Five Things That Piss Me Off in Romance Novels

It’s that time people. Time for me to be totally honest with you. Seriously. We’ve introduced ourselves, got used to each other’s weird bits and I’ve learned to ignore your lisp. Fings are ‘bout to get real cause I’m going to take our relationship to another level and tell you…

The Five Things That Piss Me Off in Romance Novels

Let me start by saying – not much pisses me off. Really. I’m one of those people. I seriously give minimal fucks about anything. I like trying new things, I love meeting strange people and weird shit makes me laugh. But when it comes to reading – I gets a little serious peeps. Like my Year Four Teacher Mr Walker whose face would turn purple when someone talked while he was speaking. Instant detention. So here are a few things that rattle my chains and earn you INSTANT detention.

5. Virgins

I cannot stand these whinging little minkers. Now I’m not talking historical virgins – because then I’d never read a frigging one. I get those girls. They want it, but can’t get it. I’m talking bout those contemporary virgins who have it handed to them on a platter – but don’t want it. For real? You’re 24 and gorgeous and you’re still waiting? For what? Freddy and his perfect brown eyes? Freddy is too busy bangin the girl next door to be writing you love notes sweetheart so you need to jump on that boat. There are some virgins I don’t mind (actually I can only think of one: Kelly Hunter’s virgin in The Trouble With Valentines – she was sparky and fun and she had all these annoyingly protective brothers and I’m glad she waited for Nick and his very large….bank balance because his…bank balance was so very large. ) I’m talking about those I-fell-in-love-with-my-brothers-mean-and-disrespectful-friend-when-I-was-fifteen-and-am-now-spoiled-for-every-other-man type virgins. The ones who wait for an arsehole to notice them. And only then does she find out he’s not an arsehole. No. Go and get it on ladies. But always make him wear a condom. A gals gotta stay safe.

4. Handbags

Not all handbags. Those ones called ‘purses’ which heroines sling over their arms in a huff and stalk off. Now. Let’s get something straight. It aint 1985. No one has a perm and we don’t wear shoulder pads anymore (well, expect for those hipsters who do – ironically of course) Don Johnson is not waiting for you, arms crossed and leaning on his Ferrari Daytona Spider. Take off your ‘uge resin earrings and pack away the ‘purse.’ Heroines in 2013 carry iPhones. Or satchels. Maybe one of those awful Kim Kardashian monster bags or even a clutch…for a special occasion. But never…and I mean never…a ‘purse’ with a long strap and a clasp that twists. Never.

3. Kids and Dogs

Deep breath. I know there are those of you who sigh in delight at kids and dogs. I’m not one of those people. Let’s move on.

2. Wanker Hero’s whose only purpose is to bang the heroine

You know the ones. “Barry’s pure animal lust took over and he realised he’d never stop until he had her naked and screaming his name beneath him.” Time to put your pure animal lust away Barry. It’s frankly getting a little manky. Now I like a hero who sees what he wants and goes after it. And I’m cool with him wanting her for her body…for a page or two. But he needs to move on. Quickly. I do realise that men often think with their red wine and onion $7.99 a kilo specials. I also realise that they see a woman’s arse, tits and legs first. And it goes without saying that most normal men wanna do the wild monkey dance before they even think of getting to know you. But this is a romance novel. And the rules are – they want you for more reasons than your delectable back-end. Stick to the rules people.

  1. Perfect Heroines

Ohmagawdohmagawdhomagawd. (Imagine my hands flapping frantically right now) I H.H.H.Hate Le Perfect Heroine. She is beautiful. She’s a former model who has a degree in Scientific Biology of Marine Plants and Allthatfuckery. She is sweet and good and has the morals of a reformed hooker. She is self-righteous but sympathetic. “I knew Margery was making a fool of herself by swinging her hair around on the dance floor but she’d had such a tough childhood that I let her go. She needed the release.” Gag. Gag. If you take nothing away from this post – please listen to me about this. Give your heroine a flaw. Make her internal thoughts a little fucked up. Give her one boob bigger than the other. Make shoe shopping painful for her because she has big feet. Let her fail her exams. Allow her to be the mean girl. Make her say embarrassing things and flash her arse when she falls down drunk. I don’t want to read about Sweetie McPerfect and her chance encounter with a doctor billionaire who she is helping save the world one whale at a time. Tell me about Tarty Bigtits who gets drunk at her best friend’s wedding and admits she’s loved the groom all along while singing bad karaoke and  snogging the father-of-the-bride. And make her break her frigging purse while she’s at it. The thing is, I’m not perfect so I don’t want to read about someone who has life all fall into place for her. I’d prefer to know there is someone more fucked up than me who makes all the wrong choices but gets her happy ending anyway.

And finally dear, dear, dear old friends; if I do ANY of these things in my books – ever…then it’s actually all perfectly and totally ok to do any or all of these things whenever you want.

Jx

Advertisements

The Dirty M Word

I haven’t written in a while – have you missed me? Of course you have. But there’s a very good reason, I assure you. You see I am a very important and busy AUTHOR now so I have no time for the frivolity of blogs and twitters and facebook and the like. As I am very important. And busy.

Which leads me into the murky waters of *den den derrrrr* Marketing yourself.

You see we AUTHORS are very busy. And important.

But if you ask a reader the author of the last book they read – chances are, they’ll say ummm, arrrr, you know. That one…someone. Starts with L…

Unless you’re Dan Brown or JK Rowling, it’s fairly likely that no one will remember your name.

Maybe they’ll remember the name of your book (Fifty Shades of Brown) or they’ll remember the story (you know, the one about the woman whose father was killed and her brother was hanged and their horse ran away) but chances are – THEY WON’T REMEMBER YOUR NAME.

Seriously.

Readers don’t remember your name.

They remember your book.

If they like your second book – they might remember your name. They might. And that’s only if the publisher splashes your name in a dirty great big font across the cover. (I’m talking to you Nicholas Sparks)

But for all of us swimming in the shallow putrid waters of book publishing – we will always struggle with name recognition. Fact.

So – I’ve handed out the dire news. Surely I should offer a solution. A how-to guide on how to get readers to remember your name. Unfortunately, you are not going to like what I’m going to say.

Why?

Because you’ve tried it all before. You’ve done it all. Social media, advertising, giveaways, book signings. And nothing works. After all your hard work, you still only sell 3 more copies. And that was to your mum who was embarrassed because she spotted your book in the bargain basement bin. And it was a three for one deal. I mean – that’s value for money.

But what I’m going to tell you is to try again. And perhaps think of it in a different way.

You’re not an AUTHOR (I don’t know why I’m still shouting at you). You are a brand. The trick is – and I know it’s difficult – to distance yourself from…yourself. Imagine you are not selling yourself, but a product. Let’s say you are a bag of chips. For arguments sake.

What flavour chips are you? Are you fat free or full of salt and taste? Do you have a bright pink pack that screams fun or are you all dark and moody for eating with wine and cheese? Where do people buy you? On their way to catch a bus? As part of their weekly shop?

Now you know what kind of chips you are. So you need to get your packet in the face of anyone who wants to buy your chips. Right place, right time, right buyer.

Am I losing you?

I get it. You’re not a bag of chips. But you are a product that needs to be sold and marketed like a bag of chips. And like the chips, you need to figure out what sets you apart from everyone else. Really get to know your voice and who loves it. Then set about making sure your chips (your name) are wherever those chip-buyers (readers) are.

But let me tell you right now. Up front. Standard marketing clause. Expenditure does not always equal immediate sales. Let me repeat that for those in the nose-bleeds. Expenditure does not always equal immediate sales.

What this means is that when you do your giveaway/give your radio interview/attend your book signing you may not sell a damn thing. Not one measly book. No matter how much it cost you to get there or how much you giveaway.

But the value of that event is not always measured in sales. It’s measured in Brand Worth.

But I just want to sell more bloody books! I know petal, I know. Look, sit down – I’ll put the kettle on, we’ll have a cuppa.

The idea is that you will sell more books. Eventually. What you need to do is get your name in the right place at the right time to the right people.

Brandishing your book around like a limp dick in a nightclub will get you nowhere. People will avert their eyes. They’ll shun you for your shameless self-promotion – even if you’re hung like a unicorn. (Which I’m told are very hung)

What you need to do is get your name into the heads of the people that give a shit.

And for me – old school is the best school. And that means turning up at a few events. Put your mug in people’s faces. Talk to the readers. Ask them what they think of your book. Pat a few heads and kiss a few babies.

Do you write historical fiction? Get thee self to the nearest Jane Austen Festival

Serve up crime with a dose of murder? Then handcuff yourself to the next Crime and Justice Festival

Find out who in the media is looking for comments on your genre of fiction at The Source Bottle and contribute your expert opinion

Write hot, young, contemporary romance? Give Shop Till You Drop a call and have them feature your kick-arse wardrobe in their ‘In My Space’ section

Why? Because you can’t just tell people who you are. You have to show them. (Where have you heard that before?)

Show them that you live history/experience crime (not literally…I hope)/are an expert on your genre or have a wardrobe a contemp romance heroine would kill for. You need to make your readers believe. Make yourself more than just a name. Become the brand. Be at one with the Brand. Then your reader will trust you. And they will love you. And they will follow you.

This means of course, you need to be your own marketing team. It’s tiresome. It’s time consuming. It’s sometimes thankless and the pay sucks. But when you get your name out there you might…just might…get someone to remember it.

And next time that person is in the bookstore browsing the shelves – your name might be the one to jump out. “Oh yes, I’ve heard of her/him – they were in that magazine, you know the one. Starts with E. No, I can’t remember the name of that magazine but I do remember the name of this brilliant author. I shall buy their book immediately.”

Boom. Sold. My work here is done.

Aaaand Jazz hands. I’m out.

J x

Who the hell am I?

I’ve been struggling with what to call myself for a long time. My brother has no problems with this. Neither does the bloke I cut off in the car down the main street today. But I am struggling.

You see, I worked in marketing for a few years. A few looong years. So I always called myself a marketer. Which is an incredibly wanky term. It means nothing. And it looks like ‘mousketeer’ which would be an infinitely cooler thing to call yourself. But I’m not a mouseketeer or a marketer anymore. Nor do I call myself a journalist. Because I’m not that either. Sure, I’ll write the odd article here and there, but really. I’m not sticking a microphone in pollies faces or reading the ramblings from an auto cue or getting a byline in the local paper for my article about how dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate at easter time. So I’m not a journalist.

So what do I do? I blog. But rarely – so I can’t be called a blogger. And I write. And write and write. Every day. Novels, articles, screenplays. Anything. But until someone pays me motza bucks to do this – I hesitate to call myself a writer.

But you know what? That’s what I do. Every day. I write. Anything. Everything. Sometimes I get paid and sometimes I don’t. But I keep on writing. Now if I were a garbo and I collected the garbage everyday and the damn council didn’t pay me – would I still be a garbo? Ah, no. I would not. I would be…an idiot.

Yet I don’t always get paid for what I write and yet I keep doing it. And doing it. And doing it. And besides having sex, there’s nothing else I’d do for free. (Now don’t get excited I’m not passing it out…I’m just trying to make a point. Which I’m getting to.)

You know what that makes me? A bloody writer. So I have changed my twitter handle (I know you noticed) to Writer. Cause that’s what I do.

Write.

And if you write, that’s what you are too. So don’t be afraid to call yourself what you really are. Although personally – I prefer the gizoogle.net version

I ‘ain’t talkin bout chicken n gravy biatch Writer of shit

So that’s me.

It’s my party and I’ll write what I wanna

I’ve won something. No really, I have. Sadly it’s not an Academy Award but it’s close. I’ve won a place in the Romance Writers of Australia Little Gems Competition. Me and 15 others. Which doesn’t sound terribly exciting but let me tell you something sister (or brother) it is! For me – it means validation and that I can do this.

The strange thing is, I entered two stories into this comp. And the one that I thought judges would lap up didn’t get a look in. The other one. My outrageous, crazy, fun, wrote-it-cause-I-wanted-to Australian historical romp got the gong.

The story I wrote is not about the Regency period. It has no Lords and Ladies (not any real ones anyway). The heroine is a thief and she carrys a rifle – but the judges thought it was tops.

Which got me thinking about competitions and the people who judge them. The reality is – we don’t know who they are. We don’t know what they’re interested in or what their experiences are. All we can do is write what we’re passionate about in a way that we think is brilliant and hope to the devil of publishing that someone, somewhere is like you. Someone is spitting out their tea as they laugh at the right places and lifting the edge of their shirt to wipe away a tear when they’re supposed to.

So although I am over-the-top thrilled with my place in the anthology I’ve decided I’m not going to let competitions or rules define my writing. I’m going to write however-the-hell I want and hope somewhere, someone is as amused by it as I am!

If you want to read more about the Little Gems competition – here is the link: http://romanceaustralia.wordpress.com/

Jen

This Little Red Engine Definately Can!

So you may have noticed I haven’t posted in a while. Why? Great Question. Easy answer. I’ve been writing! Yes, it’s true – my muse is definately in the building and my WIP is barrelling along.

I had some grave concerns there as I kept getting sick of my characters and bored of my plots but my current WIP is fabulous (if I do so say myself)

It helps that I’ve found a wonderful Critique Partner through www.romanceaustralia.com.au who appears to love what I’ve written too. This means it’s not so easy to tell myself that what I’ve written a pile of steaming excrement. As I’d then be disagreeing with my CP who is obviously very intelligent and a discerning reader.

What’s funny is that now – when I start my day – I’m not anxious to get on to Twitter or Facebook or Pinterest or some other virtual world – I’m eager to dive back into my story and see what my characters are up to. And I wrote it. So I know what they’re up to. But somehow, someway I always think that I’ll read back something and say ‘Wow, really?’

I’m so so excited about my current WIP. It takes place in the world of journalism and centre’s around a great debate regarding online vs print journalism. I love it because I’m passionate about journalism (if you didn’t know I’m a journo by trade) and am super interested to see where the industry is heading. But don’t worry if you couldn’t give a birds whistle about the topic – the love story between the two characters is sparky and emotional and super duper sexy. At least I hope that’s what I hope my future publisher will say.

Nuff about me – what’s your favourite ‘world’ when it comes to romance? Exotic islands? Down and dirty inner cities? Glamourous beach locations? Super-scary paranormal? I’d love to know so leave a comment below!

Why it’s good to be a masochist

I am stuffed. And not like a pillow stuffed. Emotionally bereft stuffed. I’m now about a third of the way through my WIP and after all the up and downs and ins and outs (not literally you dirty buggers) I feel like Adele – scarred and broken.

But it feels good. It feels like I’m finally getting somewhere and am starting to throw myself into this story. I know I have more work to do – more layers to add. I know I can dig deeper and hurt myself even more. But first I need to get it all down on paper. Then I’ll go back and torture myself again.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately to get myself in the right frame of mind. Adele, James Morrison, Ed Sheeran. They write what they feel and it’s brutal and raw and their phrasing is sometimes clumsy but you can tell they ache. The feel every word and every note and that’s how I’m beginning to feel about this manuscript.

It’s exciting and a little bit frightening to reach so deep inside your emotions and write it down, make it into something real on a page. And romance authors do it all the time, book after book. Even the ones they class as ‘light and fluffy’ have some emotional depth.

I cannot wait to attend the RWA Conference next year. I wonder if the authors will be walking around like zombies, arms thrust out totally devoid of emotion or feeling because they’ve pored it into their books? I wonder if the only response to my puppie-like questioning will be grunts? Or maybe that will just be me.

Back away from the mirror – Losing the Plot

My hair is brown. An icky boring-growing-out brown. And its at that length. You know the length. Where it sits in the collar of your shirt and isn’t long enough for a long swishy ponytail but too long to leave the house without doing something with it.

But it hasn’t always been that way. Before this, it was blond and preschool-mum short. Before that it was elbow-length and gorgeously chestnut, before that platanium and boob-brushing before that red and flicky, before that…well you get the picture. I can’t make up my mind.

I’m famous for it. I’ve moved house 21 times. Yes, you read that right. 21 times, to 8 different towns in three countries. I just can’t make up my mind.

When it comes to writing, I’m finding I’m a little the same. I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about different writing techniques and every time I read one I think – a-ha! That’s it, that’s what I’ll do, it makes perfect sense. And it does, but then those crows of self-doubt start to circle. A few chapters in I start to think that I’ve lost my mind. This is crap. An almighty heap of steaming crap. So I start again. And again. And again. And everytime my perfectly crafted plot loses it’s way.

So then I decided to chuck out the plot and let the characters lead the dance. But my characters like to talk, and talk and talk. And they like to spend a lot of time just looking around, checking out the scenery. Get on with it! I scream uselessly. This is not working, so I went back to the plot and – you guessed it – started again.

It was like my hairstyle. Going nowhere, slowly. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see a perfectly adequate hairstyle on it’s way to becoming a mane of glowing chestnut locks. I saw a sad, tired, old woman surrounded by frayed dry ends. Just like my manuscript. A sad, tired old plot heaving with lifeless, cliched characters.

I needed to do something fast, before I lost motivation all together.

So I challenged myself to write a story in 3000 words. A beginning, a middle and end and two well-thought out characters.

Well stone the bloody crows!

It made me condense the plot, reduce the action, focus on the dialogue and the character development. In 3000 words I was able to capture the story I was trying to tell. It made me see that the whole point of the story is the relationship between the two main characters. How they feel, how they react and why they react that way.

Derr. I already knew that but it took condensing the story for me to get it. Really get it.

So after that, as I stood in the shower (because that’s apparently where my muse likes to talk to me) I let myself think. Think about the two main characters. I let them talk as much as they liked and I let them tell me their story. Tell me why they want each other and what else they want. Then they described their world and I listened without interupting with my own ideas. I let them talk and talk and talk. Then, with that in my head, I was able to pull out the important bits. The bits I needed to tell the story. I grabbed the index cards and wrote a loose plot. Nothing about the two characters and how they feel and act though, just the time and place, where they need to be and when they need to be there.

Now the story is barelling along. My characters are happy they can tell their story without my telling them what to do and I feel more in control as I know where they’re headed. And I’ve also stopped reading all my chapters back each day. Just the previous chapter. Then my internal editor is left un-fed and unable to shout at me for being such a nong.

So far – this is working for me. I can see the ending and am enjoying losing myself in the emotion again. It may not be perfect or even any good but I know it will get there and when it does, it’ll be gorgeous.

And as for my icky-growing-out-brown hair stuffed in my collar I’m focussing on visualising the long gorgeous chestnut mane I’m heading towards. I’m not going to change my mind and dye it blond, or red or say ‘stuff it’ and cut it all off. I’m just letting it do it’s thing and in the meantime, I’m staying away from mirrors.

JenRae X

 

 

Brain Freeze

You know the feeling. One enormous suck of the New Zealand Ice Cream Berry Blast Smoothie and BING! You pinch the top of your nose, blink your eyes a few times – then, when everyone is starting to check their iphones for the nearest stroke specialist – you grin and say; ‘Brain Freeze.’

Well, these days, I don’t need no berry-loaded ice drink. My brain is on permanant freeze. It started about six months ago. When I got off the phone to my editor (magazine not book. Sigh.) who said she was really pleased with my work – by the way,  they never say that – an idea started to form in my mind. Maybe, perhaps, possibly I could write a book. Maybe. A romance novel. Possibly. So I did what any self respecting nerd does and researched the pants off the genre.

(My brain freeze is coming, I assure you) I found Romance Writers Associations, Romance Readers Associations, romance bloggers, author websites, author tweets, conferences, books on writing romance and so much more that. I started my own twitter account (jenniferraeromance if you’re interested) and started to write and write and write. I enrolled in a romance writing course, I set up a new email address, I started a blog, I set up an account with Mills and Boon and maxed out the card on every book I could, I got a shiny new library card and read every book I could lay my hands on (I learnt quickly to ignore the horrendous titles – what is up with that anyway? But that’s another blog..) and then – here it comes – my brain froze.

Literally.

I was sitting at home, watching TV resting from a four hour writing stint and suddenly nothing on the show made sense. Why is that man driving? Why is he leaving? Where did the dog come from? I was confused, so I went to bed.

The next day, I still couldn’t shake it. Why was I packing vegemite sandwhiches? Why does the colour yellow look more green than yellow? Why isn’t everyone wearing a hat? My thoughts got crazier and loopier so I had a Bex and a lie down and I felt better.

Until I went back to the computer and started following tweets of writers and bloggers and reviewers and readers who were talking about HEA’s and MS’s and #amazonkindle and #SYTYCW2012 and my brain freeze came back.

Then I figured it out. When I was young, learning was easy, natural. I could take it all in without batting the proverbial eyelid. But now – when you have to check your iphone and your twitter and your facebook and update your blog and check on harlequin.com and millsandboon.co.uk – things are just too complicated that my poor old brain can’t take it.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m no tech virgin. I was in marketing for 15 years for Hermes-sake. But throwing yourself into something with the plethora of information that is the romance genre is not for the faint-hearted. And I’m afraid my heart is just a little bit faint. So – I am coaching myself to slow-the-freak-down.

I’m keeping my twitter-checking to under 10 times a day, I keep my facebook account romance free, I read only two romance novels a week (and stick to the ones I know and love rather than choosing another exciting genre and another and another…) and I write for just two hours a day. My brain is slowly starting to simmer down and the ice is melting.

And when I feel it starting to ice up with information overload, I’ll do what I did last week and jet off to the gold coast. Surf, Sunshine and Spunks. #thanksmyexcuseandImstickingtoit

JenRaex

Once Upon a Time…

Great opening lines. We all want one. But let’s admit it, some do it better than others.

I myself suffer from performance anxiety.

I write what I think is a fantastic line and then I begin to doubt myself. Am I just writing that for shock value or is it really a relevant opening line? Is it wanky? Are there too many words? Am I telling a joke that no one else gets?

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that it’s easy to come up with a list of great first lines of all time, but I’m interesed in what makes a great first line in a romance novel.

So here’s how I roll. I go into the bookshop. I don’t take much notice of covers as well as know, you don’t judge a book by it’s…well you know how that ends. I check to see how big the author’s name is. The bigger the name, the badder the book. By then, I’ve checked to see the clerks not watching me (no, I can’t explain why I do that) then I pick up the book. Do I look at the back? No Bob. Do I check the inside cover? Do books have inside covers any more? I don’t do it anyway. I open up and read Line 1. Then Line 2. Then Line 3.

If I haven’t got goosebumps or if I’m not standing in the bookshop with a silly smile on my face – then it’s not the book for me. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a first line snob.

First line? Killer.

I thought I’d turn to my own little library of (mainly historical) romance novels and do a little countdown a-k-a Oprah. But your not all getting one. Sorry.

No. 5

“She would not be sold like a prized mare at Tattersalls!” – Notorious Rake, Innocent Lady, Bronwyn Scott

I should hope not. But if she was, I hope she fetched a good price.

No. 4

“Finish the words and you will be a widow before you are a wife,” Giles Fitzhenry, knighted warrier of William the Conqueror, promised in a harsh whisper. – His Enemy’s Daughter, Terri Brisbin

I wish I could be that pithy under pressure.

No. 3

“Jane looked with distaste and a cringing fear at the chair Jacob Atkins would have her bend over so he could beat her with the thin cane which was casually slapping against his booted right leg.” – Destitute on his Doorstep, Helen Dickson

Bloody hell Helen.

No 2.

“Damien had suicide in his sights.” – Wattle Creek, Fiona McCallum

Don’t do it Damien.

But, my current favourite…my

No 1.

“Madeline Mercy Delacourte quite liked looking at near-naked men.” – Untameable Rogue, Kelly Hunter

Oh how I feel your pain Madeline.

And now, just for my own enjoyment, here’s one of mine;

“Brooke liked getting what she wanted and he just happened to be what she wanted.”

Hold your applause.

JenRaex