Thursday, November 27, 2014

Black Friday Deals: All My Books Are 99 Cents!

I don't believe people should be at a disadvantage for wanting to spend the Thanksgiving holidays with their families. That is part of the reason I have always loved Cyber Monday: you can shop from home, and don't have to deal with the crowds--in fact, you never have to leave your armchair.

That's why all my books are going to be ninety-nine cents from now until cyber Monday on both Smashwords and Amazon. The omnibus editions of Horrorscape and Shadow Thane--DEADLY GAMES and WITCHFIRE will be $2.99 each, as opposed to their regular $6.99 and $5.99 respectively (and you get all three books in the series bundled--what a steal).

Nenia's Smashwords page

Nenia's Amazon page

The changes have already been made on Smashwords, but there's a couple hours' lag on Ammy. So if they haven't registered, just check back in a few hours!

I am truly grateful for my readers and, especially, my fans. Please spread the word and let others know about this sale!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Out with the Old and In with the New...Makeup, That Is!

I'm a closet girly-girl. I say I'm closeted because, given the choice, I'd rather not clothes shop (it's too depressing -- at my size, I generally have my choice of "color blind bag lady" and "frumpy mama"), or get a manicure (I'm twitchy and have a short attention span and don't really like people touching my hands), or my hair (too much PTSD from bad haircuts...also, twitchiness and boredom).

But makeup, on the other hand, is something I can really get on board with. It's like art...for your face! And whereas those other three activities I listed are pretty costly and time consuming, makeup (if you budget yourself carefully) can be pretty affordable, and, if you watch the right videos, fast to apply. (Obviously you'll want to practice.)

My problem is that I didn't use to wear makeup all that much, especially not in college. Who gives a fuck about what color your lips are when you're cramming for a final exam in cognitive neuroscience? (And yes, that is totally a class, and yes, it is as hard as it sounds.) I only wore makeup on special occasions, which meant I kept it on hand far longer than is advisable. And, given my limited funds, I was unwilling to part with said makeup.

I'm that person who pretty much keeps her makeup around until it gets gross. It used to be a pretty common occurence that I'd open up a lip gloss, and find out that it had separated, so it was thick and gooey on the bottom and watery and clear on top. Or that it'd smell funny. Or once, when I opened up a three-year old compact of Revlon concealer, covered with a thin sprinkling of mold.

I immediately made a goal to myself that I would not be That Person who had twenty-year-old lip glosses in her purse. Also, I'm really making an effort to actually use what I buy. For example, last year, a 150-color palette of ELF eye shadow went on clearance for, like, five dollars. I really wanted to buy it, so I made myself promise that I would actually use the eye shadow if I bought it. And I have. Some colors more than others, but I really have been using it. So I'm proud of myself.

Anyway, today I bought some makeup at the store where I work because a) I'm getting a feel for the colors that do and don't work for me (I used to be clueless), and want to get rid of the ones that don't, and b) I have an employee discount, which means that makeup is even more affordable.

The first thing I got was Sinful Colors nail polish in Cauldron Couture.

It's a Halloween color, so it was on Clearance. I think by the time all the discounts were applied, it was only about fifty or sixty cents. I really like Sinful Colors. I bought a bright red by them for my 1920s Halloween costume, and it looked really great (and was only about $1.99 full price).

I also have another color by them, a metallic electric blue called Hottie, that looks like something straight out of Frozen. It's such a lovely, icy color, and I haven't seen it's like anywhere else.

For Halloween I also bought a lipstick by Rimmel called Rosetto. It's from Kate Moss's line and has a really great, luminous red color without any orange undertones. I cannot wear orange or yellow, so this is great. I need solid reds or pink reds, and it is surprisingly hard to find a solid red.

But this one is.

The only thing I don't like about Rimmel is that the caps aren't sealed in plastic like Revlon or No7, so I had to look inside each one and make sure that they hadn't been used. (People are so disgusting sometimes.) Rosetto is almost the exact shade as No7's Love Red, but half the price. It also smells like cherry chapstick, which is a little disconcerting. Since when does lipstick have a smell?

It bleeds like a mother, and the best way to stop bleeding is to use a lipliner, which I didn't have. I think the last lip liner I owned was in middle school, and it was a dark purple, and oh my god, I paired it with all the wrong lip colors and I'm pretty sure I looked like a chola.

It was really, really bad. Let us never speak of it again.

Anyway, I found an affordable lipliner for a little over $5, sealed in plastic just the way I like it. This one is by L'Oreal (because I'm worth it), and called Always Red.

I haven't actually used it, yet. Tomorrow, probably!

What I'm trying to do is get rid of things when I buy new things, so I don't end up with a crapton of stuff that I don't need. I'm trying to do that with clothes. There are a lot of things in my closet that don't fit (I call them my "I wish" pants -- as in, I wish that I still fit into them, and keep them around as testament to the fact that both I used to fit into them, and might someday fit into them again) and I'm trying to get rid of these things, because keeping them around is just sad. I'd rather have things that fit. And if I lose the weight I've gained over the years, then I fucking deserve to go shopping.

SO since I bought makeup, I decided to go through my drawers and see what was moldering away that could be thrown away to make place for my fun, shiny new toys.

And here is what I found:

Clinique eyeshadow -- it's probably about seven years old. I haven't worn it for at least four years. So it's been sitting there, being like, SOON. I think it's time to toss it, don't you?

Clinique face wash -- I have no idea how old this is. I've had it since high school, but since it's a scrub I stopped feeling comfortable using it on my face years and years ago. But since it was expensive, I kept it around...out of guilt. No longer. Bye, zombie wash!

ELF eyeshadow -- ELF (Eyes Lips Face) is probably one of my favorite brands. They're cheap, and they don't seem to have terrible ingredients because they don't give me bad skin reactions. (Clinique, on the other hand, has -- their face concealer used to make my skin peel...ughhh.) But these colors -- moss and yellow green, and royal and robin's-egg-blue -- just didn't work with my complexion.

ELF glitter body powder -- I LOVE THIS SHIT. I bought it last year during the holidays, and then they stopped fucking selling it. I am so white, that most concealers, even the lightest beige, are too dark on me. This stuff was supposed to be transparent but actually made for a great concealer. When mixed with lotion, it also added a nice (but toned down) sparkle that made for a dewy finish. As you can see, I pretty much used it up, which I almost never manage to do with makeup (sadly). It's down to a few sad little crumbs, and I am very sad to see it go. Please make more of it, a.s.a.p. I'll be waiting!

Patti Dubroff cream eyeshadow pencil -- Patti Dubroff is another one of my favorite makeup brands, and they frequently have her stuff in value packs at Costco. I have two different sets of her lipglosses (pinks and nudes), two eyeshadow sets (her "dream palette" and a lipgloss, eyeshadow, eyeliner, and blusher set that is fucking AWESOME), and a bunch of her cream pencils. Her neutrals are better than her colors, though. This one was the color of a bad bruise and made me look like I'd been punched in the face when I wore it. The green one that came with it is better, because it has a kind of oxidized copper finish on my skin tone that looks smoky and kind of nice.

The moral of this story is:

1. Makeup can be affordable.

2. Makeup is a good way to look like you've put in a lot of effort even if you're lazy (like me) or hate clothes (like me).

3. You should probably throw away your makeup at some point, especially if it's been several years.

4. Even if you have your favorites, you can still be (pleasantly) surprised by new brands.

5. Sometimes the cheaper brands are just as good as the more expensive ones.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why I Won't Be Stalking You: An Open Letter to Readers and Authorsplainers

I have been sharing my writing with people online since I was about fifteen. I have been selling my books for money since I was twenty-two. I am now twenty-five, and while I am still naive about many facets of life, publishing and author professionalism are not among them.*

*Although this is not to say that I have not done stupid things in the past. I have had moments of unprofessionalism, but they are nothing I am too ashamed of. I think of my mistakes both as a learning experience and as an exercise in humility: none of us are above making asses of ourselves.

Recently, however, there have been a lot of authors making asses of themselves. And they are spewing all this shit into the blogosphere like they think it's Chanel No.5 and we should be grateful for having their virtual stink thrust upon us. Um, yeah, no thanks. As an independent author, I am already at a distinct disadvantage career-wise without having other authors try to authorsplain* to the world about why they are entitled to act like stalkalicious* jerkmobiles*.

*These are all totally real words by the way. You can look them up easily in your Neniapedia.

Some authors say that their books are like their babies. I think that's a bad analogy. I think a better analogy is that macaroni picture you made in kindergarten. You may think it's great, and of course, your parents (and friends) are going to think it's great, but this egocentric bubble of unconditional positive thinking has no bearing on what the world at large is going to make of your work.

I write books. They are not me, and I am not them. Some of the characters may be reflections of various things that have happened in my life, but that doesn't make them autobiographical. When I write, I tend to write from a point of being emotionally removed. This way, my own thoughts and feelings and morals and beliefs don't get in the way of the characterization.

Because I. Am. Not. My. Characters.

I won't lie and say that negative reviews never hurt, because they do -- sometimes a lot. I'm at a point where most of them just have me scrolling past. I don't need to know what they say particularly, because I've seen it all before, and I know that they usually aren't written for me. I've been revenge-reviewed, I've been spite-reviewed; I've been attacked by sock puppets; I've had people lie, threaten, and deride; I've even received negative reviews from my friends. And we're still friends.

Here's why. Because I am always grateful when someone takes the chance to read one of my books. If they didn't like it, that's unfortunate; I really do feel bad when someone feels like they've wasted their money after reading one of my books. But it's not something I have any control over, so I don't focus on it. I don't interrogate them, or demand a follow-up because I know that reading is personal, a matter of taste. Sometimes there is no explanation, and it's certainly not my place to demand one.

Because I. Am. Not. My. Books.

Reviews are not personal attacks. They weren't even really meant for me to read (although I read them anyway).  Reviews are for other readers -- and often, they were written as a cathartic release for the reviewer who wrote it. I know that when I write my reviews, they were written to remind me of my thoughts and feelings during the reading process to refer to again later when making purchasing decisions. I comment on reviews to thank, and I only do it for reviews higher than two. I used to thank everyone, but too many people felt uncomfortable or thought I was being sarcastic when I thanked my one-star reviews, which really wasn't the case. I am genuinely grateful for all feedback, because any sort of response is better than being doomed to a life of obscurity.

Most people who read my books seem to enjoy them, and that makes me happy. Yes, there are people who read my books and don't enjoy them, but that's okay, too. It means my reviews are honest. It means that the people writing me negative reviews (presumably) feel safe enough to leave them for my books, because they know that I'm not going to commence Operation Stalk and post personal information on the internet, or maybe show up at their house demanding answers (or blood). It means that someone, somewhere, is reading my book, and that it's not sitting on the shelf Forever Alone.

Readers, I will not be stalking you, and here is why.

Because it's unprofessional. I conduct my behavior with the understanding that I represent not just myself as an individual, but also myself as a brand.

Because it's unkind. I am not an asshole. (At least, I try very, very hard not to be.)

Because it's not fair. An author, with her fans, severely outnumbers a lone reviewer or a small group of bloggers. I don't want to be a leading a mob.

Because it's ungrateful. If someone takes the time to read what I write, that is amazing. Most people work and have very busy schedules (kids, spouse, pets). A book is a huge commitment. A lot of people don't realize just how serious a commitment this really is.

Because it's cruel. I've been stalked and bullied. And no, not in the "boo hoo someone gave me a 1-star review" sense. I had to be put on watch by my school because I was receiving threats daily. I am empathetic towards people who undergo the psychological torture -- and yes, it is torture -- that is bullying. I went through it myself, and would never wish it on someone else. It is terrible and Wrong.

Because it's too much effort. I'm a writer. I also work about 30-35 hours/week. When I'm not working, I'd rather be reading, or out with my friends, or playing with my cats. Life is too short to spend dwelling on the negatives. Why poison your mind with what you cannot fix?

Because it's not who I am.

I am twenty-five-years old.

I am author of 15 books.

I work in customer service.

I like cats.

I consider most of my readers friends.

And I am not a stalker.

If you reviewed my books, thank you.

If you have read my books, thank you.

If you reviewed them negatively and read and hated them, thank you for being honest.

This is what should happen.

Nobody should be afraid to be heard.

Nobody should be afraid to be anything less than honest in their reviews.

I am an author, and I support readers' rights to review as they damn please without fear of retaliation.

...And you should, too.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

What's Happening Right Meow: New Cats(?)

I have always been a cat person. And we have always gotten our cats in one way: they were strays or abandoned, and a friend (or sometimes a friend of a friend) told us first instead of going to the pound. Some of these cats were more people shy than others, but all of them made great pets in the end.

When I'm not writing, I work at a department store. Today they had me working in the pets department, so I smelled like cat food. When I walked from my car, two cats followed me to the porch. They were both very people shy, but I was able to talk to one of them until it came over. I recognized it as the black one that's been sleeping under my car for the past week or so.

Both of them were rail thin.

I felt really bad that I smelled like food and wasn't giving them any, so I told my mom. We put out some food -- tuna, milk, and water. While they ate, my sister and I talked to and petted them and my mother and brother went out to buy cat food.

They are so skinny it breaks my heart, and the black one flinched every time I petted it. The white one looks like someone marked it with spray paint and broke its tail. They have the sweetest faces and can't be more than a year old, and yet both of them flinch at every noise, and pace, making sure they know where everyone is at all times. The fluffy one's haunches are actually concave...

Let me just say that there is a special place in hell for people who abuse animals.

There is no excuse.

Thanks for my new cats, assholes. We'll give them a loving home.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Feeling Decadent: New Book Summary Reveal

I posted the summary to my new book last night! It's called Decadence, and it's basically a take on the rich boy/poor girl stereotype ... with a twist. Namely, that everyone in the book makes questionable moral decisions for the sake of (*cue horror movie scream*) power and popularity.

I don't normally write contemporary YA or NA romances because drama and angst and sex for the sake of sex just aren't interesting to me at all, not as a reader or as a writer. That isn't to say that I am incapable of enjoying these things at all. It's like chocolate, you know. There's cheap, drug-store chocolate -- and then there's Swiss dark melts-slowly-in-your-mouth-to-perfection chocolate. Some people like both, some people prefer one or the other. I am a chocolate snob ... and a YA/NA snob.

I was inspired to write Decadence because of my growing frustration with contemporary YA/NA as a whole, which could easily be renamed "straight, white cis couples kissing" based on the covers. YA -- and especially NA -- rarely cover important issues, like ableism, race, stereotypes, drug use, suicide, or abuse, or when they do it is in a way that is so over the top or ridiculous as to be almost offensive.

My book will deal with most of these concepts -- and more. Maybe I'll get some of it wrong. Maybe I'll end up offending someone. But at least I'll know that I tried to write something different.


“I bet they told you at orientation that Ashgrove wasn't like your old school.”

Rachael Williams is the only black student at the exclusive private school, Ashgrove Heights. Through hard work and sheer luck she's managed to crawl out of the lowest moment of her life. At orientation, she meets a girl who has been driven out through vicious, violent bullying, who warns her to keep her head down: the students aren't what they seem.

Andrew Worth is broken inside. He's considered suicide, but he'd rather stick around and make everyone else feel miserable. His grades are falling, he does every drug that's bottled and sold, and everyone's terrified of what he'll do next.

Daphne Kim is the school's golden girl. When someone fucks with her, she fucks back--harder and better. Her boyfriend knows that better than anyone. She's the only one who can stop Andrew from his downward spiral, but she's having too much fun watching.

When Andrew's father hires Rachael to tutor his son after she's announced as valedictorian, Rachael gets mixed up in the popular kids' Machiavellian hierarchy of sex, power, and scandal. It's a dangerous game, but if she doesn't play they'll eat her alive.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Secret Shame: On Buying and Reading Romance Novels

I collect vintage historical romances. They're so dated and I love how they are completely unlike anything published today. Yes, they are cheesy as hell and politically incorrect as all get-out, but that's part of their charm. I love charming classic regency novels; I love the dark, epic sagas contained in bodice rippers penned during the 70s and 80s; I love the sensationalist fictional biographies; I love the big-hair and fast-cars glitter-trash novels from the 80s and 90s.

Basically, I love romance novels.

I didn't used to, though. I used to look down on the women who read them, because I had always been told, either directly or through stereotypes in the media, that romance novels were for women of below-average intelligence, women who were too unattractive to get a man and therefore had to resort to ill-written fantasy, women who were, basically, like nothing I wanted to be.

Oh, I was wrong. So, so wrong.

The first romance novelist I ever read was Lisa Kleypas. I was recommended her by a friend I held in high esteem. A lot of my friends, who were definitely not stupid or pathetic -- as far from it as possible, actually -- were reading romance novels and I began to wonder if there was something to the genre after all. Kleypas's smart prose and sparkling wit won me over almost immediately.

From Kleypas, I moved on to Julia Quinn, Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, and then, later, Courtney Milan. Now, I'll read almost everything once. I may not like all of what I read, and there are definitely some cringe-worthy romance novels that do the genre as a whole ill, but there are a lot of wonderful, amazing, deep romance novels that are just, well, romantic. With a capital 'R.'

A few months ago, I was shopping at a thrift store for my favorite kind of goodies and a man asked what I was looking for, and I said, "Vintage romance novels." He then proceeded to inform me that he had always thought romance novels were stupid, until he realized that some of the older ones were actually worth money to collectors. I gave him a tight smile and said, "Well, I enjoy reading them."

Creepy McJudgingyou couldn't take a hint, and proceeded to follow me around the store, bragging about some of his best finds. "I actually found a signed first edition of Gone with the Wind," he said, "I sold it for forty grand. Someone must have really messed up not to catch that, huh?"

I had stopped responding by that point, because he was starting to piss me off.

And the irony of my reaction was not lost on me. Because I used to think like that, too. A lot of people do.

Romance is a huge market. According to NPR, it's a 1.4 billion dollar industry. Other genres don't even come close in terms of netted profit. What makes it even more amazing is that romance is one of the few genres (apart from maybe YA -- although John Green has tipped the scales in that scene, and not necessarily for the better) that is dominated by women.

And yet, despite its popularity, and its ability to bring in money, the romance genre is almost constantly mocked, and so are the women who read in the genre. Does the fact that it's a genre geared almost entirely towards women have anything to do with this? I can't help but wonder if that's the case -- that a genre targeted towards women must automatically be inferior, both from an intellectual standpoint and from a standpoint of cultural significance.

Because, despite advancements made in the treatment of women, things still aren't completely equal. Women are still shamed for pursuing sex. Women are shamed for talking about sex. Women are shamed for showing interest in sex. And women are shamed for reading and writing romance novels.

Even when they're good.

Even when they consistently out-sell all other genres.


Well, that's the 1.4 billion dollar question, isn't it?

I, for one, will be happily, and unabashedly, reading my bodice-rippers in public -- not in a paper bag.

Further reading:

Romance Novels, The Last Great Bastion of Underground Writing (The Awl)

Beyond Bodice-Rippers: How Romance Novels Came to Embrace Feminism (The Atlantic)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The '(f)Art' in Literary Fiction: What Smells in Here?

Every book reviewer has a different scale for rating the books that they have read, and really, a subjective star rating only scratches at the surface of the complicated interplay of reason and emotion that goes through the head of a reader while experiencing a book.

I do not rate based on literary merit. I have friends that do, and this is fine because that is their system and not mine, but I do not; instead, I rate solely based on entertainment. This is how books like Pet to the Tentacle Monsters! can get three stars, whereas literary wunderkind Dave Eggers' latest book, The Circle, can get one.

My personal philosophy is that there is no "higher plane" of judgement that makes literature exempt from the entertainment rubric that applies to trashy mass-market paperbacks. Books were written to be read. They were meant to be enjoyed (with the possible exception of Fifty Shades of Grey; I'm pretty sure they force prisoners in Guantanamo Bay to listen to a special audiobook edition narrated by Gilbert Gottfried and Bette Midler when they're trying to draw confessions).

I mean, really. When you think about it, should a book automatically be granted five stars just because it managed to stay in print for 200+ years? That's like giving a student an A just because they decided to come in to class.

And yet, it never fails to surprise me how many people believe this unspoken assumption that all classics should be rated with 4- or 5-star ratings, and how quick they are to judge you if you don't. I have one-starred my fair share of classic and modern literature, and received more than my fair share of criticisms because of it, and the arguments almost always open up in the same way each time (always from someone who has five-starred the book).

Let's briefly go over some of the distinguishing characteristics of literary fiction that make it stand out from its lesser brethren.

Someone--either The New York Times, a professor at Harvard, or Oprah--has deemed this book "literature," which is a weighted term that indicates that the book contains some other quality that surpasses mere entertainment. Usually, this means that it touches upon some relevant, controversial issue (AIDS, racism, sexism, the holocaust) or Areas of Interest in the news (i.e. Africa, the Balkans).

The book is usually written in a certain way: it gets funky with punctuation (Jose Saramago, Cormac McCarthy, I'm looking at you); it uses flowery, convoluted prose (Tea Obreht, Iris Murdoch, Charlotte Bronte); it does the literary equivalent of jumping up and down on a desk, waving your arms, and shouting, "I'm a fucking intellectual!" (I think we all know I'm talking about Dave Eggers. But just to be clear, I'm talking about Dave Eggers.)

This literary book isn't meant to be entertaining, it's meant to be art.

Sometimes, a work of literary fiction can be both. But usually, it is not.  And if you down-rate a book that meets these qualifications just because you, personally, did not enjoy it, people get mad.

I have been thinking about this, and I have come to the conclusion that it's because literary fiction attracts a certain kind of individual who reads certain kinds of books because they believe that the books they read say something about who they are as a person (read: "I'm a fucking intellectual!").

I can't think of any other reason why people would get so consistently angry about what other people say of the classics, unless they had some sort of personal or emotional investment in the book. And I think that comes down to the crux of the issue. There is a dark side to the literary fiction community, rife with intellectual snobbery and inferiority complexes. Reading books too complex for the casual reader gives them a sense of satisfaction that is disrupted when they see someone writing a review about why the book is no longer culturally relevant from an entertainment perspective.

Because--*gasp*--what if that means that they were wrong?

The snob reader's opening argument is usually a quick soundbite that reads as if it's been cribbed from a college professor or a dog-earred copy of Cliffnotes. Didn't like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas? Don't you know it's about "the death of the American Dream"?

The SR generally backs up their argument with an attack on the reader's intelligence.

"You clearly didn't read the book."

"Sorry this wasn't the beach read you expected."

"I've never seen such a willfully ignorant interpretation of a book."

(Watch out; the SR knows how to utilize

Entering into these kinds of arguments is never a good idea, because they tend to be highly cyclic. I suspect this is because the SR often has no idea what the book they are defending is even really about, beyond what they were told it was about, and once they get tired of repeating the soundbite they will just resort to personal attacks, because "dumb slut" is a phrase that most everyone understands.

Ad hominems aside, I do think that part of the reason that literary fiction persists through the ages is because of what the books symbolize, rather than what the books are actually about, and how people apply that symbolism to their definition of themselves. For example, if a person claims that Charlotte Bronte is their favorite author, that suggests something about their character, their romantic inclinations, their worldview. Same goes with Hunter S. Thompson, Albert Camus, or Virginia Woolf. This is a necessary evil whenever something enters the pop cultural lexicon.

However, I do think that a book should also be able to stand on its own as a form of entertainment. If it doesn't, it will never receive a five-star rating from me. Two-star, tops. Clearly, some people are getting enjoyment out of these classics, and that is fine. But what works for one person doesn't necessarily work for all people, and I think shaming people for disliking a work of literary fiction (or any written work, for that matter) is wrong. Last time I checked, the definition of "art" wasn't: "you're a dumb fuck if you don't like this."

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Guest Book

Have a comment? A suggestion? Leave it here. I've enabled anonymous comments (although you may have to fill out one of those annoying Captcha things. I'm sorry for that, but ever since I reviewed Asa Akira's memoir, I've started receiving 100x as many porn ads as before).

Note: Comments will be moderated.

Why New Adult Is Getting Old

It is difficult to condemn an entire genre--obviously, there are exceptions to every rule--but man is it getting old seeing the same types of books topping the best seller charts over and over again.

If, for some reason, you've been living under a rock for the last two years and somehow missed the frenzied rush to cash in on the latest trend, "new adult" is essentially older YA that takes place in the 18-24 age bracket, typically during, pre- or post-college. And everyone is doing it.

In principle, new adult is a great idea. Before the sudden explosion in popularity, the 18-24 age bracket was sorely under-represented in popular fiction. Back in college, my roommates and I loved reading YA, but it was frustrating, being stuck with characters who were so much younger than we were, and who lived in what was, by and large, a world that even Disney wouldn't mind.

When I heard some of the summaries about popular new adult titles, I was excited. Finally, I could read about characters in my age bracket who explored real, edgy issues, like drug use, sexuality, living on one's own for the first time, going off to college for the first time, and so on. I read several of the most popular new adult titles to satisfy my curiosity, and then came to a very depressing realization: these books were not about my life--and they're not about the lives of anyone I know.

Most new adult books have been reduced to a simple formula:

Girl meets boy. Boy is trouble. Girl doesn't care. They both live happily ever after.

Worse, still: these books often include gratuitous slut-shaming (i.e. punishing a woman for being sexual, or actively pursuing sex), unprotected sex, unplanned pregnancy, and domestic violence and rape masquerading as romance. It is not uncommon, for example, to have the male protagonist beat up men (and sometimes women) while the female character looks on. Usually, the male protagonist coerces the (usually virgin) heroine into a sexual relationship, during which they typically do not use a condom. At the end of the book, the heroine often finds out she's pregnant, and it ends with a wedding. They are racist, homophobic, and in general propagate a close-minded attitude that I'd really hate to see go mainstream because it is so hateful, and willfully ignorant.

If the book does take place in a college setting, it has been my experience that these colleges often resemble rich high schools. There are cliques, everyone seems to know everyone, and nobody seems to spend any actual time in class pursuing higher knowledge. The heroine frequently ends up dropping out, or taking a year off, and smart people are portrayed as being ugly, bitchy, or pathetic. Most women who read are highly intelligent, even if they wouldn't describe themselves as intellectuals, necessarily, and I can't help but wonder what the appeal is in a book that is so condemnatory about what is--for me, anyway--such an integral part of who I am.

That isn't to say that there aren't any good new adult books out there--there are--but from what I have seen the bad outweigh the good. Unfortunately, until these books stop making money, they are going to keep being published, and the speed and relative convenience of self-publishing has ensured that the market will remain heavily saturated. All trends must come to an end, though, and I harbor some small hope that one day, someone will wake up and realize that the lives of men and women, ages 18 to 24, are so much more complex and meaningful than we are making them out to be.

Until that day, however, I'm going to walk the moment I see a white, straight, cis couple kissing in the rain on the cover of a book that promises me an "edgy," "gritty" tale with "dark content."

Monday, October 6, 2014

Can You Read Bodice Rippers and Still Be a Feminist?

I think a lot of women these days are feeling as if they are being tugged in two directions: on the one hand, we have news stories that clearly show the presence of rape culture in our society, and songs that try to blur the lines when it comes to consent. (By the way, I am SUPER PSYCHED about California's "yes means yes" law.) Women see these things in the news, and of course, we feel angry and upset and afraid; because we do not want these things to happen to us, our family, or our friends.

On the other hand, we have some very anti-feminist romance novels topping the best-sellers lists. And a lot of women who claim to be feminists also like these misogynistic rape-fests masquerading as romance novels. This is not a new thing, either. The "bodice rippers" that were so prominent in the 70s and 80s were incredibly violent towards women, often featuring numerous rapes committed by heroes and villains alike. Yikes!  So what gives? Shouldn't there be some kind of cognitive dissonance going on here? How is it possible to enjoy a romance novel that propagates such unhealthy attitudes towards male-female relationships and interactions; sex; and romance, in general?

First, I think it's important to note that there is a difference between rape fantasy and actual rape. Rape fantasy is about control: the woman is in charge of the scenario because it is entirely in her head, and about her desires. In a way, a rape fantasy is a paradox because the fantasy in and of itself implies that consent is implicit (unless, of course, you have OCD, or other psychiatric disorder, and the thoughts are a part of an unwanted, and unpleasant obsession).

The definition of rape is often hazy, but I have always considered it to be any unwanted sexual act, whether it is oral sex, digital stimulation/penetration, or vaginal/anal penetration. The critical part of the definition is that no "yes" was involved. The woman either said "no", or was unable to say "no" (e.g. unconscious, or inhibited by alcohol or drugs), and had the sexual act forced upon her, regardless. In this scenario, the woman has no control because it has been taken from her.

Romance novels may add to rape culture, which is an environment that makes apologies for or enables rapists and also shames women for being sexually autonomous, but they are a symptom, not a cause. It is troubling to see romance novels where the female lead ends up having a happily-ever-after with a rapist hero...but on the other hand, if reading the book allows a woman to be autonomous in fulfilling her own fantasies, isn't that a good thing?

The biggest problem with romance novels occurs when people attempt to translate them into reality. Romance novels are sexual fantasy, and not examples of how people should behave in real life. When fandoms get carried away in their "shipping" and call these rapist, misogynistic men their "book boyfriends," and jokingly call themselves "Mrs. Rapist," they are also contributing to rape culture; they are taking a horrible act, normalizing it, and making it mainstream.

I am not saying that these women want to be raped. But the context of a romance novel puts rape, and other misogynistic acts, into a toxic context where violence against women and rape are shown to be acts of love and devotion by a man so swept away by his passions that he has lost all control. Just think of that pivotal scene in Gone with the Wind...

So is it possible to read bodice rippers and still be a feminist?

Yes. I think it is, as long as you read wisely, with the understanding that fantasy is just that...fantasy. It is when romance novels begin to warp society's expectations for men and women that they begin to grow harmful, especially when they occlude this simple truth: there is only one person who bears any culpability for rape--the rapist.

New Blog!

I already have a reviewing blog, but my friend thought it was weird that I didn't have one for my books and writing stuff as well. She's a writer as well and I was nagging her to write, and she was like, "MAKE YOUR BLOG, NENIA." So I was like, "OK I AM MAKING ONE NOW YOU WRITE, BITCH." It is through such retaliatory gestures that success happens.

So this is Nenia's Books. The name is pretty self-explanatory, I guess, but I'll walk you through the site layout. (I spent hours on the HTML and making sure all the hyperlinks worked properly.)

The banner at the top is for navigating my blog.

'HOME' will take you to my blog entries.

'ABOUT THE AUTHOR' is about me, the author. I used the brief bio that's currently on Goodreads.

'LIST OF WORKS' is a list of all my current works. I've added pages for all the main books. I think there are three that I haven't gotten to, yet (Tantalized, Witchfire, and How to Write Good). Generally, though, if a book is listed but doesn't have a hyperlink, that means it hasn't been published yet.

'TWITTER' takes you to my Twitter page. This is one of the best ways to get in contact with me; all tweets are synced with my phone, so I can pretty much answer you anytime, anywhere.

'FACEBOOK FAN PAGE' takes you to my Facebook fan page. I would be honored to have your 'like'!

'GOODREADS AUTHOR PAGE' takes you to my Goodreads Author Page. When I'm on the computer, I'm usually on Goodreads, so this is the second best way to get in contact with me.

'INSTAGRAM' takes you to my instagram. Most of the stuff on here has nothing to do with my books, although occasionally I make personal thank-you cards and banners here for readers.

'PINTEREST' takes you to my Pinterest. I have boards here for most of my stories, published or not.

'REVIEWING BLOG' takes you to my other blogger blog, The Armchair Librarian. It is where I post reviews of the books I read. I love reading, and welcome comments from fellow book-lovers!

'BUY ON SMASHWORDS' and 'BUY ON AMAZON' take you to my author pages on Smashwords and Amazon, respectively. This is where you can buy my available books.

Thank you so much for being a fan! <3

This book is an omnibus edition of books 1-3 in the Horrorscape series.

A young woman gets entangled with a burgeoning psychopath who will do anything to possess her.  

The titles contained in this edition are:




Buying these books bundled saves over $1 in retail value.

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 Magic and science combine in this anthology of futuristic fairytales, ballads, and lyrical poetry. Contains five retellings:

Deep Blue Nightmare.

Clockwork Roses

Quantum Diamond


Blood of my Blood

Buy on Amazon.

 Keep your friends close and your enemies closer...

Christina Parker agreed to go to work for the BN because she thought it would keep her and her loved ones safe. But the BN's training facility is more like a prison than a school, and rumors about her illicit relationship with an IMA assassin make assimilation difficult - if not impossible.

At the same time, Michael Boutilier has his hands full trying to deal with his psychotic boss's latest sick and sordid plan to broaden his sphere of influence...through social media.

In this age of six degrees of separation, their problems might be more connected than they think...


 Buy on Amazon.


 It's hard to adjust to the trials and tribulations of college when you've been the focal point in a web of intrigue and murder. Christina Parker, now a student at a small liberal arts college in central Arizona, is still trying to forget the man who took her through hell and back one year ago.

She was doing just fine, too, until said man appeared again, out of the blue. On the doorstep of her new apartment. Unconscious.

Suddenly, the brittle semblance of normality that Christina managed to construct after all this time is shattered. With a wounded man to contend with and the prominent threat of the ruthless IMA, Christina is forced to face all her old fears head-on.

...But this time, she'll be doing it on her own terms.

Buy on Amazon.

 Michael Boutilier is a young assassin working for a mysterious organization of mercenaries called the IMA; an organization so powerful that government denies its existence. When a hacker breaks into their computer's mainframe, they send Michael out to finish off the loose ends. But so far, there's just one lead to go on. The hacker's daughter, Christina Parker.

Christina seems like any other high school senior. And she is — until she gets kidnapped by a group of people who think she's the key to the malicious code that has infected their mainframe system and she is plunged into a world where the lines between right and wrong are blurred beyond all recognition and terror knows no bounds. What do you do when the odds are against you, and the stake is your life?

As she quickly learns, there are good guys and there are bad guys. Sometimes Michael's one, sometimes he's the other--but usually he's both. And right now he's the only one who can save her.

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 Volera Magray is a Player: she engages with the tourists who come to play the VR games for which her district is so famous. She makes her living being pitted against other Players in terrifyingly real virtual reality games, fought for the gratification of a hedonistic audience.

Fighting is all she knows.

By day, she is a normal denizen of the oppressive Regency, but by night, she is wracked by terrible nightmares that hint at a past she can no longer remember. She suspects she might have killed someone—and she's afraid that she might do it again.

At the same time, the games she's playing are growing steadily more violent. Someone is hacking into the system and creating bootlegged games. Dangerous games. Deadly games. Games that tell a story of profound corruption and massive-scale government conspiracies, warping the lines between fact and fiction.

The only clue she has comes in the form of an exceedingly frustrating and potentially dangerous man named Catan Vareth. But, like everything else in her world, his help will cost her...

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 Catherine Pierce always knew she was going to leave home. She just never thought it would be at seventeen, on the run for her life.

Her only ally is her greatest enemy, Phineas Riordan, the witch who brought her to the attention of the Slayers hunting her.

And they're not alone.

Because Phineas is losing his control...and his sanity...and he is determined to possess Catherine at any cost.

Even if it starts a war.

And loses him an entire kingdom...CROWNED BY FIRE.

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 Catherine Pierce is a black beast, a shape-shifter that has no settled form because of the magic-infused witch blood that runs through her veins. This anomaly brought her to the attention of the ruthless Council that governs her kind. Unfortunately, their corrupt delegate has taken a vested interest in Catherine.

Crown Prince Phineas Riordan is a powerful witch who has mastered three of the four elements. The one thing he can't master is his sexual deviancy, which, if discovered, means his life and his kingdom are forfeit. Because witches and shape-shifters are not allowed to fraternize. Ever. But that won't stop him from using the disappearance of Catherine's childhood friend--and romantic rival--to his advantage.

Meanwhile, the Slayer threat is growing stronger. Catherine and Phineas are on the brink of uncovering the secret organization forming within the bowels of the school...but they're being watched, as well. A war is brewing, and it promises to be an apocalyptic nightmare even worse than the Great War that happened between their kind 200 years ago.

Catherine has seen how the world ends in her dreams: it will be not by fire, or by ice, but by shadow. For she is...touched with sight.

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 She walks the line between the hunter and the hunted.

Vampires want her blood.

Witches consider her less-than-human.

Slayers simply want her dead.

As if being in high school wasn't hard enough, Catherine Pierce has to deal with a whole other set of problems that arise from being a shifter that hasn't settled. Because after puberty, shifters are supposed to stop changing--and Catherine, well, hasn't.

Even among her own kind, Catherine is regarded as a freak.

To make matters worse, she'd caught the attention of the witches' Council because they think she's been dabbling in dark magic because of a stupid old book that popped up at her work. And she's been having nightmares about a terrifying man who calls himself the Shadow Thane and plans to end the world in a burst of darkness and dragon fire.

Just in case that wasn't enough, a branch of Slayers are infiltrating Catherine's town, under the guise of a community youth group called Sterling Rep.

Times are changing and that means, for Catherine, it's time to Change.



He lost to her twice and it nearly consumed him. Now, it's time for another game. And this time, he won't let her go so easily. Val's not just fighting for her friends' lives this time: She's fighting for her own, too.


Buy Terrorscape on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

 What reviewers are saying about Terrorscape:

"This book is...indescribable, really. I blazed through it, skipped meals and sleep, and I'm still not sure what I just read. The book was constantly jumping from horrendous murders to psychological warfare, culminating in an ending I honestly didn't see coming even though I'd been more or less expecting some version of it since the first book."

Val receives a calling card from a very dangerous boy who wants to play with her. It's a game without rules, logic, or consequence, and he'll stop at nothing to claim her as his—even if it means destroying them both.

Three years ago, Valerian Kimble got herself entangled with a burgeoning sociopath intent on adding her to his own columns of wins and losses. She managed to escape him, but at a terrible cost...

This time it's personal.

 Now a high school senior, Val is a pale shadow of the girl she once was and still recovering from the terrible trauma she suffered at his hands. She is understandably reluctant when her friends receive mysterious invitations to a theme party being held in one of the old manor homes on the edge of town.

Right away, something about the party seems off. The other guests are secretive, and strangely hostile. Cell phones don't work. Doors lock and unlock, seemingly at will. And the festivities start to take a turn for the sinister as the evening progresses. Because their host loves games. Loves them so much that he's decided to make a little wager. The deadline is sunrise. The stakes? Their lives.

Let the games begin.

Buy Horrorscape on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

What reviewers are saying about Horrorscape:

"Horrorscape is a whole genre on its own. I don’t even know how to describe it. It goes where no book series I’ve read has ever gone before. I don’t know if I love it for its great writing, its controversial subject, for being such a mind-fuck, or all of the above."

 Kelly Hauser is a 25-year-old hipster/brony/self-proclaimed geek who self-publishes romance novels. She's also been in love with her best friend, Tristan Lesauvage, for fourteen years. When she finds out he's broken things off with his latest girlfriend, she takes the chance to tell him how she feels after being stuck in the friendzone for all these years.

Tristan is shocked--and Kelly thinks that he must be totally repulsed when he tells her that he doesn't think they'd be good for each other. But that's not it at all. Tristan has been an active participant in the BDSM scene since he turned 18, and he's afraid of wrecking what they have.

As Kelly pursues a relationship with her friend-turned-lover, Tristan shows her a kind of sensuality she only thought existed in books that had silly titles and covers with close-ups of inanimate objects placed on silk sheets.

Buy on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.

What reviewers are saying about Bound to Accept:

"The content is hot, sexy and varied. It ranges from sensory play to full blown, hard-core fucking."

EVELYN FONTAINE - She was forced to choose between two paths, and both of them led to death.

ADRAMELECH KHAAVEDRA - The cruel vampire lord who sought to use her in his sinister plotting.

CORBIN LIANDRALL - He started out as her victim; and now, he might just prove to be her savior...if she doesn't kill him first.

DESIREE LEVINE - The woman who changed everything.

Buy Bleeds My Desire on Amazon. Or on Smashwords.


 What reviewers are saying about Bleeds My Desire:

"Powerful, arrogant and seductive."

"No sparkly romantic vampires."

"...shrouded in mystery."