Descriptions for heat levels in book list

------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥ -all of above including coarser language and sex more frequent

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

letting the reader know

Every now and again, what I read elsewhere leads to my rearranging the order in which I publish here. This time, it was the question of heat in romance novels. It came up in a writer/reader group to which I belong. The question was asked, and I'd pretty much say ended up divided, as to whether the readers wanted sex in their books or not. 

Image purchased from Period Images

One thing that gets to me, when such questions arise, is some of the readers use two terms I dislike regarding romances with no sex-- sweet and clean. 

Starting with sweet-- To me, sweet is like a Jane Austin where the people are gentle, living ordinary lives and economics or social issues are their biggest dilemmas. The so-called sweet romances, which a lot of these readers are discussing, might have a heroine on the run from an evil uncle who means her wrong. They might have a gunman hero, who shoots those who get in his way. Sweet, with violence in it, just does not work for me.

And clean seems just as wrong. It implies sex is dirty or maybe it's that to read about it is dirty. That same reader who finds it dirty could read about it in a sex manual and that would be okay-- just keep it clinical. But to put it into fiction, with healthy examples of how two people 'get it on' that's dirty. 

Yes, sex can be crude and demeaning and that which uses others, but it isn't dirty by its nature. It is a beautiful thing that is meant to bond a committed couple together in a way that goes beyond holding hands. 

As a writer, I respect the desire wish of those who want zero sex. Books should not bushwhack a reader. For the writer, it is beneficial to let readers know what to expect. I used to use 'for adult readers' or spicy but that doesn't really say much. Neither would a movie code as PG-13 can be pretty 'hot' these days.

So I began thinking of a code that I could put at least on my descriptive blogs as a way to alert readers what to expect in the book. For now, I've come up with this as a header on blogs that describe the books:
Romances are books about relationships and falling in love. They may or may not have sex within. Because mine vary for the 'heat' level, I devised this chart. If you find a book that interests you, look for the hearts.

♥ ------holding hands, perhaps a gentle kiss
♥♥ ---- more kisses but no tongue-- no foreplay
♥♥♥ ---kissing, tongue, caressing, foreplay & pillow talk
♥♥♥♥ --all of above, full sexual experience including climax
♥♥♥♥♥-all of above including coarser language and more frequent sex
I may amend it. I still am not sure how I can use it in a blurb. If I can work that out, it will help readers and me. No writer wants an unhappy reader. It's fair to let them know, where it's possible, what they will find in terms of sexuality. For some people, who won't skip over what they don't like, this is a big issue.

Sex in a romance novel, in my experience, is intended to warm the reader above the belt-- not below (not saying it might not do that too but it's not its purpose). I like writing the couple when they come to the closest relationship two people can have. I like it when it enriches their relationship, when it helps them see what their connection is, and it goes beyond flesh to the soul. I happen to believe it is healthy for the readers also as it gives them ideas on what is possible.

Erotica, which some think of as romance, really isn't. It's aimed at below the belt. Erotica is far more descriptive with very graphic language. It is where you get into kink, but mostly consensual (from what I've seen).

Erotica is written to arouse. Sex scenes in romances are not. They are aimed at taking the couple further into their relationship. They might make the reader's heart beat faster, but it's more about their relationship. In my books, only committed (but not necessarily married) couples have sex. I try to write about what I think enriches our lives and casual sex doesn't-- in my opinion.

The historical romance that I plan to bring out March 23rd was one of my few books that years ago I actually sent off to a publishing house. They kept it quite awhile, which made me hopeful. After months, it came back. They told me it was too steamy for their line. I had to laugh. In the book (back then), the couple never actually did it. But yes, they were wanting to. I wasn't going to take that building desire out of the book, nor did I want to make it steamier for a publishing house where they might want the couple doing it one-third of the way through.

Now when I am bringing it out in March, it still has the steam, but 'doing' it still has the same complications. There were reasons for the delay. They are on a wagon train for Pete's sake-- not a lot of privacy for an unmarried or married couple, but it still qualifies as ♥♥♥♥ -- just takes awhile to get that last heart. :)