Perhaps it’s time to stop using “romance” as an insult.

I recently had the opportunity to attend an event for writers. As in the case of any event for writers I’ve attended, I was excited to be there.

Until the inevitable happened.

Someone used “romance” as an insult.

The event catered to writers of every genre, beginners as well as some vets. In discussing a piece of work, one of the participants said, “It was well written. I expected it to be more like a romance. Or even a Harlequin.”

When it came time to introduce ourselves, I looked that person in the eye and let him know I was a romance author. I glimpsed a bit of shame there, I’m happy to report.

Come on, fellow writers. It’s bad enough romance authors get dissed on a constant basis by fans of other genres. Do we really need to get these slaps in the face from other writers, people who understand our struggle? Of all people, you know what goes into writing a book. You understand the pain and sacrifice and sweat. You know how we bleed. You know how we cry when our characters do exactly what we need them to do.

You get it.

And yet some of you still insist on badmouthing an entire genre.  Why? “Oh, I read a romance back in the 1970s and it was pure rubbish.” Perhaps it’s time for an update, fella.

Oh, and by the way, some of you take issue with romance as a whole, but have no problem asking romance authors for favors. It happens to me all the time. I’ve been asked for favors by several wannabe authors who have no interest in my work or in my genre. They were just looking to cash in on a potential contact in the industry.

“You’re published? Well, romance really isn’t my bag but would you be willing to critique my manuscript? You know, seeing as you’re a published author. By the way…do you know any published non-fiction authors? Could you introduce me?”

Talk to the hand, as they say.

I don’t mean to sound bitter but I’m growing tired of hearing the same recording over and over. Romance isn’t “real” writing. It’s fluff. It’s easy to write. It’s formulaic.

I’ve never followed a “formula” in my entire writing career. The only hard and fast rule I follow is providing a happy ending. If you don’t, you’re not writing romance and romance readers will let you know it.

I’ve always found the writing community to be an inviting and supportive one. Not everyone resorts to this bad behavior. Have an opinion, by all means, but if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. And certainly don’t say it at an event attended by writers of every genre.

As for the romance authors out there, we won’t waste our time badmouthing you.

Why? Because, darling, we’re too busy writing the stories the world is reading. Have you heard we’re one of the highest selling genres out there? No? Well, now you know.

Happy writing.

There is power in frailty.

I can usually be found in a corner, struggling with my latest manuscript. Honestly, it really is usually a struggle. There is always something that trips me up along the way. No matter how detailed I have been in my plotting, obstacles present themselves.

My current obstacle is my heroine. Her name is Bernadette “Bernie” Nolan and she is one of the protagonists in book 2 of my unpublished series Handymen. When I began writing this book, one of the themes I wanted to explore is that of taking one’s life back. Bernie was bullied as a young woman and she has been on a quest ever since to make sense of her struggles. It hasn’t always gone well and she’s made some bad choices. At times, she has underestimated herself, as we all do here and there.

I really wanted her to kick some ass and take charge. She deserves it, after all.

However, at about the 20,000 word mark, I made a realization. Bernie is still having trouble sorting out the mess of her past. She still carries shame and fear.

In other words, she isn’t quite ready to kick life in the ass. In fact, one could argue life is kicking her ass right now.

As much as she wants to be strong, she is beginning to understand just how frail she could become. However, there is a sort of power in such frailty. For Bernie to move forward, she may just have to embrace the emotions holding her back.

Some of these realizations will come to her as she relates to hero Eli Zorn. I love the character of Eli. He’s a good guy and understands the pain of loss. Something tells me he will be the one to help Bernie on her difficult journey.

Now if only I had someone to help me on my author’s journey! I had this story sorted in my head. I pictured Bernie bursting forward in a blaze of glory, ready to defeat her former tormentors. Instead, she and I are huddling together, wondering how we ended up on a more introspective path. We’re clearly learning things together.

Hopefully, once we embrace our frailty, we will emerge victorious.

Trolling a hashtag and the women who use it.

It’s not very often one gets the opportunity to see something good turn ugly.

I had that opportunity today on Twitter. (I know, Twitter can be an ugly place. Why am I surprised? Perhaps it’s because it can also be a place of tremendous support.)

While scrolling today, I caught a glimpse of a hashtag that piqued my curiosity: #ThingsOnlyWomenWritersHear

As a woman and a writer, I couldn’t help having a closer look. Although there were a lot of cringe-worthy moments posted by women in writing, it was empowering to see so many of us dealing with the same misconceptions. While I would never credit a hashtag with any sort of real importance, it was interesting to see this one act as a sort of bond between women writers of every genre.

It didn’t take long for the trolls to chime in.

Some criticized “middle class” women for sitting on their duffs, complaining. Others bashed them for creating a furor out of nothing. Others appropriated the hashtag in order to advertise a product. Others just criticized women and their “bellyaching”, in general.

As one women writer said,  and I’m paraphrasing, “Folks, if this hashtag doesn’t speak to you, then it isn’t for you.”

Writers, men and women, have to deal with a lot of interesting comments. We get it. We’ve all been there and understand not everyone is appreciative of the effort and passion that goes into writing. I’m sure many male writers shake their heads when people make judgments about their work as well. However, as in so many professions, women still get the shaft on far too regular a basis. We all know this but apparently it’s a sin to rally around each other to point out the discrepancies.

God forbid women writers have their own hashtag.

Give it a rest, trolls. We have to deal with you in every arena of life. Must we deal with you and your ignorance in this way as well?

I propose a new hashtag: #TakeItSomewhereElse