If It’s Not True, Then Bury The Words – Overcoming A Stuck Scene , Deleted/Edited Training Season Scene #editing #writersblock #writerprobs

In a book where sexual activities promoted and illustrated character growth and, ultimately, the denouement of the character arc, it was imperative that I “stick the landing” for the final, reunion sex scene. The trouble was…that didn’t come easily.

In the first draft of the book,the reunion sex scene was pretty much just a complete fade-to-black. I wanted something warm and intimate, something loving and gentle, and the characters weren’t interested in showing it to me. It was baffling. They’d shown me everything under the sun up until that moment, why were they holding back now?

I hoped that maybe the reunion sex wasn’t really necessary. Maybe that was why they weren’t showing it to me, because no one needed to see it. I sent it off to my beta readers and, without fail, all of them commented that, hey, we really need to see this reunion sex.

So, I sat down and forced my way through it. I wrote and wrote and wrote. The characters just wouldn’t behave, though. They laughed, they joked, they didn’t have hot sex, instead they just had weird-but-okay sex. I’m going to post that sex below because I thought it might be funny or of interest to some people to see the original scene. So, look for it behind the cut.

I sent it off to my chief beta reader, Jed, thinking, “Well, I tried my damnedest and maybe this is okay.”

No. It wasn’t okay. It was just wrong and off and not hot.

So, I sat down again and I asked myself “Where’s the lie in this scene?” Because I read somewhere some pretty great advice by some author–and how horrible is it that I’ve forgotten who said it or where I read this advice?–that if you’re stalled in a book or scene, it’s because you’re making the characters tell a lie.

I went back over the scene and asked myself, “What’s the genuine response of Rob to this situation? What’s he been like in the past when confronted with this kind of behavior/frustration from Matty?” And I realized, yes, I’d been making them lie about their reunion sex–that was why it’d felt so off and false.

That realization meant I had to go back up into the story and change some other key issues so that the activities could take place as they needed to. Then I re-wrote it and all the beta readers agreed, “Yes, this is what happened. Of course it is.”

I’ll let you buy the book to discover what the reunion sex ended up looking like, but for now, as promised, here’s the lie version behind the cut.


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This Book Is Brilliant. This Book Is Flawed. Calling Pomegranate. #amreading #review

This book is brilliant. The end. This book is flawed. The end. This book is real. The end. There are so many ways I could start this review and so many ways to end it. Over the months that I took to read it, I’ve written tons and tons of reviews in my head. This book was infuriating, frustrating, amazing, brilliant and beautiful. It took me a very long time to read, in part, because I had to take immense breaks from the hyper-realism portrayed between its pages. Every line is so vivid that I could see it all in my mind perfectly and it was at times overwhelming.

This book took me from hating the characters, to liking them, to growing to love them, to aching for them, but, more importantly, it then took me one step farther into forgetting that they weren’t real people. I admit this wasn’t the easiest read in the world, but the writing was so compelling that I kept on with it. The reason I say that is because it took about 25% of the book for me to stop disliking the protagonist, Sean. This was complicated by the fact that it’s Sean’s head we’re in and not liking him is a tough thing. But the thing is, Sean didn’t like himself, and that is an uncomfortable mind to be inside. It took, probably, another 25% to let go of that dislike and to move into a place where I was willing to like him. That was kind of amazing to me and a testament to this author’s skill. She moved me from one place to another with this character and did so in some pretty unexpected ways. There were some things I wasn’t sure I’d ever get past, and by the end I absolutely had.

Sean did so many fucked-up, human, annoying, wrong-headed things that hurt people, but most especially himself. At first, I couldn’t understand why he did such awful things, but as the book unravels, as you see him in more and more situations the understanding arrives. Though it doesn’t erase the desire to reach into the book and shake him.

The prose is amazing. The scenes are rendered so clearly that it’s like walking through a film, or being a ghost in the scene, living it with them. Or perhaps it is most like being actually inside Sean’s head, existing as Sean, or like you’re his best friend, more intimate even than his best friend, hearing his every thought, seeing everything in his unique way. That is, of course, what truly wonderful first person POV writing allows, and Ms. D’Souza manages it amazingly.

This next bit will cover the book’s biggest flaw: too many sex scenes. It stuns me to even write those words because I adore sex scenes. And for about the first 70% of the book there wasn’t a single sex scene that, when I looked at it honestly, I felt I’d drop. Even though there were an overwhelming number of them, sometimes one after another. Each one did a specific thing that was important for the reader and for the character. They moved the story along and there was an overarching theme to the sex scenes. However, when the theme is finally completely understood by both the reader and the character, I felt like some of the scenes became redundant. (Though they were always beautifully rendered, always intensely intimate.) Several could have been cut. There were several points when I actually thought, “Oh, man, not sex AGAIN.” And that’s a very bizarre thing for me to think because I’m a huge fan of the sex scene in books and like lots of them. I can honestly say I’m not sure I’ve read another book in my life with as many sex scenes as Calling Pomegranate contains. And, again, most of them were needed and important and accomplished something specific for the characters/plot/emotional arc.

The book is long and it was a time investment for me. It took me months to read it because of the above mentioned sex scenes–as a mom with a nosy kid, as a person who is usually reading in a place like my kid’s gymnastic’s lobby, there aren’t that many places I’m totally comfortable reading sex scenes, and my reading time is often limited, so I’d have to leave this book aside for long swaths of time.

Back to the good things: there are several reveal scenes in the book that are breathtaking in their humanity and emotional impact on the readers and characters. This book took me on a journey into these characters lives in a really intense, emotional way. And, just as one of the themes in the book suggests, growing to know these characters changed things for me. I went from thinking Sean was an asshole and that Cary was frustrating, from thinking that their sex was brutal and fucked-up, to finding the dark, sweet heart of their humanity, to understanding them and loving them like they were real people, to having understanding of their motivations like I do for my closest friends. And, well, that’s a damn triumph.

I’m severely disappointed that this book has such a limited audience. It’s a sad testament to the fact that some brilliant books will never get the audience they deserve. This isn’t an easy book to read, but it’s a book worth reading. There aren’t many people who can write like this. It’s a shame that so many people will miss out on reading Ms. D’Souza’s prose.

At the same time I understand why it might be less accessible to some people. It’s full of references and fannish love of music, movies, books. It’s got characters who are obsessed with these things in a way that goes deeper than the average joe and they use this fannish love to communicate with each other. There’s a nerdiness here that some readers might loathe and others might see as shallow–because you have to know what it is to love some media deeply to really understand how using that media to communicate can work and buy it as a valid form of communication of emotion and meaning between characters.

Regardless, it’s brilliant and I’m a little angry that I’ve had this intense reading experience and I doubt that many others will end up sharing it with me. If you do read it, let me know. I’d love to discuss it with you.


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Each Character Is His Own Self

I wonder if I made this guy a character if he’d be willing to discuss his feelings about and motivations for having this cat on his head? I hope it’s not anything we’d need to consider fading to black over. *shudder*

I’ve been writing for a long time now and almost every character I’ve written has been more than happy to share everything about their sex lives in rather graphic ways. That’s why I write erotica and romantica. My characters have always liked to overshare.

Until one of my more recent books! My latest character is quite shy and very vanilla. While he’ll tell me a little about the sex he’s having, it’s not nearly so graphic or wild as some of the other characters I’ve written. He’ll go into it some, but when pushed he just sort of clams up. So, I haven’t pushed him much and just let the scenes stand as they do. They aren’t fade to black for the most part, but they are not nearly the same degree of graphic that I usual end up writing.

My friend asked me why this was the case and wondered if I was trying to tone things down. The reason is the character. I’m not trying to tone my writing down, not at all. It’s just this particular character has a lot of reluctance and so I don’t push him. It’s a good reminder that our characters aren’t entirely of our design. They don’t do what we say or what we want. They are their own creatures.

I had another character who was pleased as punch to tell me all about the sex he was having but when it came to his emotions and motivations? He wasn’t interested in sharing. Which, uh, made things quite difficult let me tell you. It also made for a lot of rewrites. *shakes character hard*

What about you? Every had an experience of a character not giving you information that others have spat out willingly?

Writer Wednesday: Liz Crowe


1. I love your website’s tagline. Romance for Real Life. Tell us a little about what that means to you and how that represents your books.

Romance for Real Life is actually a phrase coined by one of my early fans after she read the Stewart Realty series. I experienced the basic timing bad luck of having those books come out about the same time as another, much bigger and more best selling erotic fiction trilogy did and a few people who had not bothered to actually read my books accused me of poaching on “her idea.” Without getting into a discussion of how mine were a lot more original from the get go I will just say that a reader who HAD read them came up with this phrase that I co-opted with her permission. I think it is an amazingly acute description of what I write on many levels. I take every romance convention readers expect and flip them on their head, reversing emotional roles for hero and heroine at times, making everyone very real, as in with flaws that lead to life-changing mistakes. Sure you will most likely get to an ending you find happy, but it will be a journey of self-discovery for the characters that at times may be frustrating for reader who want the fairy tale. And my characters don’t make drastic personality changes that feel forced. They live their lives, screw up and change…slowly, and not completely either, but in my view real people just don’t.

There is nothing wrong with the fairy tale. However I write what I like to read–books with longer or more complex plot arcs, involving real people (I don’t read or write paranormal, sci fi but do have one sort of historical set in the 1960s) with very real life situations. Billionaires are few and far between but the characters are hard working professionals for the most part, many in real estate or in the brewing business like this story. I have readers contacting me via my website or facebook or twitter who are mad at me for writing such compelling, yet frustrating stories that “keep them up all night long” nearly every day now.

That said, I have been lambasted by a couple of “traditional” and big time romance book reviewers.

And that allows me to rest my case, I suppose. The categories I am a best seller in on Amazon are NOT romance but “family saga” and “urban fiction.” Don’t be intimidated by this. My books include smoking hot explicit sex (in many cases) but as part of the story, not just to have a sex scene. But are long on plot, have secondary characters who end up needing their own stories at times, and truly do compel people to keep reading.


2. The blurb for Paradise Hops begins “A brutal attack left Lori Brockton convinced she was damaged goods. By the time she emerges from hiding two years later, ready to run her family’s famous brewery, she’s determined to be independent–never rely on anyone ever again. ” Were you at all worried about how to deal with trauma in a romance novel? Did you do anything specific to try to avoid falling into the possible cliches there, or were you interested in embracing those cliches?

As I said earlier, I embrace romance formulas close enough to turn them into something else. And all of my books contain personal trauma and offer opportunities for characters to overcome them, growing and learning and suffering, yes, but always growing. Since I am not a reader of traditional romance at all, it’s not hard for me to avoid cliches because if I hit anything resembling a cliche in any of the books I read I put them aside for something else.

I am actually trying to get away from categorizing my books as “romance.” I would not really call this book romance and my early ARC reviews are all glowing but say that straight up–this is NOT traditional romance. Yes there is a love story, but its wrapped up in something that is completely different (not weird, creepy or superficial either mind you, just different).

3. Your bio on your blog opens with, “Microbrewery owner, best-selling author, beer blogger and journalist, mom of three teenagers, and soccer fan, Liz lives in the great Midwest, in a major college town. Years of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as an ex-pat trailing spouse, plus making her way in a world of men (i.e. the beer industry), has prepped her for life as erotic romance author.” Wow! That’s a lot going on, lady! How do you handle the stress of having it all?

Well, I enjoy both of my jobs so I make time and room for it all. I do try and de stress by doing Bikram yoga (the hot kind) which helps keep my head from spinning around into the outer atmosphere. And I have a solid support group both at my house and in the publishing world–folks who will smack me around when need be if I get too Diva, or too consumed by one particular project — reminding me to live my life, if you will, with writing and beer as part of it.
The things that suffer are (in no particular order):
food preparation in any organized fashion
but those were never things I was terribly “into” mind you.


4. Tell us more about Paradise Hops and what makes it different from other books out there.

I’m going to quote a review that came out before the release:

“Liz Crowe doesn’t write typical romance. She doesn’t write those romances that most of us are so fond of, those that wrap up all the conflict and angst by the end of the book and present readers with a happily ever after that takes readers to cloud nine for a while. Not that there’s a problem with those, but Liz is different. …
Point blank, Paradise Hops has the tragedy of a Shakespearean play, the love triangle of Pearl Harbor (the film) and the emotional upheaval of P.S. I Love You. This is not an easy journey, it is full of confusion, angst, difficult choices and heart breaking situations that put love to the test and forces one woman to confront the consequences of her choices head on.

Lori Brockton is in a tough situation, she’s caught between two men who could be “Mr. Right” for her. If only she could be sure which man IS the right one for her.

It would be easy to judge Lori for her inability to choose between Garrett and Eli but before you bring out your pitchforks, think about this: Could you choose between one man who completes your need for a quiet, strong, dependable love and another man who completes your need for a wild, passionate, addictive love?

Uh huh, not as easy to judge her now is it?

Neither man is wrong for Lori, they just appeal to totally different sides of her emotionally and sexually. It’s nearly impossible to hate either one of them because both Garrett and Eli love Lori deeply and sincerely but each in their own unique way. Author Liz Crowe created sympathy for all three characters when it would be so easy to cast one or more of them as villains. The only true villain were the circumstances Garrett, Eli and Lori find themselves in.”

I could really not have said it better myself. This reviewer/reader really got the gist of what I was trying to accomplish with this book. I wanted to push boundaries, craft characters that were compelling, realistic and sympathetic in their own way.

5. Of your back catalogue, do you have a secret favorite? If so, which book and why?

Hmmm….well, I’m pretty partial to another brewery based stand alone that is more along the lines of suspense: Cheeky Blonde. But my absolute favorite is the first book of the Stewart Realty series: Floor Time. It was the book that started the whole “romance for real life” ball rolling for me. That series has sold the most of any of mine so far.


A YouTube Trailer for Paradise Hops