Guest Blog by Brantwijn Serrah, author of Goblin Fires (Chronicles of the Four Courts)
Pop quiz time: what do the following three books have in common?
If your answer is that the lead female is an unbearable moron, I’d argue that at least Beautiful Bastard features a decently smart and independent gal (whereas you’d be entirely right about the other two). The answer, though, is that all three of these books follow the same formula.
a) Tries to resist his charms at first, but just can’t seem to get him out of her mind.
b) Doesn’t believe she is “good enough” for him to truly care about her. (Reasons for this: none)
c) Is perfectly attractive and desired by other men around her, but almost willfully refuses to acknowledge this. Consider this in relation to item b).
d) Puts up with unacceptable behavior, because he’s just that good.
e) Thinks she can change him.
a) Is gorgeous. G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S. There is no other word for him. He is the finest specimen of human male this side of the planet Mercury.
b) Is emotionally troubled or unavailable (well duh).
c) Is “the biggest” she’s ever seen (in the case of Twilight, just lump another point in the “most gorgeous ever ever ever” category for this).
d) Is “the best” she’s ever had, and not only the best, but by far the best (in the case of Twilight, the best person she’s ever met. Though where she got that idea, I have no clue).
e) Is ludicrously rich; she will never have to worry about anything again as long as he is her sugar daddy.
a) Both try to resist one another at first, for reasons of varying logic.
b) Can’t get away from one another no matter how hard they try.
c) Believes the other is bad for them, but pursues them anyway.
d) Are explosive together. Practically perfect in every way.
e) Survive sometimes unforgiveable betrayals by simply being so sexually desirable.
So I’m sure the first thing you’re going to say is, “Well, of course they all follow the same formula… the second two are Twilight fan-fiction!
To this, I say, pop quiz number 2: What do the following three books have in common?
Answer: They follow the exact same formula as the first three books. And a quick browse through Amazon’s “more like this” rolls will show you even more books exactly like these (just exactly how many erotic BDSM romances are going to do that gray cover with a single highlighted “power” object, by the way? Are even the cover artists becoming lazy?)
This, in my opinion, is a very, very sad phenomenon for serious writers of romance and erotica. Besides all containing the same story with varying degrees of semantic details (New York instead of Seattle, werewolf instead of vampire, take your pick), these are all still extremely popular series. This sets a bad precedent, though. So let me say to all of you writers and aspiring writers out there: You can do better.
The conflicts in most of these books is negligible. The challenges are few and generally easily or ‘coincidentally’ resolved for the characters, rather than the characters having to resolve them. Unacceptable behavior—stalking, controlling and in some cases sexual assault—are excused as acts which make the characters more desireable. Worst of all, women are represented in a completely pathetic, desperate and insulting manner.
In any other genre, these blatant, clichéd carbon copy techniques would not be acceptable. Perhaps we erotic romance authors get off easy because the world sees us as “peddlers of porn, soft-core and other”. But we know we are more than that, right? We have stories that are just as legitimate, just as good as those in other genres. Sex scenes and romantic plotlines shouldn’t lessen the tales we have to tell.
As a writer of erotic romance, I encourage my fellow writers to consider this when you’re plotting your next story. It’s not to say that writing a rich male lead or a nervous and clumsy female is an unforgivable cliché in and of itself… but redeem yourself from lazy writing ripping off these overdone formulae. Beware books devoid of conflict, chance and doubt. Try to imagine your story going up against the great bestsellers in other genres: make sure it stands out and holds its own, make it unique. This is your creation, not anyone else’s. Give it a personality it deserves.
Because you do.
A Fae Knight’s life belongs to the Monarchies. For Reagan, a life is a small price to pay for the princess she loves.
From the moment she laid eyes on sweet Ceri, Reagan knew she would be lost forever. A Sidhe Royal, though, could never return such feelings for a War-Child…
As the daughter of the Fae Goddess of War, Reagan was sworn into service to the Sidhe monarchies before she was born. Her contract forever binds her to the beautiful goblin princess, Ceridwen. When an unseen enemy threatens the Fae Courts, Ceridwen is caught in the attack, and Reagan must fight to the ends of the earth to save her. But will this battle tear her away from her princess forever?
We came out on the other side of the park, across from the Terrace, in time to see the three Princesses and Erin emerge from the restaurant patio, bright with conversation. There were flittering butterflies—or at least, what mortals would take to be butterflies—drifting playfully around them. Pixies, three of them: one dusky lavender, one a pale coral orange, and one pristine white.
It happened in a perfect storm of a moment. Ceri distracted me, my head perhaps too busy with all Finn had said. She captivated me, such a joy to behold, and in the beautiful noonday sun all the pretty kindness of her face radiated, brimming with unspeakable serenity. She walked between Nina and Neri, laughing at something Nina told her. Erin and Puca scampered ahead, the latter bounding and barking at the coral-colored pixie with seamless dog-like excitement.
We had no reason to expect danger. I brushed at the snowflake-white pixie, who flew up very close to tug prankishly at my hair, trying to shoo it away as I watched the girls enter the street at the light change.
Then—almost too late—I realized the little creature wasn’t trying to play with me.
It wanted to get my attention.
That’s when my hackles raised and my spine stiffened. I sensed it—a brief split-second warning, a flutter of heat in my stomach: my portent of ill to come. Finn noticed me react and in turn he lunged to be ready. I saw it first, though, coming up the street too fast, swerving between lanes, and heedless of the light: an old, rusted, ugly car, something enormous and boat-like, full of dents.
Careening straight for the Ladies.
We moved quickly. I have said I am no hand at magic but this is why: as the adrenaline rushed through my limbs, I surrendered to a surge of unearthly power. I launched myself into the street like a charging beast, lunging violently through the knot of strolling pedestrians, and avoiding collision with wildly preternatural speed. Finn, even bigger and broader than I, danced through the started people with the precision of a practiced gymnast.
Erin stumbled, caught off guard as she saw us rushing at her; at the same time a blue truck waiting to turn noticed the oncoming sedan and sped up to get out of the way.
I grabbed the handmaiden and swept her to one side, bringing my hand down on the truck’s bumper hard enough to dent it as I forced it to a stop. A second vehicle, a utility SUV leaving the park, saw the rust-bucket coming and swerved to the right to avoid being hit; Finn squared himself in front of it, seizing the grill in both hands before it could barrel through the crosswalk. I bounded up over the hood of the truck and managed to grab Nina and Ceridwen out of the way of the oncoming car.
Neri, though, froze, caught in an instant of paralyzing shock. The rust-bucket screeched, desperately trying to squeal to a stop… and instead going into a skid.
They say you should never meet your heroes, but Brantwijn Serrah says otherwise. At a Los Angeles book signing in 2012, Brantwijn met one of her all-time favorite authors of urban fantasy, Jim Butcher, who couldn’t have been kinder or more encouraging to her as an aspiring novelist herself. As it turned out, the book he signed for her that night gave her the first spark of inspiration for Goblin Fires, the story of a goblin Knight hopelessly in love with her princess.
When she isn’t visiting the worlds of immortals, demons, dragons and goblins, Brantwijn fills her time with artistic endeavors: sketching, painting, customizing My Little Ponies and sewing plushies for friends. She can’t handle coffee unless there’s enough cream and sugar to make it a milkshake, but try and sweeten her tea and she will never forgive you. She moonlights as a futon for four lazy cats, loves tabletop role-play games, and can spend hours watching Futurama, Claymore, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer while she writes or draws.
In addition to her novels, Brantwijn has had several stories published in anthologies by Breathless Press, including the 2013 Crimson Anthology and 2014 Ravaged Anthology. She’s also had a short story published in the Cleiss Press Big Book of Orgasm and the anthology Coming Together Through The Storm. She hopes to have several more tales to tell as time goes on. She has author pages on GoodReads and Amazon, and loves to see reader comments on her work. Her short stories occasionally pop up at Foreplay and Fangs, her blog at http://brantwijn.blogspot.com.