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I’ve heard it’s all arse over tit with girls—euphemistically speaking, unless you get lucky and get a real goer—and they expect you to do the talking first, fucking second. Get the important stuff out of the way first; that’s what I always say.

-         Chris, Permanently Legless by JL Merrow

“I’m waiting for someone special.”
[Felix:] “Like me, you mean?”
“No. Just, for when I fall in love.”

-         Andrew, Tailor Made by Josephine Myles


Two very different approaches to that pesky, wonderful process of finding that special someone to share your Happy Ever After. But which is better? Which would you like to see your romantic heroes adopt?

Personally, I’m torn. While I quite like the awkwardness and embarrassment my heroes can be made to suffer after becoming intimate with someone they hardly know, I’m also a fan of the big UST build-up, where the boys become ever more desperate to get their hands on each other. (Yes, I’m evil—I like my heroes to suffer!) What do you think, Jo?

Jo: I’ve got to admit, you’re highly unlikely to find me leaving my characters to stew for too long – I tend to agree with your first quote from Chris: get it out of the way. It’s partly because I love writing long, plotty sex scenes, but also because I enjoy the way you can then show a marked change in the level of intimacy between the two (or three!) as the story progresses.

A “casual” sexual encounter between two near strangers can be awkward and embarrassing, I agree, which is always fun to write. However, it can also be hot as hell and allow an otherwise repressed character to let go of a few inhibitions. What does it matter if they confess a secret desire or fetish to someone they don’t really know and they’re not planning to see again? Then I get to be really cruel and make them fall in love with that person!

I think I just enjoy the kind of dynamic between two characters who don’t have a clue what’s going on inside the other’s head, like Dan and Robin when they first get together in Barging In. Those kind of sex scenes are rich with possibility for the writer. Are you honestly telling me, Jamie, that you prefer your characters to have an old-fashioned courtship before they hop into bed?

Jamie: Old-fashioned courtship? No. But extended period of ratcheting up the sexual tension until they’re practically climbing the walls? Definitely! I just love that feeling of Oh-my-God-I-want-him-but-I-can’t-have-him—particularly if the two are forced into close contact with no, ahem, relief in sight! It can be great fun working out a scenario where they get to look, but not touch; having them come across (no pun intended!) one another in a state of undress. In Pricks and Pragmatism, I had the boys living together but not sleeping together, and in Hard Tail, which will be out in the summer, they work together. In Stroke to His Cox, I had them in the same college rowing eight, with all the attendant flexing of sweaty muscles and getting-off of kit—delicious!

And interestingly, your line about enjoying the dynamic between two characters who don’t have a clue what’s going on inside the other’s head applies equally well here. I get what you’re saying about inhibitions flying out of the window with a stranger and then coming back to bite you in the bum—but don’t you think delayed gratification can be all the sweeter? ;)

Jo: (furrowing brow) What’s this delayed gratification you speak of? I’m not familiar with that concept ;P

Actually, I do enjoy creating a bit of UST in the early chapters but I’m just not mean enough to keep it going all the way through a novel. I think it’s a reflection of me starting out writing primarily erotica as I tend to have a surplus of UST pretty early on, rather than letting it build slowly over time. I enjoy it when characters feel lust at first sight, and I can only string that out until about a third of the way through. That was as far as I could manage in Handle with Care (forthcoming release), as by then the boys were clamoring to tear each other’s clothes off and I couldn’t actually stop them—not that I really wanted to!

I’m a little perplexed by the mindset that prefers delayed gratification romance over steamy erotic romance, although I do enjoy reading them occasionally. However, my muse is a bacchanalian bastard and demands I feed him plenty of scorching hot sex on a regular basis. I take it you’ve managed to tame your muse? Or perhaps she was never such a smut-fiend as mine in the first place?

Jamie: LOL! I now have an image of my muse as a strait-laced Victorian spinster! Probably named something like Agatha or Prudence, she spends her days reading improving books and campaigning for temperance!

Actually, my muse enjoys scorching hot sex as much as the next Greek nymphette—but haven’t you ever heard of being cruel to be kind? Trust me, the boys will thank me for it later...much later—they’re a little busy right now! ;D

Jo: See, you’re being cruel to be kind by delaying the gratification, and I’m being kind to be cruel by allowing them to have sex early on, but by making things difficult for them by introducing all sorts of emotions they weren’t expecting and aren’t ready for. I love doing that! And if it means I get to write plenty of sizzling and plotty sex scenes, all the better :)

I wonder what other readers and writers think? Is casual sex early on in a story something you enjoy, or would you rather wait to make it all the sweeter?


JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She read natural sciences at Cambridge, where she learned many things, chief amongst which was that she never wanted to see the inside of a lab again. Her one regret is that she never mastered the ability of punting one-handed whilst holding a glass of champagne.
She has had over thirty short stories and novellas published by Dreamspinner Press, Torquere Press, and Samhain Publishing, among others. Camwolf, a paranormal romance, is her first novel, and her second, Wight Mischief, a romantic thriller, was published in November 2011.

Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com.


English through and through, Josephine Myles is addicted to tea and busy cultivating a reputation for eccentricity. She writes gay erotica and romance, but finds the erotica keeps cuddling up to the romance, and the romance keeps corrupting the erotica. Jo blames her rebellious muse but he never listens to her anyway, no matter how much she threatens him with a big stick. She’s beginning to suspect he enjoys it.
Jo once spent two years living on a slowly decaying narrowboat, and was determined that she would one day use the experience as fodder for a novel. It may have taken a few years, but she got there in the end. She usually does. Barging In, her first novel, was released by Samhain Publishing in September 2011.

Find Jo Myles online at josephinemyles.com.


From Clare: Like to stretch your writing fingers after Christmas' excesses? Fancy writing something for the visitors this month? It can be anything from a flashfic 3 sentences to a drabble of 100 or so, or even more. Any genre, any theme, any rating, any character(s). Maybe ones you already love, maybe the chance to try on a new character for size.
I'm holding a FREE FICTION DAY on the 28th, so send me new fiction - links to your existing work also welcome! - to clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll post it all then :).

FOLLOW the Birthday Blog so far:
Don't forget the PRIZE DRAW for the (in)famous GRL bracelet **OPEN TO JAN 31**

Jan 16: Sasha L. Miller making magic happen.
Jan 17: H. B. Pattskyn shares a free short story.
Jan 17: Becky Black on what can really happen after publishing.
Jan 18: Blaine D. Arden on keeping it close to her heart.
Jan 18: Tam battles with IKEA - and wins!
Jan 19: Toni Anderson shares her love of romance novels.
Jan 19: Poppy Dennison introduces the Boxer Falls m/m serial, plus a PRIZE DRAW for the (in)famous GRL bracelet **OPEN TO JAN 31**
Jan 20: Erastes shows us life from a horse's-eye view.
Jan 21: Anna Martin shares a beautiful and provocative ballet.
Jan 21: Andrea Speed shares snippets from Diary of the Damned.
Jan 22: Anne Barwell introduces her new WW2 m/m romance drama.

Jan 09: Lee Rowan shares her healthy resolution.
Jan 10: Rowena Sudbury and the beauty of a blue moon.
Jan 10: Sandra Lindsay and her WIP characters.
Jan 11: Shelley Munro and a tour of bedrooms through the ages.
Jan 11: Dany Sirene and her love of Goth characters.
Jan 12: Sarah Madison and her decision to stop competing.
Jan 13: Alix Bekins shares her love of kink.
Jan 14: Janis Susan May on writing one word at a time.
Jan 14: Charlie Cochrane watches movies with hankies at hand.
Jan 15: Megan Derr and the inspiration in fairytales.


Jan 01: luscious_words shares some fabulous icons.
Jan 02: Jordan Castillo Price shares her experience of re-releasing books.
Jan 03: Mara Ismine wonders how important is continuity in fiction?
Jan 04: Jen shares her favourite Rom Com movies.
Jan 05: Karenna Colcroft introduces her unusual werewolf.
Jan 06: Stevie Carroll takes us on a pictorial tour of her favourite locations.
Jan 07: Tinnean quotes Jack Benny on age.
Jan 07: Josie makes a brave leap into a scary sport.
Jan 08: Elin Gregory finds inspiration at every turn.


Check up on: Prior years fun HERE
and The 2012 Guest schedule HERE.

Want to join in but missed the original call? Email me at clarelondon11 AT yahoo.co.uk and I'll happily find you a space

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( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 23rd, 2012 01:54 pm (UTC)
Once again I get to sit on the fence. :-) I just thank god it's not a picket one.

I like both. Sometimes total strangers right off the bat, only to have to work out later how they get to know each other and actually like each other outside the bedroom (or bathroom stall, or back alley), really works. And other times that slow build-up, the brushes, the near kisses, the seemingly innocent touches and scorching gazes, can have you as wound up as the couple in question so when it happens it's like an explosion. Ahhhh.

But like anything, it's all about execution. Insta-sex (which is far more appealing than insta-love) can seem like an easy way to get to them together, especially when the rest of the relationship is ignored. I really hate the hot sex = love thing. Hot sex = hot sex, and maybe love can stem from that. But also if you drag out the anticipation too long you start to not care, because how many times can the roommate, boss, mother, cat, walk in the room and interrupt them? After a point, a normal human being would rent a damn hotel room under an assumed name and MAKE IT HAPPEN. Like most things I find in reading, it has to make sense. To me anyway.

So see? My definitive answer is ... both.
Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)
Excellent points, Tam! I was playing devil's advocate to a degree in pretending I don't like UST, but I think it's just because I've read a few books where it does get dragged out to ridiculous lengths with the interruptions, etc. Like you say, if they had an ounce of sense they'd find a way to make it happen.

That said, the opposite problem of when you have a couple on the run from certain death who keep stopping to shag? Well, that seems ridiculous too!

There are plenty of wonderful books out there than make both the insta-lust and the drawn out UST approach work, though :)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 02:17 pm (UTC)
I enjoy both, as long as the writing is good I'm happy :)

Jan. 23rd, 2012 05:22 pm (UTC)
Good writing makes all the difference, doesn't it? While I do love a fair bit of sex in my books, I don't really demand it in every single thing I read ;)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Speaking as someone who wrote a couple of characters who took 250,000 words to get to the first kiss, and then lots more to get to bed together at last, I'd be lying if I said I didn't like a bit of drawn-out-to-screaming-point UST. :D I can't drag things out that long now of course, but it can still be fun to make them wait for a while.

I'm very keen on writing characters who are in a position where they shouldn't get involved with each other, but they absolutely must or they're just going to explode! That doesn't have to mean making them wait for sex every time though. One I have written though not edited yet has the two leads getting together for a casual encounter right at the start, with no idea who the other is, then later being introduced to each other as someone they're going to be working closely with and absolutely shouldn't be getting sexually involved with. There's a difference there from the tension of "what would it be like? I have to know!", because it's more "I remember how hot it was and I want more!" Memory, not curiosity is the problem.
Jan. 24th, 2012 08:17 am (UTC)
250,000 words.... your poor characters! ;D

I think the situation you've described - characters who want each other, but know they shouldn't, is my favourite type of UST. There has to be a good reason why they don't just jump into bed with each other, or you just lose patience!

And giving them a taste of the forbidden fruit, then snatching it from their yearning lips... you've really mastered this cruel-to-be-kind thing, haven't you? ;D
Jan. 24th, 2012 09:33 am (UTC)
My characters are born to suffer. The more I like them the more I hurt them. :D But they get to be happy in the end, so they can't complain - too much.
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:29 am (UTC)
You're definitely a sadistic author - 250k?!!!

Memory of hot times is a good one for torturing characters. It's why "the one that got away" remains such an enduring trope, I'm sure.
Jan. 24th, 2012 03:19 pm (UTC)
You're definitely a sadistic author - 250k?!!!

I know, those poor boys. I had to organise a coup, have them forced into exile and give one of them a disabling shoulder injury to get them into a position where they could finally settle down and be happy. :D
Jan. 23rd, 2012 08:55 pm (UTC)
I'll go with Tam and say both in moderation.

I enjoy the torture of UST. There is a point beyond which UST brings the reader to screaming point because the characters haven't got there yet. The constant interruptions do get tedious unless it is a farcial comedy (and even then I do lose patience sometimes).

Insta-sex can be good too. That one night stand who turns out to be a new work colleague/important client/next door neighbour is a classic. Sometimes it is more difficult to see why the couple want to make it any more than one night though.

It does all depend on the writer!
Jan. 24th, 2012 08:20 am (UTC)
Oh, yes - the toe-curling embarrassment of finding out that bloke you thought you'd never see again is now a constant fixture in your life! But you're right - the writer has to do the work and show why these guys have a future together. :)
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:35 am (UTC)
Exactly! Hot sex does not a relationship make. They absolutely must have more than that in common and click together outside of the bedroom (although not all the time, because that would be dull)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 08:59 pm (UTC)
I have to admit, I kind of like the drawn out UST - because it does add to the sweetness of the final release, but the other kind can be just as fun if done right (and I know Jo does it right LOL - might be biased a bit LOL) This was definitely a fun and interesting read.
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:30 am (UTC)
Thanks hon! UST can be great too, I'll admit it (through clenched teeth!)
Jan. 23rd, 2012 11:22 pm (UTC)
I love how the first sentences of your bios are completely opposite re: your stances on tea. :)

My answer: It should fit the story. Make it work, make me believe it, and I'm good with it.
Jan. 24th, 2012 08:12 am (UTC)
LOL! Hey, we're British - love tea or loathe it, we can't get away without at least mentioning it! We're already skating on thin ice by not talking about the weather... actually, now I come to think about it, in an older bio I did talk about the weather! ;D

And yes - totally with you on what works for the story. :)
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:32 am (UTC)
Jamie's stance on tea is just as baffling as her insistence on prolonged UST! At least she likes coffee. I'd have to disown her as a friend if she wasn't into hot drinks at all ;P

Fitting the story and characters is all important, isn't it?
Jan. 24th, 2012 01:29 pm (UTC)
As someone who dislikes tea... :D
Jan. 23rd, 2012 11:25 pm (UTC)
Mostly I like the slow build-up. In the story I'm editing now there's been UST bubbling under the surface for years before the story begins. Then when they finally admit it to each other, things go horribly wrong because of a supernatural twist. And it's going to take another twist before there's finally a chance of them getting together.

On the other hand I've just started writing a story about two people who meet up for the first time in decades, having known each other as children. That will involve them getting together quickly but then I'll throw in a huge bunch of obstacles before they get their Happy For
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:33 am (UTC)
Maybe I need to try this slow build up of UST thing you all speak of. I did in my very first fanfic, which got to around 40k or so before they did the deed. Hmm...
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:56 pm (UTC)
Oh, that slow build-up story sounds fantastic! I like the sound of things going horribly wrong... Yup, I'm mean like that! ;D
Jan. 25th, 2012 08:38 am (UTC)
I got the proper edits back on that one last night, and it's going to end up with even more build-up scenes by the look of things.

It's my version of the crossroads story, but in this case the deal with the devil takes place in a Volvo on the A140, rather than at an actual crossroads, although a roundabout is sort of involved).
Jan. 24th, 2012 03:30 pm (UTC)
I'm a UST girl through and through and I'm afraid my author alter-ego appears to be heading in that same direction. Maybe I just can't the steamy sex scenes of which you speak!
Jan. 24th, 2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
For me at least, sex scenes are rarely steamy without some emotional connection to the characters, so I'd say, go for it - crank up that UST! ;D
Jan. 25th, 2012 06:18 am (UTC)
Phew, in the story I've just submitted to my editor our heroes don't do the dirty 'til p 145!
Jan. 26th, 2012 11:34 am (UTC)
Lovely post that made me smile a lot.

When I'm reading I like both approaches - basically whatever works best for the plot. I tend not to read the short erotic pieces where the sole raison d'etre for the story is the sexual content. Those can be beautifully written and I appreciate that, but I enjoy a complex and detailed set of events with the relationship interwoven with all the incidents far more. UST can really drive a story along, especially with historical subjects where casual sex is less of an option.

I now have an image of my muse as a strait-laced Victorian spinster! Probably named something like Agatha or Prudence

I think we must share her. I love writing UST but biting the bullet and writing an actual sex scene can give me near terminal writer's block. I'm rubbish at writing erotica so don't attempt it. Instead my gentlemen exchange meaningful looks and occasional strong hand clasps while battling what ever adversary I've pitted them against. :)
Jan. 26th, 2012 07:24 pm (UTC)
Catching up on my missed posts and still laughing over this line: What’s this delayed gratification you speak of? I’m not familiar with that concept . Well done.
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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