A Guide to Love Scenes, or It was because I was inverted.

Okay, so I just finished writing one of those blasted love scenes in Secret Project S. It just about wrung my brain dry, and it got me to thinking about the writing of a love scene. Many, many of them have been written, in many, many books over the years, with varying degrees of effectiveness. I do not profess to be an expert. However, there are certain things in a love scene that I simply refuse to do. So here’s my short guide of do’s and don’ts.

The first one is tied to my movie quote, which is taken from Top Gun, the scene where Maverick explains the positioning of his plane relative to the enemy Mig-21. How does it tie to being inverted, you ask? Well, because if you’re inverted, just don’t mention it. Avoid specific geometrical details, such as the angle of a leg held over one’s head, or the degree to which he was leaning off of the sex swing. Such things are unnecessary.

Rule number two, also tied to Top Gun: Unless you are actually referring to Kelly McGillis, do not have any movements, "take her breath away." It’s a cliche and no one likes it.

Rule number three: No A to B to C descriptions. ie, and then they moved to the bed and then he grabbed her boobie and then they laid down. You’re crafting a scene not putting together a piece of furniture from Ikea. Don’t make it read like an instruction manual.

Rule number four: Limit the euphemisms for penises. Pick your favorite four and then rotate. Do I need to be specific here? No, I do not.
Okay fine. Lovestick, joy handle, Mr. Bikini Nose, and Ding o ling o ling should do nicely.

Do, channel the moment. Sure, you might feel like a dirty perv, but if it’s not hot for you, then it’s not hot for anybody.

Do interject some character reflection. It’s not all about the bodies. There are also brains present. Or at least there usually are. Usually only one. And it is usually female.

Don’t hold back on the emotional response, unless you are trying to be all disaffected, like Henry Miller or something. Though those of you who have read Tropic of Cancer will know that most of his scenes were a predecessor of the "Meow" game from Super Troopers, only he wanted to see how many times he could use the "C" word in three pages.

And finally, sensory description is good, but don’t go overboard or your readers will feel like they’ve stumbled into a twelve person orgy in a dark room. Pardon your hand, there sir. Do I know you?

What you should take away from this, is writing love scenes is not an easy piece of work. Those of you who can do it deserve all the accolades you get. There should be a love scene writing support group. Tomorrow, I get back to the dark action plot, where I am so much more comfortable.

Is this some weird kind of new therapy? (Bret Easton Ellis Reading!)

I probably got that quote slightly wrong. But it’s from What About Bob? a fantastically funny movie and probably my favorite Richard Dreyfuss roll EVER. For those of you who have not seen it, do. It is a delightful farce about mental illness, and Dreyfuss channels his inner Donald Duck on a scale never before seen.

Work continued on Secret Project S, but who the hell gives a crap about that? Last night was the Ellis reading! I will admit to being completely starstruck. Though I am now quite certain that I am physically unable to squee, because I didn’t do it last night, and I surely would have, had I been physically able.

What a reading. Never mind the very stinky old man just to our left. Never mind the barrage of occasionally meandering questions during the Q&A session. Ellis was charming and funny, insightful about his own work without sounding weird and obsessive, or aloof and bored. He had a great rapport with his audience, and graciously signed everything they had for him to sign. His reading voice wasn’t the strongest I’ve ever heard, but it was a lesser read section that he did last night, and he carried it well. I couldn’t decide whether to have the book personalized to my real name or my pen name. In the end I did my real name, as it is simple and I didn’t want to sputter like an idiot trying to spell my freakin pen name. As far as the book goes, the early pages of Imperial Bedrooms are solid, and I feel a bit more heart in it than I expected. A bit more regret.

Fantastic.Now I must close up shop for the day. The cat is bored, and demands some playtime.

I no longer know who I am and I feel like the ghost of a total stranger.

The quote for the day was a three-way tie between "Umm, Gangbang 101, Freebasing Tutorial and Oral Sex Workshop" and "I met a Dutch TV actress and we drank absinthe at a bar called Absinthe." These are, of course, from The Rules of Attraction, and I am using a Bret Easton Ellis-related quote because I am only hours away from going to a Bret Easton Ellis reading!

Holy cow. I’m tired, and it’s been a long day, and I now drive a 1991 Dodge POS that I have named affectionately, "Gonzo", but I still can’t wait to head into the city and hear this icon read some new stuff. I think my favorite work of his was actually Lunar Park. No wait. Hell, I don’t know. Did anyone see the film version of "The Informers" last year? Weird, and not as affecting as it could have been. And it didn’t manage to come off as disaffected either. It should have been affecting in its air of disaffection. Okay then. I’ll just file that one away under sentences that make me sound stoned.

Work slowed on Secret Project S today, but I’m not worried. Much of that slowness came from the desire to go slow, and also a change that I argued with myself over, involving a character I thought would turn up now, but instead is holding out for the second book. If there is such a thing. Project S must sell first, sadly.

Well, I’d better track down my ride (Gonzo may or may not have survived the trip). Imperial Bedrooms, here I come! Unless my ride does not show up. In which case I will be off to kill my ride.

Your brain presses against your skull and it feels likethis!

That’s one of John Travolta’s lines from Broken Arrow, right when he’s crushing Christian Slater’s skull. He delivers it with such wacky glee that it always makes me giggle, even if the rest of the movie’s dialogue doesn’t hold up to repeat viewings. It was I think the first time he played his now famous and unwanted "John Travolta is the cold, charismatic bad guy" character. He should stop it now.

Today was a day of re-writing. And not on editor’s orders either. No, it was a re-write of an early chapter of Secret Project S. Because I hated it. I hated it and I wanted it to die, and it could have very easily been done better had I not psyched myself out. This chapter was leftover from an earlier and much crappier draft, you see, and apparently crap is hard to get out without a scalpel and a steam cleaner. But I have re-written it, and like it much better. We are almost at the convergence point, and that, I think, is when things will really smooth out. Or it could completely de-rail. Whatever. That’s the fun/torture of writing.

Remember that scene from Secret Window, where Johnny Depp is playing with the slinky and talking to his dog and he says something to the effect of, "Well, that’s just bad writing. And you know the rules. No. Bad. Writing." And then he deletes the paragraph. And then he goes and kills his wife and her boyfriend with a shovel. I’d be a far more productive writer if I could just learn to delete the paragraph and then go kill my wife and her boyfriend with a shovel. Enough said.

Soft as I am, I wouldn’t last a week in a Central American war.

Okay that isn’t from a movie. But it is from an awesome show, and if anyone knows what that show is, they will become a hero in my eyes. No one’s going to know what it is. I should just resign myself to that now.

Today I wrote a very respectable whole chapter of Secret Project S. And it was a chapter that I started yesterday, crappily, so I had to erase a few hundred words and start over. When did that happen? When did my first outings become so invariably crappy? Because I know when I read over the new chapter tomorrow, I’m going to have at least twelve instances of word omissions/additions and re-phrasing. Why can’t I do it right the effen first time?! The love stories in this are starting to evolve in ways I had only a vague inkling of. Which so far is a good thing. One of the characters was flopping onto the page completely milquetoast, but now he’s taking a turn for the dark. Nice.

Tomorrow I have one more day of Secret Project S before my attention returns to Anna Dressed in Blood. My intention is to have it sent back to my editor by Monday, just shy of the contracted deadline.

In reading news, there are way too many good books these days, and nowhere near enough time to read them. My list of to-reads is growing steadily, and I have no idea where they’re going to fit in. My schedule is already packed, even with the loss of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged in the move. Bret Easton Ellis’ Imperial Bedrooms will get picked up next Wednesday at his reading, and then The Ammonite Violin and Others will probably ship from Caitlin R. Kiernan (and I love me some new Caitlin!) and in September Lisa Desrochers Personal Demons has caught my interest. Also on my radar is Sisters Red, a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. And 2666, a literary beast of a novel focusing on a search for a german author and murders based on those in Juarez, is also prodding for a place.

Tomorrow I think I will have to consider the purchase of an e-reader. But for now I’ll pretend I didn’t say that.

I’m the most dangerous man in this prison. You know why? Because I control the underwear.

The quote today is from American History X. If you haven’t seen it, then do. It’s the only thing that makes the existence of Edward Furlong worth the trouble.

Anyhoodle, REVISIONS! Complete! Anna Dressed in Blood has now officially undergone the first round of editorial revisions. It took about five days of solid work, but it came together pretty well I think. I’m going to let it rest a few days, then read it through again, make sure the edges are smooth, and send it back to NYC. Then we’ll see whether more needs to be done, or cuts need to be made, etc.

I was nervous about these, having never done them before. I was also worried that Cas just wouldn’t talk to me anymore. But my editor is fantastic, and her suggestions were spot on, and if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: Writing is Magic. I wasn’t sure if things could be inserted seamlessly into a "completed" manuscript. I shouldn’t worry so much. And it was nice to spend time with Cas and Anna again, because I’m going to be seeing them very shortly, in the sequel.

But tomorrow I go back to Secret Project S. I want to be over halfway done with it by my birthday, which is July 14th. I want to be in a position to pitch it to my agent in August. I am really loving it. Fingers crossed that others share my opinion.

I’m also going to be doing an interview to promote Sleepwalk Society on Blogtalk Radio July 13th at 1pm. The book itself is due for release August 1st. Please buy a copy, if you are so inclined.

Is that a raincoat?

Why yes it is, Paul.

The movie quote today is courtesy of Dylan, who came running at me yesterday buck naked but for a pair of socks, screaming and hacking at the air. I was extremely put off for several seconds before I realized he was doing the scene from American Psycho.

The work on revisions finally hit full swing yesterday. I think it’s going well. I read some of the major changes out loud to Dylan and he seemed to like them. Usually a good sign. It’s been surprisingly easy to slide back into Cas’ mind and voice. Probably because after a few months off he’s ready to talk again. Chatty bastard. The changes that have been requested are good ones, necessary ones, and I think are going to be integrated into the story pretty easily and seamlessly. There are one or two that I disagree with for various reasons, but I don’t think my editor will mind too much.

It’s a strange thing to go into a piece of work that I deemed as done months ago and find that there is still so much to DO. Stories beyond stories within stories. So often it seems to me that writing is magic. It used to scare me back when I was studying the craft in London, the idea that I would learn too much of the tactics, of the mechanics, and then I’d be able to see all of the puppet strings. But it isn’t true. There’s always more mystery. I don’t even know if it is possible to take the piss out of the whole thing.

I’m considering listing Sleepwalk Society with reader’s circle groups. I was also considering taking it to the Seattle Anarchist Book Fair, but I don’t know if I am to be considered radical. Sleepwalk Society is the kind of book that questions things, that examines things, but it has a strong undercurrent of apathy for most of it, and somehow that doesn’t fit with the theme of anarchy. Other than that though, I think it fits quite well.

Went to see Shrek Ever After yesterday because apparently I wanted to get bent over a pole. The theater prices are outrageous. It is a good thing that there is nothing that I really want to see coming to theaters. Including Shrek Ever After. However I did enjoy the evil goose. And Puss in Boots. He’s the only thing that can make Antonio Banderas attractive.

My Ass is Twitching. You People Make My Ass Twitch.

No, you don’t really make my ass twitch. That’d be weird. The line is by Kevin Kline. I won’t say what the movie is. If you know, you know. If you don’t, then ask.

Did I mention how kickass the artwork was that accompanied "Twilight, Choking on Owl Feathers" over at Mirror Dance? I think I did. And here it is:

Bitchin.

And hey, one more holler: SLEEPWALK SOCIETY IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!  Not just yet at Barnes and Noble, unfortunately. If you search for it there, the only thing that comes up is some weird CD of Oboe-playing. Sometimes the world makes only half a teaspoon of sense.

Thanks to those of you who have already pre-ordered. It’s a good book, I promise. But if you disagree, you disagree. Holy shit I’m agreeable. In writing news, I continue to forge ahead with Secret Project S. The 15k goal didn’t get met, but I’m making up for it now. Over 3k in two days, and most of it I like. I’m writing this in much the same fashion as I did Anna, which is by the seat of my pants. If anything, this is even more by the seat of my pants. My leading ladies often refuse to tell me where they’re headed until the moment I’m set to write it. I’m starting to feel that the love stories in this one might be epic. I’m excited to write it, actually, because I like to weave love stories in. Don’t look at me like that! Just because I don’t like mushy crap doesn’t mean I don’t like love stories! There’s a difference between straight up romance (which yes, I do enjoy from time to time), and a good love story interwoven with the plot. A love story that’s integral to the action. I generally prefer romance of the latter kind. Will and Lyra type stuff. The Mists of Avalon type stuff.

I’m getting excited to see where it ends up. This is the fun part of writing. Later, when it’s finished, and I’m wringing my hands over whether or not it will find a home, whether it sucks a whole, whole lot, that’s the less fun part. I just wrote a scene with three goddesses basically bitching and catting with each other. Both me and my heroine were sufficiently embarrassed, but it was sort of a guilty pleasure.

He gave me a mango!!

Ah yes, Empire of the Sun. When Christian Bale was young. And apparently a soprano. Also, where Ben Stiller has a small role that’s weird to see him in. If it taught me one thing, it was to chew my food well. Get the benefit. The quote is courtesy of Dylan, who hates Christian Bale.

The relocation to Seattle is nearly complete. The furniture should arrive later today. As I type, Dylan is hammering away on a very cheap new TV stand. Tybalt the cat is hiding above the cabinetry. Mojo Jojo the sort-of-cat, has adjusted much better.

The revision letter for Anna Dressed in Blood is due here on Monday. Can’t wait to get back to work on it. Writing as a job sometimes wears you thin, until of course you remember that you’re writing as a JOB, and then you shake it off and bounce around like a kid around a lit birthday cake. I can only hope this trend continues. Apparently I will be pitching Secret Project S to the agent as soon as it is ready, aka, through first draft.

Which brings me to a topic I didn’t really want to post about. The continuing career of a writer. I’ve been known to quote Harlan Ellison ("The hard part isn’t becoming a writer, it’s staying a writer.") and decry what a bunch of hooey that is. Well, it’s still a bunch of hooey. Bullshit even. It is harder than hard to become a writer, to become anything, and don’t you forget it. But, I’ll give him that staying a writer isn’t really any easier. Just because one book sells, or even two, doesn’t guarantee you a career of advance checks. These days, not even being steady on the mid-list can guarantee that. So I guess you just keep scrapping it out, putting out the very best that you can, and hope they take hold. It’s harder for us, but better for the world, because nobody needs books that are churned off an assembly line. If the well dries up, move on. Stop ripping off plots from Simpsons movies and writing books about evil desk lamps. Yes, I’m talking to you, Stephen King, and you, Stephen King from Family Guy.

Well, in good writing news, there’s a new story up at Mirror Dance. This is the one about the death of the greek goddesses, and it is the seed for Secret Project S. Is that giving away too much of the secret? Ah, screw it. Please check it out:

mirrordancefantasy.blogspot.com/2010/06/twilight-choking-on-owl-feathers.html

While you’re there, check out the bitchin artwork selected to go with it.

Daniel-san! You all wet behind ear!

Why the Karate Kid? Because Will Smith’s kid thinks he can BE the new Karate Kid, and I just don’t know about that. However, I am surprisingly willing to let Jackie Chan have a go at Mr. Miyagi. But Grr, what’s next, a remake of Top Gun with Tom Cruise as Viper and Katie Holmes as the new Mav?

On to less grumbling. I passed the initial requirement of 10k before leaving for Seattle on Secret Project S. So, I’ve decided to increase the requirement to 15k. I won’t feel confident that I’m even going to finish it until I get around the 35k mark. Having said that, I can’t recall ever starting a book that I didn’t ultimately finish. Having said THAT, I can’t recall any other book that I’ve had to re-start as many times as this one. But I think I like how it’s going. I think that it’s finally what it’s supposed to be, and that is gory and epic and smartass. I think I’m going to be working on a lot of gory, epic smartass in the coming year. Because the same could be said about The Girl From Hell. Well, if I think about it, Cas is probably more of a smartass than anyone in Secret Project S.  I’m starting to miss him, can you tell? He just showed me a scene from the sequel a few days ago…something with him and Thomas. Something that I like a lot, but won’t spoil here. I’m starting to miss them all, and that’s a very good sign.

So I’m thinking of joining the Northwest Writers Association. Anyone know anything about it? Good or bad?  Email me. Or comment, whatever.