of the most intense, character driven, real shit you’ll ever read. And if you’re going to argue that the main reason romance novels suck is because they are marketed toward bored housewives, we’re not going to make much headway. I’m not here to convince you to take up the romance novel. If you’re not a believer, I won’t be able to convince you, and that’s fine.

What I’m more interested in is the romance novel audience–an audience primarily made up of women, reading about women. And in a good romance novel, that woman usually has to confront some hard shit, and it is liberating and empowering, because she finds a strength inside herself she’d been denying. Lesser quality romances are usually plagued with some pattern of dude bro heroes holding up the patriarchy and the heroines deciding that for some reason, the patriarchy totally turns them on. Gross.

It was a forgone conclusion well before I settled into romance that any work of fiction I penned would . In a genre that might be a young woman’s first real safe place to explore the idea of her sexuality, that it’s OK to feel desire, a feminist interpretation is more important than ever.

Because I say there are good romances, and bad romances, I don’t necessarily mean the quality of the writing, though they usually go hand in hand. No, what I mean is the romanticizing of abusive, obsessive behavior from both men and women. There is a prominence for characterizing relationships as such, especially from contemporary indie authors, that I find disturbing.

You guys, it is not OK to to represent abusive relationship as normal. It just isn’t. Yeah, I’ve read them, and it’s like watching a train wreck happen. I have to know how the author resolves this horrible situation, and it usually isn’t to my liking. The heroine almost always is the (anti)hero’s fix at some cost to herself, and the only thing they have going for themselves is their desperate obsession with one another. That isn’t romantic. It’s scary as hell.

What I mean to say by all of this, is that when I say I’m writing romance novels, I’m striving toward the earth shattering, character-driven, feminist approach…and maybe I tend to tweet a lot about bad habits of bad romance writers when I’m reading one of those books.

I’d like to start a discussion about your favorite romances, about heroines that make good role models, and premises that make you want to vomit, and why all of these stories matter.

Stay tuned.

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I Didn’t March for Unity

Women’s March Kansas, January 21st, 2017

I marched in the Kansas Women’s March this past Saturday. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the march from both sides, and a lot of people who didn’t really understand what it was about. Unity was a word I heard bandied about a lot, but unity with what? With whom? Certainly not the current government. Certainly not with those telling us to keep calm, keep quiet.

This march wasn’t for unity. It was a rallying cry, a starting place, an all-inclusive launching pad for a movement that won’t stop fighting for the freedoms of everyone in this country. A friend of mine on facebook put it well when she said, it wasn’t just a women’s march, but a human march.

I didn’t march for unity.
I didn’t even march because I am afraid of losing my rights.

I marched for all of the men, women, and children in this country who are still fighting for the ease of my white, middle class life.
I marched so that as my kids get older, they will have support should they need it.
I marched so that when Felix and Rufus get to school age, there’s a school worth going to.
I marched for clean water.
I marched for LGTBQ rights and civil rights.
I marched for religious freedom.
I marched for healthcare, for birth control, for the right to choose.
I marched for immigrants, for refugees, for peace.
I marched because climate change is real.
I marched for Kansas where the fight’s been going strong for six years
I marched for all the ways each of those things intersect across so many injustices.

I marched for you on Saturday, because you deserve Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, and so does everyone else.

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The Day After

This morning I awoke with a knot in the pit of my stomach.

I feel like I should have done more.

Most of this past year, I have been focusing my mental energy inward. I was growing a baby, preparing myself for labor, trying not to panic about the logistics of bringing another member into our family.

I did not have energy for the political.

I knew I was with her from the beginning.

The other candidate’s speeches were incomprehensible and tailored to incite rather than to unite.

I am the person who called sexism and racism. Probably the one you brushed off because I didn’t say it loud enough.

Today I am in mourning. I am grief stricken. I am outraged. I want to give Hillary Clinton a big hug and tell her that I was honored to vote for her yesterday. That her name was even on the ballot was a huge victory, and I know how hard she fought. But I also know that it is not enough.

It is not enough in a world where a woman has to be perfect to compete in an arena where men are routinely corrupt.

It is not enough in a world where people of color don’t feel safe in their homes.

It is not enough when LGBTQ people are shot down in what is meant to be a safe place.

It is not enough, and I didn’t say it loud enough.

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Avoiding a Pinterest Pregnancy

I love pinterest. It’s my go to website when I’m searching for new recipes, new workouts, business tips, or just want to look at something pretty for a little while. Pinterest is the best way I’ve found to find new blogs to follow and knitting patterns I would have missed on ravelry. Lately though, my pinterest feed has turned into a really negative place to be.

It began when I started my August Baby board. When I learned I was pregnant with this new little one, I was more active than I ever had been. I was walking, doing yoga, and had just started karate lessons. I was having a blast and wanted to continue that activity safely into my pregnancy. I did drop the karate, but in the interest of continuing my fun, I pinned a couple things about working out safely while pregnant, and in the postpartum period.

More pregnancy-related pins showed up on my feed, and I clicked on a few of them, usually something about morning sickness or ways to help reduce ankle swelling. They were benign enough at first, but then the tone began to change. I was getting lists of ten-must do’s during the third trimester, what I have to pack in my hospital bag, and worst of all, pin after pin after pin showing full-term pregnant bellies as a before picture next to a sculpted-ab after photo. Next to those were pins about how to avoid ugly parts of pregnancy, like gaining weight anywhere but in your belly. Next to those, how to avoid stretch marks.

The theme was becoming pretty clear. Pinterest was telling me that the way my body looked was the most important part of my pregnancy. Oh, there were still the “Do this and you’ll have an easy natural labor” pins mixed in there with a couple actually helpful breastfeeding pins, but for the most part, my pinterest feed mostly cares about how skinny I’ve stayed this pregnancy.

Guess what? I haven’t.

Since I didn’t start out skinny, I’m not all that bothered. Do I still exercise? Yes. Do I do work out to be skinny? No. I do it to be strong. To keep up with my kids. To not have to ask for help when I want in the peanut butter or the sauerkraut. (No, I don’t eat them together.) I exercise so I sleep better, so that my back and hips don’t hurt like hell when I have to sit at my desk all day. I exercise because I like competing with myself on my step-count each day, just for the sheer sport of it.

In fact, this whole working out thing is pretty darn selfish of me.

But that’s just it. I do it for me.

I have enough to worry about what with growing a human and preparing my family for his or her arrival to be constantly concerned with how gross other people think my body is, pregnant or not.

34 Weeks
34 Weeks

And honestly, I’m feeling pretty darn cute.

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