So, as I watched Westeros’s Magnificent Seven venture forth beyond the wall to engage in possibly the stupidest plan ever, I felt a growing pang of horror. If anything happens to Tormund out there, who else would be as perfect a partner for Brienne? Jaime? Of course not. If ever a couple were more ideally suited it’s the northern wildling and the warrioress from the Sapphire Isle. She believes herself to be ugly, big, unattractive to all men. And what does he see? Only the most frigging awesome woman who can smack a man to knees, hold her head high with the best of Westeros’ knights, and rock that armour plating. If ever there were a reason to believe in love, in magic, in destiny, it’s this fledgling pair-up. That was my concern as they headed out into certain death. That Brienne would have no man worthy of her, but be destined to trudge around with Pod forever and a day. And, ohno, there’s Ser Jorah out there too. WTH? Don’t get me started on that one. Doomed to be forever friends with his beloved Khaleesi, will she ever see just how much this man worships her? Or will he survive grayscale only to be hacked to bits by an undead random? Just…no.
Sorry, it’s too much for me to handle. Part of me is wondering if my GOT journey has to end right here, season seven episode six. I simply can’t handle the stress. HEAs are not exactly abounding in this particular series. But what if they could?
And let’s face it, HEAs could happen. One thing for GOT – plenty of potential romantic heroes. Can you imagine Khal Drogo on the cover, gazing moodily out into the distance under the banner ‘The Dothraki Horse Lord and his Stormborn wench’? (Here’s a picture, in case you need help with the visualisation), an erotic tale of bondage and domination.
Or what about ‘The King’s bastard’ about Gendry who finds love with the girl who’s no-one? A historical romance of forbidden love. Maybe even a modern re-telling of Beauty and the Beast – the Hound and Sansa Stark?
So many options, when you come to think of it: You’ve got the wounded hero, Jaime Lannister. The young apprentice turned hero, Jon Snow. The everyman wiseman, Ser Davos, looking for a third or fourth chance. The abandoned sell-sword, Darius, who gave up everything for beauty.
The clever dwarf, Tyrion Lannister who would kill for love. What about a contemporary romance with Loras Tyrell as a F1 racing driver who meets Renly Baratheon, crown prince of a small principality? Or a paranormal with the Red Woman and the Night King – a fire and ice combo, if ever there were – as they join together to restore balance to the world?
But, seriously, there best be some sort of something happy with Tormund and Brienne. Really.
There are certain things we can agree on when it comes to leading men - hot, strong, and a take-charge attitude. Or maybe that's just my requirements.
In most romances, we want billionaires, sports heroes, CEOs. Alpha males doing their alpha male thang.
But what wouldn't you want your romantic hero to be spending his work hours doing? The following ten occupations might cause you to pause and consider, then again, maybe one of these leading men will be the next-best-thing in romantic fiction?
1) Elephant dung inspector at the local zoo
2) The guy in middle management with action figurines on his desk, who specialises in office drinks’ walrus impersonations
3) Jock strap launderer for the local football club
4) Crime scene clean-up man who keeps his blood solvent in a plastic bucket on his back seat
5) Dr Evil’s henchman. High chance of death on the job, limited benefits, irregular hours, obscure requests for sharks in the middle of the night and a predilection for all black attire.
6) Denture glue tester. Snap, crackle and pop.
7) The male beautician who specialises in back, sack and crack.
8) The guy who cleans the bell in the church tower. Sorry, what?
9) Kim Kardashian’s purse holder, umbrella holder, little tiny dog holder, and lift opener.
10) Dandruff product expert who spends his days inspecting flake thickness, severity and shoulder scurf patterns
oh, and I have to add one more
Pretty sure there's worse out there.
For a brief period in 1989, English class was my favourite favourite. Why? Because we were doing Jane Eyre, a novel that hadn’t quite captured my attention, probably because I hadn’t much bothered to read it. Every week, during one of the lessons, we’d head off to the AV room, a dank, dingy wannabee-amphitheatre that stank of damp and mouldy furnishings. Mrs. Douglas had unearthed the 1983 BBC version for our viewing pleasure. So far, so dull. And then, he roared onto the screen, knocking over the erstwhile Jane with his blazing horsemanship. Mr. Rochester. Or, more to the point, Timothy Dalton. And my little schoolgirl heart flutter-fluttered. I dashed home, and finished Jane Eyre. The whole thing in one go.
Twas not the first time I’d encountered that Welsh lilt, those narrowed green eyes, that dark, sleek hair. Ohno. A Flash Gordon fan of note, I remembered him in his green spandex suit as he faced off against blondie on a revolving, spiky turntable suspended over thin air, got jerked about by that bitch-emperor’s daughter (I would have been so much nicer), and challenged Ming the Merciless for his throne. My Prince Barin had shown up in English class. The gods were clearly smiling.
Every Tuesday, I think it was a Tuesday, I got to watch my crush up on that plastered screen, as the romance played out. (Tip: maybe if Mrs. D had mentioned it was a romance, I would have actually read it first). I imagined I was Jane. Heck, I wished I was Jane. Me, in my billowing skirt, having my palm read by TIMOTHY DALTON, being wooed in Thornfield Hall’s grounds by TIMOTHY DALTON, me getting married to TIMOTHY DALTON. I do acknowledge that the whole bit about the wife-in-the-attic got me a little upset. When Jane vanishes off into the night, leaving him, leaving TIMOTHY DALTON, I was yelling inwardly, turn back, turn back. (With the hindsight of experience, blah, blah, blah, I would never suggest such a thing now. I’d help her pack, and hand her the name of an excellent therapist.) And then of course, he was Bond too. Swoon.
You’d think that the years would cool this ardour. You would, wouldn’t you? I had other crushes. Crushes that will remain nameless. Crushes of the what-the-hell-were-you-thinking kind. But not our Timothy. Ohno. “Have you watched Penny Dreadful?”, was the question. “No/I’ll get round to it/Just now”, was my response. But, had someone asked this, “Have you watched Penny Dreadful? It’s got Timothy Dalton in it”, I would have bargained away my soul to get my hands on a copy. And he’s seventy-ish. Seventy-ish. I love that series. It’s got TIMOTHY DALTON in it. And witches, and werewolves and Frankenstein and his monster - really, go watch that series.
Why do I mention this schoolgirl crush that seems to have persisted? Well, turns out it’s his birthday today. Happy birthday Timothy (I wonder if he’s a Tim or a Timmy? Happy birthday our Timmy? Nah.) If it wasn’t for you I doubt I’d have read Jane Eyre more than once over the years. During that time, the words, that relationship has shaped my idea of romance. See teachers, dragging us off to watch the movie can sometimes be a good thing.
Journey of a writer
The ROSA Annual Conference is coming up in September. If you’re a romance writer, you should be there. Why? Because it covers so many of the aspects of the writer’s journey, including craft, marketing, and talks from heavyweights such as Mary-Jo Putney.
All writers know this journey. Sure it varies here and there, but overall, there’s a certain commonality.
Here’s what mine looks like:
Step 1: Write, write, write, gargle copious amounts of coffee, write some more, have an attack of self-doubt, carry on writing, read something crap someone else wrote, hell-I-can-do-way-better-than-that, write like a maniac, finish novel, party, party, print it out and stroke it lovingly, leave it in a coffee shop (which they then throw out), make another copy, send it out, rejection, rejection, rejection, more rejection.
Step 2: Head back to neglected love life, more rejection, read something brilliant, have pity party that involves red wine and the entire bag of Quality Street that you normally only devour at Christmas, read about writing courses.
Step 3: Realise you know nothing about the craft of writing. Nothing. Shell out what feels like your entire life-savings to attend said writing course. Start writing next novel, write, write, write, attend another course, organiser waxes lyrical about your writing, feel invincible, hammer out rest of the next novel, this time will be different, yep, even more rejection, rejection, rejection.
Step 4: Write, write, write, try out saying you’re a writer at parties, no-one cares unless you’re JK Rowling or that Game of Thrones guy, write, write, write, reject, reject, reject.
Step 5: Repeat steps 1-4
Step 6: Minor success. Instead of getting rejections that run along the lines of “don’t ever send us this sad-arsed tripe again, stick to the day job corporate drone”, you start to get things like “I love your voice, I’d be happy to see anything else you’ve written,” or “such a great hero - he’s hot.”
Step 7: Discover a writing mentor who writes scripts for Hollywood. Actual Hollywood. Structure takes on a whole new meaning. Write like maniac, write, write, write, revisions requested by publisher. Revisions? Revisions! Progress, yay.
Step 8: Repeat steps 1-4, this time with more trips to the Lindt store.
In fact, the write-reject pattern starts to become the soothing backdrop of your life. You do get warned - every writer gets rejected. Which makes you want to torch someone to death with a ghd when you hear of someone just whipping up their crime drama between the school runs, and then just happening to bump into a book editor at one of those tiresome little get-togethers where Word of Mouth should have been the caterers but weren’t, and gosh, what do you know, the editor just lurved the book idea, and well, you know the rest, you can read it as the women’s hobby-careers covered by Woman & Home. Invariably this person will never write another word.
Step 9: Success. You win a writing competition. Yeah! You’re the recipient of a publishing contract. Woo. Hoo.
There’s a popular misconception that this is where things get easy. You can kick back and quaff champagne and quit the day job. Ha! So not the case.
Step 10: Realise from other published writers, that this is when you start refining your craft in a big way, and begin forging out a career as a writer. This is when publishing houses start considering your previous successes as part-and-parcel of their potential offer - I kid you not.
Step 11: Repeat steps 1-10 ad infinitum, except with more wariness of the industry - not all agents and publishers are legit, sad to say.
That’s it. No-one has to tell you to get off your expanding butt to pay homage to the word count goddess. Stories will keep appearing from the ether, characters will start with their jabber-jabbering, and ideas will knock a-knock on your consciousness.
Where was I? Oh yes, write, write, write…
They call it the meet-cute in movie terms. How the couple meets. You know, like bending over to retrieve the last packet of frozen peas from the supermarket freezer… you both reach… for that last packet. Both of you… grasping its frozen slipperiness in your fingers…a tear, green peas fleeing for their lives in the faux arctic landscape…you lock eyes into hate, love, hate, lust, something. But never indifference.
In reality, I have never met someone in the supermarket. Have you? Maybe you have. But in reality, who strikes up a conversation over the fresh fruit aisle? A conversation that’s not with the person weighing your produce?
Places I have met men that would qualify as meet-cute material:
That’s why aeons ago, I started collecting stories. You know the kind - how did you meet, how did you know? Let me tell you one thing, there are a lot of braai stories out there. If there’s one thing I can glean from this informal research is that friend of a friend tends to be a winner.
But occasionally I get some goodies, like: