Racism in Novels

Two months since I wrote a piece for my blog, so I thought, let’s go for a nice, lightweight subject. Racism? That’s my idea of a light subject? Nope. Anything but. “To Kill A Mockingbird” has been removed from schools in Biloxi, MS because it made people uncomfortable. Well, that is what it is supposed to do. [Note to self: send a copy to my cousin, so her kids can still read it].

Those of you who have seen my profile picture (A Year of Selfies) will notice that I am not Caucasian. Born in London of parents of Indian origin, I have a relatively light skin, but trust me, growing up in what was an Irish neighbourhood (Wembley), I was fairly obvious. I had all the racist teasing which included not being allowed to join the girls’ games in primary school. So what? Boys were much more fun. Who needed dolls when you could play wargames.

As an adult, I can react accordingly to racisim. There was that group of Indian doctors, who called me ‘BBC’: British-Born and Confused. I told them I wasn’t confused. It hurt though when a child in my son’s Cambridgeshire primary school called him a ‘Paki’. My son had the perfect retort, which was that of the twelve nationalities in his family tree, Pakistani was not one of them.

But on to the subject of this blog: Racism in Novels. I am a member of several author promotion groups on Facebook. I write in what is admittedly a crowded genre of paranormal romances, but when you look at this link, using the keywords paranormal shifter romance, what do you notice about the book covers? All the characters are Caucasian. Yet, in terms of race, what could be more different that being of different species, let alone different skin colour? Even when the shifter animal comes from a species on a continent with darker skins such as African or Indian, their faces are still pale.

I am guilty of this. Only on one of my current books do the characters show racial differences, namely Merysekhmet (Amazon link here). Ramses, as his name suggests is Egyptian, and Elizabeth is a dark-haired American.

The question is why does this happen? Is is ‘market constraint’? Does it bother a potential reader that the cover might show a mixed race romance? I would like to think not, but if that were the case, why don’t we see more covers with mixed race characters? Does it mean that a cover with a mixed race couple sells less? Or, are our readers not so narrow-minded.

I am not sure I know the answer. However, in these days of the #takeaknee protests, not just in the USA, but also in Germany, understanding race and how non-Caucasians can be disadvantaged, is absolutely key.

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How can the status quo be changed if we are surrounded by the ‘ideal’ being a Caucasian couple, regardless if it is a M/F, M/M or whatever else.

The next time you buy yourself a book, just consider that.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £1.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

The Arrows of Retribution

Thoroughly enjoyed archery tonight, with 30m and 50yd targets used. For those that don’t know me personally, I have three longbows. The draw weights are all at 28″ draw length: “My Lady” (in the picture), 33lb, “Bronwen” (Neolithic Holmgaard replica bow), 33lb and “The Beast”, 40lb. Yesterday, I was using My Lady.

I don’t shoot a modern bow after discovering my eyes can’t ‘work’ with sights. Plus I like the feel of my yew bows. Most archers will shoot rounds of six arrows per end with a view of scoring sufficiently for a classification e.g. third, second, first, bowman and master bowman.

I was taken to task yesterday, albeit quietly, for loosing nine arrows per end instead of six. However, as I don’t shoot recognised rounds to aim for a classification, it doesn’t matter if I loose ten arrows in an end to everyone else’s six arrows. I will have finished my end before all the recurves have shot. I loose my six, and check if I have time for the remaining arrows in my quiver. I am not holding up collecting the arrows, since I will have left the shooting line before the last recurve.

Why does this matter? Just because you don’t fit the mould (of most archers), does not mean you lack validity.

I use this illustration often. A competitive archer might look at these and assume two groupings, and a reasonable score. Another of my friends saw it as three threat and three heart shots, with my target experiencing a good dose of dead.

Another thought was that the other individual using that target, in her own, was shooting a round. Whether my shooting none arrows to her six meant it might endanger the round she was doing, I don’t know. Benefit of the doubt. So, near in. Mind that you might only have half the picture.

But it still comes down to one thing. Live for yourself and those dear to you. All manner of negative emotions might hiding in the backbiting and bitching. Protect yourself, but consider what drives such hatred. Don’t let the narrow-mindedness of others prevent you from helping.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
Amazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7


“Make Yourself Happy …”

How many times have you heard that line? At work, with the classic advice of find a job you enjoy? That is closely followed by ensuring you have a good work/life balance. Companies will have their policies, probably including some of the following in terms of protecting one’s own health:

  • Be aware of issues such as back pain, musculoskeletal disorders, eye-stress and strain
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Mental and physical fatigue
  • Threatening or bullying behaviour

This will be followed by advice to report it to a line manager or HR, because, of course, your employer has your best interests at heart. You might even believe that, in terms of a happy workforce is a productive workforce. The problems occur when the ‘management’ come from a different generation, where ‘risk-aware’ meant ‘get rid of the problem before its existence becomes known by others’.

In the face of that, is it surprising that work/life balance may not exist?

So returning to that idea of balance. Apart from a three year period in the mid-1990s, I have always worked full-time. In the 2001 census, that meant a 60 hour week. Wait just a second. If you work 60 hours, and you sleep 11pm to 6am (35 hours), have a bit of a lie in at the weekend (18 hours). There are 282 hours in a week. Work and sleep is 113 hours. So, that leaves 169 hour as time with significant others.

That’s cool, because that’s 38 more hours spent not working or sleeping. No problem. Balanced. And, as a bonus point, balanced in favour or downtime. But, remember, I am also working this out from:

  1. A working mother’s perspective
  2. Someone trying to write and self-publish her own novels.

Oh, and don’t want to hear that nonsense about shared parenting and the sharing of household tasks. Great in theory but does it happen for the majority. So we will just cut to the chase. Yes, you may well be spending time with your family, but it is eating, shopping, laundry, housework. When do you sit down? When do you relax? When are you not a wife, a mother?

When do you truly have ‘me’ time? When do you have the time to do something just for you?

This was the point that my therapist made to me. When did I do something that made me happy? Writing whilst cooking? Writing when I have insomnia? Thinking about plots when driving? And, it was not just my writing. How often had I put my dream of learning to ride a motorbike? When we are on holiday, do I have the chance to paint?

It made me think. Part of self-publishing is the promotional side. If readers don’t know you are out there, they won’t buy your books. Simple as that. My WordPress stats showed I hadn’t posted for several months. Facebook reminded me that my followers hadn’t heard from me in my author page. The 600+ people following my Hunter’s Arrow page hadn’t heard from me in a while either. That self-promotion stuff takes time.

Time. Timely-wimey. Wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey.

Damn, but the therapist was right. Doing things that I enjoyed had become a guilty pleasure, one that didn’t deserve time in my schedule. This is the reality of being a self-published author, as many of us know. But don’t mistake my words for a whinge. It was a wake-up call, because it is all to easy for our pleasure, the one thing that should make a writer smile, become a chore.

Make yourself happy.

No, that doesn’t mean give up writing if it becomes a chore. For me, what it has meant is when the little voice in my head says, “You can’t afford motorbike lessons.”, there is a countering voice saying, “Yes, you can. After all this time, you can.”

How does that translate into my writing? It means making it clear that ‘that hour’ is writing time and I am not to be interrupted unless the house is on fire. Similarly, if I put aside time for promotional work. That is a necessary part of my writing. It is not me ‘playing’ in Facebook and social media. It is part and parcel of my wanting to stand a chance of my books selling more than a single copy. I know writing won’t replace my day job, but I would like to have something to show for the time I spend putting pen to paper.

For the record, since my therapist asked me that question, I have booked the motorbike lessons, I have bought the Royal Enfield Bullet in the picture at the top. I have taken time to edit, have critiqued and re-edit the next book I want to publish.

‘Me’ time.

It matters. We owe it to ourselves because no one else will grant it to us.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
Amazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7


Pens, notebooks and charging around …

When I looked back at my publishing schedule, I realised it was months since I had added anything to my blog. Even then, I found it difficult to express myself as myself. Depression and anxiety are insidious. You tell yourself that you can cope, but then something tips the scale, and the proverbial chasm beckons.

But now, I have so many ideas bubbling away, that the difficulty is sorting them out. “Wait your turn!” I mutter to all the ideas, as I try to put them in some sort of order.

I have always enjoyed writing with a fountain pen, not least because it was a sign that I could write ‘properly’ as a child. I remember that first pen: a Platignum pen, purple barrel. Unfortunately, my style of writing meant that I ground the nib down one side. Other pens followed. Parker, Sheaffer. Nothing fancy. Just sturdy pens. In college it was a Parker Vector, which unfortunately was stolen by some lowlife. It was shame, because it had a beautifully smooth nib. Still it did teach me that not all pens, and nibs, are created equal.

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Part 1 of the Pen Case along with Uncle George’s Parker Victory

Leap forward into my mid-forties, and my love of fountain pens was rekindled because a colleague preferred to use them. Until then, I had a couple of Parkers which just languished in my pen pot. Within a relatively short time, those two long-suffering pens were joined by several others. I went so far, even, to order a replacement nib for one from Australia.

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Part II of the Pen Case

Not all of them are inked. Some have standard black. Some not so standard purple, or brown or turquoise. Another has Diamine Blood Orange or Diamine Dark Forest. I have put a pause on buying any others, given that there is a Pen Show in London which coincides with my birthday in October.

And, it doesn’t stop there. Paper … Ah! The delights of paper. I prefer 90gsm paper, but I have Clairefontaine notebooks from Bureau Direct. I have some made by Rob De La Porte (Click here for Rob’s website), and I have the one illustrated above with the peacock feather, found in the sale pile at WH Smith in Newcastle.

So, why am I waxing lyrical about pens and paper? Most of my novels are written either on my Lenovo Yoga laptop computer or on my iPad, the latter courtesy of Uncle George. But, given that my job involves a lot of travelling and waiting around, I found another option. I rediscovered the pleasure of writing longhand. So, what I write may not make it into a novel, but it gives me a repository for those bubbling thoughts, whenever they occur. The process of writing with a fountain pen on good quality paper has meant that I have rediscovered the pleasure and relaxation in writing longhand. The latter surprised me, because my writing had become rather scrappy. Who needs a pen and paper when you can make a quick note with talk-to-text software.

But, there is pleasure and there is relaxation. I am having regular appointments with a CBT therapist, and one of the things he pointed out was what did I do that brought me pleasure? What was just for me? Not work, not family, not for my husband or son? Just for me.

That is writing with a fountain pen. Writing on good quality paper. Writing my stories and the thoughts of my characters. You might consider trying it.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $3.00 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £2.99 or free on KU: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £1.66 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $2.58 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.30 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

A Picture Tells a Story

I was having a discussion recently about the importance of a good cover for a book. With my background in sales, it was something that made sense to me. When first I started in pharmaceutical sales, the Marketing Department would have designed a multiple-page detail aid, a sales process we were to follow, page by page, with the customer. A mix of words and graphics to highlight the key points of our product. Of course, the reality was that a customer would have perhaps a minute and a half to spare me. The reality was that we would use the ‘leavepiece’ rather than the detail aid, a single A5 or gatefold piece of literature, with key product bullet points.

Covers are effectively the leavepiece rather than the detail aid that is the online book listing or the ‘Look Inside’ feature.

But … where do you draw the line between stereotype and communicating your ‘message’? My own genre is paranormal romance. It is a crowded marketplace, so how can I ensure that my ‘product’ has a ‘unique selling point’, that makes it stand out.

Fabulae-Ebook V1The thing that seems to characterise a paranormal romance cover, at least at the moment, is a naked male torso. No head, and maybe just a hint of low-slung jeans. Abdominals, definitely. Perhaps an image of the paranormal creature involved in the story.  A picture of the moon wouldn’t go amiss, considering paranormals were affected by the moon. The image to the right is an early book cover which I used as a promotional item. All the requirements for a paranormal romance seemed to be there. But there was a technical hitch. I tried to run a Facebook advertisement with it. The advert was rejected, on the grounds that the image promoted a ‘negative body image’. Apparently, the abdominals made my model look emaciated. Yes, emaciated. One of my readers commented that she wished her husband looked that emaciated.

Bound Ebook Front V1

When I launched my first book, I chose a pre-made cover from http://www.selfpubbookcovers.com, because they offered options which were not too expensive, and I could customise the book title and author name, using a fairly wide variety of fonts. Their licensing scheme also covered the use of the image for a reasonable number of copies, certainly more than I might hope to sell, so it worked for me.

But then, my friends and I realised that we were writing a series, and that required a different approach. That required a brand identity. In the same way that products in a supermarket have a livery, so to speak, a series of books need to have a ‘look’.

So, here we have “Exhibit Three”. This is a collage of covers from one of my favourite authors, Sherrilyn Kenyon. The top row was from an earlier stage in the author’s career. The second row is from a more recent series of the books. The bottom row is from the author’s series of YA books, hence them having a different look from the earlier books. The key point is that each set has a clear ‘look’ to them.

pizap.com14960738473671

Yet, there are no naked abdominals. Are they not essential? The difference here is that arguably, by the time the second row of titles came out, Ms Kenyon was a well-established author. The main information that needed to be communicated to her ‘customers’ was her name and a clear visual so a reader might know it was a new book. The title of the book was almost immaterial.

So, ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with your cover? Do you want your name to be known? Do you want it clear under what genre the book falls?

There is another aspect to be considered. Example #4 is a different genre from my own:

18697968_10155389171472269_8377672874213698306_nThese books both come under the heading of military history, but they were bought from two very different sources. The book on the left was found in a bookstore in the Military History section. The book on the right was purchased from a supermarket in the Non-Fiction section.  Two very different marketplaces, so different rules apply. Arguably, the supermarket purchase needs to stand out, so you have a light-background and an easily identifiable image to match the title. The bookstore purchase doesn’t need to stand out, since a potential buyer knows what the subject matter will be as the book is in a specialist area. The ‘no nonsense’ look works, because it is a serious subject.

Another factor to take into account: Where will your book be sold?

A final note on covers, and for this I will use my own covers. I mentioned that my stories were clearly forming a series. As it happened, it was two series, so I needed clear identities to link them both together.

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Row 1 is the original series. The images are tied together by the series title, the wolf image and the similarity of the couple in the heart shape. Row 2 is the follow-on series. It is linked to the original by the strapline at the top, but then it has its own identity. As a ‘shifter’ series, the image combines a picture of the lead male character, as a romance, and the animal into which he is able to shift. Although I have different co-authors, the use of the same style in the author name also serves to tie the books into a series.

I don’t sell my books through supermarkets or bookstores, but at the same time, I want a good quality image for a simple reason. As I said, my genre is very crowded. A reader is likely to search on a string of keywords, such as ‘shifter romance’. As you know, Amazon will bring up thumbnail images. A good quality cover image will stand out, and increase your chances of catching a new reader’s attention.

A final point is how much are you prepared to spend on the cover? I have paid between $69 and £200 for my covers. The higher end of the scale is because they were drawn for me. The lower end is for pre-made covers. The point is that a good quality cover can be purchased for a relatively low amount, but it is a worthwhile investment. It might delay launching your book if you have to think about finances, but it is worth it.

So, in summary, the four questions you need to consider:

  1. Is it important for your genre to be clear because it is part of your identity?
  2. It is more important for your name to stand out?
  3. Where will you be selling your book?
  4. Is the cover optimised for search engines?

And don’t forget, gut instinct. Does it feel right for your book? I learnt a lot as I searched for covers for my books. I know I made mistakes, but hopefully, others can learn from them.


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY
Smashwords.com £0.00 (Free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/589130

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O
Smashwords $0.99: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631708

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav
Smashwords: $3.99 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/660156

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

Writing and the “Black Dog”

A guest blog co-authored by Casimir Gosselin and Fane Anghelescu

19c46fd0e00dd247b5a56f087e0a2b8bFane looked up as he heard the distinctive sound of his cousin’s Ducati Diavel engine approaching the Chain & Sprocket workshop. He said nothing as Casimir strode into the small reception area, indicating the office with a jerk of his head. It always amused him when Casimir chose to show up in what was clearly his preferred clothing: leathers, one of several brightly-coloured Buffs around his neck. Fane laughed to himself. The difference between Casimir the businessman and Casimir the biker was quite amusing, given what had happened recently.

“Bhavita …” Fane called out to his human ‘desk jockey’ on the Reception desk, “… I will be in the office. No interruptions.” Opening the office door, he noted that Casimir had already helped himself to a mug of coffee, pouring one for his cousin. “So, what brings you to my den of iniquity, cousin?” He drawled, accepting the drink.

“A request from our author-creator.” Casimir answered. “She’s off work at the moment, stress issues. Wondered if we might explain how you and I can help her work through that.” Casimir raised a brow as he took a sip of his coffee. “That is, if you feel you are …” He smiled, unable to resist winding up his cousin, “… not quite up to it?”

boundFane growled, throwing himself into a chair. Pulling up the WordPress site, he keyed in the login and password. “Of course I am up to it, you idiot.” He smirked at Casimir. “I will even modify my language, since I know her blog is read by humans. They just can’t take my usual turn of phrase.”

“So, how do you want to play this? You know she started writing about us because she was spending so much time away from home, stuck in hotels? I heard tell that it was expected she spend at least one night a week away from home?” Fane leant back in his chair, his long legs extended before him.

“It was deemed necessary to do her job.” Casimir responded. “Business requirements are such that it would have been impractical to drive everywhere on the day. She knew that when she took the job.”

“Yeah, right. And I am a fluffy bunny rabbit. You know as well as I do that she ended up doing a lot more than four nights a month. She is a people person, as humans say. She needs her family near her at the very least.” Fane snorted at Casimir’s words. “You going to be the bad cop here, or something?”

“If I need to be, then yes.” Casimir smiled over the edge of his mug. “But back to the point. You trying to say that the pressures of work proved too much. What about that saying, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen?”

“What happened to ensuring a good work-life balance?” Fane barked. “Isn’t that what human companies are supposed to do. All work and no play makes for exhausted employees, and they tend to not work so well or as efficiently. A good businessman like you knows that.”

“She works in a high pressure environment.” Casimir pointed out. “She knew what was required.” He took another slurp of the coffee. “But that’s not the point. She told me that the last time it was this bad was over fifteen years ago. Fifteen years ago. The point was that yes, she was accustomed to a high pressure environment. She has been working in that place for six years. So why now? And more to the point, how do we help her?”

Idly, Fane picked up the six inch blade lying on his desk. “I have a solution …” He suggested with a smile. “Might be a bit messy, but it would solve the problem reoccurring. Even fifteen years since the last time is too soon.” He slammed the blade into the wood of the desk.

sketch
Casimir Gosselin

“Yeah, very subtle.” Casimir drawled. “I don’t think that will solve the problem. I think what she had in mind was how the process of writing about us has helped her deal with stresses do date. More to the point, how do we help her ensure that this doesn’t happen again?”

Fane sighed theatrically. “The fact is the writing gave her an outlet. I heard her say that when she had a bad day, she would write a fight scene. The book she just published, “Merysekhmet”? That started after her co-author had a bad day at work. Each and every one of us helped her over the bad days, the exhaustion, the asinine behaviour, the empire building. All that shit that she said she can’t stand. She just wanted to be able to do her job.”

“Indeed. So when someone else’s cock-up cost her that £20k contract, that didn’t help. But no one was willing to accept the blame. Or rather the individuals responsible tried to pass the blame onto someone else. Very easy to blame our author-creator, particularly if she is not hitting sales targets.” Casimir’s voice had dropped to a growl.

“Wouldn’t it be great if you and I could just leap off the pages of the book and …” He smiled. “… explain to these individuals that it is not a good idea to have our author-creator feel so stressed.” Fane’s expression made it clear that he would ensure that such a lesson was not easily forgotten.

“Don’t I wish.” Casimir gave a bark of laughter. “Instead, all we can do is give her the means to release her frustration on paper.” He shrugged. “If it means I must kill one or two more individuals, who may or may not bear a resemblance, passing and unintentional, to real individuals …” Another shrug. “I can live with that.” His smile was cold. Businessman he might be, but he was protective of those who mattered to him.

“On that we are agreed.” Fane raised his own coffee mug in salute to his cousin. “We need to continue to help her come up with plots, perhaps incorporate some of the idiots who cause that stress. Last thing we want is for her to give up.” Fane gave a mock shudder of horror. “Having had a starring role in several of her blog posts, it’s been quite fun.”

“Perhaps we should come up with a few more ideas with her, ways that our stories will go that might be unexpected. If we can make her laugh again, that won’t be a bad thing.” Casimir nodded. “May I suggest you have a word with your Pack, and I will do the same with mine.” He coughed. “Of course, she is working on Josh and Dylann’s story, as well as Sergei and Karma’s story. Must mean it is your turn.”

Fane grinned widely. “It will be my turn with bells on. She is trying to turn “Ddraig” into a single volume.” He shook his head. “300,000 words by the look of things. I think she might bring it down by 50, 000 words once the takes all the repetition out. I don’t envy her the editing.”

Casimir wandered back to the coffee machine to refill his mug. “So, we are agreed. We work together to ensure that our author-creator continues to see that we are here to help her and support her.” He shrugged. “Not just us, either. All her friends, her co-writers, some of the other indie authors she has met over time. They all support each other, some more than others. But, when the ‘black dog’ starts barking, she needs to know that she is not alone.”

depression-signs-symptoms-infographic-concept-vector-flat-cartoon-illustration-poster-sad-women-character-80480952“Agreed. One individual can’t be permitted to kill her spark.” He toyed with the knife in his hand. “Still, it is a damn shame you are I are tied to the world of fiction. The fun that we could have.” Fane smiled. “The fun, indeed.”


LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY
Smashwords.com £0.00 (Free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/589130

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O
Smashwords $0.99: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631708

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav
Smashwords: $3.99 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/660156

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £2.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7

Clean romance: Do what?

As a writer of paranormal romance, there is an acknowledgement that there are specific key elements of what is expected. Yeah, let’s be blunt. This is a classic case of ‘sex sells’. But then, the question arises. How much sex? Graphic sex? Implied sex? And then a further question. How much swearing and violence? A fist fight? A graphic description of spilled intestines? Blood flowing or a hero/heroine looking ‘weathered’?

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There is a reason or asking this question. I have noticed that there are some groups on which one might promote one’s books which specify ‘clean literature’ only, sometimes citing that this is because their group is open to under-18s. So what is clean? How does ‘clean’ differ from young adult (YA) classification? And why the restriction?

Life is not clean. Whichever way you look at it, there is violence and bad language. One might not want to hear one’s own children speak in a way to embarrass the proverbial sailor, but unless they are locked up in a castle, they will encounter it on TV, the internet, in school etc. So, when I posed the question in a couple of writing groups, I was sincere in looking for an answer. What surprised me was that the ‘clean’ tag was not just for YA literature. Yes, the stereotypical Barbara Cartland or Mills & Boon reader was out there.

Please do not take this as mockery of such people. I was brought up on a diet of Wilbur Smith and Eric Van Lustbader. Trust me, for a sheltered, convent-schoolgirl, that was a significant shock. As I have grown, so my taste in literature has grown and changed. I would still say that my preferred genre to read and write is paranormal romance, and that is a genre known for ‘details’. However, I find myself toying with the idea of ‘implied sex’, for example.  Then there is the question of violence and swearing. I still write an online role-play fan fiction where my character is known for his paint-stripping language, not to mention the pleasure he takes in dismembering his opponents.

So, the sex side and clean romance. The first thing I have discovered is that it does depend on which market you wish to target. In the UK, whilst the stiff British upper lip is still there, it seems that there is less of a reaction to sexuality: descriptions, same sex or M/F relationships. However, cross the Pond and it seems it is a whole different ball game. Depending on the area of the country, I would suggest that the mentality can vary from fairly relaxed to positively Puritan.

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Curiously, when considering swearing, drugs, violence, there is a completely different attitude. “Sweet baby Jesus!” is something I hear from many of my very religious acquaintances, particularly in the USA. Yet, dropping the ‘F-bomb’ seems completely out of order for them. Talk of  drugs doesn’t seem so bad in the USA, so I have been told. Difficult to comment on that one, as my books don’t feature that side so much.

13900350_10154406547232269_1180981328571448735_nViolence? Now we are talking. By dint of my early reading, my own knowledge of martial arts, archery and a fascination on body mechanics, I do have several fight scenes in my writing. They range from a few kicks and punches to a determined intent to kill the bad guy. But the picture? Surely that is not violent? I included that picture to highlight a key point. Implied violence. This picture shows a cluster of arrows. If you believe the intent is to have all in the gold, then it shows a lack of accuracy. However, if you take into account the gold, when the target is on a stand, is supposed to be the height of an average Frenchman’s heart, then it takes on a new meaning. This is a picture of three arrows striking the throat, and three striking the heart. Implied violence and a definite case of dead.

So back to the original question. What is ‘clean’ literature? There is no one answer. Market conditions and prevailing moral attitudes can take one person’s mild violence to beyond the pale. Similarly, with sex scenes. The blow by blow account of lovemaking as opposed to the implied scene can make a difference. Many readers of paranormal romances feel short-changed if there is no steamy sex.

A closing question though has to be this: how many of those who disapprove of sex in literature actually bought or borrowed a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey?



LINKS TO THE BOOKS IN THE DIARIES OF THE CWN ANNWN and HELLFIRE PACK SERIES

“Bound”, Volume 1 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B016TQFBNY
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016TQFBNY
Smashwords.com £0.00 (Free): https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/589130

“Alpha”, Volume 2 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.com $0.99: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ENZ972O
Amazon.co.uk £0.99: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01ENZ972O
Smashwords $0.99: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/631708

“Beta”, Volume 3 of The Diaries of the Cŵn Annwn
Amazon.co.uk: £0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KB20OL6
Amazon.com: $0.99 or free on KU https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KB20OL6#nav-subnav
Smashwords: $3.99 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/660156

“Merysekhmet”: A love story with bite
http://www.facebook.com/Merysekhmet
A
mazon.com: $1.12 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XJPK5S7
Amazon UK: £0.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XJPK5S7