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Sunday, October 18, 2020

Nothing to Be Afraid of Here

We're well into October, and everywhere I look, people are embracing the Halloween season. Honestly, I don't have strong feelings either way about Halloween. I mean, it's fun enough, but I was never the type to go completely crazy over it. And I'm old enough to think having leftover candy in the house is more dangerous than fun.

With that blasphemous intro, I'm sure I've lost a lot of readers by now. If you're sticking with me, thanks!

During this shitshow of a pandemic/lockdown/whatever we're calling it now, I've been trying to make more of an effort to connect with people, from reconnecting with old friends to making new ones. I've been spending more time on Twitter, for better or worse (though I still refuse to put it on my phone), and interacting with people I've "met" via the #WritingCommunity tag. It seems like so many writers have something in the horror genre, or paranormal, or anything else that can fall under the "spooky" umbrella in honor of Halloween that they're talking about and...I don't. I'm neurotic enough as it is, so my interest level in horror is so low it's practically non-existent, and while I've read and enjoyed some paranormal books/stories, it's also not really my thing. Obviously, not every writer is going to write in every single genre—in fact, it's probably the opposite in that most find one thing that works best for them and sticks with it—but it's no fun to feel left out.

But then I got to thinking about the books I have written, and their origins. And I remembered once upon a time, very, very long ago, what eventually became Elysium was originally going to be a ghost story. If memory serves, I think I saw some sort of writing contest for either Halloween or Christmas, and I got the idea of a woman somehow getting together with her dead husband. However, this was when I was in college (I TOLD you it was a long time ago!), and life was quite busy back then, and the story never got written. About ten years passed before I revisited the story idea, and I don't even remember how I made the leap from "dead husband is a ghost" to "dead husband appears via virtual reality", but I finally wrote something based on that old idea.

I've probably said it before, but even now, I still think Elysium is one of the best (if not THE best) things I've ever written. Its origins as a ghost story are way in the past, but maybe I'll choose to celebrate it this October anyway! (Should we have an excerpt of the first appearance of the dead husband? Sure, why not?)


I noticed the billowing skirt swishing against my knees. It belonged to the yellow striped sundress I’d worn to a friend’s barbecue a couple of summers ago. I’d always liked this dress, but I hadn’t worn it since.

Crouching down, I pressed against the paved trail. The stones were cool and solid beneath my touch. I reached out and tugged at a single blade of grass. It snapped off and I rolled it back and forth. A green smear darkened one fingertip, and it even smelled like grass. Incredible.

I didn’t have long to marvel at Drew’s genius, for footsteps approached behind me. Straightening, I gradually turned in the direction of the sound. What I saw froze me in place.

He wore his dark hair buzzed short like always, and his skin was tanned as if he’d never spent one day out of the sun. A plain blue T-shirt the color of his eyes stretched over his thick chest, tucked into his favorite pair of jeans. He strode toward me, every detail of his movements captured with perfection. I even saw the scar from a childhood accident spanning the top of his left hand.

He stopped a foot away from me and grinned. His lips, his teeth, his jaw, everything flowed into the cheerful expression I’d missed so much.

“Hey, kitten.”

His voice sent shivers down my spine. I clapped one trembling hand over my mouth and rocked from side to side. The corners of my eyes stung with a whirlwind of emotions and my throat tightened so much I could barely whisper.


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Structure/Pacing in Romance (specifically THOSE scenes)

I'm still happily chugging along on Elemental Forces. I passed the 20K word mark and have plenty of story left to tell. While I don't have a firm word count estimate just yet, this is shaping up to be the longest book I've written in quite some time.

Believe it or not, I don't have a written outline here. At this point, everything's plotted out pretty well in my head, so maybe I'll never get around to making one. But as I've been thinking over the structure and pacing in this project, I realized that I have two distinct categories for my books, and most romances probably fall into one or the other. And those categories are differentiated by...wait for it...*drumroll*...the sex scenes.

(The rest of this post will probably not be sexy. Sorry to disappoint.)

Category 1: One Sex Scene

All the novellas go here, which makes sense. (Hey, sex scenes take a lot of words!) I guess in these books, the primary plot/conflict/focus/whatever you want to call it is the good ol' "will they or won't they?" and everything gets wrapped up in a pretty little bow at the end when the characters finally bang. Excuse me, get their "happily ever after." Sure, other plot stuff happens, but it's all leading up to the big moment. To be fair, in some of my novellas, the one sex scene doesn't come right at the end, as the characters still have to work out their relationship issues before riding off into the sunset, but the concept stands.

Nothing is absolute, though, so there are some slight exceptions. Elysium, while novella-length, *technically* has two sex scenes, but they're back-to-back, so lumping them together is fair. Likewise with Seductive Suspect, which hovers on the border of "long novella" and "short novel" - the two sex scenes are adjacent to each other, and then the resolution of the mystery part of the plot comes afterward.

Category 2: Multiple Sex Scenes

It's not a surprise that the longer books go here, and then that got me thinking about various plots and their purposes. "Happily ever after" is still always the primary goal of romance, but the length of the route to get there varies. I admit this is where I sometimes struggle with the pacing. When the main characters get together relatively early on, the plot has to keep moving. It's easy to say "time for a sex scene, yay!" but the scenes also have to mean something and not feel gratuitous. I also realize this is highly subjective, as a look at any book with conflicting reviews will indicate. This also probably gets into the topic of romance vs. erotic romance vs. erotica, which I'm not going to touch here.

When writing Disintegration (which I'll likely re-release sometime in 2021), I was extra super careful while plotting out the progression of the sex scenes in the book, of which there are many. Almost, if not all of them are relevant to the plot, each building on the one that came before it. On the other hand, in Fire Beyond the Frost, there might be one or two in there that aren't necessarily relevant to the overall plot, but hey, they're fun, so why not. Then, while I was reviewing The Edge of the Sphere for its eventual re-release (no date set yet), there was even a sex scene I'd completely forgotten about. OOPS.

So, those are my two categories I've discovered. Is one better than the other? No, of course not. Does one take more careful plotting than the other? Eh, possibly. Most writers have cut huge chunks of work out of their final product, and I'm no exception. As noted above, there's no right answer for when to include these scenes, or how many to put in, and so on. If it works, it works, and I try not to ask too many questions when it *does* work!