Life, the Universe and Nutella

Since joining Carina Press, Jenn and I have formed a friendship with another male-male romance writing duo, Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels. A couple of months ago we interviewed ourselves regarding our co-writing processes. This time, we sat our characters down together and interviewed them. Chaos Station and In the Kitchen are two very different series. Chaos Station is science fiction romance and In the Kitchen is foodie romance. But our guys—Zed and Felix—have more than a little in common with Ethan and Jamie. There are some pretty hilarious differences, though.

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What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Felix: Living to see thirty.
Zed: Um, for me, I guess it’s saving that transport of civilians during the war. Kind of wish it didn’t end up on holo, though.
Ethan: Not murdering New Guy.
Jamie: Not murdering E in his sleep.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow at Jamie*
Jamie: *leans over and smooths Ethan’s eyebrow* What? I’m sure a lot of people would consider that a huge accomplishment. Claire. Tyler. Cal. Chef Boulanger…
Ethan: Next question.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Zed: Damn. Can I skip questions? Because…yeah, I don’t know if I want to answer this one.
Felix: We’re not getting graded on this, you know.
Ethan: *rolls eyes* It’s not that difficult. Perfect happiness is a beer in my hand, good food and naked time with that gentleman. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Seriously E?
Ethan: What? I can’t think of anything better than a naked you and food. Unless it’s food on you while you’re naked. Preferably Nutella.
Felix: What’s Nutella?
Ethan: *winks at Felix* Just imagine an orgasm in your mouth. That pretty much sums up the divine goodness that is Nutella.

What is your current state of mind?
Zed: Hoping Flick doesn’t scare everyone off with his assholishness.
Ethan: Frankly, irritated the two chicks who write us dragged me out of the kitchen for this.
Jamie: I got nothing except for trying to find my happy place so I don’t accidentally murder E in his sleep.
Ethan: *turns to Jamie* Does this happy place have anything to do with Nutella and naked time?
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: What the fuck is Nutella?
Ethan: Don’t worry Felix. We’ll send you guys some.

What is your favorite occupation?
Felix: Tinkering
Zed: I don’t really have one. I like watching Flick tinker though.
Ethan: Cooking. Next.
Jamie: I’m with Ethan – cooking. Although, keeping Ethan from going postal on our produce suppliers has recently become a full-time job.
Zed: I’m suddenly thinking we need Ness in here to talk shop with you two. She’s our cook…and doctor. What? It’s a small ship.
Ethan: Back the fuck up. Your doctor is your chef? *shakes head* That’s just wrong, dude.

What is your most treasured possession?
Felix: A picture.
Zed: Really, a picture? Which one?
Felix: Never you mind.
Ethan: My knife block.
Jamie: Your knife block?
Ethan: What? It’s an awesome knife block.
Jamie: Remind me again why I moved to Seattle.
Ethan: Because you love me so much?
Jamie: *sighs* Yes. Yes I do.
Ethan: And naked time that involves Nutella?
Jamie: *sighs again*
Zed: You keep your knives in a block? A block of what?
Jamie: A block of wood. To keep them handy without dulling the blades.
Felix: I keep a knife in my boot. Saves hauling a block around, you know?
Ethan: That sounds dangerous and … hot. Like a pirate or something. *wriggles eyes at Jamie* I know what our next role play is going to be.
Jamie: *looks around at Ethan, Zed, and Felix then shakes head* How in the hell did I get myself into this.

What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: *pokes Flick* Be nice.
Felix: What? I was being nice! I could have said the Chaos.
Zed: Well, that wouldn’t be a lie. You love that ship.
Ethan: That guy in the goofy pin-striped apron. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: I’ll have you know this style of apron is all the rage in New York.
Ethan: Another reason I’m happy your ass is firmly situated in Seattle. But you didn’t answer the question.
Jamie: As if you really need me to say it. *leans over and kisses Ethan* You.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: *trying not to smirk*

What is your favorite journey?
Felix: The one to the bathroom for a shit, shower and shave.
Ethan: Home. To our bed.
Jamie: *coughs* Ditto to what Ethan said.
Zed: We’ve got these two lovebirds. And then there’s Flick. Jesus.
Felix: So, you’d rather I didn’t visit the bathroom every morning? *attempts to pull Zed’s head toward his armpit*
Ethan: *whispers to Jamie* And you thought I was a fixer-upper.

What is your most marked characteristic?
Felix: I’m an asshole.
Ethan: I’m an asshole.
Jamie: Patience. *goes back to muttering about not murdering Ethan in his sleep*
Zed: I hate these kinds of questions. Probably because I’m not an asshole. Hm…I guess focus?

When and where were you the happiest?
Zed: Hemera Station, 2261. Those five days…
Ethan: Shoving cake in Jamie’s face during our reception.
Jamie: Opening my door in New York and seeing Ethan standing there.
Ethan: Really? More than our reception?
Jamie: *grins at Ethan* When I saw you in New York that morning, I knew we were in it for the long run. Everything else since then has just been the icing on the cake.
Ethan: *groans* You’ve been waiting to use that one, haven’t you.
Jamie: *grins* Yep.
Felix: Next question.

What is it that you most dislike?
Felix: Assholes.
Ethan: *holds fist out for a bump*
Felix: *fist bumps*
Jamie: Brussels sprouts.
Ethan: You’re never going to forgive me for that, are you?
Jamie: Nope.
Zed: Military brass who don’t give a shit about their men.
Ethan: *peers over at Zed* Dude. We have got to swap stories sometime about past asshole bosses. I had this one boss–”
Jamie: Pretty sure this isn’t the time, E.
Ethan: *mouths to Zed* Later. We’ll talk. I’ll buy the first round.
Zed: Okay. And then for the second, I’ll raid Qek’s special cache. You ever tried ashushk wine?

What is your greatest fear?
Felix: The dark. *glares* It’s not really dark in space, all right? My ship has lights. And there are stars and shit.
Zed: Heights. How many people are going to read this, anyway?
Ethan: I hate people touching my feet. *shivers* Oh, and him leaving me again. Mostly, feet. And tofurkey.
Jamie: Losing Ethan, again.
Ethan: *goofy grin*
Felix: What the fuck is tofurky?
Jamie: Well, you see. There’s this soy product that’s used to make‒”
Ethan: *interrupts Jamie* Trust me, Felix. You don’t want to know.

What is your greatest extravagance?
Felix: The Chaos. Took every credit Eli and I had to buy that bucket of bolts.
Ethan: Extravagance? What is this, big fucking fancy word day? The restaurant.
Jamie: The secret bank account I add money to for my future therapy bills.
Zed: Um…I’m not sure how to answer this. I don’t actually buy a lot of stuff.
Felix: Are you kidding me? Each one of your fancy shirts costs about as much as my ship. *fingers the silk* But you should keep buying them.
Zed: Yeah, but they’re not an extravagance. They’re just clothes.

What is your greatest regret?
Zed: Walking away after graduation.
Felix: *looks at Zed, looks at Ethan and Jamie, looks back at Zed. *grumbles*
Ethan: *looks down at wedding ring, spinning it with his thumb and forefinger*  Walking away from Jamie.
Jamie: Nothing.
Ethan: Nothing?
Jamie: Nothing. Everything we did led me here to this moment with you. So, yeah. Nothing.

Which talent would you most like to have?
Ethan: Superman’s heat vision. I’d never have cold coffee again.
Jamie: More patience.
Felix: Patience would be good. I guess. Sometimes. Or the ability to see through walls.
Zed: You know, the wishing for talents thing has never worked out well for me. Next question.

Where would you like to live?
Zed: A planet. I’m not picky. I don’t mind being in space for long periods, but I kind of like having somewhere with rock beneath my feet and a sky stretching overhead as a home base.
Felix: Really, a planet?
Zed: Yeah. I like having roots.
Ethan: I’m already living where I’d like to live. In our condo in Seattle. Planet Obvious.
Jamie: Anywhere Ethan is.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan: *smirks at Felix, then plants an exaggerated kiss on Jamie*

What is the quality you most like in a man?
Zed: Knowing what he wants and going after it. Also, strong arms.
Ethan: Sense of humor. Also, a big set of *spreads hands apart* hands.
Jamie: Tatts.
Ethan: *raises an eyebrow* Tatts?
Jamie: *blushes* And maybe piercings.
Ethan: *smirks* Time to hit the Ink Shop again.
Felix: You know we have tatts that actually move, right? That’s one of those future things. *grins* Actually, ours are dead. Too many trips through j-space.
Ethan: *jaw drops* Your tatts move? *turns to Jamie* I have to get one of those. Goddammit, I will fucking die if I don’t get one of those.
Jamie: *sighs*

What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Zed: Knowing what she wants and going after it. Also, curves.
Felix: *gestures* You mean boobs, right?
Ethan: I second the boobs. Or third. Whatever.
Zed: *holds out fist awkwardly* Is this how you do it? Anyway, yes. Boobs. But hips, too. That curve, right there…
Jamie: *pauses, looks around at the guys, then shrugs* I got nothing.

What do you most value in your friends?
Ethan: The ability to roll with the punches.
Jamie: Sticking by you, even during the bad times.
Ethan: *mutters* Fucking Trustfund …
Jamie: Ethan
Felix: *glances at Zed* We gotta stop skipping questions, man. Our score is dropping.
Zed: Wait, we’re being scored? I thought you said we weren’t!

Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Felix: Batman
Zed: I don’t think the question means superhero.
Felix: Batman isn’t super.
Ethan: Fiction? Hmm. Let me think about that one.
Jamie: Chuck Hughes.
Ethan: Chuck Hughes? You do know he’s real.
Jamie: *smirks* I’m talking about the Chuck Hughes in my imagination.
Ethan: Next question.

Who are your heroes in real life?
Felix: *tips head* Him, over there with the steel blue eyes.
Zed: Don’t believe everything you see on a holo.
Ethan: Jamie. Speaking of steel, he’s got balls of steel for coming out and taking the world by the short hairs.
Jamie: *blushes* Ethan. He’s the strongest person I know. Plus he has such an elegant way with words.
Felix: *tries not to eye Jamie’s steely balls, or general crotch area…anything below the hips* Walking must be awkward, eh?
Jamie: *drops head in hands and groans* I’m so going to kill you, Ethan.

Which living person do you most admire?
Felix: Elias, because he hasn’t strangled me in my sleep yet.
Zed: Flick. He knows why.
Felix: No I don’t.
Ethan: I should give some kind of deep answer here. Let me think about it.
Zed: C’mon, Felix. Think about it. You’re still kicking.
Felix: *kicks Zed in the ankle. Gently*
Zed: Remind me why I like you.
Felix: *nips Zed’s earlobe* You love me.
Jamie: I think it’s time to open a bottle of wine. Anyone else want some wine?

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Felix: Shit, double shit, triple shit and… *smacks Zed’s hand away* Don’t touch me. Yeah, I see what you did there.
Zed: Just being helpful, in case you forgot that one.
Ethan: Any combination of words with the F-Bomb.
Jamie: Ethan.
Ethan: *leers* You did say that a lot last night. Well, that and “Oh my God!” and “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
Jamie: How many more questions are there?

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Zed: *looks at Flick sadly* I want to say I’d change that, but I don’t know if I can say it. I don’t know if I’d want to. I’m sorry.
Felix: S’okay. Can I call you Soliton?
Zed: That’s Captain Soliton to you.
Felix: *salutes*
Ethan: I’d listen to Jamie before opening my mouth. He’s the smartest guy I know.
Jamie: *leans against Ethan* Love you too, E. I’d work on my OCD. I tend to get a little … anal in the kitchen.
Ethan: *snorts* You said “anal.”
Jamie: *sighs*
Felix: *snickers*
Zed: *stares at the ceiling and tries really hard to keep a straight face*

How would you like to die?
Felix: Is this a trick question?
Zed: Quickly.
Ethan: With a smile on my face next to him. *points at Jamie*
Jamie: Ditto what Ethan said.
Zed: Aww. That’s…that’s really sweet.
Felix: *makes gagging noises*
Ethan and Jamie: *snickers*

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?
Felix: A poltergeist. And I’d touch everyone who insisted on touching me, with my ghost fingers. And maybe knock shit off walls.
Zed: Maybe you could put your poltergeist powers to better uses, hm?
Felix: *winks* Sexy uses?
Zed: Well, duh.
Ethan: Dude. I’d come back as a chick just so I could smack myself upside the head for all the times I’ve opened my mouth and been a tool.
Jamie: You’d come back as a chick just so you could play with your own boobs.
Ethan: *stares off into space dreamily* Yeah, that too.
Zed: I like Ethan’s answer. I’m gonna ditto that. Because boobs.

What is your motto?
Felix: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Sir Winston Churchill said that. I think he must have faced something like the stin, eh?
Zed: “Don’t die.”
Ethan: “Life’s too short to eat shitty food.”
Jamie: “Laugh often and love hard.”
Ethan: *snorts* You said “hard.”
Jamie: Is this thing over yet?

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Eileen Griffin and Nikka Michaels co-authored In the Raw and In the Fire. The next book in the Kitchen series, In the Distance, is due out June 15. Visit their websites to find out more about their many other collaborations.

Jenn Burke is the author of Her Sexy Sentinel. My other titles are listed on my Bookshelf. Coming May 25 from us, Lonely Shore (Chaos Station, Book 2).

 

 

 

 

Sexy Times

As someone who writes stories with strong romantic elements, I often end up on this side of a potential sex scene. By this side, I mean: the characters are about to go there. I then have to decide if I want to go there, too.

Sometimes I close the door. What happens behind that door can remain a delicious mystery. Hopefully I’ve provided enough detail, up to a point, that the reader’s imagination can take over. Instances when I close the door usually occur in stories where the romance is not the main plot. It’s a facet of the story and the sex isn’t important. Not really. Yeah, I could probably stuff some character development in there, but when there are aliens snatching folks off the streets of a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, I’d rather write out the plans to bomb their extra-terrestrial asses. Seems a little more important, right?

But if romance is the plot, or the whole point of the book, to not write my characters into the bedroom (or up against the wall, into the shower, over the couch?) seems a bit rude. Coitus interruptus. (I thought about using that as the title of this ramble. I’m sure you’re glad I didn’t.) Here’s my thought process when it comes to actually writing out a sex scene: if you enter a romantic relationship with another person, you pretty much accept the fact you’re going there. That you will end up having sex. Or making love, however you’d like to phrase it. So, not going there in a story feels a bit cheap. It’s all foreplay with no climax.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in "Love and Other Drugs"
Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in “Love and Other Drugs”

This doesn’t mean the sex has to be cheap and tawdry, though. I think the tone of the scene needs to match the tone of the book, and the characters, obviously, and the relationship between them. As I generally write sweet romance, my sex scenes tend toward sweet as well. I haven’t actually bent any characters over a couch (not to my memory?), but I guess that could be sweet, too. Under the right circumstances.

After deciding to write out sex, there are a few more things to consider. First, you need to tune out the bow-chicka-wow-wow soundtrack in your head. Particularly if you’re going for sweet. But, you also have to remember that you’re dealing with two consenting adults who have decided to go there. So they’re going to go there. And it should be sexy. Discovering a sudden reticence in the bedroom is more usually a case of me thinking: Oh, my God. Do I really want to write that? Or, it could be me scanning the internet for another word for ‘penis’ because ‘penis’ isn’t sexy when it’s used three times in one paragraph and ‘cock’ can be slightly offensive if over used and ‘length’ can be somewhat analytical, ‘dick’ makes me giggle, and her simply taking him into her mouth can be sort of hard to imagine if you’re like me and your mind loves to dive off into sudden tangents.

Seriously, how do you fit a whole person into your mouth?

Then there are the ways in which he can enter her. Or him. Words that are just not sexy or downright ridiculous. And that leads me to the next issue with sex scenes: choreography. Nothing puts me out of the mood quicker, as a reader, than mysterious third hands, back jointed knees and unsustainable positions. I’m forty-six. I’m married. I’ve tried a few things. I have a good idea of what works and what feels good. (Ahem). I have an excellent idea of what’s next to impossible. But, as a writer, I’ve learned that too much emphasis on placement of limbs can detract from the sensuality of a scene. It’s not a football play-by-play. There is not a coach in the bedroom with the happy couple. There shouldn’t be, anyway.

Personally, I like scenes that have an emotional edge to them. Ideally, the book has been building toward this moment and if the author has taken the time to write it out, it should be a heady experience. All five senses should be engaged, and there should be thought bubbles, too, even if it’s simply a note that thought has gone the way of the dodo. That’s acceptable. It’s almost preferable. But, I have written a scene where the guy was thinking about fishing. In a comparative way. Sort of. It was funny and suited the character completely.

Which, brings up another point: fun. Sex should be fun, in my opinion. Yes, it can be hot as hell and sweetly romantic, but fun sex scenes make a great read. Where the couple rolls off the bed, or when something tickles. Even a weird sound. (C’mon, y’all know things sometimes sound weird and not entirely sexy.) Little additions like these can make a scene feel more real. But you don’t want to get too real. It’s fiction, after all, so there should be a good element of fantasy. No need to talk about morning breath or the fact someone’s bladder is full. Just wave the magic wand and decide they dealt with that already. They’re perfect.

Kellan Lutz and Anne V. (Dylan George)
Kellan Lutz and Anne V. (Dylan George)

But not hairless. People shouldn’t be hairless. (Except perhaps Kellan Lutz who can be whatever he wants to be.)

Anyway! One of the problems I ran into this week—while writing sex—might be unique to me and is sort of the purpose of this ramble. Sometimes the difficulty, for me, in writing out a scene isn’t that I can’t think of another word for that all important body part. Or that I’m giggling like a teenager, or maybe blushing. Or that my twelve-year-old daughter is standing behind me, or that my husband has decided to make coffee just as the belt buckles have come undone. (I often write at a desk in the kitchen.)

Sometimes, I feel so maternal toward a character that it embarrasses me to undress them. I don’t want to know about their sex life. It would be like peeking through my daughter’s bedroom door when she had a boy over (or maybe a girl??). Of course, she wouldn’t be closing her door in that case. She might not have even made it upstairs with her paramour. But I think you get my meaning. It’s just plain weird.

That’s when I usually revert to humour. When the scene becomes amusing and/or inherently sweet. When I leave the thesaurus unopened and concentrate more on how the character feels about the situation than what he’s actually doing. What strikes me as interesting, though, is having to discover the sexual identity of a character you have created. Their preferences, their quirks. Their desires and fantasies. It’s about as much fun as suddenly finding out they like lime popsicles. Or strawberry ice cream. Except, it’s infinitely more personal. I like exploring the hidden facets of a character. Even if you don’t use them all, they can still shape how they appear on the page, and how they react to certain situations.

So, that’s it, another ramble—and I didn’t blush once while writing it, which probably means I’ve been writing too many sexy stories. Maybe it’s time to return to alien invasions!

The featured image for this post is the gorgeously sexy Alexander Skarsgard in his role as Eric Northman in True Blood. RAWR.