Awkward Moments in Writing

My name is Ember Leigh, and even though I write erotic romance and love it, I’ll be the first to admit it can be a little awkward sometimes.

Carlos and Casey 200x300My current release Carlos and Casey features two ex-lovers seeing each other for the first time after four years. The short story features a very uncomfortable, awkward start as neither of them knows if that spark is still there. Four years is both so long and no time at all, but it’s certainly enough time to need to get to know a person again.

As I wrote the story, I could feel the weight of this awkward scenario – it even made me cringe, sometimes. Haven’t we all been there, in some situation where you just don’t know what to say, and that silence is almost deafening?

I like awkward moments. Call me strange, but I find them fun. Not necessarily to live through all the time, but awkwardness is fun to recreate in stories, and fun to talk about after the fact. Once you can laugh about it, that is.

It got me thinking about other awkward situations in my writing career in general. And I thought I might shed some light on the actual awkwardness of being a romance author at times.

With so many throbbing things, pulsing fill-in-the-blanks, rock hard oh-yeahs and whispery whatnots bursting from our pages, how could it not be?

I’m referring to the behind-the-scenes aspect, of course. The hours whiled away in front of our respective computers, mulling over the benefit of jubilant sigh in this particular block of text, or if perhaps straining member can slide just this once.

The awkward part is a necessary predecessor to the steamy, take-me-baby-now, perfectly polished part. Because I’ll be honest: writing sex scenes is hard sometimes. Not for lack of experience, not for secret shame of content, not for unexpected stimulation requiring a time-out (though that does happen occasionally!).

Sex scenes are the hardest scenes to write for me, because I am a perfectionist by nature (god, what writer isn’t?) and my inclination is to make my first draft as sparkling as possible.

Which means I can get hung up for hours, or sometimes days, debating how I want to describe the arc of a pectoral, or what words to describe penetration that haven’t been used before.

The old writing adage goes something like this: “JUST WRITE, and then improve it later.” I’ve always struggled with this, but have been able to reach a healthy compromise with most of my writing. I can spew out the majority of a novel without looking back these days, restraining the critical eye until Revision #1.

But the sex scenes? They still get me hung up.

Sometimes, my first draft sex scenes are so unsexy that I feel like throwing in the towel. They can be downright boring, and awkward.

Plenty of these first draft horrors overuse basic words like “hard” and “moan.” The result can look something like this:

John moaned hard and deep into her shoulder. Katie arched her back against him, hard, and let out a gravelly moan as his fingers danced around the prize. She knew that the hard heat of his chest would be the thing to unravel her britches. She moaned again.

Let’s all chuckle quietly for moment. In three lines, we see both ‘moan’ and ‘hard’ three separate times each. Unacceptable, in Polished Final Draft Land.

Luckily, these things get revised out and improved and perfected. That’s the beauty of the editing process.

But for me, the mere experience of writing such lackluster, unsexy sex scenes is a wholly awkward experience. Just reading back over them after some time has passed, before the revision process, is, well, how can I say it?

Freaking awkward.

No matter, though. Plenty of opportunities for me to laugh at myself after the fact. And definitely good fodder for a book of hilariously awkward first draft sex scenes down the road.

Are there any awkward parts to reading or writing for you? Do awkward scenarios make you just want to shrivel up and disappear? Do you have any awesome awkward tales involving reading or writing romance novels?

SONY DSCBIO: Ember Leigh has been writing erotic romance novels since she was far too young.  A native of northern Ohio, she currently resides in South America with her Argentinean partner, a detail she uses to justify her Bachelor’s degree in Latin American Literature. In addition to romance novels, she also writes travel articles, maintains three blogs, and continually attempts to complete a mildly-gripping short story. In her free time, she practices Ashtanga yoga, travels the world, and eats lots of vegetables.

Website: http://www.emberleighromance.com

Find her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/EmberLeighAuthor

Twitter: @EmberLeighAuth

Blurb: Recently divorced, Casey has been longing for a man’s touch. So when business brings her back to Carlos, the one that got away, it has to be fate. The four years apart have only done him better, and all she can think about is having his arms, and body, wrapped around hers. But Carlos is not the same man he was four years ago, and Casey too is feeling the weight of too much time gone by. Can Casey help reignite his fire or has time left them behind?

EXCERPT:

Her breath caught as she followed him up the staircase, tucked to the far side of the house. Carlos had always been fit enough, but it looked like he’d taken up some new form of exercise in the past four years. He was beefier, yet still lean. His ass moved round and tight in front of her as they climbed the stairs. At the landing, he gestured in front of them.

“This is my studio, but it’s all yours for tonight.”

It was a rec room that took up the whole second floor, and far more standard male than the ground floor alluded to. Movie posters, gaming systems, books scattered on floors and coffee tables, and, off to one side, the trumpet, asleep in a bed of sheet music. In the corner there was an overstuffed couch just about as wide as she was long – it would be great to sleep on, even better if he could bend her over that armrest and fuck her until dinner was ready.

She cleared her throat, deciding adult friendships could be fun, even after four questionable years. “I thought I’d be sharing a bed with you?” She tried to keep her tone playful as she sauntered toward the couch. She tossed him a smile and she caught a glimpse of him looking very stricken. Shit. Too far. Things are too different now. Abort!

Maybe too much time had passed in general. Maybe he was courting a girl and wanted to take it slow with her. Maybe he no longer found her attractive, four years becoming the dagger in the heart. Maybe he’d become celibate, or found her life too normal and boring. There was a whole list of reasons why she shouldn’t make the first move.

“I was just joking,” she said after a moment, rolling her eyes. “Come on, lighten up.”

He exhaled slowly, looking down at the ground as his tongue found the corner of his mouth. “I know it was a joke, Case.”

“In case you forgot, we used to share a bed.” She looked at him pointedly, already horrified that the words were coming from her lips. What was the getting at? Who had authorized this dialogue?

He squeezed his eyes shut and laughed softly. “Oh, I remember.”

Find Ember Leigh on Amazon

The Search for Fresh and Original

proof of their sinGuest blog by Dani Collins, author of Proof of Their Sin

I’m still a relatively new author and this is my first organized blog tour. This post is my tenth on Proof Of Their Sin and I’ve written three books and two partials since it was accepted. I’ve been moving the writing of this blog down my To Do List for a few days, mind drooling as I attempted to find something fresh to say about this story.

It’s the same struggle we face when writing the book in the first place. To counter that old argument that all romances are the same, we writers struggle to make this story different and fresh and fun.

But how? Especially when writing for a well-loved line like a Harlequin Presents? At its heart, Proof of Their Sin is a secret baby with a reunion romance. The hero, Paolo, is Italian and rich. I know you’ve seen these elements before and when it comes to certain things—a tone of voice, a heated caress—it’s really easy to fall back on a nice bit of phrasing as common as tycoons and virgins. (She husked, while stroking light fingertips across her keyboard.)

Characters, however are unique products of their personal history and life experience, bringing that stab of freshness we’re looking for, so I thought I’d give you Proof of Their Sin’s backstory.

Before I sold in May of 2012, I was working with Suzy, one of the editors at Mills & Boon. She had recently rejected one of my manuscripts (ouch) and asked me to submit three fresh ideas for consideration. Proof of Their Sin was one of them, sent under the title Kidnapped For Keeps. She wound up suggesting I pair the heroine from one synopsis with the Russian hero from the other.

There’s a whole long epic Russian tragedy about how that story marched toward eventual cold and wintry death. (It may yet see resurrection.) After its demise, I wrote No Longer Forbidden? It was accepted in a two-book contract and I still had this lovely synopsis entitled Kidnapped For Keeps which hadn’t exactly been rejected so I sent it along as my second book.

I already had a jump start on the story with a stunning dress for Lauren and a white tie ball and a revelation of an unplanned pregnancy. Wait, have you seen that in a romance before? Yeah, me too. Fortunately, I had plenty of questions to answer: How does she get in? How did she get pregnant? How does she know Paolo?

Pretty soon I was getting to know Lauren and Paolo. He’s a banker who only succeeds in that field by tempering his natural, high-octane, surf-typhoon-waves-in-Indonesia nature. For all his projection of aloofness, he was incredibly devoted to his best friend, Lauren’s first husband. Lauren is an absolute mouse when the story opens, but she steps into her grandmother’s vintage designer gown and dares Paolo to judge her. In her quiet way, she keeps Paolo on his toes and offers him the excitement he craves.

Due to another epic saga, my first Mills & Boon will release with my third this December, making Proof of Their Sin my North American debut. It will hit shelves in my hometown, on July first. I’m ridiculously excited. (I actually went into a store today to check for it and they groaned in empathy when they saw me. “It’s not here yet.”)

I hope Proof of Their Sin strikes a chord with you. Here’s the blurb:

A beautiful mistake…

Pregnant. Lauren Bradley’s heart stops-there’s only one man who can be the father and it’s not her late husband, the man everyone thinks is a celebrated war hero….

Ravaged with guilt at sleeping with his best friend’s wife, Paolo Donatelli closes his heart to Lauren forever. But in nine months’ time, the proof of their incredible night together will be there for the world to see.

Marriage is Paolo’s answer to avoiding more scandal, but it’s Lauren’s worst fear-she still bears the scars from the first time she said I do. Can she trust Paolo enough to reveal the truth?

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

What makes a romance stand out from the pack for you? Do you have an example of something really different that worked really well for you—or didn’t at all?

GIVEAWAY: I have a copy of Proof Of Their Sin for one lucky commenter.

dani collinsBio: Dani Collins spent two decades submitting to every publisher with a transom while holding down a day job and raising a family with her high school sweet heart.

When The Call finally came, Dani ran with it, going to contract on eight books in that first year. Along with her Harlequin Mills & Boon titles, she has an epic fantasy romance, The Healer, with Champagne Books and an indie-published rom-com, Hustled To The Altar.

While her stories span very different genres, she always delivers alpha-male heroes squaring off with spirited heroines in a deeply emotional, unforgettable romance.

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

I’d love to hear from you. Find me at:

www.danicollins.com | FB:DaniCollinsAuthor | @DaniCollinsBook |Goodreads

Buy: Proof of Their Sin (One Night With Consequences)

Review: Barefoot in the Sun by Roxanne St. Claire

barefoot in the sunReviewed by Patsy F.

This book begins in an unusual way. The “life secret” of the main character is revealed in the prologue and you get a good sense of the history of the characters. Then Chapter 1 starts with 9 years later. So immediately I was intrigued and excited to be reading a romance mystery.

The story begins when Zoe Tamarin confesses to her true love (Oliver, a hot, strong, prestigious doctor) that she had a nightmare childhood. She tells him that the woman that she calls, Aunt Pasha, is really the woman that saved her from a tragic life and abducted her. They were always on the run because Pasha was afraid they would be caught and she would be sent to prison. Little did Zoe know Aunt Pasha had another secret.

As Zoe grew into a beautiful young woman, her love for Aunt Pasha grew too. Pasha had given Zoe a wonderful loving life but a life on the run nonetheless. Zoe had developed three strong sisterhoods during the years. These friends were just as much family to Zoe as aunt Pasha and although the friends had no idea that Pasha had changed Zoe’s real name and been on the lamb, they loved her as much as Zoe did.

Though they were only together for four months, Dr. Oliver Bradbury was the only true love Zoe ever knew (her soulmate). She had left Oliver nine years ago in the beginning of the story. Oliver was about to tell a secret of his own to Zoe that his ex was pregnant with his child. He had met Zoe months after he separated from his ex. But then when she left he knew Zoe would never return, so he married his ex and raised their son just to do the right thing.

Finally now that Zoe is grown and after years of running, Zoe and Pasha decide to go to meet Zoe’s friend on an island in Florida. The friend has opened a beautiful resort and is about to give birth to her second child. When she goes into labor, there is a handsome, respected, well qualified doctor at the resort with his son.

The real mystery of the book is Pasha’s secret. The end of the story is what you would expect after a story such as this, but leaves you with a feeling of…love conquers all…no matter what.

This is a very good read, the only negative would be some of the chapters were a little too wordy in the scene description.

I would like to read more of this author’s Barefoot Bay series. I rate this book at 4 stars!

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Barefoot in the Sun (Barefoot Bay)

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Audio Review: The Edge of Desire (Bastion Club, Book 7) by Stephanie Laurens

edge of desireHeroine: Lady Letitia Randall was in love once, but then the left her high and dry when she needed him most. Now to save her brother, Letitia must ask for aid from the same crusty curmudgeon. She’ll seduce him if she must in order to find her brother before the authorities do and to clear his name of her husband’s murder. This gal is determined.

Hero: Christian Allardyce, sixth Marquess of Dearne, didn’t tell Letitia he joined the ranks of Britain’s secret agents to fight Napoleon. He thought she would wait for him, but it turns out she married somebody else and that it was apparently a love match. It’s a betrayal he’ll never forgive, but when she asks for help he can’t refuse.

Review: Do you like reunion romances? Second chance love stories? A little murder mystery? You’ll like this book then! Just avoid the repeated references to Vaux temperament. The mystery is complex (drags a little at times, but interesting as it progresses) and each layer reveals something else about Letitia’s dearly eagerly departed husband. There’s also a big misunderstanding for our hero and heroine to put a nice bow on it.

Narrator: Steven Crossley has a very deep voice and a wonderful British accent. His voice sounds similar on one level to Sean Connery. He says things very precisely.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Buy: The Edge of Desire (Bastion Club)

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Review: Too Dangerous to Desire (Lords of Midnight, Book 3) by Cara Elliott

Too Dangerous to DesireHeroine: Sophie Lawrance knows passionate love doesn’t always conquer all. It certainly didn’t help her in the past, when she felt it her duty to refuse her heart. Instead of fighting for her, her lover ran away. And it definitely can’t help her now that she is in the middle of a blackmail scheme meant to ruin her father’s reputation and her sister’s happiness. Or can it? Can she trust the pirate with the face of her first love to help?

Hero: Cameron Daggett, the man whose hand in marriage Sophie once rejected, is good at living in the shadows. When his present unexpectedly collides with his past, he has to know what brings her back into his sphere. Her meeting with a shady bloke piques his curiosity and she his passions. His skills as a thief will finally get some good use if he can manage to steal her heart again.

Review: For the record, the nickname Sleuth Hound is not as sexy as Wolfhound. Cam might have been better named Ghost Hound, because he can slip in and out of people’s homes stealing what he most desires. Virtuous ladies’ virtue especially! There are shades of Jane Austen’s Persuasion in the setup of this third book in the Lords of Midnight trilogy. Perfect, if you are in the mood for second chance romance.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Buy: Too Dangerous to Desire (Lords of Midnight)

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GIVEAWAY + Review: Big Sky Mountain (Swoon-Worthy Cowboys, Book 2) by Linda Lael Miller

big sky mountain linda lael millerHeroine: Kendra Shepherd is divorced and caring for her young adopted daughter. Once upon a time Hutch broke her heart and she’s now afraid he’s going to do it again, but this time it’s not only her heart in jeopardy, but her daughter’s too.

Hero: Hutch Carmody is about to get married to the wrong woman. Apparently the golden boy of Parable, Montana, can actually do wrong and does when he leaves her at the altar. The female populace is furious on his jilted bride’s behalf… and Kendra thinks this is a sign he is still a playboy.

Series: Big Sky Country is the first book in the trilogy and contains background information on the Carmody brothers: Hutch and Slade. In Big Sky Country, Slade inherits half of Whisper Creek Ranch, which is unexpected because Slade is the illegitimate half-brother of Hutch.

Review: Hutch was a bad-boy and a jerk in the first book, but in his book, Hutch is a really loveable hero. His interactions with four-year-old Madison were super cute. She calls him “Cowboy-man.” Who can resist a guy who buys a little girl a pony? Madison came across smarter than a four-year-old at times, which is probably my only caveat to the story. It was good to see the relationship between Slade and Hutch mend and heal.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Buy: Big Sky Mountain, Big Sky Country

Excerpt:

Except for bankers and lawyers, few men in rural Montana wore suits on a regular basis—such get-ups were reserved for Sunday services, funerals and…weddings, ill-fated or otherwise.

Opal, for her part, kept murmuring to herself and shaking her head as she began measuring out flour and lard for a batch of her world-class biscuits. “Landsakes,” she muttered repeatedly, along with, “Well, I never, in all my live-long days—”

Joslyn laid her hands on her bulging stomach and sighed. “I swear this baby is practicing to be a rodeo star. It feels as though he’s riding a bull in there.”

Kendra laughed softly, partly at the image her friend had painted and partly as a way to relieve the dizzying tension brought on by Shea’s breathless announcement. Hutch called the whole thing off. He stopped the wedding.

“The least you could do,” she teased Joslyn, trying to get a grip on her crazy emotions, “is go into labor already and let the little guy get a start on his cowboy career.”

Buy: Big Sky Mountain

GIVEAWAY: I have one paperback copy of Big Sky Mountain up for grabs. Open to US/Canada. Enter by leaving a comment about why you love cowboys, westerns, or why you love Linda Lael Miller! Last day to enter: August 25, 2012. good luck!

Follow along on the blog tour: http://booktrib.com/booktrib-blog-tour-nyt-bestselling-author-linda-lael-millers-big-sky-mountain/.

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A Resume to Woo an Ex

by Phillipa Ashley, guest blogger and author of Wish You Were Here

Hi there, Keira kindly invited me to write up ‘a resume to woo an Ex’.

At the start of my new release, Wish You Were Here, Jack Thornfield opens an application for a job in the travel company where he is CEO. He has quite a shock when he sees whose resume it is. But not as big a shock as Beth Allen when she finds out who’s going to be her new boss.

So here’s the resume she could have sent…

RESUME

Name: Elizabeth Allen

Age: 28

Location: Currently living in village in Lake District but prepared to move to London temporarily. I also have extensive experience of travel in Europe and beyond.

Education: First class degree in Modern Languages, MBA, Gold Survival Swimming Badge.

Experience and Achievements: Adventure travel consultant, big sister (and surrogate mum) to Louisa after our mum died suddenly a few years ago. I’m also helping to run a cycle hire business while my father recovers from a serious accident.

Dependants: Louisa, Dad and Marcus – he’s the owner of a posh used car dealership. Marcus isn’t really a dependant; he’s my sort-of boyfriend and very well off. He wants me to marry him which would solve all our family’s financial problems but I’m not sure yet. Marcus is kind but I like to be independent…

Job Requirements: I’m looking for a senior consultant’s job in the adventure travel industry with a great company.

Salary requirements: As much as possible because I’m the main family breadwinner right now. We need the money to send Louisa to a top performing arts school. She’s got a place but in the circumstances, we can’t afford to send her. That’s why I’m applying for this temporary job as a consultant in London.

Anyone we should avoid sending your resume to?

This is a long shot but… Jack Thornfield. I don’t know why I put his name because I haven’t heard from him for eight years. I’ve no idea what he’s doing now but he used to be an adventure travel guide and may still be working in the industry. Personally, I hope he’s disappeared off the face of the Earth. I mean, I don’t hope he’s come to any harm, God forbid – but if he was herding yaks in Outer Mongolia or surviving on bugs in the jungle, that would be fine.

I know that sounds bitter but I met Jack in Corsica on vacation 8 years ago. I was young, naive and a virgin. He was gorgeous and funny, strong and tender. I fell in love with him. Wham. He swore he’d fallen in love with me. He even proposed to me… oh wow, I was floating on air. I thought he was the one. I was wrong. When we got back to England, I never heard from him again. He ignored my calls and emails and just vanished. I’ve never forgotten him but I’ve had to move on. Since mum died and Dad had his accident, I’ve put my career on hold to look after him and Lou. Have I told you about Lou? She’s bright, cheeky and very talented but she does fall for bad boys – I suppose it runs in the family.

Any other information in s support of your application?

I’ll do anything to help my family. As long as it doesn’t involve Jack Thornfield.

Thanks for having me! Hope you enjoy the book and if there’s anything you’d like to say to an ex, then do tell!

Wish You Were Here

“ Ashley’s writing is deft, sexy and full of humour.”
—Trashionista.com

Phillipa Ashley is a bestselling author in the UK with over 50,000 copies sold and the kind of funny, accessible British voice that U.S. audiences love.

Jack Thornfield, new CEO, is shocked to see his long lost love, Beth Allen’s resume come across his desk. After 8 years apart they have a second chance at happiness in this romantic story about love and secrets.

“Lovely books filled with warm and likeable characters. Great fun!”
—Jill Mansell

Buy: Wish You Were Here

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

I saw the trailer announced at Katidom and like Kati I’m a sucker for fairytales, especially Beauty and the Beast fairytale retellings.

After viewing the trailer I went immediately to the library and got a copy of the book. (How about you are you planning to do the same?)

It’s an easy read, directed toward young adults. It is high school meets fairytales without losing its magic. Oh and it’s from the Beast’s pov – hot stuff right there even if he’s a jerk of the first sort to begin with (not unlike most alpha males.)

Kyle Kingsbury is the popular boy at school. He has looks, athletics, and riches. Together they get him girls – any girl from the ugliest hag to the vapid self-obsessed head cheerleader. He’s arrogant, conceited, and cruel which combined lead to his ultimate destruction and reformation.

Unlike the trailer, in the book Kyle Kingsbury really does turn into a hairy beast, not a deformed, scarred, and tattooed boy. I liked the idea that he was forced to look as hideous on the outside as he was on the inside, so I think I will like the movie version of his beastiness. He’s also given two years in the book to find someone to love him, not one. The trailer also shows him walking the halls of school in his Beast form (which never happened, he goes into near immediate seclusion venturing out only at night or to various doctors looking for a cure).

Linda Taylor (or Lindy) is the shy scholarship book nerd at Tuttle Prep. When Kyle gives her the rose corsage meant for his girlfriend (who snubbed it) he unknowingly bought himself a second chance clause to his curse. It takes him a while to figure it out, but ultimately he realizes Lindy is just the right girl to break his spell.

The bad YA parental units are explained in a manner that fills in some gaps otherwise found in most fairytales. Even the witch who turns Kyle Beastly doesn’t leave him hanging, she’s watching him, helping him, and ultimately befriending him, which is interesting to say the least.

Definitely worth a try if you love the storyline and even if you don’t!

Rating: 4 Stars

Buy: Beastly

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