30 May 2010

Medieval Romance

I'm waiting to hear about the release date for my science fiction romance The Antaren Affair so, as is my habit, I'm working on something about as far removed from my last project as possible. It's a medieval (erotic) romance set in 13th-century England tentatively titled The Captured Bride. I've already blogged about the, er, scene involving transparent clothing and a horse trough, which was great fun to write. I'm inordinately proud of it, so thought I would post the excerpt here.

Without warning, a shadow fell across the entrance to the passage, an arm’s length from where she stood against the wall. Her eyes widened. It was the knight. Langlois. He strode to the wooden trough used to water the horses. Grasping it by the sides, he leaned forward and dunked his head.
Alais swallowed. The linen pulled against lean, tight buttocks as he bent over the trough. Her eyes followed the line of his thigh, the smooth curve of his waist, then up, along the burnished arc of his back. Straightening, he shook his wet hair out of his face.

He had lost the leather tie that held his hair back. It was more than a way to secure his hair, she thought. It civilized him. Now, nearly naked, his hair spread over his neck and shoulders like the mane of some wild animal, the power in him that she had sensed earlier was magnified ten-fold. And it had a dangerous, untamed edge.

He rolled his shoulders and the muscles rippled as he flexed. Alais’s fingers scrabbled against the wall of the stable for support.

Langlois reached for a bucket, filled it and emptied it over his head. The water streamed in rivulets down his body—down the hard, corded muscle of his chest. Down the sensuous curve of his spine. He gave a sigh of pleasure and Alais caught her breath.

He ran his hands through his dark hair. Droplets of water flew in all directions.

“Like what you see, my lady?”

Alais froze. She darted a glance at the courtyard. No one was close enough to hear him.

Except her.

She squeezed her eyes shut and flattened herself against the wall of the stable. Perhaps if she didn’t acknowledge him, he would go away. Either that or she would miraculously become invisible.

She heard him laugh, as though he knew what she was thinking. “I know you’re there. The queen’s ladies don’t venture down to the stables often. Don’t you have somewhere to be? Perhaps some mending to do?”

Annoyed, Alais opened her eyes and drew herself up. “I detest mending.”

Langlois gave a deep laugh that caused an odd thrumming sensation low in her belly.

“Fair enough.”

He still hadn’t turned around. He stood, hands on hips and head bent as water dripped from his body. The sun, now rising over the castle walls, gilded his skin. Alais wondered whether he knew what a glorious sight he was. Probably.

Langlois turned and Alais’s eyes dropped instantly to his hips. He had managed to soak his braies at the trough. The linen was plastered to his body, outlining muscular thighs and the thick ridge of his c**k.

Her lips parted and she sucked in a breath. Her eyes, in defiance of her will, remained fixed upon the impressive bulge.

“You’re a bold one,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest and leaning against the wall of the adjacent outbuilding.

His words broke her strange paralysis. She lifted indignant eyes to his face.

“I most certainly am not.”

“Do you always stare like that?”

Alais felt her cheeks burn. Holy Mother, but the prioress would be horrified if she knew what Alais was thinking.

“I am merely curious,” she said, keeping her voice steady and trying for just a touch of insolence.

“Oh?” He had that amused look on his face again.

Alais’s trepidation disappeared and her irritation returned. She hadn’t spent all of her life in the convent, for heaven’s sake. She knew that men prized…size. Just last week she had ignored two whispering chambermaids who were comparing the attributes of a young squire.

“I was wondering about the reach of your…” Alais paused, as though searching for the right word. “Sword.” She hadn’t realized how dark and expressive his eyes were.

Langlois’s face went blank for a split second before he grinned. “And how do you find my…sword?”

Alais’s temper flared. He was mocking her.

One side of his mouth curved in a wicked smile. His nose had been broken, she realized. It should have lessened his attractiveness. It didn’t. Nor did she find the stubble darkening his jaw objectionable.

What was wrong with her?

“Your reach may be fine,” she replied sharply. “I cannot judge. But your sword is…lacking.”

25 May 2010

New Science Fiction Erotic Romance

I'm very excited to announce that my publisher has accepted the manuscript for my next book, which is a science fiction erotic romance called The Antaren Affair. I'm completing edits this week and crossing my fingers that this one will be published as quickly as my last one.

I blogged a bit about the plot last month. In a nutshell: the setting is the planet Antares, where negotiations are underway between the Antarens and the Sarkadian Empire for access to some critical areas of interstellar space.

Our hero, Colonel Avar Rakosy, is an imperial negotiator and linguist with a military background. The planet Antares is male-dominated, but the colonel gets a surprise when he arrives in his quarters to find that the Antarens have sent him a woman as a "gift" to "serve" him during his stay.

Meraya is a kebara, a member of a class of subservient females in Antaren society. Avar finds himself enchanted by her and, against his better judgment, he, er, advances relations between the species. I'll post the official blurb as soon as it's approved. I'm hoping that the cover will come in this week.

The other project I'm working on is set in medieval England--knights and ladies! The hero is Stephen de Langlois, a landless knight who falls in love with a wealthy heiress, Alais of Pembroke. Unfortunately, Alais is promised to the king's half-brother. I had great fun writing the opening scene, in which Alais stumbles upon Stephen sparring, shirtless, with another knight. It being a hot day, he then decides to dunk himself in a horse trough. Which means that he's soaking wet. And all he's wearing is a pair of worn linen braies.

Alais gets an eyeful, to say the least.

20 May 2010


Agent Nathan Bransford, who maintains one of the best publishing blogs on the internet IMHO, posted a link to a list of 50 famous writers who were rejected multiple times before experiencing publishing success. For those of us still struggling to publish, such a list is a reminder that we're not alone.

I doubt that I'd persevere through as much rejection as some of these writers have suffered. This list goes to show that for many works, it's a matter of finding the right combination of editor and author. I also like to think, however, that most of these authors worked through those long years of rejection to improve their writing, polish their manuscripts, and become as adept with the written word as they possibly could. That's something that we all need to do. All the time.

Here's hoping you find some encouragement here if you're an aspiring writer.

19 May 2010

Purple Prose

Ah, purple prose. Those ornate, over-the-top descriptions that stop the reader mid-sentence. Romance writers have, in the past, been offenders, though they are certainly not the only ones. Writing about sex does seem to bring out the worst in writers, even those who are otherwise perfectly decent wordsmiths.

The truth is that it’s difficult to write good sex scenes. Our anatomical vocabulary is somewhat limited, ranging between the clinical and the outright offensive. So it’s understandable that writers would try to vary their prose by providing more creative descriptive passages. Thus we have ‘throbbing manhood,’ ‘love cavern,’ and ‘pulsing pinnacle of desire.’ You get the idea.

All About Romance used to run the annual Purple Prose Parody Contest, which was replete with cringe-inducing howlers. One of my favorites is “The Spinster's Tutor" by Tina Engler, which spoofs Robin Schone's style. To fully appreciate the parody, you have to have read Schone. But even if you haven't, you can still appreciate phrases describing the hero's manhood as "an avenging one-eyed god" or the hero himself as an "excellent marksman...[her] maidenhead as his target."

N.B. Don't try to drink coffee and read the parodies at the same time.

17 May 2010


I have been struggling the last few days. Struggling to find synonyms for @ss. In editing my work-in-progress, I've found that the word '@ss' is appearing with alarming frequency in paragraph after paragraph. Okay, maybe not that frequently. But there is some, uh, admiring going on between the hero and heroine. Being a very careful self-editor, I'm trying to avoid repeating myself. Thus, the Search for Synonyms.

I've discovered a number of words that refer to that portion of the anatomy. However, for various reasons, none of the synonyms are quite appropriate. For example: I do not find the word 'buttocks' to be in any way erotic. Ditto 'cheeks.' 'Rear' reminds me of car parts. 'Fanny' is out because it means something, er, more intimate for British readers.

My sister, who missed her calling as a stand-up comedian, suggested 'fundament.' Is it just me, or is 'fundament' Not Hot? Furthermore, I suspect (without checking the Oxford English Dictionary) that 'fundament' refers to something rather more specific than 'buttocks.' Sigh.

I've always been a great believer in the versatility of the English language. I am finding as an erotic romance writer, however, that English is comparatively impoverished when it comes to human anatomy. Our choices generally seem to be either clinical terms or insults. I try to avoid the clinical, as it creates distance between hero and heroine. One wouldn't expect the hero to be musing lustfully upon the firm suspensory ligaments of the heroine's breasts, for example.

'Purple prose' is another alternative, but I can't write it without howling with laughter. More on purple prose in another post.

10 May 2010

The Romance Aisle

I was caught cruising the romance aisle in Fred's recently. Fred's is the Alaska equivalent of Wal-mart, except more expensive and with bear spray. I was caught by an English professor. You know, one of those people who reads Literature.

I was irritated with myself for being uncomfortable. Why should I be ashamed to be seen in the romance aisle? Why should I be afraid of setting a bad example for my undergraduate students? After all, I like romance novels. Many of them are well written, well plotted, and historically accurate.

To tell you the truth, I'm ashamed of being ashamed. I'm not completely sure why I should feel self-conscious about enjoying happily-ever-after stories, or stories in which True Love Triumphs Over All. I would like to have my own HEA and find True Love. (I thought I had. But I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.)

In truth, no one has ever given me a hard time about reading romance. Probably because I go on the offensive before they have a chance. How do you deal with curious non-romance readers? What about people who sneer at romance? I presume they're still out there, but perhaps their numbers are declining. Thoughts?

06 May 2010

Reading Romance: The Masque of the Black Tulip, by Lauren Willig

Lauren's Willig's novels, starting with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, aren't marketed strictly as romance, but rather as chick lit. They're actually Regency-set historical romance. And pretty darn good romance, too, judging by The Masque of the Black Tulip. Several years ago, I tried to read Pink Carnation, but found it . . . silly. I recently read a review of the most recent Willig book and it sounded quite good, so I gave Willig another whirl. What a good idea that was! (pats self on back) You can read about the entire series at Willig's lovely (pink!) website.

Masque is the second book in the series, and it picks up the story of modern history graduate student Eloise Kelly, who is in England researching early nineteenth-century espionage. The story moves back and forth between Eloise and the lives of her subjects, both of which tend to be romantically complicated. While Eloise's romance moves slowly--she is becoming attracted to the young lord whose ancestors she's studying--the story of the romantic interludes of her Regency-era subjects takes up the bulk of the novel.

The heroine, Henrietta, is an easy-to-like young woman who dabbles in espionage. The hero, Miles, is charged with keeping her out of trouble whilst fighting (though not very hard) his own attraction to her. Miles is a strapping, sigh-inducing hero, and the pages light up whenever he appears.

Although there are some brushes with too-stupid-to-live moments, none of the characters descend fully into idiocy. If I recall correctly, the heroine of the first Pink Carnation novel, Amy, was rather silly. She makes an appearance in the second novel, and is just as irritating as she was in the first. But Willig seems to have avoided this problem in the second novel, with a heroine who, though occasionally foolish, is, in the end, worthy of the to-die-for Miles.

I'm hooked now and just finished The Seduction of the Emerald Ring. The Crimson Rose book is on hold at the library, so that's next. Oh, do yourself a favor and start at the beginning. Although the series can be read out of order, it's difficult to follow Eloise's love affair unless you start with Pink Carnation. Or skip the silliness and start with Black Tulip.

02 May 2010

You-know-what in Literature

So, why do I read romance? Romances have Happily Ever Afters (HEAs), which I find very comforting after my own disastrous romance. However, sometimes I feel that I should read more Literature. You know, Literary Fiction of the sort that involves the Man Booker Prize or the PEN/Faulkner Award. In my experience, however, Literature is not fun to read. People die. Even the good people.

Not only is a lot of Literature not fun to read, it also tends to have poorly-written and sometimes cringe-inducing sex scenes. If you're not familiar with the Bad Sex Award, given each year by The Literary Review, you might check it out. Consider yourself warned.

01 May 2010


This is a great time in which to be a writer. There are more options than ever for publishing, and I've taken advantage of some of these options, including ebooks, which I both purchase and write.

Ebooks are the future of publishing. Period. Let's not waste time protesting or lamenting the loss of paper-printed books. While I'm not willing to make any predictions about when tree books will disappear, we're in the midst of a major sea change in how books are produced and consumed. The arrival of Carina Press, a digital division of Harlequin, is a landmark in romance publishing, and I foresee a highly successful future for them.

One great advantage of ebooks is flexibility in length. This means that short stories, novellas and short novels--notoriously difficult to turn a profit on in traditional publishing--are now feasible to write and publish. Tree-book publishing has long privileged novel-length works of at least 80,000 words or so.

And I have slogged through such writing projects. But I find them painful. And boring to write after about 50,000 words. This is due to a congenital inability to focus on a single topic for an extended period of time. I couldn't write a Diana Gabaldon-length novel if my life depended on it. I'm happy to read long novels, but I can't write them. At this stage in my career, I'm happier working at around 30,000 to 40,000 words--roughly 100 manuscript pages.

Shorter lengths allow me to pursue a new idea, spend some time with it, and then move on. Ebook publishing makes this sort of writing economically feasible. And allows me to avoid that killer of creativity, boredom.