First Chapter Friday – Seven Dirty Words

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ISBN: 9781310160417
ASIN: B00XB8JCH0

I died for a short while the first time we met. There was no fluttering in my chest, no somersault of my stomach, no burning in my loins; my heart literally stopped. He was tall, at least six foot four, and dressed in a pair of worn indigo jeans that perfectly matched his intense stare. A silk black shirt covered what I imagined to be a ripple of hard muscle, and opened at the top, showing a dusting of tight dark curls. His thick neck led towards a razor-sharp, square jaw line, a straight nose that had clearly never seen the ill-effects of rough play, and deep hooded eyes. His hair had been styled with a slight wave. I was sure it was dark brown, but it could have easily been black, and had shots of silver-grey streaking through it.

My face was lined up with his toes, or more precisely, his pristinely polished black patent Chukka boots. Palms down in the thick mud beneath me, I pushed up and sneaked a glance at the man in front of me. He looked none-too-pleased to see his clothes spattered with flecks of dirt from where I had landed and splashed him. I struggled to get to my feet as my boots slipped against the wet grass. Eventually I got to my knees and leant back, looking up at him. I forced a grin onto my mud-covered face, but he didn’t return it. Finally able to stand, I wiped my hands down the sides of my bare thighs.

His glare speared through the apology that I tried to splutter, words failing to come. In the distance I heard someone call my name. Looking over my shoulder I saw my teammates beckoning me to re-join the group.

“Sorry.” The word leapt forward.

A dark eyebrow flicked upwards. “Are you going to pay for the dry-cleaning?” he asked, enunciating each word as though he was talking to some insolent child.

“It’s a muddy field, you’re watching a rugby match,” I countered, my eyes narrowing. “Try stepping away from the lines.”

“You’ve got a mouth on you.” A smile twitched at the corners of his lips.

I’ve got a mouth on me? What the hell was that supposed to mean? I was about to make some comment about him being arrogant and conceited, but the captain of the team had already reached my heel.

“You coming?” Lou tugged on my elbow, throwing a smile towards the man who loomed over me.

“Yeah,” I said, racing back into the game.

“Who’s your friend?” Lou asked, nodding towards Tall, Dark, and Smouldering.

“I haven’t got a clue, but he wasn’t impressed by my skidding halt!” I laughed, tossing her the ball.

We finished practice at two o’clock, as we did every Saturday afternoon. I listened to the laughter and loud chattering of my teammates and friends as I scrubbed at the mud that caked my arms, legs, and face. Warm water pummelled at my aching muscles. I rubbed away the dirt and sweat with a floral shower gel. I made a point of using feminine scented products, since I lived in such a masculine world.

Not only did I play rugby—a game that my mother always told me was unbecoming for a woman of my standing—I lived with two men, and worked in an office where I was the only female. I was also incredibly single. My exes were exes because they found my lifestyle impossible to deal with, and non-conquests refused to believe that I wasn’t a lesbian. Saying that, it had been over a year since I’d even tried to get anyone into my bed…

After the game, I decided to forego the usual routine of drinks at the local pub, and instead headed home to nurse the scrapes and scratches that marked my elbows, knees and chin.

Walking back to my Volkswagen Golf, I saw Tall, Dark, and Smouldering leaning against a tree. His arms were folded tightly in front of him, and he had a foot resting on one of the many boulders that separated the car park from the fields.

I threw a nod and a smile towards him as I rummaged in my jean pockets for my keys, dumping the battered and muddied holdall next to the wheel.

“Good game?” he asked, but when I looked up I realised he wasn’t pointing the question in my direction. A stick-thin, terribly young blonde had appeared by his side and kissed him on the cheek. She clutched a hockey stick in her right hand, and handed him a pink rucksack with the other.

Part of me felt almost embarrassed that I had wanted him to be talking to me. I hurriedly bundled into the car and went home.

Home was an old farmhouse at the edge of a well-to-do village, nestled in the heart of Hampshire, shared with two men; and no, neither of them were gay. I’d occasionally questioned the sexuality of my brother Mark, what with his flair for style, and his love of shopping and spas. Then again, I’d also been introduced to the many girls that had graced our home for a single night.

The other man to reside with us was Daniel Turnbull. Danny was gorgeous in every sense of the word, but may as well have been my other brother. I’d known him all my life, since he and Mark were best friends. He was also ultra-macho to the point of being a Neanderthal. It would not surprise me if one day I caught him dragging the lifeless body of some poor girl he’d clonked over the head, taking her back to his cave.

When I arrived home, both men sat in the living room, feet resting on the coffee table, beer bottle in one hand, Xbox controller in the other.

“Jeez,” I muttered, as I tried to resist sniffing the air in fear of my gag reflex reacting to the scent of primal male. Unfortunately, when you live with two men under the age of thirty, it is impossible to avoid the stench of sweaty socks, stale beer, and cheesy nachos. Combined with the fact that it was the height of summer, and you have one highly stink-filled house.

I dumped the holdall next to the washing machine and looked around the kitchen. Bowls filled with the residue of the morning’s breakfasts, an empty milk carton, several empty booze bottles, used newspapers, and layers of shed clothes were scattered around the room.

“We seriously need to tidy up,” I yelled, knowing full well that the only reaction I’d get would be an annoyed grunt or two.

Opening the dishwasher, I peered in, sighing as I discovered that it was still full of dirty pots from two days ago. The stench of old food was unbelievable, and my head snapped backwards with such force I was surprised I still had neck bones. Ripping open a packet from under the sink, I aimed the blue and yellow tablet at the little box in the door, before slamming it shut and pressing the white button. It whirred and chugged noisily as I ran the water in what little space I could find in the sink and began to sort through the pots and rubbish, attempting to find a clean spot.

Peeling a pair of boxer shorts from the back of a chair, I grimaced and flung them towards the holdall by the washing machine. “Disgusting men,” I chuntered, even though I knew that our living arrangements were as much my fault as theirs.

But that didn’t stop me from blaming them.

“Stick the kettle on,” called a voice from the front room, grating on my final nerve.

A deep growl vibrated in the base of my throat as I stormed into the room and began yelling several obscenities at them.

“All right, chill Butch!” Mark laughed.

He knew I hated that school nickname. I wanted to throw something at my brother’s head, but knew that Mother would only chastise me for having put him in hospital with a split skull yet again. Golden Boy could do no wrong. Fortunately, our father always took my side when it came to arguments, so we were evenly defended.

Danny saw sense and ducked into the next room to make tea for everyone. That is the glorious, if not slightly annoying, thing about living in England. We are the country that truly believes, without any shadow of a doubt, that a simple hot beverage can solve all issues. Arguing kids? Cup of tea. Problems at work? Cup of tea. World war, mass hunger, poverty? Have a cup of bleeding Rosy Lee.

I marched after Danny, spitting my annoyances out as he busied himself by the kettle. Throwing dirty clothes towards the washing machine and chucking empty packets in the bin did nothing to soothe my frustrations.

“Bad game?” Danny asked in an attempt at small talk.

“Not really,” I grunted, sinking into the one chair that no longer had clothes, newspapers, and pots covering it.

“Go on then.”

“Go on then, what?” I asked, squinting to emphasise my annoyance.

“Go on then, tell us what your problem is.” By this time Mark had joined us, shoving everything off the chair opposite me to land on the floor. I glowered at him like an angry cat threatening to hiss and spit.

“Jesus H. Someone’s pissed you off,” Mark groaned.

“No,” I said, my eyebrows furrowing into a tight knot. Confusion settled in. Had someone pissed me off?

“Seriously Butch, we know you far too well. Spill it.”

“Nothing!” I snapped, perhaps too quickly.

“What’s his name, and what did he do?” Danny this time, his voice getting deeper as though ready to go into full-blown protective mode.

I rolled my eyes and tried to ignore him.

“Sis, you have to tell us now.” Mark leant forward and grabbed my hands. I pulled away and threw him a ‘What-the-hell?’ look. He laughed and fell backwards into the seat again.

Danny plonked a mug each in front of us. The liquid sloshed over the sides, giving me yet more to clean up.

“Okay, okay,” I relented, picking up the mug and sipping at the too-cool drink. Danny always added too much milk for my taste, but it was still welcomed, helping to massage away the aches and pains that plagued my muscles.

I proceeded to tell them all about Tall, Dark, and Smouldering—whom I’d already shortened to TDS—even though I wasn’t sure why he was the one in my head. I could have come up with a thousand excuses for my foul mood. Rough game, bad drivers, untidy house, but the truth was that he was still at the front of my thoughts.

He had riled me in a way that I had never been riled before.

“Sounds like you’re in L.O.V.E!” cooed Mark, ridiculing me.

I wanted to slap him, but couldn’t reach, and didn’t dare throw lukewarm tea across the room, so I settled for a scowl.

Downing the rest of my drink, I headed for the holdall and dirty clothes piled on top of it, shoving them all into the machine before filling it with powder and liquids to get rid of the muck and smells, and switching it on.

“You two can finish the kitchen,” I yelled as I went up to the sanctuary of my bedroom.

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Writing a character

How many times have you picked up a book, and put it down again because the characters are wooden and lack dimension? Sadly, too often. The dialogue’s the same, the speech patterns are the same, there’s no depth to them, they’re unrealistic, and they become boring.

I get asked a lot how I manage to make my characters realistic, and the truth is I base them on real people.

Some authors will write an in-depth character sheet for each character. They’ll go as far as writing a history for them, and creating family trees. I don’t. Or not for a standalone novel, anyway. I’ll write a basic sheet so Bob doesn’t have blue eyes in one chapter and brown in another, and I’ll jot down their flaws, but I don’t delve too deep into their past, because to be perfectly honest, it’s irrelevant.

When writing Seven Dirty Words, I knew it would be more than one book so I did make notes about Paige’s previous encounters with men, and TDS’s ex, but only because I knew they would be mentioned or featured in Four Letter Words as well. For short stories and novellas like the City Nights collection and A Different Kind of Therapy, I barely made notes at all because the stories were so quick, all I needed to really know where what the characters looked like, and how they spoke.

Speech patterns are essential when creating characters. Nobody speaks the same way, and if your characters are from different areas of the country / world, then you will need to make sure their dialogue features dialect and accents. I find it easier to set my novels in the South West, or the East Midlands because these are accents and dialects that I’m familiar with. In Later, the character of Marcel is French. When I wrote his dialogue, I started to think with a French accent, and I made sure I included some French words, and I’ve been assured it does come across well.

However, I broke these rules when I set the C.V. Leigh novel The Change, entirely in Scotland. The Kincaid brothers are Scottish, but the dialogue doesn’t feature Scottish phrases and dialect until a very minor character is introduced. This is simply because it would have been difficult to read if every time they said ‘didn’t’, I wrote ‘dinnae’. There is one scene, which includes a local in a pub, where the drunk character’s dialogue features Scottish dialect for authenticity.

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Another important area of character creation is looks. As with speech, nobody looks the same.  But, they can look similar. If characters are related, it’s a good idea to make sure they have the same colour eyes, or the same shaped nose, or the same hair type. Of course, it is possible for two complete strangers to have the same coloured eyes. But, remember that some colours are quite rare. For example, it’s unlikely that you’ll have an entire group of unrelated people who have red hair and green eyes, which is a look that a lot of authors seem to go for (including me).

How deep you go into description will depend entirely on your writing style. Some people use a lot of description and spent a lot of time telling the reader how their characters look, while others may go an entire book without mentioning hair or eye colour. And telling someone that a character has brown hair and blue eyes is a bit flat. Remember the rule of showing, not telling. I know from experience, because this is a flaw of mine!

Speaking of flaws…

We all have them. We all have an area of our body that we don’t like, and it’s important your characters do too. Some readers have commented on how Paige in The Words Series is plain looking or not particularly beautiful. The truth is, she is meant to be. But, it’s written in first person and she lacks confidence. She looks in the mirror and doesn’t see someone who is curvy and beautiful, she sees a snubbed nose, thick arms and thick thighs, covered in bruises from rugby and martial arts. In The Black Door, Imogen comes across as angry and standoffish. She’s not a horrible person, but she is a single mum approaching 40, who feels like she is constantly competing against younger, prettier women. Her husband has just left her for someone a lot younger than she is, and the office she works in is full of young, pretty 20-something-year-olds. She has very little self-worth.

Of course, their love interests see past these flaws, but I always feel it’s important the reader sees characters how they see themselves, especially in the beginning.

He pressed his lips against mine, and any irritation was drowned out by pure lust. “Take the job,” he said against me. “Fuck Tremaine. It’s not him I want.”.png

As I mentioned earlier, I do tend to base my characters on real people. Not the entire person, but snippets. They might look vaguely like someone I know, but have someone else’s hang-ups and another person’s speech patterns. I also (subconsciously) tend to inject some of myself into them.

It’s important to make sure that the characters are alive. Without them, there’s no story. Take your time to people-watch – a favourite hobby of many authors. Look at how people walk, look at their facial expressions. Listen to dialects and accents, and speech patterns. Take note of what people dislike about themselves, and then put it all together. You may end up writing a best-selling novel.

Seven Dirty Words – an extract #tirgearrtuesday #erotic #romance

Welcome to Tirgearr Tuesday! Today’s extract comes from Seven Dirty Words.

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ISBN: 9781310160417
ASIN: B00XB8JCH0

Blurb:
Paige Holmes hides herself in a masculine world in a desperate attempt to remain safe.

Just as she is ready to face her fears and her past, she finds herself torn between Matt Jackson and Vance Ellery: handsome, rich, and safe – or handsome, rich, and dangerous?

Which will she choose?

The one who appears to be the most perfect, or the one who makes her use all Seven Dirty Words?

Excerpt:
I died for a short while the first time we met. There was no fluttering in my chest, no somersault of my stomach, no burning in my loins; my heart literally stopped. He was tall, at least six foot four, and dressed in a pair of worn indigo jeans that perfectly matched his intense stare. A silk black shirt covered what I imagined to be a ripple of hard muscle, and opened at the top, showing a dusting of tight dark curls. His thick neck led towards a razor-sharp, square jaw line, a straight nose that had clearly never seen the ill-effects of rough play, and deep hooded eyes. Hair that could have been straight had been styled with a slight wave. I was sure it was dark brown, but it could have easily been black, and had shots of silver-grey streaking through it.My face was lined with his toes, or more precisely, his pristinely polished black patent Chukka boots. Palms down in the thick mud beneath me, I pushed up and let my eyes glance at the man in front of me. He looked none-to-pleased to see his clothes spattered with flecks of dirt from where I had landed and splashed him.

I struggled to get to my feet as my own boots dug into the ground, slipping against the wet grass. Eventually I found my knees and leant back, looking up at him. I forced a grin on my mud-covered face, but he didn’t return it. Finally able to stand without landing on my backside, I wiped my hands down the sides of my bare thighs.

His glare speared through the apology that I tried to splutter, words failing to come from my vocal chords. In the distance I heard someone call my name. Looking over my shoulder I could see my teammates beckoning me to re-join the group. “Sorry,” the word leapt forward.

A dark eyebrow flicked upwards. “Are you going to pay for that?” he asked, snapping each word as though he was talking to some insolent child.

“It’s a muddy field, you’re watching a rugby match,” I countered, my eyes narrowing. “Try stepping away from the lines.”

“You’ve got a mouth on you.” A smile twitched at the corners of his lips. I’ve got a mouth on me? What the hell was that supposed to mean? I was about to make some loud comment about him being arrogant and conceited, but the captain of the team had already reached my heel.

“You coming?” Lou tugged on my elbow, throwing a smile towards the man who loomed over me.

“Yeah,” I said racing back into the game.

“Who’s your friend?” Lou asked, nodding towards Tall, Dark, and Smouldering.

“I haven’t got a clue, but he wasn’t impressed by my skidding halt!” I laughed, tossing her the ball.

We finished practise at two o’clock, as we did every Saturday afternoon. I listened to the laughter and loud chattering of my teammates and friends, as I scrubbed at the mud that caked my arms, legs, and face. Warm water pummelled at my aching muscles, I rubbed away the sweat with a floral scented shower gel. I made a point of using feminine scented products, since I lived in such a masculine world.

Not only did I play rugby, a game that my mother always told me was unbecoming for a woman of my standing, but I also lived with two men and worked in an office where I was the only female. I was also incredibly single.

Next Time…

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If you don’t like Alpha men, don’t read my books…

I’ve written ten books now, and they all have one thing in common: Hot Alpha Men. What do I mean by the term ‘Alpha’? The dictionary will tell you that it means an assertive and dominant male, the head of a group, someone who is powerful. Wait… ‘Dominant’? Doesn’t that mean… BDSM? No. No, it doesn’t.

Being dominant and the natural-born leader doesn’t always mean that he’s a Dominant. Strangely enough, not everything is about BDSM in the world of erotic romance. Yes, two of my books touch upon the world of BDSM: Taking Care of Leah and A Different Kind of Therapy. But, the rest of my books are very main-stream when it comes to sex, and the men are still considered Alpha Males. They take charge. They are protective. They are in a powerful position. And according to some, that is wrong.

“Don’t leave me.” She tightened her hold on him, her face firm against his chest,tears soaking his T-shirt. “I thought he loved me. I’m sorry I didn’t listen to you.”“It’s okay,” he soothed. “I will look after you..png

I’ve read numerous social media posts just recently, complaining about the amount of Alpha men in romance novels, in particular the rich ones that wear sharp suits. The problem is, I quite like writing them. I even like reading about them. I enjoy reading romance stories about women being swept off their feet, I enjoy creating characters that are loosely based on my ideal man. (Sorry Hubby…) For me, romance is about escapism. It’s about losing myself in the fictional world.

In the literary world, we writers are never going to please everyone. There is always going to be someone who is offended by something, there is always going to be someone who is triggered by a particular scene. I can’t help that, and I can’t stop it from happening. I don’t break the taboos of romance – you will never find rape for gratification, age-play etc. in my books. My characters come with a past, but are all legal and consenting adults. But, even then, I have still had readers tell me how one scene brought back memories that they’d rather forget. I am sorry for that, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop including those types of scene.

He pressed his lips against mine, and any irritation was drowned out by pure lust. “Take the job,” he said against me. “Fuck Tremaine. It’s not him I want.”.png

Creating the perfect character is a challenge. One thing I hate is perfection, so I always try to include some kind of flaw. The characters in Seven Dirty Words & Four Letter Words are completely flawed. Poor Paige doesn’t know whether she’s coming or going, torn between Vance Ellery and Matthew Jackson. And I seriously enjoyed creating them. I quite often consider going back to them, maybe write a spin-off book, a prequel, or even a third book. But, their stories are over and I’m not sure I could do the characters justice.

Love-triangles are another aspect of romance that gets complained about a lot. And, yes, I write about those too. The Words series, The Final Straight, and to a certain extent, One Night in Aberdeen, all involve having to choose one person over another – not that the decision is a particularly hard one. I love a triangle, because there is so much that can be done with it, so many paths that characters can be taken down. One of the reasons that Seven Dirty Word and Four Letter Words was split into two books is because even I didn’t know how it was going to end!

He inhaled deeply and cupped her face with his palms. She wrapped her fingers around his knuckles, holding on to him as their mouths moved together. He swept his tongue over hers and tasted the sea they had nearly .png

I write because I enjoy it. I write erotic romance because it’s fun. I write about awkward women because I am one. I write about women over the age of 30, because we’re not incapable of having relationships and hot sex just because we’ve left our twenties. I write about people who have their hearts stomped on, because it happens. I write about men who are complete ass-holes and get their comeuppance, because I have an ex who seriously needs to get his. I write about the sexy boss, and falling in love with someone who is beyond their reach, because I’ve been there. I write about Alpha Men in suits because I find them sexy. I’d like to think that all of my books are based on fantasies coming true.

In short, if you don’t want to read a book about an Alpha Male in a suit, with money in the bank… Don’t read my books. 

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Here, there, everywhere…

To say that I started 2017 with the plan of not planning, it’s certainly been a busy couple of months. A Different Kind of Therapy is out and doing well (whaddya mean you haven’t bought a copy? Click here, buy it.) Seven Dirty Words has been dropped to 99p / 99c for Tirgearr Publishing’s fifth birthday. (Lots of prizes to be won. Click here for that!) And I’m still writing, writing, writing! So blogging has taken a backseat while I work on my resolution of being more organised. I realise the irony in this.

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I have some new aims for 2017. It’s the year I turn 35. I always promised myself that this would be the year that I hit the best seller’s list, and while I’m not doing badly when it comes to sales, that coveted title is still out of reach. So despite not having plans, I do have lots of work to do! Market, market, market.

I’m pretty determined to make that dream come true. At 29, I promised myself that I would have a book published before I turned 30. And I did. Seven Dirty Words was originally published five years ago by Rocking Horse Publishing before being taken over by Tirgearr, two years later. So there is no reason why I shouldn’t see my name listed in the Sunday Times or similar, within the next six months. Here’s hoping anyway! If you’re reading this, you’re reading it for a reason – hopefully because you enjoy my work. I would be ever so grateful if you would help me reach my goal, and share links to my books. Which sort of brings me around to my other not-planned-in-any-way plan for 2017. A street team.

I’ve heard good and bad things about having a street team, but I’ve decided that it’s probably about time that I set one up. What is a street team? It’s essentially a group of readers who plug the work of the author. I’m currently working on creating team kits, including bookmarks, business cards, flyers, magnets, and other bits & pieces, including a bag to carry it all in that will be sent out to members who sign up to join me. Have an idea for popular SWAG? Want to sign up? Email me: charlotte@charlottehowardauthor.co.uk

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As I said, Seven Dirty Words is currently on sale as well, to support Tirgearr Publishing’s fifth birthday. This won’t be the last sale of the year for my books, however I won’t be reducing the prices as frequently as I have in the past. To combat this, I will be running more giveaways though! The first giveaway will be held once my Facebook page reaches 1,000 likes. So get sharing if you want to be in with a chance to win a copy of one of my books!

I’ve been asked if I’m writing a third part to the Words series. In short, no. I’m sorry, but Paige’s story is finished. However, I am working on several more novels – one of which will definitely be part one of a lengthy series.

So, for a not planned, relaxed 2017, I seem to be very busy! Hopefully I will, at some point, find the chance to finish a novel and maybe get some reading in myself.