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Monday, June 18, 2007

How Much Sex is too Much? HNS

More from the Historical Novel Society

When I grow up and am a published author, I want to be on a Panel like “How Much Sex is Too Much?”

While attending the HNS’s second biennial conference in Albany, New York, June 8-10, 2007, I (and the assembled multitude) was treated to a pre-panel teaser, as it were. Diana Gabaldon (, Jade Lee-(, C. C. Humphreys-(, and Lisa Jensen-( read excerpts of love scenes as a reference for the Sunday morning workshop. While I am a HUGE fan of Dr. Gabaldon’s Outlander series, I was a virgin to the titillating talents and sensual skills of the other stellar authors. To be so utterly, publicly seduced, on the edge of my seat in anticipation and hope, or lmao with the erotic folly was pure literary rapture.

So, “How Much Sex is too Much?” In real life, there may be no such thing. At least in the fantasy of most healthy, consenting adults. Upon discovering the joys of sex, my protagonist Eloise Dahlquin wonders how anyone has the discipline to get out of bed at all. For the lucky few, only thirst and starvation (and evacuation) pull them from their union. Most of us relent to rise and resume work and chores enabling us at days end to return to our (fill in your own blank_____, ‘cozy’, ‘ravishing’, ‘insatiable’, ‘throbbing’) partners. Those of us with children have a built-in coitus interuptus program running; an endless infomercial on the virtues of birth control.

But in writing, the craft of storytelling, is it possible to have too much sex? If it is poorly written and clich├ęd, then absolutely. If it is gratuitous…save it for the ‘believe it or not’ mailbag. Blending great sex with riveting (yes, I like that word) page turning plot twists; exploring character development and emotions through the five senses, building tension, luring readers behind closed doors is a climax not easily achieved by all writers and shared by readers. Was it good for you?

Unlike the ‘real thing’ we authors do not want readers to light a cigarette or worse yet roll over and start snoring. What next, what next, what next? Romance writers follow a set formula, with building sexual contact as major plot points: The first kiss, heightened contact, interrupted sex, etc. until finally consummating the act itself. In most fiction, relationships, love and romance propel part of if not the entire plotline. How will this be resolved? What will be the repercussions? Who will suffer, who will gain?

Building sexual tension--written foreplay—is done in various, stimulating and evocative ways. For fine examples please check out the above mentioned authors’ work (I’m mopping my brow just remembering). Just because I fantasize about castle sex or cathedral sex, doesn’t mean readers don’t want and deserve a darn fine tale (pun intended), intrigue, mystery, suspense and deep, complex characters “seeking the cheese” (see earlier blog). What motivates characters? How do they relate to others? Striving for sex, or seeking to avoid it keep readers turning pages, waiting.

I love writing love making scenes. I like what it reveals about my characters. I want them to have some fun. Everything can’t be plague and pestilence, unless of course, it is violent sex as a power play. I doubt any of us like writing that stuff…but our heroes must overcome adversity. Few things rival sexual abuse for the sake of fiction writing. But I’m not discussing world changing, literary fiction. I’m keeping it light here.

So, how much is too much? The panel reached no definitive answer, because each book and each scene must be evaluated on its own heart pounding merits. But the audience certainly did not get enough, we were anxiously hoping for more oral sex--the literary kind.

And again, if you are not familiar with the authors, I provided their websites above.

Diana Gabaldon, Outlander series, Scots Highlanders and time travel

Jade Lee, Tigress series, exotic romance

C. C. Humphreys, Jack Absolute, 007 of the 1770’s

Lisa Jensen, Witch From the Sea, pirates and coming of age on the high seas

I’m keeping booksellers busy! And my librarians, bless them.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

I am reading (listening to audio, actually) Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. This book was recommended to me years ago and I bought a copy while completing the Santiego di Compostella by tandem. It appears on lists of Best Historic Fiction. It is definitely time!

What a magnificent book. This is my favorite kind, with multiple storylines and characters overlapping. Intrigue and plotting. And most importantly, the omniscient POV. I have noted one segment where the POV changes within a scene (a ‘bedroom’ scene where the reader is privy to both lovers’ thoughts—definitely my favorite type!)

The time period is around four generations (100 hundred years) before my first book, Dahlquin, A Medieval Saga, begins, during the brutal civil war between Empress Mathilda (Maude in Pillars) and King Stephen. Mathilda/Maude was the mother of the illustrious King Henry II, whose grandson, Henry III is the seventeen year old King of England in 1224 AD when Dahlquin opens.

The legacy of that civil war looms large in my story. King Gerald FitzGilbert of Leinster, Ireland has five daughters and faces the same dilemma as Henry I, trusting his barons to support his daughter as queen after he dies. Hubert and Anne of Dahlquin are faced with the same: A sole heir, a daughter, Eloise. Both families know the sordid history of betrayal with female ascension, and both struggle to avoid a similar fate for their families and estates.

I relish the opportunity to learn so much about that earlier time period while being thoroughly entertained. Studying the craft of Mr. Follett’s writing as well. Such a storyteller AND a new book out in October! Is this good timing or what?

Ah, the lure of the cathedral and its construction. I share Mr. Follett’s enthusiasm heartily and appreciate his fine detail to architecture, construction and design, breathing life into the stone structures, telling the possible stories of the people who built and used them. This is what I long to hear when I press my face and hands against those stones, willing them to speak, to share, revealing those lives.

Characters, motivation, how they lived and survived are my focus in Dahlquin. I hope to achieve the master plotting and sub plotting of an artist like Ken Follett; or my other favorites, Diana Gabaldon or James Clavell. Studying great books like this improve my own writing, and inspire me to keep working. Thank you, thank you, thank you.