Let’s Talk About Sex (and no, not the Salt-n-Pepa song)

OBBH

 

Let’s talk about Sex. I’ll admit, I have an uneasy relationship with it. In my books that is. I have this little voice inside my head, one that sounds suspiciously like the love child of an immature literary snob and a puritan, that tells me sex in books is cheap, maybe even tawdry, and definitely not good literature.

But even as I recognize and hear this voice, I also know it’s misguided, uninformed, and frankly, unrealistic. Yes, there are bad romance novels out there, just as there are bad science fiction or high literature or YA novels. There are books in all genres that are superficial, silly, and just hard to read. But it isn’t the sex that makes romance novels bad—no, the blame for a bad romance, for any bad book, falls squarely on the shoulders of bad writing or bad plotting. Of course, I understand that not everyone likes reading books with sex in them but there’s a difference between having a preference and dismissing an entire genre because it has sexual content. Falling into the trap that sex=cheap, bad, or unworthy I think says more about a reader than the book.

I recently read an article by a romance writer (forgive me but I can’t remember who) who responded to another author’s critique of the genre, a genre he admittedly never read, by simply saying “Grow up.” I love this. I love this for so many reasons not the least of which is because it states what we all know to be true, that sex is a part of life and to turn away from it, or deny its value, can seem childish. Most adults are having it, have had it, or want to have it. It’s a part of how we are made and it’s something that isn’t inherently good or bad—it is whatever the participants make of it. As a writer, to ignore this aspect of an adult relationship would feel shallow at best and just wrong at worst.

And so I try to silence that love child in my own head, the one that tries to shame me for writing sex in some of my stories, and instead I think about what it is I want to teach my two boys (one a teenager and one an almost-teenager). I don’t want them to turn away from or feel ashamed about sex and I really don’t want them to fall into the sex=cheap/bad trap. I want them to know it’s a healthy part of life and I want them to make smart choices when it comes time for them to cross that bridge.

It’s unfortunate that in so many ways society, and some influential people, would rather make sex degrading, shameful, illicit, or something unworthy of our attention. Thankfully, as part of the romance writers’ community, these aren’t my people and I couldn’t be happier about that.

You can follow the blog hop and see what other folks are saying on this endlessly entertaining topic by going here. My fellow romance writer Tracy Krimmer also has an interesting dialogue going on over at her site and if you’re looking for some lighthearted romance to warm you up this holiday season, be sure to check her out!

 

 

 

Quality vs Quantity: This is not what you think

OBBH

In addition to the “Cooking Around the World” blogs I’ve been posting, I’ve joined a group of writers called the Open Book Blog Hop – Writers Writing on Everything. I love this blog hop because the topics, like me and most of you readers, are very diverse. This week it’s “Quality vs Quantity: when it comes to things in life you value most, why do you prefer and why?” and next week it’s sex. Yes, as you can imagine, I’m kind of interested to hear what will come out of my mouth—and on to the paper—next week.

As part of the blog hop, we like to introduce readers to new/other authors, so if you’re interested in meeting a fellow romance author—and one in the throes of National Write a Novel Month—you should pop over and meet Tracy Kimmer.

So now, on to the topic at hand. Ambiguity is one of the things I like about writing fiction—I suppose the same could be said for some non-fiction these days but I think fiction gives me the opportunity to play with ambiguity in a way that sometimes reality doesn’t. And really, what is more ambiguous than the terms “Quality” and “Quantity”? I know, you’re probably thinking there are a lot of things more ambiguous than age old question of quality vs quantity and while I can’t really argue the point (or I could, but probably not effectively) I do think that question is significantly more ambiguous—and interesting—than we give it credit for. Because though ambiguity can be fun in fiction, real life has its fair share too.

For example, what do I value most in life? Family is the first thing that comes to mind. But do I appreciate quality more than quantity? I don’t know. My instinct is to say quality, but we moved back to California in order to be closer to more family—we had none in Seattle (that were blood related) and we have a fair bit here in Northern California. So maybe quantity wins? But really, what is quantity when it comes to family if you don’t have quality too? And while there are some members of the family I’m really close to and the quality of our relationship is great, others not so much. Not that the relationship is bad by any means, it’s just there because we’re family and we have a shared history and shared roots and we enjoy each others company even if we don’t always seek each other out.

Hhmm…and that begs the question of just what makes a relationship a quality relationship? Is it the quality of the persons involved? Certainly that’s part of it, but is it everything? Like all families, we’re filled with people and people are inherently flawed. And let’s be honest, some probably more so than others (I’m not excluding myself from that category). But does that make them (or me) any less important or cherished? I don’t really think so. I may value a relationship with someone, or them me, even if we believe (or in our own ego know) the other is deeply flawed. And so I’d argue that it isn’t always the quality of the person that determines the quality of a relationship—what does determine the quality of a relationship I can’t really say and I’d really only suggest that it is different for each person and for each relationship. Which brings me back to why fiction is so fun to write (because we get to explore all that psychology even if it isn’t present in our own reality), and why I’m glad I joined this blog hop (because really, there is very little a philosophy major likes more than waxing poetic on ambiguity!).

And so I’ll conclude by acknowledging that my philosophy professors would be very proud of me today. I have left you with more questions than answers but maybe also just a little something to ponder—when it comes to family what do you think about quality vs quantity?

If you want to check out some of the other authors on the blog hop (or join in) check us out here!

Rendang? Rendo!

We visited Indonesia via our kitchen this week and Liam picked Beef Rendang, a beef curry cooked in spices and coconut milk. Since it has to cook for three hours, he prepared the spice paste and coconut milk mix the night before and I then seared the meat in the spice paste he’d made, added the milk mix, and put the whole thing in the oven while he was at school the next day. We pulled it out three hours later and the meat was fall apart yummy and rich. Really rich.

I’m not a big fan of coconut, but that flavor wasn’t too strong in this recipe. I should have known though that the coconut flavor would have a hard time holding its own with the strength of the other spices added which included chilies, tamarind, star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger to name a few. At the end of the day, I think it added a depth of flavor without being overwhelming.

Here it is on the table, it doesn’t look as good here as it does in real life—it’s actually a rich dark brown that reminds you of cold nights and comfort food. The rice was a great addition—it was made with coconut milk as well and that recipe also included lime, salt, and a little bit of sugar (which I have never added to a rice dish that wasn’t a dessert).

rendang

Here is Liam tasting the fruits of his labor (with grandma behind him).

yummy rendang

All in all, while we liked the subtly of the dish, it was way richer than we thought it would be—probably due to the cut of meat we used (short ribs) than the recipe itself. Liam decided he was glad he tried it, but he probably wouldn’t make it again, at least not exactly the same way.

Next week we’ll be visiting Sweden and we’ll be giving dinners a rest and trying a breakfast. He’s the best pancake maker I know so we’re all looking forward to whatever lands on our table—it could open up a whole new world of breakfast options!

Here’s to cooking around the world…

thumbs up rendang

Cooking Around the World

A few months ago, my youngest son decided he wanted to cook food from around the world. If you follow me on Facebook, you would have seen pictures of the Chinese dumpling soup he made as well as the Turkish pizza and Irish lamb stew. Well, I’ve moved my pictures and comments to my blog as it looks like this cooking thing will be an ongoing adventure and I thought it would be more fun here where I can add some of the backstory, our experience, and of course, the recipes. So, welcome to the first Cooking Around the World blog post – our first stop is Ecuador.

My mom picked Ecuador and Liam found a recipe for Hornado, a slow roasted pork dish with potatoes. The recipe we used came from a site called Laylita and can be found here. There are a lot of recipes on her site that sound amazing so don’t be surprised if you see it crop up again the future.

The pork has to be stuffed with garlic, cumin, salt and pepper and marinated for a day or so in beer….if you don’t like meat, don’t read any further as there will be pictures with big slabs of meat as the centerpiece. Here is the meat-post prep, just before it went into the beer:

liam raw

And another….

Liam face

We marinated it for two days then cooked it for close to seven hours. Here is the outcome:

cooked

Liam isn’t sure

hmmm

But it looks pretty on the table

on the table

All in all, it got the thumbs up from us and while the pork was good, the potatoes were amazing. If we cooked it again (and I think we will), we’d probably use a little less butter but that is really the only thing we might play with.

We are on to Indonesia next week…I have no idea what he recipes he will find or what’s in store for us but at the very least, we’re having fun cooking together!