Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fear Factor

Have you ever stared at a blank page with the conviction that you just can’t write anymore? Okay, so you’ve finished many manuscripts--novels, novellas, short stories--been there, done that. But now, at this very instant, you are certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have lost the touch.

Rejection doesn’t hold any fear for me. I’ve had enough truly scary experiences in life to know what matters, and it’s not about gaining any one person’s approval. But facing a blank page when I’ve been in editing mode for weeks, or maybe even taken a couple weeks off to deal with a backlog of errands, chores, unpaid bills--now that’s frightening.

Because maybe I just can’t do it anymore. Maybe the muse has left for good this time. Maybe if I do write, it will be so horrific, so completely without merit, that I’ll throw in the towel for a life as a professional chick sexer This job actually exists. I know, because one of my friends in grad school kept coming up with that on his career profile tests. What does that say about a person? I figure this would be a perfect job for an out of work erotic romance writer.

Now that’s fear. So I stare at the page. I demand that my muse appear. I threaten her with nipple clamps, handcuffs, whips, and hours of disco music. Then I bribe, entreat, beg, and wheedle, promising her wine and cheese, Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream, Bach, Maroon 5, anything her little creative heart desires!

But the evil little thing is on vacation in Florida, or Europe--anywhere but Wisconsin in February. So I force myself to type a sentence without her. It’s awful. It may well be the very worst sentence I’ve ever written in my life. But I keep typing, clacking away at the keyboard. And I eventually get a sentence or two I like. And hey, that scene with the fruit and honey in the bathtub, wow, very kinky. I like it.

Disaster averted. I’ve once again pressed past the fear factor, muse or no muse. And in the winter, it’s much more likely to be just little old me, muse-less, typing away. But at least the fear’s gone. Until the next time I start a new manuscript…

Happy writing!

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Morning After

Ever wake up and want to hit rewind as fast as possible, backing up say twelve hours or so to erase whatever you did the night before? Or maybe you’ve woken up with the less horrific, but still troubling, sense of, “Holy crap, I so can’t believe I did BLANK last night!”

Lena, the heroine in Nature’s Pentacle, my March 25 release with Loose Id, wakes up on the mother of all mornings after to find her life has changed forever. After participating in a forbidden, sexual rite to summon rain to the drought-ruined land of the Midwest, she learns that her roommate leaked the identity of the thirteen witches involved to the press.

Here’s a snippet of what Lena’s morning after looks like.

Still shaky, Lena rose from the cushion in the center of the living room. The scattering of colorful throw pillows, shelves of books, and pots of herbs blurred as she blinked back tears. As frantic as her need was to drive over to the hospice center and see if her mother had improved since yesterday, she knew she couldn’t go marching in there with the taint of forbidden power crackling around her.

In her drugged stupor, her mother wouldn’t notice. But her sister, Serena, would sense she’d been channeling magic that fell a few shades shy of rainbows and roses. She’d tried to ground the remnants of power after Matt dropped her off last night, and again this morning after she’d grabbed a few hours of sleep. But the energy they’d summoned wasn’t so easily dismissed.

Reaching for the phone to call Serena, she tripped, then delivered a vicious kick to the offending throw pillow lying on the floor. Damn, damn, and damn it all again. Who in the name of Hecate had picked her to help heal the land, anyway? She couldn’t even heal her mother. As she punched speed dial for Serena’s cell number, someone pounded on the door, paused, then pounded again.

“Damn it, we’ve got a door bell!” She slammed the phone down and stalked toward the door.

Great, now she was plus one uninvited visitor, and minus one roommate. Where the hell was Skyler, anyway? Not that it was unusual for her to go home with someone she’d just met--far from it--but Sky had a firm no overnight policy. She preferred to wake up on her own pillow, and wake up alone.

“Quit, I’m coming already!” The pounding continued as she struggled with the locks. This had better be good, or someone was going to find himself on the wrong end of a nasty spell. Scowling, she tugged open the door. “Matt?”

Before she could invite him in, he stepped into the entryway and closed the door behind him. “You need to pack a few things, and we need to leave--now.” Tension flowed off him in waves, and his mouth was set in a tight line.

“What the…”

“Your roommate called the press last night. Don’t know if you noticed, but it rained all night--not just in northern Wisconsin, but across the Midwest. The land is greener than it should be this soon. Add the fact that the Colorado group had similar success in their region, and the Quebec coven seems to have made some progress against the drought up there, and meteorologists would have been suspicious even if your roommate hadn’t gone yapping to the press.”

Pacing like a restless lion, tawny and ready to pounce, Matt whirled to face her. “Skyler wasn’t content to let nature take the credit. She outed us, Lena. Everyone at the circle last night.”

Holy goddess, when Lena got her hands on Sky, she was going to throttle her. That her younger sister would hear those reports was, at the moment, the least of her concerns. She didn’t question Matt’s assertions, since she recognized truth in his voice. Damn hard to lie to a witch.

“So move! If you want a change of clothes, grab it fast.” He glanced out the window. His eyes were wild, and his muscles rippled under his black T-shirt as he paced the length of the room. “I got word from Kenji, the witch who anchored the circle last night. I warned a few others, then headed directly here, but we’re running out of time.”

“I can’t. My mother --”

“Will be a hell of a lot safer if she can honestly say she doesn’t know where you are, and no, she doesn’t know anything about arcane rituals aimed at addressing the drought.”

Fighting a knot of panic that threatened to cut off her air supply, she grabbed Matt’s arm. “The anchor--Kenji? Did he say… I mean, did Skyler --” Oh, bless it. “How much did she say about witches?”

“As far as we can tell, just the facts of the ritual, and who, in her humble opinion, deserves credit.” His voice dripped sarcasm, and the skin on his forearm twitched under her hand. “She wasn’t stupid enough to tell them it’s hereditary--that we’re genetically unique.”

“So if I go…” Goddess, was she really thinking about leaving her mother? “My mom and sister should be safe?”

“Damn, we don’t have time for this.” Covering the distance to her bedroom in several strides, he tugged open her drawers, grabbed the gym bag she’d left beside the bed, and tossed in random items of clothing. “Getting you out of here is the only chance we’ve got to keep you safe. And yes, it’ll help protect your family.”

The fury of his movements, the frantic motion as he packed her things… “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

“Put these on.” Scowling at the jogging shorts she’d tugged on earlier, he threw her a pair of jeans. “The police found one of the Colorado witches dead this morning. So far, that’s all we know--not who, or how, or why. But we need to disappear for a while--at least until we know what’s happening.”

As she tried to absorb the information, he towered over her and gripped her shoulders hard enough to make her gasp. “We’ve got to leave. Now. If you argue, I won’t hesitate to use a spell to save your hide. But it’ll make my day easier if you cooperate. Damn it, Lena, you’re Skyler’s roommate. If there’s going to be a witch hunt, you’re sure to be first on the list. And the easiest to find.”

That’s the aftermath for Lena, or the start of it all, anyway. Let’s just say her week gets a lot worse before it starts to get better, though falling for Matt, a drop-dead-sexy witch, is a hell of a consolation prize. Anyone who’s curious about the arcane sexual rite that sets Lena’s life on a collision course with disaster can pop over to the excerpt on my website, but only if you’re eighteen or older: EXCERPT Nature’s Pentacle. So let’s see a show of hands here, anyone ever wake with that queasy, “Gee, I wish I hadn’t done that” feeling?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Love and Writing in Winter

Here in Wisconsin, we’re buried under so much snow this winter that driving down the street is like navigating a maze, with huge drifts to each side of you, and no visibility. The trees are coated with glass following an ice storm, and the world’s breathtakingly beautiful. I’m less impressed, however, with the fact that my car froze to the driveway yesterday. And the icy, treacherous roads. And the sub-zero temperatures.

As writers, I think this type of atmosphere is guaranteed to affect us in some way. If we’re not inspired by the beauty or jolted into action by the bitter cold, the opposite’s likely to be true. We either forge ahead and write for all we’re worth, or we crawl onto the couch with tea and books and stare hopelessly at the computer in the corner.

This year, I lashed out with every bit of creativity and heat I could summon and turned out a scorcher of a novella during the past few weeks, in the midst of major snow, winter illnesses, and drafts coming through the sliding glass doors in my office that merited gale warnings. No kidding, I wrote with a scarf on most of the time!

And what I turned out was this fun, wild novella with the most alpha male hero I’ve ever created. Larger than life, in every conceivable way, my Wind Wanderer has the wings of an angel, the tail of a demon, the dominance of a true alpha, and the face of a god. And my heroine, a witch with kick-ass supernatural powers, matches him every step of the way--bravery, stubbornness, a penchant for breaking rules, you name it, she’s right there with him.

So winter may be a literary hardship, but this year I found it an amazing catalyst to conjure up some fierce heat between my characters. I think winter also reminds us of the basic comforts, the things that make us human, really. How our characters touch, talk with, and comfort each other. That a hug can be as important as a shattering orgasm. That drifting off to sleep curled up against each other can seal a heroine and hero’s fate even more so than the fierce sex that preceded their slumber.

Stay warm everyone, and happy reading and writing!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Art of Seduction

As an erotic romance author, one plot element I face in every manuscript is how to bring my hero and heroine together--and how to get them interested in each other once they've made contact. That second part frequently involves some of the age old techniques of seduction.

Are they forced to work as a team for a common goal? Matt and Lena are thrown together under less than opportune circumstances--a forbidden sexual rite to mend the shattered environment-- in Nature's Pentacle, my March 25 release with Loose Id. They find their way into each other's arms before they've even been introduced, and then they're forced to stay together to outrun a rogue witch. But even so, winning each other's love takes everything from conversation, to gentle kisses, to a wild, all-out menage with a mutual friend and love interest.

When characters aren't thrown together through adverse circumstances or forced proximity, chances are you'll find even more elements of seduction. One person usually likes the other just a little bit more. In my most recent work, Stange Sabbats, coming soon from Loose Id, two of the characters win the love and affection of their partners using comfort, conversation--and every bit of sexual chemistry they can summon to get their love interests into bed with them.

So what forms of seduction work for you, as a reader or author? Candles and wine and elaborate feasts? Dancing? Talking? Sexy clothes--or lingerie? Shared interests? Explosive chemistry (a longtime favorite of erotic romance authors)? Taking risks? Breaking taboos? Kink? Walks in the park holding hands? A date to a sexy movie?

The sky's the limit here, so tell me about some of your favorite--or least favorite--seduction scenes from fiction, or your own experience!

My husband won my affection way back in 1984, with long conversations about art during our senior high art seminar. Better yet, on our first date to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, we admired an exhibit of a spectacular room with tapestries, thick rugs, every shade of red and crimson you could imagine, and front and center, a bed fit for kings to seduce their queens. We leaned together, whispering about what people could do in a bed like that. He touched my arm, I brushed my hand across his back. You get the idea. And all these years later, I remember every detail. Because the best seduction scenes, even ones as innocent as our high school romance, are unforgetable.