Monday, April 04, 2016

Lesson 2 from my new class at Savvy Authors


I'm running BRAINSTORMING TO REVISION, an online class I teach, at in April, 2016. The class will be conducted in the forums at the site, so you can read the lessons and respond at your leisure.

Registration for the class will be open through Wednesday, April 6, 2016. You'll find information about how to sign up here.

As I've mentioned, this class was born when I decided to document and write 12 lessons around the process of writing an e-book, Chain of Kisses, published by Changeling Press.

Here's Lesson 2,  Brainstorming the Initial Idea

By Angela Knight

When I’m doing something for Changeling or one of the other paranormal e-pub, the first question I ask myself is, “What would be fun (and erotic) to write?”
I already know this piece needs to be pretty short – 50 pages -- because I’m under contract with Berkley, and my editor wouldn’t like it if I did a paranormal novel for anyone else. Plus, I need to slide this in before starting my next novel. If I do ten pages a day, I can have it finished in five days. (I’ve done this recently, so I know it’s possible.)                                   
My Mageverse novels are a bit grueling, so for this short story, I want to do something fun, where I can cut loose and have a good time.
If we’re talking 50 pages, I need a publisher that specializes in short and hot.  Changeling Press fits the bill, so I’ll go take a look at their submission guidelines, here:
According to the guidelines, they want: “Paranormal, Dark Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Futuristic, BDSM, and Action/Adventure romantic love stories. All submissions must be targeted for at least one of these genres.
What's a Love Story? While there should be both highly erotic and romantic elements to the book, relationships and endings should be plot driven. We don't demand your characters trot off to get married at the end of the book, though we do ask for a HEA (Happy Ever After) or, in the case of serials, a HFN (Happy For Now).
Please keep in mind, we've only got one heat level. Over-the-top hot! We can handle anything you send us as long as it meets our guidelines! We do not accept simultaneous submissions. We do accept multiple submissions.
Length: We accept outside submissions from 10 to 28K for single titles. Serials from unsigned authors must be submitted as a completed set.”
Whenever I decide I’m interested in a publisher, the first thing I do is look at their submission guidelines. Then I read a couple of their books to see how well they’re edited and what the quality is like, and whether I’d like to write something similar.
Does their website get a lot of reader traffic? The more readers a site gets, the better the paycheck is. E-mail some of their authors and see whether they like the publisher and are treated well. Check them out with Preditors and Editors to see how they’re rated, here: That site has listings for both agents and editors.
If you’re offered a contract, read it very carefully and make sure they don’t want to keep your pen name or something. If they do, see if you can strike the clause you don’t like; often they will. Check the details of the contract with a lawyer or agent if possible, or other writers if not. You can easily be screwed otherwise. (I have been, and it wasn’t fun.)

Remember that the lawyer who wrote the contract was working for the publisher, not you. He wrote the contract to give the publisher the advantage. You have to look out for you.

Pay particular attention to how quickly the contract says they’ll publish the book, when, and what percentage of sales you get paid and how often, and what happens to your rights if they go out of business before they publish it. Also, which rights do they want? Those details are the kind of thing that can bite you on the ass, so you need to be careful.

I’ve been writing for Changeling for seven years, so I’m comfortable with them. They’re not going to go out of business, and I trust the publisher not to screw me.

Now that we know what market we’re targeting, let’s start brainstorming the book. I like to take a big whiteboard on an easel and just start writing down whatever comes to me, without criticizing the ideas, just letting them come. You can also brainstorm with Post-it notes on corkboard, or software on your computer, or a spiral notebook.  Hell, cocktail napkins. Whatever works.

In my case, I find that writing my ideas on the whiteboard often triggers other ideas, and soon I’m zooming right along. There’s something about those big words and my handy eraser that frees me to play with ideas.

I know I want to do a captor/captive story. I haven’t done one of those in a while, and they’re always fun. The bondage thing Changeling wants is built right in to a C/c, and if you add a big, sexy hero, you’ve got all you need to get my motor running. 

That last bit is really crucial to writing an erotic story. You can’t write something that doesn’t turn you on. For example, I’d never try to do a ponygirl story. Women playing at being horses just doesn’t do a damned thing for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that -- it just doesn’t hit my buttons.

You need to identify what’s really hot to you, because that’s what you’re going to write best.

You also need to be honest with yourself about whether you can write erotic romance. Some people just don’t want to reveal their deepest sexual desires to utter freaking strangers. Like me telling this list I like bondage. Hey, Angela Knight is KINKY!  (Like you didn’t know that just from reading Jane’s Warlord.)

If writing hot sex makes you squirm and imagine the reaction of your preacher, priest or rabbi, don’t do it. You won’t be able to pull it off. You’ll be happier writing more traditional romances, and you’ll do it more effectively and believably.

Once you have the basic subgenre, start with the obvious questions. WHY is she a captive? Why would a hero TAKE her captive? He’s got to have a good, heroic reason, or he’s not going to be sympathetic. And if he’s not sympathetic, the story won’t work. In 50 pages, you don’t have a lot of time to set up the characters. They’ve got to be instantly likeable as well as hot. You don’t have time to do a big growth arc from asshole to good guy. That might work in a novel, but not in 12,000 words.
This is what I wrote down as I brainstormed the book last week. The italics are my commentary for this lesson.
Why is she a captive?
Hostage against someone’s behavior?
War prize? He won and demanded her as his payment for not destroying her people?
Why HER? Maybe she is an enemy general/princess.
He is from a culture where men and women take sexual captives and practice dominance. (Note that it’s not just MEN practicing dominance. I wouldn’t want to live in a completely male dominated society, because it would drive me nuts. I just want to play submissive games in the bedroom, so I need to set up a more-or-less believable reason for the hero and heroine to do that. This is, after all, fantasy.)
As the story opens, she is bound and waiting for him to approach. She is aroused but pissed. (I can really FEEL the potential in that scene. Imagine being all tied up as a big, sexy guy strides across the bedroom, his schlong leading the way…. YUM!)
Is this TMI?  Ah, deal with it.
Futuristic.  I like writing futuristics for Changeling, because Berkley limits me to straight contemporary paranormal (at least when I was writing CoK). When I get to play, I want to do something different. Besides, when you’re doing something like bondage, which has so many explosive political implications, you’re better off setting the story on another planet. Then you can just enjoy the fantasy without worrying about your NOW membership.
He is hyper masculine. His people are very aggressive. They want mates who have proven their intelligence and skill in battle. He became fascinated by her when he fought her, which is why he decided to go after her.
How did he fight her? Hand to hand wouldn’t work; he would have kicked her ass, unless she’s got super powers. He’s a big guy, and he knows how to fight.
Maybe she’s a ship’s captain, and their ships battled in space. Female Captain Kirk type, swashbuckling, has had a string of lovers. (I don’t like virgin heroines when I’m writing a guy that dominant. A meek little virgin just wouldn’t be a proper opponent for him. They have to be equals, at least mentally, for a romantic conflict to work. Otherwise he just runs all over her, which means he’ll come off as a bully. A romance between a bully and a rag doll is just no damned fun at all.)
Thing is, I have already done a captor/captive with two ship’s captains before. (“Roarke’s Prisoner” in Secrets 2 for Red Sage, which was my very first published romance.) So I have to find a way to give it a twist.
Maybe they’re royalty. She’s the youngest daughter of the empress on a matriarchal planet. He’s the king of a neighboring empire. At one time, they were engaged, but she called it off because she was unnerved by her strong reaction to his dominance. He was aware of her reaction, and swore to have her anyway. She threatened to leave the empire and become a pirate if they forced her to wed him.
Ehhhh. Not sure that works. He sounds like an asshole, and she’s no better.
Continuing to brainstorm…
They have known each other since childhood, when they visited one another’s palaces during various events. As a child, she had a crush on him. He was older, handsome, dashing. They were engaged when she was two and he was fifteen – one of those royal treaty things. (When you’re doing a story this short, you have to have the characters in love to start with. It’s very hard to get strangers to love in 12,000 words. Giving them a romantic past solves the problem. The story’s conflict is how they overcome whatever has been keeping them apart all these years.)
At 17, he went into his empire’s military, where he got a reputation as a fierce warrior while fighting off an attempted invasion by reptilian invaders.
When she was 17 and he was 30, they were supposed to get married. But she found him so intimidating and dominant, she broke it off and ran. The result caused a rift between their empires. Ten years have gone by. He is now 40 and she’s 27. She’s a mercenary ship’s captain. (I do a lot of mercs, because it’s a good way to involve a hero/heroine in someone else’s war.)
He attacked her ship and defeated her in combat. He then demanded her surrender in return for the safety of her ship’s crew. Under the treaty between their people, he feels he’s still entitled to have her.
Ehhhh. I’m Not Happy. He’s still an asshole, and I don’t like the idea of marrying a 30-year-old to a kid. He ought to understand why someone that young would get unnerved and run, given the kind of Alpha Male he is. What would give him a good reason to take her sexual captive ten years later?
When she was five and he was fifteen (Reducing the age difference age difference ), her mother, the planetary empress, engaged the heroine to the hero, who is the son of the emperor of a neighboring planet. The mother’s planet was being menaced by an alien race of reptilian warriors who were on the verge of invading and killing everybody. The treaty gave her planet protection against the invaders; the hero’s father, the emperor, declared war on the lizards and drove them back out of his empire. The hero went to war and fought the aliens. He became a war hero and conquered several planets during the next twelve years.
Now it’s a little more understandable. A lot of his people (maybe his best friend?) died protecting hers over that treaty, and she spat on it by chickening out and running away. No wonder he’s pissed. But now she’s the asshole; I have to work on that.
When it’s time for her to get married to him at 17, (which makes him 27, which sounds a little better), her sister, the heiress to the throne, tells the heroine the elder sister wants him. The sister is a bit older and a little slutty. The hero does something (I have to figure out what; maybe the heroine saw him having really dominant sex with someone. Her sister? No, that would be kinda asshole on his part. Somebody else. He doesn’t know she saw them.)
This incident freaked her out. She ran, rationalizing that her sister would marry him and everybody would be happy. But he wanted nothing to do with the sister; he wanted HER. The treaty was salvaged when the sister married his younger brother, but it was a great scandal, and the hero was PISSED.
The heroine assumed a false identity as a spacer, then later became a mercenary captain. He has been hunting her ever since; it’s a matter of honor now.  Too many warriors died for her world and SHE OWES HIM, DAMMIT.
I’m still not happy about her. Running away was cowardly.
The fact that she ran away from him has been eating at her for years. In retrospect, she bitterly wishes she’d married him as she was supposed to. Her cowardice almost resulted in the destruction of her people. Besides, he’s been a subject of her secret fantasies for years. So when he captures her, she’s secretly delighted, though she’s also outraged by his gall and a little frightened about what he intends to do.
Now this is a little more understandable. Most of us have done something when we were kids that we regret, so I think readers will be more inclined to cut her some slack. This is also why I need to keep the age difference. If she were 20 when they were first supposed to marry, it wouldn’t work at all.
So that’s my initial process. I come up with a rough idea, and then start brainstorming reasons for the characters’ actions that the reader can understand and sympathize with. I also rough in the idea for the paranormal world, but not in great detail. I figure out just enough to go on to the next step.
Now I need to nail down the characterization for the hero and heroine before I can brainstorm the plot. So Wednesday’s lesson will be on creating the hero.
Any questions?
Oh, and I’ll do a crit for the first two people to submit rough plot ideas. First come, first served. 
Angela Knight

I  hope you'll join us at Savvyauthors!



Wednesday, March 02, 2016

An Excerpt from my Spring novel, PALADIN

Here's an excerpt from my Spring, 2016 novel, PALADIN: Graven Gods Book One. It's the first of my self-published e-books, and I'm very excited! I hope you enjoy it.

Let me know what you think!

Luckily, the gym I belonged to was one of those 24/7 operations for those with a need to pump iron at three in the morning. It was 7 AM by the time I got there, but there were a surprising number of gym rats trying to get in a workout before work.

Tony's Gym was an enormous space, with rows of treadmills, Stair Masters, and stationary bikes, many with people already puffing away on them.

Across the room from the cardio equipment stood the weight machines, with their stacked metal plates and complicated arrangements of belts and counterweights. Huge mirrors covered the walls, interspaced with posters of fitness gods with biceps bigger than their heads.

I exchanged a wave with my personal trainer, Jeff Mathers, who was busy with one of his other clients, an amateur bodybuilder who groaned as he did arm curls with every plate on the machine.

I straddled one of the recumbent bikes and started to pedal as if trying to win the Tour de France. The bike faced one of the mirrors, and I barely resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at it.

Sometimes my inner fifteen-year-old makes a break for it.

As I pedaled, I realized I was being stared at by a man who'd just walked in. I didn't recognize him, but I wished I had. He was a big, dark haired guy, with the kind of build you'd expect from someone who hits the gym at seven in the morning. His T-shirt stretched lovingly across powerful shoulders and the kind of biceps I'd written odes to when describing Paladin. He had long runner's legs, thighs stretching the black material of his sweats. Not muscle-bound, but lean enough to assume any position a girl had in mind. And I could think of several.

I heard Paladin growl.

You are a figment of my imagination, I reminded him.

"I'll show you a figment." The growl became a snarl. "I'll figment his ass into the middle of next week."

The hunk sauntered over and swung one of those brawny legs over the stationary bike beside mine. His face was as lust-inspiring as his body, with prominent cheekbones, a broad angular jaw, and a wide, sensual mouth with a certain cruelty about its curve.

"Quit leering at the man, Summer," Paladin ordered. And yep, he did sound jealous as hell. Which made me ridiculously happy. At least the guy next to me was real, dammit.

So I turned my head to give my fellow spinner a big smile, and realized he was staring back. Unfortunately, his expression was more Jeffrey Dahmer than Chris Hemsworth. He looked as if he was wondering how my liver would taste with a nice chianti. I looked away in a hurry.

He didn't.

I could feel him staring at me with a cold, reptilian focus. Jesus, why did every male I encounter lately want to kill me? What happened to dinner and a movie? Was it my toothpaste? Had someone switched my perfume for Eau d' Psycho?

I ignored him some more. He kept visibly fantasizing about me and basements.

The better part of cowardice drove me off the bike.

I picked a weight machine at random and sat down to do arm curls. He was still staring, meeting my eyes in the mirror. Chainsaws were dancing in his head.

"Look away, you bastard, or I'll kick your ass," Paladin snarled inside my head.

Unfortunately, Paladin was imaginary. Captain Black-and-Decker definitely was not.

I wondered what the hell to do. I could tell the clerk manning the customer service desk -- if I didn't mind looking like an utter pussy. "He's looking at me!"

Yeah. So not thirteen anymore.

Gritting my teeth, I pumped out another set of reps considerably faster than I usually did. Maybe I could intimidate him through sheer arm strength.

When I looked up again, he was standing by my machine, still giving me that evil glare. I hadn't even seen him get up and come over.

"It is you," he purred. "I thought you were dead, Paladin. I certainly did my best to kill you."

"Oh, shit," Paladin thought. It's Valak! I didn't sense him at first--he was shielding. Son of a bitch!"

I stared at Captain B&D, freezing in mid-rep, my jaw dropping. "Why did you call me that?" Was he some kind of stalker? "How did you know I wrote those books?" If he knew me from Facebook, I was going to unfriend his ass. Then I was going to delete every author photo I'd put up.

The stalker glowered in irritation. "What are you playing at? Do you think I wouldn't recognize the taste of your power, even after so many years? I sensed you days ago when your magic blazed over the entire city like a flare. I knew it for certain when you defeated my acolytes last night. And now here you are!" He bared white teeth. Surprisingly, none of them were fangs.

"You're high, dude. Get lost."

"So this is your new body." He eyed me with something between lust and greed. "How many generations did it take to breed such a combination of physical strength and magical talent?" His cruel mouth twisted. "As many as it took me to get those men of mine you slew twelve years ago? Fifteen generations of painstaking breeding and hard work. Twenty fighters, dead and lost. I was lucky to survive. If some powerless prick hadn't been passing by just as my host died..."

Oh, hell, this guy wasn't high, he was a paranoid schizophrenic. "I have no idea what you're talking about." My gut coiled into clammy knots.

He merely grinned. Evil radiated off him, reminding me of the Lovecraftian nasty I'd had the nightmare about. In fact, I realized with a chill, he felt exactly like that. "Come outside, Paladin. Let's finally finish this. I'm going to burn you out of her brain and take her for my own."

I slid off the machine's seat without taking my eyes from his. "If you don't get the hell away from me, I'm calling 911." My voice shook.

Now he looked downright offended. "What kind of game are you playing?"

"Apparently not the same one you are, Voldemort."

A deep voice interrupted. "What's going on?" Jeff walked up and loomed. I'd have kissed him if I could've reached his face. "Is this guy bothering you, Summer?" He gave Voldemort a menacing glower.

"Now that you mention it, yes." Please, please make him go away.

"Who the hell are you? You don't belong to this club," Jeff told Voldemort icily. "Time to go."

The gym rat he'd been training came over and joined the chorus of flexing. Ah, I love the smell of testosterone in the morning.

Voldemort considered the bunched and straining odds, looking more irritated than intimidated. "We'll finish this when there are fewer witnesses, Paladin." Turning, he stalked out of the gym.

The rest of us watched through the plate glass as he got into a white Lexus SUV and roared off.

Jeff frowned. "Paladin?"

"Character in the series I'm writing."

"Oh, yeah, the detective. I liked that book." I'd emailed him a copy. He turned and considered me. "That guy some kind of stalker?"

"I guess. I've never seen him before."

"Maybe you'd better call the cops and make a report," put in the bodybuilder. "It's a good idea to get stuff like that on the record, just in case he becomes a real problem."

He had a point, but I wasn't up to another chat with the cops. "I just want to finish my workout before I have to open my shop." God knew I needed to burn off some adrenaline. I dropped back down on the machine I'd been using and started absently pumping out reps.

Jeff blinked. "Since when do you do arm curls with two hundred and fifty pounds?"

I blinked back. "What are you talking about? You know twenty's my limit."

"That's what you've always said. Have you been holding out on me?" He nodded at the stack of plates.

For the first time, I actually looked at them, something I'd been too distracted to do under Voldemort's eyefuck. Oh, holy God, he's right. I'd been lifting the whole stack--a total of two hundred and fifty pounds.

I lost my grip on the bar, and the weights fells with a thunderous crash.

Monday, January 18, 2016


Here's a sample of my class, going on right now at Savvy Authors. You can still get in until Wednesday, so please sign up!

If you're interested, you'll find the link here:

Lesson 1: Introduction


By Angela Knight

If there’s one aspect of romance that we as a genre have trouble with, it’s love scenes. After all, many of us grew up being told that when it comes to sex, “Good Girls Don’t.” Or if they do, they’re not supposed to like it.

In reality, I think we’d all agree that a sexless marriage would be arid and dysfunctional. Not to mention doomed; what man is going to put up with a wife who doesn’t like sex? Yes, he may love her, but if she hates his body and hers to that extent, somebody’s in desperate need of some serious therapy. And what kind of husband would force his wife to do something she hated? I think the technical term for that is “rapist.”

We don’t publish that sort of thing anymore.

Of course, you could create a heroine who is sexually screwed up to that extent, but readers would expect her to have her head on straight by the end of the book.

Otherwise, your couple is not going to get that promised “Happily Ever After.”

Thus we have to assume our heroines like sex with their handsome heroes, no matter how virginal they may be, even in sweet romances where the bedroom door remains firmly closed. So our heroines do enjoy sex.

It’s romance novelists who don’t.

Or at least, many of us don’t like writing about it. All together now: “It’s just Tab A in Slot B!”

I’ll grant you, the mechanics of sliding Tab A into Slot B may be the same, but only if you leave out characterization, emotion and the development of the romance.

My husband and I have been married for 31 years now, and I have no idea how many times we’ve made love. But every single time is different, depending on what happened that day, what mood we’re in, and what we decide to do to spice things up.

Strawberries, anyone? Whipped cream? No chocolate, though: it gave me a rash last time....


As a writer, I pride myself on writing love scenes that are vivid and emotionally intense. Readers read romance because they want to experience – or re-experience – the humming thrill of falling in love with an incredible, sensual man.

In fact, romance novelists who expect to find success must pay more attention to love scenes now than ever before. The newest generation of readers have read Fifty Shades and whatever they've encountered on the Internet; they do not expect us to primly hold back because we’re afraid of being called sluts. They want us to show them what amazing lovers our heroes are, not just tell them that everybody had a really good time. What’s more, editors know that, and they’re looking for writers who are not afraid to deliver.

But selling books is not the only reason to write good sex. Love scenes provide writers with a way to depict emotional intimacy and romantic intensity with a power that can’t be achieved in any other way.

What’s the first law of writing good fiction? “Show, don’t tell.” There is no better place to show the sweet flowering of a romance than in bed. That’s where our characters are most naked – and not just physically.

Think about it. Why do sex scandals grab headlines? It’s because we all know that a person’s core character is revealed by what he does in bed. He can make speeches about family values all he wants, but if he’s fooling around on his wife, we know what’s really going on in his head.

The way our heroes and heroines make love tells us volumes about what they think of themselves and the opposite sex. If they’re tender and concerned for the other person’s pleasure, that says something. If, on the other hand, all your hero is interested in is his next orgasm, that says something too.

Even more revealing is the way in which his lovemaking changes throughout the course of the book. Yes, he may know how to make a woman’s toes curl from page one, but how does making love to this particular heroine affect him? Does his concern for her pleasure increase until his focus is solely on her joy rather than his own? That says volumes about his evolution as a hero. And it also tells you a great deal about how the romance has grown.


Every scene in a romance must do one of three things: develop the characters, develop the internal or external conflicts, or develop the romance. Otherwise it should be cut.

That definitely includes the love scenes. You can write the most sizzling scene ever put on paper, but if all it does is give the reader a thrill, it should be either rewritten or cut.

If there’s one mistake I see erotic romance writers make, that’s it: love scenes that don’t do anything. Sex scenes that are only there to give the reader a buzz may be fine in porn, but that’s not what we’re writing.

The focus in a romance is always the romance: the growth of love between two people, with all its rocky missteps and luscious pleasures.

Which is why those three-page generic love scenes you find in some romances are every bit as bad as pointless erotica. If you’re including a love scene solely because your editor demands it, you’re doing something wrong. And you’re missing a golden opportunity to advance your story.

It’s my intention with this class to demonstrate how to craft love scenes that make your romance truly romantic.

Over the next month, I will post a total of fourteen lessons, one each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You are welcome to ask questions whenever you like, and I will do my best to answer.
Post your questions to the forum.

On Tuesday and Thursday, you may also post a love scene in the forum for critique. I will do my best to critique each love scene, but if there are a lot of posts, it may take me a couple of days to get them all done. I am also on deadline with a book, which may also cause delays in critiquing. Still, one way or another, you will get your crit.

Lessons will include:

The three functions of love scenes in romance

Character development



Mapping the romance with love scenes

The First encounter

Middle encounters

Last love scene of the book


Creating appropriate levels of sensuality, whether for erotic romance or traditional

Sensual detail

C, F and P words – what language should a romance writer use?


I may also add other lessons as I go, especially if you ask a question I think needs more attention.l Also, if you think there's something I'm not covering, please let me know, and I will add a lesson. I want you to be happy with your experience in this class. My objective is to help you all grow as writers, gaining confidence and skill as you learn more about writing love scenes.

Thank you so much for taking my class.

Angela Knight