We’ve Come a Long, Long Way

image by ReutersUnless you were living under a rock for the first week of February, you couldn’t have missed the news that Elon Musk and SpaceX have made history. Made it with a bit of flair, too. Seriously, who launches a $100,000 Tesla Roadster into space with a mannequin behind the wheel in a spacesuit as the test payload while playing David Bowie’s “Starman”? The mannequin is even named “Starman.”
I watched the launch in tears. Mars is suddenly attainable. Perhaps not in my lifetime, but most definitely in the lifetime of my children. Maybe by the time my grandchildren are adults, they’ll be able to purchase tickets to go to Mars for spring break. (Maybe not spring break, but perhaps for a whole new definition of a semester abroad.)
In case you couldn’t tell, the science geek in me was almost orgasmic.
Yes, there were a few failures on this launch. Starman isn’t going to Mars. Oops. Overshot that one. (Or, as I say when I get lost going to a dog show—I’m not lost. I’m taking the scenic route. He’s taking the scenic route through our galaxy.) The center core didn’t survive landing. However, watching the landing of the two side boosters (and I’ve watched it over and over) simultaneously and in perfect synchronicity… DUDE! That was just plain and simple showing off. I’m pretty sure I shouted “Show-off!” when I watched the landing live.

Sorry, I still don’t think it’s flat. 

I spent several hours of the next ten hours or so (before the battery on the Tesla Roadster died) watching the live feed of Starman orbiting the earth. We live on such a beautiful blue planet. Such a pale blue dot, a shimmering sapphire set in black velvet. I wonder, if a future generation of Martian born humans will view Mars with the same awe that we do when we see our home planet from space. Will Mars be that fiery red dot they call home?
All of this got me to thinking. (No, I’m not planning a science fiction romance.) As a western historical romance writer, when I’m writing, I put myself into the mindset of my characters. Rapid transport in the late 1800s was by railroad and when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed with the driving of the final spike at Promontory Summit, Utah, travelling at 30 MPH was considered mind-boggling. The Falcon Heavy was doing 30 MPH before it was a foot off the launch pad. It was supersonic in two minutes.

Meeting of east and west at Promontory Summit, Utah.

One hundred years after the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, plus two and a half months—we literally put a man on the moon, on July 20th, 1969.
I wonder how my fictional characters would react to this world if they were suddenly thrust into it. I’m sure it would seem like such a strange, and foreign, and even hostile place. Would they even recognize this world as theirs? After learning to travel at the terrifyingly fast speed of 30 MPH, we invented the automobile, dared to challenge the birds for the sky, split the atom, cracked the code for DNA, and dipped our collective toes into the vast ocean we call space.
Almost fifty years after that first moon landing, the tiny machines on our desks have more computing power than the rooms full of computers required to launch, safely land, and return the crew of Apollo 11. Heck, my current cell phone has more computing capability than my first laptop computer and I got my first laptop only twelve years ago.
And, by the same token, what advances will we make in the next fifty years? That is, if we can manage not to destroy ourselves in the process…


I Do NOT Need a Shower

So, I’m sitting at my desk, asking myself for what has to be the millionth time in the last couple of months what in the sam hill I was thinking when I said I would be part of a series. The authors I’m working with are fantastic writers, who can craft an amazing, emotional tale. I consider myself honored to be a part of this series, so don’t read the rest of this blog post as anything other than my own personal feelings about something I’ve seen lately in the romance world. The premise of this series is fantastic—a fictional town where most of the men haven’t returned after the American Civil War, for whatever reason. The ladies decide the only way to save their town and protect themselves is to send off for mail order grooms.

Road and sky
Road in field and stormy clouds

So far, so good. Right? Then, I read the fine print. This romance I’m writing has to be sweet, clean, and wholesome. That means I have to close the bedroom door, no swearing, and maybe a chaste kiss. SAY WHAT? Anyone who has read my other books knows I leave the bedroom door wide freakin’ open. And, if I remember rightly, I have one hero whose favorite word is “damn.” (Colt, yes, I’m looking right at you.)

Okay. It’s good. I can get past that. While the romances I write are, to quote one reviewer, “steamy”, I can leave the kettle off the stove for this one. I’ll get past it.

What I’m hung up on, and it grates against me more and more, is the connotation that because those four romances (of which I am immensely proud, BTW) leave the bedroom door open they aren’t clean or wholesome. And, this is the problem with putting certain labels on romances. Labeling romances where the bedroom door is closed and the most the main characters ever share is a kiss (whether it’s chaste or not) as clean and/or wholesome means that in this world of always needing dichotomy, my romances are dirty and unwholesome. Carried out further, the connotation is sex itself is dirty.

Before I go any further, I want to fully stress that at no time has so much as a single one of the authors in this series once made that connotation about my romances to me.

I get it that some people just don’t want to read “THAT” scene and prefer to purchase books where “THAT” scene isn’t written, and in most cases, isn’t even alluded to. I get that. It’s a great big world out there and there are plenty of readers for all kinds of romances. (It’s the only explanation I can come up with for the 50 Shades of Gray effect and the manner erotica has rocketed up in readership.) But the attempted shaming and guilt-tripping by some readers and commenters on other posts on FB of the authors who do write “steamy” and “THAT” scene makes my blood boil. If it’s not for you, guess what—you can just scroll on past that post. Honest. That’s how FB works.

The same goes for a book signing. Don’t tell me at a book signing when you ask if I include the sex scenes that you prefer not to be a voyeur in a smug, condescending tone. You asked. I gave you an honest answer. If it’s not for you, smile and move on. How hard is that?

Romance authors, if you write “sweet, clean, and wholesome”, congratulations. You will NEVER know the agony of writing “THAT” scene and struggling to write it without the whole scene reading like choreography for an X-rated film. And, while we’re at it, can we please find another label for those “wholesome” books? The trend in romance (and it’s been there for a long time and doesn’t seem to be abating any time soon) is that before the main characters end up in bed together, there has to be a commitment to one another. They might not be able to articulate yet they love one another, but the emotional commitment to one another is there. Hell…oops…Heck, the first romance I had published the hero felt guilty for taking the heroine to bed. He was committed to her, heart and soul, but circumstances were conspiring to keep him from her for the rest of his life. He actually turns her down a little later in the book when he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt he can’t stay with her because to stay will put her life in jeopardy.

So, can we please stop with the shaming and the labeling? Can we all agree that there are readers for all types of romance and all that attempted shaming does is create divides in our community? It’s a great big reader pool. And just because some of us swim in another part of the pool, the water here isn’t dirty, either.