Category Archives: Violetta Vane

By Any Other Name: What Do You Call a Love Story for Two Women?

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This is Violetta Vane introducing my good friend Ruth Diaz. She’s got some fascinating things to say about writing lesbian relationships in romance. 

Like Ruth, I also come from a background that’s more science fiction and fantasy than romance. I miss reading women-centered stories, so I take frequent breaks from m/m and go back to non-romance, or mmf or m/f erotic romance. I also write secondary women characters, including lesbians, in my m/m romance… but I haven’t really read much lesbian romance. I’m happy to report that The Superheroes Union: Dynama was an awesome place to start. It’s got a tight, exciting plot and wonderfully three-dimensional characters I really cared about. Here’s Ruth to talk about it some more.


The Superheroes Union: Dynama is the best story I never expected to write.

Romance is very new to me–I grew up on science fiction and fantasy, and the couple of times a friend loaned me a romance she thought I’d like, the writing was dreadful. So I just assumed all romances were dreadful. It’s only in the last two or three years that I discovered well-written romances, and that yes, I can write romances that really interest me.

When I decided I was going to try my hand at writing romance, I decided to start with a framework I was already comfortable with: space opera. I think I was four or five chapters into my space opera romance when I read the words “superhero romance” together somewhere. They seemed so at odds with each other, I couldn’t imagine how on earth you would write that.

And then my character Annmarie spoke up out of nowhere and gave me the critical line for a superhero love story.

I always intended to write non-mainstream relationships in my romances. But I also began writing romance in an effort to make some amount of money from my writing, however small, and from what I could tell, romances about two women weren’t terribly commercial. From that point of view, I should have back-burnered it. But TJ and Annmarie’s love story wanted to be told, even though it was nothing I could have expected to write.

Now, in the midst of promoting its release, I find I’m in the same position again, only this time, with regards to marketing. Since I never expected to be writing this story, I had no background in how to label it. A romance between two men would be labeled M/M. A romance involving three people might be MFM, MMF, MFF, or any other variety of lettered labels which seemed less about people than they were about body parts. But I was learning romance marketing from scratch, so I obligingly labeled my story F/F.

Come to find out, F/F isn’t romance written for queer women. The helpful write up on the blog I was approaching for review said F/F is targeted at straight women and bi-curious women. I imagine it would be even more likely aimed at men, except that men are less likely to read romance in the first place. The Superheroes Union: Dynama should be properly labeled “lesbian romance.” Of course, I had already sent out a couple dozen requests with the label F/F. Oops.

Well, sometimes we learn the hard way.

In the end, I don’t really look at my unexpected story as any of those labels. I look at it and I see a love story. It happens to be a love story between two people, as opposed to three or four or more. It happens to be a love story between two people who are female-bodied and femme-identified. It happens to be a love story between two women who are queer and comfortable with that, whose parents cared far more about their daughters’ superhero status then their sexual orientations.

The Superheroes Union: Dynama is not an “issue” piece. It’s just a love story, by any other name.


DynamaWhat if your evil ex really was evil?

TJ Gutierrez used to be a superhero. But after the birth of her twins seven years ago, she hung up the yellow spandex. Until the day her archenemy and ex-husband, Singularity, breaks out of prison. When it becomes clear he’s after the kids, she’s forced to call the nanny helpline—and once again become…Dynama!

Annmarie Smith doesn’t have a superpower. She saves the world by keeping kids safe while their parents fight evil. She temporarily moves in with TJ, and the way the magnetic mama puts family first captures Annmarie’s respect, and maybe her heart—even though she knows better than to fall for a superhero. Still, it’s hard to resist their wicked chemistry. Kapow!

But they can only hide from the world for so long. When Singularity’s quest for custody puts the kids’ lives in danger, can the two women conquer the evil villain and save TJ’s family—all before their first date?

The Superheroes Union: Dynama is available from Carina Press. You can read an excerpt here, and enter a giveaway here.

Carina Press store | Amazon.com | BarnesandNoble.com


Ruth Diaz writes genre romances about non-mainstream relationships. She hides a number of publications in a different genre under another name, but The Superheroes Union: Dynama is her first romance publication. For more information, you can subscribe to her blog, like her on Facebook, or follow @RuthDiazWrites on Twitter (where she is most active and, well, opinionated).

The Immortal Bisexual in Fantasy Fiction

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The Kinsey scale was developed in 1948 as part of Alfred Kinsey’s groundbreaking sexology studies. The concept is simple. Human sexuality is not divided into an either/or field with opposing teams, but laid out along a spectrum. 0 is for someone who prefers exclusively heterosexual relationships; 6 is for exclusively homosexual. Someone who’s a 1 or a 5 might never identify as bisexual; someone who’s a 3 is more likely to do so. Another important aspect of the Kinsey scale is that a person’s number can change over the course of a lifetime.

This doesn’t mean that sexuality is “just a choice,” as some reactionaries would have it. It simply leaves room for the incredible plasticity of the human mind. Switching from a 6 to a 0, or the other way around? Not going to happen. But sliding from a 0 to a 1, or a 5 to a 4? That’s a different story.

I buy it. I’d give myself a steady 0-point-something. Aside from a teenage encounter that resulted in fail!sex, plus a long-term crush on Michelle Rodriguez (unrequited and likely to remain so), I’m so close to purely heterosexual that identifying as anything other would be pointless and unethical. Might as well round down.

The Kinsey scale also reflects the reality of many self-identified bisexuals and pansexuals who are not equally attracted to both genders. And, of course, sexual attraction informs, but does not 100% determine, the actual relationships people end up having. Someone might be mostly attracted to their own gender, for example, but end up having relationships with mostly the opposite gender due to homophobic pressure. Or they might be mostly attracted to the opposite gender, but end up in a same-gender relationship because love struck out of the blue, and lasted.

If people keep using “playing for the other team” as the dominant metaphor of sexuality, bisexuals are doomed to be the sneaks, the cheaters, the traitors, which is absolutely not fair, and also just plain stupid. If we have to use a game metaphor, can’t it be something like hopscotch? Or even better, a game where everybody wins?

One fascinating extension of the Kinsey scale concept leads us to the trope of the immortal bisexual. There’s a fair amount of these in fantasy fiction. I think they appeal partly on a logical level. Since the immortal being lives so long, and is too powerful to be subject to restrictions of any human homophobic society, wouldn’t they sort of… slide to number 3 after a while, out of curiosity, if nothing else? Once you throw other fantasy tropes into the narrative mix, like gender-switching and reincarnation, the slide to the middle seems even more likely, because outer gendered bodies become less important than the (possibly ungendered) mind or soul.

I’ll list a few examples, and there are more at the TV Tropes page. Orlando, by Virginia Woolf, is the story of a young man in the Elizabethan age who lives forever, changing genders and lovers with the centuries as he or she passes through history. It was made into a wonderful movie starring Tilda Swinton. Then we have Anne Rice’s vampires, who are pretty much all bisexual. Bo from the television series Lost Girl. Tanith Lee’s Lords of Darkness.

My personal favorite is Captain Jack Harkness from Doctor Who and Torchwood, a Time Agent from the 51st century, when Everyone is Bisexual. In the Whoniverse, the 51st century is like an individual slide-to-the-middle writ large.

Although Jack Harkness was “omnisexual” from his origin story, he does get made immortal through quasi-magical means, and is then trapped in Earth’s past. The conflict between his 51st-century sexuality and our more codified version is crucial to the character and his stories. He has enough power that he defies the rules. “You people and your quaint little categories,” he says, with a sigh and a roll of his eyes.

Apollo and Hyacinthus

Immortal bisexuals also have a long pre-Kinsey history. The Greek and Roman gods were pretty bisexual. Zeus had a huge number of female conquests (not many were consensual, so the word is appropriate)—Europa, Io, Semele, Callisto, Leto are just a few—but then there was Ganymede. According to Wikipedia, Apollo the sun god counted roughly 60 women, 13 men, which gives him a score of 1.07 on the Kinsey scale.

Using our present-day sexual metaphors—either opposing teams or scales—is anachronistic (though fun) since the ancient Greeks and Romans had a much different conception of sexuality. Their myths have reached far, influencing European and Anglophone stories for millennia. Now we reinterpret them, changing the past in light of the future.

It would be irresponsible, however, not to mention that the trope of the immortal bisexual has some stereotypical implications for real-world bisexual people. The immortal bisexual is often powerful and amoral, like the Greek gods, caring little for “petty human” concepts like, well, consent. In real life, bisexuals are stereotyped as sexually voracious, incapable of restraining themselves, depraved, chronically unfaithful. The Immortal Bisexual is clearly fictional and fantastic in origin, but the trope borders on that of the Evil Bisexual…

When I wrote the epic Celtic urban fantasy The Druid Stone with my cowriter Heidi, it was almost a given that we’d have an immortal bisexual. And we do. King Finnbheara is a real (mythical) figure from Irish folklore, known, like the Greek gods, for abducting women. Our take on him is archetypal inhuman IB: capricious, powerful, amoral, very sexual. He’s evil according to human standards, but he’s not human—his psychology is purposefully alien. And he was incredibly fun to write. He’s also not the only antagonist in the story.

We do have human people “on the scale” to balance things out. Our hero Sean, in the beginning of the story, identifies as straight, but he’s moved higher in number by the end. And even in the beginning, he knows he’s not the “average” straight man, because of certain aspects of his past, which readers will know about if they read his prequel story, “Cruce de Caminos” (Otherwise, you’ll get the backstory anyway, about halfway into The Druid Stone, and I’m sorry for being so mysterious!). We conceived of Sean as someone who hovers around a 1. Someone who might identify either as straight or bisexual depending on a lot of different complicated factors.

The Druid Stone is out August 6th from Carina Press

But Cormac, our modern-day druid-slash-paranormal-investigator, is gay and has always identified as gay. He’s had at least one brief relationship with a woman in the far past, isn’t conflicted about it, and doesn’t plan on doing it again. He’s the opposite of confused. Sean isa little confused about his sexuality, but he’s younger, at a very confusing stage of life, and also under a lot of stress… including a magical curse! His confusion isn’t intrinsic to bisexuality; it comes from the outside, from external forces. And he has the mental resources to find clarity, as well. It’s part of his journey, not all of it.

Sexual attraction and love are changeable things. Sometimes frighteningly changeable. The person we thought we’d be in love with for the rest of our lives when we were sixteen, we might barely remember by twenty. Perhaps figures like the immortal bisexual incarnate some of that fear and also help work through it. I think we’re attracted to the idea of limitlessness, of power over sexuality, of the ability to make our own rules. There’s nothing so fantastic that it doesn’t have some connection to our magically complicated, lived reality.

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Do you have a favorite immortal bisexual, either hero(ine) or villain? Or are you just interested in one of the ones I listed? Leave yours in a comment along with your email or a Twitter/FB contact link, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of The Druid Stone. The winner will be announced at the end of our blog tour on August 27th. (ETA: the drawing is for an eBook in your choice of format)

Gay Representation in Game of Thrones: the Problem with Renly and Loras

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Hi! I’m Violetta Vane, writer of urban fantasy slash m/m romance. You might know me (and my cowriter, Heidi Belleau) from such novels as Hawaiian Gothic, but if not, don’t worry, because I’m not going to talk about writing. For my first post on this neat new blog, I thought I’d write something fan-oriented instead. So let’s hop aboard the spiky pedicab for a journey into Westeros!

I’ve read the first four books of ASOIAF and watched both seasons of Game of Thrones. I’m a fan. That doesn’t mean I’m not also a critic. My enjoyment is tempered with frequent bouts of groaning, hissing, head-shaking, and extending the middle finger at the screen.

Gay representation in Game of Thrones is a fascinating subject, because it’s actually quite groundbreaking to have an explicitly gay relationship in a mainstream, big-budget fantasy. I’m speaking of Renly and Loras. For those who don’t know the plot, Game of Thrones is structured around the quest for power after the death of King Robert Baratheon. He has a son and heir—Joffrey—but people are concerned that Joffrey is the product of an incestuous affair between Queen Cersei and her brother, and therefore illegitimate. Joffrey can’t help that, but just as importantly, he’s a smarmy little dickbag that every viewer loves to hate. The actor is young, but he does evil so well. Robert also had two brothers, Stannis and Renly. Stannis is off on an island for most of the first season, and all we know is that he’s not as bad as Joffrey, but he’s still kind of a dick. And then there’s Renly, Robert’s younger brother. Everyone thinks he’s a nice guy, and he has a nice smile (although I’m not a fan of the beard). His gay lover is Loras, the son of the powerful and wealthy Tyrell family. Loras is  known for his skill in battle and looking pretty. He’s called “The Knight of the Flowers”.

Once the claimants start gathering their forces—there are many many other claimants I haven’t mentioned—viewers are given a scene where Renly and Loras plot during sexytimes. We don’t get that in the book, because neither are POV characters, but everything that’s said between them politically makes sense in terms of the book. They have only that one scene; in contrast, the show contains double digits of heterosexual scenes of what I call exposition-by-whore, in which sensitive political details are discussed during, well, sex with whores. That’s one of my complaints, actually: since prostitution assumes more importance in the show than in the movie, then I wanted an actual prostitution arc that shows these women with agency, not just as exposition tools and victims. But I digress. Back to the gay… the gay which mightily disturbed many fanboys, who flooded the boards the day after that episode aired in order to complain about the Renly/Loras scene. Their biggest complaint was that the scene cuts right after Loras goes down on Renly—you could hear the “slurping” noise, and this nightmarish sound greatly traumatized their shell-like ears. Let’s spare a moment of silence for their suffering, okay?

Now let’s wipe away our tears and move on to the manscaping:

This scene was a little weird because Loras shaves Renly’s body but he doesn’t shave his beard, which I would imagine should be the first thing to go. But other than that, I didn’t have a problem with it. It made sense. It advanced the plot and gave us some understanding of the characters. The relationship was shown as important not just because of sex, but like all the other relationships in the story, because of power. Loras pledges his family’s support of Renly’s bid for the throne. They’re both shown as ambitious and scheming, but compared to other characters, relatively sympathetic. Renly honestly thinks he’d be the best person for the kingdom.

There’s nothing in this scene about being gay as an identity. We can, however, intuit that this relationship is against the rules sexually, but not socially. In a world where women are very much second-class citizens with limited access to power, segregated from men, relationships and allegiances between men are tight and long-lasting, sexual or not. And they’re often made by choice, whereas relationships with women are arranged.

There were some other same-sex scenes involving women in both seasons, but they were all crap, and really insulting. The two women were always performing for a man. It seemed like pure fanservice for straight fanboys. That’s especially enraging because it’s possible to cater to this audience while still including genuine attraction and relationships between women. An example is Spartacus, which is loaded full of plot-relevant lesbian sex and UST.

The dynamic of the Loras/Renly scenes in the second season—now that, I had a lot of problems with. Renly has declared himself a contender, gathered an army, and married Loras’ sister, Margaery. This is all according to Loras’s plan. The marriage cements the powerful alliance that should all but guarantee Renly the southern throne. He’s doing pretty well for himself. Yes, it sucks that he’s gay and has to marry a woman and have a baby with her ASAP, but compared to all the horrible things that happen to other characters who pursue power (torture, rape, mutilation, death, not necessarily in that order) he’s got it good. Loras, who’s in bed with him, reminds him of that, and lays down the law: no more sexytimes unless Renly starts seriously trying to impregnate Margaery. Here’s a link to the resulting scene.

Margery gets down to business right away. She comes off as a sympathetic, pragmatic character in this scene. She speaks to Renly in a respectful and friendly manner, reminds him they need to get an heir, and says she’ll do whatever it takes to make this as easy as possible. She gets naked and mentions soothingly that he can think of her brother while he does it. In fact, they can even bring Loras in, if that would help… Cut to Renly, looking scared. Then cut scene. That’s it. We never know if he successfully does it or not, but he very likely doesn’t.

My problem is that with this scene, Renly stopped being a character who happens to be gay. Instead, he became “the gay character”. And gayness is defined as not being able to have sex with a woman. This is unrealistic, first of all. It shouldn’t be so hard. He could have it over in two minutes. No one is asking him to compromise his emotional integrity, and the value of maintaining some kind of sexual integrity is dubious in the context of a show where sympathetic characters are constantly being forced into transactional relationships and have to make the most of these bad situations. This scene does a good job of characterizing Loras and Margaery, but by defining Renly’s gayness as lack and weakness, it does an awful disservice to his characterization. We’re told he’d make a strong king who could make difficult decisions, but this scene directly contradicts that.

It might not be a problem if there were other gay people and relationships on the show, but there aren’t. This is it.

I won’t go further into this storyline in terms of spoilers. But there might be spoilers in the comments, if we get a lot of comments going. I’d like to ask readers: what did you think of Loras/Renly in Game of Thrones, including the casting? Do you agree with my criticism or disagree? Do you think it could have been portrayed better while still staying true to the books? Or do you think the showmakers did a decent job? What did you like most about the relationship portrayal, and least?