“Tell me honestly. Can I pull this off?”

Matt Lucas as Dongloor in Krod Mandoon

Switching styles, like Dongalor in “Krod Mandoon”, played by Matt Lucas

So yesterday I got bored, and to distract myself from watching my ‘selling’ items on ebay, I published one of my recent romance novels under a pen name I’ve been cultivating for a couple of months, Lauren Boutain.

This is the one that M&B requested the full MS of three months ago, and having just won round one of their Facebook and Twitter-based #TemptedToWrite contest pitching another idea, I have too many stories in my head now to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting. For now, I’ll stick to self-publishing until something better comes along… (like I don’t know, having a life?) 🙂

I did get some encouragement from having had it requested, and a couple of good friends. Friends are very important when you’re venturing into anything new, and contemporary modern romance is definitely new ground for me…

Matt Lucas, Dongalor

Supposing Dongalor wrote the next romance blockbuster, who might he ask to take a peek? 🙂

And then there’s all the stuff I don’t usually write. The bedroom stuff… I found that was where planning to write under a pen-name up front really helped. Not by trying to distance myself from it – by getting inside the head of someone else while writing. And not just the characters, for a change. By being another author completely.

For the first time I started a Pinterest board for my muses and also a Facebook page early on.

However, I found that waiting to hear from publishers still didn’t really fit – I had momentum in my creativity, and didn’t want to let it drop once I’d finished the story, I wanted to get it out there and move straight on to the next. So I’m afraid to say that yesterday I decided I couldn’t wait for either the good news or a rejection, and published anyway 🙂

Matt Lucas as Dongalor

“Can I pull this off?” Chancellor Dongalor’s big, er, ‘reveal’

Ahem… probably the main relevance to Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire is I recently watched it all again on DVD, and the line “Can I pull this off?” (besides being bloody hilarious in this scene) is very pertinent to me as an author who has been writing contemporary romance mainly in secret for a long time, but has not yet put it out there for readers to judge. I’m feeling brave. Perhaps not quite brave enough to slap on a bearskin codpiece, but definitely to sneak a book out under the radar, in the deluge of self-publishing going on in the world today 🙂

If you want to take a peek, or a download for 77p (99c) and judge for yourself, you can check it out on Amazon Kindle here.

I promise I don’t do executions in response to criticism, unlike Chancellor Dongalor 😉

One Stolen Kiss

Does not contain zombies… 🙂

L xxxx

Ye Olde Money Shotte…

What purpose does the bedroom door serve nowadays?

Since ditching the safety mitts and tackling D.H. Lawrence’s self-published legend Lady Chatterley’s Lover recently – not to mention dipping my writerly prudish toe into Mills & Boon waters – I’m sensing the issue of bedroom door shenanigans looming in my writing at some point. Yes, I can mash up another historical author’s work and make a parody of it. I can even make a mutant man-alien suspect squirm in the interrogation room of a sci-fi police procedural comedy feature script.

But leaving that fictional bedroom door open while keeping a straight face somehow escapes me. Or maybe, the point of it somehow escapes me. Unless it has something specific to do with furthering the plot or character development, to my brain, it’s somehow gotten filed in the same place as ambulance-chasing to sell a story.

Like D.H. Lawrence’s characters wonder, would you describe the joys of going into detail about toilet scenes? Do they have a place in the great literary novel/pulp romance? I’m sure that some have gone there. And gone again, with extra lavatory paper (to make notes about the experience).

Firstly, the subject of story. I recently got into a lovely writer’s discussion about such a scene being used to illustrate a traumatic event in a book for young adults, which concerned her as to its suitability for the readership, and was evidently giving her issues about comfort-zone in her own writing. In terms of the story itself, she realised of her own conclusion – after a number of us gave feedback – that the traumatic event could also be a fight or beating, not a sexual assault scene. In terms of her story progress, an alternative situation served the same purpose, for the long-term effect on the character that she wanted to share.

Secondly, sex scenes don’t necessarily illustrate automatic progress of a relationship between two characters. In the original Lady Chatterley, her initial affair with the playwright Michaelis shows that the sex a character experiences can be a downright let-down, not even lasting long enough to satisfy her need to be held for any length of time. She wants to feel that the connection between them is romantic – and he does indeed want her to leave Clifford and marry him – but he’s so one-sided in the bedroom, she seems to know it would be equally doomed. The sex in this case is driving them apart from the beginning, not together – something which really hasn’t been discussed in the mainstream dissection of the work. Mostly because Michaelis isn’t the primary ‘hero’ of the piece.

So if you wonder whether on your route to publication (or increasing fame) as an author, when the question comes up about whether your frequency of squeaky bedsprings (or Ford Focus suspension) is gratuitous or not, perhaps “relationship development” between two characters isn’t a substantial enough answer. Now authors are expected to face dissection on all angles and metaphors in their work, an ulterior motive is going to stick out a mile (what’s that in inches again?) so sex scenes for the sake of bigger sales are going to be leaking financial euphemisms all over the proof-reading sheets.

“He was sweating like a bank-robber with that stocking over his head.” Yum.

Anyway, before I make a new book out of that one (ahem) I’m a bedroom-door-closed writer when it comes to writing straight romance. Stop laughing, I really am. Want to know why? I just don’t feel qualified. Lots of readers in the world have experienced relationships, and I haven’t yet. So besides having the sophistication of a South Park eighth-grader which only works in comedy and parody, I’m not going to convince anyone of the quality and authenticity of such scenes in my writing if I don’t convince myself first.

There’s a lot you can use to show character and relationship development, between your characters. I don’t mean that they just go for coffee and look at puppies together to show romantic progress, in between visits to bedsprings and Ford Focus. In Harlequin/Mills & Boon, it’s about conflict and resolution acting as a binder, which works if your characters are attracted to each other physically. Overcoming a lack of physical attraction, or repulsion initially, is a bit more difficult to justify as a character arc, and hints at a metaphor for prejudice. Besides, it’s been done already – in Beauty And The Beast. Self-repulsion within a character is an interesting one – since The Elephant Man (a true story), overcoming any issues, romantic or otherwise, about one’s own manifestation in the world are a much more interesting angle, particularly if both partners in the story suffer. Otherwise it becomes one character’s ‘poor me’ tale of woe, with the other providing all the support and enablement.

When I wrote Death & The City I gave both protagonists issues, and strong views about relationships, and their relationship development wrote itself, having made both of them so complicated. Do they sleep together by the end? I’m not telling. You’ll have to read it to find out.

But there is help out there, for those of you who want that bedroom door unbolted, to start it flapping like Jack Sparrow’s Jolly Roger. Bestseller Shoshanna Evers has edited How To Write Hot Sex, an ebook guide for authors, written by authors, including references and slang dictionaries within relevant chapters, so you don’t spend red-faced hours on Google looking for trustworthy definitions of the terminology in use. There is a lot of emphasis by these authors on story, and on character arcs, and on whether stereotypes are a good idea or not – particularly when writing for target markets. I do recommend it for anyone considering taking their bedroom door off its hinges when writing. Or parking that Ford Focus anywhere with good CCTV coverage.

Most of all, enjoy your story and characters for who they are, and keep that safety lid on your fountain pen. Sticky keyboards aren’t the best writing tools. Or you might have your own eye out.

😉