Should that crucial first sentence include words like ‘fuck’?

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The puritanical and the righteous might think sentences should not include ‘swear’ words, be them in the opening sentence or embedded somewhere deep inside the novel: used either in prose or dialogue. But if that word did appear in an opening sentence then, I for one, would become very curious indeed as to where the story was going. And it was after reading a fellow author’s blog, that made me look back at the opening sentences of my own novels and the language used in them.

My debut novel, TALE OF TWO WOMEN began: I never experienced that all-consuming love a mother should feel when seeing her child for the first time.  

Nothing offensive here: but human situations, emotions and feelings are the back-bone of my stories, and that said, the language used has to fit-in with the content. In this book I graphically describe mutual masturbation on the front seat of a van;  lady-parts as ‘cunts’, and ‘fucking’ for pleasure, not love.

My second novel, TO THE EDGE AND BACK begins: Born in 1944, I was brought up in Tredegar, a South Wales mining town where fine slag-dust permeated every inch of soil.

The only word anyone could take exception to here is possibly the word ‘slag’. The main character appeared in my debut novel as an adult sex-machine, but this story starts where he is a young boy of 16 who loses his virginity to an older woman. The young character behaves like any teenage boy: masturbating to porno-mags stuffed under his mattress and forever trying to get the girls to drop their knickers. It’s life: it’s exploring ones sexuality, whether we are straight or gay: it’s normal. The story then goes on to tell of his life in the army. The  dialogue, especially, had to be convincing and the ‘f’ and ‘c’ words are used, along with the odd ‘twat’, and as I was dealing with military men the word ‘wank’ or variations thereof, obviously appeared.

My third novel, published only a few weeks ago, was totally different. It began: Thirty one year old Thomas Friedrich Schmidt sat alone in a small room at the hospital, the wait and the silence had been excruciating.

Nothing here to take offence at, unless the word ‘small’ hits a raw nerve with some male readers, or, for that matter, female readers with Barnes Wallis’s the size of ping-pong balls that couldn’t breach a tissue-paper wall ne’er mind a Ruhr dam.  As you’ve probably guessed the back-drop for this work is WW11 and its about the journey of a German Doctor who enlists in the Wehrmacht, even though he’s a pacifist at heart. He’s depressed and celibate. He eventually has an afternoon fling with a married woman, but the one explicit sex scene is when he takes the virginity of the woman he loves. In this context I use language that depicts an era: a time, and, of course, the circumstances.  The novel also glides over the spread of VD, and how soldiers, who, during respite from battle, thought the next woman or drink they had might be their last, so they often didn’t protect themselves with the condoms issued, or use one of the many army operated brothels which were so strictly and clinically regulated they preferred to seek out the clandestine instead of the prostitute.

My fourth novel – a follow on from the third, is finished and will be published in a few weeks time. It is entitled: A NEW BEGINNING. The opening sentence reads: Thomas felt nervous as he walked into the lecture theatre, even though it was a lecture theatre he was familiar with.

Quite an innocent sentence really, unless the term ‘familiar with’  induces flashbacks of moments in your youth.  This story covers the year 1946 where Thomas has settled in London with his lover/mistress and their three children. Note I say ‘lover/mistress’ because the authorities didn’t  allow mixed-marriages during the war, and the British authorities were wary of giving consent to any British women wanting to marry German men afterwards. This book is about life in the aftermath of WW11 and how the main character tries to bring about change by breaking down barriers. Remember, 1946 was not a world away from Victorian times when righteous and God-fearing parents actually tied their children’s hands to the bedpost to stop them masturbating.

The book I am working on at the moment – my fifth – is a follow-on from To The Edge and Back. It’s title is: UNFINISHED BUSINESS. The prologue begins: Only three weeks before, John Rhys Thomas had undertaken Para-military training and was immediately seconded to the SIS – MI6 –  or the ‘Increment’ as it was known. 

Nothing untoward in that sentence: if there is, let me know. The two main characters in this book have now appeared in three of my novels. They are living together with their two year old daughter. John is still the highly-sexed love-machine that appeared in my first novel and there are three sex scenes already and I’m only 40,000 words in. I’m satiated already.

I am very fortunate to have such a wealth of English words to choose from. Other languages do not have such a rich choice.  The Swedish word ‘bra’ – good – is one word that is used in a variety of contexts. I can think of about 24 English words I could use including the slang words ‘dope’ or ‘sick’. So when you next read ‘bad-language’ just remember most authors have integrity and are only portraying a time, a place, a character: and the narrator is not always the author. Now I really do sound as though I’m right up my own back passage.

Just go with the flow, I tell myself.

frazzled woman

I wish I could: but this has nothing to do with writers block, but the frustration of being constantly disturbed. As much as I dearly love my family, I sometimes wish they would just take a break for 3 days and leave me alone. For instance, yesterday, Thursday, it was the first day all week I could get up and not think about anything but writing. I knew Hubby would be having a lie-in as he’d been busy the day before.

Lo and behold, my daughter came through the front door just after nine, after doing the school run, with a bag in her hand. I thought’, oh, she’s bought me something’. She had, two skirts which needed taking in. It took me all morning to take in a denim and corduroy skirt, not easy materials to work with. Whilst my sewing machine was out I took the opportunity of taking in a pair of my own trousers as they had sat in a cupboard for weeks, waiting for me to find the time.

Then my eldest turned up saying his printer had stopped working, could he use ours because he had some invoices to print and send. Then I was asked to look after grandchild whilst parents attended a parents evening. Finally went to bed to continue reading a detective story I was half-way through, only to find my kindle battery very low. Bollocks, I thought, (bollocks being one of my favourite words at the moment) a fitting end to a disturbed day, I thought.

This all brings me to ask, ‘are writers selfish?’ If you say ‘yes’ I would totally agree with you. There is nothing I would like better than to get up, make myself a brew, sit all morning in my nightie drinking tea and writing. If I did deign to shower I would put said nightie on again, let hair dry naturally with no blow-drying, no tonging (no, it’s not spelled incorrectly) no tweaking, no gell and no spray. I would like to stay like that for 3 days at least. My idea of heaven. But thinking about it, anywhere would do: a caravan on Broadmoor, even a prison cell: I would even welcome an alien abduction as I hear Uranus is nice this time of year. Anywhere just to get some solitude.

I remember reading once that Frederick Forsyth, after doing all his  research, locked himself away in a hotel room for 3 months to write his latest book. What a luxury: constant room-service for 3 months. My nightie would be mingin’ by the time I’d written the novel.

Another thing that’s pissing me off at the minute is that no-one has offered to interview me.  Now, I’ve just read an interview with an author who has just had his debut novel published in print, (lucky bugger) he’s also got a film company interested in making the film (very lucky bugger) But does this face look bovvered? You bet it bloody does. But if anyone does want to interview me don’t ask me inane questions like the following.

Question: What is your favourite book?

Answer: The Kama Sutra.

Question: Have you always wanted to write?

Answer: No, I really wanted to play hooker on the front row of a rugby scrum before I damaged my knee playing tennis.

Question: How do you get ideas for your books?

Answer: By looking into my empty wine glass every night, you’d be surprised what you will find at the bottom.

Question: How much research do you do?

Answer: I use, what writers term, ‘stream of consciousness’, in other words I have a good rant.

Question: What are you reading at the moment?

Answer: The Radio Times: it’s always in the bog.

Question: What are you working on at the moment?

Answer: I’m hoping to finish changing the head gasket in my Freelander before the end of September. Wish me luck, and keep eyes-on for it, it’s blue.

Would you believe it, there’s someone at the door again. Hope it’s not those men in white coats who tie me to the bed only to read aloud from Fifty Shades of Shite. That is my idea of sheer hell: I’ll put up with my family, thanks.

Saturday night’s alright, says Elton.

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Saturday night’s not only alright for fighting, but for ‘Strictly’ – come dancing that is. I simply can’t wait to get a ten from Len again: and Claudia – Winkleman that is – is now co-hosting with Tess – Daly that is. I like Claudia, she’s so funny. So from now until December we will be glued to the television set on Saturday nights. If we’re out to dinner we will record it, or if we are at someone’s house who are also ‘Strictly’ anoraks/geeks, we will watch whilst partaking of the odd bevvy.

Over the years we have become quite well educated in dancing terminology, and we all pass comment whilst watching, and we all have our favourites: not only a favourite celebrity, but a favourite professional. Anton is one of my favourite professionals as he’s got a great sense of humour, but he usually gets saddled with the ‘cougars’. A particular professional favourite is Artem – the Russian. He’s so intense and passionate, a lovely mover. He’s so balletic. Just think, if the cold-war hadn’t ended he might not be dancing, but a member of Spetznaz instead.

I hung up my dancing shoes a few years back – yes I do still have some proper dancing shoes, they have suede soles and should never be worn outside: they’re also very slippery. Hubby and I were trying to Foxtrot one evening at dancing class: Hubby was good at it, but I, for the life of me, couldn’t master the steps: more a tango sort of lady. Anyway, we were sashaying across the oak flooring when I slipped to eventually do the splits,  ending up on my backside. The dance instructor asked if I was alright, but it was so embarrassing landing on my arse in front of a class full of ballroom dancers. Hubby is definitely a ballroom dancer, me, I am more into the Latin, which must say an awful lot about me and my personality.

Back in the 90’s, on board the QE2, Hubby, left me on my own in one of the bars after dinner to go to the loo. I was immediately approached by a small, Latin looking gentleman who asked me to dance. At first I declined, but he insisted on teaching me how to Rumba. Once on the dance floor it only took a few whispered words on which way to move, with which foot, and I quickly got into the rhythm. When the music finished I went back to Hubby who had taken up his seat at the table along with a couple we had met earlier. The lady was surprised and asked me how long I’d been dancing the Rumba as I was very good at it.  I just replied, ‘never danced it before 3 minutes ago’. I think she was a little jealous as they were the sort of couple who had been everywhere, done everything and got all the T shirts.

My dancing days, though, were soon over on board ship as just as we were about to reach New York I came down with a severe bout of tonsillitis. I was so bad Hubby had to call the ship’s Doc who gave me a penicillin injection in my buttock and told me I couldn’t go ashore. I thought, sod that, I’m not sailing all this way across an Atlantic which was so misty you couldn’t see a thing until we saw the coast of Newfoundland, then not to go into Manhattan where we had a lunch booked at the top of the Trump Tower, was unthinkable.  But at the end of the day I felt really, really bad, and once back on board ship I went straight to bed and stayed there for two days having to suffer more buttock injections until on the third day, and able to eat something, I put on my face and evening dress and went to dinner. We have a photo of that dinner and quite frankly I look like a ghost.

If I try and dance today it’s usually in the privacy of my own home. Sometimes I will throw a few shapes when my grandchildren visit,  but that is only to embarrass them in the hope they will quickly leave.  By the way, I have never had legs as shapely as the woman above, but Hubby did have the same hairstyle once upon a time, along with a Viva Zapata moustache. In the 70’s staches were all the rage, and like Bodie in ‘The Professionals’ he used to wear a similar-styled leather jacket. But Hubby never slid across the bonnet of the car to get into the driver’s seat. The only thing he slid along was the tarmac when he came off his Lambretta.