Tag Archive for Piacente

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?

 Follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog by clicking here.


Happy Mother’s Day to the 1st Writing Instructor

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

Follow Steve’s “Back Story” blog by clicking here.

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.



Pinteresting Recipe: Travel, Photos and Books

Bootlicker in good hands

Bootlicker in good hands

If 80 percent of Pinterest users are women and women buy most of the books, authors need to be on Pinterest.

Problem is, authors traffic in words and Pinterest is all about photos.

Here’s one way to create a compelling board:

When you, a friend, or a relative are headed abroad, take or send your novel. You’d be amazed at the opportunities that come up to snag a photo of your book beside a famous landmark or in the hands of a colorful local citizen.

During a recent trip to Thailand, we visited a museum where two women in gleaming gold traditional outfits were posted outside. I asked one to pose with the book and she gladly complied. Could she read it? Does it matter?

Authors these days need to make a smooth transition from creative writing to creative marketing. Send your book on a trip and capture some photos you can use to reach prospective readers on Pinterest.

You might make some international friends in the process. Oh, and here’s the actual board: Travels with Bella and Bootlicker.



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

Family Circle: Accident or Design?

Piacentes & Bellomos at Danielle Piacente’s wedding

Some version of this story occurs in all families, yet it is fascinating that seemingly random events occur and take root, drawing a rough outline of what will become the future. I think many of us wonder at some level if is indeed random or part of something bigger. The story of a week at the beach with my extended family.







(To subscribe to Steve’s Back Story blog, please click the green or orange icons on the blog homepage).

Meet Ike Washington: Guilty with an Explanation

Very first draft

Bootlicker began more than a decade ago with a question.

What would anyone do if faced with the choice that confronted young Ike Washington?

There is no perfect answer, and there is no correct answer. There is, however, a novel I’ve launched today that is built on the question and the conversation I hope it will provoke.

The novel began as a short story called “Twisted Pinky.” Classmates in my graduate workshops at Johns Hopkins University encouraged me to expand the piece, one kindly offering that I was “on to something.”

“Twisted Pinky” grew into a novel built on a pivotal event that occurs in 1959. The working title was, “Hard Way Out.”

Ike is a black teenager living in a small town in the Deep South. The Civil Rights Movement is in full, wild bloom. Racial violence is rampant. One day Ike and a friend sneak off for a beer in the woods.

In the forest, they approach a clearing and hear a man pleading for mercy. Ike freezes at the sight of a Klan lynching led by the local judge. The other teen bolts.

The Klansmen catch Ike and present a startling choice: join the dead man or help the judge win black support so he can advance in state politics. The logic is beyond Ike’s grasp. The man who lynched one black man wants his help appealing to blacks statewide?

But Judge Lander McCauley knows the old ways are coming to an end. Perhaps the lynching was his exclamation point. To maintain his political ascent, he must have black support. And for that, he must have a secret liaison in the black community, someone he can personally train and control. Fate delivered the perfect young man.

Terrified, Ike agrees. An act of brutality ensures there will always be, as the judge puts it, “order in the court.”

One year turns into five, five turn into 10, 10 turn into 20. Ike becomes a power in his own right, U.S. Senator Lander McCauley’s man behind the scenes in every black enclave throughout the state.

Ike’s family has money and respect. The days of forcing him to cooperate are long gone. He and McCauley are the unlikeliest of political allies. By 1992, Ike stands poised to become the first black congressman elected in South Carolina since the Civil War.

But there is the guilt, the ever-present, all consuming guilt, and Ike’s knowledge that he rose to power on the judge’s bloody coattails, and helped the white-robed murderer rise from judge to congressman, and then to United States senator.

The saga of Ike Washington and Lander McCauley is less about race than about choices and character. The book is about guilt and the tricky path to redemption. It will take readers where TV cameras are never invited, to back rooms where decisions are made, futures are decided, and the line between right and wrong is not so easily defined. 

Now that you know the story, how do you judge Ike Washington?

How will the voters judge him when a young reporter reveals his secret just before Election Day?

Most of all, how will Ike judge himself after everyone else has spoken? Can he win the historic election and assume the role of congressman, or will he forever wear the label whispered by his critics? It was this label that became the title:



For more:

The trailer.

An early review.

The Amazon page.








Trade Show Takeaway: Be Open, Friendly to Score Free Perks

So I’m minding my business at BookExpo America, the behemoth of book industry trade shows, held annually in New York City. Well, not exactly minding my business, but trying to catch the attention of every passerby who would listen to a pitch about my next novel. Suddenly I’m being pitched by a company that’s producing a documentary about self-publishing. Interesting, I’m thinking as she spoke, but not why I invested two grand in a booth at BEA. A moment later, I reconsidered.  We chatted a few minutes,  and then I agreed to do a short interview. My reward was a clip of the segment, to do with whatever I chose. My choice at the moment is to share it here, and to ask: Have you ever veered a little off your literary marketing course and received a nice bonus for your trouble?

A New Voice for the Messaging Choir that’s Free and Easy

Fun, free app

If you can tweet it in 140 characters, you can say it on camera in 15 seconds.

That’s the concept behind Viddy (www.viddy.com), a social media app out of Venice, CA billed as a “life-streaming movie studio and real-time film festival – on the go.”

That’s a bit much, but the fact is that Viddy is fun, intuitive, and a nice addition to any self-publisher’s messaging arsenal. I’ve been using it for about a month and pumped out several mini-videos from BookExpo America in NY. Here’s my Viddy page.

Some things I like:

–       It forces you to quickly get to the point;

–       Posting to Facebook and Twitter is simple;

–       You can add a music and special effects;

–       You can use a tool like Hootsuite to re-tweet viddy tweets;

–       26 million users can’t be wrong.

Mashable’s “5 Ways Brands Can Shine on Viddy” suggests: offering a behind-the-scenes look; sharing promo codes and sales; hosting a contest; creating custom filters; and creating premium partnerships.

Have you had success with Viddy or a similar app? How about using with videos in general? Has it worked? Why or why not?

Who Will We Get for the Movie?



I imagine that every author gives at least a fleeting thought to which actors Hollywood will get to play the novel’s main characters.

It’s been an honor during the past several weeks to have the Book Whore Book Club discussing Bella. Don’t let the name fool you; these some very savvy and thoughtful readers.

Each week founder Danielle Perez posts questions that club members answer online. One recent set of answers can be found here.

In a previous round, Danielle asked which actors readers would like to see play the parts of Bella, the mysterious widow, and Dan, the D.C. reporter she enlists to help reveal the truth about her husband’s death. It’s no secret that during this quest, the two learn harsh lessons about the power of temptation, the futility of revenge, and the consequences of yielding to either, even for a moment.

Actors mentioned by club members included, for Bella: Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Monica Belluci, Eva Mendes, and Zoe Saldana. For Dan, they liked: Daniel Craig, George Clooney, Sean Penn, Michael Gladis, Bruce Willis, and Richard Gere.

No one picked my top choices: Jessica Alba, and Brandon Routh.

Here’s the latest round of Q&A from Danielle and the club.

And if you have any others you’d like to see in the starring roles, let me know and I’ll pass on the names if the movie folks come knocking.



Writer’s Digest Calls Bella “Beautifully Written”

Writer’s Digest describes Bella as “a beautifully written novel,” and calls central character Bella “a fascinating character, selfish and yet vulnerable.”

From Writer’s Digest’s “About Us:”

Our charter publication Writer’s Digest literally “wrote the book” on writing and getting published. For more than 90 years, the experts at Writer’s Digest have been publishing books, magazines, competitions, conferences and distance education materials for writers who want to polish their skills and hone their craft.