Category Archives: sex

Brainstorm Update

First of all, if you’re just happening by or need the reminder, check out the Writing Challenges box in the sidebar for links to Round 2 of 70 Days of Sweat and NaNoWriMo 2007. 

As for progress, well, little by little.  I still don’t have a title for this one so I can start calling it something.  But I’ve done some work, mostly using PBW’s  Novel Notebook.  This story is set in a sort of fantasy/alternate history kind of world, which is something I don’t generally do (but have always wanted to), and it’s interesting to discover how very lazy I am at making myself sit down and figure things out.  So the notebook is definitely helping me do stuff and writing things down where I can find them again is always a good thing for someone like me.

So what’s today’s progress?  I don’t know what my Black Moment is, but I know what it will have to be about, if that makes sense to you.  I sort of saw how an early physical encounter between my h/h plays out, I know more or less where it goes in the time line, and how it affects other stuff.  In series news, I had a thought about the love interest of a background character in the current story and figured out, sort of, how I’m  going to bring that love interest into the world. 

In the last few days I’ve done a bunch of work on my h/h (that’s hero/heroine, you know that, right?) and roughed out (really rough) a plot from beginning to end.  It lacks specifics in huge ways like: “Something happens here that causes the hero to have to reveal his secret which makes him want to run the other way, but the event also forces the hero and heroine to go on the run together.”  Vagueness at a level you weren’t sure was possible.  But now you know.

So still needing to do research, work out some more of the stuff for the series as a whole, and make myself just do work.  But we’re getting there.

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WOTM Update: Simon Says More Stuff

You know, writing sex doesn’t really bother me.  But it seems like every time I write for villain Simon I have that dirty, what will my family think, not so fresh feeling.

But know why?  ‘Cause it was that good!

 Ok, I’m punchy.  Partly ’cause I’m trying to shake off this sicko freak I just wrote about, and partly ’cause I’ve got Kettle over here telling me how she’s got FIVE count ’em FIVE scenes left to write in her manuscript.  How exciting is that?

Ok, back to WOTM.  The truth about heroine Alex, which we have always known, is about to become known to hero Matt.  Black Moment?  Yeah, probably.  But let’s not call it that, ’cause I’ll just get more worked up and nervous if you make it that important. 

So, in preparation I wrote Simon having this flashback from his shared past with Alex.  Something that both reminds us we’re supposed to feel for her as a person and clarifies the why of that before we go into blowing it all out into the open.  It is, incidentally, the scene I talked about in the post A New Nightmare about how I thought up bad stuff to do to torture my heroine.  So I fleshed out the badness and that’s finally written. 

 And where does that leave us?  at 3282 so far this week, 35,096 for the Sweat, and 71,809 overall.

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The Romance Debate

Yeah, I would say that today the conversation Kettle and I had about what means Romance was more of a debate, since we each had some pretty different opinions.  Her post today is called What Makes a Romance.  Even though I’m going to excerpt the [expletive deleted] out of it, do go over and read hers so that you can give her your opinion (in other words, tell her that I’m right [what’s needed here is a little winky smiley, but as I’m sort of anti-smiley just pretend, k?]).

We’re critique partners, if you’re new here, and I am Pot to her Kettle.  It’s my sworn duty to point out stuff I think is off or lacking.  Sometimes with Kettle I feel like The Romance Inspector.  I wear pink coveralls and say, “Please open up your files, ma’am, we have to make sure you’ve got enough sexual tension in there and you’re not forgetting that this is a romance.”

But is it?  I know that Kettle enjoys reading romances, I know she wants a love story to be part of this book.  But does she want it to be a Romance, or am I trying to get her to write this book to order for me?  So I start questioning her on that, and that’s how we got into this whole thing about what makes a book a Romance.

For me a Romance means that the main focus of the book is on the development of the relationship between two people.  Whatever plot vehicle the author sets up to drive that around is secondary.  I accept the fact that in romantic suspense, the suspense plot is considered just as important as the relationship plot, and as long as the relationship plot doesn’t take a back seat to that, and other rules either aren’t broken or are broken well, I’ll consider that a Romance.

Which brings us to some rules.  I’m not going to talk about all of them, but there are some that Kettle and I talked about that she talked about in her post.  Let’s go see what she said…

In our earlier discussion, Pot and I were listing some sort of “rules of Romance.” I started out with 1) a happily ever after, 2) heroines that are not too stupid to live, and she added (because it didn’t occur to me) 3) no infidelity, 4) no multiple partners, 5) no abusive significant others (in terms of heroes). The latter 3 didn’t occur to me because those are just morally wrong in real life and it wouldn’t cross my mind to use them in a book unless I was showing the negative side of some character.

Although I brought up some of those rules to Kettle because I know a lot of people are set on those, for some of them there’s some wiggle room for me.  1) and HEA is an absolute. 2) the thing about TSTL heroines for me is about all books, not just Romance, so it’s not included in my rule-set- it doesn’t help determine if a book is or isn’t. 3) no infidelity- almost always, with the exceptionally rare exception–but please, don’t try this at home, and provide a warning label on the cover if you’re going to shelve it in my section. 4) no multiple partners- well…after what happened to Anita Blake, after she crossed over to the Dark Side and seemed to lose all character, it more than ever seems that monogamy is the way to go.  But I have read stories that invite a third person into the bedroom.  As long as both characters are into it, as long as you make me believe in the emotional attachment between the two, I’m willing to see them entertain a third.  But for heaven’s sake, be careful!  5) no abuse to SO’s- well, first I think the parenthetical is funny, ’cause like if the heroine kicks his ass, that’s ok?  But anyway, I can’t make 5 a rule because a started reading romance in the bodice-ripper era.  And while those were sort of written so that the abuse had to seem forgivable, I think we accept now that it wasn’t.  But abuse happens in some relationships.  If you can show me two people working past it, it can be a Romance.  Obviously, my sense of morality is a bit more fluid.  So I would say that my two big rules are that the story has to have a happy ending, and that it has to be about two people falling in love– it doesn’t even have to be a man and woman, necessarily, though that is my preference, if you can make be feel something.

Because I read Romance to feel what it feels like to fall in love.  I’ve been married for almost 16 years.  I’m in love every day, but I’m not really falling in love, and I miss it.  Kettle says that as long as a love story is a big part of the book, it’s a romance for her.  If I pick up a thriller or a fantasy and there’s a love story, bonus.  It’s more likely I’m going to finish it.  But if I buy a Romance and that relationship I’m reading for, those feelings, that story, fades into the background, I’ve been cheated out of what I read for.  It’s just not fair to say that just because there’s some love story it’s a Romance.  Romance is more important than that.  It deserves more respect than that.  As a romance reader, I shouldn’t be expected to be satified by Mystery, now with 35% Romance.

I realize that the explosion of sub-genres make it confusing.  For me, a book stays in some other section unless the relationship plot becomes at least half of what the book is about.  I asked Kettle a question about her book about determining if it’s a romantic suspense, or a suspense with romance.  I asked, is it a story about a woman who faces this threat while having this romance, or is it about a man and a woman who are trying overcome their past and create a future while laboring under this threat?  Sometimes, when we’re trying to describe a story to someone else, it’s easier to talk in terms of the non-relationship plot because we think that’s the story that makes it different.  It tends to be how we think.  But in your head, what’s the story really about?  Is it about the threat or about the couple? 

My comment to Kettle’s post says that I think we have a difference of opinion on the word “primary”.  I think it’s preceeded by a “the”, whereas when she uses it it follows “a”.  I think the relationship should be “the primary” focus of the story for it to be a Romance (and despite the fact that Outlander broke some rules, I still think it focused on the relationship and would shelve it Romance).  Eve and Roarke’s relationship in JD Robb’s books is not always the center stage, even though it’s been a huge part of most of them.  That probably makes it “a primary” focus, but like I said, 35% isn’t good enough to get into my Romance section and I’d probably have to shelve those elsewhere (though with the greatest love and care).

About her own writing, Kettle says:

But the relationship is rarely the single focus. It’s usually couched in some sort of drama, suspense, paranormal event, etc. Houses of Cards is about the heroine outsmarting a serial killer. She has a bunch of relationship issues she has to deal with on her way to the HEA with the hero, but that’s secondary to the whole keeping him alive thing. Whether this is going to remain the case, I’m not sure.

No, I don’t think the relationship should be the single focus.  If it were, it would make sub-genres impossible and we’d lose a lot of good storytelling on which hang a lot of great love stories.  It’s a matter of importance.  Making the relationship, the falling in love icky love stuff important.  Always have that in your mind while you’re writing.  I’m not talking sex sex sex, but what Kettle quoted me as saying:

Don’t forget to remind us how they long for each other, how they don’t touch but want to, each for their own reason. Etc.

Sure, keeping your guy alive is important for the health of any good relationship (don’t confuse me with the technicalities of relationships with the undead right now).  I see where she (the character) is coming from.  But why?  Why is it so important to keep this man alive?  Just because it’s the right thing to do?  Or because she loves him, needs him, can’t live without him, wants to have his 2.5 babies?  If, while she’s thinking about keeping him alive, she’s thinking about that why, that’s what helps to make it romance.  And if, while that’s going on, he’s looking at her with desperation and longing, and she’s torn apart by the need to go to him and the need to maintain distance at the same time– !!!

As for this part:

When I get the germ of an idea for a book, it often begins with either a character or a scene.  And I’ll see these two interesting people and know that they’re going to be together and wonder how they get there.  But I don’t have a real system or method in place for making it a romance or some other kind of story.  It’s all kind of organic, I suppose.

I think that is similar for most writers.  And I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone should follow a formula or a checklist for developing their story.  But I think that when, in deepening your thinking at this stage, you start creating a story out of this twinkle in your mind, where you go with it has a lot to do with where your own interests and priorities lie.  You have the power, at this stage, to direct that twinkle into becoming a romance, or some other story in which the romantic aspects are merely a pleasant and fairly important aspect.  For some people this will be a conscious decision.  For others, it’s natural and unconscious.  Organic. 

So I don’t know if this post makes sense to anyone else, or even if it makes sense to me, for that matter.  I have a lot of thoughts on what makes a Romance, but I guess my main one for today was that putting in some man/woman stuff does not a Romance make.  I think too much of the genre to think that’s good enough.  And if you don’t want to write me a story that’s about two people falling in love while XY&Z are going on, that’s ok.  That doesn’t make you a bad person.  We can still be friends.

What do you think?  Besides that I’m unfocused and long-winded?  What do you want to see in your Romance section?

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Sherri L. King’s Steele

Steele coverWell, I finally gave in and bought an ebook from Ellora’s Cave.  Steele, a novella-length story just under 100 pages, is the first book in Sherri L. King’s Sterling Files series.  We don’t learn too much about Sterling, except that it’s a research company that studies people with “special abilities”, is funded by the government.  Sterling is rivaled by Siren Corp., a company which also studies such people, but with an aim toward designing questionable technologies based on their powers.

Brian Steele, known simply as “Steele” throughout, is first seen as an undefeated 13yo champion, fighting adult competitors in a world of illegal boxing.  He’s an interesting character, and you can see a depth and a lot of possibility to be developed.

Years into the future, having spent may years at Sterling, Steele uses his powers for good.  We see him again when he rescues newly “gifted” Marla Rivers from the clutches of Siren Corp.  Marla has just come out of a year long coma and seems to have some facility with electricity.  Thanks to Steele’s intervention, Marla agrees to be studied by Sterling. 

And there’s not a whole lot more to the story.  It’s an erotic novella, so I guess there’s not a lot of time to develop more about Marla’s powers, the research, nor to present any conflict within the relationship between Marla and Steele.

If you like to just see people dive into a relationship because they’re obviously meant to be together (and there’s nothing wrong with that!) then you’ll probably like this.  I wanted more.  More development of the characters, of the story, of their relationship…  There was a little too much perfection for me, the waif with the core of iron and her gentle giant.  It felt a little too much like wish fulfillment to me.

Still, it engaged me for a while, I’m interested in the concept overall and am sort of curious.  So I might read on in the series eventually.

In other news, it was a bad spending day for me.  I also bought Shiloh Walker’s The Hunters: Declan and Tori from Ellora’s Cave and from Amazon ordered Shannon McKenna’s Edge of Midnight, Brenda Novak’s Dead Right, and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.  Bad Susan.

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WOTM Update: Big Sister Envy

I know, it’s been a few days.  I knew this week would be bad.  My daughter’s birthday is this weekend and I’ve got a bunch of stuff to do for that, and since I’ve invited people to my home, I’m generally more nervous than usual and so that doesn’t help my concentration on Matt and Alex’s problems.

But last night Alex found the warning.  Originally, she found it in another time and place.  But when I opened up that hole and inserted the extra day, I decided to use it for something else.  So I had to move that chunk and rewrite it to fit (although I didn’t count that toward the word count).  After that, my villain was feeling sort of stalker-like and called my heroine on her cell phone.  She made a conscious effort not to be cliche, was plucky, and goaded him somewhat.  Theirs is sort of a complicated relationship that neither she nor I completely understands yet.

Anyway, in a little bit here I have to go be Matt and have some sexy thoughts about my heroine.  I’m not feeling particularly sexy this morning.

In fact, I feel sort of whiney.  Like you couldn’t tell.  This whole Sweat thing (see sidebar) has pretty much got me down.  It’s not that I do so very much editing as I go, but when I’m really busy with, you know, life, I tend to just leave things I’m not happy with and come back later and make them a little better before I dump them into the manuscript.  But having to report progress all the time is causing me to have to just dump what I have and move on, even when I know it’s not really what I wanted.  I feel very drive-by about it.

[Sigh]

I’ve been trying not to whine about it because complaining about the pace and not keeping the pace seems to me to be painting a big ol’ sign that says “Not Ready To Play With The Big Girls”.

And I do so want to play with the big girls.

They’re so cool.

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Ew. Sex is Icky

The other day I was reading a friend’s blog and- I hope you’ll forgive the vagueness and lack of linkage- she was referencing some article she had read about how sad it was that grown-ups were reading Harry Potter.  Obviously, this is not an article I’m going to rush off and read.  But she read it, and it got her dander up, and rightly so. 

You see, my friend enjoys fantasy, and a lot of her favorite books take place in fantastical worlds like Oz- places some people believe are only fit for children.  Which just goes to show that for some people, that Ally Sheedy line from The Breakfast Club really nails it: “When you grow up, your heart dies.”

Some of us who don’t have these sadly shriveled hearts enjoy reading engaging and often well-written and yeah, classic works of fiction that happen to be shelved in the young reader section. 

Now, whether you love or hate Harry Potter, I really don’t care.  It’s not the point of this post.  I, myself, have not been able to read through the third book.  While I enjoy Hogwarts while I’m hangin’ there, I have a very difficult time reading books that are not “what I read”.  Without a relationship to drive my interest in the story, it’s too easy for me to put the book down and go to something else.  Deal. 

The point was that in defense of her choice of reading, my friend said that part of reason for enjoying books marketed to young readers was that she didn’t have to read sex.

Yeah, I know.  She and I don’t do a whole lot of book-swaps. 

But it’s been on my mind for a few days.  I keep coming back to it.

And then, in a post titled RESPECT, Shiloh Walker was talking about how people look down their noses at those of us who read and write romance.  It’s a very well-written post, not whiny or ranty as these things tend to be, and if the subject interests you, check that out.  One of the things she said was “Romance isn’t about sex.” 

Which is completely true, and those of us who read and write it know that.

I’m not sure those who don’t know that are ever going to clue their way in.  It seems like those who look down their noses at romance have two main points: it’s badly written pulp trash, and it’s chick porn.

Thank goodness that romance is the only genre with a history that includes some badly written pulp trash and that that’s never happened in other genres like mystery, science fiction, and adventure.

But what’s getting me is this thing about reading sex.  Because it’s not just my friend by a long shot.  Even on one of the online romance reading communities to which I belong, members will post to the effect that Such and So was a good read because it didn’t have too much sex in it.  Like, ew, sex, icky.  (Of course, the next post will be: OMG, you have to read XYZ because it is just HOT, so there’s a range of tastes, obviously.)  And then there was the time when I came across a community in which writers with blogs had written a bit about themselves and wouldn’t you like to visit them, and I was stunned by the number of writers, especially older high school and college-aged writers, who seemed to so disdain writing about sex that they needed to mention that in their little ad.

I just can’t figure it out.  Why the ick about the sex?  And aren’t most of these same people who are so grossed out by those of us who want to read and write love and sex breaking out the popcorn for movies and television with adult themes, adult situations and nudity, often without the benefit of the demands of an actual relationship that the romance genre puts on such liasons?

I’m just askin’.

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WOTM Update: A New Nightmare

 I am god of my ficitional world, and I am not benevolent.

 But we’ll get to that.  So like I said, this morning I converted part of my notes into prose and posted my half week’s total to 70 Days (rather than constantly link to the same post, how about you just check out the sidebar and click the pic, huh?).  I forget now what I did this morning, eight hundred and something.

Then I sat down and finished converting those notes before I did other stuff, and dumped another 1400+ into my manuscript.  After checking my blogs and chatting with Kettle a bit, I wrote another half a scene at 565, and I let that sit a while before dumping it in the manuscript too.

So I was cleaning my kitchen and listening to my WOTM playlist and I had a nightmare.  Which, for my villain who has the dream– well, it’s probably not such a bad thing for him.  It’s a flashback dream about something that happens involving the heroine, and it shows part of her background that we don’t really get to know about except through her thoughts.  And while she’s plenty remorseful about some stuff, she tries to avoid self-pity, and I think that gives us a skewed view of what she’s been through.  Enter this dream.

I made copious notes on it.  I got a lot of detail, even a bit of dialogue, though there’s not going to be very much.  I’m sort of missing the details in the climax, but that might come when I go to convert it.  If not, Kettle might could lend me some help with that.  She has a bit of a gift for the mind of the maniac.

Then I was saying to Kettle, I was really happy with the idea and what I was able to do with it.  But at the same time, I feel very very sad for what I did to my heroine.

Do you feel remorse when you make bad things happen to good story people?

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WOTM Update: Between Us

Whew.

I’m not changing my counter today.  Just between us, word count for my work today was 1241.  But it’s all in the loose style I talked about in the previous post so I’ll be reworking it tomorrow and whatever I get then is what I’ll add to the “official” tally. 

Yesterday something happened that brought up a lot of repressed grief for my heroine.  Today was the reaction to that.  So there was a lot of emotionality, a lot of physical stuff, and you know that that kind of stuff tends to take me a long time to work through.  Because it’s hard, yes, but it’s hard because it’s important.  I’m really happy with what I have, though, and I think it will clean up well.  Sometimes, I think I secretly like to write the icky love stuff because I feel more confident that I’ve done a good job when I’m finished than I do about the rest of it. 

But that would be a deep, dark secret that no one knows for certain, not even me.

Hmmm…fried much?  Yeah, going to bed now.  ‘Night.

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WOTM Update: Finally

So it was almost a week since the last time I wrote anything, but I finally sat down and wrote a scene last night.  1384 words in which my bad guy imagined doing Very Bad Things to my heroine. 

 It was one of those–Perhaps I should consider a pseudonym– sort of scenes.  You know what I’m talking about?  I have ever been somewhat secretive about my writing in general, but it’s always been more of an issue of overall quality and fear of failure (if no one knows you do something, they can’t very well think you’re a failure at it, right?) than worry over anyone reading any particular part.  But last night I had two clear thoughts about what I wrote:

  • Will my quite religious family read this and disown me? and
  • Why, once I let myself get rolling with it, was it so much easier to write this sick shit than a love scene between my main characters?

Why indeed.

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WOTM Update: In Which Sx Is Abbreviated

Today’s word count: 500.

Yeah, it was really all I could do.  By the time I got to 497 I had been at it off and on going on 8 hours with CONSTANT interruptions and I was just so aggravated I was close to tears.  I just wanted to BE DONE already and get on with their lives.

And it’s not that I don’t like writing love scenes.  On the contrary.  But there was something either about this or about me lately that–man. 

Anyway, the frustration and tearful rage, not so much the way to have sex.  So I decided to stop what I was doing and come back to it some other time, wrote “and she came” as my last 3 words (no, really), and saved the stupid thing.

And that’s done for a while.  Whew.  Let me just say that from the beginning of the love scene to where I cut it off it was 5462 words.  So way to go Matt!

Next up, the morning after.  Oh, awkwardness.  Hurray!  No, wait.  Let me vacuum up the all the hair I pulled out this morning first.

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