Archive for February, 2009



Happy Valentine’s Day!
by Annette McCleave on February 14th, 2009

We hope you all have a truly romantic day with the hero of your dreams.

The random number was 15, which means the lucky winner of SJ Day’s EVE OF DARKNESS ARC is Jane. Congratulations, Jane! We’ll be sending your prize out ASAP. Do drop by on April 14th when SJ is guest blogging with us and share your favorite parts.

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Those Kinds of Books
by KimLenox on February 13th, 2009

I write those kinds of books. Everyone knows what those kinds of books are. They are books with sex scenes. If you go to the bookstore, you will find my books in the Romance section.

What is it that separates romance novels from … well, porn? Well, first and foremost, a romance novel is usually a really great story. A love story. An adventure story. Or an against all odds story. It’s very rarely a sex story.

Over the Christmas holiday, my father-in-law told me he read and enjoyed my book. He talked about my characters, and the plot, and his ideas on what might happen in the next book. As a non-romance reader, he also told me he was surprised by how little “romance” was in the book. That was his polite, father-in-lawish way of saying, “I expected four hundred pages of sex.” Surprise! Romance authors actually write stories. Plots. Fiction! Our books, despite their provocative covers and titles, are sexy, yes — but so much more.

But despite that — and I think other authors will agree with me on this — it’s inevitable. You’re at a booksigning, and some guy is going to stop at your table and fan through the pages of your book until he can find one of those scenes to read aloud. Loudly.

But any sex, stripped of its meaning, is just sex. Out of context, a love scene is tawdry. Florid. Purple. In reality, that guy is no different than a Peeping Tom.

He’s looking in a “window” at people he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know their story. They don’t mean anything to him. And he’s gawking at them at their most intimate moment.

But when a reader starts a book on page one, and falls into the story and the characters, by the time they hit that same scene that the guy at the booksigning made sound so insignificant … the scene seems right and natural.

Isn’t that how sex should be?

Your Mother Writes WHAT???
by Our Guest on February 12th, 2009

Children, parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, co-workers, fellow school volunteers — we’ve all got ‘em and like it or not, every one of them has expectations of who we’re supposed to be. As moms, we are the source of all knowledge and wisdom — at least until our children reach middle school age, at which point we cease to know anything useful at all. But even so, according to my daughters we’re still supposed to uphold certain principles even if those principles appear to be completely ignored for the next several years. We’re helpful daughters, loving wives, respected members of our communities, not to mention the champions of morality and keepers of the American Way.

We’re NICE ladies, right?

Yeah, and surely nice ladies don’t think about, let alone write about…THAT!

Yes, well. The very best piece of advice I ever got when it came to writing love…no, let’s call them what they are…sex scenes was to put everyone you know utterly out of your mind. You’ve got to forget that eventually your dad is going to read what his little princess wrote, that your Auntie Matilda has a bit of a heart condition, or that your minister’s wife might happen to see your name glaring out at her from the romance shelves (because yes, even your minister’s wife probably reads romance). In fact, I once heard the fabulous Theresa Medeiros say that during church services, people would be passing her books over the pews for her to autograph. And it isn’t as if her sex scenes are what you’d call tame — oh no, indeed! What they are is passionate and intense and REAL.

Remember, it’s about your hero and heroine — and only your hero and heroine, and every scintillating plot point that brought them to this moment. It’s time to lock the rest of the world out of that imaginary bedroom — or mossy glade, kitchen table or the back seat of a limo — just as you would when you actually…you know…do it. I can guarantee you, you’re not thinking about your grandma then, so forget about her disapproving “tsk tsk” while you’re writing and thrust ahead, pump out those details, and impale your readers with some all-out, mind-blowing and darn it all, NAUGHTY sexual action!

Oh, and my husband adds his advice: lots and lots of empirical research. Typical man.

And don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win Sylvia Day’s Eve of Darkness!

Sex and other demons
by Sharon Ashwood on February 11th, 2009

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Love scenes are some of the most difficult to write. They’re like any other action scene in some regards, but in romance books they carry the weight of the story’s emotional arc. As others have mentioned, they have to flow from and add to the plot and characterization without coming off as the scribblings of a thirteen year old boy annotating his biology textbook. Nor can they spring out of the woodwork like a badly-planned musical number. There has to be an effortless grace about the whole thing; your characters getting it on must be the natural outcome of all the proceeding scenes.

Hint: effortless grace = hours of weeping and gnashing of teeth at the keyboard.

Once in a while the characters sashay into a turbulent affair without any involvement on my part. The rest of the time, getting the ball rolling requires a nudge on the part of the author, especially when there are those interspecies barriers to conquer. Sometimes that nudge turns into dire physical threat. Ever tried to make a demon kiss a vampire? Nothing worse than a manly demon going red in the face and saying, “Fangs! Ucky! Bleh!” Demons: they’re never professional about these things.

Just because your character is a figment of the imagination doesn’t mean he or she is going to quietly comply. First drafts can be as awkward as first dates—complete with stilted dialogue, unclear motivation, and inadequate pay-off. One misplaced modifier can bring the whole thing crashing to the ground. And then, when things get hot and heavy, there is the problem of repetition. And mechanics. I mean, it’s all good (hopefully) when you’re the one involved, but on paper the standard manoeuvres get pretty banal. Sadly, though, experimentation in the interests of fresh content can lead to the improbable, potentially painful or outright silly. And then there’s the problem of explaining all those special research books to drop-in guests. The life of a romance writer has hidden social pitfalls, but that’s another topic.

Yes, the tingly wonder of a grade A love scene is a fine piece of craftsmanship. The more it flows, the more it’s been polished—and we’re not pursuing that metaphor one step further. I take my hat off to the real masters of the steamy moment—those that can turn the printed page into a heart-stopping, breath-catching experience. Which ones do you remember? Who deserves the prize of Cupid’s golden arrow?

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Love is in the air…
by Annette McCleave on February 10th, 2009

I used to struggle writing love scenes. Not because I was shy about describing what was going on, but because of the very reason Jessa mentioned in her post yesterday—as a reader, I often skipped them. I felt they were necessary to show the developing depth of the relationship, but weren’t really critical to the plot.

Oh dear. I write love stories. How can a love scene not be critical to the plot of a love story?

Exactly.

So, I took a step back, thinking. I discovered I plotted love scenes as events that HAD to happen, instead of just letting the relationship run its own course. I orchestrated them, instead of letting the characters do whatever felt right. And by thinking that way, I had turned a very special and potentially defining moment into WORK.

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So, I relaxed. I stopped planning the love scenes. Strangely, even when I consciously gave myself permission to write a story with no love scene at all, love scenes popped up. Why? Because they were the natural evolution of the relationship. I find the love scenes I pen now are both easier to write and more in tune with the characters’ personalities. They’re now tightly connected to the characters’ story arc and, therefore, an integral part of the plot. :smile:

I know there are more people than just Jessa and I who skip love scenes. Question: As a reader, do you find that there are more great love scenes written today than, say, ten years ago? Do today’s romance novels speak more to the true power of love, or less?

Romance writers do it for love
by Jessa Slade on February 9th, 2009

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Currently working on: The big bad
Mood: Teeth gritting

Happy almost Valentine’s Day!

What better time of the year to talk about writing sex scenes than Valentine’s Day? Er, not that Valentine’s Day is all about sex, but it does tend to go there, doesn’t it? If it’s done right, of course :wink:

I’ll be honest here (and honesty is a useful tool for Valentine’s Day AND writing sex scenes); I often skim sex scenes when I’m reading. Not because I’m a vaguely repressed romance writer working out her problems in cheap self-therapy on the page, but because – like a long-term comfortable relationship where maybe the fires have dimmed a little – sex scenes can sometimes feel rote and perfunctory. We’ve all heard the tease about romance novels where you crack the spine at the halfway point and, whoopsie, fell into bed and had sex.

Even with whips and whipping cream – even with prehensile tentacles if you read the farther-out-there stuff – the sex has to MEAN something. I want my sex scenes to work harder, to get down and dirty, and go deeper…

Okay, I can see this posting has the potential to get me into trouble. But that’s exactly what I want from my sex scenes. The potential for trouble. I want to know that this scene is important – just like all the rest of the story. That clues and pitfalls and moments of truth are hidden in the otherwise eons-old insertion of tab into slot.

So how do you create a special Valentine’s Day – and a special sex scene?

Engage all the senses: The archetypical Valentine’s Day includes chocolate, champagne, roses, and a candle-lit bubble bath. So too on the physical level, a good sex scene should play with every nerve ending – the thick creaminess of the dark chocolate, the gleam of flame-light on slick wet skin, the rich sweet scent of the roses as the petals float across the water only to sink under a surging splash as he raises himself over her… But Valentine’s and sex scenes aren’t just about the physical.

Reveal more: Hey, we’ve all bought Valentine’s Day panties. And let’s just say the price does not reflect the square footage. I like a sex scene that uncovers something about our heroine. It’s a dangerous moment, that unveiling. In opening herself to the hero, she risks more than the twenty bucks spent at Victoria’s Secret. Our hero faces the same moment, but please don’t picture him in Valentine’s Day panties. I mean, unless that’s your thing. Although I’d go more Abercrombie & Fitch.

Find the core: No, you naughty-minded reader, not THAT core. Well, actually yes, that core too. But I was thinking of that defining moment that is the reason you cannot skim a good sex scene – it’s the moment the hero metaphorically pulls out the velvet Valentine’s Day jeweler’s box. Locked in that dark, protective box is a shining jewel that he will hand to the heroine for safekeeping. Will she accept? Whatever comes next (and you know there’s more to come), that bond will mark them forever.

A spontaneous sexual romp on a sunny Sunday afternoon is wonderful too – in real life and in a book – but the ritual that is Valentine’s Day and the crafting of a meaningful sex scene can be as sharp-edged and delicate as scissors wielded on a construction paper heart, with as many mixes messages as a box of candy hearts. The story that doesn’t miss a beat here can win my heart.

What was your most memorable experience of Valentine’s Day? The passing of those cheap little postcards in grade school? An impromptu game of spin the bottle? A proposal from your hero?

Don’t forget to leave a comment
for your chance to win SJ Day’s EVE OF DARKNESS!

Leave a comment = Chance to win a book!
by Jessa Slade on February 9th, 2009

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Cursed by God, hunted by demons, desired by Cain and Abel… EVE OF DARKNESS

S.J. Day, who’ll be guest blogging with us in April, has offered one of our lucky commenters this week an ARC of the first book in her Marked series, EVE OF DARKNESS. This fabulous new urban fantasy trilogy from Tor releases back-to-back starting in April. To learn more about Eve, the books, or SJ, visit her website at www.sjday.net.

We’ll draw the winner on Saturday – Valentine’s Day! – so scroll down to leave a comment on any post this week for a chance to win!

It’s RAVENOUS release week!
by Sharon Ashwood on February 8th, 2009

RAVENOUS is going to be released February 3! One person who comments this week will get an autographed copy, so talk to us, people!

The Great Escape
by KimLenox on February 6th, 2009

When I consider the question, “What do readers want?” I have to do as my fellow Silk & Shadows cohorts have done, and think: “What do I as a reader want?”

Oh, but that’s such a hard question to answer. When I go to the bookstore, I zoom back and forth all over the store, stopping to look over anything that snags my interest. I never know what I want — I just know it when I see it. Then the book sprouts invisible suckers and tentacles and clings to my hand until I pay for it and take it home. At least that’s what I tell my husband when he says, “More books?”

I’ve usually got about four books going at one time. 1. A romance novel 2. A non-romance fiction novel 3. A research/history type book and 4. a craft book about writing. It just depends on how I feel at the moment, as to what I want to read.

Every once in a while, I read about a third of a book and realize it’s just not for me. We all have different sensibilities and interests. Just because a book doesn’t keep my attention, doesn’t mean it won’t be someone else’s new favorite.

But I think what I want most out of a book is to be swept away. Transported into another place — into the midst of a story. I want to forget myself and my surroundings, and become immersed in the ongoing “movie” of my characters’ world and whatever exciting event is taking place in their lives. Kind of how the Narnia characters walk through the wardrobe, and find themselves in a fantastical alternate world.

Passing through the pages of a book should be like that. Only the fictional world doesn’t have to be magical or involve talking lions. Even if the story takes place in Small Town USA, or a house by the lake, I want to be there, and I want to experience the whole thing as if I’m there. I’m not necessarily talking about setting details — I’m talking about a good story. It’s our job as writers to make that happen for a reader!

It’s Friday! Who’s headed to the bookstore this weekend? I’m curious — how do you shop? Are you drawn in by covers? Do you read a chapter before you buy? Do you read only certain kinds of books, or are you an all-over-the-place kind of reader?

The Same Old Stories — But NOT!
by Our Guest on February 5th, 2009

What do readers want?

ACTION:

ADVENTURE:

A touch of DANGER:

Let us not forget UNBRIDLED PASSION:

And, of course, A JOYOUSLY HAPPY ENDING:

Sound a little cliched? There’s a reason for that. It’s been said that there are basically seven stories in the world and they’ve pretty much all been written. Over and over and over again. (These would be: Defeating the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy and Rebirth.) Each of these classic stories is peopled with archetypes. Without getting all literary and in-depth, archetypes are those quintessential characters we recognize the minute we see them. The Mother, the Hunter, the Wanderer, the Mentor, the Shadow, the Reluctant Hero (a favorite in romance), etc. — these all embody certain personality types with very specific behaviors, and readers are able to connect and empathize with these characters right away. Think fairytales and myths, and stories like The Lord Of The Rings and Harry Potter. Aragorn, Frodo and Harry are reluctant heroes. Wolverine in X-Men is another. Each has a Mentor — Gandalf, Dumbledore, Xavier — each must fight a Shadow, etc.

But archetypes are also where the idea of stereotypes comes from. In writing, archetypes are good; stereotypes are bad (actually, stereotypes are always bad). The trick, always, is in finding a fresh approach to every new story, and to use the archetypes as guides to create original characters while avoiding the cliches of stale old stereotypes. Easy? NO! But don’t let me scare you! The beauty of it is that you really don’t have to be actively aware of any of this, or even know what the seven classic stories or archetypes are to put them to good use. A lot of it is instinctive.

So, OK, what was the question? Oh yeah, what do readers want. As a reader, I want believable, identifiable characters I can relate to (yes, even the villains), whose actions remain true to who they are, yet who are capable of growing (don’t forget that character arc), who set off on extraordinary, action-packed adventures, face danger, discover passion and, in the end, learn that love is the greatest power on earth.

Did I leave anything out?