Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thinking Sex

Romances need sex: either up to where the H/H slip into the bedroom and close the door, or coitus complete-us. Writing emotionally-satisfying sex scenes is a personal goal, so I searched for some good advice.

HOW TO WRITE SEX SCENES    Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon

A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids. That being so, it can encompass any emotion whatever, from rage or desolation to exultation, tenderness, or surprise.
Lust is not an emotion; it’s a one-dimensional hormonal response. Ergo, while you can mention lust in a sex-scene, describing it at any great length is like going on about the pattern of the wall-paper in the bedroom. Worth a quick glance, maybe, but essentially boring.

So how do you show the exchange of emotions? Dialogue, expression, or action—that’s about the limit of your choices, and of those, dialogue is by far the most flexible and powerful tool a writer has. What people say reveals the essence of their character.

_“I know once is enough to make it legal, but…” He paused shyly.
“You want to do it again?”
“Would ye mind verra much?”
I didn’t laugh this time, either, but I felt my ribs creak under the strain.
“No,” I said gravely. “I wouldn’t mind.”_

Now, you do, of course, want to make the scene vivid and three-dimensional. You have an important advantage when dealing with sex, insofar as you can reasonably expect that most of your audience knows how it’s done. Ergo, you can rely on this commonality of experience, and don’t need more than brief references to create a mental picture.

You want to anchor the scene with physical details, but by and large, it’s better to use sensual details, rather than overtly sexual ones. (Just read any scene that involves a man licking a woman’s nipples and you’ll see what I mean. Either the writer goes into ghastly contortions to avoid using the word “nipples”—“tender pink crests” comes vividly to mind—or does it in blunt and hideous detail, so that you can all but hear the slurping. This is Distracting. Don’t Do That.)

So how _do_ you make a scene vivid, but not revoltingly so? There’s a little trick called the Rule of Three: if you use any three of the five senses, it will make the scene immediately three-dimensional. (Many people use only sight and sound. Include smell, taste, touch, and you’re in business.)

_The road was narrow, and they jostled against one another now and then, blinded between the dark wood and the brilliance of the rising moon. He could hear Jamie’s breath, or thought he could—it seemed part of the soft wind that touched his face. He could smell Jamie, smell the musk of his body, the dried sweat and dust in his clothes, and felt suddenly wolf-like and feral, longing changed to outright hunger.
He wanted._

In essence, a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details.

_”I’ll give it to ye,” he murmured, and his hand moved lightly. A touch. Another. “But ye’ll take it from me tenderly, a nighean donn.”
“I don’t want tenderness, damn you!”
“I ken that well enough,” he said, with a hint of grimness. “But it’s what ye’ll have, like it or not.”
He laid me down on his kilt, and came back into me, strongly enough that I gave a small, high-pitched cry of relief.
“Ask me to your bed,” he said. “I shall come to ye. For that matter–I shall come, whether ye ask it or no. But I am your man; I serve ye as I will.”_

And finally, you can use metaphor and lyricism to address the emotional atmosphere of an encounter directly. This is kind of advanced stuff, though.

_He’d meant to be gentle. Very gentle. Had planned it with care, worrying each step of the long way home. She was broken; he must go canny, take his time. Be careful in gluing back her shattered bits.
And then he came to her and discovered that she wished no part of gentleness, of courting. She wished directness. Brevity and violence. If she was broken, she would slash him with her jagged edges, reckless as a drunkard with a shattered bottle.
She raked his back; he felt the scrape of broken nails, and thought dimly that was good–she’d fought. That was the last of his thought; his own fury took him then, rage and a lust that came on him like black thunder on a mountain, a cloud that hid all from him and him from all, so that kind familiarity was lost and he was alone, strange in darkness._
Like that.

3 Secrets for Writing a Good Sex Scene


Lots can be said about how to write about love, specifically how to write a good sex scene–and Elizabeth Benedict has written an excellent guide, The Joy of Writing Sex – but my general advice boils down to 3 points:
• Make sure the scene reveals something about the characters we didn’t know before. An awkward truth is revealed in the heat of the moment.
• Make sure the scene, or something in it, has consequences down the line, complications that one or both of them must face. The characters’ relationship is altered. Emotions are enhanced or altered, causing unforeseen consequences.
• Make sure the description of what the lovers do isn’t a collection of generic, off-the-shelf “moves,” rendered in cliche phrases we’ve all read a million times.
Sex is actually a great way to reveal character, if you approach it that way: a man reveals his inherent cruelty, or his lack of confidence, or his sexual confusion. A woman reveals her hidden hunger, or fear, or an unexpressed need to dominate, or be dominated.
These got me to thinking: A soldier would think of sex, approach sex, have sex in different terms than a housewife or a gardener or a surgeon or a librarian. Making and having a list of character-specific soldier terms (or housewife terms, etc.,) could be helpful for love scenes. 

An awkward, angry, or emotionally wounded soldier: rammed into her like a firing M-16 in battle, quick, hard, uncaring, part of him waiting for the cry that let him know he'd hit target, that he'd touched the part of her she'd been hiding, protecting all these years. 

A gardener could describe foreplay on the page in terms of preparing to hand-pollinate female cucumber blossoms with a soft-bristled brush. 

Passion could prompt a neat-freak housewife to abandon her normal care that the bedcovers and sheets will get mussed up. 

A forty-something, single librarian studies images in erotic books in the restricted section before the midnight closing time, when old Fred Bevill snoozes, as usual, over the latest Field and Stream magazine  and this year's crop of high school juniors with past-due school papers frantically punches buttons on the copy machine.

The hand surgeon--would she be precise in her thoughts or movements? Would she think in terms that name specific tendons or ligaments? Feel the blood pounding? Be clinical until she allows herself to let go and let her body do the 'thinking' for her?

My ah-ha: the character thinks in specific terms for her/his life. S/he would "live" lovemaking in those terms. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Setting the Scene

Spatters of blood painted the wooden porch. The macabre crimson stains stood out in stark contrast against the cozy grouping of an Adirondak chair and wooden bench revealed in the muted glow of the porch light. The leafy fronds of a fern by the door rustled in the warm breeze. Inside the house, a trail of scarlet drops traced a path through the living room, over the carpet and hardwood floor. The trail continued through the kitchen, the dark stains almost invisible against the Brazilian Cherry flooring. A trickle of bright red blood flowed down the blue wall in the bathroom. Pink tinted drops splashed and stained the sink as water mixed with blood poured down the drain.

Many a suspense novel or horror movie starts in this manner. You may be wondering what horrific crime has occurred or where the villain is hiding or where he may strike next...

But alas, there is no villain this time. Not even a dreamy vampire to be found. This isn't from the page of a book or script. No...the above simply describes the beginning of our night last Thursday.

It all started with a possum.

The hubby and I were sitting out on the porch enjoying the warm summer evening. As we chatted, I happened to glance over to the stairs. To my surprise, I saw a furry head poking out from between the top step and the porch floor. (The steps are in dire need of repair, which is why there is a gap between the cement and the wood.) I crawled up off of the bench I was sitting on and onto the ledge surrounding the porch and, quite calmly, told my other half about the critter. He told me not to make a sound and explained he was going inside to get his knife so he could stab it in the head. When he came back out, I made a hasty exit. Although I'm not an animal lover, I didn't want to witness any of that. A few minutes later he came back in and exchanged the knife for one of his hunting arrows.

At this point I pretty much figured it was a foregone conclusion we'd wind up in the emergency room. At the very least, he was going to need a rabies shot.

In the meantime, I finished what I was doing on the computer and closed it down for the night. I hadn't heard any type of commotion, so I peeked outside and asked what had happened with the critter. He said it had scampered away into the bushes. I told him I was going up to read, but then realized how nice it still was outside. It was only about 9:30, so I decided to sit a spell and headed toward my bench.

And that's when it happened. I stepped right on the hunting arrow he'd laid on the porch.

A half hour later we were indeed headed to the emergency room. After two-and-a-half hours in the waiting room, they put me on a gurney in the hall in the ward (It was so crowded they didn't have a room for me.) and I wound up with three stitches in the bottom of my foot and a tetanus shot. And got to witness the craziness of the ER on a Thursday night on the eve of the Summer Solstice. There were drunk people, alarms going off, cops everywhere, and they even brought in a lady with restraints on her arms and legs and a mesh bag over her face...apparently so she wouldn't bite or spit at the paramedics. The doc on call said I was his first set of stitches for the night and it was nice to have such a mundane task. (Gee, so glad I could oblige.)

We got home around two-thirty with a pair of crutches, instructions to keep the wound clean and dry, and orders to call my own doctor and set up an appointment to have the stitches taken out the following Friday.

Which meant we had to cancel our trip to Missouri. Crutching around down in the Ozarks while trying to keep clean and dry was pretty much out. And I can't drive, and the crutches are really awkward and hurt my arms after a while, so I'm pretty much staying here at home. However, it's been rainy and dreary, so it hasn't been too much of a problem to be homebound.

On the up side of things...we'll probably need to replace the rug (which we both hate) in the living room (The blood cleaned up well off of the floors and wall, but not so much the carpet.) and I've gotten a lot of use out of the Jacuzzi tub we installed when we redid the bathroom, but usually gets passed over for the shower stall upstairs. Yep, it's been tubbies all week with the foot propped on the side out of the water.

At some point I need to work the experience into a book somehow, right?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Be sure to check out my other blog, Authors By Moonlight, for a chance to win a Kindle during our Summer Solstice Bash. Just click on the contest link for more information.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Croatian Inspiration

Two weeks ago, I was wondering if my trip to Croatia would provide me with any inspiration for a novel. I’m happy to report success!

On the third day, as we travelled along the coast from the small town of Omis (where we were staying) to the city of Split, our tour manager, Kevin, pointed out several boatyards. He told us the Croatians used to be excellent shipbuilders, but most had now turned their hands to converting ancient rusty fishing boats into luxury yachts. We actually saw one of these ‘conversions’ at a small port near to Split – it’s the one on the left which Kevin said he’d seen in its original rusty state, and watched the conversion over several months.

The cogs started turning in my mind. Smuggling, maybe? Or what if something had been hidden on the old fishing boat, and ‘someone’ (a few years later) needed to find whatever it was?

Later during the tour, Kevin gave us a lot of information about the war in the 1990s between the Croats and Serbs, and my original idea started to grow. What if the fishing boat had been used to bring someone out of Croatia during the war, maybe because he’d been spying on Serb positions in the mountains, and relaying information to the Croatian army? And suppose the rescue went wrong – and the boat held the clue to who had compromised the mission?

I put this basic scenario to Kevin and asked him if it was feasible. Yes, he said, and then proceeded to give me more information about the many islands off the coast, especially one that (from the mainland) can only be seen from a Croatian fort that guarded a mountain pass (and thus protected the city of Split from being attacked by the Serbs). Even better, during the Communist era, this island had been a military base, and had a port and landing strip.

Now the cogs really were starting to whizz around, and by the end of the week, I’d drafted a short prologue about an unsuccessful rescue in 1993.

Jump forward 20 years, and perhaps the daughter of someone involved in the rescue comes to Croatia to find out just what happened to her father. Of course, she’ll then meet the hero, and …

Well, that’s about as far as I’ve got at the moment, apart from a few scenes with the hero and heroine. For example, he’s going to take her in a small launch up the Cetina river from Omis –
and he’ll take her to a traditional ‘klapa’ night at a hotel – four (or more) men singing Dalmatian songs a capella. I have my own experiences to draw on for both these scenes.

Kevin must have read my mind because, on the last day, he asked me if I’d bought the CD of the klapa singers who entertained us in Split. When I said I hadn’t, he pulled a CD from his bag and gave it to me, saying, “Play this to inspire you while you’re writing your story."
Sunset from our hotel near Dubrovnik

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Blog Tour Results

Well, I’m two-thirds of the way through my blog tour with Goddess Fish Promotions and I have to say I’m pretty pleased with the results. They set up a two-week excerpt tour, with each stop offering an exclusive excerpt of my book, as well as my bio and the book blurb. People who comment will be entered into a drawing to win an Amazon gift card and chocolate. I wasn’t required to respond to comments, although I did because I think it’s important to build relationships with readers. This last week is a review tour, where I provided a .pdf copy to five different review bloggers and each one publishes their review on a different day of the week. So far, I received an excellent review today; who knows what will happen with the rest of the days. Commenters are also entered into the drawing I mentioned above.

I haven’t yet seen my sales for the book, and I still don’t understand how to measure hits on Google, but I will say that I’ve reached many more people than I have setting up my own blog tours. And many of the people who commented have followed the tour every day—perhaps they just really like chocolate—but it’s given me a chance to start a relationship with them, and based on the comments back and forth, I’m definitely finding success with that. Several of the people who have left comments have said they downloaded the book based on the tour, or are planning to do so.

I’m seeing fewer comments on the review side of the tour, although I’m still getting them. Some of that could be that I’m not really publicizing the review tour on social media; if I get a good review, I publicize the Amazon review on Facebook and Twitter, that way, it’s a bit of a different announcement from me.

Overall, I think I’d do this again; however, I’d make one significant change. I would not set up my own blog tour right before the Goddess Fish one. I think people get tired of me, especially my Facebook friends, and hearing me plug my book for three weeks in a row, every day, gets a bit old. Next time around, I’ll spread the two tours out more.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Back on the psychiatrist's couch

      "I love books, Doctor Lexicon," I say. "Hardcover, softcover, classic, trashy. Every kind of book. Even e-books. I always have."
      He nods sympathetically and then urges me to continue.
      "When I was young, I wanted to be a biblipole. I'd scour garage sales hoping to discover an original Little Women. That came in two volumes, you know. Or a forgotten first edition Whitman." I sigh. "I was so naive."
      "How so?" His voice is high-pitched, Freudian.
      My face floods with shame. It's the reason I'm lying on his couch again.
      "I love all books," I repeat. "And books are made up of words."

       I stop on the precipice of my confession, search his sunglasses until I see a glint of reassurance, and   
blurt out, "I don't love all words."
       He exhales sharply, his cheeks flapping like they're in the windblast of a slamming-shut Gutenberg Bible. Consummate professional, he quickly reasserts his composure. "Which words?"
      "Pert and frisson," I whisper. "It happened when I switched from thrillers to romances."
       He opens a dictionary. "Pert: Impudent; a pert remark. High-spirited, as in lively. Jaunty, like a ponytail."
       "Doctor, does pert mean turned up? Can can a nose be pert? A chin high-spirited? Breasts impudent?"
      "The meanings of words evolve over time. Let's move on to frisson. It comes from Latin frgre, meaning to be cold. Old French changed it to fricons, a trembling. An almost pleasurable sensation of fright or shock. A quiver, shudder, tingle, chill, thrill, shiver."
      "Can it be used in love scenes?"
      He smiles. "Close your eyes. Imagine you are at a party and the man you secretly love walks in. His eyes search the room until they land on you. He starts toward you, wanting to talk to you. You shiver with anticipation, with excitement. That's frisson."
      My mind relaxes, and I know I will finally be able to sleep again. I understand frisson.
      And pert implies sass mixed with beguile.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another New Cover!

To say I'm blown away by the cover for This Feels Like Home is an understatement. I just love, love, love it. It is so perfect for the story. It might just be my favorite of all of my covers so far.

And on that note, I'll just let it speak for itself...

Can a danger-addicted cowboy and a safety-conscious urbanite ever see eye-to-eye?

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Public Speaking

They say writers are introverts. They say writers like to be alone with their imaginary characters. They say writers are “word people.”

Well, I don’t know who “they” are, and I certainly can’t speak for all writers, but for myself, I’d have to say that the above statements are at least partially true. I’m not a complete introvert, but I’m not a complete extrovert, either. It depends on the situation, and my comfort zone lies somewhere in between the two. I like to listen, although I do also like to make people laugh. When my “imaginary characters” cooperate, yes, I like to be alone with them—they’re my means of escape from the crazy outside world. But I’m not a hermit and I love to be with my family and friends. I do like words, but that doesn’t mean I’m an expert by any means.

The thing about being a writer that makes me laugh, though, is that it has forced me out of my comfort zone so many times, and continues to do so. Take, for example, a phone call I received yesterday. An old friend from my temple, who moved away earlier this year, called me to see if I would be interested in speaking to her Hadassah group about writing Jewish romances.

My usual response, before becoming a writer—and yes, I realize that if I wasn’t a writer, I wouldn’t have been asked to speak about this particular topic; work with me here—would have been to drop the phone. But I’ve actually been asked to do this, with maybe slightly different topics, often enough that I took it in stride, although the offer to pay me threw me for a bit of a loop!

I’m happy to talk to the group. I know that the more I get out there, the more books I’ll sell. And I also realize that public speaking is a muscle that has to be exercised. I’ve even started working on what I can say, after a frantic call to my mother. Now I just need to work up the courage to stand in front of a room full of people and speak.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bees are not in my bonnet

One of my summertime activities is beekeeping. We have at least one hive per garden for pollination, good vibrations, and personal fascination. And wonderful raw honey for oatmeal breakfasts.

Yesterday Sarah and I put a second deep super on the new hive behind the garden shed. The white specks in the air are bees.  The hive cover is next to my feet. I am staring into the hive at bees, frames and brood. We didn't smoke the bees; it was sunny and warm, and they are not yet up to full strength.
This was a good call--we didn't have any angry bee buzzing or stings.

Bees are amazing and essential creatures. They are also suffering from mysterious problems that science has not solved. I have read many bee books and try to keep up with bee news (this post's link to words and writing).

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Elusive On/Off Switch

I had grand writing plans for the summer. I pictured myself happily typing away out on the front porch, back by the pond, or even in the living room. Words would pour from my finger tips and the pages would accumulate faster than I ever imagined. My story would take shape, my characters would come to life, I'd be back in the groove.

So far, that hasn't happened. Now granted, I'm only officially less than a week into summer vacation. But I've discovered that getting back on track with my writing isn't like turning a light switch on. There's much more to it. Motivation. Drive. Persistence. And the willingness to sit and actually get it done. Those things have not yet made an appearance. I've dabbled in some other writing things. I finished my second round of edits on This Feels Like Home and came up with an opening letter to the readers. I've made a list of the things I need to do to update my web-site. But other than that...

...Zip. Nada. Zilch.

I have a project I could be working on. And an idea for another one. I just don't have the aforementioned drive or motivation to do anything about them.

I've been caught up in the sheer joy of being able to run errands (in my convertible now that the weather is warm - FINALLY!) during the day. Of getting together with friends in the evening or watching triple overtime playoff hockey (Go Hawks!) and not having to worry about going to bed early because I have to get up in the morning. Of taking a book out onto the front porch and enjoying the sounds of summer around me while I immerse myself in someone else's story. All of these things are wonderful. But they aren't helping me one whit get going with my writing.

At this point, I'm not sure if I force it...just get the dang lap top out and do something...or if I just wait it out. I mean, let's be honest, it's not like I have adoring legions of fans out there just waiting on pins and needles for my next book. This is a hobby for me. Something fun to do. If I make it into more thing to stress me out that I feel like I have to get done, there's no joy in that. This brings me to the conclusion that I couldn't ever be a full-time writer. If I actually had to make a living doing this, I'm pretty sure I'd wind up in the poor house.

But I would like to recapture the fun, the joy, the pleasure of writing. So like Scarlett says, " After all, tomorrow is another day." Because today I'm heading off to the Botanic Gardens with a friend, then lunch, then to get my nails done.

Ah summer.

Until next time,

Happy Reading!


Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Tomorrow I go to Croatia for a week. I don’t really know very much about this part of south-east Europe but I’ve heard the scenery is beautiful, so I’m really looking forward to seeing it, and finding out more about it.

I’m wondering, too, if it will provide me with any inspiration for a novel. After all (as I’m sure you will recall), it was my vague musings aboard a Nile cruise ship that led to ‘Her Only Option.’

Inspiration can strike in so many different ways. Sometimes it’s a place that captures your imagination, other times it may be an anecdote about a person or an event. It can be something you see or hear, or simply, as happened with me, a vague musing about something that ‘might’ happen.

It seems to me that you can’t ‘force’ inspiration. It happens, often unexpectedly, when something strikes a kind of chord in your mind, and then won’t go away. A seed is sown, and starts growing …

So – Croatia, here I come (as long as I can manage to get up at 4am tomorrow, as we have to be at the airport at 5am!)

And here's Dubrovnik, where I shall be staying for part of the week. 



Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What's Your Plan?

One of the questions I get asked most often is whether or not I have a specific writing schedule.

Usually, I respond by explaining that when my kids were younger, I used to write at night, but as they, and I, got older, I tended to do most of my writing while the kids are in school. Makes sense. The house is totally empty and in theory, I should have about six hours of uninterrupted writing time.

Yeah, right. Add in phone calls, walking the dog, errands and all the other various work that I do and that six hours whittles down to maybe one or two at the most. Still a nice chunk of time, although not nearly as impressive as those six!

Well, for the past two weeks, I’ve been lucky if I could find even half of that to write. My book released, and I’ve been on a promo frenzy. The school year is almost done and suddenly my kids need end-of-year project supplies RIGHT NOW. They leave for camp in two weeks and there is packing and shopping an organizing to do (none of which I’ve actually started). And I have a major fundraising project that I’m chairing that is in the organizational stages, which is sucking even more time away from me.

Needless to say, if I write 75 words at a stretch, I do a major cheer.

However, my kids are leaving for camp in two weeks! And that will give me three and a half weeks of uninterrupted writing time. Now, don’t laugh. I know I said that above when I talked about having time while they’re in school. And I know that things will get in the way while they’re away. But my major goal this summer while they’re at camp is to spend the majority of my days writing. Just like I spent February writing 1,000 words a day, I’m aiming for at least that while they’re away. And my incentive, to keep that up, is the NJ Romance Writer’s Put Your Heart in a Book Conference in October. I’m going, and I’m pitching agents on one of the two stories I’m currently writing. I even told my husband I’m not doing any of the house projects I usually tackle while they’re away.

So I have a goal and I have a deadline. I think I’m going to be able to do it. Want to join me?