Category Archives: Mine

punch an asshole in the face

It took me an age to realise something obvious about sex. Sex on the page, sex between characters.

I’ve thought a lot about how to make sex hot again. God, is there a new position on the face of this green planet? We have seen it all, read it all.

We experience something new to us differently, because our brains are processing information for the first time – it’s more intense, slower, more deeply felt. So how do we make the sexual encounter between two characters feel like something new, something that has only ever happened between these two people?

My go-to method is to sink deep into the romance and write from there: write pain, hurt, disruption, vulnerability, bliss and oh shit did I just realise I’m in love. It’s a pretty good method, on a pure-id level.

But for putting your critical brain to work on making what your id gave you ten times better, here’s the obvious: the characters aren’t having the sexual experience. The reader is.

It clicked when I was reading a romance with a tense sexual premise. The hero has a sexual kink that is the source of shame and self-loathing to him. He’s tried and failed to cut it out of himself. The heroine is sunny and somewhat naïve. The longer they spend together the more his sexual desires reach out to her, the more he loathes himself.

About half way through the book he finally confesses everything to her – and she is a wonderful person who listens and asks questions, admits when she’s confronted but takes it in her stride. Then expresses some curiosity in exploring the kink with him.

An amazing woman, and a total buzzkill.

I had been experiencing the hero’s emotional agony (which, up front, I love) – but more than that, I’d been experiencing this building sexual tension that was all wrapped up in his shame and his raging need. The self-loathing that came from wanting what he did only fuelled the desire, because it made it that much more unattainable. He himself was aware how the shame was part of the sex, for him.

So when the heroine ‘absolved’ him, I no longer experienced/read the desire as shameful and therefore I no longer felt caught up in the sexual heat. I was no longer experiencing the kink.

It’s a good distinction to make, between character arousal and reader arousal. Oh man, is that suddenly a bit confronting to talk about actively arousing the reader? No? Ok, get on with it, Anna.

Understanding the distinction means you can write a scene like, She gave him a blowjob and he was very aroused and he came, which leaves the reader unmoved, or you can write a conversation that works on the reader like sex, because all the elements of the relationship, the kink, the arousal are there.

This is so useful! Sex shouldn’t always be arousing, and if romance is really going to hit the reader in the feelings, conversations should be. It’s easier to manipulate these effects once you understand that the reader is the one having the sexual experience.

I’ve been reading a lot of Charlotte Stein recently, because she brings the id like whoa. I love this description of an orgasm in Curveball: It’s unbelievably good. Like squeezing a stress ball or punching an asshole in the face.

A lot of the time we rely on shared physical experience to arouse the reader. We describe licked nipples and pulled hair and the erotic associations the reader has with the acts trigger arousal. What I love about Stein’s description is that she adds to base physical arousal; she creates two distinct effects in the reader’s mind and body. Squeezing a stress ball has associations of release and pressure, and punching an asshole in the face conjures pure satisfaction, violence, disruption.

Another example of how this works is dirty talk. I love the idea of dirty talk. I always get excited when a character threatens another character with dirty talk. But it rarely pays off for me when it actually happens. Unfortunately, just like sex positions/acts, dirty talk is well worn. Pretty generic, really, when you read it on the page. So it’s exciting for the character who’s experiencing it, but not for me, the reader experiencing it.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to do dirty talk in a way that really works. I considered my expectations – what makes the idea of it exciting to me? What I want is for it to shock me, for it to be a pin prick, a cut with a knife. I want it to disrupt the narrative and reveal something hidden and unsafe about the characters.

So one answer to how to do dirty talk is to achieve this effect on readers through other means. I think this is what I was reaching for in Untamed when I had Jude say shocking, exposing things to Katherine in a way that was erotically fraught.

‘You’re here,’ he said, and covered her hand with his palm. The sensation touched him – his hand like a lover taking hers from behind. He pushed his fingers between hers, and they lay like that without speaking for a couple of minutes.

Then he said, ‘I miscalculated in so many ways, when I asked to come with you to the country. I didn’t understand how dark it would be, or how quiet. But the worst of my errors was not allowing for these hands.’ His hand flexed around hers, the only movement in the room. ‘I didn’t know you’d go without gloves in the country. And you don’t have easy hands, Katherine. At first they repulsed me.’ He was ready, and didn’t let her pull away.

‘When you handed me that first plate of food, and I knew these hands had made it, I could barely swallow it down. But the more I watched you, the clearer it became that your hands cannot be separated out from who you are. The parts of the world that fascinate you pass through your hands first. I thought at first it was childlike, before I suspected what wisdom was in touch. And then I thought about touching. And then I could not stop myself from imagining the rasp of your hands on my skin – those rough, truthful things rubbing me until I was uncomfortable and tender with it. Testing and tasting me in order to understand me. I began to long for you to understand me.’

There was a long silence, and their harsh breathing, and then she said, ‘You shouldn’t talk to people like that.’

Not quite ‘I’m gonna come in your hot little hole’, but it sort of made me catch my breath, to write something so exposed.

we’re all wooden horses

I’ve been waiting until I had time to write this post. Then I realised I’m probably not going to “have time” for the next decade or two, so I’m snatching twenty minutes of Robin’s sleep to say, Hi!

Robin is my daughter – the little, glorious, tiring, hilarious reason you haven’t heard from me in such a long time. The last time we spoke I was tying things up, getting ready for her arrival. There was, as it turned out, no getting ready for her arrival.

I suppose all new mothers react differently. I reacted first with a kind of sated smugness and soon after with absolute terror. In those first incomprehensible weeks I just wanted her to be big and robust – and now she’s almost six months old. If I could have seen her now, then… Gah, time becomes a bit weird with a baby. I’m a little obsessed with the timeline of a life and how different it is now that I’ve seen one begin – and now that the end of mine will mean grief for Robin.

Here’s the difference six months makes!

   

It’s quite amazing how quickly things change. It’s less than half a year since I felt like my life as I knew it was gone – and now I’m writing again, and the new book is taking shape. I’m totally enthralled. The hero, Merry, just had this thought about the heroine: Merry smiled grimly at the idea of Mrs Blunt and poetry. The poetry that could describe her had not been invented yet. She was romance’s antidote.

Oh how I love to bring two people together who appall each other!

While I’ve been away on planet baby, Untamed has been quietly making me proud. It’s been nominated for the Australian Romance Readers Association’s favourite historical romance of 2013 – what an immense honour! It was on iTunes Australia’s best of 2013 list, as well as the lists of many bloggers who I admire. It was also a surprise hit with the Melbourne Men’s Book Club. Success!

I’ve been invited to read an excerpt at the Wheeler Centre on March 31st, so if you live Melbourne-side please come along! It should be good fun. Booze and Darlington – a heady mix.

It took me a while to be able to read again after Robin’s birth, but once I got started you couldn’t stop me. Standout reads include my first ever Judith Ivory, Black Silk (I loved it right up until the hero likened the heroine’s bush to a kid goat’s bony butt, but more on that later) and Courtney Milan’s The Countess Conspiracy. I long to go to the movies, but haven’t managed it yet.

I’m sure if I “had time” this post wouldn’t be quite so blah blah all over the place. (I don’t know why I’m using quotation marks in this weird way.) Welcome to my brain!

In order to write the next book (yay!) and be a mum (yay!) I’m going to be online less often, but I am, tentatively, BACK. I’ll be writing wee posts and hopefully having some of those fun twitter chats.

Before I go I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who reached out to me about Untamed in the past six months. Every message/comment/email has meant a great deal to me. Thank you, thank you!

 

 

let me read to you, let me give you a book

Dear readers, I have an extract of Untamed for you! I’m reading it aloud, and let’s just say I realise I’ll never be head-hunted as a voice actor. However, it is one of my favourite parts of the whole book: the scene where Kit and Darlington first meet, and are both surprised out of themselves by the strength of their connection.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Untamed - I’ll be giving one away to a random commenter.

ETA: I’ll be drawing the winner Wednesday 9pm Aussie EST!

ETA: Using the trusty name-in-a-hat method I have picked Anna as the winner of a copy of Untamed. Thanks everyone for your comments!

happy official release day, book!

It’s been a little confusing, because Untamed has actually been buy-able to buy for a couple of days now, but today it is officially a book! (The staggered availability has to do with global online vendors and availability.)

So far the reactions have been somewhere on the extremes of love and hate, with the occasional thoughtful in-between. I hope you have a read, wherever you end up sitting on that scale! You can find links to buy it on my books page.

It’s been a long journey to this day, and it’s made it so much more interesting and worthwhile to share it with you all. Please have a sexy snippet in celebration!

cover; pre-order; review

And in another post that does just what it says on the tin…I finally get to reveal the cover for Untamed!

There’s nothing quite like seeing the single, fixed version of your book that will be going out into the world, creating certain feelings and expectations in readers before they even read the first word. It was a little confronting, but by the time the final version of the cover had been made I was head-over-heels in love with it. It shows something really true about the story.

In other exciting news, you can now pre-order Untamed. Currently the only site that has it up is Amazon, but I’ll post links to others as they appear. The official release date is still May 15th, but the vendors have it up as a May 10th release. This has something to do with making sure it’s available internationally by the release date, but might also mean you get to read it a couple of days early!

For those of you who are new to ebooks, here’s a quick run-down of how you can buy and read Untamed: If you own an e-reader, you can buy Untamed from the seller associated with your device (e.g. Amazon for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook). As I said above, I’ll add links to more sellers as they become available. (I’ll add these to the Books page as well, so that it’s easily accessible.)

If you don’t own an e-reader, the easiest devices to read on are smart phones and tablets. There’s a free Kindle app that links to your Amazon account, or a free iBooks app that links to your iTunes account. (I find the Kindle reader way more eye-friendly than iBooks on a phone – haven’t compared on a tablet.)

If you don’t have a smart phone or tablet either, you can read off a computer screen. However, I don’t enjoy doing that at all, and won’t be surprised if you don’t either. There has been talk of a print edition in the future, so if you fall into this category you might choose to hold off buying the ebook.

And lastly, for any reviewers interested in reviewing Untamed, it is now up on NetGalley. Destiny will be approving requests, but don’t hesitate to contact me here, on twitter, or at words.anna@gmail.com if you have any problems obtaining a copy.

title change; release date; blurb

After three and a half years, my book has undergone its final title change! It began life as The Three Loves of Miss Beatrice Sutherland. When my heroine was no longer called Beatrice, and she most definitely didn’t fall in love three times, it changed to My Lady Untamed. For various reasons it has now become, simply, Untamed. I love it. There’s something powerful about that single, volatile word – and as my editor Carol pointed out, it means it can also apply to my hero, which it certainly does.

So if my book was a ship, this is where I would break a bottle of champaign against the hull, over the painted words.

Untamed will be available internationally on May 15th, which will have real-life champagne and possibly confetti. This means I have done my last round of copyedits and the manuscript’s off in the hands of a proofreader, never to be fiddled with by me again. (That sounds dirty. Writing is pretty intimate, though, after all.) We’re still waiting on the final cover design, but I just know it’s going to be so, so pretty and I can’t wait till we can all see it!

What I do have is the official blurb. Many of you witnessed my first and second attempts at writing a blurb for this book, and gave me huge amounts of help with it. The truth is, even after days spent on three small paragraphs, I never came up with anything good. My editor Sarah sent me this blurb yesterday, and it made me go, I wanna read that book!

Outspoken and opinionated, Katherine Sutherland is ill at ease amongst the fine ladies of Regency London. More familiar with farmers, her blunt opinions and rough manners offend polite society. Yet when she hears the scandalous rumours involving her sister and the seductive Duke of Darlington, the fiercely loyal Katherine vows to save her sister’s marriage – whatever the cost.

Intrigued by Katherine’s interference in his affairs, the manipulative Duke is soon fascinated. He engages in a daring deception and follows her back to her country home. Here, their intense connection shocks them both. But the Duke’s games have dangerous consequences, and the potential to throw both their lives into chaos…

Wildly romantic, Untamed is a passionate and beautifully written debut novel. This decadent historical romance defies convention and will shock and delight in equal measure.

 

a cup of tea

I’m imagining a round wooden table in an alcove of windows somewhere – Scotland, maybe. The house is old, the glass is old, and I’m looking out over my favourite kind of countryside: a bit desolate, low and scrubby, its few trees like fists raised at the sky. The sky, of course, is full of movement.

But it’s so snug inside. Let’s have a cup of tea, and a catch-up!

That silence on my end has mostly been about productivity. I’ve been through the revision process for My Lady Untamed, and it has added so much value to the book. There’s one scene in particular that just melted my heart as soon as I’d written it. Going with a publishing house has been worth it just for that one scene alone, not to mention how cool Penguin Aus HQ is.

The book’s in copy-editing at the moment – which means someone’s picking up my spelling errors or logistical errors, and no doubt fainting in horror at my…unconventional use of punctuation. I can’t help it. I love the truncated sentence with a full-stop.

All signs are pointing to a May 15th publishing date (so soon!) – but you can be sure I’ll keep you updated. I can hardly wait for you all to meet Kit and Darlington.

I’ve also fallen head over heels in love with the idea for my next book. This is what I know so far:

The heroine is a debt collector.

The first time she and the hero meet, she’s murdering someone.

He’s the lovely, naive youngest son of someone-or-other.

He’s engaged to a very proper young woman whose family have just lost everything.

In other news, I was recently mentioned in an article in The Atlantic about romance and feminism. The article’s an interesting overview/jumping in point for looking at what romance is up to these days.

And as this is a discussion that will never be done, and can be looked at endlessly from all angles, there are wonderful follow-up conversations over at Cecilia Grant’s blog (can romance be feminist?) and Something More (are we doing ourselves a disservice when we dismiss early romance?).

I think the heart of my stance on all of this is: Romance is not obliged to be feminist; and the most feminist thing about romance is the critical discourse around it.

I’ll be back to regular blogging next week. Damn that was a good cuppa!

the list

Welcome to my new design! Isn’t it just gorgeous? I’ve discovered throughout the design process that I’m a very particular person, so the first shout-out goes to Benji Greig who gently explained to me that turning “pages” had been done to death then proceeded to make me a website I love to bits.

I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years now. Even though sometimes it feels like an endless sucking black hole (or as special k put it – like keeping a plant alive that’s being eaten by bugs), it’s become something I don’t think I could do without.

I’ve kept a journal since I was twelve, but I noticed an interesting thing in the past few years: I no longer have boy troubles to tell my journal, or friend dramas. There’s no, “But do I love him, diary?” to sort through, no poisonous fallings-out, or tearful reunions days later. Instead the things that consume me seem to relate to my writing, my future, my career. Adult things? It does feel like a marker of adulthood.

I find these days that writing about the questions that consume me serves the same function writing in my journal once did. Which isn’t to say you’re reading my journal now – that would just be icky. The wonderful thing about a blog is that it’s more conversation than soliloquy.

This design’s been in the works for a while, but given the recent sale of My Lady Untamed it just feels like the cherry on top – or like rushing into the future, which is nothing like a cherry. Either way, it’s something I want to celebrate with you all! And I thought, What better way to celebrate than to expand the conversation?

I wrote a list of writers and critics I admire – people I want to talk to and learn from. I made myself be impeccably honest, no matter how crazy the list looked. (This is hard to do, even though it’s just you, a pen and some paper you can throw away before anyone else sees it.)

I sent the first invitation to KA Mitchell and kept saying aloud, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.” There may have been some manic laughter also.

It took me a couple of days, but I invited every single person on that list. And a little over a week later, every single one of the them had said yes! It still blows my mind. It also means that in the weeks leading up to Christmas you’re going to be hearing from:

Ruthie Knox

Rose Lerner

Jodi McAlister

Liz McCausland

SU Pacat

Scott Pearse

Jo Bourne

Cecilia Grant

Nelika McDonald

Cara McKenna

Cath Crowley

Toni Jordan

Sherry Thomas

and

Meredith Duran

I know, right?

And from the posts I’ve received so far, this is going to be a really amazing couple of weeks. As the posts go up, I’ll link them to the names here so that it becomes a kind of directory.

There will also be prizes. Prizes!

Every time you comment you get a name in a hat (there will be an actual hat), and at the end of every week special k will pick a winner. The prize is a hand-made e-reader cover, with this design on the front <— and the rest of the materials picked out by me to be eclectic and/or elegant and/or funky depending on my mood.

Vassiliki had the genius idea of a Duke of Darlington paper dress-up doll – with a spectacular wardrobe, of course. I’ve run out of time to make it this year, but it’s in the works for next year. So very in the works.

On a practical note:

I’ve moved the accidental housewife to a new host, which means that all the subscriptions have been cancelled. If you want to subscribe by email, click the “follow” button on the bottom right of the screen and enter your email. If you have a wordpress blog you can subscribe the usual way.

I would like to thank all the people who were subscribed to the previous incarnation of the accidental housewife. It’s been so great sharing the journey with you from aspiring (rambly) writer to whatever I am today.

So this is me, officially declaring the festivities open!

 

 

there be monsters ahead

This is just a quick note to let you know that the next time I post, things are going to look a bit different around here. (Sneak peek on the left!)

The redesign has been in the works for a while, and I can’t wait to launch it next week. I love writing this blog and all the thoughts it lets me explore and the discussions that come from it. 

To celebrate I’ve lined up the most ridiculous series of guest posts, but there’ll be more on that – and all the pretty giveaways – when I post next week on the brand-new blog.

That’s it!

Oh wait, I promised monsters, didn’t I?

the cross-dressing duke lives!

So the big news this week is that I sold My Lady Untamed! After three years of writing and rewriting, 150,000 words scrapped and then more writing and rewriting, I’ve found a publisher who loves it just as much as I do.

At the beginning of the year my brother gave me the contact for a non-fiction editor at Penguin Australia – the wife of a barrister he shared chambers with. I went to talk to her about what it takes to get into the industry as an editor, but we ended up talking about what I was writing.

As soon as I told her I was writing romance, she called another editor in from down the hall. It was Sarah Fairhall, who was busy building Destiny Romance at the time, ahead of its launch in August. She was excited to meet me, because she’d been trying to explain to Marketing that young women read romance, too. She gave me her card and told me to send her my MS when it was done.

A month ago I’d finished another major draft. The five agents at the top of my list had all passed on my book, and I was waiting for another round of beta feedback before I did another set of edits and sent it to another round of agents.

I was feeling quite desperate about it all – feeling like no one would ever even see, or get it, and what on earth was I going to do next? So I sent it to Sarah, thinking at least she might feel obliged to give me some feedback.

She called me a week later, and made an offer for it. She said she and Carol, the editor, hadn’t stopped talking about it for days. I can’t even describe the feeling of having a publisher express their love of my book – and more than that, get my book.

I asked for a couple of weeks before I responded to the offer – which was pretty hard, when the offer was made on a Penguin Australia letterhead!

Destiny is a digital-first imprint, which means they publish e-books which may or may not be followed by a print edition – and it’s also based in the Australian market. That wasn’t what I’d imagined for MLU. 

I contacted another round of agents, letting them know there was an offer on the table, and asked their opinion on whether MLU had a chance in New York. The answer was the same across the board – too risky for New York, for a newbie author.

I felt like I had to go through that process, just to be sure I was doing the best for my book and my career, but I was pretty stoked that accepting the Destiny offer was my very best option. I had a long phone call with Sarah after I accepted their offer, and it left me feeling so excited about the whole process.

Especially after talking to people who saw the subversive elements as too risky for publication, it was great talking to Sarah who wants to celebrate how different my book is. E-publishing really is an exciting extension of the industry that allows a wider range of books to be published and is in a position to champion subversive literature.

Plus, their new offices are just down the road from my house! My book will be available internationally, but I gotta say, it’s exciting being able to just pop into the office for a chat with the editors, and to be near local media, ready to take part in the local press events Destiny organises.

It’s looking like the e-book will be out around April next year, and it’s likely MLU will get a print edition too, which would be so exciting.

I can’t believe this book is actually going to be done!

Feel free to ask me anything about the process. I ended up signing with an agent, too, which is its own whole thing, so I’ll post about that next.