Gothic Revival

I just finished the big re-write on Protector. Thank god. It’ll be winging its way over to Bev for a final read through before tumbling its way over to Amanda for the start of copy editing. So close now. I can almost taste it.

Meanwhile, my brain is incapable of stringing together sentences having just finished going through 280 some odd pages of angst, mayhem, and horror. So today’s blog is going to be rather chaotic and probably slightly all over the place. Bear with me.

First things first.

I’m obsessed with gothic horror right now. Not necessarily unusual. I did my degree in 18th century English literature with a focus on the gothic novel. Add being a former goth on top of that, and it all slots nicely into place. So no surprise there.

I’d sort of lost touch with my previous fascination with that genre, focusing more on fantasy and urban paranormal stuff in the last couple of years. That was my mindset when I’d started writing The Shining Ones series way back in 2010. I wasn’t so much caught up in the sublime or my novel’s setting being a character in itself or mad monks and falling down castles. I was more interested in mythos. More interested in building my own angel mythology from scratch based on two points of interest: Neil’s take on Lucifer Morningstar in the Sandman series and one of my favorite songs of all time, “For Her Light” by a band that still has a very special place in my heart, The Fields of the Nephilim.

But more recently, there has been a resurgence in gothic horror that is taking me back to that genre. Have a look at Del Toro’s trailer for Crimson Peak.

Yeah exactly. I got shivers watching it the first time. Tom Hiddleston and creepy haunted houses. I’m in. PJ Harvey doing Nick Cave? Could it get any better? I was already heading in that direction, but Del Toro’s ability to make beautiful, ethereal things just pushed my mind into creative overdrive.

And if that wasn’t enough, I also just got done reading this, Jack Thorn by Katherine Harbour.

jack thorn

I don’t normally get book envy – it takes a lot for me  to go there – but I was absolutely impressed with her book to the point where I was like, “No seventeen year old should know that much about celtic mythology and be able to weave it into an enticing story that doesn’t read like a history lesson.” It even caused me to stalk her on Twitter. If you haven’t read it, do so. I could probably write a whole blog post on her setting descriptions alone. Very nice stuff. You can also be like me and follow her on Twitter if you’re so inclined. Just go here.

So here’s my second bit to this blog post that I want to bring to the party:

I predict that 2015-16 will see a huge uptick in gothic/steampunk literature, movies, etc.

It’ll be a bit like what Twilight was to vampires and paranormal romance or The Hunger Games and the slew of dystopian novels that followed. It’s coming our way. (ed note – Gothic is different from Steampunk for those who want to be pedantic about it; there is a nuance between the two, but for argument’s sake, I’m going to lump them together.)

If you don’t believe me, take a look at Madonna’s new video that came out two days ago and try not to dry heave. I couldn’t. In fact, I got really really mad to the point that my husband laughed at me. If I could’ve reached through my monitor and bitch-slapped Madonna for yet again more shitty music AND ripping off yet another subculture’s much-loved and respected identity for her own piece of tripe I would’ve. Does she have no shame?

Seriously. Enough already, Madge. Go retire into that good night and leave the rest of us alone. If the Steampunkers wanted to light you on fire, I’d gladly hand them the matches.

Sorry. Did I just say that out loud?

I could list several more examples of why I think this trend is going to continue, but I just realized that I’ve just done a smack down on Madonna so I’ll stop while I’m ahead. I’m pretty tired.

If you can think of any other examples to share, let me know, and I’ll put them up here.

 

Bad Romance

romancecover

apologies to the author…I think

“I’m not talking about Lady Gaga – although to be fair, the tune is quite catchy. No, ladies, what I’m talking about is the surge in what can only be called appallingly-written-are-you-seriously-suggesting-that-someone-should-pay-money-for-this contemporary YA/NA/whatever the hell they are calling it these days ROMANCE.” – 2/27/15, me

That’s how I started this blog post almost four weeks ago. The irony of this post following one that I’ve written about Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t lost on me. It’s almost embarrassing, but when I’ve got to get something off my chest, there’s no stopping me. It’s a curse.

Normally, I have a lot of tolerance for romance. As a “girlie” girl, I have a soft spot in my heart for a little boy meets girl. Let’s face it: most of us have been there at one time or another: the thrills (and good sex) of a budding relationship, the bad boy that your friends all warned you about but you didn’t listen anyway, even the boy next door. We’ve all experienced love and heart break in our lives. Romance books, even so-so ones, take us out of our daily lives and remind us why we, homo sapiens, require love.

But the wave of horrible romance books that seem to have taken over Amazon, and I hate to say this out loud, but particularly in the self-pub space, is starting to drive me nuts. Like off the charts insane.

Rather than jeer and catcall from the peanut gallery, I have come up with a list of things that any romance writer should think about before even one word hits the page. Call it arrogance or altruism, either probably fits.

Shawnee’s Top 9 Tips for Romance Writers

1) Give your heroine a “real” life – She had a life before he entered it, and I’m assuming she’ll have one if he leaves it, too. Too often, I have found myself wanting to toss a romance book across the room without even getting half way through it because it’s obvious that the only life that the heroine is going to have is one that involves him – every waking moment of every freakin’ day. That’s not sexy, that’s pathetic. We’ve evolved a bit in the last fifty years. Women can have more than a man in their lives.

2) Don’t make her a victim – This is similar to giving your heroine a life – also give her a backbone. Don’t let her be weak, she’s not a doormat. She is capable of making decisions and decent ones at that. Maybe not all of the time, maybe not even most of the time. But she has more than two brain cells in her brain and she’s survived up to this point, which has got to count for something.

3) If you’re going to give her a best friend, make it count – A best friend often acts as a foil in a book, bringing out the best attributes and sometimes the worst ones, in your main protagonist. I love best friends. I love my own best friend. Best friends work best when you put the time and effort into them in your book – they are nothing but irritating and annoying if they don’t add anything to the story. The number of times I’ve seen a best friend introduced into a story only to disappear until the end is more than I care to count. If you want to focus just on the girl on guy action – that’s fine. Just don’t subjugate us to an inferior character because you feel like you need more subplots. It’s okay to just say no.

4) You don’t need sex to be romantic – I just finished a romance book that had absolutely no sex in it whatsoever and it still grabbed me by every heart string that I had and made me cry like a girl. That doesn’t happen very often. Even now, I wish I could create a relationship like the one that was created in that book. It was a thing of beauty and was made even stronger by the fact that it was unconsummated. Sex doesn’t equate to romance. In fact, as an exercise, I think every romance writer should force themselves to write a romance story that doesn’t even have a kiss in it. If you can write a good romance story without falling back on the sex then you’ve achieved nirvana.

5) Don’t make him a cliche – He is muscle-bound, rich, has a fast car, and a god in the bedroom. He is so stunningly perfect that he is in fact . . . B-O-R-I-N-G. Don’t get me wrong, I like hot and rich alot. More than I should. And good in bed? A winner every time. But too good of a thing is almost always that . . . too good to be true. This is probably more to do with personal preference, but I like my hero to be flawed, the more flawed the better. I want him to have hang ups beyond “mommy-issues”. I want him to worry and be insecure and to do embarrassing things because he’s not perfect. And god, please make him funny. Why does he have to be serious and brooding all the time?

6) For once, can he NOT be a stalker?

7) Older men can be hot, too – Why should young, strapping lads get all the fun? I love me an older, experienced hero who has the wisdom and the time under his belt to know his own mind. An older hero means he’s probably got more depth to him and more battle scars to give him character. I’m always surprised when I read a twenty-something man who acts like he’s forty-five. I find myself uttering things out loud like “There’s no way he’s twenty-eight,” or “What planet did he come from? No twenty-four year old has his shit together like that.” Older men can be just as hot – think John Malkovich or James Spader.

8) It’s okay if it’s not happily ever after – This is controversial, and many writers would argue with me on this point, but to me, a romance book is a voyage through someone’s relationship, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that relationship will end in a happily ever after. Some of the best romance books I’ve read didn’t end in the money shot – it ended by kicking you in the gut, with you screaming “Why, dear god? Why do you torment me so?” Those are not fluffy romances, I can tell you that for free. They are tear-your-heart-out-and-feed-it-to-you type of stories. They’re not for everyone. The point is don’t be afraid to pull your characters back apart. Even a brief connection was better than none at all.

9) Just because you think it’s a good idea, doesn’t make it so – This is more about writing in general and I hesitated on this last point because people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones and all that. Not every book turns out to be a good one and while you might’ve put a lot of time and effort into it, know when to either re-write it big stylee or let it die a quiet death in your desk drawer. Get beta testers, join a writer’s group, get that thing out to as many people as you can before you publish it. Don’t subjugate the public at large to inferior pulp – you are not doing anyone any favors, including yourself and your career. Anyone can be a writer, not every book should be published. It’s a harsh reality, but a necessary one.