Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Bluffer's Guide to ... Contemporaries

With the beautiful new Black Lace covers came three new lines: paranormals, contemporaries, and historicals. Last Wednesday, Olivia Knight offered a bluffer's guide to paranormals, and today Madeline Moore, (that's me!) will do the same for contemporaries. Next Wednesday, historicals will have their moment in the Lust Bites spotlight.

Top facts:
Black Lace line: contemporaries
Colour: various
Committed Lusties, past and present: Madeline Moore, Lauren Dane, Megan Hart, Portia Da Costa, Madelynne Ellis, Dayle A. Dermatis, Teresa Noelle Roberts, Mathilde Madden, Kristina Lloyd, Alison Tyler, Nikki Magennis

In a nutshell:
"Contemporary" means in the here and now. No magic, no fantasy worlds, no Gothic or historical settings, no Oracles no minotaurs no highwaymen no giant scorpions no werewolves get the idea. But! The novels can now take place in any part of the world, not just the UK, as in days gone by. The good news about writing a contemporary novel is, you don't have to create an entire fantasy world from scratch, or conduct anywhere near the kind of research necessary to writing a period piece. The bad news? You're still required to turn in the same word count so if you run out of plot - no extra battle scenes or lessons on the decorum of the times. Whatcha gonna write?

Behind the scenes:
The decree "It has to have a human head" is a no-brainer for this line. Realism is key, except whereas in real life you might lock eyes with a cutie in the elevator and daydream about him later, in the lives of our contemporary erotica heroes and heroines, a lingering gaze in the elevator leads to quick and dirty sex. But the sex has to matter to the plot, so the guy in the elevator would likely turn out to be a) Her new boss! b) The mysterious stranger who's been tailing her. c) Her lover, with whom she likes to play "stranger in the elevator", etc.

The heroes:
Black Lace is looking for more romance these days, primarily of the heterosexual variety, so yes, you need at least one hero, mixed in with the other men our heroine might sample. This doesn't necessarily dictate that he must be a tall, dark, handsome stranger, but he should probably be a decent bloke underneath it all. Since fate has not decreed that he will end up with our heroine this leaves the writer of contemporaries more wiggle room, but since it's a romance...somehow the ending should be HFN (Happy For Now) if not HEA (Happy Ever After.) Rule to remember: He must be horny; he must not be horn-ed.

The heroines:
She's a modern gal, 100% human, so she likely has some faults as well as a healthy libido. Often she's a looker, but not always, and she's usually under the age of forty. If she's fairly untouched at the beginning there must be a reason why. That one can be a brain twister. If she hasn't just left the convent or a bad marriage, and she's an adult, what's she been doing, sex-wise, all these years? Alternately she could be experienced at sex but jaded by the game. Somehow, whether she knows it or not, she's looking for love. Won't say: "No." Will say: "Yes!"

The best bit about writing contemporaries
• Right now, Black Lace wants erotic contemporary romance novels written by women. So if you're a woman who writes contemporaries you're in luck.
• You really can write what you know. Love fashion? Describe the clothes! Fine dining turn your crank? Use it to turn your reader's crank, too. Harbor a secret yearning to be a card shark, concert pianist or athlete? You may never get there, but she can. Love giving head but scared of anal? She's just like you!
• Fucking is reclassified as research: If what you're writing isn't turning you on, how's it gonna turn on the reader? Your sig oth will love it.
• All the world is your stage, baby. Your friends might not enjoy seeing their sexual peccadilloes published (though mine love it) but hey, it's not like they didn't know you were a writer when they spilled the beans.

The best bit about reading contemporaries
• Possibility! The story takes place on planet earth, in the present day. If it happened to her, it's at least possible it could happen to you.
• Chops! These days, Black Lace is looking for literary erotic romance. When you pick up a BL contemporary novel, you can be sure it's well-written, with a plausible plot and interesting characters. In fact, with the new covers, you could read these books in public without shame. Who knows? Your reading material could spark the initial conversation that just might lead to...
• Sex! Yeah! Lots of it, and not the "rocket into space" or "train hurtling into the tunnel" kind, either. Whether it's kinky, romantic, experimental, vengeful, wild or even wrong, there's gonna be lots of it, it's gonna be well done, and it's gonna be hot.

Top tip: internal logic
Of utmost importance when writing a contemporary novel is the very same rule Olivia Knight offered last week, only doubly so. Within your story, the logic has to be absolute and consistent. In regards to contemporaries I add this: the logic must also be believable. So - yes the plane needs fuel to fly, but no, in a contemporary, the pilot may not be a chicken.

What to say
• "Is this so well written it'll blow the socks off Adam Nevill?"
• "How does this make her feel? What does she think about this?" and, "How can I describe it without starting the sentence with 'She felt...' or 'She thought...'"

What not to say
• "It happened to my friend." Doesn't matter. If it doesn't ring true, the fact that it is true means nothing.
• "My goal in life is to be published and if I have to write about yucky sex to accomplish that goal, then dammit I will!"

Over to you:
• What’s your favourite "contemporary" fantasy?
• Who would you like to see used as the basis for the hero in a contemporary erotic romance?

A note about the covers: I haven't included all the new covers in the body of the post, or even all the new Portia da Costa covers(!), due to space constraints. I chose to use at least one of the new covers of our members, past and present, and all the gala Black Lace 15th anniversary covers I could get my hands on.

I'd like to thank Madelynne Ellis for her technical assistance in the creation of the post. Without her, you wouldn't have this final image to consider as you formulate your comments:


Nikki Magennis said...

Oh, they all look so pretty!

I love: 'He must be horny; he must not be horn-ed.' Ha!

Lovely guide, Madeline.

Contemporaries are my bag. For me there's nothing more fascinating than the here and now.

Madeline Moore said...

Nikki! Here you are,first to comment, and I missed your 'The New Rakes' 15 anniversary cover. Grumble. Please forgive me.

kristina lloyd said...

Wow, looks great, Madeline (and Madelynne).

I am enjoying the Bluffer's Guides. They are very magaziney and good fun. Thanks for including my covers!

Olivia Knight said...

God, this made me giggle! I've been sputtering happily at the computer screen, nothing like laughing on your own... especially that the pilot may not be a chicken.

I love the fact that Black Lace values quality even more than it does sex (which is saying something). A clunkily-written paragraph, just when it's getting hot, is about as much of a turn-off as a lover blasting one off in flagrante.

My favourite contemporary fantasy? Well, now, that would be telling, because here the realism is a bit too close to the bone, but it overlooks a train track - the room is half-lit by streetlamps - and the roaring rattle of the trains punctuates it all.

Madelynne Ellis said...

I think someone needs to write a contemporary now with a chicken as a pilot.

As for my favourite contemporary fantasy... I've written about it often enough, that'd be spying on gay men. Actually, not so much a fantasy as a past time. LOL.

Fave hero? Why Gackt, of course. Oh, look, Sedonia Guillone's just used him as a hero template... Wonder how that came about?

Madeline Moore said...

Trains figure quite prominently in my favourite fantasies, too, O. Have you ever been in a berth? It's pure heaven - warm, small, comfy, dark...clackity clackity clack...
I think it would be divine to have sex in a berth, as long as he went back to his own berth afterwards.

Madeline Moore said...

Gives new meaning to 'Which came first, the chicken or the egg.' I'm interested in reading next week's post on historicals to see what happens to the chicken and the fueled plane there...though I can guess.

Kristina, what would a post on 'contemporaries' be without your BL books.

Madelynne, I don't know where you got all those pics from...there's more than one that should have been
in the body of the post,especially Sophie Mouette's, but I'm hoping a photo savvy LB will go to our yahoo messages and read mine from today and help out in that regard.

I'd rather write a 6,000 word short story for $10.00 and a copy of the e-book than deal with that many pics. Thanks again for your help, Madelynne.

Portia Da Costa said...

Excellent summary, Madeline, and super photo wrangling Madelynne.

Black Lace is looking for 'literary' erotica? Sheesh, that's my career over then... :(

Madelynne Ellis said...

Swapping is too much of a pain, I'm afraid, so I've just added your requested others!

Madeline Moore said...

Brilliant, Madelynne. Thanks a million, one more time.

Please cancel my apologies Nikki and Sophie.

Lauren Dane said...

Great work Madeline! (and Madelynne - I hate getting images to stay put!)

Such pretty covers too.

Jeremy Edwards said...

Applause! This is a great series.

What happens if a vampire slips out of a paranormal manuscript on the editor's desk, and wanders into a contemporary? Do the characters in the contemporary all just ignore him?

Madelynne Ellis said...

I think they just assume he's a sad goth, Jeremy.

AuthorM said...

Pretty, pretty covers!

I like contemporaries. I like paranormals. I like fantasy.

I'm clearly a book hooooor.


jothemama said...

Makes me wanna write one now, nice post.

Remember Animaniacs, 'He's not a man, he's a chicken boo.'

Chicken Boo, what's the matter with you?
You don't act like the other chickens do.
You wear a disguise to look like human guys
But you're not a man; you're a chicken, Boo.

Transcribed by Mark Hadley

Version 2 (Episode 78)
Chicken Boo, what's the matter with you?
You don't act like the other chickens do.
You're jumbo-sized and you wear a disguise
But you're not a man; you're a chicken, Boo.

(at the end of the cartoon)

He's jumbo-size and he wears a disguise
But he's not a man; he is Chicken Boo.

Kate Pearce said...

Lovely to see all the covers all together! Adam also told me if I wanted to write with the literary giants of Black Lace, as opposed to 'Cheek' I'd have to up my body count :)

Eden Bradley said...

Kate-you can do it!
Love contemporary (reading and writing it), and love the BL covers-some of the sexiest out there, without going over the top. And I loved this post-hysterical, yet informative!
Portia-you DO write literary-I keep trying to tell you!

Lisa411 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kate Pearce said...

Eden, the admiration is obviously mutual Mr. Adam Nevill was very taken by your covers at the last RWA-particularly 'The Dark Garden', which I am just reading and enjoying muchly.

Portia Da Costa said...

Thank you for the compliment, Eden. :)

I still feel a bit weird being described as 'literary'... LOL

I'm really interested in what people think is 'literary', so I've opened a thread to discuss it at the BL Board here if anyone fancies posting their definition.

[you'll need to register, I think, but it's quick and simple and I'll keep checking back to approve anyone who wants to join]

Deanna Ashford said...

Loved the post and the plethora of BL covers it looked really great.

I really admire all our contemporary authors and all the fascinating stories they tell. So far I've only ventured into that territory once so far but I'm dipping my toe in the water again. Whether it will work I've yet to see.

In some ways I think they are more difficult than writing in a fantasy or historical setting as it seems easier to get away with outrageous stuff when you are not writing about here and now.

However, as others have said you don't have to create your own fantasy world or do lots of historical research, so it is swings and roundabouts I suppose.