My personal beauty standards

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my book.

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Don’t judge a book by its cover? Ha! Well, I’m not strong enough not to. Not when I choose what to read, and certainly not when I choose my future husband (been there, done that). Longish hair and a leather jacket had me at hello, but that’s another story for another day. Suffice it to say that I have my own personal beauty standards, like a stain on my moral compass, and it won’t come out for love nor money.

The above picture sums them up pretty nicely – and don’t kid yourself about the turtle neck: it’s not optional!

I drew the picture for a course book in French that I once wrote and never got to use, but I still have the picture. Funnily enough, when I saw it again today I thought of Michael Vaughan of Pax fame. Now, he wouldn’t agree with me because he thinks he’s hideous, but if he was I wouldn’t be writing about him, would I? Especially not passages like this:

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Jamie’s hair swung in time with the music, a few strands sticking to his temples. Green and gold stage lights flitted in and out of his vision. Everything on the stage glowed: brass, steel, cufflinks, white shirts, even gold. Michael was chained to his harpsichord as usual, but when their eyes met, it felt like they were just inches apart. As Jamie lost himself in that lion tawny colour, the world came loose from its moorings and floated around in a shimmery mess.

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Shimmery mess? Yeah, that would be me. And look, I know Michael doesn’t actually exist, in that boring, concrete sort of way we call real. But if I’m to write about a character, they have to exist for me. If another character falls in love with them, I have to fall as well. Otherwise, how could I know how they’d feel when evening sunlight pierces amber eyes?
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“There.” Michael struck a match and Jamie started at the tiny explosion between his fingers. The flame leapt up and quickly ate its way through the dry bark and twigs. Shaken, Jamie watched Michael as he watched the fire grow. The setting sun painted his face and hair in copper shades, and when he looked up, his eyes burned with an elusive lion tawny colour.

Thiiiis is weird

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But it’s kinda shallow, I know that. To allow yourself to hold one type of appearance above all others. Still, don’t we all? And I comfort myself with the thought that we all like different things. A friend of mine likes bald men, for example, whereas I fall in love with the hair before I fall in love with the actual person (again, hubby being the prime example).

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And Michael is cute. He is. Jamie is charming, so he can get away with scruffiness and goofy grimaces and stringy, unwashed hair. But Michael has this ethereal quality that “might not beteem the winds of heaven / Visit [his] face too roughly” (Hamlet 1.2.144). If that sounds oddly feminine, I guess it is. I do like my men androgynous. Sensitive. Vulnerable. Pensive.

In a word, musicians. 😀

Not many need apply. Hubby asked me while we were binge-rewatching Game of Thrones which one of all the characters I found to be “the bee’s knees” (sic!), and I still haven’t come up with a reply. Some are interesting, others are charming and fun, and yet others have symmetrical features that I guess would qualify for western hemisphere heartthrobdom. But me? Nah. Most leave me cold. Yes, even Jon Snow.

Rival Poet AReBut when I do find a face I like, I get a whole book out of it. Or, in the case of Pax, a whole series! And so Sam Claflin inspired All You Can Eat, Ricky Wilson (yes, I’m admitting it!) was the template for Henrik in The Seventh Flower, and Ian McNabb (even bigger splash there, I’m really having an overly honest day!) will forever be my very own Kit Marlowe in Rival Poet.

And while we’re on the topic, I know I should be working on (the newly christened, yay!) Chains of Being (I’m keeping schtumm about that one, by the way, because I don’t want a defamation case to cut my career short, and anyway I’m changing absolutely everything about the two guys before hitting ‘publish’ so no one’ll ever know), but I have a messy old WIP about a PhD student that’s slowly morphing to accomodate Robson Green and Ben Mendelsohn! Just imagine the shy and lonely professor with Asperger’s whose world is turned upside down by a sloppy upstart who wears flip-flops to the office! Mmm… 🙂

So, shallow? Yup. But it’s a prerequisite for my authorhood.

Clickbait your book! ;)

Had some fun today imagining my books as clickbait articles. I urge my fellow authors to try it – at the very least, it’s an exercise that can narrow down the plot of a WIP or help you come up with those pesky blurbs.

This man met his celebrity crush at a party – but what happens next will melt your heart

10 things only bulimics will understand

Only one in 50 literature buffs can identify these 23 Shakespeare references. Can you?

Can we guess your favourite trope?

23 ways to say ‘I love you’ – the sixteenth one will make you cry

This is why you should never have a pretend relationship

5 behind-the-scenes problems musicians don’t want you to know about

He was a doormat for twenty-nine years – but you won’t believe what happens when they accuse him of this

Readers are freaking out over this gritty “romance”

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The dreamer in a world of rationals

This post and the links in it contain advertisements for my book

Christer isn’t a loner. He may look like one where he skulks at the fringes of every party and doesn’t talk to people unless he absolutely has to. But really, he’s not a loner. He would love to be with people. It’s just that in his experience, people don’t want to be with him.

If school and work and life in general has taught him anything, it’s that he doesn’t fit in. Not necessarily because of his bisexuality, but because he has the wrong hobbies, the wrong body, the wrong outlook on life. Even in his own family, he’s the odd one out. Where his parents and siblings are rational and down-to-earth, he’s an out-of-touch dreamer who can’t seem to settle down. Yes, he’s been married, and yes he has a job of sorts, but compared to his brother the academic and his sister the seamstress, he’s sort of… blurry. Unfocused. And worst of all: doomed to be disappointed.

Because that’s the fate of romantics in this world of overachievers: they can’t keep up, and the world can’t keep up with them. They wish for magic, for perfection, and the more mundane parts of life just don’t measure up.

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Maybe that’s why he’s so shaken when he meets Henrik. It’s not just the weird power balance of him secretly knowing who Henrik is, it’s also the scary thought that this man who Christer has been putting on a pedestal for a year won’t measure up either. It’s actually impossible: the golden persona Christer has projected on Henrik is too divorced from reality to result in anything but disenchantment.

So of course he stays away, right?

Wrong. When has Christer ever done the right thing? Even though he knows that he’ll only bore Henrik to tears with his lackluster conversation, he can’t stop talking to him, telling him stories about the history of his own family and the derelict village where they’re celebrating Midsummer’s Eve. It’s as if a door has been opened and there’s no stopping the wind from blowing right through the musty old house.

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It’s frightening. It’s dangerous. Even if Henrik could ever see anything of worth in Christer, there are just too many obstacles in the way of an actual relationship. And make no mistake, a relationship is what Christer is after. He’s not the one night stand type and he won’t settle for less than perfection.

So yeah, it’s doomed, because A) Henrik is a serial dater, B) he lives five hundred miles away, and C) Christer is pretty sure that he’s only ever dated women. Not that this necessarily means he’s not bisexual too, but why would Christer have such luck? He’s used to his boring life where nothing out of the ordinary ever happens.

But then again this is Midsummer’s Eve, and miracles can happen – if Christer only lets down his guard enough to believe in them.

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How writing helps me get fit

It sounds like a paradox. How can writing – a very calm and quiet activity – help you get into shape?

Well, take it from me, the grand high wizard of couch potato-ness, whose only interests involve sitting or lying down. Every form of exercise ever invented bores me to death or scares me witless. And despite this, I’ve finally found a way to both get in shape and write my books simultaneously – which means I’m saving time, too!

All you need is a phone. Whether you use a dictation app and clean the text up afterwards, or a simple MP3 recording that you then transcribe, the key is to talk to yourself while you walk. This method works wonders both for my all-important first drafts (like this one) and for my fitness. Having the scenery change around me instead of staring at the screen all day helps me think up more exciting plot elements, and since I’m concentrating on my story, the walk isn’t boring. Plus I get that daily dose of oxygen that keep my brain running smoothly.

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You can combine talk-writing with other activities as well, for example housecleaning. If you haven’t done it before, it may take some getting used to, but I find that the pros far outweigh the cons.

By the way, this post was written during my walk, using a dictation app ;).

My eccentric app

I’m slowly coming to terms with the dictation app I’m using. I used to go for long walks, telling my story to an mp3 recorder, and then I used to transcribe it, but the method was too time-consuming. So I thought I’d try out a dictation app instead.

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Now, you can’t expect too much of a technology that is still in its infancy, and at first I hated it. Over time, however, I’ve learned its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve discovered what words it misunderstands most often, so that I can change my pronunciation accordingly. For example, “he” often becomes “you” for some reason. Another thing I’ve learned is to ignore most of the mistakes the app makes. When I first started using it, I immediately corrected everything that didn’t turn out the way I wanted. This meant that most of the time I wanted to spend on “writing”, I was rerecording tricky words or even typing them. It made my walks precarious (since I didn’t look where I was going) and ineffective. By now I’ve learned to leave most of the text intact and then clean it up as soon as I come home, while I still remember what I really meant. If I come across totally unintelligible gobbledegook I read it aloud, and that usually jogs my memory.

One funny thing about the app is that it tries to educate me in polite conversation. I use some “vulgar language” in my writing: yes, my characters sometimes curse. So if I say “he was pissed off” or “what the fuck was he going to do”, that’s what I want the app to write. No such thing. It changes these phrases to “he was p*issed off” and “what the f*ck was he going to do”. It even puts in two asterisks in g*d*mnit! Excuse me, but I’m the user here. I think I know what I want the text to say, okay? Besides, I’m writing in a fairly risqué genre as it is. If the app wants to change all that language to asterisks, my books will consist of little else.

But in the end, for all its faults, the app does catch about 3/4 of what I say correctly. It even understands phrases like “question mark” and “dot dot dot”. That said, sometimes it’s like autocorrect gone mad. For example, today I wanted to say “When Jamie went through his mother’s record collection, he discovered all sorts of jazz, bebop and blues.” A perfectly ordinary sentence, right? Well, this is where technology shows that we still have a long way to go before we’ve created Artifical Intelligence. Because what the app suggested was “When Jamie went through his mother’s record collection, he discovered all sorts of Justin Bieber balloons.”