Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Sex Sells - The Old Adage #WriterlyWednesdays


Sex Sells - The Old Adage

There has long been the adage that sex sells. This has been used in the advertising industry a great deal and usually ends up sexist in some way or other, which is very frustrating. It is also used in fiction, be it written or other media and, in some cases, seems to have been crow-bared in just because.

We only have to look at 70s and 80s horror films for examples of this. How often does a young woman suddenly have her boobs on show for no apparent reason? Even Fright Night II did it and it wasn't even the vampires! Don't even get me started on the random 'let's have sex' scenes that strike out of nowhere - the forward button was invented for a reason.

And HBO have made a winning line-up by adding sex into their shows - sometimes well, sometimes not so well.

In written fiction it is the same. Some books seem to think they have to have some sex, just because it's the in thing, and it can be the most hideous addition in the world 😩. There is The Bad Sex in Fiction Award to point out just how bad it can get.

Here's something that some writers don't seem to get:

Good sex is hard to write.



I know, this is shocking news to some, including some really big names. πŸ˜Ž

It's just like every other kind of scene - it takes practice to write well, and some are good at it and others aren't.

Here's another bit of news - we don't all have to be good at sex scenes, and fade to black can work just as well in some cases.

Personally, I like writing sex. Not gonna lie. It can be fun, but it's still hard to get right. I spent a very long time writing fanfiction (and still do), which is a fabulous arena in which to learn such arts because it's a very open and helpful place. Sex is also a mainstay. That is not to say all fanfiction is about sex or even has sex, but it is definitely not taboo and is usually very well received. Fandoms are also usually full of wonderful people ready to give advice on those first awkward scenes that every writer comes up with when it comes to sexy times.

And while mainstream porn is almost always geared to the male gaze, fandom spaces are very often geared towards the female gaze and those of a like mind. This tends to lead to very different output.

Now I'm not going to kink shame here or point fingers, but, from my point of view, sex should be sensual. When a scene is written along the lines of slot A and peg B (if you get my drift 😎), it could be Ikea instructions for all the interest it holds for me.


And I've written scenes like that. Some of my first drafts come out like that and it's only the second and third edits that make them anything readable for me. Like I mentioned above, crafting a good sex scene is the same as crafting any other good scene - it takes times.

Also - research is our friend. We wouldn't write a scene about brain surgery without at least having a little idea what we were on about, and sex deserves the same consideration. Especially if we're stepping into an area that needs understanding, like BDSM *side-eyes Fifty Shades*.

I'll also admit that I have to be in the right mood to write a sex scene. 

There are two types of scene I have to be in the right mood for: 
  • sex scenes
    and 
  • fight scenes. 

Looking at it I suppose they are quite similar - usually two people interacting physically in close quarters πŸ˜‚. If I'm not in the right mood my fight scenes turn our boring and my sex scenes aren't sexy. This, of course, can be rectified by editing, but usually I leave my sex scenes and fight scenes until the right mood strikes. If I'm lucky, reading similar scenes I have written before will actually help the mood to strike πŸ˜‰.

Another big turn off for me in mainstream sex scenes are the wild euphemisms some writers come up with. Read it aloud people - if it makes us or anyone who hears it laugh, we've chosen the wrong word! Purple prose is not our friend at the best of times, and in sex scenes this is doubly so! If our rugged Highlander is suddenly thinking of his penis as a love-piston, yep, we're more than likely doing it wrong πŸ˜‚.

So IMHO enjoyable sex scenes need the following things:
  • sensuality (not just slot A and peg B)
  • feelings (and no this doesn't have to be lovely-dovey stuff, but there has to be a connection between the characters even if it's just mutual pleasure or working off some stream)
  • consent (note I said enjoyable above, and for it to be enjoyable, it has to be consensual)
  • not purple (if anyone calls it a molten core, I will laugh)
  • safe sex where appropriate (in some cases it isn't needed/appropriate, but when you have a modern setting with human beings, especially at the beginning of a relationship, safe sex is a great way to go)
  • physically possible (check the details - sometimes what we see in our head is not what ends up on the page)
Oh and, just a tip, make sure your characters have taken their clothes off, or at least exposed the areas required. I did once write a sex scene and only my beta pointed out one of the guys had yet to take his trousers off. πŸ˜‚

So, are you a fan of sex scenes, or do you prefer fade to black? Does a sex scene have to have certain broad elements to interest you? Did I miss anything off my list above?

If you're wondering why the sudden opinions about sex scenes, watch this space, some news coming soon.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

What Do You See in Your Head? #ThinkyThursdays


What Do You See in Your Head?

It has come to my attention recently that not everyone visualises things in their head in the same way. I actually read an article about a woman who does not see images in her head at all, which got me thinking. So I talked to my husband about it.

Turns out we both have very different visualisations when we see things in our heads.

I have always been utterly crap at drawing from memory or drawing from something I have dreamed up, even though I would have no problem describing the thing I had dreamed up if I wanted it in a book. Turns out I can intellectualise what I want, but I don't think I'm actually seeing it in my head clearly.

It's like I recognise faces - I'm quite good at it when I see someone on TV or on the street (I can spot an actor under prosthetics easily just by the eyes), but if you ask me to describe them - nope, not got a clear image in my head at all. (At least not most of the time - occasionally things stick πŸ˜‚).

And, for example, say I want a dragon. In my head I see a vague dragon. I know it's a dragon, it has four legs, wings and a head, it's reptilian, but I don't see any details until they become important to what I want to do with the dragon.

It's the same for people and places. If I'm planning a scene I vaguely see a person or people doing things, but I don't see faces or eye colour or hair colour or even what their wearing unless it is important to the moment. There's no clear visualisation in my head.

In fact, it's really hard for me to bring the mental image into sharp focus at all.

Turns out my husband is very good at visualising things. He can plan circuit boards or 3D models in his head before he puts them on paper. An idea which blows my mind, frankly.

So this got me to wondering - is one of us an outlier, or is the world just divided into different types of visualisers? Considering I see so many people drawing or sculpting from memory on Youtube, it makes me think. Hence to my question:

What do you see in your head when your visualise something. Do you see details, or vague shapes? Can you bring something into sharp focus in your mind and see it all?

I am dying to know. πŸ˜‚πŸ’–

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Recipe: Baked Pizza Mushrooms - #GlutenFree



Baked Pizza Mushrooms - #GlutenFree

Today I bring you a recipe I adapted from one I saw on Youtube! This is an awesome way to take mushrooms to another level and is easy to adapt to any palate, be it carnivore, veggie or vegan.

Prep - 5mins, cooking 30-40mins

Ingredients

  • large flat mushrooms - 2 per person
  • passata - couple of spoonfuls per mushroom - I use the one that comes with basil already in it
  • cheesey product - I use cheddar, but a mixture of cheddar and mozzarella would be good, or vegan cheese
  • toppings of choice - I use courgette (zuchinni) and tinned ham (for 3 mushrooms I used 1/4 courgette and 1/3 200g tin if ham), but anything you can chop small or that lies flat will work
  • garlic to taste - I prefer a dried garlic mill, but minced garlic is good too
  • Italian herbs to taste

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/320F fan or 180C/360F for non-fan.
  2. Place the mushroom on a baking sheet on baking paper, stalks up.
  3. Bake for 15-20 mins until they start giving up their water (this is a very important step or your toppings and cheese will end up watery).
  4. Drain and place back on the baking sheet on baking paper stalk side up.
  5. With a sharp knife, trim off the stalks so the cup of the mushroom is flat.
  6. Chop the stalks into 4mm cubes (ish) and put them in a bowl.
  7. Chop your toppings into 4mm cubes (ish) and add to the bowl.
  8. Add the garlic and Italian herbs (I use a good couple of twists of the grinders for each) and mix thoroughly.
  9. Pour the passata into each mushroom cup.
  10. Heap on a good portion of the toppings.
  11. Cover with cheese.
  12. Bake in the oven for 15-20mins until the cheese has melted and started to go golden.
  13. Allow to stand for a minute or so because they will be very, very hot, then eat.
These are absolutely delicious and really do taste like pizza - as long as you like mushrooms on your pizza πŸ˜‚. They are quick and easy, taking minutes to prepare, it's only the cooking in the oven that takes the time.


Banner Photo by Harshal S. Hirve on Unsplash

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Interview - The Wonderful Ronel Janse van Vuuren

Interview - The Wonderful Ronel van Vuuren

Today I have the great honour of having Ronel Janse van Vuuren on my blog, and she has been kind enough to answer some of my questions.

1. Hello and welcome back! For those who are new here, would you like to introduce yourself and tell everyone what it is you love to do?

Thanks, Tasha. I’m award-winning, dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. Though I mainly write for children and teens, I have short stories in various anthologies meant for older readers. I tend to use lots of folklore and mythology in my writing. And though I love writing, I’m also a Rottweiler pack leader, chicken wrangler, horse servant and compost enthusiast. I also blog about folklore on my website. www.ronelthemythmaker.com

2. What draws you to be a writer and means you can never give it up?

Creating new worlds and seeing how people react to situations. I guess I can throw crazy situations at real people, but it probably won’t be legal (and it might get me locked up with the criminally insane).

3. What is the first thing you ever remember writing?

Something about faeries, lady bugs and a rock garden. Sadly, that story got lost in time.

4. Dark Fantasy is one of those terms that seems to pop up a lot these days, how would you define the genre?

Dark fantasy is all about examining the human condition, looking at the consequences of actions and decisions, and how the beliefs we hold can change the way we see our world. It can contain some gore, darker and frightening elements of fantasy, atmosphere of dread, but it mostly deals with studying the dark and frightening sides of our nature.

5. What is your writing process? Are you a planner or a pantser?

Is there a term for something in between? Basically, I’ll have an idea of what I want to write (theme), create basic characters and an outline. Then I have fun with a first draft (getting to know the characters better) before doing a synopsis and a rewrite. Though, this differs from one project to another.

6. You have a new book out, what's it about?

Magic at Midnight” is about a farmgirl who takes care of her pegasi until one she is “asked” to take the place of a princess at a gathering of all the princesses from all the lands to compete for the hand of the prince of Acacia Wood. Conspiracies, betrayals, magic and romance become part of her life as she does her best to prevent war. She doesn’t want her pegasi to die needlessly in a senseless war.

Some readers have called it a “Cinderella” meets “Miss Congeniality” coming of age story.

7. Which aspect of the new book gave you the most trouble?

Writing about Amy’s feelings for Rachel. This is the first time one of my main characters have revealed to me their bi-sexual gender identity. (I’m not rude enough to ask if it isn’t pertinent to the story.) So dealing with Amy’s feelings, society’s rules against it, and juggling the other ways Amy can get killed made for a troublesome -- but fun! -- time.

8. Which aspect of the new book was your favourite to write?

The scenes with the pegasi. I based them on my chickens and horses -- and a bit on my Rottweilers! -- and it was by far my favourite time spent writing this book. For some readers, the pegasi made the book.

9. Do you have a favourite character from your new book?

Idil. She’s a pegasus and Amy’s best friend. (She’s also on the cover -- though the how’s and why’s are only revealed near the end of the book.)

10. What is your comfort read book(s) – the one(s) you can go back to when you need something you know will relax you and bring you joy (like and well-loved cardigan)?

“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. The Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr. “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman.

11. Do you enjoy movie/TV adaptations of books, or do you find they never do the source material justice?

I enjoy adaptations. Sometimes they are my first introduction to a book/series! Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, and Vampire Academy are a few that come to mind. Of course, you should see them as their own story and not compare them to the original book.

12. What part of the writing process do you love best, getting the first draft down, editing the first draft or polishing the final draft for publication?

Depends on my mood and the time of year. Spring and Autumn are best for first drafts. Summer for editing and Winter for polishing. But we don’t always get what we want. There’s always treats (bribes!) for getting through the not-so-much-loved parts.

Thank you so much to Ronel and don't forget to check out her new book below. Sounds exciting!

Magic At Midnight

by Ronel Janse van Vuuren

BETRAYAL.

CONSPIRACIES.

MAGIC.

Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court-life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?

TO WHAT LENGTHS WILL SHE GO TO SAVE HER LOVED-ONES?


About Ronel

Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s fiction filled with mythology and folklore. Her dark fantasy stories can be read for free on Wattpad and on her blog Ronel the Mythmaker. She won Fiction Writer of the Year 2016 for her Afrikaans stories on INK: Skryf in Afrikaans. Her published works can be viewed on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase from all major online retailers.

Connect with Ronel on: