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Thursday, April 26, 2012

De-Mystifying Ménage

Please welcome guest blogger Louisa Bacio

If one lover is good, two has to be better, right?

Well, that’s the common myth at least. When it comes to writing ménage, all a writer needs to do is take a few willing participants and toss them into bed, right? What’s the mystery? Well, it better be a big bed.

Actually, quite a bit of planning can go into the plot structure. First, what’s the dynamics of the relationships? Is it a M/M/F threesome where the men interact with each other, or is it M/F/M where both men lavish all the attention on the woman?

Then there’s the physicality of the events. Sometimes, the carnal acts can end up feeling like a Cirque du Soleil act gone wild. The key is to keep it sexy and believable, and not make the reader say, “They’re doing what? How?”

Another must is the emotional connection. How many people have ever been in love with more than one person at a time? Seriously in love? (Raises hand for major lust: One was a bad boy musician who acted like he didn’t give a damn, and the other was the complete opposite: a church boy. Rarely, would both have the same personality.) Was it equal? If the writer favors one partner more than the other, then maybe the reader will question the outcome.

Final component: It’s gotta be hot. If you think about it, the ménage plays into some of the ultimate fantasies. Not many get to live the life of smokin’ hot sex with multiple hot partners.

As part of the course lessons, I’ve talked to a number of people, including authors who specialize in writing about multiple partners, editors and reviewers (those critics!).

Ready to break the myths of ménage?

Class Dates: May 14-June 10

How do you write a love scene between a vampire and a werewolf and make it believable? How about sliding a third lover into the common bed? De-Mystifying Ménage explores the titillating combinations of sex with multiple partners.

The course builds upon establishing basic chemistry between characters to developing realistic storylines to finally describing the acrobatic acts.

Come prepared to build up a sweat writing, and leave your shyness at the door.

Topics Include:

Week 1:
Lesson 1:  Why write ménage? What’s happening in the market, and what’s selling?
Lesson 2:  Setting up the triangle: Characterization/motivation and the psychological dynamics of a love triangle

Week 2:
Lesson 4: Let’s talk about Sex: Terminology & How hot do you want it?
             First look: Male/Female
Lesson 5: What’s fur got to do with it? Genre Setting and Genre Blurring
             Bringing in Paranormal Elements

Week 3:
Lesson 5: Bedroom Acrobatics: Writing a sex scene with three people
             Same-Sex Scenes
Lesson 6: Complications & Conflict

Week 4:
Lesson 7: The Ending: Happily Ever After with a Threesome
Lesson 8: The Publication Process: A look at Calls for Submission and the Query Letter

To register, visit http://my.rwa.org/p/cm/ld/fid=230

Louisa Bacio writes paranormal and contemporary erotic romance. Bacio’s writing crosses genres, from the traditional m/f pairings to m/m/f in “The Vampire, The Witch & the Werewolf: A New Orleans Threesome.” Her novel “Sex University: All-Girls Academy” features a f/f/f foray.

Bacio also teaches college courses in writing, and edits romance for several publishing houses. She’s also highly involved with her local chapter, OCC/RWA.  

Love Knows No Bounds – http://louisabacio.blogspot.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why Description is Boring – and How to Make It Interesting

Please welcome guest blogger Madeleine Drake

Let's start with the obvious:  description is boring because it stops the action of the story in order to give readers a look around.

And yet, if we don't give our readers a chance to look around, they'll never see the worlds we've lovingly crafted for them, and our settings will seem weak.

Yes, we could keep description to a minimum, breaking setting details into small chunks and sprinkling them throughout the scene.  But even the smallest chunk of description, no matter how vivid, stops the action.

Is there a way to make setting descriptions a part of the action?  Is it possible to describe things as needed without boring the reader?

Yes.  But in order to do it, you have to understand how your point-of-view character's consciousness moves through the scene.

We humans experience the world as a stream of stimuli, interrupted by our responses to those stimuli.

You accidentally stub your toe (stimulus), you involuntarily pull your foot back and curl the injured toe (response).

A co-worker says something critical (stimulus), and you come back with a snarky retort (response).

You remember on your way home that today was your nephew's birthday (stimulus), and you feel guilty because you forgot to get him a present (response).

Stimulus-response, stimulus-response, stimulus-response:  that's the rhythm of life.

If you want to create the illusion of life, you need to reproduce that rhythm on the page.  A scene is a series of stimulus-response units chained together to give the illusion that we're seeing the storyworld through the eyes of a living, breathing, responding-to-stimuli person.

Description is boring when it's written as a series of stimuli without responses:  the car was blue, sunlight glinted off the vintage chrome bumper, the tires grabbed dust from the road and threw it up in a red-brown cloud.  When you give the reader a laundry list of details, it doesn't matter how vivid those details are, the reader's going to get impatient, because she wants to see something happen.

When description is presented as part of a stimulus-response chain, those vivid setting details become part of the action.

Consider this passage:

My repeller dangled between my breasts on a cord, sending out a bone-deep whine that drove the mosquitoes off and parted the pale clouds of miniscule gnats swarming along the bayou path.  The asphalt beneath my feet radiated heat.  The water treatment plant upstream tainted the breeze with the scents of sewage and cloying sweetness.

At what point in this paragraph did you start skimming?

Compare with this:

My repeller dangled between my breasts on a cord, sending out a bone-deep whine that wasn't supposed to make my teeth buzz.  But it drove the mosquitoes off and parted the pale clouds of miniscule gnats swarming along the bayou path, so I left it on.  Heat radiating from the asphalt aggravated the ache in my sore, swollen feet.  A whiff of sewage mixed with cloying sweetness clung to the back of my throat, making me gag. I could hardly wait to get upwind of the water treatment plant.

Better, right?  Doesn't this passage have a sense of movement that the first one lacked?

Let's break this down into stimuli and responses:

Stimulus:  My repeller dangled between my breasts on a cord, sending out a bone-deep whine
Response:  that wasn't supposed to make my teeth buzz.

Notice that the response is both a sensory detail and a veiled complaint that lets us know the repeller is annoying the POV character.

Stimulus:  But it drove the mosquitoes off and parted the pale clouds of miniscule gnats swarming along the bayou path,
Response:  so I left it on.

In this case, the stimulus is the POV character's observation of the repeller's effectiveness, and the response is her decision not to turn it off.

Stimulus:  Heat radiating from the asphalt
Response:  aggravated the ache in my sore, swollen feet.

The stimulus is another sensory detail, and the response not only tells you how the character is feeling, but also implies that she's been walking for a while.

Stimulus:  A whiff of sewage mixed with cloying sweetness clung to the back of my throat,
Response:  making me gag. I could hardly wait to get upwind of the water treatment plant.

The stimulus is yet another sensory detail, and the response includes the character's reflexive reaction to that detail as well as her thought identifying the source of the smell.

In this version, you don't just get the stimuli, you also get the POV character's reaction to each one:  she's torn between putting up with the buzz in her teeth or being swarmed by bugs, she keeps walking even though her feet ache, she's gagging on the smells from the water treatment plant.

Her responses also do double duty as characterization:  we learn that she's someone who keeps going until she gets where she needs to go, regardless of what discomfort she suffers along the way.

I encourage you to choose a description-heavy scene from your work-in-progress and revise it so that each passage of description has this stimulus-response structure.

I'd also like to invite you to join me next month as I teach Edit the Life Back Into Your Story:  Hands-on Techniques for Creating Emotional Impact here at FF&P.  This workshop will include lessons on:

      Using stimulus-response chains for maximum dramatic effect
      Fine-tuning the emotional progression of a scene
      Exposition techniques that keep your infodumps from putting the reader to sleep
      Recognizing and eliminating author intrusion
      Methods to ensure that your characters' emotions and personalities come through strongly on the page
      A simple process for turning "telling" into "showing"

See you there!

Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum. Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas. You can find her online at http://www.madeleinedrake.com

When she's not writing fiction, Madeleine blogs under the name Lynn Johnston about how to take control of your life ten minutes at a time using the kaizen approach: http://www.smallstepstobigchange.com

Her books include The Kaizen Plan for Organized Authors: Take Control of Your Writing Career 10 Minutes at a Time (www.smallstepsforwriters.com).

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wolves as Archetypes in my Novels

Please welcome guest blogger Eva Gordon

My blog is about why my fantasy and paranormal novels center on wolves as main characters, or spirit guides.  In my debut fantasy novel, Mystic Stone of the Tenth Realm, my hero is a Scottish werewolf, an alpha of his own pack. My current series is an epic lycan series, The Wolf Maiden Chronicles. I have my rights back and I’m currently revising for re-release. I’m also creating another wolfish series and delving into steampunk as well. I’m busy with writing and volunteering at a raptor center.

But back to wolves.

My totem guide is the raven but my heart guide is the wolf. I’m not alone. Numerous authors are following the call of the wild.

Why is the wolf a common archetype in many myths and stories, even today? Nothing sends a chill down your spine more that hearing a wolf’s howl in the night. While volunteering at a wolf sanctuary, I spent the night in a trailer on the grounds and was privileged to hear night after night of thirty wolves in their nightly serenade.  No sound is more awesome.

Yet in the past, the wolf had a more sinister reputation. During the development of agriculture and domestication of livestock, people settled down and pushed out old hunting deities. Wolves were vilified as part of pagan beliefs and turned the wolf into Satan’s ally. Fear of the wolf once ruled Europe. Wolves were hunted and exterminated. Legends of werewolves were rampant. Little Red Riding Hood and the story of Bisclaveret brought fear to the hearts of many. Many accused of being werewolves were tortured and or burned at the stake.

Today there is more of a movement to save the wolf and what was once considered a savage killer is now becoming a spirit guide for folks who need a strong archetype and for environmentalist who see the wolf as a “spokes-creature” for nature. So why is the admiration and fear of the wolf so universal?  My own explanation is that the wolf’s biogeography, high intelligence; and social interaction helped them enter into the mythos and literature.

The wolf is ubiquitous, found throughout most of the world from the icy Tundra in the Northern Hemisphere to the deserts of the Arabian Peninsula.  Even in countries where the wolf is not found such as Australia, there are canines that serve as a wolf proxy such as the dingo. Here in our modern homes and cities our pet dogs are constant reminders of our “wolfen” companion. We after all, created the dog from the ancestral wolf, as our most loyal companion.

Wolves display common social and intelligent behavior similar to our own. They both play and have a strict social status, just as some of our cultures have. They communicate with their kind, much the same way we do, both vocally and in non-verbal ways. We have kings and presidents, they have the alpha pair. Humans low in status such as slaves and peasants certainly were low on the pecking order or in a wolf pack the omega. Wolves also mate for life, which endears them to people who long to have a long and loving relationship with a mate. How romantic! What impressed me the most about the wolf sanctuary was the relationship between two wolves, Beasly and Barksalot. Beasily a white wolf had been rescued from a cruel man who gouged his eyes out, leaving the wolf blind and helpless. He was brought to the sanctuary and became friends with another rescued wolf, Barksalot, who literally became his “guide dog”.  Beasly grabbed on to Barksalot’s tail and would be lead around. Barksalot would also bark to communicate with Beasly. Barking is unusual for wolves. Beasly was unusual in that he was the only blind alpha known. He passed away last year and soon after his two other companions joined him. These similarities to human behaviors let us see the good and bad in us in them.

We long to emulate their hunting prowess. Wolves use team strategy and their powerful carnassials to bring down a much larger prey. Imagine a hero that can do damage without a weapon.

The wolf is universally regarded as creatures of prophesy and omens, and have connections between the worlds of the living and the dead. The wolf is affiliated worldwide with magic, medicine, healing and transformation. In Native American culture the wolf is an important archetype. They had great respect for the wolf and often offered prayers before a hunt to the wolf spirit. Wolf spirit was also powerful medicine for shamans who traveled to the world of the dead.  In the New World, there never was an attempt to eradicate the wolf from their land by the indigenous people.  In Europe just as in the New World, myths and stories about wolves are universal. Early Europeans Respected the Wolf as Protector and Teacher. From the Steppes of Asia Minor to the British Isles the Wolf was mighty totemic protector. Hecate, an Ancient Greek deity was worshipped as a goddess with three wolf heads. Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus who were fed by the she-wolf, Alcala.

Ancient Celts respected the wolf as a totem and often as a spirit guide. In Ireland, King Cormac was nursed by a she-wolf.

In the Viking world to be a member of the Wolf Clan, Ulfhednar was the greatest honour. Viking warriors believed that if they died a heroic death they would be turned into magnificent wolves. Vikings also believed wolves chasing and devouring the sun and moon caused eclipses. Two wolves accompanied Odin, ruler of the Norse Gods. He created the wolves Freki (Hungry One) and Geri (Greedy One) as loyal companions.

Today the wolf is once again a positive force in literature and as an important part of the predator/prey relationship that keeps nature in balance. And those hot one mate werewolf lovers make us long for the coming full moon.

Werewolf Lore, presented by Eva Gordon, runs from May 14, 2012 through May 27, 2012

Eva Gordon, BA Zoology, MA Biology, California Secondary Teaching Credential in the Life Sciences. She volunteers as a wildlife educator and has volunteered at the Howling Acres Wolf Sanctuary in Southern Oregon. She loves doing presentations on wolf and werewolf lore. She writes paranormal romance and fantasy novels. She is author of the Wolf Maiden Chronicles. Werewolf Sanctuary is book 1 followed by Beast Warrior: Viking Werewolf and White Wolf of Avalon: Werewolf Knight. With many more coming in the series. Her epic fantasy trilogy, Mystic Stone of the Tenth Realm hopes to find a publisher with the help from her agent. She loves delving into werewolf lore and writes what she calls her 'werewolfhistoricals' romance novels. She also pursues non-fiction scholarly research on global werewolf lore.

Check out Eva’s blog, Twitter, and Facebook

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Please welcome guest blogger Caridad Pineiro

Alphas, alphas everywhere and what’s a girl to do?  No matter where romance readers turn, alpha heroes dominate the genre, from paranormals to romantic suspense to those guilty pleasure stories about billionaires with secret babies.

What is the fascination with such seeming hard as rock heroes?  Let’s consider some of their characteristics.  Alpha heroes are generally:

1.       Physically strong

2.       Protective

3.       In positions of power, whether by virtue of wealth or their profession, such as law enforcement, military, firefighters, etc.

4.       In control of themselves as well as others by virtue of their position.

5.       Loners with few connections to others.

Those five traits, along with some others, make alpha heroes seem unattainable and even rude, over-bearing, domineering and emotionally distant.

So back to the question:  Why the fascination with alpha heroes?

If we somehow break past that hard façade that alpha heroes present to the world, we often find that alpha heroes may be emotionally tortured.  In some popular series, the alpha heroes are even physically challenged by one ailment or another.  Even if they are not, there may be some incident in their lives that has wounded them and made them equate having physical power and being distant with being in control.

As readers, we often see past that illusion to the heart of gold inside that wants to be healed and doesn’t want to be alone anymore.  We yearn for such heroes to find a mate that will help them lose the hardness without losing their strengths.

At least, that’s why I love alpha heroes.  I see past the face they present to the world to what’s within and I want to help them grow past the limits they have placed on themselves.  I also want these heroes to find the perfect mate and oftentimes, that mate may be as wounded as they are.  By getting together, they save each other!  Always a perfect ending in my opinion.

Other times, that mate might seem like a genteel and easy-going woman, but beneath that veneer lies a spine of steel and the fortitude to tame the alpha hero.

That’s another thing that I love about these heroes.  For all their power, control and strength, it takes an equally strong woman to truly make for a lifelong mate. When you get two such people together, the sparks will not only fly, but it is intriguing to see the alpha hero finally allow himself relinquish control to his woman.  That is a very very sexy thing, especially when the happily-ever-after leads to a loving and equal partnership between the two.

Thanks for dropping by for this too brief discussion about alpha heroes.  I look forward to sharing more about them in the future.

Rock Hard, But With a Heart of Gold, presented by Caridad Pineiro, runs from May 14, 2012 through May 27, 2012

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and RITA® Finalist Caridad Pineiro wrote her first novel in the fifth grade when her teacher assigned a project – to write a book for a class lending library.  Bitten by the writing bug, Caridad continued with her passion for the written word and in 1999, Caridad’s first novel was released.  Over a decade later, Caridad is the author of over thirty published novels and novellas.  When not writing, Caridad is an attorney, wife and mother to an aspiring writer and fashionista.  For more information, please visit www.caridad.com.

The Claimed

Victoria Johnson loves her life. She’s her own boss in a quaint beachside town, and has great friends who keep her grounded. If only they knew who she really is: an heiress to an ancient race who possesses astonishing superhuman powers. It’s Victoria’s duty to restore her clan of Light Hunters to their former glory by choosing the perfect mate. In Christopher Sombrosa, she just may have found him. Strong, smart, and successful, Christopher exudes a powerful energy. Their connection is sensual, irresistible-and forbidden.

A member of the Shadow Hunter clan, Christopher has defied his own father to lead his people away from affliction and violence. Yet he cannot ignore his duty to carry on his ancient bloodline. Stunningly beautiful and brimming with an erotic life force, Victoria is everything Christopher ever hoped for in a mate . . . but as a Light Hunter, she’s his mortal enemy. Together, they could unite their warring tribes. But murderous factions on both sides don’t want peace-and they’ll stop at nothing to keep light and darkness apart forever . . .

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 On The Far Side Contest - NEW Deadline! NEW Category!

Got fantasy, futuristic, or paranormal? Then the On the Far Side contest is for you!!
Welcome dragons, witches, ghosties, vampires, shape shifters, unicorns, and any creature your imagination can conjure up in a galaxy far, far away, in a time long past, or in your very own backyard. Every category MUST contain a futuristic, fantasy, or paranormal element.

NEW:  First 20 pages of manuscript for $20 ($25 for non-members) plus OPTIONAL two-page, double-spaced synopsis


Register here!

Contest Timeline:  

*NEW DEADLINE* May 30, 2012- Deadline for submissions


ROMANTIC ELEMENTS: Any of the below categories with romantic elements (a romance plays a significant part in the story, but other themes or elements take the plot beyond the traditional romance boundaries).

HARD SCIENCE FICTION/SF/FUTURISTIC: Set in the future with science fiction elements that include technological advancements; these stories may involve futuristic earth, other planets, aliens, or space travel.

DARK/LIGHT/GENERAL PARANORMAL: Paranormal happenings are a major element of the plot.

TIME TRAVEL/STEAMPUNK/HISTORICAL WITH PARANORMAL ELEMENTS: A character or characters travel back or forward in time; these stories can take place in a historical, contemporary, or futuristic setting. Steampunk should include typical steampunk elements.

DARK/URBAN/GENERAL FANTASY: Includes mythical creatures and magical elements; these stories are not limited to but may be set in medieval worlds with medieval characters.

YOUNG ADULT: Novels appropriate for teen and young adult readers, typically featuring main characters in high school or college. These stories may take place in a contemporary, historical, futuristic, or otherworldly setting. Minimum word count: 40,000 words.

*NEW CATEGORY* EROTIC ROMANCE (WITH PARANORMAL ELEMENTS): No straight erotica - this means there must be a HEA ending or at least a Happy For Now and your entry must contain a significant paranormal element (such as a futuristic setting; time travel; paranormal creatures--vampires, shape shifters, werewolves, and or any other mythical creatures or magical elements typically deemed fantasy, futuristic or paranormal in nature.)

Entrant Eligibility:

• Must not be published in full length fiction (40,000+) for the genre entering/or not published in     genre entering for past 5 years
• Entry fee: $20 for FF&P chapter members/$25 for all other entrants.
• First 20 pages of manuscript plus an optional (unjudged), 2 page maximum synopsis

Official Rules:

  1. All entrants must be valid members of RWA National® with a valid RWA® number.
  1. Entries shall consist of first 20 pages of manuscript plus an optional, unjudged 2 page maximum synopsis of the novel. A prologue and/or second chapter may be included if within total page guidelines.
  1. Do not include illustrations, author bio/photos, vocabulary lists, or footnotes.
  1. Entries shall be in standard manuscript format, 12 inch Courier, Courier New font, or Times New Roman font, 1" margins, and double spaced. (Format is not a judged component of the On The Far Side contest. No points are deducted for format infractions.)
  1. The title and category should be on top left of the page, page number on top right.
  1. The author's name should not appear anywhere on the manuscript or synopsis. Entries bearing the author's name on them shall be disqualified.
  1. Entries must be submitted by midnight EST May 30, 2012. If requirement is not met, entries will be unopened. Payment must also to be received by Contest Coordinator before deadline.
  1. Entry forms may be submitted in advance of emailing your file. Entrants will receive an email with instructions for how to edit their entry form and email their files. No changes may be made after the contest deadline.
  1. Entries will be received in RTF (Rich Text Format) files only. (To convert your file to RTF, open the document, go into File, click on Save As and choose RTF format. This will create a new document with the same title in RTF format.)
  1. No more than TWO (2) entries per entrant per category.


First round entries will be judged by experienced, qualified, or published judges. FF&P cannot guarantee judge commentary will be on every entry; however, we strongly encourage our judges to provide positive, constructive feedback. 2012 OTFS Scoresheet

Entries will be judged by FOUR (4) first round judges. Lowest score will be dropped to determine final average. Three highest scoring manuscripts will advance to the final round. All judged copies will be returned to non-finalist entrants following finalist announcement. Finalist entries will be returned after winners are announced.

Final Judges:

Romantic Elements: Liz Pelletier, Publisher, Entangled Publishing

Hard Science Fiction/SF/Futuristic: Becca Stumpf, Prospect Agency

Dark/Light/General Paranormal: Melissa Singer, Editor, Tor.

Time Travel/Steampunk/Historical with Paranormal Elements: Deb Werksman, Editor,Sourcebooks

Dark/Urban/General Fantasy: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary Agency

Young Adult: Kevan Lyon, Marsal Lyon Literary Agency

Erotic Romance: To Be Named