Sex in Literature

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Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard and been a part of many conversations about sex in literature.  These conversations have taken place at conferences, in public, and within chats among friends.  I find it interesting to hear how others view this topic, what they find appropriate or inappropriate, or whether or not they enjoy reading this type of work or are simply made uncomfortable by it.  I still stick to the belief I have held for all of my adult life, and as this is my blog, I’m going to share that with you now.

While many would argue that sex has been a part of literature for as long as there has been the written word, I would disagree to an extent.  Has it been “present” in literature since the beginning? Sure it has.  But has it been the graphic and explicit portrayal we are seeing so often today?  I would argue it has not.  While The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen Woodiwiss (1972) was the first work of fiction to portray physical intimacy, romance fiction has “flowered” quite a bit itself.  Ever since Woodiwiss introduced the world to the sexual exploits of Heather and Brandon, romances have tried to capture the fervor caused by this first of its kind publication.  It wasn’t until the recent release of Fifty Shades of Grey that such a book has so completely captivated readers (and now movie goers alike).

But I have to ask this question: outside of a class on Romance Genre Literature (yes, those classes do exist), where else is sexually explicit work considered literature?  Did Jane Eyre have wild, explicitly detailed sex with Mr. Rochester?  Elizabeth with Mr. Darcy?  Rebecca with Maxim?  Even Hermione with Ron, for Pete’s sake?  And how much more satisfied were you as a reader when you finished reading those works of literature?  I firmly believe that there is something to be said for the imagination!  I know, most children and young adults these days don’t even know what it is to “imagine” something.  The world is already painted for them, and most will never pick up the brush needed to add in their own details.  So what do writers do today?  They hold the readers’ hands.  They paint every facet of the picture with their own take on what the hero or heroine would do and how they would do it (every minuscule detail).  They lead the reader through the author’s own personal fantasy without allowing the reader to decide on her own what is happening.  The reader is no longer a reader, she is a voyeur, a virtual peeping Tom.

On the red carpet this past Sunday, Melanie Griffith said she never wants to see daughter, Dakota, as Anastasia, toy and later wife of Christian Grey (I will not call her his “love interest”).  I don’t blame her.  Would all of the women who read the book feel differently about it if they had to picture their own daughter being graphically defiled by Mr. Grey?  My bet is, they most certainly would. Do we really want to create a whole genre that we wouldn’t want our own daughters to read?  I can firmly say, I would not.

Is there romance in my books?  Yes, there is.  However, I will continue to rely more on my ability to tell a story than on the need to use sex as a plot device.  If I ever get to the point where my characters find time to have a wild and explicit romp in the hay while hiding from a mad man and trying to stop a killer from taking other innocent lives by running from one clue or murder scene to another without the chance to shower or even brush their teeth (I’m already gasping for breath), will someone please put me out of my misery?  I once had a publisher tell me that my writing and plot were wonderful, but they weren’t interested unless I added in some steamy sex.  No, thank you.  The storyline just doesn’t work that way, and neither do I.  Oh did I mention that I was later signed by a publisher and that the same book that was once turned down is now selling very well nationwide?  I guess some people are still okay with using their imaginations.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Giving It Up

lent4There has been a lot of talk around our house the last couple of days about giving things up.  I’ve read Facebook posts by many friends extolling the giving up of bad habits, cravings, and addictions.  This morning, I read a blog post about an endeavor called “40 Bags in 40 Days” in which participants pledge to declutter every day for 40 days.  The decluttering can be of everything from closets to email inboxes.  The key is to get rid of unwanted and unneeded “stuff.”

I’m sure each one of us can name something in our lives worth giving up for 40 days, or perhaps forever.  My prayers go out to my brother-in-law who is giving up smoking.  Many know what a cross that is to bear, so I’m sure prayers would be greatly appreciated, which brings me to a question I have always asked myself.  Is it better to give something up or do something new spiritually?  I’ve struggled with this over the years.  The whole concept of giving things up is completely lost on me unless there is a real reason to do so.  Giving things up just to herald that you’ve done so just doesn’t seem to be the point of all of this.  I heard a priest, who has a radio show, say recently that when you give something up, you should use that extra time, money, space, etc. to do something good, help others, give to the poor, or otherwise allow someone else to benefit from your sacrifice.  And that’s really the key isn’t it?  Sacrifice.  We aren’t supposed to be trying to lose weight or have a cleaner closet.  The point is to sacrifice, to rid ourselves of the things that are making us unworthy in the eyes of God.

So, yes, I will be giving things up this year, and yes, they will be the regular things you’d expect – sweets and wine.  However, I’m going to take it a step further.  I’m giving up all restaurant food except for salad (a huge sacrifice since we tend to eat out more than the normal family).  What I’ve struggled with is how to make that into something spiritual that benefits others around me.  What have I come up with?  I will find the one thing on the menu that I want more than anything else, note the cost, and donate that amount to a good cause.  It may be an extra drop in the basket at church or a donation to Feed the Poor.  Whatever it is, I know that my sacrifice will be helping someone else and hopefully will help me in my journey home.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

A Mother’s Love

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Nineteen years. Sometimes I can’t believe it. Tomorrow, February 12, marks nineteen years since I became a mother. I don’t know where the time went since the doctor first placed my beautiful Rebecca Kathleen into my arms, but they sure have flown by. Now she’s a sophomore in college, and it’s hard to grasp the reality that she’s pretty much all grown up. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Rebecca or her sisters, Katie Ann and Morgan. They are my daughters, my muses, and yes, as they grow older, my friends. My husband says he sometimes finds it hard to fit into our world, and I can understand that. Though we all try our best to include Ken in everything we do, we are like our own little club, my three daughters and I.

This past week, I made two trips to the emergency room with Katie Ann who was suffering from a bacterial infection that had our entire family and all of our friends very worried. When she came to our room at 3am two nights ago with a fever over 103, Ken asked if I wanted him to take her to the hospital. I think he knew the answer before he even asked it. If anybody was going to be in the ER with Katie Ann, it was going to be me. Not that Ken couldn’t have sat in the chair and nodded his head at the doctor just the same as I did, but I couldn’t have stayed home and waited. I was the one who had to be there to hold her hand when they inserted the IV, and I had to be the one to lay my head next to hers on the pillow and rub her back until she fell asleep. It wasn’t that daddy wasn’t good enough. It’s that a mother’s love must be manifested through action.

In A Place to Call Home, Susan becomes a mother overnight when Cassie and Ellie arrive on her doorstep. It’s her maternal instinct that drives her to discover what secrets they are hiding and protect them from harm at all costs. And in Picture Me, due out in April, it’s Melissa’s mother who makes the ultimate sacrifice so that her daughter can live. This is what we do as mothers: sacrifice, hold hands, pray, and most of all, love. It’s what my mother taught me, and her mother taught her. It’s what I hope my daughters will learn from me.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html 

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Advice From the Desk of A Writer

10371504_1493211267560036_1559440155953801216_nThis February marks fifteen months since my first novel was accepted by a publisher.  Oh my, how much I have learned between then and now!  Since A Place to Call  Home was released last August, I have been asked countless times what advice could I give to aspiring writers.  I love how so many of the bestselling authors say things like “write every day,” or “just keep typing away and submitting,” or “you can do it if you work hard.”  Sure, all of those things are great, but here’s the reality: I could write a whole new book just on my experiences over the past fifteen months and what I have learned.  And believe me, I’m still learning.  Every day I read or hear something new that I think, I should do that, or remember that, or look into that.  So here are some things that I have learned that I hope will help others.  Feel free to comment below to open a dialogue on what YOU have learned.

  •   Don’t rely on anyone else’s word that your final copy is without editing flaws, even your editor’s.  People make mistakes, and so do computers.  Read every word before you give the okay to print, or, better yet, have a professional proofreader read every word.  I really learned this the hard way.
  •   Marketing your book is up to you and you alone.  Your agent or publicist may have some good ideas or point you in a certain direction, but you will need to set aside an entire day once a week to market your book.  And marketing means everything from writing a blog to contacting booksellers to entering contests.  Some weeks, one day isn’t enough, and some weeks, that day might be spent in your car driving from one bookstore to another.
  •   Never stop looking for ways to promote your book whether it has been out for a week, a month, or six months.  Until the next book hits the shelf, that book is your livelihood.  Even when you’re at the point where you secretly hate that book because it won’t go away and you want to move on, keep promoting it.  Later in life, you may look back and realize it was the best relationship you ever had, a stepping stone to greater things to come.
  •   Learn to self-promote.  For some, including myself, that’s so very hard to do.  At first, my parents sold more of my books than I did.  And why should that surprise anyone?  Parents brag about their children their entire lives.  Writers need to learn to brag a little about themselves, too.  I’ll admit that I’m still working on that one….
  •   Choose book signings wisely.  Yes, every public appearance you make gets your name and face out there, but is every public appearance worth doing?  I’ve done signings where I am speaking to people and signing books constantly, and I’ve done ones where I’ve sat and stared into space all day without seeing a single soul.  While you can never predict what will work and what won’t, do some research, talk to other authors, figure out when and where the successful signings take place and take advantage of those.  But don’t overlook a great opportunity to network. The last signing I did was at a local library. We had a few dozen people wander in and out, and each of us sold two or three books, but I made some wonderful new contacts who have given me invaluable advice.
  •   Network, network, network.  Oh, yeah, and don’t forget to network.  There is so much to be learned from other authors and people in the industry.  Reach out to them, follow them on Twitter, talk to them at conferences (GO to conferences).  You will always come away with something useful as well as a contact you can go to when you need advice.
  •   Never dismiss anything as not being something worth writing about.  I keep notes of anything and everything that comes to mind that might be useful in a book.  Very often, while writing, something that I jotted down comes back to me and fits perfectly into whatever scenario I’m working on at that moment.
  •   And yes, write every day.  Dean Koontz says he writes 12 hours a day!  I’ve read that Sandra Brown writes at least an hour, seven days a week.  James Patterson puts in a full eight hour day every week.  Perhaps you aren’t able to do that at this point in your life (I know I’m not, but I’m getting there), but whatever time you can take to write, take it.  The biggest thing I have learned is that the more I write, the better my writing is.

What can you add?

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com