Hot Autumn Nights Blog Hop

When asked to say a few words about hot autumn nights, I confess I was initially stumped. You see, I am originally from the Great Pacific Northwest, where autumn means sitting on the back porch on a cold, clear night with a mug of cocoa, watching deer graze in the back field with the scent of burning leaves on the wind. But I don’t live there anymore. I live in the Midwest now, where autumn means the second season of storms is upon us, bringing with it alternating nights of sweltering or freezing (as well as the pleasant threat of tornadoes), and the only scents on the ever-present wind emanate either from the oil refinery to the east or the stockyard to the west. Nothing about this Godforsaken place is romantic. The only reason people around here have babies is because of boredom.

On the other hand, I did sign up for this blog and I feel a faint sense of obligation to commit to it because HD Thomson is awesome. So let’s forget about autumn and focus on the night.

As my mother was wont to say when I balked at venturing down into our child-eating haunted basement for a bottle of peaches, there’s nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the light. Why then, is darkness so inherently sensual?

Sight is arguably the most complex and most relied upon of the traditionally recognized senses. When we lose it, we lose a lot of what anchors us in familiarity. As a teenager, after reading The Cay by Theodore Taylor, I put on a blindfold for a solid week to see what it would be like to suddenly lose my vision (I had very understanding parents). What I discovered almost immediately was that darkness makes everything strange. Anyone who’s ever stubbed their toe walking across their own bedroom at night knows this and likewise knows that walking across the bedroom in the dark means going slower, orienting yourself by the ticking of the clock or sleeping breaths of whoever’s sharing your bed, trailing one hand lightly along the wall and feeling out every step before you take it. Daredevil’s example to the contrary, our remaining senses are not superhumanly heightened by a lack of sight, but we do become more attuned to the cues that are already there and because we are not accustomed to processing that information, the experience becomes one of exploration and anything that makes sex seem new is always thrilling.

As a writer, it can be a challenge to take the very basic mechanics of sex and use them in a scene that is unique to certain characters in a specific circumstance. No sex scene should be interchangeable with that of another book or even one appearing at a different time in the same book.  See, here’s the thing: Sex scenes aren’t really about sex.  They are about the connection between characters, which is not necessarily a romantic one. People have sex for a lot of different reasons, but whatever desire, passion or desperation moved your characters into that position (so to speak) should be reflected in the action as much the emotions. Therefore, writing a sex scene can’t come too close to writing a sex manual. A step-by-step narrative is not hot. The trickle of sweat following the curve of the heroine’s spine or the scrape of the hero’s teeth across the nape of her neck is. So using all five senses during a description of sex is one of the most important tips I could give a new writer, one that should be applied whether the scene takes place during the night or day.

But night is when the writer’s skill at using every sense really pays off. At night, there are little visual cues beyond the pale reflection of moonlight glinting in his eye or the curve of her hip falling into shadows. Here, the whole story is told by Braille. The scars he has seen by sunlight, he now feels as if for the first time as he caresses her. Inhuman characteristics that are obvious to the eyes take on whole new dimensions: the tickle of fur on her naked belly, the coolness of his horns, the unexpected muscular grip of his tail wrapping her ankle, her hand tracing the sensitive skin along the unfeeling metal prongs ridging his armored spine. In the dark, just as touch seems so much more exaggerated, sounds seem amplified. The shuddering of her breath, barely perceptible by daylight’s distraction, trembles in the very air at night. The rasp of his hand sliding over her skin is almost a physical thing to her ears. The taste of his sweat, the scent of her hair, the musk they make as they come together—in the dark, it is possible to describe sex without ever using a dirty word and still leave the reader thinking they have just read the most graphic scene imaginable simply because so much of it is left to the imagination and nothing is so graphic as what a reader can imagine.

Beyond the five senses, there are feelings to explore. When writing from a character’s point of view, keep that character’s thoughts in the scene. More than just the blood races during sex; thoughts fly and emotions spill over. Don’t be afraid to use dialogue. When was the last time you had sex in total silence? And remember that the darkness has a special power when words come out. Remember when you were a kid on a sleepover, whispering to each other in the dark through all hours of the night? Even as children, we instinctively understood that secrets are more binding in the dark, truths are more intimate and lies are more devastating. Use that to your advantage. Avoid overly sentimental pillow talk and overly crude dirty talk, just be real. You don’t need flowery I-love-you-more-thans and Oh-do-me-harders to make an impact. The power will come from the characters, even if all they say is, “Yes.”

Finally, I would be unpardonably remiss as a writer of paranormal romance if I didn’t mention that, with all respect to my mother, there is something in the dark which is not there in the light: The unseen. Darkness conceals and so it follows that the things that go, ahem, bump in the night may not be entirely trustworthy. An element of danger  can add immeasurably to your sex scene, whether it comes from a lover who brings the darkness with him/her or some outside threat gathering its strength somewhere unseen in the night, there’s nothing like a little shiver to emphasize the heat.

 Sexy athletic body

In memory of those bygone days in the Great Pacific Northwest, I am holding a Hot Autumn Nights giveaway! On December 3rd, ONE lucky winner will win the grand prize (when there’s only one prize, it can be as grand as you please): winner’s choice of one of my ebooks, or a hot cocoa gift set. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment in the section below containing a viable email address so I can contact you, and whether you want the book or the cocoa. A word or two about my post would be nice too.

If you’d like to more insight on the power of the night, please be sure to check out the rest of the blog hop for more musings from excellent authors, most of whom remembered to actually include the ‘autumn’ in ‘hot autumn nights.’ Thank you, HD Thomson, for another fun hop!

36 responses to “Hot Autumn Nights Blog Hop

  1. The tail round the ankle does it for me, makes me shiver straight away. One thing that comes to mind when reading this is that most of your aliens that are main characters are male. I know that in Arcadia you had loads of female centaurs etc but your heroes are mostly a human female and an ‘alien’ male. Do you think you will reverse that in any of your future books?

    • I honestly don’t know. I’m not opposed to it. I find female heroes more interesting than males, perhaps because they’re so underrepresented in the books and movies I like. And I like human rather than non-human heroes because they have more to overcome. I guess that boils down to human heroines and non-human love interests, but it would be interesting to mix it up now and then.

  2. Hello!
    I’ve been lurking around on your forum for about a week now, and may I be as bold as to suggest you add some shortcuts and easier ways to navigate. It would be very helpful if you either categorised your posts by topic or by when they were posted and had links to them on the right (where you keep the links to your books). It can also be a combination of the two. Check out cakewrecks.com and see how they did it, they have links to posts by month and by topic both. It would be very helpful if people could go back to your forum two years from now and simply click a link called “the ABC of worldbuilding” (or some other more clever title) with the subcategories of A-Z.

    Sorry if that gives you extra work, please know that I am actually a big fan and not just giving (constructive) criticism. :)

    I’d like to enter your competition, please.

    • I’m going to need an email address so I can contact you if you win. As for creating shortcuts and cross-referencing blog posts, what you see here is about what I can do. Good luck in the drawing!

      • Sorry for late reply, too much to do the last couple of days to go on the intarwebs. No worries about the navigation of the site, you do what you can do, and that is all one can ask. I know how to bookmark, hehe. I thought you got the email address from the “you have to fill in these fields to comment”, but I didn’t win anyway so it’s all good. :)

  3. I wish I could remind my husband of the necessity of frequent Hot Autumn Nights! For the longest time I thought I preferred sex with at least some light on, …..but then I experienced my first “tent sex” :) in the middle of nowhere in utter darkness , to the point where I couldn’t even see the hand in front of me. To this day that was the most erotic and stimulating coupling of my life and I became a huge fan of the dark. Personal experiences aside, I have to tell you I have the most mind fucked obsession with your books! And, when I drop the F bomb I MEAN it , cause I’m not the swearing everyday type. When I found out you only had 8 books out there and was currently breezing my way through your 4th , I started getting the shakes like a heroine junkie (figuratively speaking of course :)….I even made my hubby leave his families thanksgiving gathering early so I could read for the entire rest of the night
    ( granted, it wasn’t that heinous of a thing, his family are beyond boring, they don’t even play games or have a deck of bloody cards…I mean ,really? Who are these people! )….except now your books have made me miss most of Black Friday! Arggggghhh….I guess I should be thanking you for not spending money on silly items simply because they are “door busters” …..anyways, sorry I’m rambling, I type like I speak so I tend to prattle and go off on tangents, …..back to how awesome your books are…..I love Aliens , and I’ve been made fun of quite frequently for my xenophilia by my friends/family. To find a REAL Sci-fi author that can actually write relatable characters, keep the details from becoming monotonous, and make the romance/erotic portions be titilating but classy ,…is extremely rare! I should know , I’ve scoured every single alien /human romance Scifi book I could find and other than a small handful , most of them are poorly written. So, allllllll that being said , I can’t WAIT for your next book (even though I have four more left of yours to conquer). If you get a chance can you let us know when your next book “Pool” might be out? Thanks!

    • And breathe! Sorry to hear you missed Black Friday, but it’s probably for the best. People get crazy for sales, which is why I do most of my shopping online. Same deals, no crowds, free parking and I don’t even have to get dressed.

  4. As to you wearing a blindfold for a solid week to see what it would be like to suddenly be blind, you were a ‘researcher’ from a very young age weren’t you? I loved this, “so much of it is left to the imagination and nothing is so graphic as what a reader can imagine”. How true! Our imaginations can take us to absolutely terrifying or positively thrilling places with just a nudge in the right (or wrong) direction. Thanks for the giveaway. As I have all of your books already (unless you can offer a future one), the hot cocoa set is my choice. msdebms@aol.com

  5. See, this is why we read your books. The thought of fur tickling her belly and a tail wrapped around her ankle makes me darn near hyperventilate!
    So true about feelings in the dark. It is much easier to be vulnerable without light than to expose yourself in the light of day.
    Can’t wait til your next book! Please send me The Scholomance if I win.

  6. I can’t believe you blindfolded yourself for a week! I think I would be over that in a day if I tried. Thanks for your giveaway! I think I would prefer the hot chocolate if you don’t mind :)
    i_love_books at aol dot com

  7. “Nothing is as graphic as the reader can imagine.” You’re right about that, but I hate it when authors write scenes that are “unimaginable”. I find myself pulled out of a story and thinking about how the logistics just won’t work, lol. I’d love a copy of Cottonwood. Can you see my email addy from my comment details or do I need to type the addy in a comment?

  8. I like your comment about sex scenes not being about sex but the connection between the characters. When a sex scene is written with this philosophy it only enhances the reading experience.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    aprilnu2003 (at ) yahoo (dot) com

  9. I’m from Italy and i’ve come by your books by chance on goodreads and i have to say that it was an amazing experience.I finally found originality,emotion,creativity and love.Your books are definitely something else and i found myself wishing to live in one of your words.I’m happy that the kind of love you describe is unconventional.Who said that a woman and a minotaur or a lizard can’t fall in love?
    Darkness and differences have their lure.Dark is sexy because as you said more senses are involved and you have more fun!
    Thank you for letting me experience amazing journeys with your books!!

    My e-mail is ladysixx92@hotmail.it and i’d like to receive ‘The army of Mab’ in case i win :)

  10. I’m originally from Mississippi, where the seasons changing are beautifully precise, and autumn is marked with lovely fall colors that are a source of inner peace and reflection. Each season is relatively consistent and trustworthy. Now I live in the high desert, with virtually no growing season (or at least none for the things I’d like to grow), snow in October through June, and a severe lack of trees, thus a lack of foliage to admire. It is often a harsh adjustment, but there are so many sources of beauty here, too: the subtle changes in the scent of the air before a snow and the beautiful freshness after, the vast openness of the sky allowing one to see so many brilliant stars, and the crisp, cleanness of the air, clear of the humidity that weighed me down for most of my life in the South. Yes, the seasons are different, but I am fortunate enough to love both my geographical areas and all their natural beauty. michelle_willms(at)yahoo(dot)com

    • The high desert can be beautiful. On my recent travels, I was able to see some amazing landscapes right at the tpping point between summer and autumn. You are very fortunate to be able to see it every day.

      Good luck in the drawing!

  11. I liked the post! It was interesting to see how a writer gets behind their characters. I never really think about how an author has to investigate all five senses a character might be experiencing during various scenes. Thanks for the entertaining insights! ghtough at gmail dot com

  12. What a wonderful post. I couldn’t agree more with your tips for good writing, whether it’s sex scenes or just any scene. You know you’re reading sub-par writing when nothing has any real depth, like it’s all just interchangeable and sort of paint-by-numbers. I might be mixing metaphors, but sometimes those reads drive you to it! Your descriptions were beautiful, and I would definitely love to have a chance at winning Heat (how appropriate given the blog hop name), as it sounds like a good story, and I’ve already enjoyed the sampling of your writing here. Thank you so much for sharing with us!

    caroaz [at] ymail [dot] com

  13. Hi! Wow! Awesome post! Its fascinating to see what kinds of steps authors take to get there characters in the right fame. Love this post! Very interesting! Thank you all for the fantastic hop! Its a blast! Im having a great time! Thank you! Happy holidays!
    shadowluvs2read(at)gmail(dot)com

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