Please welcome the amazing Ann Gimpel…
Hot! Hot! Hot! All that Sex and Why it Works (or doesn’t)
When I was growing up a million years ago, the only places you could find explicit sex in written material was at pornographic bookstores. Mostly they were located in the seedier sections of town and were frequented by men. The nineteen-sixties changed all that.
Now it’s sometimes hard to find books that don’t have sex. And lots of it. I started thinking about why some books feel hotter than hell and others are so blah I find myself skipping over the love scenes. (Critical caveat: These are only my ideas. I’d love to know what the rest of you think.)
Each of us is unique, but for me a book starts and ends with characters. They need to feel real and their motivations need to feel believable. If I can’t get into the characters, it’s hard for me to care what sort of love mess they’ve gotten themselves into.
Let me back up a few paces here. If I can’t get past the cover, I’ll never even get to the characters. Cover art is really important. I always check to make certain my contracts say I get input into cover art. And I’ve been blessed with really talented cover artists with a single exception. For one novella, which shall remain nameless, I was shocked to find it up on the publisher’s site as a finished product without any dialogue with me at all. The cover art was terrible and that, along with the publisher’s failure to distribute the book to other than their own site (another contractual breach), was directly responsible for low sales figures. I did some promotion, but frankly the cover was so hideous, I didn’t want it up on any of my sites.
Moving along here. So we have a dynamite cover that draws you into clicking on it, reading the blurb and, hopefully, liking what you’ve seen well enough to buy. While I’m ranting about covers, I like the ones with less flesh better. I think you can do way more with inference. And after being inundated with sleek, airbrushed bodies and six-pack abs, they’ve sort of lost their punch.
Vivid, three-dimensional characters are a combination of “real” with “larger than life” that works. That means the men are alphas and the women strong and sexy. Ditto for GLBT stories. The characters have to draw you in regardless of their sexual orientation. Strong characters can pull off gay, straight and ménage without breaking a sweat. They make you care what happens to them. I volunteer as a judge for the EPIC contest each year. Last year, one of the books I read had a secondary character with an androgynous name. I was well into the book before I discovered they were female. The author was skilled enough, it didn’t matter a twit.
With good characters, you can do just about anything. Sex in books that leaves you panting for more always involves credible characters yearning for one another. There’s a very old saying that the best sex happens in the mind. So we think about what someone’s body might be like, how they’d kiss us, or how their hands would feel on our bodies. Self-stim scenes are perfect to spin fantasies and ratchet up the sexual heat.
It’s the yearning and the moving towards and away from one another several times that builds the tension an author needs. I want characters strung tight as bow strings so that when they finally do get together, it’s so steamy you need to crack a window.
Effective sex in writing is way more than who touched whom where.
What about for all of you? What makes sex in a book so compelling you can’t put it down? If you had to pick a favorite character, who would it be and why?
Book One of the Transformation Series
By Ann Gimpel
What if your psychotherapist could really see into your soul? Picture all those secrets lying hidden, perhaps squirming a bit, just out of view. Would you invite your analyst to take a peek behind that gossamer curtain? Read your aura? Scry your future…?
Classically trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Doctor Lara McInnis has a special gift that helps her with her patients. Born with “the sight” she can read auras, while flirting with a somewhat elusive ability to foretell the future. Lara becomes alarmed when several of her patients—and a student or two—tell her about the same cataclysmic dream.
Reaching out to the Institute for answers, Lara’s paranormal ability sounds a sharp warning and she runs up hard against a dead end. Her search for assistance leads her to a Sidhe and ancient Celtic rituals blaze their way into her life. Complicating the picture is a deranged patient who’s been hell bent on destroying Lara ever since she tried to help his abused wife, a boyfriend with a long-buried secret and a society that’s crumbling to dust as shortages of everything from electricity to food escalate.
Book Two of the Transformation Series
Born with the sight, Laura McInnis is ambivalent about her paranormal ability. Oh it’s useful enough some of the time with her psychotherapy patients. But mostly it’s an embarrassment and an inconvenience—especially when her visions drag her to other worlds. Or into Goblin dens. In spite of escalating violence, incipient food shortages and frequent power blackouts, Lara is still far too attached to the comfortable life she shares with her boyfriend, Trevor, a flight attendant who lost his job when aviation fuel got so expensive—and so scarce—his airline went out of business. Forced to seek assistance to hone her unusual abilities in Psyche’s Prophecy, Book I of this series, Lara is still quite the neophyte in terms of either summoning or bending her magic to do much of anything.
Reluctantly roped into channeling her unpredictable psychic talents to help a detective who saved her from a psychopathic killer, Lara soon finds herself stranded in the murky underbelly of a world inhabited by demons. The Sidhe offer hope, but they are so high-handed Lara stubbornly resists their suggestions. Riots, death on all sides, a mysterious accident and one particular demon targeting her, push Lara to make some hard decisions. When all seems lost, the Dreaming, nestled in the heart of Celtic magic, calls out to her.
Book Three of the Transformation Series
The Transformation Series is about finding out who we truly are when the chips are down. About what is real and what is illusory. About what matters and what doesn’t. It’s easy to show our best side when everything is going well. How about when the world is disintegrating around us? What happens then?
In this final book of the Transformation Series, Lara and Trevor’s relationship undergoes stresses that threaten to annihilate them. Constantly hungry, besieged by dark forces, they need every resource they’ve developed as a couple to keep from ripping each other apart. With Lillian and Raven— two ancient Celtic Sidhe— off fighting their own war against Goblin hordes, Lara has only herself and her half-baked magic standing between survival and certain death for herself, her love and their child.
The remote location that was supposed to solve all Lara and Trevor’s problems has done anything but. Though she works diligently, Lara’s crash course in magic proves woefully inadequate. When Trevor is captured by demons, Lara curses her decision to leave Seattle. “If only I’d known,” she cries, convinced she can’t go back. Or can she?
About the Author:
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent. Avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago. Since then her short fiction has appeared in a number of webzines and anthologies and she has published three novels, Psyche’s Prophecy, Psyche’s Search and Psyche’s Promise. A husband, grown children, grandchildren and three wolf hybrids round out her family.
You can check out all of Ann Gimpel’s books at her website….