Ignoring the Impostor Syndrome

We all felt it one time or another, the insidious whisper inside our head that says, “You’re an impostor“. “How dare you stand among the great ones? What right do you have to be here? What makes you qualified to dish out advice?” You know the whispers–or sometimes loud screams in your mind.

Writers are particularly vulnerable to this. How many of us have been part of a book event where you have big names in your genre at a table five feet away from yours? It’s both exhilarating and depressing because on one hand you’re excited you’re breathing the same air as some of your literary idols while at the same time being depressed for feeling you don’t measure up to them.

Measuring up

Recently I was invited to co-present at a local, small writer’s conference. My first reaction was to say yes, but then that nagging feeling came whispering again–what can you possibly say about writing that others would think interesting or helpful? I said yes anyway because I’ve promised myself a long time ago I’d take on more challenges.

I had been part of panels before, but this was different; this was the two of us running an informative session about the writing business, From Spark to Finish (my co-presenter, talented YA author, PM Hernandez, came up with the catchy title). Between the two of us we have thirteen books published and we have both learned quite a lot in our journey through this business. And yet that doubt, that nettling feeling, was still gnawing at the back of my mind.

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Photo Credit: Jan Rayl

In the end it was a great experience. Turns out we both have quite a bit of helpful information to impart with beginning or aspiring authors, and this was the perfect venue to do so. Hernandez and I have different experiences and perspectives but because of that we were the perfect combination; she’s self-published, I’m a hybrid; she’s a semi-pantser, I’m an all-in pantser. I think I speak for both of us when I say, we had a blast as you can tell by this picture.

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PM Hernandez and me – Photo Credit: Jan Rayl

I’m sure that irksome voice will rise again, but for the moment I’m on Cloud 9, feeling accomplished and worthy. Moral of the story is we all need to ignore those whispers and take risks. When you hear that inner voice again, stick a cork in it and move on. You’ll be so glad you did it.

*Many thanks to Jan Rayl, Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt, and Becks Sousa of Write by the Rails for organizing such a great event. And everyone who attended. It was a lot of fun.*

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The Big Baddie

This blog post was first published in MM Good Book Reviews

People who know me personally would be very surprised if they knew that I love to write evil characters. I’m not sure why that is, but I think it’s because of how satisfying it is to beat them at the end of the book. Maybe I’m unconsciously taking my revenge on bad people that I either know personally or heard of. After all that’s how a writer fights—with words.

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In Lavender Fields I wrote an evil angel who puts the two MCs through hell before getting defeated by the forces of good. In Infinite Blue I went with a more mortal version of antagonist. Even though not a supernatural being, this character wins the trophy for being the Most Wicked.

When I was a kid I loved watching scary movies, especially those with a paranormal or sci-fi background, but refused to watch movies where the big baddie was someone close to the MC—that scared the crap out of me and meant many sleepless nights. Because of this I have written Shahin’s mother as the antagonist—and not only because she doesn’t approve of his relationship with Cai. Her behavior from the beginning of the book is despicable for a mother. It starts with her refusal to accept Shahin the way he is and develops into something truly malevolent (don’t want to give any spoilers so you have to read the book to find out).

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Is there anything viler than someone who’s supposed to love and take care of you but instead chooses to hurt you? It brings a sense of betrayal along with whatever wicked thing they did. If you were ever betrayed by someone you cared about, you know how it hurts in more ways than one. It hits you right in the heart, burns you from the inside out, and often makes you blame or even hate yourself. That’s why I picked someone close to Shahin to be the big baddie in Infinite Blue.

Who are your favorite types of antagonists and why?

 

 

For the Love of Food

***Originally posted on Stories that Make You Smile blog***

Cai is a foodie who cooks to relax. Lyra, his slovenly sister, loves her brother and his delicious dishes. And Shahin, the man Cai loves, is a dedicated fan of raw meat, though he makes a valiant effort to cook something edible for his boyfriend.

Food plays an essential role in Infinite Blue. I’m not sure how it ended up being such a large part of the plot since that’s never happened before (coffee always, food not so much), but it did. In this book, food is the glue that holds the scenes and the characters together. The first (official) time Cai meets Shahin is at a restaurant where he unwisely orders mussels and spends the rest of the evening worried about making a mess out of himself.

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There are quite a few family gatherings around the dinner table for Shahin, events that generally don’t end well, and Shahin is formally introduced to Lyra at a dinner meticulously prepared by a very nervous Cai.

There are also romantic moments where food is merely the backdrop for some sweet and sensual encounters between Cai and wild man, Shahin.

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I’m from Portugal where food has a very important role in society. Much of our social interaction takes place around the table. In the U.S. people eat, pay the bill, and leave. In my country, restaurants are accustomed to having the same people around the table for a long time. Meals there last for hours. Even now, certain foods or dishes always bring back memories of my friends and family—delicious snapshots of my childhood. Maybe that’s why I added so many food references in Infinite Blue. These two guys are lonely people—for different reasons. I wanted to give them something that would evoke happy memories. In the end, life is made of those small moments, and I didn’t want Cai and Shahin to miss out on a single one of them.

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Infinite Blue- New Release

Infinite Blue

by NatalinaReis

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BLURB

When a shifter and a human are bound by fate, neither man knows if their connection will be enough to save not only their growing love, but their lives.

Shahin Halcón has been taught that if and when he meets his soul mate, he’ll know immediately. Always the rebel, he doesn’t believe it until the day he crosses paths with Cai, a full-human.

Plagued by unsuccessful relationships and heartache, Cai Banes’s life is quiet and unexciting. When he meets young and wild Shahin, his life is turned upside down, and he’s not sure he likes it.

But neither can deny the powerful pull that draws them together.

Old secrets and ancient myths about cross-species relationships plague their romance and threaten to put their happiness and life at risk. Will their love for each other be strong enough to survive?

Excerpt

Cai handed Shahin his helmet and stared up at the sky as if looking for something. “What are you looking for?” Shahin followed his gaze, but saw nothing more than the darkness of the evening.

“Nothing. It’s just—” Cai lowered his gaze to him and smiled. “Dumb really, but I’ve been followed by a hawk for a while now.” Shahin squirmed in his seat. “I know, stupid, right?”

“No, not at all.” It was so tempting to tell him. He bit his tongue. “Hawks are smart animals. Did you know they mate for life?” He had never really believed it until he met Cai. Now he was convinced the stories the elders had told the fledglings all their lives were actually true.

Cai shook his head. “I can’t say I know much about hawks,” he confessed. “They are magnificent, powerful birds, but I never heard of one following a human around. It’s bizarre.”

“Does it bother you?” He had to know.

“No, it’s just a little unsettling. Do you think it would attack me?” Shahin shook his head vigorously. “I mean, they are birds of prey after all.”

Shahin shook his head again. “No, it would never attack you. Ever.” He may have been a tad too emphatic. Cai looked at him, an eyebrow raised. “I mean, I never heard of a hawk attacking a human.”

The other man scratched his head, smoothing the few hairs that stuck up. “I hope you’re right.” He raised his eyes to Shahin’s. “I had fun. Thank you for inviting me, Sha.”

The casual use of the nickname made him melt. In one fluid movement, Shahin swung his leg over the cycle and crossed the few feet between them. He held on to Cai’s peacoat lapels, pulled him toward him, and covered the other man’s lips with his. The heat they produced ran quickly through him, like a tidal wave of desire, making him shiver and tremble. Cai pried Shahin’s lips open and caressed him with his tongue. Surprised and incensed by the unexpected heated reaction from serious, timid Cai, he pulled him closer, crashing his hard chest against the other man’s. Cai’s taste held a promise. Shahin had no clue what his mouth was promising, but he allowed himself to relax against him, enjoying every second of their tongues’ sensual dance.

When they pulled apart, their ragged breaths mingling, Shahin was not sure of anything anymore. He was normally the one in control but his companion had taken over, stunning him by bringing up feelings he was having trouble processing.

“Come over for dinner tomorrow.” Cai’s whisper surprised Shahin, who still held on to the coat’s lapel as if to a lifeline. “I’ll cook.”

Shahin gulped and nodded, unable to utter a word. Cai smiled and brushed his hand across Shahin’s face before turning around and walking into his house. Still stunned, Shahin didn’t move for a while, standing on the curb and staring into the empty space where Cai had been just a few moments before. Shahin had always enjoyed his freedom, the long string of lovers with no attachments, no responsibilities, but now he was thinking long-term, forever. It was a very scary idea.

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Reviews

“A brilliantly fast paced book, that kept me hooked with the intensity of the love that these two characters have for one another.

This brilliant book has reminded me of just how much I love fantasy romance novels and I absolutely cannot WAIT to read more from you!!! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars from me…..addictive, sexy and intense. Pure perfection”  (head_in_a_book_18)

“As a reader, reviewer, and, blogger, it is safe to say that when a certain type of indescribable book presents itself, said reader should probably throw-in the proverbial white-flag.  *Throws in flag*  So, speaking for this particular reader, as a book-hangover of all book-hangovers has currently made-itself-known, it is clear to say that..Infinite Blue is one of those rare types-of-books and has landed on my list of Top Books Read for 2018.  I am so glad to have read it..:)”      (Laura~Passion flower)

BIO

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of 13 in collaboration with her best friend, Susana. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. She’s the author of nine romance novels that reflect the amazing diversity of humankind and the universal power of love.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she’s taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Location, Location, Location

I tend to locate my stories in imaginary places. In fact, it had never occurred to me to set one of my romances in a real place until I started hearing about all the small-town romances that were becoming so popular. The first time I used a setting that really existed was in my first M/M paranormal, Lavender Fields, which I set in Wiscasset, Maine—a town I vacationed in a few times. With Infinite Blue, I was determined to have it take place in a more local setting. That’s how my characters ended up in Old Town Manassas, just a few miles from where I live and a place I visit often.

Old TownManassas, VA

I was surprised how much fun it was to use real places or those inspired by the real ones. Restaurants, coffeeshops, even the train station are all very real.

A friend’s sister’s place of work became the model and the location for Cai’s graphic studio. I had visited the studio once so I had a good feel for the layout. It’s a small place over a well-known restaurant by the old-fashion train station.

The coffeeshop they both frequent is also a real hub of artistic activity in Manassas. So is the ice cream shop they mention, Jitterbug. Even the hospital was inspired by a real one, not in Manassas but close by.

The most fun I had was “researching” the Mexican Taqueria they all meet one evening. I knew about the place but had never eaten there. I had to check their menu online and I was glad to find out that I had described the place and the food accurately. When I finally ate there, I ordered the same thing my characters did in the book and had the delicious (and not Mexican) zepolle for the first time ever.

One of the most romantic scenes is set in the parking lot of the station which means that now every time I go there (and that’s where I normally park my car) I have visions of Cai and Shahin involved in a kiss.

Station

Writing a Strong Broken Character

A couple months ago I finished writing a romantic comedy that is close to my heart for a few different reasons. If you have read any of my books you know they are not just about romance and happy endings (even though they definitely have both) but they normally touch on something a bit heavier, sometimes darker.

This one is no exception. I wanted to write a character who is being emotionally blackmailed. This was an important subject for me because it’s something I experienced personally. I had always considered myself a strong woman. Not the most assertive one, but emotionally strong. Until the day I discovered I had been manipulated by someone I considered my best friend at the time. Worse even this had been going on for years. I lived in a state of confusion and hurt without a clue of who or what was making me so miserable.

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Emotional blackmailers use traits of your personality (good qualities more often than not) against you. In my case, she used the fact I would do just about anything to help and/or defend a friend and turned it into a weapon against me. She also used the fact I choose to believe the best about people to make herself believable in my eyes. She was the victim, the one that needed help, everyone was out to get her. And I ate it up even when my conscience and common sense told me there was something wrong with her stories and/or her attitude.

When I began writing this story I wanted my main male character (who in romance are kind of expected to be alpha males) to be a victim of emotional blackmail. As I wrote the story I had the suspicion I was making him look weak, which was not at all my intention. Strength has nothing to do with this. The most put together, emotionally stable person can be the victim of one of these predators. Because make no mistake, these are predators as ruthless as any other.

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I submitted the manuscript thinking that I would get it back with the comment, “he comes across as weak”. I was right. That’s exactly what happened. So now I’m faced with the challenge of portraying someone who has been “broken” by his girlfriend but still seems strong and capable–which he really is. Not an easy task but I have all confidence I’m on the right track. I agonized over it when I was writing it the first time, I’m agonizing over it now as I revise it. I want to be true and fair to my MMC and not make him look like the weakling he is not.

I’m hoping I can make my guy just as strong and awesome as he is broken and confused. Have you ever have to write a character like that? What did you do to balance his state of mind with his personal strengths?

 

The Insidious Impostor Syndrome

On my last blog I wrote about my experience at a book signing recently–an experience colored by many anxieties and doubts. I’m very happy to say that despite my irrational fears, I was indeed invited back for next year’s event.

Today I’d like to talk to you about something related, impostor syndrome. A lot of authors suffer from this condition and I’m no exception. Recently, I was reminded of how much this affects me as a writer and a human being.

As the majority of writers today, I struggle to make myself known and get people to buy my books. I work my butt off and sacrifice a lot to sell a handful of books a month if I’m lucky. One of my books, Desert Jewel, is part of a series I’m very proud of: The Jewel Chronicles, a fantasy with a strong romantic element which I wrote using a world I knew well in my past to create a parallel-type universe as my setting. Some of you know I spent a lot of my childhood and  young adult years in Africa. I used what I knew to create a speculative world where everything was the opposite of the real one. I buried deep personal beliefs about prejudice and superstition in the plot and colored it perhaps with a bit of anger against the power-hungry men who even today keep the people of many African nations poor and helpless.

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As I write the third and last book of the series, I find myself procrastinating, making excuses not to write. Because I very rarely do this, I began wondering why that is. Is it because my story is coming to an end and I want to hold on to it as long as I can? Is it because I’m afraid of not knowing how to further push the story forward? Or is it because I’m discouraged by the extremely low sales of the past two books?

I guess it is a little of all three above, but I also realized something else–I’m suffering from a serious bout of impostor’s syndrome. Let me explain.

In May of this year a young adult fantasy was released to almost instant success and critical acclaim. I didn’t know much about it, other than it was set in an African-like world. Being the African groupie that I am, I was curious and checked out its synopsis. I immediately found several parallels with Desert Jewel–not the same plot but many of the same elements. The story incorporates Afro-Brazilian mythology, the idea of a girl with a special gift who will save a repressed people, and a romantic attachment with someone on the “other side” of the rail tracks, so to speak. Being an expert at self-doubt, my first reaction was, “This was her first book and she sold thousands of copies already and is in every freaking bookstagrammer’s page. I’ve sold a handful of copies of my book in over two years. I suck at writing obviously.”

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Ever since then I’ve carrying this growing doubt with me–am I a good enough writer? Are my stories interesting enough? Am I tricking myself into believing I can write? A doubt that has been hampering the writing progress of my WIP. This, my friends, is what impostor syndrome is all about. I have a publisher that believes in me, a few readers that love my books, good–even if not tons of–reviews and yet I still doubt myself. Frequently.

How many of you suffers from this too? How do you fight this self-defeating feeling? I fight it by writing on, despite that little voice that tells me nobody wants to read what I write. I keep writing even when I’m scared people think I’m an old fool who has nothing interesting to say. I keep on writing because it’s where my voice is, the one thing that gives me wings.

You can read more about impostor syndrome here and here and here.

Snow Jewel- New Release

Title: Snow Jewel
Genre: Romantic Fantasy
Series: The Jewel Chronicles, bk 2
Release Date: June 30, 2018
Cover Designer: Soxsational Cover Art
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 On sale for half price! 
All other links: books2read.com/snow-jewel

A princess on the run, an ex-slave returning home. Together they must battle prejudice and superstition if their love is to survive.

When Princess Milenda arrives at Isvärld, a land of snow and ice, she’s hoping for a quiet life with her new husband, Jaali. What she gets is anything but.

Even though happy he’s returned, Jaali’s people can’t see past the color of Milenda’s skin, a color she shares with the hated Mabaya Warriors who have been stealing and selling their children into slavery for centuries.

Freya, a goddess of the icy kingdom, tasked with protecting the princess and her man, doesn’t seem trustworthy, and their only true ally is Milenda’s flying lizard, Mjusi. But even the mutsi is acting strangely.

Will their love for each other and Milenda’s special gifts protect them from the dangers around them or will they meet their doom in the one place that promised them safe harbor?

Snow Jewel is the second book in The Jewel Chronicles. A unique interracial romance set against a breathtaking fantasy world with complex characters and twists at every turn. Let Snow Jewel take you to another world.

SJKiss

 

 On sale for half price! 

The Jewel Chronicles 

Desert Jewel

book 1

on sale for 99c

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Author of We Will Always Have the Closet, Desert Jewel, and Loved You Always, Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes.After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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Heart’s Prey-The Journey

I’ve been an introvert all my life. Sometimes I feel that in spite of all my travelling, my life experiences, my education I’ve never been quite part of the whole. I’ve always felt much like an outcast of sorts, always on the outside looking in. Always afraid of voicing my strong opinions and beliefs, but feeling them deeply within my heart nevertheless.

All my novels reflect that in one form or another. But none so vividly as Heart’s Prey.

The world of Heart’s Prey is a world divided by prejudice, where society is parceled out between castes. When that world is attacked by monsters of their own creation, life as they know is crushed. My characters come from different castes and must somehow ignore the fact that they were brainwashed into hating each other and unite in order to survive.

As the plot develops the reader comes to find out that even within the castes there are divisions, prejudice, and cruelty. Nothing is what it seemed to be.They come to discover that the woman from a privileged caste was not very privileged after all, that she had been subjected to terrible things at the hands of her own people because of flaws in their system. They come to find out that in the end they were all outcasts and that if they are to survive, they must destroy those barriers of suspicion and fear, and learn to build a society that doesn’t judge, divide, or punish  those who are different.

I’m very passionate about this book, my only self-pub so far, and its message. I love the characters and the way they stick together even when faced with the horrors of the genetically-engineered creatures loose in their ravished world.

I’d love to hear from you and find out what you thought of my book.

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Blurb

The world Jia and Cees knew no longer exists. Amidst chaos and terror, they find each other and fall in love—a love that goes against all castes’s rules. As their civilization is ravaged by genetically-altered beasts, the caste system relied upon for ages crumbles. The privileged and wealthy are just as vulnerable to the onslaught as are the disadvantaged.

Faced with impossible odds and unsettling secrets about their society, Jia and Cees must decide which part of their dying world to take with them and what they should leave behind. As they travel in search of a safe haven, they face unspeakable horrors, which shake deep-rooted beliefs and their old way of life.

Will they look past prejudice and centuries-old traditions to join forces against annihilation? Or will they give in to society’s pressure and fight alone?

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BIO

Natalina wrote her first romance at the age of 13 in collaboration with her best friend, Susana. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes. She’s the author of seven romance novels that reflect the amazing diversity of humankind and the universal power of love.

After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lived in three continents and a few islands, and her knack for languages and linguistics led her to a master’s degree in education. She lives in Virginia where she’s taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.

Natalina doesn’t believe you can have too many books or too much coffee. Art and dance make her happy and she is pretty sure she could survive on lobster and bananas alone. When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.

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The Vocabulary of Sex

Caution- This post contains words that may be considered offensive.

As readers and writers we know how powerful words can be. Words can make you happy or extremely miserable. Words can melt your heart or freeze it. As a linguist I may have an even more acute awareness of how powerful words can be and how we all should be more careful about how we use them.

I’m a romance writer, but I must confess I am not exactly in love with most of the romance novels being published today. I have a few favorites and I hope to find a few more as I read through the thousands of romances out there–both indie or traditionally published. For some time I thought the reason why I didn’t like many of the romances–including some written by very popular authors–was because a lot of them center their plot around sex scenes. But recently I came to realize that I was wrong. It is not the often overwhelming quantity of sex the characters in many novels are having, but the words used to express it.

Portrait of shocked pin-up girl

My current read is a dystopian romance written in collaboration between two pretty successful and popular romance writers. I came across it accidentally when I was desperately seeking other adult dystopian romances like my latest, Heart’s Prey (most of them are targeted at young adults). After I read the blurb, I was truly intrigued by the premises for the plot and decided to read it.

But let me back up a little bit. I am from an older generation (and no, I’m not geriatric quite yet) and a different culture. I was brought up to believe that words hold meaning and connotations, and that there are certain words you should never use unless totally necessary. Enter words like fuck, dick, pussy and others that are commonly used in today’s romance novels when describing a sex scene. These are all words I have–as many others of my generation and background–associated with a non-romantic sexual act. Maybe a one-night stand, or having sex just because well, it feels good. Or worse, associated with sexual assault. Being a feminist–no, it’s not a dirty word and I have never burned my bras or hated men because of their gender–I also connect those words with men talking about women as purely sexual objects, a word totally devoid of sentiment.

Let me make it clear that I do not endorse the ridiculous language used in romances twenty years ago or more when describing sex or the parts of the body involved in it. But if you are going to describe a woman’s or man’s genitals I much prefer–as clinical as they may sound–to read the words penis or vagina than pussy or dick. To me those words have nothing to do with love-making and everything to do with reducing the other person to a sex object.

Beautiful pair lays in a bed

I have given up on many romances because I just couldn’t stand the way the author used those words. It made me not respect or like the characters, and if I don’t like the characters I lose my interest in the story. In my current read, which is riddled with all of the above words and more, and has sex on almost every chapter, the words are not stopping me from reading and enjoying it. Why? Because so far (I’m about 70% through the book and I hope it doesn’t disappoint me because it’s a great speculative story) the use of such language is totally appropriate; it is part of the world building. In a world where people have sex just to have babies and where love is a thing of the past, it makes perfect sense that words like love-making get replaced with emotionless words.

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I agonize over sex scenes in my own books. Not because I’m a prude, but because I want to describe those moments in a way that shows how the couple feels about each other on a higher level than just the physical. In other words, I want them to make love, not fuck each other.

Have I ever used the above mentioned words? Yes, I have when it was appropriate, when I wanted to emphasize the way a character felt at that moment or when showing disrespect for another. I have used them when I was “building” a character’s personality or wanted to infuse the moment or situation in anger or hate.

I predict, as a linguist, that those words will lose most of their pernicious connotations in a few years. In fact it’s already happening. The twenty-or thirty somethings of today pepper their everyday conversations with them and obviously see nothing wrong with that. I’m not criticizing, just pointing out a fact. Language changes and evolves, with words taking on or losing meanings over time. That’s just the way it goes. However at this moment we are in a sort of overlapping of generations that view these words in very different ways, making it difficult for me to read and enjoy a romance that reeks of unhealthy relationships as I’m sure a younger one will read books like mine and think of them as not romantic, maybe even insipid.

Obviously there isn’t an easy answer for this, but tell me: where do you stand on this subject (no judgement) and do you think this is a generational thing or a passing trend?

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For a good laugh check out this Buzzfeed list of sexual words you probably didn’t know existed.