Jane’s Cowboy’s Father’s Secret Space Ranch

{Olivia never met a fake romance title she didn’t immediately want to write. This story title was found during a magnificent workshop given by Courtney Milan and Alisha Rai during RWA 2016. Enjoy!}

Something was wrong with the cows.

Jane glared at the GPS monitor, which showed the location of every animal the Bar Sinister Ranch owned on the plateau. Normally the herd moved as an amorphous, amoeba-like blob within the boundary fences, drifting to and fro in search of water and good grazing.

Today, they were making patterns. Human patterns. Clear, recognizable shapes no cow should know anything about. It was, to Jane’s mind, odd.

She crested the final rise and brought the Jeep to a skidding stop. Sure enough, there they were. Three hundred head of Flying Guernsey, standing precisely in the outline of a giant cartoon heart.

One thing the GPS hadn’t been able to show her: they were glowing. Continue reading Jane’s Cowboy’s Father’s Secret Space Ranch

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Space, Science, and the Gender of Perfection

{Courting Critique is a post series that takes an analytic and intersectional feminist look at romance texts — not so much to prove that romance is feminist or anti-feminist, but because good criticism can be as fun and escapist as a love story. Spoilers abound!}

Engineer Eugene Parsons demands perfection. It’s the first thing, possibly the only thing, people know about him.

The problem: perfection is unattainable, like a limit in calculus that is never quite reached. The other, less obvious problem: the definition of perfection keeps shifting, especially where gender is involved.

Cover image for Earth Bound. Starry background behind two light-skinned people in a tense embrace. The woman has dark hair, artful makeup, a black dress, and full-length black gloves. The man has a grey suit, intense expression, and his hands on the woman's bare skin.

First, a capsule review: Earth Bound,  the latest entry in Emma Barry and Genevieve Turner’s stellar Fly Me to the Moon series, is an absolute gut-punch of a romance between two difficult, critical, closed-off engineers who put their ambitions and the mission above everything else. Oh, and seedy ’60s motel sex. I could not have possibly loved it more. Full spoilers from here on out.

The most basic definition of perfection is free from factual or mathematical error. Parsons has good reason to pursue this kind of perfection, as the lives of real people depend on the machines and mathematics used by the American Space Department to send men and machines into orbit: “If the capsule wasn’t traveling fast enough, wasn’t flying straight up, the massive hand of gravity would catch it and pull it straight back down. It could crash right into a place filled with houses and families” (Kindle location 63). Not to mention that whole Cold War business, which Parsons at times seems to be fighting as though he’s out to win it single-handed. The urgency of this mission leads him to look for the very best — which is how he meets our heroine, computer and programmer Charlie Eason.

Charlie is a perfect hire for ASD — except that she’s a woman.

Continue reading Space, Science, and the Gender of Perfection

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Linda Belcher’s Nautical Romance Novel Covers If They Were Written By Brave Literary Men

You’ll be thrilled to hear that finally some brave literary man is daring to write about sex! Sex with teenage girls, in relationships with incestuous overtones and questionable power dynamics! How very avant-garde of him, I’m sure.

Meanwhile we romance authors are over here doing … whatever it is we do. Not literature, certainly. Not art of any kind. The stuff we do is called genre fiction (“we agree upon a few rules in advance”) or commercial fiction (“the stuff we all know sells the most”) or women’s fiction (“people who aren’t women can safely ignore it”) or chick lit (“people who aren’t young women can safely ignore it”). Brave Literary Men write for other Brave Literary Men. They are authors writing at other authors, particularly the dead greats of the early and mid-twentieth century (Joyce, Hemingway, F. Scott, Updike, Roth, etc.)

Who do romance authors write for? Ourselves, a lot of the time. Other times, we write for Linda Belcher.

Linda Belcher is a mom, but that’s not all she is. She’s more human than Wilma Flintstone and more fun than Marge Simpson. She loves her family, and wine, and dinner theater. She has dreams that involve her husband and her kids, and she has dreams for herself apart from them.

She reads romance novels.

Continue reading Linda Belcher’s Nautical Romance Novel Covers If They Were Written By Brave Literary Men

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