Thursday, November 29, 2007


So I'm having an "eh" kind of day. You know, one of those days where it's overcast and dumpy and you have no energy or enthusiasm for any of the stuff you usually find fun. I'm supposed to be busy working and keeping my house in pristine shape because it's currently on the market (NOT that we've had any visitors. NOT that I'm bitter.), but other than the work I've had to do, I've pretty much spent the entire day looking at the piles of clutter and handprints on the walls going, "eh." Pulled out a book, went "eh." Made myself a sandwich, went "eh." Went shopping for a badly needed new pair of glasses, went "eh" at most of the frames. Stared at the contents of my cupboards trying to figure out what to make for dinner, went "eh."

And no, I'm not depressed. Just "eh." I'll be better tomorrow. I think it's mostly because Maggie and Marin have been taking turns not sleeping, so Mommy's not sleeping either. So now I'm tired, but I can't nap because of the piles of clutter and juice stains and handprints all over the walls.

But judging from what I've been reading on a few blogs and hearing during some in-person conversations, some romance readers are getting kind of "eh" about the whole romance genre. Angela at the Reading While Black blog admits to being in a year-long reading slump that only Ken Follett could shake her out of. Mariann, the smart woman who unwittingly introduced me to the joys of blogging, has confessed that she sees too many similar "patterns" within category romance lines that suck the fun out of reading them. (That whole fun-sucking thing was my phrase, not hers.) A couple of good friends tell me that they don't read as much romance as they used to, because they're just eh about it all. Other friends aren't off their heads about erotica or paranormals--the current It Girls of the romance subgenre world--and have turned to mainstream fiction for light reading instead. (Please note that I am not dogging paranormals or erotica. We all have our subgenre preferences, and theirs are not paranormals or erotica.)

On the other hand, my friend Caridad Pineiro blogged today that she thinks the romance genre is "coming out of the closet," so to speak. Not because authors like Suzanne Brockmann are writing multi-faceted, heroic gay characters into their books, which is great in and of itself, but because women are taking ownership of it and are proud to read and write it. She's giving a talk at Swarthmore College about romance to a group of women who read it and are studying how it empowers women.

But it can't empower women if we're feeling eh about it and avoiding it altogether. Look at the romance stats on RWA's website, and you'll see that romance is still as popular as ever, so there's really no worry there. So why, then, are a lot of women I know (or know of) feeling eh about romance?


Jennifer McKenzie said...

I have to say I've had an attack of it as well.
But then, most of the women I talk to are authors of romance.
My mom, my sister and my best friend are reading much the same as they always have.
I think, for me, I write it so much that READING it becomes a technical exercise rather than a joyful experience.
For me, I broke out with Matthew Reilly. (Action adventure)
But I do love my romance and I'm back to reading it.
I guess I'm saying all that to say "I feel your pain". LOL.
I hope it passes quickly.

Tracy Montoya said...

You know, Jen, I think you're right. The people having an attack of the ehs seem to be writers (probably because I don't know many readers who aren't also writers).

Feeling less eh today, but I have to clean my stupid house, so I'm kind of cranky. : )

Cathy in AK said...

As a reader, I get the "ehs" sometimes when I've read too many books of any genre that are essentially the same-plot-different-names-for-stock characters in a row. They all blend together, and not in a tasty magahrita (sp???) sort of way. As a writer, the "ehs" come when I get discouraged trying to come up with something different, or think I have and realize there are 87 books just like it out there : )

So basically the same trigger for my "ehs." The fix is, as you've noted, to mix it up with genres, fiction and nonfiction, etc.

Mariann said...

I've had a case of EH for a couple of years. I haven't purchased a romance in months, save for a trio at the used bookstore I'd been hunting for more than a year. Part of that was lack of finances, part of it was an unwillingness to try new authors and new stories, risk eight or ten bucks on something that might not be worth it in the end. The glut of paranormal and erotica left me feeling cold, like I was surrounded by ice blocks of the exact same story until the wall was so high and slippery that it was pointless to climb and see if there was anything better beyond. I hate feeling that way because I know how authors struggle to write and sell. And then I'm amazed at the crap that's out there while others languish in slush piles, hoping for a chance. WTF?

Like the other readers, I dipped into other genres, where I still found romance, but that wasn't the *focus* of the story. Take, for example, The Twelfth House, book three in Sharon Shinn's latest fantasy series. Wonderful world building, intriguing characters, decent plot, and a love story that actually made me cry. It takes a lot to move me like that, and I didn't find it on the romance shelves. Another book was an epic action adventure, and I followed along with the relationship until I was satisfied at the end.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this... I don't write enough to justify an opinion about writer ennui/fatigue, about what does or doesn't work for storytelling. I long for the days when writing was an exciting challenge, and I looked forward to figuring out plot twists and developing new characters. I wish I had that energy and FOCUS. I don't know how to recapture that passion.

Bah... ignore me. I still have holiday shopping to finish and I'm not looking forward to going out in 31-degree weather today.

Tracy Montoya said...

Stock characters are the worst, Cathy. They'll give me the ehs any day.

And Mariann, if you figure out how to get your writing groove back, let me know. I feel like I'm just wiped out all the time!

But I agree with you--publishers do tend to shift their focus and buying to what's selling at the moment, and if you're not into what's selling, it's hard to find new authors to love. I'm feeling quite a bit of that, just because my personal preferences aren't erotica or vampires/werewolves (that aren't written by my talented friends : )).

MA said...

I have this one nugget of an idea for urban fantasy, but lack the persistence to see it through. Tell me, how do you get from idea to outline and then novel??

(btw, this is Mariann -- just decided to start using my BlogSpot account for comments)

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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