This past weekend, I did a presentation for my local writers group about common writing mistakes I see as an editor, and since it ended up being a rather long presentation, I thought I’d put my notes into blog post form in case this might be helpful for anyone else. JSYK, this is just a quick overview of these issues. I could go on at length about any one of them. So, if you have questions, please pop them in the comment section, and I’ll do my best to answer them.
The Info Dump
An info dump can appear anywhere in a story, but in client edits, I usually see it in the beginning of the book. However, this advice stands no matter where the dump occurs.
Often, our first impulse, as writers, is to spread a thick layer of backstory so the reader knows everything they need to know to understand what our characters are about to experience. And we mistakenly feel that they need to know all of this stuff before the action ever starts.
I’m going to need you to immediately squelch the impulse to info dump. Put it in a burlap sack with some old bricks and broken cement chucks, tie the bag shut, and toss it in the river.
In case you’re wondering what might qualify as an info dump, let’s look at some backstory info for our protagonist, Tabby. We might think that the reader needs to immediately know:
All of those elements are important to the story and to Tabby. And those things do need to work their way into the narrative, but it doesn’t need to happen in a giant avalanche of information.
When a reader is confronted with giant swaths of backstory and story setup, there are no questions to ask. There’s nothing to be curious about. There’s nothing that’s going to want to make them turn the page.
You want to slowly sprinkle those bits of backstory in as the plot unfolds. It’s the difference between gently seasoning your soup and tasting it as it’s cooking, and upending an entire one-pound box of coarse sea salt into the crockpot before you even put the lentils and beans in.
Starting the Story in the Right Place
Starting the story in the right place is closely related to the info dump beginning. The narrative typically takes too much time getting to the action.
When clients are having difficulty narrowing down where to begin the story, I ask them to write a bit about what their character’s “normal” life is like. Then, I ask them what’s about to change and what the impetus for that change is.
Either shortly before that moment of change or right at that moment of change is almost always the best place to begin the story.
Chapter Hooks or the Lack There Of
If you take nothing else from this presentation, please take this. Learn how to nail both your beginning and ending chapter hooks.
If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a chapter hook (either at the beginning of the chapter or the end) is that line that makes the reader want to keep reading.
As a writer, one of your goals should be to end each chapter with varying degrees of “Oh, shit. Now what?!” so the reader tells themselves that they’re just going to read the next paragraph to make sure everything is okay, and then they’ll go to sleep.
But they end up reading the entire next chapter instead and, before they know it, it’s stupid o’clock in the morning, and they need to be at work in four hours. And if they put your book down to sleep, it’s only because they have a modicum of self-preservation, and they plan to read the rest on their breaks and any time their boss’s back is turned.
You don’t ever want to make it easy for them to put your book down. Which is why I would caution you to avoid ending a chapter with your POV character falling asleep. I’m talking about a normal going to bed moment—not falling asleep at the wheel of a city bus or in the middle of a performance review with their boss. (Actually, I’d totally turn the page to see what happened there.)
Your hook doesn’t always need to be a crisis sort of situation, but there should be enough uncertainty surrounding that action, thought, or bit of dialogue that even if the reader has an iron will, they still want to turn the page, even if they’re capable of not caving to the desire.
As you’re beginning your chapters and, especially as you’re ending them, ask yourself if this is a line that would encourage you to screw over your chance of getting a good night’s sleep and being a functional human being the next day. If you’re just kind of meh about it, make a note and come back to it in edits to shore it up.
You guys…I have sooooooo many feelings about dialogue. If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you may remember the five-part post I did on writing natural-sounding dialogue. If you missed it, and you’d like to read the whole thing, click on Writing-Related Stuff and look for The 10 Dialogue Commandments.
But, right now, I’m just going to hammer on a couple things that crop up the most in client edits, rather than all ten dialogue commandments.
Lack of contractions
Lack of contractions in dialogue is a huge problem—particularly in contemporary stories. Human beings are inherently lazy—this applies to our speech, too. We all use contractions in our daily conversations, it makes sense that our characters do, too. When they don’t, their words and their delivery comes across as stilted or robotic. If you’re not already using contractions in your dialogue, please take a moment to read that dialogue aloud, and you’ll see what I mean.
I’m guessing you either sound like you’re a low-budget AI, or an invading alien species that’s trying to blend in with the human population.
There’s a caveat to this rule. If your character is trying to make a point, it’s fine not to use the contraction to drive that point home.
For example: “I will not go to a Nickelback concert with you.” Or “I would rather chew broken glass wrapped in tin foil than watch a single episode of Naruto.”
Normally, you’d use I won’t or I’d rather. But since you’re trying to stress the severity of the reaction, it’s fine to skip the contraction. But I’d recommend doing it only when it really matters—when the characters’ reaction warrants skipping it.
(The contraction rule goes for the narrative prose, too, BTW.)
TV Script Dialogue
TV Script Dialogue is what I call it when characters are constantly using each other’s names in their conversation.
I think that script writers do it because their goal is to get viewers engaged with and hooked on the show. And they know that if someone’s stumbling in on a show after the fourth or fifth episode, they’re less likely to continue watching, because they won’t know who any of the characters are. Now, say you’re flipping through the channels and you happen across Lucifer. In each scene, the main characters refer to either the other character’s name or their occupation or relationship. This works as shorthand to catch the viewer up on who’s who.
For instance, Chloe constantly uses the names “Trixie”, “Dan”, “Linda”, “Ella”, and “Lucifer” (who are her daughter, her ex, Lucifer’s therapist, a forensic scientist she works with, and, of course, the devil) in conversation with them in each scene they appear in.
For Lucifer’s part, he’s constantly referring to Chloe as “detective” to Amandiel as “brother”, to his therapist as “doctor”, to Chloe’s ex as “detective douche”, Chloe’s child as “urchin, spawn, or child”, to the forensic scientist as “Ms. Lopez”, and to his bodyguard as “Maze”.
All television shows do this, though, some are more subtle about it. And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. So…you know…you’re welcome.
The problem with this is that it’s annoying as hell. Especially, when you’re reading and characters continually using each other’s names or nicknames or terms of endearment in conversation. It doesn’t sound natural.
People typically only use one another’s names in conversation if they’re A.) trying to make a point. Or, B.) trying to get someone’s attention.
This name technique isn’t as prevalent in movies. I assume that’s because once you’ve made it to the theatre and the film’s begun, it’s unlikely that you’ll forget who’s who.
Think of your characters’ conversations more like a movie script than a TV script. They know who they’re speaking to. And unless your reader is having issues with short-term memory formation, they know, too. So, the constant name usage can make readers stabby. And no one wants stabby readers.
Related to this is, Letting Your Dialogue Speak for Itself.
Some common writing advice is to use words other than said in dialogue tags so the conversational exchange doesn’t get monotonous. That’s decent advice, but at the same time, it’s really not.
First off, you don’t always need dialogue tags. Action tags often work better because they typically work to show the reader what’s happening in the scene.
Second, too often those replacement tags, like exclaimed, lamented, sneered, deadpanned, joked, teased, etc. are telling the reader how to interpret the dialogue.
If you feel that your dialogue needs that kind explanatory tag, it’s not strong enough to be in the story. Dialogue needs to be strong enough to stand on its own. It needs to be effective enough that the reader can infer tone. Thy don’t need to be told how to interpret it.
When those kinds of tags are utilized, it shows the reader that you don’t trust that the dialogue stands on its own, and you don’t trust that the reader is smart enough to figure it out. No one wants to be condescended to or spoon fed.
Avoid Name Dropping
By this, I don’t mean mentioning Beyoncé or Manolo Blahnik shoes.
Don’t have one character think of or mention another previously unknown (to the reader) character without giving a least a phase of explanation as to who that person is.
Sure, you might go into to detail two paragraphs down but, by then, it’s already too late. The reader has already been pulled from the narrative flow wondering who Barbara is. Or why the protagonist is flipping out over seeing the name Brad on his caller ID.
You don’t want to do anything that yanks the reader from the narrative flow.
Head hopping is when the reader is bounced from once characters thoughts and feelings to another. I’ve seen it happen every few paragraphs and I’ve seen it happen every few lines. This greatly hinders the readers ability to emotionally connect with your characters because they’re not really with them long enough to get attached to them.
Another head hopping no-no is to bounce into characters’ heads who the reader may never see again. The restaurant server, the Lyft driver, the weird dude on the subway, the protagonist’s dog walker, the chemistry teacher. It’s not their book. We don’t need to be in their heads. At all.
If there’s something that one of those people might be thinking that’s crucial to the plot, it needs to come out in action and/or dialogue. Not by dipping into their head.
A good rule of thumb to avoid head hopping is to stick with one narrative POV per scene or chapter.
Head Hopping adjacent is Too Many Points of Views
You might be wondering how many is too many. That varies by genre.
Is it a romance between two people? More than two is too many.
Is it a thriller, fantasy, sci-fi, lit fic, mystery? You can have more than two, but each POV you allow into a story needs to have its own character arc that the plot of the book depends on. If the POV doesn’t meet that criteria, that’s not a character, that’s a plot device. And plot devices have no business having a narrative POV.
Which brings us to our next mistake, Character as Plot Device
One of my proudest parenting moments was when my daughter was watching some anime, and I heard her yell, “That’s not a character, that’s a freaking plot device!” from the next room.
Being my child she, of course, didn’t say freaking, but this post is taken from my presentation which was given in a family restaurant. So…
Anyway, some characters are literally plot devices—like the aforementioned Lyft driver and weird dude on the subway—and that’s cool.
One issue is when a character is introduced as if the character is this really big deal, like a close friend or relative, and the main character thinks about how important this person is to him, but the person is literally in the story to give the protagonist a ride to the 7-11 across town because he needs to meet someone there who has information for him about a murder, and he can’t ask anyone else to drive him because then they’ll know he’s getting involved in something that he shouldn’t.
Another issue is when a POV character is used as an information delivery system. That character exists in the story to give the reader information about things happening in a place where the heroine isn’t. Now, it’s one thing if that character has discernable goals and motivations of their own—if they’ve got their own development arc that contributes to the plot. If they don’t, that’s not a character, that’s a plot device. And plot devices don’t get to have their own POVs.
If you have that going on in your book, your job is to find a way to deliver that info to the reader in a different way or by developing that plot device into a full-fledged character with their own story goals, motivations and conflicts.
If you’re writing a multiple POV book, it can sometimes be a struggle to figure out whose POV the scene should be told from.
Nine times out of ten, it should be told from the character who has the most to lose at that specific time in the story—the character who has the most at stake.
Who has the most to lose physically, financially, emotionally (emotionally is the most important one here)? That’s almost always the POV you’re going to want to use because that POV is what the reader is going to respond most strongly to.
Speaking of emotional responses, I want to talk about the Use of Filter Words for a sec.
When you can avoid words like feel/felt/feeling, hear/hearing/heard, watched/watching, see/seen/saw, know/knowing/knew, thought/think all act as filter words. They filter the action in the sentence through the character’s awareness and only then does it come to the reader.
When filter words and phrases are used, it pulls the POV from deep to shallow.
For example: Julia heard the crunch of metal on metal and slammed on her brakes.
Okay, so, the reader knows that Julia heard something and reacted to it.
Compare that with: Metal screeched and buckled, the noise so startling and jarring, Julia gasped and slammed on her brakes.
The second example is more immediate—more immersive—I hope. Also, it’s a bonus illustration for telling vs. showing.
When filter words are used, they distance the reader from the action of the story and sometimes the heart of the character. When there’s distance, readers have a hard time connecting emotionally. And when they don’t connect emotionally, they don’t care about the characters like we want them to. When readers don’t care, they stop reading the book and are highly unlikely to pick up the next one. It’s the horrible writer version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.
Sentence Fragments vs. Incomplete Sentences
Both a sentence fragment and an incomplete sentence are incomplete sentences.
The difference is, the sentence fragment conveys a complete thought. The sentence fragment doesn’t.
This is an incomplete sentence: With his hair sticking up and out at odd angles, brown wingtip shoes that matched his velvet pants.
This is a sentence fragment: Hair sticking up at odd angles, brown wingtip shoes and matching velvet pants.
For a sentence fragment to work, it typically needs to be paired with a line or two that sets it up.
Mira peered out the peephole. The blind date her neighbor had sent over had arrived, and he definitely looked like someone Gretchen would try to set her up with. Hair sticking up at odd angles, brown wingtip shoes and matching velvet pants.
This fragment works because there are no extraneous verbs floating around, and the rest of the paragraph sets up and supports the fragment.
There are a number of things that fall into this category.
Like trying to cram too many things into one character. Like…the hero who’s a billionaire, ex-SEAL, rock star, vampire, motor cycle club member.
This happens more often than one would hope.
Then there’s trying to shove actions in where they don’t belong. This speaks to character consistency and motivation.
Let’s say that you’ve established a character who’s smart and cautious. She’s timid and plays it safe, doesn’t take chances, and despite the fact that she’s had ample opportunity during the story to try new things, but she’s opted not to.
Now, you’re coming up on the climax of the story, and your plot outline says that she needs to be in the graveyard when it occurs. So, suddenly, your heretofore cautious heroine (without any real motivation or explanation for her change in outlook) suddenly becomes too stupid to live. She goes to that graveyard full of vampires who want to eat her face for the flimsiest of excuses. Like, she’s pissed at her BFF, the vampire slayer, because her BFF thinks she’s too cautious when prior to this moment, she was fine being cautious. If this is something that *just* occurs to her, that’s not motivation. That’s just shoehorning your character into your plot in a way that’s not working.
Another form of shoehorning is trying to include elements simply because they’re currently popular in fiction, but they don’t really fit the story. They don’t move the story forward or fit the characters at all.
An example of this would be two characters who are in the midst of a sex scene. Neither one of these people has shown any interest in anything kinky, but BAM suddenly one of them decides to spank the other one with a hairbrush or I don’t know, some other household implement and the partner is inexplicably totally into it.
In fiction, this is a little condition I call Sudden Onset BDSM.
In real life, this is assault.
So, as you’re writing, make sure that all of the elements you include make sense for your characters. And if they don’t, find a way to motivate them so they do.
This is honestly a topic that needs its own entire presentation because there’s so much to unpack. One of the biggest mistakes I see is Lack of Conflict (and conflict that’s resolved too quickly)
Uncomfortable things need to happen in the story. Things that are uncomfortable for your characters and your readers. When there’s no discomfort, there’s no growth. When there’s no conflict, there’s really no plot. Only conflict is interesting.
It doesn’t all have to be huge and life threatening, but it needs to matter to your characters. If it matters to your characters, it’ll matter to your readers. There need to be consequences and stakes.
Often writers will give their characters a little bit of discomfort and then resolve it almost immediately. Unfortunately, that makes your story tension go up and down instead of continuing to climb and tighten to the inevitable climax of the book.
I have some words of wisdom my dear friend, Alex Kourvo, told me a million years ago, and I’d like to share it with you.
It doesn’t matter how much you love your characters, you still have to grab them by the back of the head and shove them face-first into an emotional meat grinder and make their lives complete and total hell.
Then, when it’s really bad, you need to make it worse.
Conflict is crucial.
I have a couple more technical type mistakes I’d like to mention.
Know when to use you and I vs. you and me.
This is one of those things that is constantly misused, mostly because a lot of people think that using me sounds wrong, and often childish or uneducated. Here’s a trick that my 10th grade English teacher taught me, because this was one of his biggest pet peeves.
Use “I” if you’re the subject of the sentence. Use “me” if you’re the object.
Here are some examples:
The teacher gave Sally and me good grades. This is correct usage. You can tell because if you swapped out “I” for “me” and took Sally out of the equation, you’d have The teacher gave I good grades. And if the teacher is giving me good grades for this kind of sentence construction, the teacher and I have bigger problems than using “me” and “I” correctly.
The trick is to remove the other person from the sentence. If “I” still works, you’re golden. If not, switch to “me”. And when you do, you can thank Mr. Gossett, like I do.
Here are some other examples:
“Siobhan and I had some whiskey.” (Siobhan and I is the compound subject of the sentence, so I is correct.)
“Tristan and I talk regularly.” (Same deal. Tristan and I is the compound subject of the sentence.)
“I’d prefer this stay between you and me.” (I’d is the subject here. You and me is the compound direct object in this one.)
“There’s only room here for you and me.” (Again, you and me is the compound direct object, here.)
“Libby and I know each other quite well, don’t we?” (Here, Libby and I is the compound subject, again.)
Know your homophones. For instance, peak, peek, and pique all sound the same, but they all mean very different things. It’s important to get the right one. The wrong one will toss most readers out of the narrative flow. There are far, far too many to list, but here’s a website that did the work for both of us.
Know when and where to use an apostrophe. An apostrophe indicates the possessive form of a word, not the plural form.
There’s a sign I see every year, starting around the beginning of Lent: All you can eat fish fry’s every Friday evening.
No…just no. It’s fish fries.
Fish fry’s indicates a possessive. It means that something belongs to the fish fry. What is it? The fish fry’s excessive use of vegetable oil? The fish fry’s extra-large napkin order? The fish fry’s pungent odor that clings to the hair and clothing of everyone present? What?
It’s not book’s, rug’s, fan’s, machine’s, or dresser’s. It’s books, rugs, fans, machines, and dressers. Unless something specifically belongs to any of these things, you don’t use an apostrophe.
And if you’re sending out holiday cards or invitations to an entire family, they don’t go to the Jones’s, the De La Rosa’s, the St. James’s, the Jarman’s, the Norris’s, the Cease’s, the Bartz’s, the Trout’s, or the Green’s. They go to the Joneses, the De La Rosas, the St. Jameses, the Jarmans, the Norrises, the Ceases, the Bartzes, the Trouts, and the Greens.
And, yes, if you see corrected sale and/or produce signs at the Meijer on Alpine, that was probably me. Or possibly my daughter.
Vary Your Sentence Structure and Length
It’s easy to fall into a rhythm while writing. He did this. She punched that. This happened and, as a result, a sinkhole opened in Jacksonville and led straight to hell. Rinse, repeat.
The problem is, we tend to fall into narrative patterns that are comfortable for us. As a result, the writing can become stale or even sing-songy—even when the plot and characters are solid.
You don’t need to worry so much about this during your first draft. Just get the story out. But definitely pay attention to this during your editing process. Make sure that you’re not starting all of your sentences the same way. Make sure they’re of varying length.
Look at each paragraph. How many similarly formed sentences do you see? Read them aloud. Does it sound monotonous or sing-songy? If so, change it up! Surprise yourself and your readers.
If you’re having trouble varying your structure, pick up a favorite book, open it to anywhere and take a hard look at the different types of sentences the author uses. How many start with gerund phrases. How many start with “I” or the character’s name/pronoun. How many are true compound sentences.
It’s better to do this with a favorite book since you’ll already be familiar with the storyline.
Do Your Research
If you’re not an expert on what you’re writing about, do your due diligence and research it. If you can, find an expert who’s willing to read those sections and give you feedback, or who will answer questions for you. If you’re writing a character who is of a different race, gender identity, or sexual orientation than you, find yourself a sensitivity reader who’s willing to give you feedback on your work.
Thesaurus Misuse and Abuse
I’m all about avoiding word reps. They’re annoying to read and when you start noticing a lot of them in the prose, it begins to feel like the author is either lazy or dumbing down the narrative. Now, I’m sure you’re reading this and thinking, well the thesaurus is the best friend of people who hate word reps.
It is…and it isn’t. You have to be careful when you’re choosing synonyms that you have the right one in the right form. Often times, I’ll be reading, and a fairly mundane word will just stop me dead in the middle of a sentence because it reads as so out of place that it jolted me from the story. When you’re searching for synonyms, the thing to keep in mind is that words have nuances. And you need to make sure that those nuances apply to your sentence.
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you write the sentence: He made a good point.
But then you realized that you just used the word “made” three lines above. So you get out your handy dandy thesaurus and you look for synonyms for made.
And you write this: He contrived a good point.
No. No, he didn’t. That’s not how contrived works. Just because contrived is listed as a synonym for made doesn’t make those two words interchangeable. Be aware of the word’s nuances before you haphazardly try to swap it out.
Welp, that’s it for now. I hope you found it helpful.
So, this month’s First Time post is from the first morning after features Josie and Declan from THE PROFESSOR’S STUDENT.
Declan woke, blinking slowly in the gray dawn light. Josephine slept soundly in his arms, and he tugged her closer, smiling as she sighed and burrowed against him, her lips brushing across his chest. His cock was already hard. Granted, it usually was when he woke, but starting the morning with a beautiful, warm woman in his arms made it extra enjoyable. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept so well.
He also couldn’t remember the last time anyone had stayed the night—Josephine’s drunken sleepover, aside. He supposed the last time would have been Catia, before they’d broken up. When they were together, he’d thought she was the one—that they were perfect for each other. But they’d crashed and burned. Between his frequent trips out of the country and the fact that he was based in Galway and she lived in London, they hadn’t been able to sustain a relationship. His schedule had been the thing that had ultimately done them in. Their plans had constantly gotten scrapped or changed at the last minute because he’d been called away to authenticate one thing or another. She’d hated being alone, and he’d often spent months at a time at dig sites. He’d been gutted when they’d broken up, but he’d eventually come to realize that it hadn’t been the right relationship for either of them. And he’d discovered that while he missed the sex, he didn’t really miss her. And everyone deserved to be important enough to someone else that they were missed.
Looking down at Josephine sleeping in his arms, he wondered who missed her. He had a feeling he would, come August. Not that he was planning to fall in love with her or anything, but he did like her. And, sure, a lot of those feelings were fueled by the amazing sex they’d had last night, but he genuinely liked her. Her intelligence, her sense of humor, her work ethic, her curiosity, her kindness, her beauty, and god knew her ability to give mind-numbing blow jobs was on the list. But she also frustrated him to no end. He grinned down at her. Trade offs.
He carefully brushed the hair from her face, the auburn strands looking more brown than red in the early morning light. Her eyes fluttered open, and she blinked up at him then smiled almost shyly.
“Morning, sweetling. How’d you sleep?”
She stretched, her tight nipples grazing his chest. “Really well. Almost like I’d been engaging in a lot of strenuous activity last night.”
He chuckled and dropped a kiss on the tip of her nose then drifted lower to her lips. After kissing her slowly and thoroughly, he finally lifted his head.
“As much as I’d like to take advantage of this morning hard-on and your warm, willing body, we have things to do today.”
She reached between them and wrapped her hand around his cock and stroked its length before sliding her fingers down and doing it again. “You sure? It’s nice and cozy in here.”
Catching her hand, he pinned it to the bed. “I prefer to have you squirming all day, wondering what will happen once we get back here.”
“Sadist,” she muttered.
“Aww, sweetling. You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
She glared at him, but her lips kept twitching.
“If you want a shower before we leave, you should get out of bed and into the bathroom. I’ll make breakfast, and then, we’ll be on our way.” Of course, he didn’t let go of her wrist. He loved having his hands on her. Loved holding her immobile. Loved just holding her.
“Where are we going?” she asked.
“On an explore.”
Her eyes brightened. “Where are we exploring?”
“It’s a surprise. You’ll love it.”
She looked skeptical.
“I trusted you, and look where it got me.” She glanced meaningfully at her wrist then back at him.
He dragged the sheet down her chest with his free hand and watched her nipples bead. “I think we both know you enjoy where it got you.”
Her breath caught in her throat as he lowered his head.
His lips hovering millimeters above a taut peak, he licked the crinkled flesh then blew on it, watching as it tightened further. She shivered in response. Shivering harder when he added, “If you don’t get ready to leave, your punishment will be so, so much worse.”
If you’d like more, you can find the buy links to e-book, print, and audio here.
Be sure to check out Norris‘ summer highlights, too!
I feel like I have an endless supply of these, but I’ll try to limit it to three. And, as always, these are in no particular order.
1.) This Maya Angelou quote sums up a huge lesson I desperately needed to to have hammered into my skull–but I’ve got it now: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.
2.) If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t keep taking care of others and continue to thrive (or in some cases, even survive) physically, mentally, and emotionally. Martyring yourself to everyone else’s needs helps no one.
3.) If something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not. Trust your gut/intuition/whatever you want to call it.
It’s time for another first time post, and this time, it’s first orgasm. This scene is from the book, IN BOUNDS, aka The Sportsball Book.
Why the hell had he stopped? Why wasn’t he already fucking her into the wall? Had he changed his mind? Come to his senses? Ivy lifted her head from Will’s shoulder. It was better that she find out now, right? Though, it would have been even better to find out before she was nearly naked and climbing him like a tree.
She forced herself to meet Will’s gaze. Instead of the regret she’d expected to see, there was only desire. Her breath stalled as raw hunger vibrated between them.
“Needed to see your face,” he said as he pushed into her, slowly filling her with the heat of his cock.
She wasn’t sure if it was the position or that she’d gone without sex for longer than she cared to remember or if he was so much thicker than she’d recalled, but she was sure she’d never felt so full. As he shoved farther in, each of the metal balls on the ends of his piercings dragged deliciously along her delicate flesh. Her eyes nearly rolled back in her head at the feeling. Every additional inch of movement heightened the sensation until she was almost unbearably aroused.
Needing something to anchor herself to, she drove her fingers into his hair. She knocked the hair-tie from his head, freeing the honey-brown strands to fall down around his beautiful face as he began to thrust. The first few strokes were torturously slow, and he trembled slightly as if the pace was difficult to maintain.
A sinking feeling pitted her stomach, and she dropped a hand and pushed at his shoulder. “Put me down. Stop.”
He stopped, concern shadowing his eyes. “Am I hurting you?”
She shook her head, eyes suddenly damp with embarrassed tears. “No. You’re shaking. I’m too heavy for you.”
He stared into her eyes. “Pretty sure we’ve already established you’re not too heavy for me.”
She didn’t respond. Mostly because she didn’t believe him.
“You want to know why I’m shaking?”
“I’m shaking because I’m finally where I’ve wanted to be for the last twelve years.”
She opened her mouth to protest, and he must have known it because he laid his fingers over her lips. “I’ve thought of you so often over the years, and I always swore that if I ever had another chance with you, I wouldn’t blow it by coming right away like I did the first time. I swore I’d make it last.”
She swallowed thickly, unable to speak even if she’d wanted to.
“I’m shaking because I’m trying to hold off. Trying to make this last. Trying to make it good for you. Convince you not to disappear on me again, when it’s over.”
“It’s already good for me,” she finally whispered against his fingers. “Better than good.”
He leaned forward and kissed her, thrusting his tongue into her mouth as he rocked into her. Breaking the kiss, he murmured, “Want it to be better than that,” against her lips.
“Then fuck me.” She nipped at his neck before laving the bite and tightening her thighs around his waist. “Hard.”
His fingers convulsed on her hips, digging into her flesh, and she groaned, loving that little bite of pain.
He drew back then slammed forward again, grinding his pubic bone against her clit. “How’s that? Hard enough?”
It was good. So good. But she was greedy. She wanted more. “Harder.” She clutched at his shoulders. “Please, Will.”
Keeping her trapped between the wall and his chest, he increased his pace, driving into her while he practically held her motionless. The little bits of metal adorning his cock continued to stimulate her channel as he filled her over and over.
“Not gonna last, love.”
She groaned. The ragged sound of his voice settled deep in the pit of her stomach as he shafted her harder and faster.
He raised his hand and paused above her lips. It was the same one he’d used to stroke her pussy. She could smell her moisture on his skin.
“If you need to use your safeword while your mouth is covered, I want you to pinch me. Understand?”
She nodded as he sealed his palm over her mouth. The feeling of him hindering her ability to speak—to breathe—sent need screaming across every nerve ending, and she was sure she wasn’t the only one dripping with her arousal. She strained against him—hand and cock until her release overwhelmed her. She screamed, the sound muffled by his palm as her pussy convulsed and contracted around his still thrusting shaft.
She continued to rock against him, wanting to make him come, too. He tightened his hand on her face, and the release that had begun to fade flared to life again, as he fucked her headlong into another unbelievably intense orgasm.
Finally, he stiffened, pressing her hard against the wall as his eyes closed, and he shuddered almost violently against her. His hand fell away from her face, and he rested his forehead on her shoulder as his gasping breaths eventually slowed.
She kept one hand in his hair, gently caressing his head while the other smoothed up and down his sweat-damp back. His muscles moved beneath her palm as he shifted position and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer to him than she would have thought possible.
Be sure to check out the other bloggers’ first time scenes!
As always, these will be in no particular order.
10.) Sleep. I’m always down for a nap.
9.) Peruse Etsy for stuff I absolutely don’t need.
8.) Read. I always need more time for that.
7.) Work on one of my many bazillions of craft projects.
6.) Watch an episode of something on my TBW list.
5.) Clean. (hahahahahahahahayeahright)
4.) Make phone calls I’ve been putting off.
3.) Repaint my toes.
2.) Dink around on social media.
1.) Browse Pinterest for pics of Aidan Turner and/or new recipes for supper. But let’s be honest. If I only have an hour, pics of Aidan Turner are gonna win. What? The fam can eat grilled cheese again. It won’t kill them…
I think I’m the only one who blogged this week, so I don’t have any links for you. But, if I’m wrong, I’ll edit the post. 🙂
That’s right! My girl Sommer is back, and she’s got a brand new book out! Check out this blurb, and we’ve got a super NSFW excerpt coming up after the interview.
A dark secret keeps Bishop Kelly unattached and closed off. She has only one persistent friend, and now she’s moving away from him.
Running her online fitness group from a borrowed professor’s home in Constantine Falls, New York, seems like any other life decision. There’s no one to consult and no one who has her back. Life is what it is – a solo gig.
Bishop isn’t expecting a strange local, Finn “Honey” Sinclair, to jump start her memories, her desire, and her heart. He has his own intense history that haunts him. In the heart of this oddly quaint town, Bishop is suddenly learning that even in the midst of unexpected loss, there can be inexplicable gain.
Love that cover, now, let’s find out what’s happening with Sommer.
What’s a typical day like for you?
Chaos. I get up whenever the Bearded Giant gets up (except for the mornings I can’t drag my ass out of bed). I make coffee for me, tea for he, then I hop around and check all my online stuff with cup number one. Cup number two is the reading cup. It builds reading time into my day because it might be all I get.
The Bearded Giant usually leaves for work somewhere between cup one and cup two. I finish the coffee and begin to do the things. Specifically, if it’s M-F I work out. Some insane workout, often followed by a run. Then it’s a shower, take pics for my Instagram daily book post, then some stuff around the house. I usually realize what time it is, panic, shove all my stuff in my messenger bag, put my crap in the car, and my butt usually goes to the ‘office’ which is the café. Writing time ensues for a few hours.
After that, it’s usually home to get stuff done, see my people, eat the foods, and whatever else we get up to.
When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
At about four years old. I’m stubborn. I stick with my goals.
What made you realize you wanted to write romance?
I was accidentally good at it in an offbeat way. Some of the romances I’ve read, I could never write. Ever. But my kind of romance, my kind of characters…somehow it worked not just for me, but for readers.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?
Surviving the curve balls life has thrown at me. There have been some doozies. Still here. Still kicking.
Do you have any collections?
Dangerous question. I have a huge collection of vintage 70s, 80s, and 90s horror paperbacks. And I’m still hunting them down. Pyrex…retro kitchenalia in general, funky T-shirts and leggings, and just plain oddities. Our house is like the funkiest junk/antique store ever.
Do you have any hobbies?
Haunting thrift stores, junk shops, used book stores, and road tripping.
Do you have any bad habits?
I burn the candle at both ends (and sometimes the middle) and wonder why I’m tired. I’d say slacking on self-care is my worst habit.
Do you have any pet peeves?
People who cannot remove their heads from their asses. We seem to have a glut of those lately.
Are there any skills you’d like to learn?
Knitting/crocheting. Someone taught me to crochet once. I made one lopsided scarf and promptly forgot what I was taught. Gone! 100%
What are some of your writing goals?
To get back to the prolific ways I had a few years back. I was fast and I was motivated. Life changed and I changed with it. In some ways for the better, but man, I miss the speed and constant chatter in my head to start the next book.
What are three of your best writing tips?
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what do you listen to?
No! All I’d do is sing. I let the TV chatter in the background. More often than not, it’s Supernatural on reruns.
What’s your favorite word?
What’s your least favorite word?
What’s your favorite curse word?
What sound do you love?
The sound of my family carrying on and laughing.
What sound do you hate?
There’s a beagle in my neighborhood who stays outside 24/7 once the weather is decent. He bays constantly. Con-stant-ly.
Dog or cat person?
Dog! Have you seen my Oyvie? Yes? I’ll attach a picture anyway!
City or country?
On the line.
Morning or night person?
Get things done early or procrastinate?
I don’t have “expert procrastinator” in my bio by accident, my friend.
Introvert or extrovert?
An extroverted introvert. I am truly an introvert. I enjoy people and like to be around them, but for limited amounts of time and then I need a massive recharge alone or with just my people.
What do you like best about writing?
That I can create something from nothing.
What do you like least?
The synopsis. Ugh.
If you were a book, which book would you be and why?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Mainly because I keep trying to learn how to not give a fuck.
What was your favorite childhood book?
Bruce’s Loose Tooth. It had a string than ran through the entire book.
What are your favorite kinds of stories to tell?
Scary, funny, and sexy.
What are your favorite kinds of books to read?
Horror, thriller, mystery.
You’ve had a lot going on in your life, and it’s been a while since you’ve published. How does it feel to put new work out in the world?
Amazing. And a little scary. I was afraid people had forgotten me. This business is very go-go-go. If you don’t stay super prolific you can become irrelevant. For the last few years I’ve only been doing short fiction. Luckily, readers hadn’t forgotten me and I’ve founds some brand-new ones. I’m a little relieved and very grateful!
What do you like best about Bishop?
That she feels no pressure to be “on” for people or change anything about herself for anyone.
What do you like best about Honey?
His self-awareness and deeply buried kindness.
Are there other characters in your story that you’re especially fond of? Why?
All of them, really. Most people who read me know that I do not write books with a ton of characters or a lot of moving parts. I’m very character focused in my novels. If a person is in the book, I like them for some reason. Even if it’s not evident at first.
Were there any scenes that were particularly difficult to write? If so, how?
In a lot of ways, the whole book was difficult. It was my first new novel after losing my husband in 2014. I have a brand-new life now. I have a wonderful boyfriend and he has a son and my kids love both of them. We’ve created a new family unit. I have a second chance at living. I’m a very lucky person. I think, no matter what, there will always be some survivor’s guilt with that.
There are some elements to the book—Honey’s loss, his mother’s recent loss, and Bishop’s past along with her current fears of loss—that were difficult to write without sinking into them completely. I think that’s why it took so long to write. I had to go slow and attack it at different angles. Then special dates (anniversary, birthday, anniversary of death) would come up and I’d put the book on hold for a week or two. Once, I put it aside for an entire month. It usually takes me 6-8 weeks to write a book. This one took almost a year, I believe.
Loss and hope are big in this book. For a dirty book, it has its deep moments, I guess. This book was as good as a few months of therapy, I think.
If you were to cast your book as a movie, who would you choose to play your characters?
I am terrible at this game. It’s not how my brain works at all. But I would love to hear how the people who have read the book would cast the characters. That would be amazing!
What’s up next for you?
All fingers and toes crossed, I have a horror/dark fiction novella currently under consideration with a bucket list publisher (under a different name) and I’ve been focusing some of my time on writing in that genre. However, after seeing the reaction to Honey, and seeing some of the reviews (yes! I admit it! Curiosity got to me. Usually, I don’t read any at all, but it’s been so long and I have no self-control), I’m thinking I’d like to go ahead and start brainstorming another erotic novel. Which thrills me. Feeling that spark again.
What would you most like readers to know about you and your books?
That I appreciate every single interaction online. Every comment on Facebook or response on Twitter. That I am truly grateful to everyone who buys my work, reads it, reviews it, messages me about it, recommends it, or just talks about it. Writing can be a solitary thing. You can often feel like you’re shouting into the darkness. So, when someone peeks their head in and says, “Hey, I just read fill in the blank and I loved it!” that can bring a lot of light to the darkness. Every book is written with love and passion. Every book is a piece of me.
Everything in the above interview are just a few of the reasons I adore the fuck out of Sommer Marsden. Oh, and remember that super NSFW excerpt I promised you? Well, here it is!
…A creak on the steps. She sat up. Bishop reached for the closest thing, which was not her phone. Sadly, it was charging on the small table by the window. What was closest was a weighted exercise bar. She got up on her knees, keeping herself away from the door, ready and armed.
The muzzle came into view first, and a flash of terror mixed with confusion lanced through her. Then the thing turned and looked at her—vibrant blue eyes, fake but vibrant, the fur a mix of salt and pepper. A growl emanated from it, and she didn’t know whether to laugh or scream.
“How’s this, Pennsylvania? Now you don’t have to look at my face.”
He advanced, and she considered swinging the baton. Almost did. Then she thought better of it. She was enraged but also turned on. Her body beat with a fast and heavy lust that was only a split second from being full on panic. Her blood felt too thick, her veins too full, her body too heavy, like gravity was working overtime.
“No?” she said, catching the fact that she nodded as she said the word.
He laughed from inside the mask, and the timbre of it sent a shiver shockwave up her spine. A fine sweat had settled atop her skin, leaving her feeling both hot and clammy at the same time, like she had a fever. And yet, between her thighs, her pussy beat hot and heavy in time with her heart.
“You should go,” she managed. She licked her lips and let the baton fall a bit. It was getting heavy, and her biceps twitched with the effort of being on red alert and holding something that dense. Her head was buzzy, and her heart rate still hadn’t managed to come down.
He advanced, and she felt her pussy contract—empty but eager. She felt on the verge of orgasm despite the fact that he was in the doorway and hadn’t even touched her.
“Should I?” He unbuttoned his jeans and slid the zipper down.
She tried to look away—wanted to look away—but she also knew damn well she wanted him. Whatever this was, whatever fucked up game they were playing, it was in her wheelhouse. She didn’t know how she felt about that, but she’d figure it out later. For now, she had to figure out how to get what she wanted—him —and still save face.
“You should. But if you don’t, I warn you, when you come at me, I will fight you.”
“Because you want to say no?” he asked, taking another step. He had his cock out in his big rough hand and was stroking it.
Another spasm deep inside her. Another small blip of pleasure that made her feel like she’d come the moment he laid a finger on her.
“Because I want to say yes.”
That earned another laugh from the big bad wolf. He moved fast, faster than Bishop anticipated. His body hit her hard enough to knock the wind out of her but not hard enough to actually hurt her. He had her on her belly, pinned, his lean hips straddling hers. “I know you’re strong, Pennsylvania. I wouldn’t expect anything less than a fight. Even if you want it.”
She could feel his hard cock riding the small of her back, and she shut her eyes against a wave of anticipation mixed with anxiety.
“Off,” she grunted, bucking her hips up and back. He rocked, slid a little, but still managed to stay on top of her.
Finn gathered a handful of her hair and tugged. Pain lanced through her scalp, and his cock twitched, hard and hot, against her skin. She cried out, bucked again and managed an elbow up and into his side. A lucky shot, given her angle, but it landed and did the job. He grunted, and when his center of gravity was off, she managed to toss him so he slid to her right. She scrambled up onto her knees, her oversized tee bunching around her hips. She didn’t have any panties on and that realization slammed her with arousal and fear in equal measure.
He reached out and grabbed her thigh, and hooking his hand through it, he pulled her toward him fast and hard, and she lost her balance. She splayed atop him, chest to chest, face to face, his wolf chin rapping her cheekbone.
Finn grabbed her hair again, wrenching her head back. His mask was askew and his mouth came down on her neck, a desperate, hot, aggressive kiss that was almost not a kiss at all. Mouth turned to teeth. He bit her hard enough to make her gasp then raked his teeth across the thumping spot of flesh.
His other hand was at the small of her back, so strong and hard, it was like an iron bar. “Glad you’re in, Bishop. It’s never fun to wrestle with just yourself and your own demons. Always more fun to have a good knockdown, drag out fight with someone else and theirs.”
He pulled her hair, and his fingers dug into her back. She growled, trying to bring a knee up and failing. All the while, his cock lay pressed against her belly. Her pussy grew wetter, with a rush of fluid, whether evoked by want or anxiety she didn’t know. Probably both.
She bumped her hips up to dislodge him and failed. His big hand was splayed between her breasts, and he held her. Her tee rode up even more. He managed to get his jeans down over his hips and thighs, then he pressed himself against her.
“Last chance. Tell me no.”
The wolf mask leered at her, beautiful and aggressive, angry and sleek. It seemed oddly fitting and surreal to hear his voice snaking out of the muzzle.
She bumped her hips again, but it only managed to move him so he could feel her, the heat of her mound. He growled, and her scalp prickled. Even as it did, another rush of moisture slipped from between her thighs. Her pulse pounded in her clit. His fingers found her and slipped inside of her.
“So very juicy, aren’t you? Now how did that happen?”
Now…catch your breath a sec, and click those buy links! I just got my copy!
Professional dirty word writer, gluten free baker, sock addict, fat wiener dog walker, expert procrastinator. That sums it up.
Sommer Marsden has been called “…one of the top storytellers in the erotica genre” (Violet Blue), “Unapologetic” (Alison Tyler), “…the whirling dervish of erotica” (Craig J. Sorensen),and “Erotica royalty…” (Lucy Felthouse). Her erotic novels include Restricted Release, Restless Spirit, Boys Next Door, and the Zombie Exterminator series. Sommer currently writes for Harper Collins Mischief, Ellora’s Cave, Xcite Books, Pretty Things Press, Excessica and Resplendence Publishing.