Monday, February 28, 2011

Holding Back

I just started working on a new story, a M/F/M ménage that I plan to submit to an upcoming Total-E-Bound anthology. I'm excited because I have an extremely clear sense of my characters, especially the heroine, Ruby Jones. Ruby's a single mother and the owner of a small blues club in New York City. Running a music bar has always been her dream, and now that dream seems to be in her grasp - until circumstances intervene.

Anyway, I was writing the first chapter yesterday and found that I really had to sit on myself. I know a lot about Ruby's history, it appears. And it was a struggle not to dump everything I knew onto the page.

Like most characters, Ruby is the product of her experiences. She's struggled to remain independent, to support her son, to meet life on her on terms. When you know where she came from, you have a better understanding of who she is.

However, flooding readers with back story is usually a terrible idea, especially at the beginning of a book. You need action to grab readers' attention and pull them into your world first. Of course, it's also important to introduce the characters at the same time, providing sufficient background to motivate their behavior. The key word is "sufficient". I find myself tempted to say too much, too soon.

So yesterday, I could feel the tension between what I knew and what I thought I should say. I had to hold myself back. In each paragraph, I had to ask myself, "Am I revealing too much here?" Several times I forced myself to move the action forward, rather than continuing to illuminate Ruby's past.

At some point, I'll have to tell the readers all about these details, won't I? Perhaps not. Reflecting today on the question, I understand that it's not really necessary to reveal everything I know about Ruby (or Zeke and Rene, the two heroes). A rich back story helps make a character three dimensional, even when the reader is not party to every event in her past. After all, we often don't know what experiences shaped our friends, do we?

Maybe the fact that Ruby was married to a philandering dentist or that she has a degree in accounting may come up later in the story. Maybe they won't. It doesn't really matter. As long as Ruby acts real, feels real and draws my readers' interest and sympathy, I've done my job as a writer.

Sometimes less is more. Sometimes holding back is as important as letting it all out.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Too much? Not enough?

My husband and I currently live in a small town in West Africa, and occasionally we send out a mass email to our family and friends talking about the highlights of the past few months. A lot of people come back with, “Wow! That’s so interesting! Why don’t you write more often?” Well, because in actuality all the interesting things have already been distilled for their reading pleasure. The rest would be a droning monologue on heat, the lack of fresh food, heat, interminable insects, and did I mention the heat? Sure, there’s more to tell, but they don’t actually want to hear about it. Dissecting the interesting from the banal can be tricky for someone who lives with all of it all the time. This challenge crosses over into my fictional life as well.

One of the problems I come up against when I write any sort of story is deciding how much of my background research to put into it. For example, when I write about a city I’ve never been to before, I read books and look at pictures and find blogs written by people who’ve been there to get a feel for the place. This is harder from where I’m living right now, but I still try to be thorough. I’m the child of a professional historian, and my dad’s mantra has stuck with me: research is crucial. Do I want my readers wondering why I’m writing about the picturesque Roman ruins in Heidelberg when there actually aren’t any? Or why my Desert Eagle has a thirty round magazine? “It just does” isn’t an answer that sticklers are going to accept.

One would think that writing about a wholly fictional world would bypass these difficulties, and to a certain extent that’s true. A lot of the fun in writing speculative fiction is building your own background, making your own world. That’s not to say that, for example, science fiction doesn’t have its own tropes with regards to something like faster-than-light travel, but one assumes the reader is mostly willing to roll with what you put out there. If you want trisexual, shape-shifting space vampires, you can have it. However, this is the time when the problem of background in the story can reverse. The issue becomes not a dearth of information, but a glut.

My newest release is an example of the battle between too much and not enough. Nothing Ventured is a m/m steampunk romance set in semi-Victorian London concerning an inventor and his latest creation, an entirely new type of airship. The ship is powered by the force of vacuum, of nothingness rather than helium or hydrogen. My scientist husband helped me look up historical references (that there actually are historical references to such a thing thrills me), and then proceeded to detail to me how it would work, draw me several pictures, and generally get me excited about the engineering of an airship that runs on nothing. I wrote my first draft, read through it again and wondered, “Um…is this a technical manual or an erotic romance?” Just because I liked learning about pulleys and winches doesn’t mean my readers will.

Finding the balance between too much and not enough can be a difficult thing, but I hope I struck it with this story. Nothing Ventured was released earlier this month along with three other novellas in the anthology Silver Wings, published by Phaze Books. You can find it here:

I valiantly struggle against the forces of oppression, circumstance and, you know, laziness to maintain my own blog at There are links to my work, free serial stories, and occasional rants in which I swear I’m going for humor. Visit. Peruse. Follow me to the other bizarre places I like to invent. To Lisabet, who is not only delightful and generous but also seems to be the reigning queen of multitasking: you rock. Thank you for having me.

Bio: Cari Z is originally from Colorado, where she imagines it snowing with guilty pleasure. She and her husband currently live in Western Africa, where snow is so foreign that it defies the capacity of her poor French to describe. She’s been writing for many years, publishing for a few years and trying to get the hang of blogging and the like for less than a year, but it’s slowly coming together. She loves visitors, but she doesn’t expect you to fly all the way to Africa to see her. Come and visit her blog instead.

Excerpt from Nothing Ventured

The man insisted on watching the construction. It irritated Sean to no end. He wasn’t an engineer or a technician, he was a pilot, damn it, and he should bloody well restrict himself to that sphere. It didn’t help that he asked the technicians intelligent questions or stayed out of the way, either. As long as he was there Sean thought about him, and as long as he was thinking about him he couldn’t devote himself to thinking about the ship. So Sean ignored him as best he could until the man literally invaded his personal space one afternoon a week after the party.

“I’d like to see the specs,” he said without preamble, his soft drawl lengthening the vowels in an unfairly enticing way.

Sean glared at him. “What on earth could you get out of looking at those?”

“I might get an understandin’ of why this bird’s being built the way she is,” he replied, pausing to sip at a cup of coffee. Coffee, not tea, Sean noted. He must have brought it with him. “Doesn’t take a genius to figure out there’s a lot that’s different about her.”

Good thing, too, Sean longed to comment, but he managed to restrain himself. “I can explain to you everything you need to know, Mister Winters.”

“I want,” he said emphatically, “to see the specs. In the flesh, so to speak. Not secondhand, not even from you. You can answer any questions I have after I’ve taken a look. And it’s Nick, by the way.”

Sean flushed at the man’s confident, peremptory tones. He picked up the pages of blueprints lying on the drafting table and thrust them at Nicholas—he couldn’t think of the man as “Nick”—not even trying to hide his contempt as he said, “Good luck understanding them.”

“Thanks,” Nicholas said with a smile.

“Do keep in mind the privacy clauses in your contract—”

“I won’t go spoutin’ off about anything I see here, don’t worry.”

“Not that I expect you to make head or tails of what I’m building, but nevertheless—”

“You don’t listen real good, do you?” Taking another sip of his coffee, Nicholas turned and made his way back to his seat along the wall, looking over the blueprints as he did.

Sean watched him go, unable to tear his gaze away until Nicholas turned to sit, and then jerking hastily back down to his work. Unfair. It was unfair he should be able to distract Sean that way. Why couldn’t he be more like James? Portly, middle-aged, married and above all familiar James, who knew when his presence was required and when it wasn’t? James, whom he’d known since he was a first-year student, James who was comfortable and non-threatening and didn’t make Sean want to nuzzle his lips into the enticing space just behind his jaw…oh, bloody hell.

Mercifully, the blueprints seemed to occupy the American well enough for the next few hours, and Sean was finally able to concentrate. He was concentrating so hard, in fact, that he didn’t even realize that the time had slipped away from him until the growing darkness made him aware that he was working by lamplight now, not sunlight. Sean straightened up, twisting his neck to work the kinks out as he turned to examine the lab. He was alone again. The blueprints were folded neatly on his work table, and there was a plate of food and a cup of tea, now cold, sitting next to him on the floor. Sean mournfully examined the tea and then bit into the meat pie, which was still faintly warm.


Sean nearly choked on his food. He glared up at the American, who came slinking in out of the shadows like a wraith. Well, perhaps not slinking, but there was a certain sinuousness to his movements that was reminiscent of a cat, and he shouldn’t have been so quiet. It was rude not to give one some warning of one’s presence.

“Do you enjoy sneaking up on people, or is it simply a habit?”

“Hardly sneaking,” Nicholas said mildly as he came closer. He held two cups in his hands, both steaming. Without preamble he sat down on the floor next to Sean and handed him a cup. “One of the kids you’ve got workin’ here said this is how you liked it.”

“How I like what? Sneaking?”

“No.” There was a slight smile on the smug bastard’s face. “How you like your tea.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buy a Book, Help a Kid

My colleague and former guest blogger Steve Lowe would like to ask for your help!

Coming down to the last few days of this event - I'm donating all my royalties for book sales in the month of Feb. 2011 to a not-for-profit foster care agency. Can you spread the word for me?

In 2009, my wife and I became licensed foster parents. Since then, I have seen what a difference a caring home and supportive family can have on a child in need. I have also realized that I want to do more, and I would like to ask you to help me.

For the month of February 2011, all royalties I receive for sales of my two books, Muscle Memory and Wolves Dressed as Men, will be donated to a national not-for-profit charitable organization dedicated to foster care and helping children in need.

Please visit the linked web address to see all the details and where you can buy a copy.

Buy a book, share the link, tell others about it on Twitter and Facebook and help a kid. Thank you for reading.

~ Steve Lowe

Muscle Memory on Amazon

Muscle Memory on Barnes & Noble

Wolves Dressed as Men on Amazon (print & Kindle)

Wolves Dressed as Men on Barnes & Noble (Print & NOOK)

Wolves Dressed as Men eBook on the Eternal Press website

My Illicit Affair

This summary is not available. Please click here to view the post.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I'm Goin' Down

By Wendi Zwaduk (Guest Blogger)

I’ve been listening to that Springsteen song on my iPod lately and when I got Lisabet’s guest blog topic suggestions, well, it just seemed to fit. First, I want to thank my fellow Total-E-Bound author for having me on her blog. It’s a lovely place and I’m thrilled to be here. I’ve got more than a couple of Lisabet’s books on my ereader in the keeper file.

Now back to the topic at hand. She asked me to write about the appeal of the klutz. Honestly, the concept of a character with klutz tendencies is a favorite of mine. Maybe because I see a lot of me in the characters. I love to dance, even learned how to do that fancy Irish step dance, but I’m telling you, I have two left feet. DH likes to tease me that it’s funny I write characters who are sexy and alluring since my attempts at alluring tend to go the way of the movie, “Clueless”. Heroine is trying to look sexy and whip her hair around, instead she rolls smack off the bed. That’s me. I’ve done that. Sad.

I think that’s why I like to write characters who have hearts of gold and the ability to trip when entering a room. That’s me. I used to teach school and my first day walking into a room full of thirteen year olds, yeah, I tripped, grabbed the door frame and tried to keep a smile on my face. Kids laughed, I laughed, and we all realized I’m human.

That’s why a character who trips over their own feet, like Ryan in my book Careless Whisper is so fun. He’s trying like heck to be sophisticated and the persona people see on television. Unfortunately for him, he’s on a Ghost Exploring expedition, and he trips when he sees a family of raccoons. It’s riot because, I know that would be me. I’ve tripped on my own two feet on a level, empty floor. I think it also hold appeal because as the readers, we know the heroine and hero either has to be true to themselves or not be taken at face value. With a heroine, she’s got charm. With a hero, he’s someone who is sexy, but has flaws.

My favorite characters are those who don’t quite fit the social mold—like on overly obvious tattoo of a double male on a gay character, or a female carpenter who loves her weekly manicures, or the vixen with blue hair just because it suits her mood. Why? They are who they are, flaws, nuances, and all, and just shrug. “Take me as I am.”

I love it.

What kind of character do you like? Are you infatuated with ‘the nerd’? Do ‘geeks’ do it for you? Or are you the type or reader/author who just likes a guy who doesn’t take himself very seriously? I’d love to know.

About Careless Whisper

He’s her kinkiest desire, if she’s willing to open her heart and believe in him.

The dead don’t always rest in peace. Some stick around to make the lives of the living hell on Earth. Ryan Black knows the frustration of dealing with the dead. He’s a Ghost Explorer. He’s conquered houses filled with apparitions, abandoned school buildings that house angry vermin, and managed to woo the female population of Snake Falls, Ohio. But he’s about to face his toughest challenge, convincing sceptical Samara Jacobs she not only shares his gift, but holds his heart.

Women fall at Ryan Black’s feet and Samara’s determined not to be one of the many—that is until she’s forced to work with him. He’s certain ghosts exist and willing to prove it. The more she gets to know the man behind the television persona, she decides the handsome klutz who chases things that go bump in the night isn’t so silly after all. But is he worthy of her love?

Excerpt (Rated R)

"Hauntings? Aberrant actions? What you do has nothing to do with demons or spirits—unless you mean the spirit of getting into women’s pants.”

Ryan turned to see Samara standing next to him, her arms folded. Had she listened in on the entirety of his ridiculous diatribe? “I don’t cross dress.” Sitting on the edge of the table, he took in the sight of her. A strange rhythm pounded behind his ribs and his cock pulsed beneath his zipper.

Har.” She rolled her blue eyes, the type that could snare a man at twenty paces. “No, you bed the women whose houses you clear of spirits. I’ve seen your show and I hear the gossip. Criminey, you should be checked for STD’s.”

Gossip and innuendo.” Hell, up close she demanded his attention without saying a word to grab it. “And FYI, I’m clean.”

Damn, if she didn’t turn him on with her sass. He wanted to be irritated and she verbally smacked him between the eyes. A tiny part of him wanted to walk away from her and never see her again for the sake of the memory of Felicity. Shit. The more his gaze roved over Samara Jacobs, the more he wanted to take a trip all over her body, learning what made her laugh, sigh, and whimper in delight. She, unlike the female population of Snake Falls, Ohio, didn’t buy into his line of work. The simple fact that she gave him a run for his money enticed him.

Just as she turned on her heel to leave, he touched her arm, amazed by the silky smooth texture of her skin. “Wait, you watched my show?”

Yes, I saw the show. I prepare the transcripts, remember?” She glanced away, only to stare at him again. “If it’s truly pretend, then you’re golden—only a fiction writer can make up some of the stuff that happens to you. Then again, I don’t buy into ghosts anyway. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all bunk.”

How so?” His mouth watered for a taste of her. Anything to keep her talking so he could be around her more.

Because, you go to places infested with rats, raccoons, and other vermin. Critters make noise and scatter when the light hits them. And the static from your camera isn’t a voice, so don’t try to convince me otherwise.”

I’m hurt.” Interested, perplexed, drawn, turned-on—very turned on.

Careless Whisper is available now from Total-E-Bound .


I always dreamed of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favourites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line.

I earned a BA in education at Kent State University and currently hold a Masters in Education with Nova Southeastern University.

I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals. You can also find me at my blog

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Body Electric - New Release and Give-away!

Body            Electric            Cover

I'm thrilled to announce that Body Electric, my collection of erotic short stories, is now available as an e-book as part of the new BWL Spice series.

A vampire ménage. A Victorian scandal. Crossdressing, spanking and electric play. Body Electric explores the many facets of desire from a wide range of orientations. The book includes acclaimed favorites as well as several previously unpublished tales.

You can read an excerpt from one of the new stories, "Never Too Late", here. For other excerpts, try here or here.

To buy the book, go to Books We Love Publishing Partners. The book is also available from Smashwords and All Romance Ebooks, and will be on Kindle in a matter of a few days.

Note that some of the stories in this collection would not be categorized as romance. However, you might enjoy them anyway ;^) Body Electric includes M/M, M/M/F, M/F/M, F/F, F/F/M and M/F tales (I like variety!)

I'm running a quick contest to celebrate the release. For a chance to win a copy of the book, just send an email to contest [a] with the subject line "Body Electric Contest". In the body of the email, tell me where you saw the release announced. That's all there is too it! I'll draw a winner on Monday the 21st of February.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is It a Job, or Isn't It?

By Jaime Samms (Guest Blogger)

When can an author definitively claim, "I am a writer." This is my job, this is what I do for a living? Is it when you get that first contract? First royalty statement? When you use royalty earnings to pay the first bill, buy the first birthday gift, make X number of dollars? When you have made enough to pay taxes on that income?

Let's face it, monetary reimbursement isn't always a good indicator of talent or even success.

Everyone measures success differently, after all, and only our indulgent, consumer-based society has placed the definition of that word squarely in our quarterly financial statements. Success on an emotional, spiritual or intellectual level usually has very little to do with our bank accounts. At least, that's so for me, and I'm not just saying that because there's often very little in my bank account, either. My sense of fulfillment rarely has anything to do with my financial solvency :)

As for talent, let's talk about Vincent Van Gogh.

Van Gogh painting Starry Night

The artist who created Starry Night died a little-known pauper, having only ever sold one painting in his entire life. Now a single painting of his costs millions of dollars. Maybe I can count myself successful when I can afford to buy one of his paintings with my royalties. No one could doubt me then. Hopefully, not even I could doubt me then.

So maybe you measure by the number of words written, the number of releases or sales, or by your first novel, your first book in print. It's so hard to tell.

I've logged thousands and thousands of words over the years. Many have been published. Most haven't and never will be. I have novels published and books in print. And yet, at the end of the day, can I call myself a writer? I do have a day job correcting people's tax returns. The spectacular irony there is that I'm one of the best clerks in my department and I have never in my life filled out my own tax return. So can I really call myself a tax expert, either?

Back to Van Gogh, he spent some time in his life as a missionary and as an art broker. I wonder, if I could ask him now, what he would say to the question "What do you do?" Would he say "I'm a missionary." or "I'm an art broker." Or would he simply answer; "I paint."

pensil and paper

I know for sure how I would answer that question. "I write." It's what I do, it's as natural as breathing, as deep in my soul as loving and hating.

So. Is it a job? Or is it

What do you do? How do you define yourself? Does your job make your soul sing?

Find out more about me on my website, my blog and join me on facebook and twitter:

Jaime Samms website


Face Book

Twitter: JaimeSamms

Interested in what I write? Check a new release: Finder's Keepers

All his life, Rory Sanders just wanted please the people he loves and always thought he failed, until the day Gabriel Stark rescues him from Kane's abusive hand--and Rory's own misconceptions of what it means to be submissive.Cover art for Finder's Keepers

His search for a way into the world that lets him live out his need to serve others has left Rory Sanders estranged from his family and without a lot of friends. When he meets Kane, he thinks his dreams have come true. Those dreams are shattered when he discovers Kane is less interested in his submission than his total subjugation and humiliation. Unable to figure out how to please Kane, Rory is left in a dangerous and humiliating position, bound and helpless in a fetish club where he at last meets people who understand.

Gabriel Stark is not only the private investigator called in to figure out who Kane is and why he has been abusing submissive men, he's also a professional Dom and the man of Rory's dreams come to life. It remains to be seen if Gabe can overcome his own losses and mistakes and be the Dom Rory needs, or if he will let his own past be the ruin of yet another submissive who needs his help. That Rory is physically, emotionally, and intellectually everything Gabe has been looking for only makes Gabe more determined not to get emotionally invested in Rory's recovery.

Keeping Rory safe from Kane might be more than Gabe can manage on his own, and the result of failure could cost the submissive his life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Perils of Writing for Multiple Publishers

By Brenna Lyons (Guest Blogger)

I teach a class on this subject. You’d think I would know the perils involved intimately. From contract concerns to time demands to publisher expectations and even author promotion, the prolific author writing for multiple publishers has to be mindful of the pitfalls and perils that (usually) balance the pros of having multiple publishers.

On a normal day, balancing my seven publishers isn’t difficult, but I got the smack upside the head reminder of how difficult it can be and how easily the best laid plans can go awry this week.

The last few months have been very busy for me. In addition to being the administrator of Silver Publishing, I still have to keep my writing up, though it’s not always easy to do. It was harder than most months recently, because I had three releases scheduled (between two publishing houses) in a single month, seven in less than six months, between three publishing houses and a self-published title. I’ve done three in a single day before, so that didn’t scare me. I just work my butt off for a while, and it all comes together.

That’s a usual day or month. This month was not so...usual.

Peril #1 - One of the releases was pushed back, because the files weren’t in place. It happens, especially with as many files as the publishers handle in a week or month. The EIC was fabulous about it and set it up two weeks later, which brought me to three releases in three weeks.

Peril #2 - My own brain dead moment. In finalizing the cover for a new release, the cover artist asked me to double check my title. Thank goodness, because it was wrong, and I didn’t see it. Grin... More than 85 releases in, the characters, series, and individual plotlines are still crisp and clear, but the titles are starting to blur in my mind. In this particular case, the title should have been “Choosing a Mate,” but I have two other titles in the same series of “Claimed: König Mate” and “Claiming a Lady.” So, I had typed “Claiming a Mate” on half the paperwork and “Choosing a Mate” on the other half. When shown the cover that said “Claiming a Mate,” my mind insisted that was fine and moved on. Until she asked, it didn’t click to me that it wasn’t.

Okay...this one isn’t a multiple publisher one. It’s really a prolific author one. Or maybe not. If I hadn’t been so busy, would I have made that error? I can’t say for certain.

Peril #3 - Missing an important email message. Since I get several thousand email messages in a day, it does sometimes happen. I admit it. In this case, the message was intended to let me know that the release date on a book moved forward, because of a shift in the schedule. Had I known it, I would have been promoting that book along with the other three. Yep, it moved that book into the same three week period as the other three books, a day after one of the other releases, bringing the grand total up to four releases in three weeks.

So, even if you have taken my class on the Pros and Cons of Working with Multiple Publishers...or have taught it, remember that there are an endless supply of things that can go wrong in the mix.


"Though it went against his base nature, Davon - son of Ares, Horseman of War, and holder of the red sword -- had to make peace. What an odd turn his life had taken."

ALL'S FAIR... Pre-order now at Silver Publishing,

I Never Met A Word I Didn't Like

It's that time again. Time for me to gripe about my pet peeves in the publishing biz! A while back I objected to the notion that it's wrong or ungrammatical to use the passive voice. Today I'm taking aim at the attempt to banish certain words or parts of speech from our writing.

Recently I received an invitation to leave a writing tip at the Blood Red Pencil. (This is great writing blog, by the way.) Over fifty authors responded. Many of the suggestions were excellent. They ran the gamut from writing craft to self-motivation. One comment, though, recommended going through your first draft and systematically eliminating all adverbs (or as she put it, all "-ly" words). This is the sort of recommendation that raises my blood pressure.

I understand the reasoning behind the rule. Adverbs are often over-used (she writes, turning to the passive to avoid pointing fingers at anyone in particular!) Sometimes an adverb serves as a crutch, a less effective method to convey meaning that would be better communicated by a stronger or more specific verb. However, adverbs, like all parts of speech, have a legitimate function. Arguing for their total elimination is no more reasonable than suggesting we should stop using conjunctions in order to avoid compound sentences.

Sometimes an adverb is just what you need. There's just no verb with the desired connotations. In other cases, the use of an adverb suggests a certain kind of character or sets a certain tone. In an action scene, too many adverbs will slow the reader down. If you want your tale to unfold at a more leisurely pace, adverbs contribute.

I recently wrote a story set in Victorian times. I used a fair number of adverbs, trying to capture the cadence of Victorian speech (and by extension, thought, as the story is written in the first person).

"I apologize for staring," I finally managed to choke out. "I did not expect..."

"Such beauty." Peter Hawthorne finished my sentence for me. "Such luxury. Given the state of the house and all. We understand. Alas, our means are sadly diminished. We prefer to lavish what resources we have on ourselves, on Clara of course, and on the interior. As you will see, if you'll join us by the fire."

He took my arm to lead me into the parlor. The gesture was terribly familiar, completely inappropriate when we had not even been formally introduced, but at the time I did not notice. My nostrils twitched as I caught a hint of his cologne or hair tonic, a sharp scent like new-mown grass. That was how close he was.

Finally managed. Sadly diminished. Terribly familiar. Completely inappropriate. Formally introduced. Five "-ly" adverbs in three paragraphs. If you removed them, however, I believe the tone would suffer:

The gesture was familiar, inappropriate when we had not even been introduced, but at the time I did not notice.

In my humble opinion, this sentence is less effective in fulfilling the goals of the narrative. It tells us less about the character, her education, her views of the world.

Another forbidden word appears to be "that", when used as a conjunction introducing a subordinate clause. For example:

The dress that Marilyn chose made her look like a high-class hooker.

Juliana struggled against the bonds that the Marquis had fastened around her wrists.

Recently I had an editor go through my story and strike out "that" in every single instance of this construction.

It's quite true that in the two sentences above, removing "that" doesn't hurt, and possibly tightens the prose. In some cases, however, particularly with more complex sentence structures, the extra word helps improve comprehensibility. It also affects the prosody of the sentence, that is, the rhythm or stress pattern.

Tears blurring her vision, Lucinda struggled to decipher the letter that the maid had so casually left on her dressing table.

Another overly general "rule" suggests that authors should avoid using the past or present progressive tense (usually phrased as "get rid of the -ing forms"). For instance:

Henry was brushing his teeth when the phone rang.

While Jared was tightening the ropes, Hervé rummaged through the toy box.

Once again, I'll agree that this form tends to be over-used. However, the progressive tenses cannot always be replaced by the simple past or present. The progressive is required when you want to communicate the notion of an ongoing action, especially in relation to some other completed action. Change the tense and you change the meaning.

There are other examples of rules that get me hot under the collar. I've actually read a recommendation that writers should strip out all adjectives! However, this post is getting a bit long, and I've got to go cook dinner. I'll leave you with some tongue-in-cheek advice from well-known journalist William Safire:

Do not put statements in the negative form.

And don't start sentences with a conjunction.

If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a

great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.

Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.

Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.

De-accession euphemisms.

If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.

Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, "Great Rules of Writing"

Monday, February 14, 2011

Ordinary Miracles

Happy Valentine's Day! I hope that you have some very special plans for this day of love. As for me, I'm celebrating by sending out my February newsletter a day early.

The highlight of this month's news is a brand new free read called Ordinary Miracles. It's a M/M Valentine's story featuring Kyle and Rob, the heroes from my paranormal novel Necessary Madness. I do hope that you like it. Warning - it's definitely X-rated. Maybe even XXX-rated.

But then, that doesn't surprise you, does it?

Of course, you'll also find news on upcoming releases, reviews, my monthly contest, and so on.

I had a great time blogging this weekend at Whipped Cream - met lots of readers and just for the fun of it, gave away a copy of my latest release Almost Home. The lucky winner was Jessica. Thanks to all of you who participated!

Later this week (Thursday to be exact), I've asked my cat to fill in for me at Hitting the Hot Spot because I'm going to be busy traveling. Drop by and read about "La Vie Chez Lisabet".

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Life After Math

By S.L. Danielson (Guest Blogger)

Hello and thank you for having me on your blog site, Lisabet!

Greetings and salutations! I am author S. L. (a/k/a Stephanie, try to guess what the L stands for) Danielson! I am a multi-published author of m/m (male/male) romantic (and sometimes erotic) fiction.

I'm often asked why am I drawn to this genre and I have one answer; my imagination runs wild. I've been writing this genre since my teens and it just stuck like glue. I love it! I've been writing since I was but seven years of age and in between school, roller-skating, friends, and family there was always my writing.

My days now vary between simplistic and overwhelming. When I'm not working, it's the former, when I am, it's the latter. I'm a wife of 12 years, a "mother" to two adorable cats, a graduate student (MBA), and overall a computer geek. Now, when I'm working...all of the house items are looked after by my husband, and I come home to hopefully do some homework and maybe pound out a chapter or two.

As for works in progress, they number in about the two dozen range at the moment. I'm always working on something; it's finding the inspiration to do it that takes work.

March will be a banner month for me; my new book Life After Math comes out with Silver Publishing! I'm so excited! Not only because this is the first contract I've signed in over two years; but working with them has been wonderful and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat! I don't have my cover yet, but I cannot wait to see it; I know it'll be terrific!

Now, about the book. Life After Math is a sequel to Love by the Numbers from 2009 (pub. by Publishamerica, paperback only, but looking to change that). It follows the couple in the book, two now 18-yr-olds named Scott and Jared. Scott is the geek, the overweight kid who was a whiz at math and was 'volunteered' to be his tutor. Jared, the blond, hottie, baseball superstar of the school who had no math aptitude, but needed to keep his grades up. The two met and the rest is a sequel!

Life After Math follows this duo into college and covers all four gruesome years. The first year is cake, but it gets very interesting from there. There's two other men involved who both want to see them broken up; the parents have their say, and the ending will keep you guessing until the last page!

Thank you again, Lisabet for a chance to say hello!

Most of my books are available at the following sites: Amazon, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, and if you love paperbacks, Lulu.


S. L. Danielson

Author of m/m erotic fiction!/profile.php?id=1173654489

Life After Math coming March 26th by Silver Publishing!

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Gods of Shopping

I'm not a superstitious person, in general. Walking beneath a ladder doesn't faze me. I love black cats. A broken mirror is bad news, primarily because one of us is likely to get a sliver embedded in our foot (or paw), but it doesn't condition my expectations for the next seven years.

I realized last weekend, though, that there's one area where I definitely believe in beneficent spirits, or divine intervention, or something like that - shopping.

You have to understand, first, that I'm a third-generation bargain hunter. I was trained by my maternal grandmother, who started bringing me to the original Filene's Basement when I was seven or eight. I almost never buy anything for myself that's full price. Shopping's just no fun for me unless I manage at least a 20% discount.

The other thing you need to know is that I'm not easy to satisfy. I don't have a lot of cash, so I'm picky. I'm always seeking a pair of shoes or a dress or a purse that's going to have a wide range of uses. Shoes are a particular problem. I've got the world's flattest feet, quite bizarrely shaped, so it's really tough to find shoes that are comfortable and attractive.

For some reason, when I go shopping, I have this sense that I'm being divinely guided. I expect to be led to the stores where they're having clearance sales. If I don't find what I'm looking for in one location, I view this as an indication that a better option is waiting for me somewhere else.

I really noticed this last Saturday. I had a $20 gift certificate for a particular mall, and I was determined to use it before it expired (or I lost track of where I'd put it LOL!) The first store I visited had lots of merchandise marked down, by as much as 50%. My spirits rose, especially when I found a skirt that was exactly what I need for work, with plenty of pockets for my phone, keys and ID card. Full of excitement, I headed to try it on, sure that the gods of shopping had led me to the ideal purchase. Alas, the skirt was too tight for me, more because of the narrow cut than because it wasn't my size. Reluctantly I put it back on the rack. I knew that something better awaited me.

At the next store, I began looking for a new pair of semi-dressy sandals. (I live in the tropics, so I hardly ever wear actual shoes.)

Once again, lots of brands were on sale. I checked out at least a dozen pairs, trying to decide if they were comfortable enough, not to mention cheap enough, after applying the gift card. Did I want to spend $30? But then, those shoes were originally over $100, marked down to $50 ... a good deal, yes? Still, they didn't feel as good as I'd really like. That strap - the way it was rubbing, it was sure to give me a blister. And those heels looked fabulous, but honestly, they were too high...

I spent more than an hour, considering just about every discounted pair of sandals that was my size. I was starting to get frustrated. I really wanted to use the voucher that day - I don't get the chance to shop all that often.

I found myself making a silent prayer to the gods of shopping. Don't let this whole afternoon be for nothing!

All at once, I saw them, the shoes I was meant to buy! Comfortable. Versatile. Deeply discounted from their original price. And after the application of the gift certificate, only about $4!

I bought them in a flash and traveled home, grinning and chiding myself for having so little faith!

By the way... I'm participating in Whipped Cream's Valentine's Blog-a-thon. Along with lots of other great authors, I'll be blogging at Whipped Cream and the Goddess Fish Party Pavilion tomorrow, February 12th. Every comment enters you to win great prizes, including a Nook e-reader! Plus I running my own contest. Come on by and join in the fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Where Exactly is the Beginning?

By Nina Pierce (Guest Blogger)

I’ve gutted and redone two houses. I love it! Well, not the gutting part, but the point where the sheet rock is newly primed and the floors are bare. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a bedroom or the kitchen, the possibilities are endless on which way to take the mood and color scheme.

The first time I had a room to decorate I panicked. It was only the bathroom, but still, it felt daunting. I had no idea where to start. The floor? The paint on the walls? The shower curtain and towels? UGH! My head was going to explode with possibilities. I really didn’t know what to do. So I started with the shower curtain. Think about it, besides the fixtures (which were neutral), your curtain sets the tone for the whole bathroom. So I poured through the local bathroom retailers trying to decide a color scheme. Once I’d chosen the curtain everything fell into place from the ceramic tiles to the pictures on the wall.

But every room I’ve redecorated since then seems to have started in a different place. Sometimes it was an area rug I just had to have. In another room it was a picture I knew would display perfectly over the mantle of the fireplace that decided the mood of the room. I once did a whole room around an antique chair. Truth be told, I’m sort of all over the place when it comes to decorating.

And what does this have to do with writing? Everything!

One of the first questions people ask me when they find out I’m a writer is, “How did you come up with that idea?” And I wish I had one answer for them. But my writing (much like my decorating) is just kind of this weird conglomeration of stuff that comes together. I really couldn’t tell you if a particular story started with a dream, a cool picture I saw, a setting I just couldn’t resist or the “What If …” question. My brain just sort of plays with all of the elements until it comes together on the page.

I’m what’s called a “pantser”. That is, I don’t know the full extent of my story or my characters until I’m writing. Then slowly after I’ve written a chapter or two, like painting the walls and laying the floor, my story has a foundation. The quirky details my characters develop, like the knick knacks in a room, (hopefully) pull the whole thing together to make a well rounded story for my readers.

My newest release from Ellora’s Cave, “Maid for Master” (buy link: is one of those stories that had no real beginning. Jon and Claire just sort of showed up in my head along with the hedonistic resort in Key West. What developed was a sexual journey for two friends who actually found their happy-ever-after.


When lust and deception collide, will her complete submission be enough to bind their hearts?

Treat herself to a carnal weekend at the hedonistic retreat, XTC Resorts? That’s not something Claire Calderwood, a three-time loser in the relationship department would ordinarily do. But at forty-one, having a successful cleaning business is no longer enough. She wants a chance to let go of all responsibility, submit to a stranger’s sexual demands and satisfy her darkest fantasies.

Jonathon Brierton has known his best friend’s sister long enough to recognize her submissive nature. He would like nothing more than to have Claire bound naked and at the mercy of his flogger as he teaches her the sensual art of obeying her Master. At thirty-something, he’s a successful real estate developer, owner of a BDSM resort—and hopelessly in love with the older woman.

When Claire follows him to his resort, Jonathon is certain he can keep his identity secret long enough to convince her that being restrained in his stocks is something that will satisfy them both. But lies, deceit and broken hearts may not be so easy to overcome.


Throwing her shoulders back, Claire forced away the gloomy thoughts and turned her attention back to the dungeon. A man hung face-up by a series of knotted ropes. His arms and legs were stretched wide, exposing his torso and genitals to tempting possibilities. Clamps had earlier been applied to his nipples and inner thighs, and a plug inserted in his rectum. He had remained suspended and blindfolded, only able share the woman’s pleasure and pain through her cries of ecstasy. Now two Doms maneuvered a pulley system, lowering him to waist level. Strong hands stroked over sensitive flesh. His cock and balls, restrained in a tight leather harness, swelled against its bindings, anticipation putting everyone on the edge of their seats.

“Are you enjoying the show?”

A male voice, thick and rich as honeyed molasses shivered down her spine. When Claire attempted to turn, he pressed into her back. His face nestled against her neck so that only a whisper separated his lips from the shell of her ear.

“Don’t turn. Just answer. Are. You. Enjoying. The. Show?”

He spoke softly, each word enunciated clearly. It was such a simple question and delivered with such intensity, Claire could barely fill her lungs. The hard planes of his chest pressed against her. Muscular thighs ran along the back of her legs and against her ass. Gooseflesh rose where his breath caressed her neck. It was all she could do not to lean into the man.

“I… Well… I…”

“Yes. Or. No?”

Power buffeted her but didn’t smother. Rather than drowning, Claire felt swaddled in the absolute security of this man. Her nipples steepled, pressing hard against zippers running along the soft leather cup of her bra. And when she inhaled to speak, the clean scent of soap and fresh air filled her nose. “Yes.”

Award winning author Nina Pierce is finished gutting houses, but will no doubt continue to find interesting situations, pictures and “what if” scenarios to entertain her muse for years to come. You can find all her books on her website ( or follow her happenings on her blog (, twitter (, or facebook ( .

Monday, February 7, 2011

When Vampires Were Scary

By Donna Burgess (Guest Blogger)

I'd pleased to welcome Donna Burgess to Beyond Romance. She'll be giving away two copies of her book, Darklands, to some lucky reader who comments today! ~ Lisabet

I want to thank Lisabet for having me as a guest today. I’m probably giving away my age, but I remember when vampires were scary. I’m not sure what exactly happened or when it happened, but somewhere over the course of the last decade or so, vampires guys became dreamy hunks who never need little blue pills and vampire chicks became these temptresses in great leather outfits, flowing hair and incredible alabaster skin.

I sort of miss the good old days. Why? Because the vampires I just described grace the covers of 99% of the “horror/paranormal/fantasy” paperbacks down at my local Books-A-Million right now. The gatekeepers in the world of big-time publishing are satisfied with rehashing the same stories again and again because they want to believe the readers have become trained to look for the formula again and again.

I did not set out to be an “indie” author when I wrote Darklands. I had this naïve idea that something different might just be what it took to break into publishing. Wrong! But as they say, things do happen for a reason. I’ve learned a lot about writing, and more importantly, I’ve learned the gatekeepers aren’t always right. In fact, they seem to be a tad out-of-touch with what the book-buying public wants these days. Just take a look at Amanda Hocking or any number of indie authors who are outselling their traditionally-published peers, lately.

Anyway, I didn’t guest here to rant about the state of traditional publishing, but to promote my tale of vampires. We’ve all heard the old saying, “You always hurt the ones you love” (but not always in a good way ;-D). There is a lot of conflict in Darklands. People do get hurt and at the end, not everyone is going to dash off to Neverland. At the heart of the tale is Devin, a vampire who hasn’t been exactly truthful about his past relationship, and Susan a newbie vampire with a chip on her shoulder. Throw Michael, Susan’s normal-guy fiancé, and a crazy Nazi vampire hunter named Kasper, into the mix and things begin to get a little messed-up. I’ve tried to create something a bit different with this novel (and the entire Darklands series). If you like some scares and a dash of steamy sex with your blood drinkers, please check out the sample from Amazon. You may find something you like.

About Darklands:

Halloween night, twenty years ago, college student Susan Archer watched as her beloved twin brother was brutally murdered at the hands of a stranger she invited into their home. Still haunted by the guilt of that night, Susan is now a tough but bitter cop in a nowhere town, trying as best she can to lead a normal life. When she is nearly killed during a wild shoot-out, she realizes she is not as strong as she first thought. Fearing a breakdown, she flees the confines of her safe boyfriend and familiar surroundings to find salvation in the arms of “Deathwalker” Devin McCree—the very man who killed her brother. But things aren’t always what they seem and she quickly realizes Devin was not the monster she originally thought, but a kind of guardian angel instead. On the run from a crazed Nazi vampire-hunter named Kasper, she and Devin must find a way to endure the dreary urban landscape of a dying metropolis and escape Kasper’s wrath. Darklands: A Vampire’s Tale is a sexy and violent tale of survival, bloodlust and two people grasping to the edge of immortality while trying to hang on the last shreds of their humanity, the first volume in the Darklands Vampire series.

youtube link for Darklands book trailer

Buy Links:

Ebook on smashwords

Print Amazon

Amazon Kindle

Author Bio:

Donna Burgess is an author of dark fiction and poetry who enjoys surfing, painting and has a deep affection for all things Monty Python and low-budget horror flicks. Over the past fifteen years, her fiction and poetry has appeared in genre publications such as Weird Tales, Dark Wisdom, Sybil’s Garage and others. She has been married for twenty years and has two children. Her newest releases include Darklands: a vampire’s tale (the first book in the Darklands Vampires series) and Breaths in Winter, a short story collection. Both are available in print and e-book. When she is not conjuring, she can be found surfing.



publisher blog

tour schedule:

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Loving Kindness

By Jan Irving (Guest Blogger)

Loving kindness. It sounds like something we all want, something that can take any shape tailored to our own deepest yearning. Sometimes I picture loving kindness as a beautiful genie we let out from a bottle.

Imagine coming home after a stressful day to a gorgeous naked man waiting to massage your body. His hands would dig into tense shoulders, his long hair would brush against skin, he’d kiss the side of your face as he listened to a list of things that seemed important as the long day stretched on…only as you share them, as you relax and get in tune with yourself, you can see these worries and thoughts are trivial. They are not the deepest part of yourself—the part your genie can touch with loving kindness.

My first experience with the concept of loving kindness came last year when I began the practice of yoga after I’d suffered a blood clot in one of my legs. I began a new journey that led me to greater awareness of my own body but also an inner journey through meditation into my deepest desires. Believe me, this is helpful when I’m writing an erotic scene because what pops into your head in the middle of calm meditation listening to the sound of waves crashing on a beach while wearing a lavender eye pillow is probably something you’d be too embarrassed to admit you’d ever want.

So one thing that yoga and meditation helped me do was get in touch without judgement with what I find sexy, what my heroines and heroes find sexy. Sometimes at the end of class there is a reason why I’m smiling and it’s not just because I’ve stretched out sleepy muscles!

I have always had a forbidden affair with stories where one of the characters is a master or mistress and the other a submissive or slave. Now, I will qualify that for me, I have a preference for gentler stories where the fantasy is strong and it’s not so harsh that I can’t enjoy it.

I like reading stories where the unexpected character has all the power and secretly holds a seemingly more powerful character in thrall. This is true in a lot of my stories, starting with my first book, The Janitor. Dane Connelly is a rough, tough boxer, but he’s crazy about a shy academic. Dane might sport a black eye from one of his matches, cuts on his face, but when he holds Noel, he is tender, he is loving kindness.

Later this spring I will have some books out that explore some of my favorite themes. Loving Kindness has busy intergalactic cruise director Gwen Thompson trying to keep a lid on her own forbidden feelings for sexy martial arts instructor Kealton James. When pirates take their ship, Gwen is forced to play the role of Kealton’s submissive, but what rocks her is how natural it feels.

I was even able to incorporate one of my favorite yoga positions into the story—in a very erotic fashion that I daydreamed in class.

Kneel.” Kealton’s voice was hard, inflexible. Testing Gwen, seeing if she was ready to be his submissive.

Oddly, his confidence in being her master made it easier. Gwen knelt and waited on him. Kealton continued to move around the great room, doing his martial arts routine. When he finished he turned at last and tugged his silken pants down and off, revealing himself to her completely.

Gwen’s breath suspended so all she was aware of was the drum of her heart as she looked at him. She was back to the night when she’d first watched him doing katas in the nude. His blue eyes were almost black under the artificial lighting as he walked to her, his cock hard and unsubtle between his legs.

Kealton loomed over her deliberately, looking at her until she dropped her gaze. Moments passed. She was aware of the rise and fall of her bare breasts with each breath, aware of the moisture slickening her channel and the pain of need at the thought of him touching her there.

I think some yoga first.”

Gwen’s gaze shot up to meet Kealton’s. His face was flushed, his pupils enlarged, giving his eyes the look of a bird of prey from a menagerie on one of the zoo worlds.

The cat, let’s see it.”

More testing and…something else: the reason he’d taken the time to brew her the special tea. He wanted her relaxed, in the mood.

Yes, master,” she whispered.

She moved onto all fours and with an indrawn breath began the movements he’d taught her months ago, jutting out her buttocks, dropping her belly and raising her chin like a stretching cat.

He watched her, expressionless, and with the cool air against her skin, touching her between her legs where she was damp with desire for him, she was aware of how sexual the asana was. How had she never seen this before? But as she curved her spine, head down, back stretching, she could smell her own excitement. Surely if she caught it, he could smell her too.

She closed her eyes, surrendering to the moment, to the breath. She could feel his gaze on her like a hand and then she felt a real caress as he cupped her bare ass approvingly. “This makes your master want to fuck you.”

She wondered if he’d thought that when he’d taught her the position. When he grazed her warm cheek, she knew he had. Somehow he was reading her thoughts as he read her body.

Bound ankle.”

Moving gracefully—was this really her?—she shifted into position, legs bent and soles together, hands cupping her ankles as she bent forward.

He sat down behind her and she felt his cock, hot and wet-tipped, as it inscribed a half-circle against her lower back.

Kealton…” she breathed.

He reached between her legs and cupped her, giving her a gentle squeeze and then leaving his hand there while she continued to stretch and breathe and try to relax. She felt herself naturally enfolding his fingers, making his hand slick.

Spread your legs, lean back against me.” This wasn’t yoga now, this was a place she’d never gone before, a place where Kealton was her lover, her master.

Look for Loving Kindness in mid spring followed by a ménage called A Pastry Princess where two men and their woman explore these themes on a futuristic world.

In the meantime, I have also explored these favorite themes in many of my previous stories such as Jesse and my upcoming TEB novella Shifter Cowboy.


Jan Irving has worked in all kinds of creative fields, from painting silk to making porcelain ceramics, to interior design, but writing was always her passion. She feels you can’t fully understand characters until you follow their journey through a story world. Many kinds of worlds interest her, fantasy, historical, science fiction and suspense—but all have one thing in common, people finding a way to live together—in the most emotional and erotic fashion possible, of course.

To see more of Jan’s work go to:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Year of the Cat

Happy New Year!

Wait a minute, you're thinking. Did Blogger screw up and repost something from five weeks ago? Has Lisabet finally lost it?

I can't completely vouch for my sanity. (Who can?) However, I'm not as confused as I might seem. You see, today (February 3rd) is Chinese New Year, the most important holiday in the year for billions of individuals of Chinese descent as well as people from Han-influenced cultures such as Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese.

Today begins the Year of the Rabbit, or the Year of the Cat if you happen to be Vietnamese. Probably none of you are surprised to learn that I prefer the latter. Actually, in my life, every year is the Year of the Cat.

I've read various explanations of the discrepancy. One theory I encountered was that this was due to a linguistic confusion, because the Chinese word for rabbit was similar to the Vietnamese word for cat. Someone else suggested that since there was already a rodent year (the Rat), the Vietnamese didn't want another one. I'm not sure that this is very convincing since last year, according to the Chinese Zodiac, was the Year of the Tiger, another feline. On the other hand, one can never have too many cats, right?

In any case, this whole week is a major festival in the country where I live. Red lanterns adorn the buildings. Chinese calligraphy hangs from the eaves. Food is evident everywhere - both special, festive dishes for humans, which symbolize luck and prosperity, and offerings to spirits and ancestors. The supermarkets and shopping malls even play Chinese music!

We don't really celebrate Chinese New Year ourselves. Sometimes I'll wear red to get in the spirit. I have a red silk, Chinese-style blouse that I bought on holiday a few years ago, though it's a bit fancy to wear to work. Other than that, it's pretty much an ordinary day. Tonight for dinner I'm planning to make hamburgers, mashed potatoes and salad.

And what about our felines? How are they spending the first day of the year of the cat?

Pretty much as usual - eating, dozing, dropping into my office occasionally to see if they can assist...!

Anyway, Happy New Year to all of you! May the felines be with you.

ANNOUNCEMENT: Thanks to all of you who left me birthday comments here or at Marian Perera's blog. The winner was K.S. Augustin. She gets a free copy of Almost Home. Remember that you still have more than a week to enter my monthly drawing, just by telling me which book of mine you'd like to win. See for details.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Romance for Cynics

By Marian Perera (Guest Blogger)

Here’s a confession which will come as little surprise to anyone who knows me in real life. When it comes to romance, I can be very cynical.

Much as I enjoy stories where people fall in love, I grew up reading the bodice-rippers of the seventies and eighties. Those have their place, and they certainly paved the way for romances where the action didn’t stop at the bedroom door. But I read about so many alpha males and gorgeous virgin heroines that I grew very tired of them.

Now, even though I know romances have moved on and are much more varied, my personal fiction filter is still a bit overactive when it comes to this genre. Plus, since romances are published in a much greater quantity than other novels, there are more books to check out, and statistically speaking, there are likely to be more books that don’t work for a particular reader (though they may well be the favorites of another).

That being said, I write love stories and there are romance subplots in all but one of my fantasy manuscripts as well. My favorite novel is Gone with the Wind. So what’s the trick in appealing to a cynic?

Start with the characters

In every genre there are plots which might be overused, and romance is no exception. But if I care about the characters, I’m much less likely to think, “Not another marriage of convenience!” If the characters feel real – if they’re funny, flawed, admirable people who are far more than just pretty faces or large body parts – it’s easier to be drawn into the story.

Make it realistic

If the characters have problems that we can understand and sympathize with, we’re hooked. That applies to every genre, but in romance it might include not having any deliberate or contrived miscommunications (also known as the Big Misunderstanding). The conflict keeping the hero and heroine apart should be a real problem, rather than something which could be resolved if the two of them spoke honestly for ten seconds.

As someone once put it, suspension of disbelief doesn’t mean hanging it by the neck until it’s dead.

Give it a twist

It shouldn’t be easy to see how our heroes and heroines will overcome their obstacles. We cynics tend to overthink matters, but it’s all the more satisfying when we can’t quite do so, but the characters manage to solve the issue.

Pamela Morsi’s historical romance The Love Charm has a great example of this. The hero’s best friend is deeply in love with a woman whose husband deserted her, but the parish priest refuses to marry the two of them until there is evidence that the woman’s husband is dead. Otherwise, of course, she will be in a bigamous marriage.

The hero searches for that evidence, but finds nothing. How he nevertheless talks the priest into performing the marriage is a delight to read.

Even cynics fall in love. And when we do, we fall hard.


Several of my characters tend to be on the cynical side as well – such as Alex, the heroine of my just-released debut novel, a romantic fantasy called Before the Storm. The story begins when her owner gives her as a gift to his greatest rival, Robert Demeresna. Robert isn’t too pleased about this generous gift and keeps his sorcerer in the same room when he unwraps it:

“Take your cloak off,” Robert Demeresna said. “Mayerd…help her with it.”

Alex unfastened the cloak and let it drop, wondering if the sorcerer would flip it through the air with magic. Instead, he was at her side as the velvet slipped off her shoulders, and he caught it before it hit the floor.

He moves too fast and too silently for a man of learning, was her last thought before the air struck her skin, chilling it. She let her mind go blank and her body doll-like, waiting for further instructions. The baron seemed to prefer it that way.

He cleared his throat. “Take it off.”

“Of course, my lord,” Alex said. The sorcerer backed away, running his hands over her cloak in a caressing way that would have disgusted her if she had been able to feel anything at that point. She unfastened the black sheer and let it puddle at her feet.

“Step out of it,” the baron said. “And your shoes.”

There was something strange about his terse orders, and the unfamiliarity penetrated even her gelid calm. She obeyed, watching as Mayerd dropped the cloak on the hearth and picked up her shoes. He examined them before he gave his attention to the black sheer, shaking it out, turning it this way and that. He looks like he’s going to try it on for size, she thought and killed a spurt of half-hysterical laughter. She didn’t know which man would be worse when angered.

“It’s very skimpy,” Mayerd said finally.

“I beg my lord’s pardon.” What in the world did he expect the Black Mare to wear—armor? She looked at her bare feet, noticed the sheen of sweat that gleamed on her breasts, and wished she wasn’t standing so close to the fire.

The baron took a step closer and Alex glanced up, startled at his nearness. He was not very tall, but he was large, and her skin crawled as she noticed the width of his shoulders. This was a man strong enough to hurt her with his bare hands, and she supposed he would start soon. She concentrated on floating, allowing years of training to take over while her mind drifted.

“I see you wear no jewels.”

“No, my lord.” Valuables or money of her own would have been far too liberating.

“You don’t need them.” The baron’s tone was quieter. “Take your hair down.”

She raised her arms slowly, letting her breasts move with them, and kept her gaze fixed on the baron’s face as she did so. His body was tense, as if waiting to pounce, but his expression was not so much lustful as wary. She didn’t understand that, but what did it matter at this point?


Bio: Marian Perera was born in Sri Lanka, grew up in the Middle East, studied in the United States and lives in Canada – for now. She’s in her final year of college, studying medical laboratory technology when she isn’t writing. Her first novel, Before the Storm, features steam engines, sex and sorcery… and was a surprise to everyone who knew her as a studious Asian girl who wore collared shirts and cardigans.

She blogs about writing, publication and every step between the two at Flights of Fantasy.