Saturday, August 18, 2007

Sex in Romance: Wait for It

Surprisingly, a lot of romance manuscripts have too much sex and not enough romance. I like to say they don’t have enough kisses, because usually what they are missing is the sweetness of the falling in love part of a courtship—the kisses. When you think about romance, you do not think about sex per se. You think about flowers and romantic carriage rides and moonlit kisses. Or maybe you think about overheated dance clubs, lots of ingested substances, cockeyed vision, and attractive strangers and stolen kisses outside the ladies room. There’s more than one kind of romance.

But romance needs to happen. As often as writers try to push instant sex into a story, editors take it out and demand that the characters get a chance to know each other. They must converse, conflict, and reveal who they are to the reader. It’s pretty hard to care about a hero or heroine the reader does not know. Yet I can’t tell you how many manuscripts I have read that contained an initial sex scene between people who either were strangers to each other, or strangers to the reader. Each scenario is extremely risky for a writer. To demand that the reader become instantly engaged with these characters despite lack of knowledge about them is asking for too big a leap too early in the story. To demand that the reader become a voyeur of a sex scene between strangers is to risk offending or boring the reader looking for a story, not porn. Thus an early sex scene tends to be the reverse of ideal in a romance. (Yes, a few masterful writers have pulled it off, but that has spawned imitation by far too many writers who just aren’t that good and who fail miserably.)

There still are some would-be romance writers who think that romance is all about the sex. No, no, no. Not to put too much of a feminist spin on this, that’s a classic male point of view, not a female point of view. (And many men don’t think this way. Contrary to what some people say, they aren’t all pigs.) As the writers of even the sexiest romances today have repeatedly shown, the tease is as important as the act. Modern romances usually do have sex in them. But what makes it a romance is the getting to the sex: the kisses.

A few decades ago, a hero and heroine might be so unable to openly articulate an interest in each other, let alone in having sex, that they would have to stumble physically into an embrace. Then they would lose all track of their sanity and kiss and carry on. Until the phone would ring and snap them out of it, and they would retreat from each other. Or the dryer would buzz. Reading about a dryer buzzing, while living in New York City with its dearth of laundry facilities in most apartments, was always a hoot to me. Yeah, I guess the dryer buzzing might stop some people from having sex. But I doubt it. Plot devices have gotten a good deal more subtle since then, but romance writers are still tasked with the necessity of showing that their characters desire each other, but also limiting that expression in many scenes in order to create sufficient romance. To prolong the pleasurable excitement that delay causes. And to give the reader a chance to catch up to the writer in knowing and caring about the main characters.

Sex is important, but plenty of romances would be fine without it, as long as they actually had romance. Some writers still have an imperfect understanding of what romance is. It seems simple enough, but a romance is a courtship. It’s the development of a stable intimate relationship. Years ago, the institution of marriage itself was supposedly the happily ever after. Now, we take things further and ensure that the hero and heroine are suited to each other and likely to be happy together.

Back to kisses. Really. Kisses. In a truly intimate relationship, the desire to kiss is relatively constant. We see old married couples kissing each other frequently. And the impulse to kiss is also relatively unchecked. At least if one lives in a society that allows public displays of affection. What the writer is trying to create in a romance is a relationship that grows from two people each in their own private space to two people who are constantly visiting each other’s space in the most natural and affectionate and desirous manner: they kiss. We all have our personal boundaries. Romance is about those boundaries changing. And that’s another reason why sex as such is not as necessary as kissing is initially. But it also explains why sex eventually is necessary, because it is the ultimate in crossing physical boundaries.

As parents we often urge our children to wait for their pleasures. We try to teach them that instant gratification is not as deeply satisfying as delayed gratification. And the people we consider the most mature individuals in our society are those who master delayed gratification. So it stands to reason that in romances we also expect a delay in gratification, with a deepening of the central emotional relationship as the payoff. It works. Every romance has its own pace, but waiting for the culmination of a building relationship is one of the great pleasures in reading romance. And enjoying all the kisses along the way is, too.

So, when you’re considering writing a romance, make the effort to tell a story in more than one breath. Allow events to unfold at their correct speed, and save something for later. And meanwhile, put in those kisses!
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Why Gothic Romance Comics Stumbled

Gothics have been on my mind lately. The original Gothic novels were written in the late 18th and early 19th centuries in England and thus are part of a well-described literary tradition. Yes, they were popular novels, but the handful still being studied in colleges are considered literature. These include such classics as The Castle of Otranto, The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Melmoth the Wanderer. Then there was the mid-20th century Gothic romance vogue. While hardcover Gothic romance novels were making the bestseller lists and being bought by libraries in the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, original and reprint paperbacks with Gothic heroines flooded drugstores and other nontraditional book outlets.

You would think there also would have been Gothic romance comic books. But comics seem to be inspired by a less literary take on popular culture, in fact a more visual take. They are much more likely to spring up after a successful movie or TV show or some widely-covered visual media event. Another possible reason for the dearth of romance comics about Gothic mansions and beleaguered governesses might be that at the same time as the Gothic novel vogue, there was the nurse romance vogue that came straight from hit television. Yes, the TV shows were about doctors, but it was easy to turn that around and do stories about nurses. So comics opted for the nurse stories instead of the Gothics.

There have been movies identified as Gothic—“Rebecca,” for instance, and “Leave Her to Heaven,” and “The Queen Bee.” But these were about female monsters. For instance, in “Leave Her to Heaven,” the main character is the murdering, conniving, crazy woman, not the sweet sister. And we all know that Rebecca, who dominated people’s lives even after her death, was a nasty piece of work. These stories written circa 1940 had their imitators, but they were not genre romances. It took another decade and more before Gothic novels as romances would evolve. Victoria Holt’s bestselling Mistress of Mellyn was optioned by Paramount, but the movie never happened. Worse, Mary Stewart’s lovely romantic suspense in Greece, The Moon-Spinners, was eviscerated and turned into a teenage adventure for Hayley Mills. And that’s about it for movie treatment of mid-century Gothic romances.

But there was “Dark Shadows,” the hit TV soap opera. It even had an imitator, “Strange Paradise.” (Yes, I watched it. It was bad.) But these were soap operas, not romances. When one thinks of “Dark Shadows,” one thinks of Barnabus Collins, the vampire, not of any female characters. So to get from soap opera about a vampire (and a werewolf, too, if I remember it right) to romance, the comics needed a romance paradigm. But it existed only in books. Instead, they copied the soap opera's horror element and did stories about vampires. Thus comics, so sensitive to media that is visual, did not have any direct guideposts towards Gothic romances even as they produced more Gothic material.

Eventually, after the Gothic romance novel vogue was in its death throes, the comics started featuring some cover art by Neal Adams and others that referenced the Gothic novel cover style. The first was for House Of Secrets #88—but HOS was a horror anthology comic. No romance there. A few other HOS covers had a touch of the Gothic romance influence because they featured a woman in jeopardy. But also including a demon or a green ghostly hand gave a strong indication that horror was the focus, not romance. There’s a nice site called Cover Browser that shows these. But perhaps as proof of how obscure Gothic romance comic books were, that site does not list the several titles that eventually were published that were actual Gothic romance comics.

Finally, DC Comics launched The Sinister House of Secret Love and The Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love in the summer of 1971 (The cover dates say the fall, but comics always used to be printed with a cover date months in advance of their actual on sale date.) And Charlton Comics published Haunted Love in late 1972 with a 1973 cover date. To make these titles even more obscure, the Comics Code Authority, the comics industry’s self-censorship group, decided that the houses in the DC titles sounded too much like brothels. So the titles were changed to Secrets of Sinister House and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion. But it was all in vain. The audience that ate up Gothic romances a decade earlier was not looking for comic books to read, or even for more Gothics.

Even had the market timing of these three Gothic romance comics been right, they had other strikes against them. The covers tended to emphasize a woman in jeopardy from the supernatural, indeed, from the horrible. Most Gothic romance novel covers were far more restrained. Some just featured a large mansion, and others just had a woman and a dark cast to the cover. No heroes. The Gothic romance comics did have potential heroes on the covers, but only in the background as shadowy, usually unattractive, and often menacing figures. This was very different from the typical romance comic covers that would portray both a woman and the man she loved and describe a romantic dilemma in the accompanying copy. So these comic books were not signaling strongly to the female audience that already existed for romance comic books. Unlike nurse romance or other romance covers, there were few handsome men in evidence on the Gothic romance comic covers. Any kisses were usually “The Kiss of Death” and not shown. When the cover of Haunted Love #1 actually showed a kiss, it was from the villain—an old man—who was forcing a repulsive kiss on the heroine who says she hates him. This is not attractive. This is not romance, Gothic or otherwise. Some of the stories inside these comics were reasonable approximations of Gothic romance novels. But since Gothic novels were typically narrated in the first person, but these comics typically were heavy on action by the male characters, the effect was not the same. I can’t say that even one of those stories touched me, yet I can easily recall many other romances, Gothic and otherwise, novels and comics.

Looking back on the mistakes made by the comic book companies in totally missing the moment on the popular literary fashion, and then messing up Gothic romance comics, I realize that I have been blaming the dense all-male establishment that ran comics, including the artists and writers, too. Probably none of whom read Gothic romance novels. But what I did not understand until now was the importance of a visual medium crossover. During the many years I worked for the major comic book companies, I visited bookstores right around the corner from their offices on almost a daily basis. But in all those years, I ran into exactly two people from the comic book business in a bookstore. Contrast that to opening day on Broadway for any action/adventure movie. I could always find half a dozen comic book pros in line. They were visual, not literary oriented. It’s funny—maybe even ironic—but in this case, “lack of vision” actually describes the situation correctly.
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Nurse Romances

Comic books and genre novels have always derived directly from popular culture, usually directly or indirectly from other media such as movies and TV programs. So it’s not surprising that in the early 1960s, when there were two hit TV shows featuring romantic doctors, "Ben Casey" and "Dr. Kildare," there were more nurse romance comics published then ever before or since. At the same time, nurse romances in paperback originals also were at their most widespread.

There had been both before. Undoubtedly, the popular stage musical and movie, “South Pacific,” whose heroine was a nurse, inspired some. But “South Pacific” was a 1950s phenomenon. And Cherry Ames, whose nursing adventures were serialized in books as were the Nancy Drew stories, wasn’t in itself a big enough media event to cause the sudden blossoming of nurse romances. So it is more likely that the glut of nurse novels and the handful of nurse comics of the early 1960s were the direct result of the hit TV doctor programs. Television was at its most universal; by then most families had TVs. Since there were only three networks and the occasional local station, the mass audience for any show was in the dozens of millions. Contrast that to today, when a cable network will declare something a hit if it has a mere one million viewers. A couple of hit TV shows then could cause plenty of popular buzz and imitators.

For women who liked the darkly handsome, beefy type, there was Vince Edwards as Dr. Ben Casey. And for women who preferred the more lean and restrained blond type, there was Richard Chamberlain with bleached hair as Dr. Kildare. Magazines of all sorts ran thousands of photos of them and the usual silly articles. But that was not enough. A plethora of romances, almost all of them slim paperback originals, were rushed into publication featuring nurses as the protagonists. (There actually were a couple of nurse TV shows later, "The Nurses," and "Julia," but they were not romance oriented.) These romance novels and comics did not star doctors because men did not read romances, and women back then usually were nurses, not doctors themselves. (Yes, there were newspaper strips featuring each of the TV doctors, Ben Casey, drawn by Neal Adams, and Dr. Kildare, drawn by Ken Bald. Again, not romances.)

I’m too young to know what actual nurses were doing in the early 1960s, but according to the titles of these books, many of them were Private Duty nurses, Airport nurses, Dude Ranch nurses, Campus nurses, World’s Fair nurses, Amusement Park nurses, etc. They were helping doctors in clinics, in factories, at Cape Canaveral, at logging camps, in small towns, and oh, yes—at hospitals. Some nurses were students struggling to learn the ropes. Some were experienced in their field. Some fell for cranky doctors. Others for the boy next door. But all of them were young women whose profession entitled them to a degree of respect, tempered by the authority of a rigid power structure above them. Those “R.N.” initials (for “Registered Nurse”) were important because at the time, that was the highest level of professional credential a nurse could attain. Today we have nurse practitioners, who are only a step down from doctors themselves. And we have lots of female doctors. But a registered nurse was a big deal in the tiny niche of women’s professions back then.

Harlequin already had a long history of publishing nurse romances by the early 1960s. It continues to do so to this day. Its most popular author of all time, the late Betty Neels, wrote nurse romances and that’s about it. Usually, her nurse heroines were in love with rather brusque and unromantic, often distant and cold doctors. But eventually, true love triumphed and they found each other. Harlequin did not have a large presence in the US in the early 1960s, not even alongside the paperback originals sold exclusively in drug stores and other non-book shops. So let’s not talk more about Harlequin, because when it came to choosing a nurse romance, the Harlequin books were not commonly available for comparison. Instead, offerings by Ace Books, Dell Candlelight, Popular Library, MacFadden, and many other major and minor American paperback publishers flooded the paperback book outlets. A good source that shows just how many publishers were involved is the University of Wisconsin’s Nurse Romance Cover of the Week site.

Nurse romances as novels tended to contrast one kind of suitor with another. In Ski Resort Nurse, by Jane L. Sears, for instance, the heroine has the opportunity to marry a very wealthy man. He temporarily sweeps her off her feet with his display of power and glamour. But he turns out to have a fatal flaw, and she goes back to the earnest young doctor she really loves. It’s virtually the same setup in story after story, probably reflecting the reality that most nurses did not come from upperclass social settings and the readers of such romances could not imagine their nurse heroines climbing the social ladder so precipitously. Also, back then, it was considered a virtue to marry the poor but honest man. In today’s more openly materialistic American society, I wonder if that would still play?

Scholarly sites and nursing sites take nurse romances seriously, tut-tutting over the potentially negative stereotypes of nurses portrayed in these stories, but largely passing over the social dynamics in them. The typical nurse’s anomalous position as having authority but also limited by authority, for instance, is scarcely mentioned.

There were nurse romance comic books, but not a lot. Charlton Comics published a half-dozen nurse romance comics using their typical dreadful production values and so-so writing. The occasional good bit of artwork by Dick Giordano of later superhero comic fame was always a surprise. Scott Shaw’s Oddball Comics site describes a one-shot nurse romance title from Charlton, Registered Nurse. It featured Cynthia Doyle, a character used in another of their titles, Cynthia Doyle, Nurse in Love, one of whose covers is on the Cherry Ames web site.

The In/Visibility of Nurses in Cyberculture web site mentions more nurses in the comics, including Betsy Crane, Linda Carter, Linda Lark, and more. But there aren’t any details about their stories, and finding obscure romance comics today is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I wish people would put more information about them on the web.

An excellent roundup article appears on the Nursing Spectrum web site, “Comic Book Care — A History of Nurses in Comic Books” by Don Vaughan.

Lois Lane’s fashionable volunteer work in a hospital, complete with nurse’s uniform, is given mention in this article. But I did not find any notice taken of the straight on nurse romances that appeared in DC Comics, chiefly the beautifully drawn and achingly romantic series in Young Love, “The Private Diary of Nurse Mary Robin, R. N.” Mary’s tearful romantic adventures made the cover of Young Love Comics pretty much every issue for a year or so. But alas, Mary kept losing her true loves. Gorgeously drawn by Johnny Romita (of later Spider-Man fame), each of these short romantic tales featured different locales and different love interests, ending more or less unhappily with Mary uncoupled even if other characters walked off together. Supposedly, she finally found and kept her true love, but an appealing element of the series was that she repeatedly fell in love and lost her love, and then tried again. This is unheard of now in romances, where the happily ever after ending dominates.

The last attempt at nurse romance comics was in the 1970s, when the vogue was long over and most of the female audience for comics had drifted away. Night Nurse, from Marvel Comics, was a curious amalgam. True to the concerns of the early 1970s, the stories put strong emphasis on social issues and criminal elements as well as on romantic dilemmas. But Night Nurse was drawn by a romance artist, Winslow Mortimer, who specialized in very soft-looking, ultra-feminine heroines. So its heroines (there were three) tended not to pack much visual punch. It was like watching a kitten try to cope with a rotweiller. The title was canceled quickly, probably too quickly for detailed sales reports to trickle in. And so ended nurse romances in the comics.

Nurse romances survived as a subgenre of romance novels, much changed of course from the stereotypes of the early 1960s. Today the subgenre is generally referred to as medical romances and features modern male-female dynamics, with the heroine as likely to be a doctor as to be a nurse or some other medical professional. Yet despite the recent success of TV medical series such as ER and Gray’s Anatomy, there has never been a widespread resurgence of the fashion for medical romance.
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Unbecoming Jane Austen

I really wanted to title this “Jane Austen is Spinning in her Grave,” but it seemed entirely too undignified an image for a lady whose sense of the ridiculous never veered into vulgarity.

Imagine being a witty woman who lives in a smug, hypocritical, and self-deluded social world, who discreetly pens novels detailing the absurdity of all she sees. And then imagine a batch of smug, hypocritical, self-deluded readers 200 years later taking all those lovingly crafted, hilarious moments, and completely misunderstanding them. Because it’s dollars to doughnuts that is what’s happening all over again with Jane Austen. And now, not with just her literary works, but with her personal life.

There’s a brand new movie out, “Becoming Jane,” [[Spoiler Alert]] which purports to tell the story of Jane Austen’s youthful brush with romance. But they made up the details. It’s based on the fact (confirmed by an existing letter she wrote to her sister) that one night at a party, Jane Austen danced with a certain gentleman a bit longer than convention dictated. She apparently hit it off with law student Tom LeFroy. But she was poor, and he was poor, at least, poor enough that neither had money with which to support a separate household, regardless of how genteel their day-to-day circumstances. Back then, the lack of an independent income meant any future together was impossible. Or might be postponed indefinitely, which was just as good as impossible. So, they did not get engaged, and they did not marry.

Maybe in real life they just danced a few times and had fun chatting now and then while he was visiting his relatives in the neighborhood. Or maybe there was more to it. In the movie, they have both irksome and flirtatious encounters, often pregnant with suppressed attraction. They fall in love. And they even kiss and openly plan to marry. But Tom’s future is under the direction of a stern uncle/patron, whose allowance also supports Tom’s family back home in Ireland. Once she realizes that eloping with Tom will doom his entire family, not just Tom and her, to poverty, Jane declines him. About 95% of all Hollywood movies would have gone for an historically inaccurate but happy ending. This movie does not. In fact, it even goes so far as to show the Jane character 15 or 20 years later, an old maid with graying hair, dressed in an unbecoming gown, meeting her married true love again. She even wears the same gown that the real Jane Austen wore in the one portrait of her known to be genuine. (But the real Jane, being plumper, looked right in it. This Jane, being the usual waiflike Hollywood actress, was swimming in the unflattering costume.) The story ends without a marriage, just as Jane Austen’s life did. That should count for something, shouldn’t it?

I guess. There are so many little period social inaccuracies and so many bits of trite conversational shorthand to move the melodramatic plot along. Yes, of course Maggie Smith’s noble lady in this movie could easily be the model for the smugly inane Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice. But nothing is subtle in this faux romance. Nothing is particularly humorous, either. I think the real Jane Austen would be disappointed at the lack of wit. And she might be outraged to learn that in this movie some of her best-known literary bon mots were first uttered by other people, thus suggesting that as a writer, she was more a copier than an inventor. Which is nonsense. The main idea one takes from the movie is that in order to become Jane Austen the wonderful writer, Jane Austen the person had to suffer a doomed love affair. Pretty much the same theme as in the opera "Tales of Hoffman," but without the glorious, enriching music. It's not unusual to go for the most obvious and romantic interpretation of a life. But what happened to Jane Austen the funny, funny writer? She’s almost entirely missing from “Becoming Jane.” I left the theater thinking that once again, Hollywood has settled for a simple theme about true love denied, instead of going for what is more difficult yet more accurate, the complex portrayal of a complex person. And a funny one. Sitting around the stuffy ballrooms of Regency society trading quips with the real Jane Austen would have been delicious, naughty fun. Too bad that Jane is a pale shadow in this movie.
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Romance Thief – Day 10

Success at Last!

I won’t say that the illusive Romance Thief has been apprehended, but after contacting the service department of the site where his/her blog resides, the stolen articles have been taken down. The Romance Thief—frankly the name is too evocative for a run-of-the-mill plagiarist—has never acknowledged infringing on our copyright and likely never will. It leads to the question why do people blog? Is it simply to empty out the thoughts in their head? If so why present another person’s thoughts as your own?

To impress?
To fill up space?
To make a buck?
To say what you can’t find the words to express?

Do we know?
Do we care?
Romance Thief, are you there?
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Romance Thief -- Day Five

Thief Stop Stealing Our Blog!

If you've read Poison Ivy's recent posting you know that someone took one of our blog articles and posted it word-for-word--including title--on another site as their own work. After contacting the site to request that the article be attributed or deleted we received a rude reply back from the creator/manager of the site...but the plot thickens. The creator/manager of the other site had agreed to remove the purloined article to "appease" us. When I checked back--it was still up--I discovered several more blog articles taken word-for-word from our site. Then this morning I found two of these articles plus a third that the Romance Thief had posted on his/her personal blog. Once you read the other postings on this blog it is obvious that the articles in question were written by someone else. Given that one of these sites is for writers it is especially sad that someone calling themselves a "writer" would do this.

I really wasn't sure what our options were in this situation. Since a search engine turned up evidence of the theft, I decide to do a search to find a solution. I searched on the term "blog plagiarism" and found articles going back several years. It's not surprising that many sites face this same problem. According to an online article, by Maura Welch, entitled, Online plagiarism strikes blog world, on the Boston Globe website, it's not the A-List bloggers or the unknown bloggers who are usually robbed. Seems it's middle of the road bloggers like us that are at risk. Sites like ours are popular with a niche audience, but we are not necessarily known to the general web visitor.

It is possible that the Romance Thief read our articles and liked them enough to steal them. But often text is stolen solely for convenience and used to drive traffic to a third-party site. While the articles in questions were well written, they were not necessarily taken for their merit. Some sites just steal text to load up with links that will be picked up by search engines.

Everything seems to revolve around search engines these days!

There is an interesting article by Darren Rowse at ProBlogger. I followed Rowse's seven-step advice and luckily I resolved things with the writer's site at step one. Step one is to contact the offending party. It did take several e-mails and the threat of going to step two before our articles were removed. Step two is to notify the host of the offending party's website. You can find the other five suggestions at Rowse's website.

In fairness the creator/manager of the writer's site was caught in the middle. He was not the person who posted our articles. That of course was our Romance Thief. Unfortunately I had to move to step two in my effort to have our articles removed from the Romance Thief's personal blog. I'm hoping the website host will assist me in this effort. I'm hopeful since the site included a link to report abuse. If not, it's on to step three to hit these offenders in their wallets. Step three is to notify advertisers on these sites that they are running ads on a site that has breached our copyright.

A similar list of steps for combating online theft can be found at Plagiarism Today which is run by Jonathan Bailey. On this site you'll find a helpful section on "How to Find Plagiarism" with suggestions for writers, artists/photographers and musicians. Obviously creative people are extremely venerable to online thieves.

The blatant thievery we experienced reminds me of a story about my grandmother. She lived in a unit next to the elevator in a high-rise apartment building. Her newspaper was delivered to her door every morning and then one morning it wasn't there. It wasn't there the next day and for several days after that. The deliveryman swore he left the paper each morning, so my grandmother deduced that someone waiting for the elevator was stealing her paper. One night before she went to bed she posted a sign on her front door that read "Thief, Stop Stealing My Newspaper". As far as I know it was never stolen again.

For all practical purposes there is a sign hanging over our blog that reads, Thief, Stop Stealing Our Blog! Hopefully there is one hanging over yours. I've found over the years that writers can be generous people. It only takes a little attribution to keep them happy. I've never understood why people would steal from those that are so willing to share. Yes, I'm talking to you, Romance Thief.
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Romance Thief

Okay, now I have to vent.

While I was researching romances on the Internet today, I came across one of my previous essays, Write Something Good, on another Internet blog site and posted there as if it was the original writing of someone else.

Shame on you!

Of course I am flattered that the thief liked my essay so much that he/she swiped it and put it on another site. But it was wrong to do it. This is original copyrighted material, folks. Don’t mess with it without permission.

And I suppose I should be flattered that people then responded on that site about how much they liked the essay. But I’m kind of disappointed, instead. If you like my writing so much, why not tell me? Somebody went to all the trouble of cutting and pasting my essay and posting it on another blog, yet couldn’t be bothered to write and say, “Gee, nice essay. I’d like to put it up on another site.”

Here’s the kicker. When the site host was notified of the plagiarism, MyRomanceStory.com was accused of manipulating the post date on the original blog essay, in other words, lying about what had happened.

Double shame on you!

Am I going to mention the name of the blog on which this blatant thievery took place?

No.

But it does bring up an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while. Blogging is public talk. We all know that. And you are freely invited to read these words; no site pass or login is required, no cookies are involved. But these still are my words, people, not yours. Not unless you belly up to the bar and post your comments. Then, as your words accumulate and mine become merely the lead-off to a topic, it will become your blog. This blog could also be different in a bad way. You could post lots of snarky comments, get into arguments with us and with each other, degenerate into name-calling, and so on. But that is not happening. Thank you. But think about commenting.

Meanwhile, I’m going to continue treating my blog entries as my own personal op-ed column. I’ll continue to write essays about topics that interest me as a reader, writer, and editor of romance. I hope you’ll like them. I ask you not to steal them from me or our other contributors.
Copyright © 2010 Arrow Publications, LLC™. All Rights Reserved.