A Memoir of Regrets and Epiphanies

Excerpt from Chapter 2:

The “facts of life” seemed an inadequately euphemistic term for the purpose of sex. “How people make babies” would have been a more honest label for the breeding act with a thousand names. But even at age fifteen, I remained abysmally ignorant of these truths.

That summer of 1962, as my quest for knowledge led me forward, dust motes danced in beams of sunlight streaming in the windows of my great aunt’s abandoned chicken house. Here and there, cracks broke the long concrete floor but at the upper end where I sat, a place had been set aside for a trunk, random chairs, a broken ottoman, an iron bedstead and various other household outcasts. The trunk contained back issues of Reader’s Digest, mostly 1940s and 1950s editions which I’d mined for days as our summer vacation passed at a glacial pace.

Our family—dad, mom, me, younger sister, and two infant brothers—were camped in my great aunt’s cabin, a relic perched a hundred feet from the main house, a stone’s throw from the chicken house and another twenty feet from the outhouse. The toilet hosted nests of angry red wasps and yellow jackets, so as our days there crept past, bodily processes became fraught with terror.

The purpose of our stay was to save my father from cigarettes. After reading the latest fad for cleansing the body from nicotine addiction, my mother had hit upon the perfect plan in her continuing effort to expand our health food diet: stay in her Aunt Golvia’s cabin, pick bushels of grapes from the nearby vineyards, and eat nothing but grapes. That would cure him.

As it turned out, it didn’t cure him but it did exacerbate my problem with the outhouse.

But that wasn’t the focus of my attention that sweltering July afternoon. As I thumbed through various articles, sweat dripping down my sides, my hands stopped on a page with fascinating drawings. These looked like – no, they were!—line drawings of male and female bodies with genitalia in anatomically correct detail. Even more fascinating was a third drawing showing the male organ inside the female’s body. An even smaller detail showed the release of sperm penetrating the cervix to fertilize the egg.

I read it and re-read it, trying to understand what it meant. My face became hot. My hands trembled.

Could this be true? It was in Readers Digest, so didn’t it have to be true?

So much suddenly made sense. All the years of my life until that point, I’d been told that when a woman loved a man ‘enough,’ a baby grew in her stomach. It was a miracle of God. I accepted that idea like I accepted that it rained.

My fevered mind raced back to my previous efforts to understand procreation. Just months prior, I stood in the cafeteria line as a group of friends whispered about a freshman classmate getting pregnant.

“She shouldn’t have done that,” JoEllen said. “She knew better.”

“They expelled her,” Marti added.

“That’s not fair. She can’t help it if she loves him that much,” I said piously.

Six sets of eyes settled on me. I squirmed uncomfortably. What?

None of them took mercy and told me the truth. Maybe they didn’t grasp that I truly didn’t know how babies were made. But a few months later as I crouched in that dusty barn staring at the page, here it was in black and white. Humiliation flooded through me.

How could I have been so stupid?!

It was now obvious my mother had lied to me and more than once. In seventh grade when my friend Joanie told a joke with the word ‘fuck’ in it, I didn’t get it. The whole point of the joke hinged on that word. I rushed home from school to ask what ‘fuck’ meant.

I ran down the alley as fast as my long lanky legs could carry me, crossed the yard, and burst in through the back door. Mom was in the kitchen, surrounded as usual by my two little brothers and a multitude of unfinished tasks. I posed my question.

“What does ‘fuck’ mean?”

Red splotches sprang onto her cheeks and her dark eyes flashed in anger.

“Jessica Hardy! Don’t you ever say that filthy word,” she said sharply. “Only filthy people say that.”

I refused to back down. “But what does it mean?”

“You don’t need to know what it means,” she said, dismissing me with a turn of her back.

Wow. Well, if she was that upset about a word, I absolutely had to find out what it meant.

Next day, my friend Joanie was only too happy to explain that ‘fuck’ was when a man put his “necessary item” inside a girl “down there” and went to the bathroom.

Oh god, the horror! Now, as I studied the detailed drawings and re-read the Reader’s Digest article, I finally got it.

MY PARENTS HAD FUCKED!

I staggered back to the cabin where my mother was in the tiny kitchen washing grapes. I shoved the open Reader’s Digest in front of her. “Is this true?”

She took the book, scanned the drawings, and angrily dropped the little publication into the trash can without saying a single word. I could tell by the red spots on her cheeks that it was true.

“Tell me!”

“Yes,” she said furiously. “Where did you get that? You’ve got no business reading such filth.”

My jaw dropped. Filth? This was how she got pregnant. Why was it filth? I couldn’t believe it. How could it be?

I wanted to scream at her. Make her admit her deliberate lies, confess her intentional failure to educate me about the most important aspect of human existence. Explain why making babies was filth. I couldn’t find words.

Instead, I raced through the cabin, climbed into the sleeping loft, and threw myself into my pillow where I sobbed my eyes out. My parents! Fucking? Each of us kids had come from fuck?

Oh, the horror. The shame. I thought I would throw up. I would never do that. Now I knew with absolutely certainty that I would never have a husband or a family because I would never let that filthy ‘fuck’ thing happen to me. The missionary thing in Africa solidified in my mind.

Months later when Bob walked up beside me in the high school band room and my knees sagged, I quickly amended my outlook. If I loved someone enough, I might let him fuck me.

from Once in a Lifetime Opportunity by Jessica Hardy. New Release at Amazon, paperback or ebook.

New Release!

In the mid-20th century, an entire generation of women found themselves caught up in a revolution. Young women tossed aside society’s rules that had governed women with an iron hand for hundreds of years. Suddenly women had agency, the right to their own identity. And their own sexual adventures. The story of Jessica Hardy and her seven-year marriage to Parker Grant brings that enormous cultural shift down to the personal level. As she enters college in 1966, Jessica is desperate to break out of her strict upbringing. Parker is her salvation, a graduating senior who becomes the love of her life. Newly married, they immerse in Parker’s duties as an air force officer and a world of their own making—nights in Las Vegas, windy Pacific beaches, and long summer days in the Philippine Islands. Slowly, with Parker’s encouragement, Jessica gains self-confidence and a sense of herself. But Jessica has a problem. She wants more. More knowledge, more experience, autonomy. Leaving no stone unturned, Jess breaks one rule after another—illegal abortion, drugs, one man then another, even time in jail. It’s an unexpected spiritual awakening that opens the door to the rest of her life. Once in a Lifetime Opportunity reveals this tumultuous time in a gut-wrenching portrayal of a woman determined to find her own way and the man who loved her.

Choosing Character Names

A recurring problem for fiction writers is unintentionally creating characters or places with similar names. For example, in one novel I read recently, there were both a Millworth Manor and a Murray Hill Hotel. In another, a Sophie and a Sylvie. In yet another, two girls in main character families had the names Charlotte and Cerelin.

In a spate of reading Regency romance, I found maids of main characters, Lily and Lucy, an unfaithful fiancé to the main character and his best friend: Emmeline and Ellingsworth, an antagonist/protagonist Dare and Darien, and key supporting characters Mara and Maria.

In each case, I had to keep checking back to remember who these people were, which cast an unfavorable taste over the story in general. Like most readers of escape literature, I wanted to immerse in the story without any tangles. Similar names are a tangle.

I’m by no means the first to notice this problem. Many blog posts and articles can be found in a quick internet search. K. M. Weiland noted this anomaly in a 2011 blog post:

At first glance, this isn’t obviously a problem. But because most people read by sight, rather than sounding out words, and because most people read so quickly that their eyes take in multiple words per second, it’s easy for readers to take a look at nothing more than the first letter in a name and make an assumption about which character is on stage.[1]

Another blogger noted additional similarities to avoid:

Similar beginnings:  Readers might be confused by a “Cathy” and a “Cynthia,” or a “Richard” and a “Roger” in the same story.

Similar endings: Avoid giving your characters names that end the same way, like “Madison” and “Jason,” or worse yet, names that rhyme, like “Shelley” and “Kelly.”

Repeated vowel sounds: “Janeen,” “Lee,” and “Edith” all share a long ‘e’ sound. This can be tiring for the ear.

Similar length: You’d be confused too if you had to read a book about “Bob,” “Ted,” and “Joe.” How would you keep them all straight in your mind?[2]

The Alliance of Independent Authors offers a list of 15 guidelines to use in selecting character names, starting the article with the questions:

Would Scrooge have become such a symbol of parsimony if Dickens had name him Smith?

Would Paddington Bear sound as adorable if named after Waterloo Station?

Would the Wizard of Oz be as awesome if he lived in any lesser-named land?

Most of us don’t slow down enough in reading such works to establish a firm identification of a character by more than the first letter of the name. To that fleeting identity, we add appearance, personality, and intent as we fly through the pages. With more than one character with similar name elements, the story bogs down in lost identities.

It’s a strange psychological quirk that authors fall into this trap. It’s not that we don’t have access to an enormous repertoire of names. But in the moment, when the overall story is looming in our forebrain and the characters are pieces on that chessboard, we may accidentally use similar names without realizing it.

To avoid this often-invisible trap, make a list of character names in your story and sort them alphabetically to ensure none of them have the same first letter. Then read them out loud to see if there are matching phonetic elements. These are easy editing steps that will greatly improve your readers’ enjoyment of your work.

~~~

[1] https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/dont-confuse-readers-with-similar/#

[2] https://writeitsideways.com/what-not-to-name-your-characters/

The Biggest (Little) Lie in Romance Fiction

Soon after ending a twenty-year marriage, a friend of mine began dating. We’ll call her Marti. One particular hunk she had her eye on was a six-foot-two, green eyed country boy with a build that would put a linebacker to shame. After a few weeks of flirty stuff, he asked her out for drinks. Soon after that came an invitation to dinner, and then, well, you know. They went to bed.

Marti called me for lunch soon after and related her story. At his apartment and with all the appropriate amount of kissing and fondling, he undressed her down to her panties. She unbuttoned his shirt and a few minutes later he was down to his tighty-whities. They lay on the bed kissing and petting and while he slid his hand inside her panties, Marti slid her hand inside his briefs.

And kept sliding. Because what she expected to find, she couldn’t find. Seriously could not find.

She said she thought she had slipped into an alternate universe. Did he not have a penis? His testicles were there, large and heavy. But the particular biological feature essential to intercourse? Finally she realized that this tiny thing brushing her palm was in fact his penis. It seemed about the size of a large acorn at first, but after she touched it a few moments, it grew in size to his full erection—about the size of her thumb.

Even in telling me, she was embarrassed. How many times had this guy gone through this torment? She said she couldn’t imagine what it was like for him to experience this discovery process with each successive woman.

But more than that, she was angry. She would have preferred to have the choice whether to enter into sexual congress with a micro-penis before getting stripped down and in the clench. He could have manned up and had an adult conversation as the petting got serious, set Marti down, and said “I have a micro-penis. What that means is…” Etc.

Maybe he’d done that before. Maybe the result of such a conversation was the woman getting dressed and walking out the door. Marti didn’t see him again after that because, well, two reasons. The last couple of years of her marriage had been sexless and she was desperate for a good fuck. She wasn’t looking for a love affair or any kind of serious relationship. Just good sex.

The other reason—she felt like she’d been lied to. One of those sins-of-omission kind of lies where vital information was withheld. Almost like false advertising.

Sadly for Marti and the rest of us women, the reality is that lots of men are dick-challenged no matter how great their abs. And even more sadly, it seems environmental pollution is making this a much more common problem.  Various studies have shown a correlation between environmental contaminants and the size of otter organs, polar bear penises, and crocodile cocks. In some species, the pollution impact is so strong that the critters can’t reproduce.

Is that where we’re headed? So far, even the micro-penis is capable of successfully planting sperm inside a vagina. But, scientists warn, fertility levels are decreasing.

These pesky details are way too serious for romance novels where making babies is generally beside the point. Romance novels are many things, but most of all they are escape and entertainment. Just as men’s magazines feature images of women with fabulous breasts, tiny waists and nice tight bums, women’s romance novels feature tall muscular men with rippling abs and a massive cock.

“She watched with avid interest as he took off his shirt, revealing a chest that seemed sculpted of marble, all carved lines and beautiful symmetry. Even the smattering of raven curls over it turned her knees to jelly… He shoved off his trousers, then swiftly divested himself of his drawers. And that’s when she thought better of her plan to lose her virtue to him. Because that massive engine thrusting out from between his thighs like a cannon headed for war was far more daunting than she’d expected. It was as arrogant as he, with ballocks the size of plums.” (The Secret of Flirting, Sabrina Jeffries)

“She shifted her hips, feeling the large, hard…thing pressed against her. And she wanted to see him. Theresa rolled off his right side, her lags tangling in her disheveled skirts. “Oh, my,” she whispered, looking down past his hips.” (A Lady’s Guide to Improper Behavior, Suzanne Enoch)

Of course every woman knows that such descriptions are idealized in order to entertain. Who would be interested in reading stories about men with micro-penises, pot bellies, or acne?

We crave the ideal and that’s what escape literature provides us. In these romantic adventures, we can become lost in a world where micro-penises simply do not exist and all men are virile hunks destined to fall in love with that cute little vixen of a female. Of course, most of us aren’t cute little vixens, either. By the standards of romance novels, we all fall short of ideal.

Romance plots usually follow from instantaneous attraction based on looks. That attraction leads to entanglement which leads to stunning sex which results in love. Which leaves one to wonder: without stunning sex, could there be love?

Love is one of those things no one can explain, but some wags have ventured to say a woman falls in love with any man who gives her a good fucking. There might be something to that. Orgasm is a hard thing to ignore.

Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones. It also increases blood flow to organs throughout your body, and reduces inflammation. In other studies, scientists have found that up to 30 different parts of the brain are activated by orgasm, including those responsible for emotion, touch, joy, satisfaction and memory.[1]

Yes, women can gain orgasm without penetration, although clitoral orgasm alone leaves something to be desired, especially if a woman has previously enjoyed vaginal orgasm along with clitoral. For most women, the clitoral orgasm is like phase one. Then it’s time for that serious fucking.

Studies have shown that women prefer larger dicks and in fact, evolution may have favored the development of larger male organs specifically for that reason.[2] Longer slongs also have a biological advantage in depositing sperm deeper in the female reproductive tract, reducing the chance that a successive male with a shorter penis could displace the sperm.

So what should women expect in real life? A report published in the British Journal of Urology International analyzed 17 studies of male organ size and found the following:

… the study participants totaled more than 15,000 men. In addition to the averages listed previously, the analysis charted sizes and placed them into percentiles. For example, an erect penis of 6.3 inches is in the 95th percentile. That means that out of 100 men, only five would have a penis longer than 6.3 inches. Likewise, an erect penis of 3.94 inches is in the 5th percentile, meaning that only five men out of 100 would have a penis shorter than 3.94 inches.

[The report also found that] The average size preferred by the women in the study was an erect penis that is 6.4 inches long and 5 inches in circumference for a one-time encounter. For a long-term relationship, the average size preferred by the women was a penis that is 6.3 inches long with a circumference of 4.8 inches.[3]

These preferred sizes are slightly larger than the actual norm for the male organ. The study also found that men with below average penis size suffered lack of self-esteem and confidence, which in turn surely affected their approach to women.

You can bet that successful authors of romance fiction have done their homework about such details, and that’s why they’re successful. Their stories push the right buttons in women’s imaginations where a man’s John Henry needs to be big.

Common sense tells us it’s a rare man who is so magnificently built and awesomely hung as romances depict, much less handsome, courteous, clever and dying to make us his own. Did I mention rich? For every duke story in Regency romance, there’s an equally breathtaking billionaire in modern romance. These are merely a retelling of the fairy tale of the knight in shining armor, and no matter how smart we women might be, deep down inside we feel cheated when we have to accept less.

The question is, does romance literature exacerbate the problem? Or does it serve as a release valve for women caught up in mundane reality?

We’re biologically destined to seek the best representative of our species in order to produce the best possible offspring. So it’s not just vanity or fluffed up fantasies that lead us to enjoy those magnificent men in romance literature. We’re only doing what our genes tell us to do.

These stories also provide a few hours of escape from whatever troubles us, whether the size of our partner’s manhood or his increasingly pudgy tummy or his lack of wealth. If he loves us, makes us feel beautiful, and does his best to care for us, what’s the problem? The sexy novel might stir us up, but it’s our real partner who’ll benefit when we drag him to the bedroom.

So yes, size matters, and it would be tragic for thousands of years of evolution toward larger pricks to be reversed by modern society’s indiscriminate use of chemicals. For myself and probably many other women, I prefer not to get naked with a man who isn’t going to make me feel it. Or to curl up with a glass of wine and a novel about a man who is anything short of, um, overwhelming. I hope that magnificent men with the skill (and equipment) to deeply stir us will continue to appear in our romantic fantasies. And in our beds.

~~~

 

[1] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2031498/Sex-Why-makes-women-fall-love–just-makes-men-want-MORE.html

[2] https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/04/130408-penises-science-evolution-genitalia-health-weird/

[3] https://www.healthline.com/health/mens-health/average-penis-size

A Worm in Dust

I admit – I’m tapped out. Wandering in the desert. Since my last novel went nowhere, I can’t convince myself to write another. I don’t even have the strength to question why it went nowhere.

I love to write. I love to play with words, watch them create an image, a person, an event. Words are like magic, making something out of nothing. How can I give that up?

Will I no longer write?

I’ve given myself six months since my realization that the novel was going nowhere. During that time, I’ve haunted my local library for books of my genre. I’ve read almost a book a day, trying to understand what successful authors have created that is so different from my creations.

There is no epiphany.

This is as close as I’ve been to giving up in…forever. What irony that I wait all my life—settle the issues of love and marriage, sex and children, career and financial security. Wait until I can afford to sit at a desk all day devoting myself to fiction. And then this.

What I see are successful female authors who are half my age. Living with husbands and children, dealing with households and pets, and still managing to write bestsellers. Who are these women?

I’ve never believed that anyone can’t do anything he or she decides to do.  Until now.

I’m starting to believe it. I’m starting to think that none of us can do many different things over the course of a lifetime and do them well. Maybe there’s a magical point in our younger years when memory, intellect, talent, and drive can foster success whereas in later years, enough of those elements have eroded to the point that no matter the dedication and enthusiasm, success simply won’t come.

Can’t come. Like making a chocolate cake with only one egg and half the chocolate.

Or maybe there was always an underlying awareness that I didn’t have fiction writing in me and all those years of other pursuits were excuses so I didn’t have to face that truth. Maybe it’s always been a hidden reality that whatever fantasy I might have had about writing hard-hitting stories, it was always a fantasy.

Maybe it’s that even now, I can’t let myself go into fictional worlds and tell compelling stories because I’m too rooted in daily reality. Yeah, that’s it.

Or despite undergrad and post grad workshops in writing, I just never quite learned enough. Never had the right feedback. Never understood what I was doing wrong.

I can’t not write. But I can write trivial little short stories with characters that never fully develop. There’s no hero’s arc there, no tangled plot where everything comes clear at the end. I don’t even like heroes and their journeys through predictable challenges, setbacks and ultimate triumphs. Maybe that’s why I can’t write them.

There’s also the fact that I never could plan more than two or three moves ahead in chess. I was a horrible chess player. If you can’t plan past two or three moves, pawn, queen or whatever, you can’t plot a fucking novel.

It’s that simple. It doesn’t matter what kind of outline or guide I might follow, what inner voices shouting to find their way to the page. Scenes I hold close to my heart, waiting for expression.

I can’t plot my way out of a paper bag. I see characters. I see suffering and pleasure and circumstances. But tying it together into a layered plot? FAGETABOUTIT.

So, there it is. My reality spread out in words in front of my face. Is it true, or is this a bad mood blog on an isolated day of a very hot and depressing July?

I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore.

~~~

New Release! Her Pirate Adventure

Thoroughly disappointed with her expensive cruise ship vacation, Burgess Carter has one night left to find the adventure she craves. She looks up from her dinner at a seaside restaurant to see someone who might make her dreams come true. A man stands at the prow of his sailing sloop as it glides up to a nearby pier. A man like she’s never seen before, tall, dark, gorgeous and maybe a pirate. A man she absolutely has to meet.

Morgan Rand has a lot on his mind. Tomorrow will be the last day of a massive project that he and his crew have been working on for months. With any luck, he’s about to become incredibly rich. He’s nervous, exhilarated and exhausted, but not too absorbed to catch the stare of an enchanting female watching him from the deck railing of his favorite restaurant. Good thing he plans to eat there. He’ll make his move on this intriguing lady and discover if she’s up for his dare.

What happens when Burgess decides to stow away and see if this pirate is real? When he decides to blow up her entire concept of adventure?

~~~

Grab this fun sexy novella, perfect for your vacation book list!

Now available at Amazon, FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Don’t MEWL On Me!

On the Threshold, Edmund Leighton

Lately I’ve indulged in escape reading, primarily Regency romance. In the past, I’ve read a few of this subgenre but in the last couple of months, it’s been a book a day. This is me refueling for my next phase of writing.

But what I wanted to say is, please, STOP using pat words/phrases like ‘come apart’ and ‘carnal’ and especially ‘mewl.’

Oh my god. Mewl. Do writers using this word not understand that the first definition of ‘mewl’ is that it’s the sound of a baby? As in, “cry feebly or querulously; whimper.” Or of a cat or bird?

From Merriam-Webster: Mewl: to utter feeble plaintive cries. Eg, The tiny kitten mewled for its mother.

Synonyms of mewl: bleat, pule, whimper

Words Related to mewl: fuss, sniffle, snivel, snuffle, whine, peep, squeak, mumble, murmur, mutter, groan, moan, sigh, aaaand you get the idea.

Granted, when writing about sex and the sounds, smells, and other details involved, it’s difficult to make it ‘new,’ especially in a subgenre like Regency where women are supposed to be virgins taken utterly by surprise at the sensation of sexual activity. One could argue that mewling like a baby or kitten is exactly the best way to describe her reaction when big strong hero man sticks his tongue in her mouth. Or elsewhere.

It’s just that after x-number of books with ‘mewl’ in key passages, one can hardly suppress the urge to vomit.

As for ‘carnal,’ well, yes, it’s a useful word in portraying the mindset of women of those times. The meaning of it sums up the idea a woman might possess about something she’s been taught to fear and repress. It neatly describes sexual needs and activities. But hey, how about giving readers a break? Here are some useful synonyms: sexual, sensual, erotic, lustful, lascivious, libidinous, lecherous, licentious, physical, bodily, corporeal, and fleshly.

I admit that the first four in that list, at least, would hardly occur to a sexual novice during a time when one must not use the word ‘leg’ or ‘breast’ in referring even to a roasted chicken, but rather must use the more delicate term ‘limb’ or ‘white meat.’

Then there’s the phrase ‘claim her mouth.’ Maybe the first few times I read this, I’m thinking Sylvia Day before she priced herself out of my range, the phrase held power to excite. After all, in claiming her mouth, the hero stakes out his territory and the reader knows seduction is underway. But time after time as it’s been overused, any power that this phrase might have had has long since been lost. How about seize, demand, require, win, or take? Or something else entirely.

  • But he didn’t move lower in his kisses, instead coming back up to thoroughly claim her mouth.
  • It was only a matter of inches before he could bend his head and claim her mouthwith his.
  • Eyes intense, he leaned in to claim her mouth, one hand at her nape, the other supporting her shoulder as he eased onto the bed to stretch his length, their bodies touching at breast and hip.
  • She shivered when he trailed kisses down the side of her neck, then back up to claim her mouth
  • She had broken out in a fine sweat; he licked it from between her breasts and her throat, working his way up to claim her mouthin a kiss as heavy and demanding as the ridge of flesh he pressed against her hip.

But I repeat myself.

As for “come apart,” I’d like to point out that this metaphorical concept of a woman totally losing it in the throes of orgasm is, at first, a reasonable use of language. But after years of overuse? Shall I demonstrate?

  • That night when he’d held her and she’d come apart in his arms.
  • Need pulsed through him, sending blood screaming to his groin, but he held back, wanting to feel her come apart in his arms, to watch as she gave herself over to his complete control.
  • Nothing was more important at that moment than seeing her come apart in his arms.
  • She wanted to come apart in his arms, and let him be the one who put all the shattered pieces together again.
  • Unable to look away, she pictured him in the McDaniel’s stables, touching her, making her come apart in his arms.
  • And as he took her like a man possessed, and she started to come apart in his arms, his name a keening cry on her lips, his only thought was that he had finally come home.

And so forth.

While I’m on this rant, let me also say I’m just as guilty as the next writer in using worn-out phrases and words. In the heat of writing the scene, it’s a real challenge to think beyond what happens next. It’s later, under the cold eye of our internal editor, that we must cross out the tired stuff and think of something new. That’s as much a part of our job as thinking up the story in the first place. Otherwise, we’re boring our readers. Or making them nauseous.

At best, writers reliant on these and many more familiar phrases routinely used in sex scenes hope the reader is so caught up in the story, in these characters finally – despite all odds – able to satisfy the desire that has been hovering over them since the opening pages of the novel, that mere word choice hardly registers. For many readers, this surely must be true. Yet how many readers come to ‘mewl’ and can’t stop themselves from throwing the book across the room?

For now, I’ll try really hard to refrain from remarking on his ‘cut muscle’ or ‘sculpted muscle’ or her inevitable ‘swoon.’ We already know these men have scent of leather and, variously, pine, soap, shaving soap about their person, or taste of salt. That his shoulders barely clear the door frame. That he towers over her and her hands twist in her lap.

I’m not the first or the last who will comment on the unique language of romance novels. Well, hardly unique in reality, but perhaps unique in the broader world of literature. There are books, I tell you, entire books on this subject. An internet search also turns up useful word-usage blog posts.

From a blog post in 2015, “The Most Ridiculous Sexual Phrases from Romance Novels” written of course by a guy. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/16/romance-novel-phrases_n_7545244.html

A great way to expand your sexy vocabulary is presented by blogger Sharla Rae in her Sensual Word Menu: https://writersinthestorm.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/sensual-word-menu-2/ What a fabulous resource! Thank you Sharla!

So go out there, make your characters suffer and whine, but PLEASE don’t make them mewl.

And–before I forget–READ OTHER GENRES.  There are entire libraries full of other books, all of them making fabulous use of all 26 letters.