How I Screwed Up My First Romance Novel

passing wind of loveGuest Blog by John Blumenthal, co-author of Passing Wind of Love

Inspired by the gazillions of dollars people are making in the romance novel genre, I decided to write one with a friend, Barry Golson. Granted, the genre is dominated by women, but so what? How hard could it be?

Besides, Barry and I weren’t exactly neophytes. Some years ago, we’d cut our teeth on a short romance novella called Love’s Reckless Rash, written under the pen name Rosemary Cartwheel. Granted, it was a spoof but it gave us a feel for the lingo. We knew our way around the territory.

Sort of.

But this time, we vowed to write a straight one. Our heroine would succumb to fiery passion, flaming eroticism, burning desire and lots of other forms of romantic arson.

Sure, there would be challenges. First, we would have to attempt to see things through a female’s perspective, which meant that power tools would not figure prominently in the plot.  Also, we don’t know anything about romance because we’re guys and we don’t understand things like why women like candles so much. We asked our wives for help but they thought the idea of guys – especially us — writing a romance novel was… well… idiotic.

We decided to ignore them.

Having written Love’s Reckless Rash as a period piece, we felt comfortable with the historical approach. It would take place in Jane Austen’s era. There would be dukes and earls and princes, all of them incredibly horny because in those days first base meant getting beyond the bustle.

The era’s sexual repression also appealed to us as did the language of the day -– words like “hither” and “hence” and “bodice” (although we had to look up “bodice” in a dictionary.)

So far so good. We mapped out a story. Now, all we had to do was fill the pages. Easy right?

Nope.

Ten pages into it, we encountered problems. Every time our story required us to describe ball gowns, sensuous fragrances, the intricacies of corsets or most importantly, the mysteries of the female heart, we’d get stuck.

How did we compensate for our ignorance? Simple. We went for laughs. Again. We simply couldn’t write it without cracking up.  Every time we tried to craft a lurid sex scene we couldn’t resist a punch line.

Often, we’d start a sentence with the best of intentions, but end up with this:

“I have never felt my heartstrings pulled so sharply as they are being pulled at this moment. I feel as if they will snap, and my heart will be flung across the garden into yonder lake.”

“She knew her One True Love was out there somewhere, practicing cruel expressions in the mirror, opening his shirt just so, and in general posing rakishly, roguishly, and redundantly.”

“’Sir, kindly remove your nose from my bosoms this instant! Bosoms are not places into which one inserts one’s nose. If bosom nosing is a custom in this vile place, it is not one that I care to have performed on my bosoms!!’”

You get the idea. Eventually, we succumbed to temptation. We expanded our original spoof to novel length, sending our heroine on new adventures to foreign places where she would encounter a variety of slow-witted potential paramours of different nationalities, and upper-class twits, most of who would –- of course — ardently attempt to unravel her sixteen petticoats. We titled it, Passing Wind of Love.

In other words, we fell back into the ditch.

And we still don’t understand why women like candles so much.

Passing Wind of Love Blurb:

Based on the 1984 cult classic, “Love’s Reckless Rash”, (which the Cincinnati Inquirer called “A gem…a biting romance parody”), “Passing Wind of Love” takes our heroine, Vanessa Hardleigh-Bourne-Bryte, to new heights of romantic hilarity and expands her adventures to new places where she is chased by a variety of new ardent lovers.

Given to swoons, impromptu raptures and lapses of extreme dimness, young Lady Vanessa is possessed of a dazzling Beauty that causes 19th-century noblemen to go into cardiac arrest Inevitably, she meets her One True Love–the rakish, reckless, roguish Duke of Earl–in this picaresque tale set in semi-Victorian England and semi-barbaric America. It’s for lovers of wordplay, literary banter and flagrant historical inaccuracies – Jeeves meets Emma. (That would be Wodehouse meets Woodhouse, wouldn’t it? Never mind.

Its cast of characters–nearly all with either a screw loose or no brains to speak of–include Lord Gastleigh (upper class twit), Trapper Jacques (loathes bathing) Dowager Duchess Maggie (from downtown Abbey), the Queen of England (very stout), Prince Albrecht (in the can), Lord Roscoe Jagger (demanding satisfaction), Wyatt Earp (lightning fast), Beau Weevil (lightning slow) and Thaddeus Cruise (short, handsome,).

Her adventures take her from the Queen’s dysfunctional court to a Mississippi steamboat piloted by Mark Twain to the body-littered streets of Tombstone, to the burlesque stages of olde Hollie Woods, thence to a nunnery where she must uncover a dark family secret from a silent Trappist monk via charades.

Every man who meets Vanessa becomes hopelessly smitten, while she tries valiantly to save herself for the always-bronzed and ever-chiseled Duke of Earl, not without a slew of sexual close encounters and pratfalls too embarrassing to reveal here. Passing Wind of Love is more than just a parody – it skewers religion, money, historical myths, English nobility, racism, gun control and show business. For sure, it’s the only romance novel directed at smart readers of both genders. (Don’t worry guys, Jane Austen doesn’t show up, although Darcy has a cameo.)

This fast-paced novel of high romance, glittering style, damnable puns and low intrigue will make you cheer for its indomitable heroine, sneer at its quirky villains and weep with laughter. You won’t be able to put it down. (Not without damaging your Kindle.)

Buy: PASSING WIND OF LOVE: A Hysterical Historical Romance

Review: Velvet by Xavier Axelson

Velvet by Xavier AxelsonReviewed by Sandra Scholes

Synopsis: Medieval times are the setting for this novel. It is Axelson’s first full length one, and it isn’t about to disappoint. Young Virago is a royal tailor and works at court, taking over the previous tailor, his father, who was killed in an accident. He knows he has to keep up the family trade as a lot of folk are relying on him for court fashions. He has a deep longing for Prince Duir even though he played with him as a child, he loves him, but as it is a forbidden love, he has to keep it a secret. When Virago gets a new cloth sent to him from outside of the kingdom, he is amazed at its beauty and feel. He finds it is called velvet, and it takes his breath away, just as Seton, the court lute player fuels his deep passion for another man to be alone with.

Review: As Virago is around court, his new position allows him to converse with royalty just as his father had, and in one way it is good as he gets to be around Prince Duir, his one true love, but he doesn’t see him as he should – Duir isn’t the sort of prince to be trusted as once his father gives him the position of king, he becomes cruel and unworthy of the title. The velvet Virago gets sent to him seems to have a life of its own. It is an entity that invites the fulfillment of urges, both good and bad, and even those never before known.

There is a sense of foreboding, and duality about this story as Virago lives and works around great privilege, but also gets to see the horror of what his true love, the now King Duir is capable of – murder and slaughter are seen as nothing to him, yet Virago still has a rose-tinted view of him. The king soon has an interest in Seton even though Virago has also fallen for him, so that could inspire a menage situation. There are so many opposites in this story, it is what makes it wonderful to read. Virago is prepared to take the rough with the smooth when dealing with the king, while he likes the smooth love he has found from being with Seton. Love is at the root of all this, and it is a true, honest love, but it is questionable whether it is a lingering one.

It is interesting that Xavier chose the name Virago as it is taken from the Latin words Vir for virile man, and ago to apply to a woman, which means a woman who displays male qualities. Virago in this is a virile man once he is exposed to the velvet, but also with the help of Seton, he can come to realize not everyone is as nice as he imagines.

Naughty Bits: They are nice and steamy! As I mainly read LGBT novels written by women, I found this an interesting diversion from the norm. The idea of opposites attracting, and also showing two sides of a series of people made it easy to identify to the characters. The writer is able to take the reader to his chosen world and let them enjoy it while shocking them too.

What’s the verdict? There are things that aren’t explained much, like Virago’s past, but that doesn’t make you like the story any less. This is a sensual and erotic page turner for those rainy days off.

[Rating:4.5]

Buy: Velvet

Get into Bed with Mary Wine (Author Interview)

trouble with highlandersKeira: As an author of 20+ works, what is your process? Do you have any tips for perseverance or obtaining a steady/growing word count?

Mary Wine: Hello Folks! It’s grand to be here! Thanks for having me over to blog. I’m really excited to have The Trouble with Highlanders making its way into your hands.

It’s a constant battle of good vs the evil distractions of the internet. Okay and chores and of course the parrot. It is my main job to hold and love the parrot. LOL. You know, like any job, you’ve got to be focused. There are going to be times you want to just sleep in or leave early or log onto Facebook and play silly games. But if you want to finish your book, you’d better strap your little tail into the pilot seat for the long haul. ‘How bad do you want it’ really fits. I keep a word count log and make myself stick to it. The other thing I keep is a log of other things I do. This helps me identify wasted time when I sat down in front of the TV or something else non-productive. It’s always surprising to me to discover where my hours are slipping away into.

Keira: What is your favorite reenactment? If you could travel back in time to the real deal, would you?

Mary: I love all time eras. I met my husband at a renaissance faire and we still go. He kisses the back of my hand and we dance period dances. I think he might just be going for the sword fighting…wink. I might travel back if I were in control. History is full of brutal realities from violence to bacteria. Would I love to sit in the court of Elizabeth the first and just watch? You bet! But I’d think twice about how to do it because it’s likely I’d be accused of being a spy. Still, wouldn’t it be something to visit Victorian England? Maybe join one of the cycling women’s groups for an afternoon. I would love to walk through the fabric market and watch a tailor at work.

Keira:  There’s trouble and then there’s The Trouble with Highlanders – explain the difference!

Mary: Trouble…in this case, a big, arrogant Highlander who has never had a woman walk away from him. This isn’t the first time Daphne McLeod has taken a hand in her fate. She hid in a convent to avoid her arranged marriage because it was causing two best friends to fight over her. She also let Norris seduce her so that Broen, her arranged marriage, might renounce her and marry the woman he truly loved. Daphne is her own woman and it was good for Norris to meet his match. The handsome brute just had it too easy with females if you ask me.

Keira: Either/Or: If you were kidnapped like Daphne MacLeod, the heroine, in The Trouble with Highlanders, would you prefer to be rescued by a Laird or a Lord? Why?

Mary: I’d bloody well take care of myself. I don’t drag myself to martial arts class five days a week for nothing. Don’t let the picture of me wearing a bustle fool ya. Just call me Mulan. 

Keira: Use this space to share anything you like!

Mary: I thought I’d show you the afore mentioned parrot…I mean ‘time sucking black hole’ but she seems to think she’s the office manager. Lol.

This is Ginger. She is an umbrella cockatoo. Ginger is about five months old and I’m the insane person who fell in love with her. She can employ an almost impossible tractor ‘cuteness’ beam that pulls all humans toward her. Once in your arms, she purrs and lets one cuddle her endlessly. This is all designed to make me forget that she throws her food all over the floor.

Thanks for having me over. You can find me on Facebook and Twitter!

Mary Wine

MaryWine.com

Buy: The Trouble with Highlanders

If You Could Live in Any Period Setting and Fall in Love, When Would You Go?

Guest Post by Sandra Scholes

I am a lover of period romance novels, and I would like to say that I’m not fussy about what period novels I read, but I would be lying. The Regency period is as romantic as it gets for me; I like the setting, the architecture, the underlying passion that makes them so rakish, even in polite society circles. Everyone has their own period idea of what setting and period they would choose to fall in love. It could be the Middle Ages, Roman times, Georgian, Edwardian or Victorian, but which period sends your heart a flutter enough to fall in love?

1.) Regency

Everyone associates the Regency period with Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice these days as they have read them or seen them brought to life on TV, but there is more to this period than meets the eye, and it’s no wonder it was seen as one of the most romantic periods since the Victorians. One look at Mr. Darcy in his tight pants, taking off his shirt is enough to make any woman swoon!

2.) Edwardian

This was a time when opulence and extravagance still ruled, but for the last time; before World War I took hold on Europe. Edward took over the throne after Prince Albert’s death and Queen Victoria’s mourning, and refusal to keep up with her duties as queen. Casual flings were among the fun they got up to in upper class society as long as they maintained there were a certain amount of rules to follow.

3.) Victorian

Queen Victoria lost her dear husband, Albert and was forever clothed in mourning outfits that showed he had been the only man for her, and she could not take another man at her side. This, for many people was the one of the most progressive eras, but also the most repressive and prudish. There were many new art styles, and scientific discoveries
made in this time. The Bronte’s, Lord Tennyson and Oscar Wilde were some of the Victorian eras most interesting writers; not forgetting Oscar’s scandal with men which has spawned some rather immersive LGBT Victorian writing.

4.) Georgian

George I ruled this era having come all the way from Germany. Not having spoke any English, or fitted in with anyone else in society, he was seen as an unpopular king and spent most of his time in Germany while others considered his being there political. It is considered a decadent era where the filthy rich were idle as lampooned in popular
comedy Blackadder the Third.

5.) Roman

These people had a rich history steeped in discovery, conquest, and enjoyment of all the senses. They favoured romantic attachments with either men or women, or both and had no hang-ups about what others would think about them. Some women think a man in a toga is a sensual thing, and a woman in even less might be a blessing. Think of the
Spartacus: Blood and Sand series where men were gladiators, sweating and fighting shirtless in deadly arenas.

6.) Frontier/Western

This isn’t just about the Indians who featured highly in the setting; women can’t resist the sight of a cowboy in leathers and hat, sporting jeans in calf length boots with spurs. These men are rough and ready to help a woman in distress. Everyone loves a cowboy especially if they are Clint Eastwood or John Wayne no nonsense types. There are the
good guys, but as we all know, the bad guys are out there too and dressed in black.

7.) Medieval

It was a rough time for most ordinary people, but girls still had the time to fantasize about knights in shining armour who would whisk them away from the doldrums of a boring lifestyle. Think of castles, fairy tales and men like King Arthur, along with his Knights of the Round Table. Don’t forget Mordred, Merlin or Guinevere – they play their
part in a difficult period in history.

8.) Elizabethan England

Daughter of Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth Tudor, or Queen Elizabeth as she would come to be known ruled after her father, King Henry VIII died and her mother was beheaded. She swore that she would never marry once she had witnessed her mother being dragged away for execution, and remained so until she died. It didn’t stop her having a few men at her
side, though. The Elizabethan era proved to be a very romantic one where William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe were the playwrights of the day, and Sir Francis Drake was one of the best seafarers known.

9.) Dark Ages/Viking

The longboats drifted along treacherous seas, they had gods who were powerful and brave, and the berserkers liked to go about pillaging, but these Vikings liked other things too, they liked their women, and, if the woman was game enough, they could have a handsome, strong, blue-eyed blond hugging them at night beside a nice warm campfire, forever protected and cared for.

10.) American Civil War/Reconstruction

With the Southern belle all primped and preened, often fanning her while men fall all over her by the dozen, this can be seen as one of the best eras to be romanced in even though the war was raging. Women are dressed in satins and silks, with more modern types of make-up than their predecessors. This could easily be one of the most impressive.

11.) Historical Romance

As this one is more about certain earlier time periods such as the Egyptians, Celts, and Greeks, these can be some of the most overlooked eras, even though romantic men and women have had novels written about them; Alexander the Great, and Queen Cleopatra for example.

For me it would have to be the Regency era. Men were rangy and handsome, well-mannered, but underneath it all, their hearts burned with a passion they couldn’t let out to their spouse – many found solace in other women’s bedchambers, but this was an era of beauty and extravagance in every way, from the food they ate, to the luxurious balls they hosted and the women they bedded.

What do you think? Was the Regency period the most romantic? Or are there some you think better settings for romance novels.

Photo Credits: Kıvanç Niş

Review: Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels by Sarah Wendell

Genre: Non-Fiction look at Romance Novels

Who is Sarah Wendell? She’s one of two romance bloggers behind Smart Bitches <3 Trashy Books. She knows her stuff. You should listen to her. She’s funny too!

Who Should Read This Book? Non-romance readers wanting to know what’s the big deal about this genre.

Who’s in the Book? Big name authors and you! Readers of Smart Bitches’ romance blog who answered questions while Sarah wrote the book. Sharon S. from LRP is in it too! See page 108.

A Chapter of Note: “We Know Good Sex” describes how romance novels and erotica romance has taught women to love themselves, their bodies, and sex. Several readers share how romances changed their opinions and views about sex and took charge in the bedroom and out because of them. One of their stories might resonate with you.

Review: This book is an important contribution to the genre, but I felt it wasn’t really aimed at me, a romance reader, but more to enlightening people about romances. That I believe is the main and foremost goal of the book and I did not take away from it as much as I did from Sarah’s first book which shared some fun things about the genre itself.

Additionally, the beginning of the book seemed overly defensive of our reading choice, but that could just be me. I got the feeling while reading (and this is my own words) that the standard phrase was “I know I won’t get a multi-gazillionaire, super hot, ex-pirate, tycoon who owns his own Greek island paradise with a hoard of servants, but I’ll get a guy who can be my own heavily flawed hero…” with an underlying “So back off!” and “See? I’m not a delusional female with a hoard of kittens in my cupboards.” Exactly the opposite vibe the book was trying to send. So while I liked parts, there were parts that I didn’t like so much too.

Have you read it? What did you think?

[Rating:2.5]

Buy: Everything I Know about Love I Learned from Romance Novels

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