Sunday, April 23, 2017

Character Building, Intimacy, and Asshats in a Yaoi Novel Series

As I write the third installment of Ensnared Volume 4, I thought I'd answer some long-standing questions from readers. All of the Print and ebooks can be found here:

Plans and When to Shred Them

I had a detailed plan for the plot threads in the Ensnared Series. For the most part, everything is unfolding according to the original outline. However, there have been a number of occasions when the characters have turned into something far different than my draft versions. Darius was the first problem character. I had envisioned him as much colder in the first book, warming gradually through the volumes. I'm not sure where the mischievous streak came from. It just came out in moments when he was alone with Andreas. I found that I liked the idea that there was a vastly different Darius to those closest to him than the one the public knew prior to Andreas arriving in his life. Andreas was always meant to be cheeky. His being an expert mimic was not in the plan. I realized that in one scene, he reminded me of a very cheeky actor friend who is an amazing mimic. That trait became a handy tool for illustrating how Andreas' cheeky nature will never change no matter the situation.

Most of the characters are markedly different from their original version. The latest problem character (in a good way) is Lord Maceo. The installment of volume four I'm working on now was supposed to be a lot darker in tone at the beginning than the rest of the volumes. This is logical considering all that is at stake. Things aren't working out that way. Most of that is Andreas who is being himself in a strange environment full of very exciting wonders. But the big monkey wrench in my plans for angst is Lord Maceo. He is not cooperating at all, and that is turning out to be a surprising amount of fun. He's causing deviltry to be set loose in Mykos. By then, all bets are off for any kind of decorum during the Grand Convening. The stance taken by some of the Keepers is patently ridiculous in light of what Darius and his party learned in the desert. An irreverent stance would have a profound impact on their adversaries. And when the tone changes with the charges Darius is bringing to them, the shift will be more keenly felt. 

Forms of Intimacies

The intimacy between Darius and Andreas is growing and deepening in many different ways. They're together day and night for weeks before the Grand Convening. The Cosi grows to rely on Andreas in a way he had never anticipated. The dynamic dramatically shifts between them in the desert. Though Andreas had just found a balance between Crew Boss, Calix Lord and Dami when everything changes again. He is undaunted. Despite the changes, one aspect of their life remains the same. Darius needs a physical outlet from all the stressful demands on him. Andreas refuses to curtail the time he needs to be ready to meet those demands. Besides, there are examples of the incredible power Darius possesses and how he handles that power is in evidence en route to and at the Compound. Darius is hotter than ever in those settings. It's hard for Andreas to not jump on his Cosi and demand satisfaction no matter who is present. Thus, Andreas must push Darius' buttons in new and enticing ways to make sure they don't neglect physical intimacy. He will never let him forget that part of their lives no matter how close they grow outside the bedroom. This writing is all kinds of fun. 

The Staff and Those Awful Lords

I had always planned to have the staff members that are present in the series, but their roles changed markedly from their original roles. I adore the film, Gosford Park. And the idea that the staff knows far more about the house than their employers was part of said plan, but Andreas changed the dynamic of the household for me. It made sense that he would talk to them before and after becoming a Lord since he needed their guidance on how to fit in his Cosi's world. It also made sense that he would come to them for advice about the Charity Initiative. It was logical that Darius would follow Andreas' lead and seek their counsel as well. According to my research, head butlers had copies of their Employer's schedules and control over household budgets. They were the most trusted of the household staff and privy to everything that happened in the household. It stood to reason that those trained to work with the Cosi Leadership were especially suited to this role if called upon. My one regret in keeping the series Point of View with Darius and Andreas, their real personalities don't get much chance to come out. They are incapable of completely dropping their formality around their Lordships. I'm hoping that they can let their hair down a bit in the Holiday story.

As for Chiron, he was originally meant to be a counterpoint to Andreas' life as a Dami. Chiron was supposed to die from his Owner's abuse. However, I really liked him, and I needed someone to connect Lady Santorini with Pefki. I also felt the suffering he endured was more than enough to make the point that Darius was a far better Dami Owner.

The Lords from Amara (the asshats) were fashioned after similar jerks from Midsomer Murders. The Elitism in the English countryside is fascinating, and it's not just in that series. The snobbery and outright disdain for any class but their own turn up often in books like J.K. Rowlings' The Casual Vacancy. The worst offenders are the ones from Midsomer. Those were so evil, crazy or both that I didn't think they could be believable as villains. I toned down the type for Lord Kozani.

Of Snacks and Curiosity

A friend of mine called her husband a snack based organism. I loved the phrase, and it turned out to be how I viewed the Cosi and food. Their hedonism makes it logical that they would be fixated on good food in all forms. They love sensory experiences. That doesn't mean a love of luxury alone. They truly enjoy simple food that is well made.

Curiosity is the sign of intelligence. The best minds among the Cosi are intensely curious about everything they come across. That is sometimes exasperating for Andreas. However, the genuine interest Darius shows in the lives of even the most humble among those he rules also makes him endearing to Andreas and everyone close to them. 

Artwork and the Special Edition

I am in the midst of a flurry of new sketches that span most of the characters in the Ensnared series and many of the more exotic locations. I'm also working on the cover for the new installment and the cover for the print version of the entire volume. After input from readers and from fellow publishers, we're going to work on a limited edition, illustrated print version. The images will also be available on this blog and on my author and Deviantart page. I will not be foolish enough to give a timeline for when that will happen. I will keep you posted.

Meanwhile, recipe testing for the cookbook begins in May! There will be many, many posts about that here and on the Facebook Author Page.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Keeping a Super Kinky Couple Sexy in a Long Running Series

I get asked about how to write sex scenes a lot between my role as an editor of Sybaritic Press and as an Admin of Yaoi a GoGo. I plan on writing a comprehensive article on the subject as it applies to Yaoi, but this question came up recently from readers of the Ensnared series. It applies to many writers I know with ongoing series.

There are advantages in writing an ongoing series. Once the universe is created, it is a familiar space filled with familiar characters. Most of the writing comes easily. This installment of Ensnared Volume 4 – Reckoning in the Desert has a lot of intrigues, danger, and revelations that readers have been waiting a long time to hear. Most of it has been so easy to write, that this part has a gigantic number of pages. However, the main disadvantage is big in a romance. It's the same disadvantage to a long term relationship – how to keep the intimacy going and how to keep the sex scenes fresh. Some writers use new kinks to keep things interesting for the reader. That's a valid route. After all, many a real-life couple incorporate new toys and other trappings in their sex lives.

But what does a writer do when the basis of her ongoing couple is as kinky as it gets? Darius and Andreas are in a full-time D/s relationship. Andreas wears a collar that cannot be removed and is tagged with his Owner's mark on his ear. Part of his daily routine is getting stretched and lubed so that he's ready anytime Darius wants to have him. Their lovemaking frequently involved heavy shackles. It's not easy to get much kinkier than they already are save for things the characters simply would never do. Darius will not switch roles nor will he actually hurt Andreas.

I always write from reality, so I turned to real life relationships for inspiration. Everyone changes according to their experiences. Darius and Andreas have gone through a lot in the time they've been together. They are not exactly the same as when they first met. Also, people tend to relax and reveal more of themselves as they grow more comfortable in a relationship. That can happen in friendships, business acquaintances, etc. There are people that will never see me without make-up on and the hair done. And there are people that I'll let see me while I have the flu. The same thing happens between lovers. Some get to see the best teddies while others get to see the comfiest sweatpants and bed head. Darius is becoming more unguarded in his personal life. In the current installment, Reckoning in the Desert, everyone in the household is seeing more of his wit and humor. This behavior is spilling out to everyone at the Dig site.

It's the new openness from Darius that changes the nature of the love scenes in the current installment. He is far more willing to drop the formality of their roles in order to be more intimate with Andreas. This change is fortunate as the pair is often pressed for time alone in this installment – even when they are at home. And when they do try to play their roles, Darius is too impatient to wait. The more relaxed vibe between them allows for them to share information that they hadn't until then. This is what is happening in this love scene which occurs the night before the departure for the Dig site.  

“I'm going to get to bed. Kleptos won't sleep until I'm tucked in,” Mykos said. “Sleep well.”
“Good night,” Darius said.
“See you in the morning,” Andreas said.
The next thing he knew, Darius was carrying him into the bedroom.
“I do know the way, you know,” Andreas sputtered.
“I'm faster,” Darius replied affably as he kicked the door shut. “Do you truly mind my carrying you?”
Andreas shook his head with a blush.
“No,” he admitted softly. “I love how I feel in your arms. It was the biggest surprise for me.”
Darius set him down.
“Surprise?” Darius asked as Andreas had him sit on the edge of the bed.
“I always drove in my few relationships,” Andreas shrugged. “And I'm used to being in charge. Somehow, feeling helpless in your arms turns me on. I'm almost always weak in the knees when you give me the look you have on your beautiful face right now.”
Darius smiled at him in the way that made him feel even weaker.
“So why do you object?”
“Who knows?” Andreas chuckled as he undressed Darius. “Maybe I think I should just to not seem too needy.”
“I don't mind,” Darius said as he watched Andreas undress. “So long as we end up like this.”
Andreas didn't make it to the hamper with the clothes. Darius caught him by the wrist and tugged him back toward the bed. Though he didn't feel the same driving need reclaim Andreas as he did the night of the first Cosi gathering, it was clear that Darius was in no mood to wait a second longer to have Andreas in bed with him.
“I sometimes can't wait to have you here pressed close, smiling like that with your eyes sparkling waiting for my kiss,” Darius murmured.
“Your kisses are amazing,” Andreas replied softly. “They make me forget where I am and who I am. I sometimes can't wait for you to gift me with them.”
Darius didn't make him wait any longer. He lowered his head to capture Andrea's lips in a sweet, intense kiss that made him sigh and wrap one leg around a powerful thigh. Andreas was getting impatient as well. He couldn't wait much longer for the push of that hard length inside of him until he was filled with throbbing heat. Darius must have sensed that impatience. Soon, Andreas had all he craved from his Cosi. Once again, he was holding on with one leg trying to keep up with powerful thrusts that robbed him of breath. And just when Andreas thought he could take no more, Darius would touch him. The next time they kissed it would be to calm down from staggering pleasure.
Andreas craved that kiss and the clean up afterward. He relished the way Darius would tend to him when he was too weak to move. The cool water Darius had him drink tasted sweeter than any other that day.
“If we make time for nothing else, we have to sleep this way,” Andreas said sleepily as he settled against his Cosi's chest.
“I won't tolerate losing this, Sweet Dami. Don't worry about that,” Darius murmured, squeezing him. “Sleep well.”

Andreas smiled. There was no way that he wouldn't sleep well.

It is my hope that readers will see something new about Darius and Andreas each time they make love in this installment. This is how I will continue to keep their relationship fresh and exciting for readers moving forward.

Sneak Peek

In the final installment of Ensnared Volume Four, readers will finally visit the Cosi Compound. This place is based on one of the prettiest lakes I've ever seen – Lake Como, Italy. Take a look at the gorgeous scenery and the place I'm using as the basis for the home Darius has there. Bonus points to those who guess the nerdy origins of my obsessions with this gorgeous locale! 
That's all for now. Stay Tuned!!