Subscribe to Paula's newsletter

* indicates required

tule publishing

Writing a love scene is the worst

It’s no deep, dark secret that I love bacon.

Or that I hate writing love scenes.

Love scenes should be tastefully done. I’m not a huge fan of graphic language. Having said that, graphic language is difficult to avoid. Otherwise, the cute euphemisms can make a scene sound as if it was written by a fifteen-year-old girl. Too much graphic language, and an image of some sweaty old dude on a typewriter in a dark attic, penning a letter to Penthouse, springs to mind.

I think we can all agree those are both disturbing images.

So. If you’re writing contemporary romance, or books with romantic elements, a love scene is hard to avoid. If I write them last, they’re in danger of being too clinical. I have to be inside the characters’ heads, and understand their emotional states at that specific point in the story, in order to make them work. I’ll avoid them for a few scenes, maybe even a few chapters, but I definitely have to write them before the next major turning point.

That might just be me. It is what it is.

But how do I make a love scene into an actual emotional connection between two characters, or at the very least, elicit an emotional response?

A. I know their states of mind. What do they want out of sex? Human beings are complex. They always want more than the physical act, even if the act is their primary goal. Is it about dominance? Burning off excess energy? Wanting to connect with another person? What do they believe the act will give them when it’s complete?

B. Linda Howard does a great workshop on the 12 stages of intimacy, but I have a background in anthropology, so I prefer to go straight to the source her material came from. Zoologist Desmond Morris wrote Intimate Behaviour back in the 1970s and this book is an amazing resource for how (and why) primates interact. Every writer should read it, regardless of genre.

C. I stay in the POV character’s head. I know what they want, but for the most part–unless they’re a total selfish jerk–they’re trying to figure out what their partner wants.

D. There are a whole lot of writing techniques that go into drafting the scene–show, don’t tell; use of powerful words; building emotional tension; goal, conflict, and disaster–you get what I mean. It takes a lot of hard work to make a scene seem so simple.

E. At the end of the scene, whatever the POV character’s state of mind is at the first of it–whatever they believe they want out of it–I make sure they either don’t get it or get more than they expected.

Conflict. That’s what a romance is about. Internal and external.

And, to show what I mean, here’s the first love scene from my latest contemporary romance, Branded with a Kiss:

 

He guessed that took the last remnants of mystery out of the evening. Shy, sweet little Alayna Brand had come here looking for sex.

Patterson had a difficult time connecting the dots in his head. The other night, everything about this girl had shouted innocence at him. He’d planned on getting to know her. On taking things slow. This was his friend’s sister, after all. Plus, she was a good deal younger than him. He normally pursued women with more age and experience behind them, and with few to no expectations.

But she’d knocked him ass over kettle, as James T. was fond of saying, and her wide eyes sheared away the last bit of willpower he owned.

She scrabbled behind her with one hand and grabbed her bag off the floor near the sofa. She fumbled inside it and emerged with a handful of packets she then dumped into his hand. He blinked a little at that. It seemed she planned on being busy all night—or at least until just before dawn broke, since she’d seemed intent on keeping her presence here a secret between the two of them.

Good thing she was hoping for more than one round. He had his doubts as to how long the first one would last. When he’d caught sight of her in the parking lot in that short skirt and with those long, bare legs, he’d lost his ability to think.

Then, when she’d kissed him…

He’d wanted to back her up against her car and take her right there. He had his horse, Rudolph, to thank for saving him from himself. And right now, he could do better for her than an old, sagging couch that was too short for either one of them, or the worn rug on the floor. He had a king-sized bed that was made for his height, and just right for all kinds of fun and games.

He tucked the condoms into the pocket of his unzipped jeans. His discarded shirt lay on the floor. He sat back on his heels to admire the sight she made between his thighs while he tried to regain some control. Her cheeks were flushed. Her hair was a puddle of honey. She looked well-kissed, with swollen red lips and brilliant blue eyes that glittered in the soft light of the lamp. One strap of her sundress had ridden off her shoulder, exposing the pink-tipped breast he’d teased with his teeth and tongue. The skirt of her dress bunched at her hips.

He’d never seen anyone as pretty.

He stood. Taking her hand, he encouraged her to her feet. She slid the strap of her dress into place, covering her breast, as he led her into the darkened bedroom. She paused at the side of the bed.

“What would you like me to do?” she asked.

Her voice came out so softly, little more than an eager breath of excitement. He ran his hands under the skirt of her dress. He’d been hard most of the evening already. The promise of an entire night spent exploring what made her hot too had him close to the edge.

“I believe I should be asking you that question. Ladies first,” he forced himself to say.

“I want you to surprise me,” she said, a spark of challenge in her eyes.

She tugged on his jeans, sliding them down his hips. He sprang free, his erection thrusting hard against her breast, bringing a gasp to her lips. She straightened. Then she wrapped her hand around him, one gentle finger exploring the rounded tip. The slide of her palm as she moved it up and down, the way he’d encouraged her to, made colorful lights sparkle against the backs of his eyelids.

“Okay. The first time was going to be really fast. He could at least make it memorable. Thank God they had all night for him to redeem himself. He stooped and found one of the condoms she’d given him. Tearing it open, he quickly rolled it into place.

“Turn around,” he said. “Bend over the bed.”

She did as he instructed her, glancing back at him over her shoulder. Her hair splayed in a fan across the blankets, and he spread her legs a bit wider apart with his knee. He flipped her skirt up and smoothed his palms over the round, perfect cheeks of her ass. He’d had a lot of practice peeling women out of thongs and he put it to good use. She arched her back in anticipation, bracing herself against the mattress with her forearms. He placed one hand under her belly to steady her, and holding himself in the other, bent his knees and guided his erection into position. With one hard, single thrust, he was inside her.

And, oh God, it was every bit as good as he’d imagined.

She cried out. At first, he assumed it was from excitement. On the third thrust he caught the faint sob she couldn’t quite stifle.

His ears had to be playing tricks on him. She’d been as ready and eager as he was. He thrust again, but more gently this time. Her whole body trembled, her belly clenched tight against his palm supporting her weight, although she uttered not one word of protest.

Or encouragement either.

His brain tried to explain to the rest of him what had just happened. It took two more thrusts before he received the full message. By then, it was too late. He came on a wave of pleasure mixed with a sense of things gone terribly wrong. It might have sucked a bit of his soul from him too.

He withdrew, his heart hammering. She had a death grip on the blanket covering the bed and her face was turned away from him. Her shoulders were shaking.

Incapable of speech, he grabbed his jeans off the floor and stalked into the bathroom, where the evidence confirming his suspicions made itself plain. He cleaned up, hauled his jeans on, then stared at himself for a long time in the mirror. He’d just taken a virgin from behind, and with a total lack of finesse. He didn’t think he’d ever disliked himself more.

And then he was furious.

I don’t have a whole lot of experience, she’d said.

He stalked back into the bedroom and sat on the side of the bed, waiting wordlessly while she took her turn in the bathroom. When she came out, she had her dress rearranged and smoothed into place. She’d tidied her hair and washed her face. She looked young, and innocent, and composed.

All of which fed his rising anger.

She looked young. She looked innocent.

And as for composed

Good for her. That wasn’t at all how he was feeling.

He was slow to anger by nature. When his temper boiled over, however, as it did now, it turned into a heat-seeking missile in need of a target. He had a few things he planned to get off his chest and she was going to listen. She’d been so disrespectful—to him, coming here the way she had—but more importantly, to herself.

Tonight shouldn’t have happened this way.

Why me? He wanted to ask, but he didn’t. He was afraid he already knew the answer and right now wasn’t a good time to hear it.

“What the hell were you thinking?” he demanded instead.

 

On the surface, this scene appears more about straight-up sex than love. It’s a “coming of age” story, and the heroine, Alayna, is looking for her first experience. She neglects to mention that to Patterson, the hero. Patterson is older than Alayna, and he’s looking for a little more. Alayna really isn’t a one-night-stand kind of girl, which Patterson knows. Patterson is definitely a one-night-stand kind of guy, and Alayna knows that. Patterson doesn’t know Alayna wants to be that kind of girl with him. Alayna doesn’t know that Patterson is interested in her for a more meaningful relationship. He’s ready to settle down and she’s not.

The characters dictate the language that drives the love scene. In the male POV, it tends to be more graphic, although not always. Depending on the heroine’s personality and life experiences, the language I use might be a little more…polite. Or maybe not. It’s up to them.

In the end, regardless of how I end up writing the scene, I try to keep it true to the characters when I’m in their POVs. And I will always prefer bacon.

If you have any tips of your own for writing love scenes, or preferences for reading them, feel free to share!

I can’t get enough of cowboys

I have a new release coming from Tule Publishing on September 21st.

Branded with a Kiss is the second book in the Sweetheart Brand series, based in Sweetheart, Montana. (Sweetheart, btw, is named for a variety of cherry—your trivia tip for the day.) It’s available for preorder!

Amazon.com http://amzn.to/2utGxMo

Amazon.ca http://amzn.to/2wM9SCl

Amazon.co.uk http://amzn.to/2vqKGBW

Amazon.com. au http://amzn.to/2vSHVME

Those of you who read Her Sweetheart Brand (book 1) may or may not remember Damon Brand’s friend Patterson Campbell. Patterson is sitting at the bar during the cherry festival dance, using his cellphone, when Damon stops to talk. What Damon doesn’t know it that Patterson is trying to reach Damon’s youngest sister Alayna.

When Patterson does connect with her, it’s not until a year later and it really doesn’t go well:

“Why wouldn’t you return any of my calls?” Patterson asked.

His father was still watching. Either Patterson hadn’t noticed or he didn’t care.

Alayna, however, was cautious and remained civil. “You’d already said all I needed to hear.”

“You stood me up for the cherry festival dance. I deserve to know why.”

She kept her jaw from flapping open, but it took serious effort. The ego. The nerve. He’d asked her to go to the dance with him before their disastrous sexual encounter. “You didn’t really expect me to show up.”

“Damn straight I did.”

The way his gaze flicked from hers for a brief, guilty second suggested otherwise.

“I didn’t show up,” Alyana said, fighting hard to display nothing but pride, “because upon reflection, you were right. I do need to use some common sense. The men I date these days treat women as equals. They accept that I know my own mind.”

She took advantage of his inability to find a response to brush past him and dive into the front seat of her car. As she backed out of the parking space, he had his hands in his pockets and a dark frown on his face.

Alayna’s not really the ‘forgive and forget’ type. She makes him work for it:

Patterson was twenty-nine years old and could think of a million things he’d rather do than discuss his love life with his father. But his father was also his boss, and the boss half was expressing a valid concern. He tried to think of what he could say that would satisfy James T. on both fronts, and yet not end up exposing laundry Alayna wouldn’t want aired.

“She and I had a misunderstanding last year,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “She’s still a little angry with me about it. Let’s just say she’s not the type of girl who’s willing to forgive and forget and leave it at that. You’ll have to trust me when I tell you I’m doing my best to make amends. And I’m confident she’s interested too,” he added, “so you can rest easy on that front. There won’t be any reports to file.”

James T.’s expression grew more severe. It appeared he wasn’t at all reassured by the explanation he’d been given, but accepted that it was the only one he was likely to receive. “Did she read the staff handbook?”

“She did.”

“Did she give you the message?”

Patterson weighed the merits of honesty. “Yes,” he conceded.

“She’s not a toy, son. Or a prize you can win. What if she decides not to forgive and forget?” his father asked. “Are you going to be a man about it and let her go?”

He’d cross that bridge when—if—he came to it. “Of course.”

“Then why don’t you start practicing right now. I might have some experience in the begging forgiveness department, and a little goes a long way, so pace yourself, boy. Give her some space. A thoughtful gift sometimes helps.” James T. clapped him on the shoulder. “Now help me get these steaks on the grill, or pretty soon you’ll have twenty hungry people mad at you, too.”

Patterson hated to admit it, but James T. could well be right. It wasn’t as if his current approach was gaining him any headway with her. He’d love to understand her better, but she made it almost impossible for him to get close enough. Every time he thought he’d made progress, she backed away.

So. Give her some space and a thoughtful gift. He could do that.

“One more question,” James T. said, interrupting his train of thought. “Then I’ll let it alone.” Smoke rolled off the grill as fat from the first steaks started to sizzle. He searched his son’s face, then went straight for the jugular. “Is she the one?”

“I can’t say for certain,” Patterson said, unable to contain his frustration. “You’re making it damned hard for me to find out.”

There are five books planned in the Sweetheart Brand series, and I’m working on the third book right now. It features Claire Brand, another of Damon’s sisters, and Ben Nichols, Patterson’s partner in crime. The Sweetheart Brand books are all about redemption and the main theme is forgiveness.

 

I know. They sound amazing, right?

 

Interview with USA Today Bestselling Author Roxanne Snopek

Today’s interview features the incredibly talented, USA Today Bestselling author Roxanne Snopek. She’s a fellow Canadian, and although she lives on the west coast, she’s a prairie girl at heart. Between us, we’ve got this country represented.

*Go Canada.*

Roxanne and I write for the same publishers. We’ve also had a few romantic getaways together. Las Vegas, New York…  She keeps insisting they’re called “Romance Writer Conferences,” but whatever. I got to hang with her and tell complete strangers we’re buddies and that’s all that matters.

Did I mention she’s beautiful as well as talented?

Roxanne’s latest release is THE CHOCOLATE CURE from Tule Publishing.  I’m lazy as well as Canadian, so I’m offering two links to purchase (and I highly recommend you do!): Amazon and Kobo. But it’s available at other online retailers, too:

As a head’s up, the next book in the series, THE CHOCOLATE COMEBACK, releases in April. I scored an advance copy and trust me, you won’t want to miss it either:

So now we’re going to turn things over to Roxanne. She’s answering 10 nosy questions:

  1. What is your least favourite author question? And what is your response?

When are you going to write a “real” book? (Holding up my latest book) What is this? A bagel?

  1. What is your least favourite author task? Tell us why you hate it.

Updating my website. Because the entire time I’m doing it, I’m aware that anyone half my age could do it in a quarter of the time it takes me, with 100% less muttering and fist-shaking.

  1. Who’s your favourite—of your own books—female and/or male character?

I love my tortured hero Zach Gamble in HIS RELUCTANT RANCHER. He’s got the weight of the world on his handsome shoulders and, when Des, the female lead, finally FINALLY gets through to him… this tough, stoic cowboy cries. I love Zach.

My favorite female character, I think, is Carrie Logan, from FOREVER YOURS, SWEETHEART. She overcomes her fear of dogs to help the hero get his Belgian shepherd to the vet after a bear attack. You know me… I’m a sucker for people who help animals in need.

  1. Which book could you have worked on forever?

Holy smokes. I could work on them all forever. They could all be better, to my eye. But at some point, I tell myself, “Roxanne. This is the best book you can write at this moment. Stop it now or you’ll go blind.”

  1. You’re a USA Today bestselling author. Tell us about THE MOMENT you found out, and I’m feeling magnanimous (actually I just wanted to use that word) so tell us about the book too.

Okay, the moment I found out… I WAS ALONE IN THE HOUSE!!! There was no one but the pets to hear me scream! And then the phone rang and it was my hairdresser, congratulating me! She happened to be online and was one of the first to see my announcement. I’ll add that I’ve been going to her for years, and when she learned I was an author, felt duty-bound to read one of my books. Courtesy, you know. She told me later how shocked she was to discover that she loved it! Reading had never been a particularly enjoyable pastime for her and she says that I am the author that got her hooked on it again. <heart-clutch!> She reads all my books now. Oh, and the book: THREE RIVER RANCH, my very first romance novel. Wild mustangs, a pregnant heroine, forced proximity, marriage of convenience and a Labradoodle! Also (buffing nails and looking casual) this past year THE MILLIONAIRE DADDY PROJECT also hit the USA Today list. Just sayin’.

  1. Which book would you love to re-write? Why?

My first mystery novel. I love the story but it’s got some enormous problems that I’m not sure are fixable. For one thing, the worst thing that happens to the protagonist is that her dog gets sick. I mean, no one wants their dog to get sick. But great conflict this is not.

  1. What’s your favourite childhood memory and does it ever come back to haunt you? (In a good way—leave the rest for the therapists.)

Getting the Scholastic catalog at school! My parents always let me order new books, and it was so exciting. The possibilities! The choices! My parents read to me a lot as a child, and always encouraged my reading addiction. Now, whenever I get my BookBub newsletter, I feel a bit of that same thrill.

  1. We complain a lot to each other about writing-related stuff—storylines that aren’t working, characters who aren’t cooperating, when there’s no wine in the house… So why write? Why not do something easier?

I can’t tell you how often I’ve asked myself that very question. But it comes down to the same reason I’ve done anything hard, like homeschooling our kids, or Bikram yoga or resisting Cheezies: it feels so good when it’s done! J There’s nothing like seeing a brand new book with my name on it!

But seriously, despite recurring episodes of head-banging panic and self-doubt, I believe in it. I believe this is what I was meant to do, that I have something to say and that my life path is to keep trying to say it, fail, try again, fail more, succeed a little, try something new, connect with one reader at a time and keep working to uncover the essential story that lives within me.

Also, having been a human resources manager, I know a bad employee when I see one. All those ideas, you know. I’d never last.

  1. What’s your favourite pastime? And keep it clean. My kids read this.

Eating and drinking rank pretty highly, especially with friends. And I love to bake! My husband loves my cinnamon buns… oops. Too racy? Sadly, baking is not a friend to middle-aged metabolisms so I don’t do much now. Although I baked butter tarts this past weekend, during Snowmageddon 2017 and they were amazing. Between the shoveling and shivering, I figure we worked them off.

  1. And for the last invasion of privacy: What’s your favourite thing about each of your children?

Wow. Let’s see. Each of them is so passionate, in different ways. My oldest daughter is working on her first novel and is a yoga instructor. My middle daughter is a maternity nurse who likes to garden. My youngest is an artist who’s studying Psychology. I love watching their lives unfold!

Bonus question:  (OK, so maybe #10 wasn’t the last.) What’s a little-known fact about you? What’s your dirty secret? (And my usual disclaimer—I’m pretty sure CSIS stalks me on-line so keep that in mind.)

I’m a certified amateur dream interpreter. Make of that what you will, CSIS.

 

Thank you, Roxanne!

About Roxanne:

Born under a Scorpio moon, raised in a little house on the prairie, USA Today Bestselling Author Roxanne Snopek said “as you wish” to her Alpha Farm Boy and followed him to the mountain air and ocean breezes of British Columbia. There, while healing creatures great and small and raising three warrior-princesses, they found their real-life happily-ever-after. After also establishing a successful freelance and non-fiction career, Roxanne began writing what she most loved to read: romance. Her small-town stories quickly became fan favorites; print editions of her latest series were recently launched in France.

Check out her work at her website!

10 Questions for Author Robin Bielman

First of all, congratulations to my Tule sister Robin Bielman. She has a new book out today!

robin2-287x3001

Robin and I go way back. We’re also Entangled sisters. We first met face-to-face in Las Vegas after on-line dating for a few months. Robin was moonlighting as a pole dancer back then. We both signed non-disclosure agreements, so the rest of our history together will forever remain a mystery.

I had ten questions for Robin today, but after spending six months in jail for a crime she swears she didn’t commit, she’s pretty cagey about putting out in public (did I say that right?) and only answered 6 of them, plus the bonus question, so I’ll give her credit for 7. It turns out she found some of them intrusive—but FYI, I can’t be the only one curious as to whether or not you can catch STDs from stripper poles.

Here we go. Not the interview I’d planned, but fascinating nonetheless.

So. Robin.

  1. Who’s your favourite—of your own books—female and/or male character? (Come on. We all

have one.)

I honestly don’t have just one! My favorite hero is usually the one I’m currently focused on, meaning the one I’m writing or the one in my newest release. So right now that would be Prince Theo. (But I’m also in love with Mateo, the hero in my current WIP.) See? I cannot pick just one.

  1. Which book could you have worked on forever?

My newest release, Once Upon A Royal Christmas. It takes place at Christmas time and my hero is a prince! I could have spent lots of time writing fun and sexy winter activities, but I was happy to give him his HEA, too.

  1. You’re a USA Today bestselling author. Tell us about THE MOMENT you found out, and what the heck, tell us about the book too.

I found out on Twitter. LOL At the time, I didn’t realize when the announcement was shared, but I was on Twitter and I saw a tweet from Laura Kaye congratulating me on hitting the USA Today list. Needless to say, I went happy-crazy after that. The book that hit the list was Kissing the Maid of Honor, the first book in my Secret Wishes series. My hero, Luke is and extreme sports photographer and the best man, and oh, how I love him. (He’s definitely a favorite of mine.) *wink*

  1. Which book would you love to re-write? Why?

Veiled Target. I’d like to go back and do some more world building as well as make a few changes to my heroine. I loved her, but she didn’t resonate with everyone.

  1. Why write? Why not do something easier? Because I don’t know about you, but writing is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Writing is SO hard! But I can’t imagine not doing it. I love spending time with my characters and I’m always thinking about my stories and ideas for new ones. I’ve loved to write in some way or another since I was in college so I think it’s just a part of me. And a huge reason I keep at it is to hopefully make readers happy. To make them smile and for a little while forget any troubles they may have.

  1. What’s your favourite pastime? And keep it clean. My kids read this.

Well, reading of course. I’m also a TV junkie and love to go hiking. And I recently started collecting sea glass.

 

Bonus question:  What’s a little-known fact about you? What’s your dirty secret? (And if it’s a fabulous ability to hide dead bodies in unorthodox places, just a head’s up—I’m pretty sure CSIS stalks me on-line.)

How did you know? 😉 Hmm… besides my time behind bars (totally joking), I’ve got nothing super interesting. I was a field reporter for a local cable program waaayyy back when, and if those pieces were ever made public again, I’m sure I’d die of embarrassment.

And that, folks, is your introduction to Robin Bielman.

You should run right out and grab her new release, Once Upon a Royal Christmas—available today! The links I’ve provided are for Amazon, but that’s because I’m lazy. It’s available at other online retailers, too. Isn’t the cover pretty?

robins-cover

Biography

When not attached to her laptop, USA Today Bestselling Author Robin Bielman can almost always be found with her nose in a book. A California girl, the beach is her favorite place for fun and inspiration. Her fondness for swoon-worthy heroes who flirt and stumble upon the girl they can’t live without jumpstarts most of her story ideas.

She loves to go on adventures, and has skydived, scuba dived, parasailed, gotten lost in the wilderness (and only suffered a gazillion bug bites for it) hiked to waterfalls, and swam with dolphins. In her spare time she also likes to put her treadmill to good use while watching her favorite TV shows, take hikes with her hubby, indulge her sweet tooth, and play sock tug of war with her cute, but sometimes naughty dog, Harry.

She dreams of traveling to faraway places and loves to connect with readers. Keep in touch and sign up for her newsletter on her website at http://robinbielman.com