By the time you read this it will be the day after Valentine’s Day, and I spent yesterday agonizing about what to write.
This angst over Valentine’s Day and romance is not unfounded. My first book was a romance. In Passion’s Defense was about a defense lawyer falling in love with a prosecutor during a gruesome trial. That should have been my first clue that perhaps mayhem rather than meet ups was my cup of tea. But I was slow on the uptake, and I wrote eight category romances. I think they are pretty darn good and they got better with each one. I wrote my heart out for Harlequin but I couldn’t seem to color in the lines, so I started writing women’s fiction. The editorial freedom, the more intricate plot lines, and the emphasis on plot rather than relationship helped me thrive. Dreams, Seasons, Vanities were just some of my titles. I wrote a lot of women’s fiction, but still I hadn’t hit my comfort zone as a writer. Then two things happened that sealed my fate.
First, the incredible RWA bookseller—Michelle Thorne—delicately informed me that my idea of romance was the hero chucking the heroine on the arm and giving her a smile. She was right. I was not a sexy writer in the years when other authors were pushing the envelope. My editor at Kensington was more direct. He said ‘You have to stop killing people before they get in bed!’. In essence he fired me from romance. I was devastated. Later I realized this was the silver lining in my very dark cloud.
When I started writing thrillers I found my passion and isn’t passion what love is all about? Still, without the learning curve of the romance genre, without the editors and readers, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to break up with women’s fiction as it was defined all those years ago and move on to my literary partner for life.
That doesn’t mean I left romance behind completely. Every book I write is based on relationships, but the emphasis of stories is little different from the classic romance novel. And then there’s my mom. One day she asked if I could write a book-without-bodies. I wrote three. On my mother’s ninetieth birthday, I presented her with a trilogy of sweet, romantic comedies: The Day Bailey Devlin’s Horoscope Came True, The Day Bailey Devlin Picked Up a Penny and the Day Bailey Devlin’s Ship Came in. These books encompassed every thing I love about romance: humor, honesty, confusion, honor, and affection for not just one man but all the men in Bailey’s life. Young or old, they be a lover or father or friend, it was all about love. I will always be most proud of, be in love with, the Bailey Devlin Trilogy because it reflects my definition of romance.
Today I put those three books in a boxed set and I hope when a reader finishes the stories, her (his) heart will be fuller, there might be a tear in her eye, she will have laughed out loud and then will turn around and pass all that feeling on to someone she loves.
Happy Belated Valentine’s Day.
Do your kisses reveal the relationship between your characters to the reader—those delicious tastes of nectar shared between two people? Whether you are writing an innocent first kiss in Young Adult or a smoking-hot Romance, compel the reader to finish with believable splashes of magic.
You can keep the PG-13 rating and still turn up the heat by using all five senses to capture a first kiss. If she licks her lips nervously and draws his gaze to her mouth, the anticipation mounts. Are his fingers smooth or rough against her cheek as he brushes her hair back? Body temperatures rise and the simple scent of a shampoo is intoxicating in close proximity, triggering more reactions than just his pants becoming too tight. A shortness of breath and racing hearts all lead to the moment their lips meet for the first time.
A couple with time to explore each other engages in the slow lingering dance of tongues. Heighten sexual intrigue by adding tactile sensations to capture a scene and raise the hot factor. His lips are soft, tasting musky and very male. She bites hard into his neck, eliciting a deep moan from her lover that vibrates through her. She unzips his worn jeans and her body slides slowly down his legs with the denim. How can the rough plaster against her back feel so cold, while his hands are searing her skin? The story pace builds and the intensity between your characters drives the reader to a cover-to-cover read.
Passionate kisses exchanged between lovers should leave the reader squirming in their seat hoping no one interrupts them while reading the scene. The slow exploration is over—this is full body contact and clothes are flying around the room like a clearance sale at Feline’s Basement. While lip-locked, hands arouse responses hastening along all their partner’s sexual triggers. The hard tweak of a nipple evokes gut wrenching desire, fingernails raking across his hip and lower to mark claim has him pulling her closer, and the heavy musk of sex adds vivid tension to the scenes. She kicks a drink off the side-table, the glass shatters and neither notice. They are beyond caring about anything, but what’s happening between them and your reader is too.
So, how hot are your kisses? If they need work, remember to use your senses, take time to feel through the scene and it doesn’t hurt to practice. Whether the kisses are innocent nibbles or a toe-curling lip-lock there is always another level to compel the reader into your story.
~ Diane Sismour
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