Keeping ’em Young and Powerless

Old Ladies10 February 2015: In a study titled It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014 Dr Martha Lauzen from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University that found that a mere 12 % of the highest grossing films of 2014 had female protagonists. Secondary female characters and females with speaking roles were also underrepresented. Lauzen states, “As we grow older, we gain personal as well as professional power.”

Lauzen also suggests the consequence of having few female authority figures portrayed onscreen (and as I suggest in fiction, especially romance fiction) means that, “When we keep them young, we keep them relatively powerless.” Further to this, Lauzen notes that “The chronic underrepresentation of girls and women reveals a kind of arrested development in the mainstream film industry…It is unfortunate that these beliefs continue to limit the industry’s relevance in today’s marketplace.”

While the study shows the majority of film roles lack racial and ethnic diversity (the majority of roles are white), the study also indicates that ageism is still hard at work onscreen.

  • Female characters remain younger than their male counterparts. The majority of female characters were in their 20s (23%) and 30s (30%). The majority of male characters were in their 30s (27%) and 40s (28%).
  • Males 40 and over accounted for 53% of all male characters. Females 40 and over comprised 30% of all female characters.
  • Whereas the percentage of female characters declined dramatically from their 30s to their 40s (30% to 17%), the percentage of male characters increased slightly, from 27% in their 30s to 28% in their 40s.
  • The percentage of male characters in their 50s (18%) is twice that of female characters in their 50s (9%). 

I’m sure none of this surprised the female movie-going population. I’m sure it doesn’t surprise women who read fiction, write fiction, are awarded prizes for writing…

 

Lauzen. M. (2015). It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: On-Screen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2014. Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University. Retrieved from http://womenintvfilm.sdsu.edu/files/2014_Its_a_Mans_World_Report.pdf .

Building up the Stockpile

Wielding my Shield of Smartass

Wielding my Shield of Smartass

Hey, Kids!

I’ve updated the “Mature” Content Stockpile, thanks to everyone’s favourite librarian, Vassiliki Veros, reminding me of an article I read back in November.

Hit the “Mature” Content Stockpile up there on the menu bar or here to read the updates.

Remember: If you ever come across an article you think I could add to the stockpile, please give me a heads up!

The Australian Battle Cry Brings Romance and Prizes

AUSSIE! AUSSIE! AUSSIE! Oi! Oi! Oi! It’s Aussie Month at AusRom Today!!!

AusRomToday badgeAusRomToday showcases the published Australian romance industry to readers WORLDWIDE. AusRomToday supports and celebrates the Australian romance literature industry and community. The aim is to draw attention to the achievements and acclaim of Australian writers. And, boy howdy, let me tell you AusRomToday loves us Aussie Romance writers.

This month, AusRomToday is all about the LOVE! Have a look here for January! You’ll see just how much LOVE there is– and it runs all month long. And there are prizes. BIG prizes.

I’m proud to be included in the Aus Rom Today showcase, I’m thrilled to be considered ‘hot,’  and I’m proud to be a part of the HUGE BASH where YOU ARE THE WINNER! ?????

You do want to win, don’t you? Hit the link below to take you to you chance to WIN!
https://www.facebook.com/AusRomToday/app_228910107186452

There’s a $1000 CASH prize pool competition —have you entered to win? There’s three major cash prizes to be won:
1st: $700 CASH
2nd: $200 CASH
3rd: $100 CASH

Go forth support the romance writing and reading community. Go forth and support reading! Go forth and WIN!Sandrabooks

 

Driving Along With The Romance Bandits

banditasHey Kids!

The awesome band of authors known as The Romance Bandits, have very graciously invited me for a stay in their Lair.

During my visit I chat with the amazing Historical romance author Anna Campbell about Driving in Neutral, my PhD research, romantic comedies, the inspiration for my  books For Your Eyes Only and A Basic Renovation, Cary Grant, Barbara Stanwyck, and my tiny little mom. On top of all this, there’s a giveaway of not one but TWO of my books.

Stop by the Romance Bandits Blog for your chance to win Driving in Neutral and For Your Eyes Only!Sandrabooks

 

 

Thirty-one Days of Halloweenie Day 4: Georgina’s Arabian Halloween

SandrabooksWhile the inspiration for my writing seems to be rooted in food, what with all the cookie, peanut butter and coffee references, as well as all the bits where character seem to be eating, my Guest today, author Georgina Penney found her muse in an exotic location and tells a Halloween tale of Arabian Nights.

Georgina Penneysml

Georgian Penney

Halloween used to be just a scary movie or something that I’d see featured in American sitcoms as a kid. In fact, other than a couple of really memorable Simpsons episodes, it never flew across my radar until seven years ago when I moved to Saudi Arabia.

The compound we moved to was pretty much a simulacrum of 1950s American suburbia right Ras Tanura Beachdown to the bake sales and coffee mornings. There were churches on camp, a golf course and, because the compound was built on the Arabian Gulf, some fantastic snorkeling and diving to be had… all right next to the world’s biggest oil refinery. (“Just don’t breathe the air and everything’s perfect honey!”)

The first inkling I got that Halloween was something that I would be experiencing for the first time was the decorations on my American and Canadian neighbors’ homes. In fact, even my Saudi neighbors got into the swing of things. There were suddenly scary ghosts hanging from palm trees and plastic spiders stuck to the golf carts we women drove around camp. People started talking about how the weather always shifted from scorchingly hot (50 plus degrees SaudiCelsius) to winter after Halloween and all of a sudden I started to have something to really look forward to.

Then I started to get women asking me if I could co-taxi with them into the nearest city, Khobar to get sweets and costumes for their kids. (If you’re smart, you never take a taxi on your own as a woman in Saudi.) Before I knew it, the sun was going down one weekend and my house was besieged by munchkins and their parents in costumes. It wasn’t just the American kids but the English, Lebanese, Australian, Saudi and everyone in between and I had a hoot of a time. (Thank God I’d stocked up on sweets on one of those trips into town!)

The surrealness of that evening, the sheer inclusiveness and the fun the kids and their parents were having really drew me in and became the inspiration for my first attempt at a novel. I haven’t stopped writing since and nowadays when Halloween comes around, I always make sure I’m well stocked up on sugary treats just in case there’s a ring on the doorbell.

irrepressible

Georgina Penney first discovered romance novels when she was eleven and has been a fan of the genre ever since. It took her another eighteen years to finally sit in front of a keyboard and get something down on the page but that’s alright, she was busy doing other things until then. You can find Georgina’s latest, Irrepressible You here.

When Good Characters Behave Badly

baddog3I’ve been waiting to do this post. I mean REALLY waiting. I wasn’t sure how long it would be before someone made mention of a lead character’s less-than-stellar behavior in Driving in Neutral once it was published.

It only took a week (Thank you, Dear Author!).

I’ve been waiting because this book has a history, and not just a 75 days long blog series on fear history. Yes, kids, I spent 75 days focused on phobias. As a lead-in to the release of Driving in Neutral, the romcom I call my ‘love story about claustrophobia,’ guests dropped by to talk about their fears. For 75 days.

Bear with me. I’ll get to the history bit soon.

The 75 Days Series should have highlighted that I like writing about fear. I like using fear as the key to hindering or unraveling a relationship, but I also like that a character eventually triumphs over fear, after all, I write romance where love triumphs over all. Love is a scary thing. Love can make a person feel vulnerable. Love can make a person act impulsively, and do dumb things. Love is primitive, emotional. People may be unable to filter their actions because love has jacked up their hormonal system. Everything is overloaded. So, let’s backtrack to the bit about vulnerability because like love, fear has a similar effect on a person. Fear is primitive, emotional. A person may be unable to filter their actions because fear has jacked up their hormonal system. In both cases, the amygdala, the centre of emotional behaviour, is doing all the work, while the Baddog2pre-fontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates behavior, that is, the part of the brain that tells you what is right and what is wrong, is sort of on hold.

Fear can make people act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a character pushing the boundaries of behavior, what crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible response to fear? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within a character’s behaviour? Or is revenge always just plain wrong? This is what I wanted to explore.

Lead characters in romance fiction are often held to a higher standard of behavior; they are perceived by many readers to be a ‘better’ form of a human being, one who frequently rises above petty or malicious behavior. As a result of this, when a romance hero or heroine acts in a primitive way, when impulsivity gets the better of them and these good people do bad things, some readers will protest and deem that character to be unlikable, un-heroic, and unworthy of baddog1being a romantic lead. Other readers don’t care.

I wasn’t sure which lead character would push the boundary for some readers, since both the hero and heroine in Driving in Neutral behave quite badly. Getting trapped in an elevator brings out the worst in claustrophobic Maxwell. He raves and verbally abuses Olivia, the woman trapped with him. His reaction is completely childish and base. He is overwhelmed by his fear, is unable to filter, and works from a primitive space. He’s all amygdala function.

When Olivia’s fear surfaces she, too, is in amygdala overdrive. So jacked up is her response to her fear she misbehaves. Terribly. There are 4 reasons for misbehaving: attention, power, inadequacy, revenge.

Olivia feels aggrieved, exposed, and acts impulsively, which, at that moment when it all spins out of control, is her best way of coping with being vulnerable. Her reaction is completely childish, and base. What she does to Emerson is cruel, and, just as he feels remorse for abusing her, she feels remorse for her behaviour…eventually, once her hormonal system is back at a normal operating level.baddog5

Now the history bit. A while back, I entered Driving in Neutral in a writing contest. A judge took issue with Emerson Maxwell’s verbal abuse of Olivia, particularly with name-calling. I was scolded with, “A hero would never call a heroine names.”  In case you’re wondering, those names were ‘wet rodent’ and ‘waterlogged hamster.’ Not exactly ear-scorching or profane, but I knew, based on that reaction, that Maxwell and my writing had crossed the line for that reader-judge.

What I want to know is this: Does the context for a character’s bad behaviour matter to you, or is bad behaviour always a no-go zone for romance leads, because romance heroes and heroines must maintain that ‘better’ form?

Fear can make a person act in ways that seem out of character, can make a good person do something bad. When it comes to a romance hero or heroine pushing the boundaries of behavior, what, to you, crosses the line between an acceptable response and a reprehensible behaviour? Is retribution ever justifiable, or understandable within the circumstances of a character’s behaviour? Or is name-calling and revenge always just plain wrong?

baddog6So what do I think, where do I stand on all this behaving badly stuff? My friend Swell, a longtime romance reader, sums up how I feel about lead characters behaving badly in a romance novel. Swell says that if the “reaction is realistic and a part of the character, and the reaction is used to complete the relationship between the hero and heroine, then I will feel that the response was appropriate for the character.” Amen sister.

 

Driving in Neutral, A Basic Renovation and For Your Eyes Only on sale now!

driving smalla-basic-renovation_final0913-eyes-only_final1

Drama in Real (and Fictional) Life!

ImageIt’s not hard to tell that I love Los Alamos. The little town is not simply the birthplace of the atomic bomb, home to a national nuclear research laboratory, and the prettiest place I have ever set eyes upon (see how lovely it is?), but curious, hungry bears also adore the place. I mean they REALLY love the town, and they’re not shy about showing it.A Basic Renovation_Final

Take this moment from A Basic Renovation:

“Current lore is the Guaje monster perished in the Cerro Grande Fire.” Dominic had one more bite of pie before his eye caught the movement. For a second, with all the talk of mythical creatures, he thought his imagination was pulling a fast one.
    But what he saw didn’t look anything like an incarnation of the Chupacapra, Guaje Monster or Sasquatch. “Lesley,” he half-choked on pie filling stuck at the back of his mouth, “get in the truck.”
    She started laughing. “Geeze, do you know what try hard means?”
    Dominic dropped the pie, grabbed the back of her shirt, hauled her up, and dragged her towards the old Chevy.
    “Hey! You’re pulling my hair!” she squealed. Then she caught sight of the dark lumbering hulk moving towards the blanket. “Holy—”
    Luckily, she’d left the passenger side wide open. He shoved her up into the cab, leaping in after, slamming the door, and finished her exclamation, “Shit!”
    Lesley’s heart was doing a great impression of a locomotive. Out of breath, she stared through the windshield and settled behind the wheel, pulling the light switch on the dash. Dual spotlights appeared on the star of the show. She snickered. “You know that old question about a bear in the woods? I guess they like cemeteries too.” 

Trust me here. From the forest, to downtown, to the ‘suburbs’,  Bears dig Los Alamos. The cemetery scene in A Basic Renovation sprang from my imagination because of the time my mother looked out the window and found a bear sitting under the apricot tree in the back yard, gorging himself on ripe fruit. That moment went like this: My mother looked at the bear anImaged the bear looked at my mother — and went on chowing down on apricots and spitting out the pits.  A little while later, after Mr Bear (all bears are boys and hence the Mr) ate all the choice, ripe apricots, the bear went over a stone wall and into the neighbour’s back yard to have a swim in their goldfish pond.

Then yesterday, this happened: Bear Enters Home on Barranca Mesa.

Mr Bear came out out of Barrancas Canyon and ripped the screen off the open window of a pretty brick house. Then Mr Bear made his way into the kitchen and proceeded to check out what he could have for lunch. Oops, I forgot to mention the homeowner was in the house when the bear dropped by for lunch. It’s possible she never would have known she had an unexpected guest, but Ms Homeowner had the same idea about checking out what she could make for lunch and she found the bear “hunched over the kitchen island.” Of course, Ms Homeowner went one way and Mr Bear went the other — just like Dominic and Lesley did when they headed for the ‘safety’ of Dom’s old pickup truck.

When Mr Bear Comes For Lunch was all over, New Mexico Fish and Game Official, Blake Swanson, advised Ms Homeowner to lock all her windows and doors because, it seems, bears can pry open partially open windows and doors with ease, which was something Dominic and Lesley were rather worried about once they were inside the truck and the Mr Bear came a-knockin’.

cops LAWhat I love best about this Bear and his Lunch story is that wonderful Los Alamos Police Officers responded to the ‘Bear Call.’  That cop there on the fat left, in the blue striped shirt, could be John Tilbook from  my 0913 Eyes Only_Final[1] newest Los Alamos love story, For Your Eyes Only — and can I just say, hubba hubba Officer Blue Stripes. The coolest thing about the fine police officers is that, although you see them with scary-looking weapons, they arrived on the scene with the intention of scaring off the bear with a paintball gun. However, by the the time they got there, Mr Bear had made his way out of the house to dine on the fine garbage he found in the bins he knocked over further down the street, which I suppose was a better choice on fattening up for his long winter’s nap.

The stolen classified information in For Your Eyes Only was based on actual events in Los Alamos. And this after Mr Bear Comes For Lunch drama, I’m quite happy to know that the bear in A Basic Renovation isn’t such far fetched fiction.

The photos here are by Greg Kendall/ladailypost.com and Hari Viswanathan. Thanks for the awesome pics!

A Shoe In?

You might think, because I have a row of red cowboy boots across the top of my website,and a book cover (A Basic Renovation) featuring red cowboy boots, that I have a thing for footwear.

The reality is I have small feet that are difficult to fit. For me shoes are hard to come by. I have a closet full of size 2 and 3 kids shoes and a few pairs of ladies size 5’s–my grown up shoes. The grown up shoes took ages to find. Typically, a shop will only stock ONE five. Lately I’ve discovered the smallest size starts at 6. It is as if feet are getting bigger across the globe because this can’t-find-a-shoe-my-size situation has happened to be on three continents. So those red cowboy boots you see. They took me over a decade to find.

Meanwhile, it took me 15 minutes to find a pair of white Converse Chuck Taylor All Star low tops, size 3.

pinkI like having my feet covered, protected from the elements. When I find a shoe my size, one that I like, one that is comfortable, I buy it. As a result, I have five pairs of Chucks, all size 3. There are the aforementioned white, as well as black, olive, brown and hot pink. The size five I’m-a-big-girl-playing-dress-up shoes I own I have amassed over two decades. This means everything old is new again and I’m in fashion!

As fashionable as I am, the publication of A Basic Renovation made me notice something about my shoes. While I don’t have a shoe fetish, I clearly have something deeply psychological, far down in my subconscious about the shoes in my life because in everything I ‘ve written I’ve described how characters are shod.

Is that shoe envy?

Is it what Dr Shrinky types call projection? Do I want to WEAR the same shoes as my characters?

Or is it that I already do?

Case in point: my next novel, For Your Eyes Only (due out in September from Escape!!), Willa the superhero wannabe who tries to save the day, wears Hot Pink Converse Low Top Chuck Taylor All Stars. In one draft I changed the Hot Pink to Green, but then I changed it back again because I don’t own green Converse Low Top Chucks.  I did not realise I had changed the colour of the Chucks until I began going though the novel again, after it was accepted for publication. That was my Shoe A-ha light bulb WTF Moment.

So you tell me. If you’re a writer, what part of you makes it into your work?

If you’re a reader, do you wonder how much of the author is revealed in the characters? Do you rush out and buy red cowboy boots because Lesley has a pair In A Basic Renovation? Will you hunt down a pair of hot pink canvas Converse Chuck Taylor All Star Low tops because Willa laces up a pair in For Your Eyes Only?