Sunday, January 27, 2013

Common Scents in Romance...

How's that for a play on words?

Today I'm talking about the common scents found in romance books.

For my research I went into my home library - so this is not exhaustive research. I literally pulled books from my own shelves and jotted down what references I could find to smells on a quick look.

I found something quite interesting, but perhaps not that unsurprising.

In general most novelists tend to forget about smells in their books. However, what references there were, tended to have a distinct theme and vary in number of references according to genre. Most notable was that there were very little reference to scents or smells in standard romance novels. The numbers increased somewhat more in erotic romance, and significantly more could be found more in paranormal romance.

Reasons? My guess is that when you're getting down and dirty in the erotic romance genre, scent becomes a more important sense - the more graphic the novel, the more gritty the scents. However, and possibly unsurprisingly, paranormal romance took the cake for the most references to smells generally. Probably because you're writing about magic, werewolves, vampires, shifters and other beasts that depend on there sense of smell more than the average human.

Anyway, below is a list of smells I found in the books you can judge for yourself which are found in what kind of book!

Sweat - Sweat is an interesting odour and there are three notable types of sweat smells used in writing.

Generally if the odour of sweat is being described in theis genre, it is described as rancid, sour, and unpleasant. Body odour is caused by 1) old sweat. This is when the human sweat mixes with the bacterial flora of the person's body and produces a particular smell. Depending on food, drink, age, chemical composition of individual sweat, and the type of bacterial flora on the individual  it can be vinegary, oniony or a cheesy smell.

There were a few occasions in the books when the smell of sweat was described as attractive and manly, as well it might. 2) Fresh sweat does not have the offensive odour of old sweat and some believe the scent contains pheromones that women find attractive. The smell of fresh sweat (untainted by deodorant or perfume) smells like the individual person. Every person has a unique scent signature, and without perfumes, deodorants and moisturizers, a clean person will actually smell like...themselves. Amazing! Describing that scent can be tricky, I've read it as a faint scent of vanilla, or 'sun-warmed skin' smell.

There is however another sweat scent that garners a mention in the genre and this is, 3) fear sweat.
A study by Stony Brook University in New York found people who are scared give off "pheromones" that subconsciously trigger parts of the brain associated with fear. They concluded that fear could be "contagious". The differences in odour between fresh sweat and fear sweat comes down to chemical make up. A frightened person pumps different hormones into their sweat when they are scared, where as a man who's been working-out may just smell like fresh sweat (himself). So what does fear sweat actually smell like? Well, again its up to the individual. Some state is as an almost metallic smell, others as sour and vinegary.
Experiment Time!
Want to really experience true fear sweat smell? Try this...
You can't always smell your own sweat, but you can try it on yourself or if you've got an indulgent male friend, husband boyfriend, get him to give it a go!
Step 1. Go have  a good shower, and wash well so you're squeaky clean, with a non-perfumed soap preferably.
Step 2. Go and watch a scary movie.
Step 3. Go and have a sniff of the arm pit and smell the true scent of fear - and let me know!

Blood - Yes this is primarily a paranormal thing. We all know what blood smells like and there are few variations. Generally speaking blood is described as smelling salty and metallic.  You may also get variations of  such as old blood, and the smell of death.
So what does metal, salt, old blood and death smell like? Good question!
Metal - the metallic scent often attributed to blood, usually refers to the iron in the blood, sometimes it's also referred to as a copper like scent.
Salt - Salt is a crystal, and will only smell if it actually has something on it. I believe when blood is described as smelling salty the author is trying to evoke the taste rather than smell, or perhaps  they are likening the scent  to salty ocean or briny estuary smell. I'm not sure.
Old blood - Old blood is blood that has been left out in the open. The iron in the blood oxidises in the air to give off a rusty metal scent this combined with decomposing biological matter (red/white blood cells, platelets and plasma) gives of a sickly sweet rotting smell.
Death - I suppose this can smell wildly different depending on what is being described. Humans often soil themselves upon death, so the fecal stench combined with old blood is probably one of the most widely used descriptions. The blanket "stench of death" description is used a lot in paranormal, and really the author is allowing the reader to make up their own mind on what that exactly smells like.

The scent of Summer/Winter/Spring/Autumn - seasonal scents also popular, particularly the scent of summer. Again it's a blanket description that allows the reader to make up their own mind. For some the scent of summer might be mowed lawns or smell of the beach, perhaps its the smell of summer fruits etc. The smell of the seasons is an individual thing.

Flowers - Be careful with this one, I once read  a book where the author described the scent of a flower which actually has no perfume at all. It was very off-putting. Be aware, that your readers may also be gardeners.

Perfume - This generally is related to the perfume a heroine wears. Most times the scent was merely referred to as "the scent of her perfume..." without any description of what that perfume actually smelled of. It is of course, perfectly fine to do that if you're want your reader to choose the scent of your heroine.  Otherwise maybe she smells of roses, gardenias, freesias whatever.

The scent of sex - this is probably the most popular scent that crops up in the erotic genre. This includes male ejaculate and natural female lubrication etc. I'm not really going to go into what exactly this smells like because I don't want an +18 rating put on my blog. So feel free to google it yourself - and I don't want to know if you choose to experiment on this one.

And that my friends is it. As I said, there wasn't a great range in smells described in books. However, I feel I must add that I do have one series of books in which the smell of magic is done wonderfully. In these book the you could smell rotten old magic, which was very evocative.

When I first started writing this blog, I wrote a post about smells which you can read HERE.

Do you have any other smells to add to my list? Smells that have cropped up in books you've read? I'd love to read about them.

Have a lovely week.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

WIP it, WIP it good.

Thanks Danielle for the Post suggestion!

So I have been writing madly before the Australian school year begins, the aim is to get my WIP completely polished and done in a few weeks (my poor critique partner is going to have her hands full at our next meeting!)

As you may know, this WIP about a different side of my magical world - but keep your eyes peeled and you may see a familiar face!
The focus is in this book is on a magician Warlord, from the South East Asian country of Laos - and let me tell you, the hero, Warlord Cain Dath  is proving to be a complex guy to write!

So for this week's post I'm doing some character profiles. They're useful things, not only for the reader anxious to get a taste of the book, but for me to make sure I'm staying true to my characters despite the difficult circumstances they find themselves in!

Name: Warlord Cain Dath
Age: approximately 34 yo.
Home: North of Nam Khan River, the jungle, Laos.
Profession: Magician Warlord.
Personality: Quietly ruthless, determined.

 It took a second but rage exploded. The thinly veiled panic that had dogged him daily since Sabra had escaped erupted. “What?” Was all he could muster before he gripped Jürgen by the collar and dragged him closer. They were face to face. Cain could smell the scent of aufhocker oozing through the pores on Jürgen’s face. Canine, a bit human and a lot sour – the smell just made him furious. “Fuck you Jürgen! How could you?”
Jürgen struggled like a puppy in his grip, reluctant to fight but desperate to be free.
“It was an accident.” His German accent was guttural. “I was fighting with Maggie, and Sabra opened the door, I swung my claws to catch Maggie, but your woman stepped in my way.”
Sweat bubbled on Jürgen’s brow, the scent now rancid. Cain struggled not to tighten his grip on his neck and strangle the life from the damn aufhocker.
“I should kill you for this…” Cain hissed. “I’ve killed men for much, much less. You know it.”

Name: Sabra Westwood
Age: 23 yo.
Home: Rockingham, Western Australia
Profession: Payroll Clerk
Magical ability: Chameleon.. and something else.
Personality: Positive, quick to laugh, determined.

I suddenly became aware of the artistic sculpture of muscles beneath his snug shirt. I really wanted to have a holiday fling. No, actually if I want to be uncouth - I was gagging for a shag. It had been months since I’d been with a man, and I didn’t like it and nor did my body. My pulse began to race at the mere thought of touching the raw hard muscles that moved so enticingly beneath the white of his shirt. He must have read something in my eyes, and he smiled quickly, offering a flash of wolfish teeth. Something swooped inside me and I found myself barely able to suppress a gasp.
 Let it be said, I am not modest, but I’m not a beauty by any means, not in Australia and certainly not in Laos, where the girls all seemed pretty and petite. Yet the look in the man’s eyes was appreciative and dare I say it - bordering on desirous?  Perhaps he was just a gigolo? Did they have such things in Laos? They’d certainly had them in as we’d toured through Thailand. Then thought came unbidden, did I want to become another western notch in a cocky bar-boy’s belt – for a paltry hundred thousand kip? Yes actually, I rather liked the idea. The notion of handing over the equivalent of twenty Australian dollars to get my rocks off seemed like a better idea than returning to Perth single as well as sexually frustrated.

I really like Sabra. She's fun to write as you may gather from that excerpt :)
Now below are some images that I like to look at for motivation (manspiration images are excluded!)
Jungle in central Laos.

Nam Khan River   


chromatophore cells (colour changing cells)
Vientiane, Laos
 With that, enjoy!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Magical Redemption - Goodreads Giveaway

Win a signed copy!

[With any luck they'll make a movie and it'll be worth a fortune one day]

I'm doing a Goodreads Giveaway of Magical Redemption.
Enter through Goodreads for the opportunity to win a signed copy.

“Magic, myth and mayhem collide in this quirky story of unlikely love.” Shona Husk, Author of the “The Goblin King.”

When your entire existence is a logistical nightmare for the government, you can't expect good working conditions. In a world where magical beings are considered equal, but magic is heavily taxed, existence as a genie is unfairly complicated.

"How did a woman as good as you, ever get stuck with a devil like me?"
When Jinx finds herself the genie of the coldly handsome Lucian, she knows she's in for a rough time.

Lucian is being hunted by the Magical Mafia, otherwise known as the "Family". Years ago he pledged himself to serve, but in a moment of weakness betrayed them.
Now, Lucian finds himself falling for a little Lebanese Genie, but knows a future between them is impossible. As they hid from incredible and malevolent magical beings, they search for a way to be together before fate and the Family separate them forever...

Travel from London to Kuala Lumpur and fall in love with magic and mythology in another of my epic paranormal romances.

And now I'd better get back to my WIP, I hope you have a marvellous day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Hags...the name says it all or does it?

Hag - a word often used as a derogatory term for a grumpy or mean female.

Where does the term come from? Is there a male equivalent? Why does mythology fixate so frequently on the ugly side of the female sex?

Lets take a look....
According to the dictionary, the English word Hag, apparently has it's origins in the Old English (1175–1225 AD) word hægge, which is similar to hægtesse meaning "witch", and hagorūn meaning "spell". 
It is unsurprising that Hags (sometimes called Crones) crop up in a multitude of countries. The most common description of a hag is of an unattractive older lady with malicious intent. Hag mythology is characterised by the presence of bad dreams, or uncomfortable sensations during sleep. The traditional hag myth revolves around old ladies being responsible for the poor sleep of their targetted victim.

It is believed that most Hag myths have been derived from  explanations of a condition known as 'sleep paralaysis' (also known as Old Hag Syndrome!) in which a person feels a weight on their chest and experiences difficulty breathing. Succubi and Incubi are also characterised by this sensation. However the Hag mythology has evolved into more corporeal creatures such as Banshee, Baba Yaga (and their varients) as well as interestingly Onibaba (Japan). Onibaba is a legendary evil old woman from the Fukushima region, who allegedly cut the living liver from a pregnant woman, who later turned out to be her own daughter. This act sent her into homocidal psychopathy and tales of her hideous behaviour survive to the modern day.
Here is a list of some other interesting more traditional 'hags'.
Boo Hag (African American) - Skin stealing, creature who gains sustenance from the breath of their victim. They enter the bedroom and 'ride' the victim by sitting on their chest, and stealing their breath.
Mara / Mare (Norse) - Old woman who enters the bedroom through the keyhole to bring the sleep nightmares. Legend has it that women may become a Mara through evil or wicked actions or being cursed.
Nocnitsa (Polish) -  this hag specialises particularly in tormenting sleeping children. She is primarily made of shadow and has a particularly earthy scent that can infiltrate dreams. She can be warded away by placing an iron knife in the child's bed, or drawing a protective circle around the bed with an iron knife. Depression or prolonged periods of sadness attract Nocnitsa to adults and she gains power from negative feelings.

Gorska Makua (Bulgarian) - Bulgarian version of Nocnitsa.
Phi Am
Phi Am ผีอำ (Thai) - ghost widow who steals the souls of young men as they sleep. To defend against this ghost, some men in the northeastern villages of Thailand wear lipstick to bed, in the belief that these female widow ghosts are women and won’t harm other females.

Cailleach (Ireland/Scotland) - an enormous old, ugly woman, often linked with natural destructive elements. She comes down from her home on November 1st and hits her staff against the ground to bring on cold winds and storms.
Are Hags always horrible?
 Not always...
There is the conflict between the concept of the 'hag' and the archetype of the "old woman healer" - who crops up in myth, literature and film. She however, is often considered to be a 'white witch' rather than a hag or crone.
Additionally the "British Hag" is (by some scholars at least) believed to be an evolution of one of that country's many ancient goddesses. This hag, however, is regarded as the personification of winter. In the winter months she is usually old and very ugly looking. As the season changes though she becomes more and more beautiful, and younger.
Celtic mythology also has The Morrigan Goddess, who is sometimes (but infrequently) linked with Hag mythology. Traditionally the Morrigan (who some say is a combination of three Goddesses) is a goddess of war, and can take the form of ravens etc. In human form she has a normal female appearance.
Other Hag-like mythical beings can, at times, choose to be benevolent. For example Baba Yaga may assist people on quests if the mood strikes her, however she is just as likely to eat you.
Similarly the Bean nighe (often linked with the Banshee). She appears as an old washerwoman. This Hag is sometimes seen as an omen of death, however, if you can sneak up to her and suckle at her long hanging breast (as you do!) you could then claim to be her foster child and she will grant you wishes...
The resounding theme here? The constantly perpetuated idea of the fickle female, which crops up again, and again in mythology and indeed sociology. there a male equivalent for the Hag?
 I would like to think so, but from my research (which I confess is NOT exhaustive) most old men myths speak of either 1) benevolent fatherly being (or god/demigod) who gives advice, 2) a trickster, 3) a combination of both. It is rare to have an malevolent mythical being who takes the form of an old man. Charon (from Greek mythology is probably the exception, though he seems more angry and annoyed than actually malevolent).

 Charon (Greek) - He is the ferry-man who takes the dead over the river Styx. He usually takes the form of a grumpy older male, clad in dirty clothes, with haggard cheeks and an unkempt beard, a fierce ferryman who guides his craft with a long pole. He must be paid to transport souls across the river.

Old Man of the Sea (Greek) - a primordial God-like being who is associated with a number of water-gods. Old Man of the Sea gains a mention in Homer's "Odyssey", and also in "Sinbad the Sailor". He can give useful advice to travellers, but also tricks people.

Yue Lao - old man under the moon,  月下老人 (Chinese) - Yue Lao is Chinese deity of marriage. People pray to Yue Lao for assistance in finding a marriage partner. Statues of him may be found throughout Asia. He is typically seen as an elderly man holding the book of marriage (姻缘簿) in his left hand and a walking stick in his right hand.

Napi / Oldman (Blackfoot Native American) -  Napi, is a creator god and trickster figure in the mythology of the Blackfoot people of North America. He is said to have created the world and all the creatures in it

The concept of the 'wise old man' is an archetype rarely connected with malevolent acts.
This type of character is typically represented as a kind and wise, older father-type figure who uses personal knowledge of people and the world to help tell stories and offer guidance that, in a mystical way, may impress upon his audience a sense of who they are and who they might become, thereby acting and acting as a mentor.
Why are there so many negative mythologies about old women and so few about old men?
There are probably many theories out there, which you'd have to research yourself, but this is my take on the situation.

In ancient times and in some modern traditional societies, men die earlier than women and those that survive would (one would assume) be the wisest and cleverest and most able to give advice to the younger generations on running the community (in a patriachal society at least).
Women live longer than men as a general rule. Therefore, those women past their useful childbearing years must do something to remain useful in a traditional society or else they are not worth the food they are fed.
Therefore women who could heal others and were wise would be kept and looked after (enter the archetype of the old woman healer). However, those older women who were sly, and tricky survived using wits and deceit - and it is those individuals I believe the negative hag myths have evolved from.

In addition to my "life-expectancy and usefulness theory of Hag evolution", I also believe that myths are created as moral tales to teach people societies 'norms' and instill fear to ensure co-operation. So, what could be more scary than a mother figure being twisted and made into monster? I'm certain it was that twisting of the natural order of motherhood and grand-motherhood, that has made Hag myths so popular and so frightening for people in times past.

On that note, I've had enough of typing and I bid you farewell.

Enjoy your Weekend.