Downtime

One of the tougher times for anyone who writes fiction – so you may know this yourself – is when you have decided NOT to write. Disciplining yourself NOT to write may be as tough as writing itself. Our minds even at “rest” naturally also have ideas and it is of course not easy to close down our thoughts.

At a dinner Saturday night with a couple of friends, the wife in the couple asked from across the table if I have a new book in mind. In response, I was honest. “Nothing right now,” I said.

[Photo by Florencio Rojas on Pexels.com]

Sitting next to me, my Mrs smiled and offered a “Pinocchio”-nose gesture – clearly implying I was lying. LOL!

But I was telling the truth. (My wife always thinks I am writing something and if I say I am not that I must be lying. LOL!) Yes, I do have early ideas for a couple of new characters and a new novel. However, that is all.

I am determined to do as I had resolved to do months ago – and especially with the late March release of Capture The Cause, which was over two long years in the writing: I want to relax and to read for some months at least and during that time NOT to start to try write anything new.

Because there is lots out there to read, of course…

[Agatha Christie: A Biography. By Janet Morgan, 2017.]

…but there is also lots to read out there that is probably for someone else(s), too. For example, in my Instagram feed the other day I saw a “romance” writer pop up and it seemed based on what I briefly saw that her books might be interesting. As I have been also looking for recently-published fiction to read too, I had thought, “Why not?”

Oh, boy. I won’t name her, but the moment I clicked over I realized I had misunderstood what she wrote. Her books were a depressing example of the problem with “romance” – the bare-chested model men on the covers were a dead giveaway.

That was when I knew I would not buy any of them. I never read such books – and we know they have MILLIONS of readers. However, still I thought it might be amusing for a few minutes to read one of her Kindle free samples. (That one of hers I opened alone had over 800 Amazon reader ratings and ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and 1/2 stars overall.)

[Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com]

And I was, to be honest, shocked and believe this is actually a serious content matter issue. It is clearly a book for “over-18s” (I think it says it is on Amazon, too) and the free sample contains what in my opinion could reasonably be considered (as arguably at least close to) verbal p@rnography. It is fine, of course, if an author wants to write stuff like that for ADULTS to read. (I am a married man and I know what heterosexual sex is.) My problem with it in that book (and certainly many others just like it) is that graphically-described sexual activity is visible within the free sample.

I am no believer in censorship. However, there are also plainly books out there that are NOT intended for teens and children; and I believe no “over-18” book should have a sample visible to the public without an “age-block” sign in of sorts – such as being signed into your Amazon account, which seems simple enough to implement. (I was NOT signed in to my Amazon to read what I just had; I had simply clicked on her Amazon author page link via Instagram and clicked on the book cover as any “16 year old” could have done.) Even those books’ free samples should not be easily accessible, including through easily clickable social media links on sites that “under-18s” use.

Relatedly, those sorts of books are also literary downers to me. The classic film Casablanca (probably my favorite all-time film) is considered “romance,” too. Naturally, I am always thrilled and honored for my books to be in a genre alongside Casablanca.

[From Capture The Cause. On Kindle for iPad/iPhone.]

Yet so-called “steamy” books like that one I had encountered via Instagram are also why so many authors of SERIOUS “romantic” books (such as I try to write) dislike the “romance” label. For we know unfortunately we get tossed in by default with “the bare-chested model men cover” stuff. And we hate that reality.

I remain unsure what a solution is to that genre dilemma. We know once a word goes one way – as “romance” long ago clearly did – in terms of its definition, there is little chance of altering it. Historical romantic fiction writers in particular seem forever trapped by it.

Hope you are having a good weekend. 🙂