Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Tossing out the Baby...

There is an old expression--"Don't toss out the baby with the bath water." In other words don't discard the good parts with the bad or used. Publishing is a funny business. Since publishers don't have a reader survey similar to what television networks use, they have to guess what readers will want to read.

A few years ago it seemed that every other book was a regency or historical. Now you're hard pressed to find one. Seems that the market was totally glutted and no one wants to read regencies. (If a good regency is your thing, then check out the line up at Cerridwen Press. http://www.cerridwenpress.com/index.asp )

Then came the romantic suspense. Personally, I foresee a swiftly approaching end to them as there are a limited number of likely scenarios that will place the woman in jeopardy. And for some reason no one has been willing to share with me, it's never the man in danger. Why is that?

Then there is the proliferation of "I'm an alien from a planet with no women so I'm here to kidnap you..." or the other twist "I'm an alien from a planet to retrieve you because you just happen to be an alien living on earth to keep someone evil from knocking you off before you become the queen on our home planet" and of course my favorite "heroine has a crash, tornado, other disaster, and ends up in an alien environment with no way home". All of those are interesting innovative story lines the first thousand times. Then they get old.

The category romances have recently gone through a rash of "secret baby" stories. I've been pregnant four times and believe me, it's not easy to keep a baby a secret. Somebody knows about that baby. Trust me.

Then there are the "I'm a CEO looking to have a kid, marry me and have my baby." Not likely. Not impossible, but not likely in this day and age. And again, if all the CEOs in the country--excluding the female CEOs--wanted you to have their babies, it would not account for all the books about this subject.

In the field of erotic romance, you would think that there would be few limits, but you would be wrong. Just as in any other genre there are things that are forbidden--not because they are offensive--though they might be for some people. No, they are forbidden for one simple reason. Dollars. Publishers buy what they can sell to readers. Sort of. As I pointed out at the beginning, they don't really know what readers want. And of course, what sells this week, may be a dud next week. Or it might be because the last three books by that author were duds.

Much of erotic romance in particular is about women's fantasies. Author Nancy Friday did ground breaking work years ago on women's fantasies with a book titled, My Secret Garden. Basically, what she found was that all fantasies could be categorized under a few headings with variations within the various categories. A lot of those categories are sub-genres in the erotic romance genre.

Yesterday I had a conversation with a woman on a chat loop regarding the dearth of F/F romances. There is an enormous wave of M/M romances--mostly written by female authors, but few F/F romances. Why? One simple reason. Dollars. They weren't selling so publishers quit accepting them.

A recent movement to eliminate babies from the erotic romance equation is afoot. Seems that babies aren't selling. So when you start hunting around your favorite sites for that HEA (happy ever after) ending that includes children--hunt no more. They're not considered sexy. On the one hand, I'll be happy to see the "secret baby" go by the wayside along with the "marry me and have my baby, even if we can't stand each other" story lines. I've always thought in the best of all worlds a baby ought to be the end result of love between two committed people. Call me old fashioned in that respect.

On the other hand... I personally feel cheated if I get to the end and the couple walks happily into the sunset with no mention of family. That, too, is no doubt because I grew up in the era when girls grew up, worked for a while, got married and had babies. They still do. Now they may have to deal with divorce, working outside of the home, military service, and a host of other issues, but the constant in their lives is children. That jingle, "Cindy and Johnnie sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage," pretty much summed up female futures in my day.

It is a particularly feminine dream to have children. Girls still grow up knowing that nurturing is part of their future--whether or not they bear children. And that knowledge is inextricably interwoven with desire and the sex act itself. I'm not saying that pregnancy is sexy in and of itself although I have known many women who found their desires were sharper during pregnancy. I'm saying that the "idea" of creation is sexy. Somewhere deep inside our psyches men and women know that each time they make love there is the potential for creation. That potential kickstarts both the heat and the tenderness level during sex. That's the ultimate pay off when a couple finally walks into the sunset hand-in-hand.

So I will miss that final confirmation of their commitment--that final scene when the reader knows that they really, really will live happily ever after because they are confident enough in their love to begin a family. Somehow I get the idea that it's an indication of things to come.


Amarinda has done it again. I have no idea whatsoever what I will do with this tomorrow, but trot on over there and read what she's done this time. http://www.amarindajones.blogspot.com/ and then drop by Kelly's site to read her book spotlight for the day at http://www.kkirch.blogspot.com/


  1. This gives me hope:) None of my stories are any of these scenarios (except the HEA)

    I did read an excerpt from a book that totally rubbed me the wrong way...I will not be buying that book...it dealt with light S&M, which I feel is demeaning to modern women...but to each his own...it's not my style!

    As for the alien storyline...hopefully mine will be fresh:) It's nothing like the ones you've mentioned:)

  2. I write both Regency and Romantic Suspense. Sigh. I guess I'm SOL.

    But spot on assessments Anny! And just for the record, all but one RS of mine is the woman saving the boy. And in my Regencies I have a lot of strong women. No sherkers for me.

  3. I think we are losing the plot when it comes to romance. This whole 'do not allow the heroine to have a baby' thing is insane. At some stage in a relationship people are going to want to talk about babies. People consider that a HEA along with the sex. What are we going to stop next? Marriage? An engagement ring. Or we going to allow them to -gasp- get a mortgage? A dog? Or matching peelers?

  4. Excellent blog, Sweet Anny! I find the whole idea of no babies in erotic romance absolutely insane. It's erotic romance after all. At some point all these couples romping with each other in the elevators, restaurants and hay lofts have to pay the piper. I see the future with no babies, and it's not pretty.


  5. It's all a cycle. Babies were huge in romance novels a few years ago. Single moms finding the perfect guy to be a dad for their little one. Single dads looking for a mom for his tyke (always a widower). Etc. Etc. Don't worry. Babies will be back. Although I personally couldn't care less. If a book has a baby in it as a main plot point, I'll pass it by. But I'm strange.

  6. Well on the baby issue, my point was that a baby is a natural extension of the hea. There are very few stories that will hold my interest where the baby is the central piece. However, in one of my all time favorite books, Morning Glory by LaVryle Spencer, the heroine was pregnant for much of the book. It was set in the 1930s?? One of my keepers.