Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – Accentuate the Positive

accentuate_the_positiveI’ve got a box of old ’78 records in the garage that belonged to my mother years ago when she was accordion playing young mom.  As you might guess, there are a number of polka songs in the mix.  There were also a couple of the records that I used to play over and over when I was a kid.

One was Frank Sinatra singing Five Minutes More.

“Give me five minutes more,
only five minutes more
Let me stay, let me stay in your arms
Here am I, begging for
only five minutes more
Only five minutes more of your charms”

The other was Bing Crosby singing Accentuate the Positive.

“You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between”

I recently came across the box of records and wound up the old Victrola to give them a listen (yes, I really do still have one).  They were a little scratchier sounding than then used to be, but they were just as much fun as I remembered.  I thought Accentuate the Positive was especially fitting, given all that’s going on in the world these days. Continue reading

Michille: Stages of Intimacy

By Eric Koch / Anefo - Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35672991With the recent spate of posts about sex and intimacy, I was reminded of an RWA session I attended with Linda Howard in which she presented Desmond Morris’s 12 stages of intimacy as a means to build sexual tension in a story. I believe it comes from his Intimate Behaviour: A Zoologist’s Classic Study of Human Intimacy, but I can’t confirm that because it is out of print. I would love to get a copy of it.

I have it posted next to my desk on my writing bulletin board. The list is below:

  1. Eye to body. This is the first step in general awareness, when one person gets a good look of someone else. It’s more than a glance that allows a person to notice the height, weight, and dress of another and registers an overall impression. A man will never approach a woman without this step and readers love it when writers get that first glimpse onto the page.
  2. Eye to eye. It seems to me that this should be first, but I’ll admit that The Des probably knows more about the topic than I do. He says this is the second step, but the first step of active interaction between two people.
  3. Voice to voice. Okay, now we’re talking. Literally.
  4. Hand to hand (or arm). This is used to acknowledge a possible relationship. Nora Roberts uses this a lot. I remember in the McD Romance program, several of us had trouble with how touchy Nora’s characters are early in the story. I believe Jenny put it succinctly (as she usually does) with something like, “Touch me again pal and you’ll pull back a bloody stump.” Obviously some people are more okay with this than others.
  5. Arm to shoulder. This strikes me as the classic yawn-and-drop move at the movies. This is upping the intimacy stakes because bodies are getting closer together.
  6. Arm to waist, or back. This indicated a growing familiarity and comfort level in a relationship. I like the hero’s hand on the small of the heroine’s back. Why I think that is romantic, I have no idea.
  7. Mouth to mouth. It would seem that The Des doesn’t differentiate between the lip kiss and the tongue kiss. Once someone else’s body part has entered mine, a hand to my head is, to me, less intimate. Again, I guess he knows more.
  8. Hand to head. I keep picturing a pat on the head, but I do love it in a story when one of the members of the couple holds the other’s head while kissing.
  9. Hand to body. This is the beginning of foreplay, but still clean (see stage 11).
  10. Mouth to breast. And again, I’d put 11 before 10 because I lump sexual body parts together. A hand to the breast seems less intimate than a mouth. The Des must just mean the vagina or penis.
  11. Hand to genitals. We’re rounding the bases now. And if one follows the mores for writing romance fiction these days, this is when the participants are stone cold sober or they stop.
  12. Genitals to genitals. Home run, baby! A funny aside: when I was noodling around on the web looking for input for this post, I stumbled across one that uses these steps for business relationships. This step for a business relationship means the customer becomes an insider. Ha.

Do you use this in your writing of relationships? Or do you follow a different path?

Elizabeth: What Have You Been Reading

CarpeLibrumIt’s a real challenge to combine being a writer and a news-junkie these days, and it’s especially difficult to carve out time for pleasure reading.  However, as we’ve all heard time and again, reading and writing go together like peanut butter and jelly (though fortunately not as sticky), so making the time to read is a priority.

Anyway, after attending a book signing a few weeks ago and adding a few more volumes to the TBR pile, I was motivated to get reading before the pile turned into an avalanche.  Fortunately, the current cold, rainy, cuddle-up-with-a-blanket-on-the-couch weather has been perfect for reading.  Cupcakes and napping too, but mostly reading.

So, here’s what I’ve read lately: Continue reading

Nancy: Lessons From the Dreaded Day Job

Why, you might ask, have I taped a scene to my wall? To keep my brain guessing.

Why, you might ask, have I taped a scene to my wall? To keep my brain guessing.

Once upon a time, a very nice girl found herself working in a really stressful industry. Okay, you caught me: I’m talking about me. I haven’t qualified as a ‘girl’ for decades. And very nice…well, that depends upon the day and the situation. But I did work in a really stressful industry (US government proposal management, in case you’re desperately curious). Over the years, I developed some mad skills that I brought to bear on high-pressure, deadline-driven, writing-intensive problems.

A few months ago, I left that industry and promptly forgot (or more likely purged) much hard-earned wisdom about writing and revision. And while I’d always believed honing my fiction writing and storytelling skills only improved my performance on those (non-fiction) projects, I didn’t think much about what lessons from my day job could teach me about writing fiction.

For what feels like eons but has only been several weeks, Continue reading

Jilly: Educated and Entertained

Anyone interested in hearing Eloisa James, Ilona and Gordon Andrews, Alisha Rai, and Sarah MacLean discuss various aspects of romance writing?

I just spent almost three hours online watching a recording of a fascinating, funny and insightful seminar held last week at Duke University. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. My plan was to skim it for the good bits and listen to the rest later, but it turned out to be all killer, no filler. The only bits I skipped were the rest breaks 😉 .

The event was called Gender, Sexuality, Feminism and the Romance Novel, and indeed all those subjects are covered in an intelligent and engaging way, but there was so much more.

Each author talked about their home environment and what led them to become a romance writer. After that, the Q&A session included: Continue reading

Michaeline: Fishing for Ideas Amongst Columns of the Lovelorn

2017-02-18-art_lesson_charles_dana_gibson1

Dear M: I’m an up-and-coming illustrator with my choice of three eligible young men, but the older gentlemen of my design firm are queering my pitch. Love or money? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

I adore advice columns, and have done so since I was a kid. Advice columns! Little mini-dramas that are so important to the POV character that she or he actually takes time from his or her real life to write to a third party, hoping for some pearls of wisdom.

I found a new column this week – apparently, it’s been around for decades, but thanks to the magic of the Google search, I found it this week. Elle’s Dear E. Jean. It’s full of fabulousness, as one might expect from a fashion magazine. Instead of the downhome rustics of Ann and Abby, we get women who are models, electrical engineers, designers who rose from homeless childhoods . . . it’s just a fascinating cross-section of womanhood, with a few men asking for advice as well.

I like the advice, which seems to always boil down to: be your most fabulous self, and choose the kind of partner that fabulous self needs. Trust in the universe to provide what you need, as long as you put in the effort.

Some of these columns are begging to be expanded into romance stories; others provide Continue reading

Elizabeth: Friday Writing Sprints – The Hot Sweaty Sex Edition

love_holding_handsWhat better way to wrap up Valentine’s week than with a little hot, sweaty sex?

Right?

For the last few weeks we’ve been talking about writing (or not writing, as the case may be) sex scenes.  If you missed the posts, you can check them out here, here, here, here, and here.  It’s an interesting topic and one that has no real right or wrong answers.  What works for one reader may leave another cold, bored, dissatisfied, or skipping ahead.

I did a little research via my own bookshelves and found that, as a reader, I’m not even consistent about which scenes work for me and which don’t.  One of the “didn’t work for me” scenes was 27 pages long.   I’m still not entirely certain exactly what happened and I’m pretty sure some things were anatomically impossible.  Conversely, a scene that “did work for me” was almost as long, but had great pacing, a dash of humor, advanced the plot, and left a nice tingly feeling at the end.

What’s a writer to do? Continue reading