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Honesty, Marketing, and Why There Are No Sex Scenes in Dragon’s Rook

20 May
KB 2011

KB, 2011

It’s a strange world.

We’re told not to blow our own horn (don’t brag), and yet we’re told to market ourselves (tell people what we offer and what we’ve accomplished).

It has occurred to me that, while I have been honest about my writing, I have not been its best marketer. Rather I feel like I’ve become a social media spammer — something I hate.

I don’t want to puff up my work and make it seem like this spectacular thing, the answer to every reader’s quest for the next great novel, because it isn’t. Dragon’s Rook is not a book everyone will enjoy or understand or read once a year like they do the classics. In that, it is like myriad other books that fill libraries and bookstores and private shelves.

Nor am I ashamed of this book. It has a few typos (dangit!), but I can say — without braggadocio or falsehood or hype — that it’s a good book. It’s well-written, has interesting characters, and isn’t frenetic in its efforts to capture and keep the reader’s attention.

I figure the readers who choose this book don’t need pretty-pretty lights and flashing colors and constant noise in order to be entertained. They don’t need someone to do their thinking for them.

Dragon's_Rook_Cover_Keanan_Brand_Susan_TrouttDragon’s Rook unrolls at a different pace and with a different focus than many other fantasy novels. Though it does feature a few teenage and child characters, it is not a coming-of-age story. Many of the supporting characters are elderly or middle-aged, and have interesting stories of their own. The main characters are in their twenties, maybe thirties, and are established in their skills (shepherd-turned-soldier, blacksmith, seamstress-laundress-healer, scholarly daughter of the king), but they know there must be more to life than what they’ve been given.  The soldier wants to rest from war. The blacksmith is restless for adventure. The laundress wants a home and acceptance. The king’s daughter longs for freedom.

Readers of all ages identify with these and the other characters, but Dragon’s Rook (and its companion, Dragon’s Bane) is primarily epic fantasy for grownups.

It is not, however, adult entertainment. While there is romance in the story, readers will find no explicit sex in its pages. Anything that happens is off-stage, not described. I’ve edited my share of erotic romance novels, and I’m just not interested in writing that stuff. And there’s no need to stop the story for the literary equivalent of a porn flick.

I understand that may be a turn-off. After all, erotica sells. But it would also make Dragon’s Rook an entirely different story.

That said, the second book — Dragon’s Bane — will feature two weddings, and two wedding nights. The reader will follow the characters up to a certain point, but there will be no vicarious carnality.

Just sayin’.

And the folks who have heard descriptions of or read drafts of those scenes tell me the effect is more sensuous than any outright sex scene.

Which reminds me of a scene — Darcy’s ill-worded proposal that becomes an argument — in the Joe Wright-directed version of Pride & Prejudice, in which something happens in the movie that was never in the book, and it turns an already iconic moment into a heart-pounding revelation: Darcy leaning forward and Elizabeth sketching the same movement in reply, an almost-kiss that reveals more than their shouted words would lead us, or them, to believe.

Just as no one needs to think for us — we’re smart folk, and we can do that for ourselves — no storyteller needs to reveal every act, word, thought, or detail, because an effective part of storytelling is allowing participation in the tale by leaving room for the readers’ imagination.

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