My Scottish Highlander Time Travel Adventure Romance Satire: Why I Don’t Write Fiction

I think the thing that makes me such a great blogger is my dependability. I never just randomly disappear for weeks on end. Oh, wait…

Chiefly, my reason is that I desperately need a new computer. Every time I start to write a blog, this one spits popups at me and growls. Also, I got really into this book series… hashtag librarian woes, y’all.

Speaking of which… while Gail and I align on many levels, our literary tastes are not one of them.

As you can tell, this doesn’t stop me from making references she wishes she didn’t understand. After all, fair’s fair and if I have to read her NPR transcript, via text message, she’s gonna know the outline of my latest novel. This month, I’m stuck on the Outlander series.

Yeah… that about sums it up.

Kidding. There’s actually a lot more plot to this one than my typical werewolf porn. I mean, they had to have some basis for the Starz series. Essentially, though, it was the first in what became a slightly obscure genre (Amish romance is a thing y’all) of Scottish highlander time travel adventure romance novels. I kid you not. There are many, many knockoffs of this series and they usually focus much more heavily on the romance (sex) than the rest. This one, however, has sparked a great deal of conversation between Gail and I, for two reasons…

1. Deep down, I’m still the 12-year-old who not only knew all of the shippers for Roswellian fandom, but also the rules of chat room role play games. I will talk Gaily’s ear off about a new obsession.
2. Even the fandom I adore gets over-analyzed and mocked by me, because everything in this world is funny.

While neither Gail nor I have grown up in any true luxury, we both came to adulthood in Shetland, a middle income Southern suburb. We graduated high school in 2006, with dial up internet connections, cell phones, and three-minute microwavable pasta. So, in my chatter over my latest series, Gail the Mailman and I, Belle the Librarian, have been discussing just how very poorly we’d do in 18th century Scotland.

11-7-14 1

Naturally, this has led to plans to pen a Scottish highlander time travel adventure romance satire… because we bring the party. It’s actually been great fun trading ideas back and forth.

dancing

 

Braxley Engel’s Unsexy and Disappointing First Person Narrative of a Venture Through Time, by Belle Roquemore and Gail Frederickson. I think a catchy title is key.

Chapter 1: How I almost died of exposure.
For realz yo, it was 65 degrees out today… in mid-November. I feel confident stating that 18th century Scottish winter wear does not have the word “PINK” emblazoned on the butt in rhinestones. 

Chapter 2: Why doesn’t anyone speak English?!?!
There actually is no universally accepted criteria for differentiating between dialects and languages. However, over 30% of Scotland speaks Scots today and no one can quite decide if it’s a language or a dialect.* It’s pretty reasonable to assume that if 2014 Braxley woke up in 1743 Scotland, she would be fucked.

Chapter 3: Wait… what the hell is my backstory?!?!
If the destruction of the personalized keychain industry wasn’t enough to make you reconsider that ridiculous damned baby name with all of its x’s and apostrophes, perhaps this will! All silly first names that aren’t actually names aside, most Americans know very little about their origins. Sure, Braxley knows that Engel is German, but does she know that Germany was Prussia? Furthermore, can she speak the language? Also, that accent doesn’t exist yet.

Chapter 4: Why is my warrior so hideous?!?!
Folks, we dose our water with fluoride for a reason. We also lose a lot fewer limbs these days. Aside from such trivial matters as teeth and arms, though, the average height of a Scottish male in the 18th century was 5’3″.* That’s like, ignore his eHarmony message short. That’s like, stand on my feet while we slow dance, short. That’s like… hope I don’t have any 5’3″ male readers, short. Not to mention, while I lack a Wikipedia article on it, I’m pretty sure 18th century warriors weren’t shy about farting and scratching their asses.

Chapter 5: Where’s the soap?
What’s toothpaste? Who’s Tampon? You guys, you’re out of toilet paper! Where are the razors? Oh my stars, what is that smell?!?! What’s 18th century for “dick cheese”? I need to buy some nail clippers. Oh, look. Pubic lice. 

Chapter 6: Why am I wearing an entire winter wardrobe?!?!
18h-century-dress-Lacma-2
Imagine traveling in the heat… or rain. Also, that tickle in your throat? It’s a rib. 

Chapter 7: Um… I bring nothing to the table.
How dare they treat me this way!?! I have a Master’s in Library and Informat… um… FINE! I also have an in-depth knowledge of 20th century liter… oh.

Chapter 8: Everything is just so… hard.
The other night, I got home from both jobs (where I sit a lot, in air conditioning) and was too tired to cook, so I went to bed without eating. EASY MAC EXISTS, y’all. Poor Braxley and her expectation of only wearing an outfit once before having it clean and dry in about two hours, while she watches TV. 

Chapter 9: I have some nutritional concerns.
Where are the bananas? How do I make bread out of flower, water, and this rock? Why is the water green? Should we really be eating cat? Do maggots count as protein?

Chapter 10: All my pets are food.
Why is the dog on a spit?!?! 

Chapter 11: He won me in a card game?!?!
What dowry? Of course I have no dowry. I don’t need a man to arrange a marriage for me! What do you mean middle-aged?!? I’m only 27!

Chapter 12: Wait… how do I fake virginity?
Fish bladder full of blood. Google it. It was a thing. Just don’t overdo it. The scene from The Shining is going to look awfully suspicious. 

Chapter 13: Marital rape… and punishment.
1993. That’s when it was illegal for a man to rape his wife in all 50 states.* Furthermore, there are still some mighty creepy corners of the internet using the phrase “Domestic Christian Discipline”. I shudder to think what 200 years ago felt like. 

Chapter 14: Woot. Scurvy.
What’s an orange? You know what else sounds fun? Smallpox… and plague.

Chapter 15: At least I won’t live past 40.
It’ll probably be due to the rampant STD’s, but at least Braxley won’t have to look at that scabby, pussing torture device again. Ooh! It could be because the baby tries to come out sideways. That’s always fun. This is all, of course, only if she can keep her mouth shut about time travel and they don’t burn her for a witch. 

Who wouldn’t buy this book?!?!

Psh. Nothing’s too trivial for citations.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_language
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_height
https://www.rainn.org/public-policy/sexual-assault-issues/marital-rape
http://www.nber.org/bah/spring06/w11963.html

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The trouble with soulmates…

“I don’t believe in soulmates, and I don’t think that you and I were destined to end up together. What I do believe is that we fell in love and that we work hard for our relationship.” – Monica Gellar

When we were kids, Gail and I were stupid and idealistic. I’ll pause so you can gasp.

gasp disney

We used to talk about this theory we had, where there were many people on this earth that could be increasingly right for a person on a scale of one to ten. You could get along alright with a seven, better with an eight and have a lifetime of happiness with a ten. Then, there was the eleven: your perfect match, or soulmate. It was stupid and we had an excuse for believing it. We were fifteen. Plenty of adults, however, still believe that there is one perfect person for them and I’m willing to stand up and say that they are wrong.

I’m not going to lie. I enjoy the notion of a soulmate in my smut novels and even the occasional chick flick. Nothing beats a paranormal romance where everyone has a destined “mate”. How fucking nice would that be? There would be no strangers trying to drag you by your wrist to the parking lot of the cowboy bar, insisting that “it’ll only take a minute.” There would be no awkward meetings with men you met online who make jokes about how your master’s degree isn’t a real master’s degree. There would be no heart-wrenching, soul-sucking divorce. A close second to the paranormal “mate” is Instalove. Erotica and romantic suspense are known for Instalove. Hero’s been speaking to heroine for all of nine minutes and already she’s said something so astounding or given such a delightful laugh that he’s a changed man. He can’t place his finger on it, but six days later, we all know: it’s loooooooove. In reality, it’s been nine minutes, I’ve already made one inappropriate joke and it’s a good thing he’s in loss prevention and not construction, because clearly he cannot measure for shit: 5’8″ my ass. If he dares to say “I love your laugh”, I snort in disbelief and blurt “Really? Cuz no one else does.” True story.

beauty and the beast
Fairy Tale
sleeping with the enemy
Reality

The reason romance novelists write about “mates” and Instalove is because we women were raised by Disney and fucked over by reality. More than once I’ve expressed my desire for an arranged marriage, because my daddy sure could pick ’em better than I can. The idea of just knowing he’s the one, without the risk that he’ll take off with your Gramma’s jewelry or torture your pets… sa–woon. But that’s all it is… a big girl fairytale. Here’s why. Quick. Describe Anastasia Steele’s character without mentioning her physical appearance.

….

I couldn’t do it either when Jennifer Armintrout made the original challenge. She’s… um… a pushover? Way behind in modern technology for a girl who just graduated college? Sexually repressed? Name some of her hobbies other than British literature.

Drinking? Pushing her friends around? Insulting all women ever? Feeling insecure? Sure, this is a product of piss poor writing. E.L. James mentions Anastasia’s love for art in chapter one, but then on the honeymoon has her declaring that she doesn’t really know anything about art, so I’m not sure if I can or cannot include that under hobbies. My point, however, is that any character in a book or a movie is a pale comparison to an actual human being. For example, I’ll describe Gail’s character without mentioning physical appearance.

She’s tenderhearted and loyal to an obnoxious fault, sticking by people who fuck her over, yet somehow still managing to be shocked and hurt when they fuck her over again. Despite this lack of caution, she’s beyond paranoid in all other aspects of life. She’s intelligent, with a dry and dead-panned sense of humor. She would wear house shoes and sweats to a wedding without embarrassment, as long as it wouldn’t upset anyone, because her greatest fucking fear is rocking the boat. She’s irreparably damaged from the death of her infant daughter, yet this somehow has not affected her love and kindheartedness toward children. She has a deep-seated urge to mother and protect, which positively consumes her around the wrong people, resulting in exhaustion and resentment.

I’ll name some hobbies without mentioning road head.

smilingdog1Gail is fascinated by finance and legitimately finds Dave Ramsey attractive, because of his radio show. She listens to rap music and can sing it… poorly. She enjoys finding ways to give to charity and loves her job delivering mail… for some fucking reason. She likes crafts of all kinds, even if she’s bad at them and this girl is so into current events, I swear she masturbates to the news. She adores feminist literature almost as much as she likes arguing with me and engaging in e-slap fights about it, because it’s okay to rock the boat when people she doesn’t know are in it.

That’s a real person. No. That’s a blurry Polaroid snapshot of a real person. Real people are complex and multi-faceted individuals. All of them, including the people we’re dating. This soulmates horseshit encourages the idea of having a “type”, which is completely counterproductive to the dating process. We’re supposed to be getting to know new people and trying new things, but instead we choose one or two exceptionally narrow aspects of who we are and buy a painting to match the sofa with no regards to the love seat or the rug.

I like books, guns, pretty pink dresses, college football, fishing, shopping, and sewing. I’m the librarian who swears like a sailor… in prison. I could be with an accountant who was captain of the academic team in high school or a police officer who played football. As I’ve said before, good budgeting skills bring this girl to the yard and he’s not a real man if I’m the better shot. Limiting myself to only one or the other aspects of my personality… IS STUPID. I might find out the cop is more fiscally responsible than I am and the accountant can nail a headshot on the first try. Furthermore, those complex people? They change over time. Fifteen years, three kids, two dogs and a mortgage later, that funny sweet man you fell in love with may now be hardened and sarcastic and sometimes even cruel. He may be a drinker with unrealistic standards for you and your kids. The delightfully old-fashioned chivalry he displayed at 25 may have morphed into an expectation that you will organize the fridge just the way he likes it or there will be hell to pay. Real love takes commitment and vigilance to grow together and treat each other well. Your “soulmate” just punched you in the kidneys nine years into your marriage. Rethinking that soulmates theory, now? Or is he just not it anymore?

enough
Yeah, I had enough of this movie in the first five minutes.

The Romance Novel vs. Reality

As I’ve been working to finish my Master in Library and Information Studies, crying in a ball underneath my favorite chair about how “I’ll never be a librarian and I don’t want to join the military!!!!!”, I’ve been losing myself in escapist fiction. I have little attention span for television and movies, so the only way I’ve been able to pull myself from my own irrational, hyperventilating internal monologue has been with romance novels. Of course, this has just added to the mantra with “I don’t have time to date and even if I did, I wouldn’t give guys any real chance and I’m going to die alooooooone!” Nothing’s sexier than a girl sucking on an inhaler in an empty bathtub, wearing leggings and an oversized butter-stained Ice Age 3D t-shirt from her fat days, amiright?

panic attack
Chicka chicka yeah…

I’ve not previously been a romance novel gal and I used to mock them mercilessly. My interest started with Nicky Charles’ Law of the Lycans series last summer (because it was free) and moved forward with J.R. Ward’s The Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I read a lot of paranormal romance, because what’s hotter than a hot naked alpha male? The answer is… a hot naked alpha male with a barbed penis. I had a brief foray into erotica, though there’s just not enough plot there for me. Lately I’ve been engrossed in romantic suspense of the hot-spec-ops-guy-saves-girl-from-Somali-pirates variety. I’m not kidding. I just finished that one yesterday. My MLIS has taught me that all literature has value, so I regret the days I mocked romantic fiction. I feel it’s increased my vocabulary significantly and it’s just fun to escape my brain, which is pretty much like having 533 windows open in a browser at all times. That being said, I have noticed some recurring themes in romance novels and they annoy the crap out of me. I’m not even talking about the traditionally ridiculous names of the male leads, but rather..

… the best friend that I hope dies screaming, while strapped down spread-eagle and disemboweled.

Too graphic? I’m gonna give a shout-out to my Gail here and state that I just have the best best friend in the whole world. She may be a little (lot) paranoid, but for the most part, she respects my life choices. She’s the voice of reason in my head and often just my conscience in general. She’s my Jiminy Fucking Cricket and I’m her Tinker Bell whispering in her ear to shoot Wendy out of the sky with her bow and arrows. We balance each other out and for the most part, we do so without any touchy feely crap. It’s awesome. Maybe that’s why I hate most of the best friend characters in romance novels. They just don’t measure up. Yeah, Gail. You ruined my fiction. Go fuck yourself.

tinkerbell

I only recently noticed this trend when I tried to read the This Man series a couple of months ago. It was recommended to me for the alpha male bit I find so appealing in fiction-only-fiction-ever, but it was just too much for me while somehow still managing to be too little. Oh my gosh. My favorite? The part where he was a bag of dicks and then nothing happened. Ooh! Then there was that part where he more or less ass-raped her and then nothing happened. And sa-woon, the part where… holy shit I cannot actually come up with anything else to say before nothing happened because nothing happened.

Some of the review titles:
This book made me fear for an entire generation.
Just… really bad.
There is only one E.L. James. (Yeah. Thank GOD for that, but seriously, she’s saying this was worse than Fifty Shades?)

This Man may not have suited me in general, but I absolutely hated the best friend. Main Character Ava was pretty awful, but at least I could pity her as the victim of both the male lead and her bestie roommate. There was actually a scene where Best Friend Kate leaves her van parked on a busy one-way street, causing Ava to be manhandled by an angry driver. Kate takes her sweet time, then comes out and does not freaking care. What the crap?!?! Gail would never do that… well period, but she’d be especially contrite if I were harmed because of her actions. I didn’t actually finish this book, because there’s this one part, at about 60%, where nothing happens and I just couldn’t take it anymore.

After This Man, I realized that this is just a thing. Maybe Kristen Ashley just has really pushy and obnoxious friends like all of her supporting female characters. It throws me a little that she writes such unlikeable friends when I find her main characters generally pretty relatable. Maya Banks has the same problem. In Jennifer Armintrout’s analysis of Fifty Shades of Grey, she suggests that E.L. James attempts to villainize the best friend so we’ll be rooting primarily for the main character… to die in Anastasia’s case, but you get the idea. Maybe this is just a bad effort to make readers favor the lead, but it always leaves me thinking THIS IS WHY I DON’T SPEND TIME WITH VAGINAS! A GIRL ONLY NEEDS ONE! The best friend characters of romance novels are supposed to be concerned, but they often come off as disrespecting the lead by refusing to acknowledge that they are adults who’ve been making their own decisions for years. They nag them and repeatedly insist that this relationship is a bad idea, despite the lead making it clear that they’re going to see things through. When Gail dated the most terrifying postal worker ever, I expressed my concerns regarding specific stories and waited it out. She’s a big girl. She’ll decide when she’s had enough and I’ll be there when that time comes. Pissing her off and alienating her isn’t going to make any headway. Other times, the best friend characters are supposed to be supportive, but they often come off as gluttonous alcoholics encouraging their friends to cope poorly or ignore their problems. When I got divorced and drank a vat of Long Island Ice Tea, Gail slept in my car with me because I couldn’t get up the stairs, but she didn’t encourage the behavior in the future. I suppose the real problem is that these characters just aren’t Gail.


7_2502200
The This Man series… only instead of paint, it’s anal blood.

… the size of the men.

I am 5’5.5” tall and weigh 175 pounds. I don’t look like a supermodel or a teapot. I just look pretty average at a size 8/10. I, however, totally understand the appeal of feeling like the dainty little woman and recognize that writing big tough alpha male characters is a reflection of this common desire. It works, too… within reason. My paranormal romance phase involved a number of male characters who were described as being larger than most humans. It made sense, because they were supernatural vampiric warriors and I never gave it much thought. I started with paranormal romance, but as I moved to stories that took place in the real world, I realized that the main characters were still 6’8”. I’m into tall and have said a few times that I won’t date beneath 5’10”, but come on. 6’8” is no longer attractive, but rather something to get past. I’m not saying I wouldn’t date a guy that size, but I consider that abnormally tall. “Abnormal” is never hot, just endearing at best.

In addition to being the tallest men in the world, these guys are always freakishly built as well. In Kristen Ashley’s and Julie Ann Walker’s novels, they’re often described as not having an ounce of fat on them and are compared to professional wrestlers. How is there enough space in the room for our lead heroine when a redwood is standing next to her?!?! Honestly, I don’t really find professional wrestlers attractive. I’d give Alcide Herveux a rim job if I had the opportunity, but he’s hardly got the build of a WWE fighter. I never want to be with someone morbidly obese again, but I want someone I can cuddle. It’s tough to cuddle the Statue of David. The guards tend to chase you off.


Redwood
This is my husband, Rogue.

… the way people smell.

Gail doesn’t typically read romance novels, because Dave Ramsey is never the lead, but she recently had this idea to read the most disturbing erotica we could find on Amazon and discuss. I read
Comfort Food, by Kitty Thomas which was very well-written and also gave me nightmares. Then I got distracted with school and Gail was left to read Tender Mercies, which apparently involved a tailed butt-plug, all alone. Shucks. I missed out. Having read very few romance novels, though, Gail understood exactly what I was talking about when I texted her the following yesterday.

PEOPLE don’t smell like a day at the beach.

Brock always smelled like that time at the lake when I fell asleep in the sun and got lightly burned and then woke up and realized I had a handprint tan line on my chest and then the dog leapt into my lap and scratched my thighs and then I washed the blood off in the lake, so I had to ride back on a towel to protect the interior of his truck.

We’re so oddly in-sync that she immediately responded with:

Lucas always smelled like that time I went shopping for the kind of shoe strings that curl instead of tie and that guy left his dog in the car, but I didn’t call the cops because it wasn’t really all that hot outside, even though it was almost June.

When men describe how women smell, however, it’s always something tangible. For example, she smells like lavender. What 9′ body builder with a concealed carry license knows what lavender smells like?!?! don’t even know what lavender smells like and I’m girly as fuck. If I’m with a man who can pinpoint lavender and honeydew, my 15th anniversary is gonna suck when I find him knee deep in another dude. Seriously, if he tells you you smell astoundingly like nutmeg, buy him an ascot as a parting gift.

fred scooby doo
He thinks you smell like warm cashmere.

 the virgin sex that is the best sex ever.

I’m not gonna lie. The idea that men like inexperienced women is pretty encouraging since I don’t know what a penis is anymore. What bugs me about this is the propensity for women well into their twenties to be inexperienced, while the men make a huge freaking deal out of how awesome it is. She’s a virgin, not a damned unicorn princess.

princess-unicorn
Believe it or not, I write this shit and then find the pictures. Call me Google Master. Do it.

The men in romance novels are always, always, always so experienced that we don’t get a number, while the women have been with either no one or few enough people to keep count on one hand. When Heroine has just not been with a lot of people, she catches on really quickly and shows a lot of enthusiasm and the sex is awesome. That gives me hope and I consider that one reasonably realistic, because while inexperienced, I would not call myself prude. However, if Heroine shares that she’s a virgin, Hero is totally freaking psyched that no one has squeezed this peach before him… even though she’s like 25 and people only wait that long for pretty much one reason: so they can share the experience with someone who means a lot to them. For realz, that’s a bit daunting.

When Hero finally twirls his mustache and steals Heroine’s virtue, it is absolutely the most mind-blowingly not awkward sex anyone has ever had. As a general rule, sex is never awkward in these books. No woman bounces too high, causing him to pop out and bend uncomfortably when she lands. No one’s distracted from their pleasure by the weird snarl the other person just made. No one ever sneezes or does anything else not sexy with their bodies. I get that. We’re reading idealistic sex and that’s the point. I don’t need to read about how Christian Grey has trouble finishing, though that would clearly be because he’s at it for nine hours a day and somehow still maintains his fortune at age eleven, but whatevs. I’m totally comfortable with skipping all fart-in-bed scenes forever. Writing virgin sex as anything but emotionally charged and sweet, though, is just unrealistic. That shit hurts and continues to hurt for a couple of days. Anastasia isn’t waking up and hopping on pop Dr. Seuss style. You may as well write unicorn princess sex. There is not a Google image for that. 

isbn9781846165177-1x2a
I lied.