Tag Archives: genre conventions

Keeping the Romance “in” Erotic Fiction by Roni Loren

Posted by February 7th, 2014

RoniLorenAuthorHeadshot2With Valentine’s Day just a week away, we’re in a romantic mood. Today, erotic romance writer Roni Loren urges us to create a space in our hearts for erotic fiction. Because erotica can be romantic, too.

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Often when I tell people I write erotic romance (otherwise known as those books to the general population), I can see what pops into their heads first when they imagine what my books must be about. Sex, sex, and more sex! After all, there is that big glaring “erotic” word to let you know, right?

But it seems they miss the second part of that genre title—romance. I have to hold myself back from saying—wait, no, they’re sexy books, but it’s really about the characters and their journey. Erotic romance and erotic fiction aren’t like adult movies where the supposed “plot” is only there to give scene transitions before the pizza boy and housewife get naked again. Unfortunately, not everybody understands this, and there’s a lot of crappy stuff getting thrown out there and labeled “erotica” by people trying to make a quick buck. (Don’t be one of those people! lol)

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“Erotica? Erotic Romance? Steamy Romance?” by Cara McKenna

Posted by January 24th, 2014

LAY IT DOWN cover“What’s the difference between erotica, erotic romance, and just a really steamy romance?” As an author of all three, that’s easily the question I get asked most! Well, aside from, “When are you going to write a sequel to [insert any book featuring a really pushy hero]?”

Unfortunately, there is no single industry definition. You could ask ten different authors and editors and get ten different answers. But you’re asking me, I suppose, so I’ll give you my answer!

First, let’s separate out Erotica from the mix. An erotic story differs from an erotic romance in that it may not feature any romance. Erotica is centered around a sexual journey or episode, one that may or may not feature love or affection or a happily ever after. Erotica offers writers a lot of freedom—it can be just about any sort of story, as long as the spotlight is on the sex. Erotica is designed largely to arouse the reader, and it can deliver on that promise via a wide variety of packages (har.) It may feel like you’re reading about a room full of dynamically slapping body parts, or it could feel exquisitely intimate, with rich character development. But if people fall in love and become attached and devoted to one another by the end? That’s probably an erotic romance.

After HoursSo what’s the difference between an erotic romance, and a romance that simply features a lot of explicit sex?

My short response to that question is to ask you another one: if you took all the love scenes out of a given sexy book, would you still have a story? If the answer is yes, you’re probably talking about a steamy Romance. In most romances, external circumstances (plot) drive the story and the couple’s evolving relationship. The sex will contribute to that evolution, but if you took all the love scenes out, the story wouldn’t collapse.

How about this other sexy book you’re holding—what if you took the plot out? Would the characters’ romantic arc still stand? If you can say yes to that question, you may be in possession of an Erotic Romance. While erotic romances have plots, they can tend to be quieter ones, because the main force driving the characters’ growth and relationship is the sex they explore together. If you take all the sex scenes out of an erotic romance and read what’s left, scene by scene, you would likely feel you were missing something, and wonder why it is these people have gotten so attached to each other. Continue reading

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Olivia Glass: In Defense of Erotica

Posted by January 21st, 2014

In Defense of EroticaOur blog guest today is Erotica writer Oliva Glass.

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Because we are sexual creatures.

Because someone, somewhere, will click on that link, or pick up that anthology, and lean in a little closer, their body language somewhere between curious and alert.

Because there’s a moment, erotic in-and-of-itself, when a writer describes a phenomenon or sensation or fantasy precisely in the way that you have in your own mind, and here is someone else describing it, someone else who knows.

Because people have been punished for it, time and time again, and yet they have pushed through—pushed through censorship, pushed through prison and torture and worse, to bring the erotic to the page, and to consume it.

Because we have imaginations that are constantly moving outward, expanding like the edges of the universe.

Because sometimes it’s nice to read prose instead of watching a video or looking at a picture. Continue reading

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Avoiding Cliches + Using Specific Details: Natalie Baszile and QUEEN SUGAR

Posted by January 16th, 2014

QUEEN SUGAR coverI’m such a nut for Women’s Fiction featuring characters who overcome emotional struggles and find quiet but satisfying resolution. That, to me, is epic fiction. When I found out about Natalie Baszile’s forthcoming novel, QUEEN SUGAR–which would fit beautifully unto a bookshelf next to THE HELP or THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES–I knew I wanted to know more about this author, who’s already winning fans with her ambitious, assured debut. QUEEN SUGAR is a smart and inspiring read, not to mention a perfect tutorial in avoiding cliches when writing about family and the American South.

LS: QUEEN SUGAR’s main character, Charley, is a single mom recovering from two devastating losses, trying for a fresh start. As a writer, that’s a lot of heavy stuff to take on. Yet your take was fresh, and nuanced. How did you make Charley’s heartbreak seem so realistic?

NB: First, thank you very much for the kind words. I always love when I read a book that makes me feel something bigger is possible, so I’m glad you found the story inspiring.

I was terribly concerned about clichés in the early drafts. I wanted Charley to face a lot of real-life challenges and I wanted her experience to reflect what so many people, particularly women, face as they raise children, loose spouses, take care of sick and aging parents, even battle depression. The best way to avoid clichés is to be particular, so I tried to imagine how Charley’s struggles felt to her specifically. So, for example, when I wrote about her father’s cancer, I tried to include details that would reveal that disease as Charley experienced it. When I wrote about her depression, I tried to show how that dark period felt to her.  But I also wanted to show Charley coming through those challenges to create a new life for herself, so it was enough that some of those problems were behind her; in her rearview mirror. A few brushstrokes were sufficient.

Thinking a little more about clichés, I was also very conscious of creating an African American character who couldn’t be pigeonholed. I wanted Charley’s life story to reflect what I knew to be true:  that the range of African-American experience is vast and broad and nuanced. Yes, some people have had more urban experiences growing up, but others, like Charley, were raised in the suburbs, and had childhoods that were more integrated. I think we are seeing more examples in so many aspects of our culture now, more than ever before, and I wanted Queen Sugar to reflect that reality.

Natalie Baszile author photoLS: Homecoming is a big theme in the book—several characters are coming back home to Southern Louisiana so that they can have a new beginning. Do you have a personal connection to this part of the US?

NB: My dad was born in Southern Louisiana and lived there until he moved to Port Arthur, Texas, for high school.  Most of his siblings and their families– my aunts, uncles and cousins–still live in Lake Charles, Opelousas, or Baton Rouge, and my great aunt, who must be in her late eighties, still lives in the little town where my dad was born. So even though I’m a California native, I feel that I can claim Southern Louisiana as part of my personal history. Continue reading

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David Anthony Durham on His Landmark Epic Fantasy Trilogy

Posted by January 9th, 2014

acaica trilogy

I am so thrilled to have author David Anthony Durham on the blog today. His ACACIA series made me fall in love with the epic fantasy genre: The trilogy’s breathtaking, multi-layered story, innovative take on magic, and daring vision of human frailty meant we had to add it as an epic fantasy Landmark Title on our genre map — next to titles by George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss. 

Here David answers questions about craft and genre in the ACACIA series.

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NG: In the first ACACIA book we encounter a dynasty that ruled the known world for 22 generations. We’re talking about a large canvas: a complex geography, a slew of different cultures, and quite a bit of history to invent and deploy. It’s a truly “epic” fantasy. How did you manage to keep track of all this information as you were writing? Where do you start when you have such a huge task on your hands?

DAD: I start in several places at once. At the core of it all is the Akaran family, the father and his four children and the reality of the dynasty he’s leaving to them – and the guilt and unease he has about the horrible legacy that their wealth is built on. I knew from the start he was sitting on some major secrets, and what could be worse for a father that loves his children than knowing that his empire sells children – other people’s – into slavery? Once I had that idea I had to figure out who they traded with, and why those people would want an unending supply a child slaves. So, one thing – family dynamics – quickly expanded into larger and larger issues.

Map from the first Acacia book.

The map featured in the first Acacia book.

Also, there was the map. Wouldn’t be an “epic” fantasy without one, right? Doodling it out was another way the world took shape. Filling in the continents and the climates and features all gave me clues to the types of societies and races that would live there. The more I doodled the larger the map got. I tried to circle the continent with oceans, but then I got to wondering what was beyond those oceans. And so I got the ships out – big ones – and went sailing.

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How to Write an Effective Battle Scene by Epic Fantasy Author Anthony Ryan

Posted by January 8th, 2014

blood_song_anthony_ryanBattle scenes in fiction are a serious affair. They require a lot of research but also careful craftsmanship. The author needs to relay vivid sensory detail and paint a picture of the battle’s development, then filter all that through the perspective of the book’s key character(s) in an engrossing way. A good battle scene is like a beautifully choreographed dance–equally pleasing to military history acolytes and laymen. 

Today we’re excited to welcome author Anthony Ryan, who’s written the much touted epic fantasy BLOOD SONG–he knows a thing or two about writing gripping battle sequences.

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A battle scene is a depiction of armed conflict between multiple participants. Or, more simply, a bunch of people fighting, usually in a field if we’re talking about epic fantasy. But, of course, there is no one type of battle scene, as there is no one type of book. There are land battles, sea battles and space battles. There are sieges, ambushes and skirmishes. Then we have shoot-outs, sword-fights, dog-fights and an endless inter-mingling of just about every form of combat real or imagined. My point is that the battle scene is not limited to one genre or period of history. However, for a battle scene to work, a savvy writer would be wise to include, or at least address, certain key elements.

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Is My Book Historical, Traditional or Epic Fantasy?

Posted by January 7th, 2014

fantasy_what_is_epic_fantasyThe fantasy genre has a complex and diverse landscape–and incorporates the kind of assortment of tropes, conventions, and magical creatures that can make you head spin. The challenge of writing fantasy comes from having a good overview of the genre, knowing to nod to what’s come before, and build upon it. In fact, one of the SF/F editors I talked to recently said that the two most common mistakes writers make in submissions are that they either try to reinvent the wheel and, unbeknownst to them, write a story that has a plot similar to one of the all-time SF/F classics or they rely on genre paradigms that were the rage decades ago and are no longer popular. If you want to be published today, you have to be familiar with what’s published today as well as know your ABCs when it comes to fantasy: J. R. R. Tolkien, Mercedes Lackey, George R.R. Martin, Philip Pullman and so on. You have to be fluent in fantasy.

That’s why we wanted to spend some time on the epic fantasy genre–a pretty “hot” genre of late, and demystify the small but significant ways in which is differs from other fantasy subgenres such as historical and traditional fantasy.

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What are Landmark Titles on Book Country?

Posted by January 3rd, 2014

As you explore the Book Country Genre Map, you’ll find a carousel of “Landmark Titles” on each genre page. Landmark Titles are books from each literary category and are often well-known and popular titles. We believe they’re the must-read books for each category.

High Epic Fantasy Genre Page on Book Country

As you are making your plans to improve your book this year, we suggest reading Landmark Titles in the same literary category as your own. This is a great way to learn about genre conventions, plot structure, characterization, voice, and all the other elements of a book that your audience is keenly aware of and that you want to appeal to. Continue reading

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Q&A with GOLDEN BOY Author Tara Sullivan: “Books with heavy moral overtones are unpleasant for all ages”

Posted by December 19th, 2013

GOLDEN BOY coverTara Sullivan took time for a chat with us about her debut Middle Grade novel GOLDEN BOY. GOLDEN BOY is a harrowing story of 13-year-old Tanzanian albino named Habo, whose family is forced from their small village due to prejudice and misunderstanding. This book stood out to me as a serious and fascinating example of the powerful work that Middle Grade authors are writing. Read on to find out more about how GOLDEN BOY fits into the Middle Grade genre, but also strongly resonates with older teens and adults.

 

LS: You are a high school Spanish teacher, as well as an author. Tell me about how your experience in the classroom affected your writing.

TS: I have to say, I don’t know that there was much interaction between the two worlds—I write for middle grade readers and I teach high schoolers. The kids are always excited to hear book updates, though, and that’s fun.

LS: GOLDEN BOY has been embraced by the Junior Library Guild and School Library Journal. How do librarians play such a big role in the success of books for younger readers? What about teachers and librarians in the schools? Continue reading

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Why Genre Matters: Finding The Right Shelf For Your Book

Posted by December 13th, 2013

Earlier this year, Nevena wrote about how to choose a genre on Book Country. I wanted to expand on why genre matters, and how finding the right genre makes a difference in getting your book into the hands of readers who want to find your book.

We’ve talked about how once writers choose a genre (or a genre chooses you), it becomes a home. It’s where writers spend days and nights creating characters and stories for the world to embrace. Your genre is the country filled with people who want to read and write what you do.

It’s important to decide where your book fits early in the process. Otherwise, you might get stuck describing your book as a hyphen between a western-romance-mystery-literary-fiction-with-some-vampires and a chase scene, and it’s a lot like 50 Shades meets Harry Potter meets Twilight meets The Help with a protagonist a lot like Holden Caulfield, and set in 28th century France.

Here’s why your genre matters: stores, whether it’s the lovely independent on your street or Amazon, need to classify your book so they can sell it to just the right audience. Please don’t say that the audience for your book is everyone — that’s lazy and untrue. If you’re a romance writer, for example, you know there’s a big difference between the way a contemporary is written compared to a Regency. Just like you’re trying to find other like-minded writers on Book Country, retailers want to introduce your book to like-minded readers (who have expectations of what you’ll bring to the page based on the genre you selected).

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