Sunday, 13 December 2015

The Daffy Duck principle of conflict

Being a ‘seat of the pants’ writer, my favourite part of putting stories together is conflict. Because I have no end in sight, I’m right there with my characters as the conflict is introduced and I have no idea how I’m going to solve it. With my last book, I had introduced so much conflict, I spent three weeks believing I had written myself into a corner and there was no way out. For the first time, I was seriously considering breaking my own rule of never looking back until the first draft is complete. I would have to go back and rewrite some of my earlier scenes and simplify them.
In my head, my characters were saying “No, don’t do it. We can solve this. Just give us a little time.” Another three weeks went by with barely a word written and myself in a constant daze, believing there was no way out. When the answer finally came to me, I knew what had to be done and realised why I had been avoiding it. It meant killing off one of my main characters. For any author, this is never done lightly, and when I did write that scene, I was emotionally exhausted. My daughter was visiting at the time and gave me a hug when she saw what a wreck I was. She reminded me of one of the principles I had shared with her about writing over the years. “Just like you’ve always said, Mum, the Daffy Duck principle must rule.”

Now, I know at this stage, you probably think I’ve lost my marbles, so allow me to explain. For those of us old enough to have thrived on the Bugs Bunny Show as children, Daffy Duck was always my favourite. In one cartoon, “The Scarlet Pumpernickel” Daffy, tired of being type cast, pitches to a Warner Brother’s exec about an exciting film he has written and intends to star in. We get to see his blockbuster and the exec is getting more excited by the minute. “Yes, yes… and then what happened?” Daffy is buried in the pages of his long script, getting more and more exhausted as the conflict builds. A storm comes, the dam breaks, a volcano erupts and still it is not enough for the exec. I won’t mention here the ending, but basically, as I had told my daughter, “Someone has to die.”

Daffy gives us a very basic model about how the conflict must build continually, right up until the end. As authors, I believe we need that ‘edge of the seat’ feeling within our stories, making the reader wanting to turn the page. We need tempo to give our readers a breather and relax, but not for too long. With my latest book being 260,000 words (745 pages) long, I had the challenge of keeping that up and it wasn’t easy.

Having well defined characters is essential. Each of them must be true to their nature and approach the conflict as only their character would do. A story must have one enduring conflict right through, which is what the story is about, but there needs to be many more that are stopping the protagonist from achieving their ultimate goal. If it’s getting too easy to solve, it’s time for that volcano to erupt and see what your characters are made of. 

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

More than just a book cover

Becoming an author has been one of the most exciting adventures I've ever embarked upon. In nearly three years of publishing my books, I've had some amazing surprises come my way, Taking a few risks has rewarded me with some unexpected windfalls. One of my most recent ones was in the preparation for the cover of my book

After the volume of work I have put into writing this story, I wanted the perfect cover. For months I've been scrolling through thousands of pictures of tattooed muscled men ( pure research of course) trying to find the perfect face of my character and never quite getting there, until one night... he was there. The face, body and sexy look that I needed. It was just a pic on someone's website and with a little detective work, I tracked this man down... only to find out that I was far from the only person who appreciated this man. Surprise, surprise.

Of course, he had already donned the front pages of magazines and had a gazillion fans. Any hope I had of having him on my front cover was looking a bit like a pipe dream, but I had nothing to lose... so I emailed him. I put a rough picture together of what I expected my cover to look like with him on it, gave him a link to my website and explained I write erotica.  Not in a million years was I expecting to even hear back from him. And that's what I love about taking risks. Sometimes you win. A few hours later, I was absolutely stunned to see a very positive reply in my inbox.

Alex Minsky would be very happy to be on my book and gave me the email of his amazing photographer to negotiate a contract. Many emails later with a very kind and helpful man, I had my image and I was on top of the world.

It was then a simple matter of sitting down with my own much loved photographer, Leah, who has been my co-artist for the covers of  The Line Trilogy, and I couldn't be happier with the result.

One of the best things about being a self-published author, is being able to be in charge of your whole book, not just the story, but how it will be presented to the world. It becomes more than a book. It's my creation, my passion and my art, I may never get to a New York Times bestselling list, or make a million dollars, but the adventures, rewards and surprises I've had on this journey, and the wonderful people who have come along for the ride, are already priceless to me.

Monday, 13 July 2015

The Monster in my Head.

When I released my last novel MASTER, I sat back and waited nervously for the response from the readers. Not because I had any doubt that I had written a story I was proud of, but I knew that it was very different from my Line Trilogy, and from most other books in the erotic genre.

For a start, it was plot heavy and delved into some dark areas. It was violent and raw, light on the sexual elements of erotica, multiple POV and set in 1995 Ukraine. One reader described it as something more suited to what her husband reads, and yes it has been appreciated by a male audience. I was prepared to receive negative reviews, and I got them and completely understood where they were coming from. We foster certain expectations from the authors we follow, and can become wary when their style seems to change. We also expect certain elements in the genres we read, I knew I would never look back. I had taken a bold step in my writing and I'm still eager to see where it will take me.

So, as I wade through and edit the 249,000 words in the first draft of my latest novel, the nerves are back again and I've had eighteen months to let all those doubts and fears become a monster in my head. As an intense sufferer of Anxiety Disorder  for twenty-five years, that comes easily for me, I've also had some personal and health issues in my life added to the equation of obstacles. There have been a few times when I've been ready to give up, but I happen to be blessed with the extraordinary love of my husband of thirty years and the most supportive family in the world. Added to that is a contingent of readers who have been patient beyond understanding, supportive and still hanging in there. Also, I have a writer's group I attend, and their input, support and encouragement has been priceless for me.

So what exactly am I afraid of? I laughed when I wrote that. Well, I can't even tell you what genre this belongs in. Let's see: an erotic who dun it, espionage romantic techno-thriller..  It's multiple POV, even from the bad guys perspective; it has a huge cast, bringing back characters from both Master and The Line Trilogy, It's a culmination of many previous events from those stories and has a very complicated plot. It is definitely not light reading. Months of research has gone into things like, cyber-crime, police procedural, Parliamentary procedures and computer technology.

It explores some very dark elements, such as suicide, alcoholism, human trafficking and sexual assault. As with all my books, it includes explicit sex scenes with a variety of kink, And somewhere, tucked away in all that, is a very deep and poignant romance. I bet you're exhausted just reading all that, so you can imagine how I've been feeling writing this story.

Will it work? I don't know. It works for me and it's been one incredible journey as a writer. I've explored breaking it up into parts and then dismissed that idea. Love it or hate it, you'll get the full story with a conclusive ending. Yes, I've been told how profitable it would be to release it in parts, that it's a too big and complicated book to hold the attention of the reader. If that last part is true, then I' haven't done my job. What I like is that the reader will be able to read a sizable portion on Amazon's "Look inside" before they purchase. By then, they'll know if this is something they want to read or not before they part with their hard earned money.

For anyone who has ever suffered from Anxiety Disorder, you'll know that we tend to get unreasonably anxious about the strangest of things. One of them, for me, has been releasing the title of my book, for fear it will be snapped up by another author before I get the chance to get my book out there. Today, I'm going to get that worry out of my mind and just do it. If someone else thinks it would be perfect for their book, good on them. Enjoy it. It's a great title.

So where am I at in this epic journey? About two thirds through my manuscript on the second to last draft. The last one will be pure polish. There's been several full rewrites so far. Still not going to give a date for release, but this year is looking pretty good.

Anyway, enough of my ravings. Let's get on with this title and cover reveal which you'll have to see on my Facebook page.. That's the very least I owe my readers, but you can find my page here: Facebook and I always love to see new followers. Just be warned. I'm the worst social interacting author there is, as my readers know.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Fifty shades of fantasy, feminism and films.

Since everyone has an opinion about Fifty Shades of Grey, both the book and the movie, I decided to weigh in on the controversy and voice my thoughts about it. My own journey in writing erotic books actually began with E. L. James' success and I think it's time that I acknowledged that and the author herself for introducing the wonderful world of kink to the mainstream.

In 2012, I was alerted to these books that were rocketing up the bestseller lists and sparking debates on TV shows and forums because of their subject, BDSM. I raced out and bought them, excited and jealous that someone else had brought this book to world. I'd been writing stories and poetry about this subject for years, to satiate my own forty year interest in kinky sex. In one day I had read all three parts of this trilogy and sighed dejectedly.

I didn't like the writing or the plot or most of the characters. I did like Christian Grey and was just sorry he met up with Anastasia Steel. That boy could have been interesting, but like Sam Taylor-Johnson did with the movie, Ana managed to neuter him. So, I raved and rambled to anyone who would listen to me about all the reasons these books were wrong.

1. Bad representation of BDSM in that it implied that a person has to have some deep seated troubled past to have an interest in domination and submission, oh, and spanking of course. Wrong! Anyone who has known people that live this lifestyle would know they are the same as anyone else, some with problems, some without who have lived incredibly happy normal lives while indulging in a some kinky antics that are part of their sexuality. 

2. The plot was pretty bad, and please don't get me started on the Inner Goddess.

Okay, so that's my main gripes, but Ms James did it and I was so jealous I was angry enough to write my own kinky book and publish it. There, take that Ms James, but actually, thank you Ms James for giving me the kick up the proverbial that I needed to do it. Now four books later, I'm living the dream writing full time and making a modest living from my books. Again, thank you Ms James.

Now we come to the whole matter of this film and its 'abusive nature toward women' Well, I agree. You did abuse us, Ms Taylor-Johnson. We wanted lots of sex, plenty of spankings and at least the casting of an actor that was something remotely like Christian Grey, not the weedy little boy next door that really does come across as just creepy.

Oh, the film. Yes definitely, the whole dubious consent, the stalker behaviour and domineering manipulation. Let's face it. If Christian Grey had been short, bald and overweight, Ana would have taken out a restraining order on him. What's that? Oh, it's a fictional film. I was beginning to think this was real the way everyone was carrying on about it. Now I'm worried. I loved the film Silence of the Lambs. Does that mean I support sick serial killers? Loved the Die Hard movies, maybe not the last one, but does that mean I support terrorism? Just on Anthony Hopkin's role as Hannibal Lector, shouldn't we have despised him and boycotted this movie that kind of made a deranged psychopath into an ante-hero.

Spoiler alert - Christian Grey eventually gets neutered by the girl and becomes a boring, politically correct man who has learnt the evils of his ways, because this is what every woman wants to fantasize about. Yeah right.

Sorry, but women's fantasies have never been politically correct and often border on abusive behaviour, that they would never condone in real life. That's why bodice rippers sell. Fifty Shades is just fantasy on screen and book and if it's going to influence your thinking and behaviour, then you're already in trouble. You girls and Johnny Depp, are you really planning to leave your loved on and run off with him? Okay, don't answer that some of you. Come on girls, we've let men tell us what to do for centuries. Are we really going to let women take over now and tell us what to think, what to watch and how we should be feeling about it? Do they really believe we are that ignorant of the very real abuse and violence that has been inflicted on women for centuries?

I remember the year I took my elderly mother to see Basic Instinct. Now if Mum was still alive she would be 99 years old this year. Greatest woman who ever lived and I just remember her roaring with laughter in the cinema when Sharon Stone did the leggy thing. Sex was just part of life. My mother ruled our home and raised me to take crap from no-one, man or woman, while she lived a lifestyle that would have made feminists throw up everywhere. She liked to bake and keep her house clean (she ironed our underwear) and she liked to be pretty and loved her man and let him believe that he was the head of the house. We knew otherwise. Dad worshiped her and when she grew sick, he cared for her day and night before he passed away. She loved the movies with a bit of bodice ripping and politically incorrect situations between the men and women. I grew up in a virtual 50's housewife lifestyle, with no car, no phone, lots of books and one of the strongest feminists I have ever known.

It seems to me that we don't need men now to tell us how to think, what to watch, how to feel about it, because we now have women who tell us all that now, in their far superior wisdom. Feminism in a nutshell: I'm a woman who cares enough about myself to make up my own mind, get educated, have an opinion and won't allow anyone to treat me badly.