I’m not a picky reader. I love books for their little papery selves, mostly irrespective of genre. Romance, horror (my first love <3), thriller, sci-fi, erotica, crime, historical, mystery, general fic… I’ll read ’em all.
Well, I’ll read them all if I live to 983 which is the age at which, according to my calculations, I’ll finish my TBR pile. Assuming it stops growing now. Which it won’t, because after I write this I’m going onto Goodreads to answer a PM and will leave with 233 new books on my list.
The one genre I do avoid, as a rule, is fantasy. There are some fantasy novels I love–mostly ones I read in childhood that left a lingering nostalgic comfort, like Harry Potter, and His Dark Materials–but I don’t seek out new fantasies to read. Especially a certain type of fantasy with sword-waving elves that say things like, “My destiny awaits!… after a tankard of mead, good Barkeep.”
I am, however, friends with many fantasy authors including A.S. Akkalon who I talk about in my blog all the time but I’M NOT OBSESSED, OKAY? That restraining order is a pack of damn lies.
Back in the heady days of April we agreed on a swap: I would read a fantasy of her choice if she read a horror of my choice.
I chose for her The Rats by James Herbert, in which a mischief of mutated, man-eating rats, well… eat men. Click to read her post, 15 things a fantasy author learned reading horror. I chose THE RATS because:
- It’s on the short side at 65k words.
- She refuses to swear on her blog and I wanted to see how she’d review a book in which dozens of people are eaten alive and a woman inserts a bottle someplace no bottle should ever go (she sidestepped it like the evil, clean-mouthed genius she is, dammit).
- The author is not only a bestseller but also dead, so she can be as honest as she likes about it.
She chose me a book that shall remain nameless because I can’t even pretend I enjoyed it and I’m not gonna be mean about another author’s work. Unless they’re the people who write Will and Grace who, frankly, deserve to be taught a good lesson by Vlad the Impaler.
All I’ll say is that it’s a special book. Special like that kid in school who spent every playtime setting fire to ants and growled if you came near him.
What did I learn from this experience? Romance and fantasy have a lot in common.
1. Semen can be its own character.
There are two main characters in The Book That Shall Not Be Named: a princess, and the prince’s semen.
I mean, technically the semen wouldn’t get a credit in the movie version, but it accounts for about 50% of the book’s word count. Everyone is obsessed with the prince’s semen. I’m pretty sure there’s a banquet dedicated to the Princely Spunk and there’s definitely something called ‘The Order of the Seed’ which is probably a massive dick-shaped spear that they fill with milk and shake at all Thy Fair Maydens while singing, “All Hail The Symbollus Phallus!”
Only the prince’s semen can save the Kingdom of Wherever from doom because without a Rightful Heir™ there will be a civil war or a prophecy will curse all the swords to swing impotently or something. Princey McPrinceFace must semenify a lady before his 21st birthday because reasons, and he’s been wasting it down at Ye Olde Whorehouse instead.
To be perfectly honest I didn’t finish the book because my large intestine was attempting to wrap itself around my lungs to save us all the remaining 68% of it but I suspect the princess marries the prince in order to save the kingdom and give him an heir, and ends up falling in love with him.
Sound familiar to any romance readers? It should do, because ‘marriage of convenience turns to marriage of love’ is a common trope. So is ‘fake engagement’, where the hero and heroine pretend to be engaged, usually so one of them can save face. ‘Secret baby’ is another classic romance trope with semen at its core… that’s not a good image, is it?
My current novel, Misconceptions, is really a modern-day non-fantasy version of that story. The heroine wants a baby, and puts up with the hero because he and his semen come as a package deal–so to speak [Just to clarify, he is aware and on board with this. She isn’t extracting ectoplasm under false pretenses, which, children, is wrong and bad.] Am I going to shock you to your very core with this massive SPOILER: the romance I’m writing ends with the h/H falling in love and living happily ever after.
2. Dirty talk is difficult to write
I have a whole blog post about the pains of writing sex so I won’t go into it here.
Evidently, the author of the Mystery Book struggles too:
“I love you for your horrid, saucy little tongue,” [her husband] had once said to her. The memory brought tears despite her attempt at control.
It brings tears to my eyes, too, but for different reasons.
Fool that I am, I thought the appropriate response to a man citing my “horrid, saucy little tongue” would be to yank my underwear up so hard I unmanned him for life and tell him to GTFO of my bed because my ovaries are drying up as we speak.
Now that I know differently, I’ve decided on a new approach for my new novel, a sailor romance called THE SEMEN’S VOYAGE. A small excerpt:
“Why, Princesse Coralynne, you are a spicy little minx,” ejaculated Sam the Semenful.
Princesse Coralynne giggled coyly in a way that made her fayre bosom quiver in its corset. “Come hither, oh fine specimen of princeliness, and get me with child.”
“Phwoar,” agreed Sam the Semenful, saucily.
My writing is coming along leaps and bounds.
3. Animal companions make everything better
Like I said, I didn’t finish this book, but since it was recommended by A.S. Akkalon I’m 103% sure it has dragons in it. The princess or the prince (and his testicles teeming with tadpoles) probably fly to safety on a dragon at some point. Let’s run with it.
Dragons are a mainstay of fantasy for a good reason – THEY’RE FUCKING GREAT.
Romance novels don’t generally feature dragons, but you know what romance authors and readers love?
Furry things in general, including men.
One of my favourite romances features a depressed-looking Basset Hound called Fred. He may not fly the hero and heroine to safety but he does go outside to pee, and he does run off with the heroine’s bra.
My novel NOT OK, CUPID features a Newfoundland who saves the heroine from a vicious swan attack (they can break bones, okay?!) and another has a cat called Stevens who’s friends with a fox called Jamie.
Whatever. I think I’m funny.
4. Everybody loves swords
In fantasy they’re made of metal.
In romance they’re sheathed in velvet ifyouknowwhatImean (and if you don’t, check out Weeping Cock. It’s as amazing as it sounds.)
Doesn’t matter. We all love a good sword.
5. Castles…. are cold… in the winter?
EXCUSE YOU BUT NO THIS IS NOT A TOKEN ITEM BECAUSE MY LIST MUST CULMINATE IN A MULTIPLE OF FIVE OR BAD BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN.
This is a WELL THOUGHT-THROUGH item.
In fact, it’s the first and most important similarity in romance and fantasy which is why I saved it until last to keep you reading.
Anybody got a fantasy book to recommend that I might not make thinly-veiled fun of in my blog?