Tag Archive for Bella

7 Tips for Better Sex (Scenes)

A hot young couple. Alone at last. He hisses, “Tell me what you want.” She murmurs, “You know what I want.”sex copy

Now Imagine a couple married 32 years in the middle of a garage that hasn’t been cleaned since their 20th anniversary.

“Tell me what you want,” he shouts, exasperated. She is equally frustrated. She wants to park in the garage, but can’t because of the mess.

“You know what I want,” she says.

When it comes to sex scenes, context, tone and tenor matter more than size.

As writers, how do we capture the sexual tension as well as the act – for the two are not the same – in a way that is arousing, revealing – in terms of character development – and which successfully moves the story forward?

Here are seven tips:

1 – Use Sex Scenes To Expose Your Characters

Well-written sex scenes are titillating, sure, but they can also reveal personality, creativity, and other traits. Is she comfortable enough to guide him? If so, does she whisper directions? Move his hands? Change his pace? Are these two givers or takers? Traditional or experimental? Talkers or quiet? Are they clumsy? Athletic? Patient? Frantic? Do they want the lights on?

2 – Eroticism Should Advance the Story

This actual line from a work of fiction does not advance the story: “When he slid his tongue into my mouth, I felt like a pork loin simmering away on the stove. All warm and mushy.” When the passion has subsided, we should be further along in the story than when clothes started flying.

3 – Treat Sex Scenes Like Any Action Scenes

Sex is not new. Courtship is not new. The chase is not new. Everyone knows a lot about the subject. If you’re going to tackle sexual tension and the act – or its many variations – you must work extra hard to make your prose unique. As Kerouac said, “It ain’t whatcha write, it’s the way atcha write it.”

4 – Be the Bikini

A skimpy bathing suit or short black dress is more erotic than a naked body.  There are things readers do not want to see, hear or smell in sex scenes. Leave a little to the imagination. Be the bikini.

5 – Prevent Premature Evacuation

We speak in fiction of breaking the dream – of writing something that is so jarring it stops the reader cold. It could be a line of awful dialogue, a factual error, or an inaccurate description of a city. Or it could be plain old bad writing – a confusing sentence or a participle dangling.  Commit any of these infractions and your readers will be gone – premature evacuation.

6 – Beta Test Trusted Readers

That means well-read folks (professional writers or editors if you know or can afford them) who will give an honest reaction to your work.

7 – Attend to Before and After, as well as During

Before: What makes sex sexy is all that goes on beforehand – the eye contact, the sparring, the walk to the door. Just as you only get one chance to make a first impression, the first kiss is also the last first kiss. The path isn’t always smooth. That’s okay. Bumpy is fine so long as the bumps are intended and believable.

After: Theoretically, there’s no more tension now. What’s going to keep the readers interested? The cliché is that women want to cuddle; men want to get out as fast as possible. Avoid the cliché, just as you would with anything you write. What they do and say here is important. Be creative.

What else goes into a well-planned sex scene?

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Happy Mother’s Day to the 1st Writing Instructor

For Mom, my first reading and writing instructor. Who was yours?

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Dial Up Sex Scenes Webinar 3/11

Tune in 3/11 & 3/28

Tune in 3/11 & 3/28

Which sells, sex or sexy? As we know, the answer is, both sell. Some audiences are impatient, others prefer drawing a little tension-building romance and seduction. The act – and the writing of the act – are intensely personal. As with any form of writing, the more you practice, the better you get. But practice what, and how?

Attraction, they say, begins with the eyes. Male or female, we see something we like and quickly – almost primitively – begin plotting to get it. Sometimes the plotting is deliberate and obvious; sometimes it’s sweet and subtle.

Where does it happen? Why does it happen? What do our eyes take in? What smells are in the air? Where does attraction strike and how long does it take to go from mutual appreciation to a shared laugh … to hands touching … to a private setting and then to a first kiss? Or does it all happen in plain view – say on the beach at sunset – or at 2 a.m. in a club with music blaring and the bass cranked up so high, it feels like your own heartbeat?

Most relevant from the writer’s perspective, how do we capture the sexual tension as well as the act – for the two are not the same – in a way that is arousing, revealing – in terms of character development – and which successfully moves the story forward?

I hope you’ll join me for a webinar that will explore these questions and many more next Tuesday (3/11) at 7:30 p.m. and/or on March 28 at 1:30 p.m. EST. Mark your calendars and sign up here.

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Free Webinar 10/1: Character Above All

Uncover your characters' secrets

Uncover your characters’ secrets

Novelists know that our characters begin much like the little wooden boy began. They sit one-dimensional, quiet and unmoving unless – or until – we pull the strings. Only then do they start to move, talk, lie and grow big noses. But a funny thing happens the deeper you get into your story. Call it growth. As your characters develop and mature, they come alive. Your work at the keyboard is like the blue dust that turned the wooden boy into Pinocchio. Once this transformation takes place, your characters become more like sentient beings, full of the same needs and emotions that drive the rest of us. Those of you with children will recognize this as a significant moment – the day when the kids begin expressing their own point of view, and when your words are no longer accepted as gospel simply because you are the parent. Yes, you can subdue or quiet your characters in a way that will not work with your children, but that is the wrong strategy, in my view. For if you look at the writing of a novel as a journey through uncharted territory – and with you as the leader – your characters, if you let them, if you talk to them, ask questions and listen to what they have to say … will steer you to fascinating and secret places that do not exist on any map. And that is where your stories will take off. I hope you’ll join this discussion in a free webinar Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.



Interview Tips from the Self-Publishing Trenches

Interviews come in lots of flavors these days. Traditional print, radio and TV are still around, but you might also find yourself on an Internet

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

Interviews 101: Be positive, upbeat & courteous

radio show, or being interviewed by Skype, or part of a teleconference. Some book bloggers like to ask questions over the phone; others prefer to email their questions.

No matter the medium, your core messages should remain intact. You must be able to explain your book, why you wrote it, and the big takeaways in a few short, engaging sentences.

At the same time, you should tailor your answers to suit your audience. While some crowds are most interested in plot, others want to know more about your writing process. When do you write? What do you do when you feel blocked?

A few tips to help you get organized:

– Interview the interviewer. Ask who reads the blog, watches on TV or listens to the show.

– Mine the comments. Most blogs and shows welcome comments. See which interviews drew the most interaction for clues about what interests the audience.

– Try for a second date. That is, your goal is a long-term relationship, so don’t treat the interview as a one-night stand. Make sure to talk about what’s on their mind as well as your top interests.

– Anticipate and be proactive. Especially when it comes to bloggers, be ready with materials they’re likely to want, like: photos, a well-written bio, links to trailers and social media pages, and press releases.

There’s more. Always be courteous and prompt. Watch your tone and body language. Don’t be dismissive. Learn to pivot. If you get a negative question, use a phrase like, That’s interesting, but what’s really important to me is … and get back to something you’d rather discuss. Don’t forget that you’re speaking through the interviewer to reach your real audience.

Last, always be positive and enthusiastic. You’ve probably talked about your book a thousand times. It may be getting hard to sound excited. You may even be getting bored with yourself. If that comes through in an interview, you’re sunk. Stay focused. Stay up. The cliché is true; the next interviewer hasn’t met you before, and you won’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

What else have you learned on the interview trail?

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First Rule of Book Fairs: Read the Body Language

Sometimes it's best to let your work speak for itself.

Sometimes it’s best to let your work speak for itself.

When someone approaches your booth at a book fair, do you?

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

Read the cues, enjoy the sales.

A: Greet them and back off.

B: Load them up with book cards, candy or other tchotchkes (defined by Urban Dictionary as “something a burglar wouldn’t steal.”)

C: Quickly engage them in conversation that leads to a sales pitch.

Okay, it’s a trick question, in that the smart strategy is to observe a moment of silence and quickly assess body language. Some browsers want to read your signs and posters. Some want to test the heft of your book. And some want to shake your hand, look in your eyes, and hear the pitch right away.

Your visitors will come in all sizes, so it’s silly to think you can tailor one approach that fits all. A few observations:

Dial It Back, Pal: I once saw an author post himself in front of a booth and nearly accost every person who walked by. “May I give you a bookmark?” he’d say like Forrest Gump. If the kind person accepted, he took it as a green light to pitch his book. Other nearby authors at this book fair wanted to vote him off the island.

Takeaway: Leave the hard sell to those who peddle mattresses and used cars. Readers expect and deserve a more thoughtful approach.

Opposite Bookends: At a recent book fair, I found myself between a woman with a wondrous way of turning new friends into new readers, and the most subdued author I’ve ever seen in public. This guy had good stuff on his table, but he sat behind his table for hours, rarely smiled, and didn’t say a word unless someone spoke to him first.

Takeaway: Think about the negative cues you may be sending to thousands of potential readers who can stop and talk or keep walking. Show some energy.

Time and Space: A guy stopped by my booth. No smile, no hello. He picked up my book, looked over the cover and read the back. I stayed quiet. He thumbed through the pages, looked at me, and then back at the book. “Anything I can tell you about the story?” I offered after a couple of minutes. He said no, reached for his money, and gave me a warm handshake before walking off.

Takeaway: As much as you may want to share the story of your story, sometimes people want to be left alone. Give them their time and space.

Anyone else have a booth story to share? Oh, and here are some pix from a recent festival.

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For Mom, the First Writing Instructor

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


(To follow Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icon on the blog homepage.)

Happy Hour and the Dead Man

Toasting Hank Moss

To Hank…

If you could spend Happy Hour with anyone you wanted, dead or alive, who would you pick, what would you drink and where would you meet?

I was warned ahead of time that I’d be asked those questions during a live interview on Big Blend Radio. It didn’t take long to make my pick. I chose Hank Moss. Hank is the missing character from Bella, my first novel. Some quick background before we shift to the bar.

Hank and Bella had only been married a few years when he died on an Afghan battlefield. The military told Bella he was killed by the enemy; an anonymous source said it was friendly fire. Hank, a rising pro tennis player, had joined the Army after his sister was killed on 9-11. Everyone urged him not to do it. Except me.

Here’s how our talk went down over a few beers at a quiet country bar.

SP: So I’m drinking with a ghost?

Hank:  You’re asking if an imagined man killed on an imaginary battlefield now drinking imaginary beer at an imagined bar in an imagined conversation is real?

SP: You’re right; forget I asked that. Was joining the Army a mistake?

Hank: They killed my sister. It felt silly pretending it was still important to hit tennis balls. I didn’t really have a choice.

SP: Seems you did. Seems you chose revenge over your wife and daughter.

Hank: Anyone ever kill someone you loved? If not, you don’t know; so don’t judge.

SP: I’m guessing you know they lied to Bella. What did you think she’d do when she found out it was one of our own soldiers?

Hank: Try to prove the truth. Nothing would stop her. She’s got a side no one knew about. Now they know.

SP: But you’re talking about routine stuff, like which movie or which sitter. This thing put her up against generals and congressmen.

Hank: Fierce is fierce. She’s smart and beautiful and dangerous when she’s angry.

SP: Are you proud of her?

Hank: I love her and what she did for me, so yeah, I’m proud.

SP: Besides being proud, what else would you tell her?

Hank: Watch close over Katie. Don’t let anything happen to her. She’s still a scared little girl. It’s going to be hard for her.

SP: Thanks, Hank; sorry this has to be so quick. I’ll pass it on.

Hank: Tell ’em I’m sorry. It wasn’t supposed to end like this. Tell ’em to remember the good times, but to move on. There’s lots of life to live, lots more stories…

Do you ever talk to your characters? Have they ever surprised you?

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Free Webinar: Beef Up Your Brand

Bootlicker BookmarkSo tell me about yourself.

What rattles through your head when someone utters those five little words? Do you go on auto-pilot and deliver a few well-rehearsed lines? Do you grapple with the personal you versus the professional you? Are you different online than you come across in person?

Self-published authors should become adept at personal branding before venturing into cyberspace. Social media offers tremendous opportunities, but there are best practices to observe and pitfalls to avoid. I hope you’ll join me on Thursday, Feb. 7, at 7:30 p.m. EST for a free webinar that will help you bolster your brand and strengthen your online persona.

Here’s the sign-up sheet.

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Dog of Gold Boosts Author Pinterest Page

Author Steve Piacente with Golden Retriever Merlyn

Pinterest dog lovers like “Workout Buddies.”

A little while back, I posed a question about mixing personal and professional on Pinterest.

All but one of my boards relate to my two novels, Bella and Bootlicker or to my adventures in self-publishing. The exception is “Dog of Gold.”

As I wrote in the first post, before any of our (now adult) children arrived, we got a dog. Now, I know people love to talk about their dogs. And people with dogs and kids? Settle in; you’re going to spend a lot of time listening.

I’m no exception. Merlyn was one of the special dogs, a brilliant, athletic Golden with, well, you get the idea. There are times these many years later that I still miss him. (Don’t worry, I miss the kids too now that they’ve moved away, but that’s another post).

My question was whether the doggy board was undermining my brand. I asked if it belonged in another collection, or if I should keep it with the author boards.

The unanimous response was to leave it alone. Those who offered that advice look pretty smart right now. One of the pins – a picture of Merlyn after a day at the dog beach – has already been re-pinned 25 times. Photos from my other boards are starting to get some traction as well.

Authors should be on Pinterest because women love the site, and women happen to buy the most books. Plus they apparently love dogs. Be assured that a handsome canine will turn up in my next novel.

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