The 7 Deadly Sins of Naming Your Novel

The Porn Lite novel Fifty Shade of Grey unleashed a flood of books parodying the title. My favourite  was  about  men’s  sheds  called,  naturally,  Fifty Sheds of Grey.  Even in those genres considered more worthy – neither Fifty Shades nor Sheds of Grey will appear on the school curriculum – novel titles often follow a trend.

So here are 7 of the most recent and annoying novel title trends along with a few titles to avoid:

1. Curious and Cute

The  Curious  and  Cute  Title  genre  problably  started  way  back  with The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera. So ethereal. So ‘don’t know really what it means, do you?’. Now we are over run with incidents, cute or curious or both.

The Curious Tail of the Dog in the Night

The Lost Time Incidentals

The City of Elevators

The Fault in Our Stairs

The Ministry of Utmost Incompetence

2. Incongreuous

This genre takes two nouns that have nothing to do with each other and slams them together to  garner  interest, I guess.  Grapes of Wrath  by  William  Faulkner  is  an  early contender. Eventhough the term ‘grapes of wrath’ comes from a line in The Battle Hymn of the Republic it still makes no sense even as a metaphor. Grapes just don’t conjure wrath-like images. Angels, God, emperors or armies might do the trick. But not grapes or gooseberries or cumquats.

The Gladioli and the Squid

Of Mice and Menopause

Milk and Sticky Stuff that Isn’t Honey

3. Three Small Awkward Words

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult  and more recently Big Little Lies by Liane Moriaty all fall into, what is now, a definite title genre. Other names to avoid include:

Small Big Headaches

Damn Long Forks

Joy Lick Boots

4. Things especially Lost Things

We started losing things way back when, according to Milton, we carelessly lost the big one in Paradise Lost. Reading  Marcel  Proust’s In Search of Lost Time lost  a  great deal of time for readers of the seven volumes. Since then we have lost cities (eg. The Lost City of Z by David Gran), lost innocence all over the place (There are many such titles) and lost lots and lots of children. (eg. The Story of the Lost Child  by  Elena  Ferrante).  But  mostly, it seems, we just lose things. eg. The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan or things are structurally unreliable. eg. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.

The Irrelevance of Small Things

Where the Wild Things Get Their Haircuts

When bad things happen to people who don’t expect bad things to happen

5. Wives and Daughters

When  Amy  Tan  was  out  of  joy  and  luck, she turned to daughters in The Bonesetter’s Daughter. If the bonesetter stuffed up, then The Gravedigger’s Daughter by Joyce Carol Oates knew her dad had work to do. But it is the wives of  Senators,  Shoemakers,  Soldiers, Saddlemakers,  Railwaymen,  Prisoners,  Poets  and  Lighthouse  Keepers,  who  are  long suffering. Obviously,  women  still  cannot  live i nteresting  lives  of  their own and  are made interesting by their husbands form of employment. Really? Here are some titles to avoid:

The Axegrinder’s Daughter

The Clairvoyant’s Wife (He knew. Why did he marry her?)

The Ex-Husbands New Wife (See bad things happen above)

The Daughter who would not listen to the Preacher’s Wife

6. The Man 

From The Old Man and the Sea  by Ernest Hemingway to  A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt to the  Man with the Golden Gun  by Ian Fleming there have been plenty of reasons  why  a  man should tie up his man-bun, go to his man cave and settle down for a good read of his ‘man’ book. Anytime now we might see the following on the book shelves:

The Man with the Annal Itch

A Man Called Inkblot

The Man with the Golden Gut

A  Man for All Seasonings (It will be a cookbook)

7. The Girl 

The Lost Girl  by  D. H. Lawrence  gave  literary weight to the book with ‘girl’ in the title. The Girl in the Title! That could be a literary book title today, but ‘the girl in the’ title genre has been done to death. eg.Gone Girl, Girl on the Train, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The  girl  on  the  train wasn’t even a girl. She  was  an  over  thirty,  misrable,  dysfunctional alcoholic. The book should have been titled ‘Girl on a Train Goes into Rehab’. Nevertheless I bellieve the following titles are still available:

The Girl with the Turkey Tattoo

Girl with the Green Moustache

The Girl with the Glowing Eyes (Really, it was just blue screen reflection)

Other Titles Currently Available:

All That I Could Hum

The Crack in the Big Thing

The Light Below the Other Big Thing

D is for D’Oh!

The Spy who came in for Mother’s Day

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for Someone Who Gave a Sh**

The Budgies of War

On Her Majesty’s Silver Service

Billionairres are for Bonking

The End of the Thing that I Should Never Have Started

The Language of Porn Lite? It’s turgid like nipples!

I wrote the following article for The Canberra Times  (30th May 2012) when Fifty Shades of Grey had reached its zenith. Reading it now, the language seems even more hilarious. 

Gird your loins, maybe not your loins, but gird something. Do I have news for you? Porn is the new black. I’m not talking about nasty, tacky or buffoonishly hammy porn but, rather, porn lite or clit lit. Porn Lite falls somewhere between ‘he thrust his (crude bit) into her (crude bit) like a battering ram’ and the lovers-embrace-cut-to-fireworks climax metaphor of the 1950s romance films.

Porn Lite currently dominates the best sellers lists in Australia or, to be accurate, one book dominates but in different editions. It’s called Fifty Shades of Grey. In this Porn Lite novel a young virgin falls under the dastardly spell of a manipulative, young, handsome, sado-masochistic billionaire, as you do. His name is Mr Grey. Meanwhile, pop philosopher, Alain De Botton, has written a book published last week titled How to think more about Sex. His aim is to look at sex from a more ethical perspective. De Botton has also declared his intention to partner in a business venture with skin flick producers to run an ethical porn website to challenge the exploitation and abuse of the porn industry. It is difficult to know what to call ethical porn especially as it will be conflicted from birth. A major undercurrent of erotica swirls around that which is taboo and taboos define a culture’s ethics. While I hope De Botton succeeds in his quest to titillate our moral fibre and debrutalise the porn industry, I suspect ethical pornography might be called Pop Porn.

In the meantime, there is money to be made cranking out, ethical or unethical, Porn Lite. Perhaps, you could have a go at writing the Great Australian Shagathon Novel yourself. There would be a ready market and I’m happy to assist you in your fleshfest quest. The first thing you must do before you venture into writing porn lite is study the genre. I read the first two chapters of Fifty Shades of Grey free online and, frankly, that was all I could take before screaming for Cleo mag’s sealed sex-supplement, which I now realise was of high literary merit.

Here are some pointers I picked up from reading Fifty Shades. Our hero must ‘cock his head’ frequently. Apparently, innuendo or dodgy word usage cannot be avoided when writing Porn Lite. Mr Grey ‘cocked his head’ three times in the first two chapters but remember the purpose of Porn Lite is not, I guess, to deliver good writing, but to service other needs. Mr Grey also dedicates his life to arching his eyebrows, quirking his lips and stroking random objects with his long fingered hand. Let it be said; there is a lot to recommend a long-fingered hand. This is the world where our hero’s eyes blaze, lips curl and brow furrows. You get the picture. Your porn lite stud must be a one-man theatre of exaggerated facial mime. When Mr Grey is unoccupied by mime school antics, he glowers. In fact, I’d say glowering is his specialty as his gaze is penetrating, steady or steely, which coincidently is the name of our heroine.

Our poor heroine, Ms Steele (OMG! If she married him she’d become Steele-Grey. Anastasia, so much like anesthesia, Steele-Grey.) is just a bundle of unwanted twitches, ticks and quaking nerves. She quivers. She trembles. She flushes; she blushes then, one minute later, the blood drains from her face reconvening, I suspect, to mount a renewed surge with next flush. The poor girl is so overwhelmed by Christian’s (I think we can call him by his first name now) tousled hair, wry smile and breath-taking and athletic good looks – he is the epitome of male beauty – her heart fails on several occasions, metaphorically speaking, of course. One factor in her favour is she’s lithe. If she was lumpen, bloated or boney there might be some question marks over her porn contortionist potential.

The popular theme of Porn Lite is, you must have guessed, domination-submission. Now all you need to write you sizzling sex epic is some basic structural details. Pick an era. In a contemporary shagathon sex can take place in an airplane toilet, in a taxi or elevator, on a beach or up against a wall. In an historical bonkorama sex can be staged in a jungle, in a castle, in ruins, in the Captain’s quarters on a galleon, in the cockpit of a biplane, on a tomb or in M’Lords carriage. In a historical context, our heroic bonkers need to be very athletic indeed.

You must choose some appropriately cheesy character names. You cannot go past Fabbio for him although Buck and Ace work too. Our heroine, sweet girl, will be a Hope, Honour, Faith or Charity. A few other pointers: lips must be silky, moist and warm (anything else would be plain macabre), her skin ivory, alabaster or creamy, breasts ample, swollen or (my favourite) magnificent, nipples turgid, tight or tingling, or plain erect, and sex must unite her portal of womanhood with his iron-hard tumescence until they both explode. Now you are fully equipped to write your ground/back breaking Porn Lite novel.

And if you want to spice up your own sex life make sure your brow furrows, eyes blaze and lips curl and don’t forget to, frequently and enthusiastically, cock your head.

The First Rule of Book Club. The sex discussed in Book Club stays in Book Club.

Sex  sells  books. And I’ve made a study  of  the  sex  that  sells books. There are two types. Firstly,  there  are  the  Boys’   Own   Adventure   Stories.  In  these  Blockbuster  books  with embossed  gold  author’s  name  above  the title, a name which should leap out at you in the airport bookshop shouting ‘buy me, I’m a big, ballsy, blockbuster adventure book. Sshhhhhh!’ That is  the  sound  of  testosterone  eminating  from  the  hero’s  armpits. These  books  are generally written by blokes for blokes and  offer a peep show view of a well-packaged Male Sex Fantasy.  In  a  Boys’  Own  Adventure  Blockbuster  our  hero  has  sensational  sex  on the second page with, perhaps, a stunningly beautiful nurse in a bi-plane over the trenches in  France  in the  First  World  War to  the  accompaniment of a battlefield soundtrack. The  sex  takes  one paragraph before he ressumes his  testostrone-feuled  life -threatening  but heroic adventure, which  continues  at  a  clipping  pace  until  his  next  rapid-fire  sexual encounter, probably with a besotted milk-maid in a barn near where his bi-plane recently crashed. This could istart with a hand job. Those milk maids do have rare talents.

Meanwhile, in the  Girls’  Own  Romance  Novel,  aimed obviously at the chic-lit aficionado, the Female Sex Fantasy ambles aimlessly over many pages. Our  hero  and heroine meet in the first chapter and  are  then  tragically  separated  for  the  next  17 chapters. They finally meet  again  in  chapter 18, declare  their  true  love  and  have  sex in  an historical setting, perhaps  in  an  old  castle  that  our  hero, The Earl of Essex,  recently  inherited among his many estates. But they don’t  just  jump  onto  each  other’s bones. The  sexual  tension must build until the air is  fraught  with  anticipation. There  will  be  a  small  break  in the middle of Chapter 18 for  a  sensual  meal  with  flowing wine, furtive  glances and a searing accidental  contact  of,  say,  his  finger  tips  brushing  her, um,  wrist. When  the  shagging  finally takes place  it  will  be  in  an  historical  four-poster bed and the process from the first kiss to the Halluhejah chorus will take an entire chapter.

This  is,  of course, my  take  on  the genres. But I am grateful to Judith Newman for throwing more light on Male vs Female literary sexual fantasies. In her article, Dear Book Club: It’s You, Not Me  (MAY 11, 2017)  in  the  New  York  Times, she  told  the story of one couples Book Club that  came  to  grief  following  a  discussion  of  the  sex in Cormac McCarthy’s  “All the Pretty Horses.”  According to book club member Elizabeth St. Clair, a lawyer, “the main character is staying in a bunkhouse, and over the course of several nights a gorgeous strange woman comes to his bed and has sex with him. The men  in  the  group  thought  this  was the most romantic thing ever — dark, anonymous sex with no consequences.” The men in the book club thought this was a very romantic scenario.

The women just roared laughing. ‘Guffawing’  was  the  term  used. No woman, they argued, would turn up to have anonymous sex in the dark with a man they couldn’t see. Was he old? Was he diseased? Does  he smell? Was  he a psychopath? Moreover,  he  was  in  a  remote cabin, in a bunk bed. Are you joking? This  is  not going to happen. Apparently, the men were offended.  Arguments  ensued. St Clair  suggested  this  set  the  seed  for  the  end  of  her relationship.

So there it is. Enjoy  reading  your  blockbuster  novel.  But  try  to  remember the first Rule of Book Club. The sex discussed in Book Club, stays  in  Book  Club. Or you might find yourself very lonely tonight.

Stuck in a Fog of Negativity? You must meet Taku.

Surround yourself with positive people. Keep away from the ENERGY VAMPIRES who suck the energy out of you. No references needed. Just Google Negative People Instagram or Pinterest. You will have heard these mantras often enough.

The problem is you can be stuck in a fog of negativity without realising it. The fog is just there. Try aging, for starters. Nearly every conversation begins with a litany of health woes. So much so, I try to instigate a friend’s idea. We call it Renata’s Rule: ’10 minutes on health issues then move on.’

It has been a great joy to me to connect up with Taku Mbudzi. Taku emanates a radiant field of positive energy. Funny,  enthusiastic, inspiring. Taku is  a  skilled  writer, broadcaster  (She has appeared on The Project with Charlie Pickering),  podcaster  (See below)  and public speaker. More  importantly, to meet Taku is equivalent  to  popping  a ‘positive  vibe  pill’  if such a thing existed. Taku  is  young, energetic and funny, and I’m sure many students would benefit from being exposed to Taku’s positive force field. You can find out more about Taku here.

I have been  delighted  to  be  involved  with  Taku’s  podcasts  talking  about  ways  to tackle professional writing. In the first podcast we looked at writing newspaper articles. The second podcast involved getting a book published.

Being  interviewed  by  Taku  reminded me of one of my own vital traits. My younger self was undaunted by  the  challenge  of becoming  a  professional  writer,  simply  because I was so optimistic. Rejections – I could wallpaper my house with rejection slips – just bounced off me. Timing and luck played their part. But I just kept at it until I found my niche.

Episode 18 – Writing [Fake] News Articles with Journalist and Author Kerry Cue

Episode 19 – Getting Published in Australia with Author and Maths Blogger Kerry Cue

How many American Idiots does it take to change a light bulb? Guess!

There is one notable difference between Aussie idiots and American morons.

In Australia it has become, in recent times, something of a traditon for some on Australia Day, to drink from Fosters tinnies, don thongs and an Aussie flag – worn, often, instead of a t-shirt and celebrate our nationhood  by  doing  donuts  in  a ‘pretty boy’ – that  is  immaculate and brightly coloured – ute with an Aussie flag fluttering from the radio aerial. The rest of the nation do tend to think they are idiots. But there is, however, one big difference between Aussie idiots and American morons that makes us proud. (See below)

Gun Ownership rates:

According to Fortune Magazine ‘there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S’ or 17% of the population. According to a 2016 Gallup Poll 39% of households in the USA have guns.

According to Gun Policy.org 6.2% of Australian households have guns.

 How many American Idiots does it take to change a light bulb?

Just one with good aim.

Grown Men in Bunny Suits? There’s no danger stranger than that!

When I was teaching myself to use Youtube, I put this ‘ironic’ Power Point video together for my own entertainment, really.  It is, 4 years later, still very  weird!!!!! I was exploring our passion for all things FAKE at the time. I didn’t realise FAKE NEWS was about to shape the future of the world.