Tag Archives: Poignant scenes

Romance? Er … (gulp) … OK

This week on the Gumbee blog, we have the quite brilliant (which often means genially insane in my experience) Marcus Pailing. Marcus writes much harder fantasy than I do, and isn’t averse to a bit of gore. So, let’s see what he thinks of the softer side of fantasy…..

(Oh, and incidentally, I was indulging my romantic side when I added the tags for peril, conflict, fight scenes and pursuit… Will)

“Romance, eh?” I thought as the suggestion was put forward. My esteemed Gumbee colleague, Will MacMillan Jones, had recently returned from the Festival of Romance, and was all afire with passion … or such was the impression he gave. It was his suggestion, with a fast-beating heart and hot cheeks, that we turn our attention to the theme, to see whether the rest of us could also demonstrate our forays into the realms of romance.

I don’t consider myself much practised in the writing of romance. Generally I’m more of a swords and spears fantasy writer (and I don’t mean that euphemistically). When I was growing up, fantasy novels either steered clear of ‘lurve’ (and often eschewed females entirely, or kept them as very minor characters); or else treated women as lusty, heaving-bosomed bit-players, planted in the stories to demonstrate the equally lusty masculinity of the over-muscled protagonist.

Now, I appreciate a heaving bosom as much as the next man, but I never wanted to have female characters who were mere eye-candy. At the same time, I never set out to write ‘romance’. I did introduce it to my novels, however; but in small measures only – my main characters do meet women, marry them, and have children with them, after all.

This changed somewhat when I wrote The Withered Rose, because the entire novel is basically a romantic tragedy. So when the idea for this theme came up, I turned to that novel to see what I had written.

In order to explain the following extract, here’s some context. There are two friends, both called Atela. One of them is locked in a marriage that is starting to fall apart, having had a very positive start; the other has recently married herself, and is blissfully happy. Kieldrou, the son of the count of Trall, is younger than both the women, but has dazzled them with his tales of adventure – he has recently returned from a journey in the exotic lands of Azzawa. He has made it clear already that he finds them both attractive, and while he hasn’t exactly attempted to seduce either of them, he has managed in the past to trick them into giving him kisses.


“My ladies, I said that I had gifts for you both.”

The two Atelas sat in a window seat, having moved away from their husbands after a while of conversation. Now Kieldrou stood before them again. He had left his audience, where Derian was now entertaining the folk with more tales of their time in the east. Kieldrou looked a little flushed, but it was not from drink; more likely it was the excitement of having had an audience hanging on his every word.

“I think you should consider becoming a player,” teased Short Atela. “Entertaining the masses with your tall tales.”

“I swear, on my honour, that I exaggerate nothing,” he said, sounding only a little hurt. “I told nothing but the truth. Although perhaps it is better that you did not stay to hear me tell of the thieves of Ukhara, or you really would not believe me.”

“You noticed we had gone?” Atela asked. “I thought you too engrossed in your glory.”

“I noticed,” he said softly. “But it does not matter. I do not seek to gain favour with mere stories.”

Atela raised an eyebrow. “And how would you gain favour?”

“With gifts.”

At that, Kieldrou held out two small wooden boxes, handing one to Atela, and the other to the younger woman. “I found them in Ukhara, and thought of you both.”

“After three years?” laughed Short Atela. “Or did you buy them, and then think of us when you got here?”

Kieldrou frowned, and stepped back slightly, giving them a little space as they opened the boxes.

Atela gasped. Lying inside her box was a small white rose, exquisitely carved from the purest ivory – a rare and expensive luxury in Western Gilderaen – and turned into a brooch. It was a perfect reproduction of the flower, even in miniature. Short Atela was similarly overcome: hers was a tulip, also most delicately carved.

“I recalled the silver rose I gave you at your wedding,” Kieldrou said, his voice faltering a little. There was none of his usual humour in his voice. “I remembered how much you liked it, which is why I thought of you when I saw it. For you, my lady,” he continued, turning to Short Atela, “I wanted something of similar beauty, to match yours.” For the first time in Atela’s memory, he appeared to blush a little.

“It is beautiful,” Atela murmured. “Truly a marvel, and I do thank you. What favour do you wish for in return, then? Are you hungry for another kiss?”

She said it quickly, laughing, and without thinking. She certainly did not expect the reaction she got. Kieldrou’s brows creased in a frown, and he muttered a denial, before turning on his heel and striding away.

The two Atelas looked at each other, puzzled. “Did I offend him?” Atela asked, and the other shrugged. “Oh, Hogra, I fear I have. We forget he is a young man, now, no longer a high-spirited boy.”

“We must apologise,” Short Atela said. “Where has he gone?”

They scanned the hall, but he was nowhere to be seen. They figured he must have left, and they stood up to follow him. Yet they had to be discreet: it would not be seemly for them to go chasing after him. As they walked through the hall they were accosted again by Elnir and Sturgar, and were forced to stay in conversation for some time. When they escaped, they were then trapped by the earl and countess of Mendivar. It was a good half hour before they managed to get out of the hall.

“Let us try the garden,” Short Atela suggested. Atela nodded, and they hurried along the empty corridors towards the door that led out to the cloister.

It was late, and the garden was lit by a pale moon, throwing dark shadows yet illuminating the rows of flowers in the middle of the garden. He was there, walking alone between the bushes. He turned when they called his name, stiffening when he saw who it was that disturbed him.

“Kieldrou, I am truly sorry,” Atela said. “I was teasing, forgetting you are no longer a boy. It was wrong of me, and you did not deserve it.”

“I, also,” Short Atela admitted. “They are truly beautiful gifts, and you must have thought hard about them. We do not deserve your kindness, nor your thoughts of us while so far from home.”

Kieldrou gave a wan smile. “No, my ladies, you deserved no less. I can easily forgive your teasing. It is my fault: of course I expected nothing in return, and there was no call for me to take umbrage. Besides, you are both married women. Perhaps I should not have made you those gifts at all.”

“But they are most gratefully received,” Atela said. “I, for one, will treasure mine.” Beside her, Short Atela nodded in agreement.

“I am glad,” he said. “I have no expectations, but beauty and friendship should be rewarded.”

Atela felt a tightness in her chest, and she never knew what made her do as she then did. “Indeed they should,” she replied, and she stood on her toes to plant a light kiss on his lips. She felt his arm reach round her shoulder and she stepped back quickly. She remembered the strength of those arms three years before, and dreaded what she would do if she felt them around her again. “I’m sorry,” she breathed. “That is all I can give.”

He smiled sadly. “I understand, my lady.” He bowed to them both, and turned to go.


He turned back, and looked at Short Atela, who stepped forward, biting her lip. “I’m sorry,” she said, “that I cannot offer you even a kiss. I … it would not …”

“Thank you, my lady,” he said, cutting her off to save her the embarrassment of stumbling through a needless explanation. “You are happily married, I know. As I said, I have no expectations. The gifts were gifts, and deserve no payment. Although I shall treasure your return gift,” he added to Atela, briefly touching his lips.

Then he was gone.

“Oh, Hogra!” Atela groaned. “What did I do?”

“Nothing wrong,” Short Atela said, firmly. “It was a friendly gesture, that is all. Although it was wise to step back when you did.” She laughed, but it was a brittle laugh.

“I almost lost myself. What was I thinking? I am eleven years older than he, and married.”

“Locked in a withering marriage,” Short Atela shot back. “Let us be honest about it. Yet you must not do any more. I would advise you – both of us – not to seek out that young man again. You’ve had ‘the talk’ from my mother.”

Atela started. “How did you know?”

Short Atela laughed. “I know my mother. You were clearly unhappy at the time of my betrothal, and you sought a private meeting with her. She never told me what you discussed, but I am not stupid. I know her, and I have seen enough other women seek her advice. It takes no great imagination to guess what advice my poor, dear, beautiful and unsociable mother could give.

“Come on,” she went on, taking Atela’s hand in hers. “Let us get back to the hall and put the Trallian from our minds.”


This is the point in the novel where Atela – the one who this time kissed Kieldrou – begins to harbour romantic thoughts about the young man. Later in the novel these are to cause a lot of pain to a large number of people … but to say more here would rather spoil the story.

Still, the novel only costs £1 on Amazon …




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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 7 Jaq D Hawkins

Ah, young love. Do we all remember the first time we were seriously attracted to someone as hormones pulsed through our bloodstreams? How many of us first noticed someone totally unsuitable? Perhaps they were a different religion or nationality that raised parental prejudices, though we wouldn’t care. Perhaps someone who would not be within reach for other reasons. Imagine what it would be like to be a young girl from a very restrictive religious background and to find that your first attraction was to… a goblin. A creature your parents would call a demon and try to kill. Such is the magic of attraction that the first realisation suddenly makes it all irrelevant. So young Namah learns in Demoniac Dance when she first discovers the goblins who visit the the bonfires of the Magicians who rule the land:

Nobody spoke to her as she quietly got up and walked towards the fire. She had to know the source of that music. She followed the sound as if she were in a trance, unable to resist, following the tune with both her mind and her body. Some part of her felt as if it were observing her movements from afar, no longer in control of this young girl in an alien world. She wondered for a moment if there would be goblins among the adults as well, but as she came among the adults she saw that they were nearly all humans. The magicians. There was only one green skin among them. He was playing an instrument which was the source of the music.

It was some sort of flute-like device that looked as though it had been carved from bone. Bone of what creature? Namah could not help but wonder. There were holes drilled into it, just four in a row and one on the side that the goblin blew into. How do goblins drill holes in bone? Her inquisitive nature soon gave way to pure sensory enjoyment as the sonorous music enraptured her.

Even in the trance-like state, Namah was astounded at the beauty of the goblin. He was slim, yet his toned muscles spoke of strength and agility. It was then that she noticed how little he was wearing, nothing more than a reddish-tinged skin loincloth stood between him and complete nakedness, yet he looked so like an animated statue that she had not immediately noticed. His dark hair fell only just past his pointed ears but had a texture like some of the bigger fluffy dogs that her father kept. There was a long plait that hung down in back between his shoulder blades. His skin, although green, was a deep shade that looked as though it was what green skin would be like with a suntan. Namah knew this was a silly idea, goblins lived underground where there was no sun, but it was the only way she could describe it to herself.

She felt confused. She had always been told that goblins were ugly. The vague memory of the goblin she had seen when she was two was not of a very ugly goblin, but it was not one with this kind of slim beauty that she had seen first in the younger men of her own people and now in this lovely musician. She could not help but admire the delicate line of his straight nose as his fingers moved gracefully over the instrument. He seemed completely at one with the music, the instrument a part of him as much as the elegant fingers that moved across the air holes so expertly. She wondered for a moment how old he really was. If he were human, she would guess him at about nineteen, but goblins were… different. After all, the man that her father had intended to marry her to had been thirty.

What am I thinking! She was aghast at her own thoughts. He’s green! And… another species!

Just at that moment, the song came to a natural finish and the people around Namah applauded. The goblin bowed in response. When he looked up, his eyes met Namah’s. She caught her breath before she could stop the reaction. His eyes were large and almond shaped. The naturally dark lashes lined them as if he were wearing the cosmetics that some women used to frame their eyes. It gave them a dreamy sort of beauty that touched her deepest appreciation. Most disarming though, was their colour. They were a deep golden hue that sparkled like fire, yet pulled her into their depths like the secrets of the deepest pools.


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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 6, M T McGuire

Hmm. Lurve scenes or even emotional pathos. Not entirely my strong point. This is tricky for me. First of all, I have rather the wrong sense of humour to do this kind of stuff well. When my characters are as sarcastic with one another to the point where, read straight, it tends to read as if they are being rather gushy. Then there’s a bit of a problem, from the point of view of this, with spoilers. The whole thing in the K’Barthan trilogy is the will-they-won’t-they nature of the romance. They’re both crazy about each other but will they get together? I wouldn’t want to spoil that so I’m going to go for a scene that promises romance but doesn’t give the game away.

So The Pan of Hamgee, bless him, a man drastically lacking self confidence, falls for a girl who is destined to love someone else; Ruth. She, meanwhile, has to accept that her own view of her destiny counts for nothing until she can persuade other people to change theirs. Until they see her differently, she is going to be on the run with The Pan.

They start off reasonably well. Even though, when he first meets her, The Pan has been narcotically inconvenienced to the point where all he can say is “I’m a little teapot”. Unfortunately he makes a massive gaff  by leaving her on a building for five minutes, at which point she is nearly kidnapped and though he saves her they have a major falling out. He spends a large part of the rest of the book trying to repair the damage and regain her trust. At the point of the excerpt, she has got to the stage where she’s quite keen on him but slightly in denial. He is plain crazy about her but taking it slowly because he doesn’t want to stuff it all up.

With any relationship between characters, I try to keep well out of it and let things develop naturally. Sometimes I get a completely different result to the one I’m expecting. This is rather a long excerpt but I hope it shows what I mean about letting the characters take the lead. I had no idea these two would become close when I started the series. But the minute they met and started talking to one another it was obvious they were going to, whatever happened.

In this excerpt they have just got to a safe haven after a couple of days on the run. They’re tired, they’ve slept in a car, they smell because neither of them have had a shower but they are delighted to have made it to a secret safe haven, hidden in the top floor of the RAC Club.

The Pan returned to the RAC Club and tried to hide his glee when, once again, they let him in. He climbed a flight of stairs to an oval atrium, where he found a set of wheels very similar to his snurd.

“How come these get to park inside?” he muttered. Close to him, someone laughed.

“You really should stop talking to yourself. It’s not parked. It’s a display you dolt, it’s a car – a Lotus to be precise.”

He couldn’t keep the smile off his face. She’d waited for him. Surely that meant something?

“Ruth, why aren’t you with the others?”

“Because I wanted some time to myself and this is about the only place where I’m safe to wander round on my own. Besides, one of us has to show you where we are staying. Oh and I can’t have a shower yet because Big Merv is using one bathroom and somebody called Trev is in the other one.”

No way.

“Trev’s here?” The Pan was laughing.


“And Gladys and Ada?”

“So I hear.”

“You haven’t met them?”

“Not yet. Where have you been? I’ve been waiting ages.”

“Sorry, it took longer than I thought.”

“You got lost?”


“You didn’t park it, did you? You let it go off on its own.”

“It argued…”

“What am I going to do with you, Mister Pan?” she said.

“Mmm… I could think of something.”

“Stop flirting.” Uh-oh. She sounded stern.

“Are you angry with me?”

She shook her head and smiled.

“No. Although I don’t know why not.”

He nodded at the car.


“Yeh, expensive too. I always wanted one of these but just as I’d scraped the money together they got trendy and the price shot up.”

“It looks like my snurd,” said The Pan.

“I hadn’t thought but now you mention it, I suppose it does.” Ruth took his hand and led him up several flights of stairs to a door marked ‘service’. She pressed the dot of the i and it opened with a click.

“Service?” He gave her a quizzical look.

“Service,” she said flatly but she was trying not to smile. “I hope you’re paying attention, Mister Pan.”

“Of course.”

“Good.” Behind the door was a large cupboard. Along two sides were shelves. Dusters neatly folded, tins of polish, dish cloths, rubber gloves, sponges and green scritchers were all lined up carefully, each in its allotted place. Leaning along the other wall; brooms, mops in buckets, vacuum cleaners and hanging on a peg, several pinnies. She turned on the light and shut them in. The Pan raised one eyebrow.

“Did you mean to lure me into a cupboard or are we lost?”

“I would never be so foolish as to deliberately lure you into a cupboard. I know exactly what you’d try to do.”

“Yet here we are. What happens next?” he asked her. She giggled.

“Will you behave?”

“I take it we’re lost then.”

“No, Mister Pan, we are not lost.” She pushed one of the brackets holding up the back shelf and the entire wall opened slowly into a room, on the far side of it was a large water tank. Large, in this case, meant big enough to accommodate the quantities of water required to service the entire RAC Club and probably top up the swimming pool downstairs. It was the size of a double-decker bus or thereabouts. She turned a light on, switched the cupboard light off and the wall began to swing slowly back into position. The Pan stepped smartly through to join her in the space beyond. He glanced at the tank and raised the other eyebrow this time.

“Are we here about the plumbing?”

She laughed again.

“Will you be sensible for one moment?” On the side of the water tank was a tap. She turned it but no water came out. Instead the front of the tank swung open. “Apparently, the Underground has quite a lot of money and the RAC Club are very accommodating. Sir Robin says the apartments here were built some years ago when the Grongles first invaded K’Barth. The Architrave was going to flee here but he never did…” Well, The Pan thought, he’d got beheaded, which might have made travel difficult. “Sir Robin says they are portal proof. Apparently you’ll understand what that means, heaven knows I don’t.” She leaned back against the side of the tank and gestured him past her. “There you are, Mister Pan. Welcome to Free K’Barth.”

He moved closer to her and peered in. The tank contained a flight of stairs at the top of which was a short corridor and a perfectly normal door.

“Arnold in the Skies. Now that’s impressive.” He chuckled. “Shall we?” She took his outstretched hand.

“If you insist.”

As Ruth and The Pan moved towards the door at the end of the corridor, he noticed a shift in her mood. She slowed and eventually stopped a few feet away.

“I think we’ve come up a bit short,” he said as he leaned forward, theatrically pretending to reach for the handle. She didn’t laugh. Oh. “Are you alright?” he asked her.

“Sort of…”

“Sort of. Mmm, that sounds like a ‘no’ to me. Care to elaborate, Ms Cochrane.”

She looked down at her feet.

“OK, I feel really bad saying this but I went in there while you were parking and there are people inside and they’re not… They’re from… They don’t…”

“You mean, it’s full of K’Barthans.” She was relieved but at the same time embarrassed. About as embarrassed as she’d ever been by the looks of it.

“I’m supposed to be the Chosen One and I feel like a circus freak.” It was easy to appreciate her point of view. As far as he was aware, The Pan was the only man in existence with four eyes in either of the realities he’d visited. There were many reasons he kept quiet about the extra pair, but his fear of standing out, of being branded weird, was high on the list. Neither he nor Ruth had any way of telling whether or not the K’Barthans behind that door knew she was the Chosen One. But if she was anything like him, The Pan could understand her fear that they might. He tried to put himself in her place. How would he feel? Under pressure? Conspicuous? Did she feel that everyone was watching, wondering what would happen next and worse, pinning their hopes on her?

“It’s understandable. I feel like a circus freak myself, sometimes,” he said. She smiled gamely but the ‘you-are-one’ quip he was expecting never came. The Pan waited while she stood there, deep in introspection until something seemed to resolve itself.

“I’ll get used to it. I’ll have to, won’t I? But I feel out of place.”

“Even with Lucy?”

“She seems completely unfazed but she’s on the phone to her work. She’s busy organising an emergency week off, she’s calling it ‘personal reasons’ but I think she wants to look after me. Anyway, it’s OK for her. She hasn’t been chosen by one of them.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“I thought you said you weren’t chosen, either. I thought we were here to find the Candidate and have strong words with him about picking someone else,” he chided with a smile.

“I did, but what if…” she stopped. “There are people in there who are…” she stopped again. “OK, the person who greeted us was very polite and everything but he was about three feet tall, orange, furry and he looked like a guinea pig and—”

The Pan burst out laughing. Arnold’s snot! She was feeling nervous and awkward and it wasn’t tactful at all but he couldn’t help himself. Oh well, nothing to do about it now but try to make the joke stick.

“Ms Cochrane, are you worried you’ve been chosen by one of them?” He was surprised and delighted when, instead of being cross, she seemed relieved and broke into genuine laughter.

“I’m so embarrassed. I’m sure I’m being a racist or species-ist or something. I bet you’re not bothered, are you?”

“It depends… We consider ourselves intellectual equals but certain species are just biologically incompatible. I’m not sure what a guinea pig is but if the Candidate was a Spiffle, which is what I think you’re describing, he would probably fancy someone a bit less humanoid. Another Spiffle, for instance – or possibly a Blurpon. Physically, they’re a bit more like each other.” Should he go into the emotional differences, the most laid back species on the planet versus the most uptight, violent, Olympic standard launderers? No.

“OK, OK Mister Pan. Could you possibly be a little more sarcastic about this?” asked Ruth. She was laughing properly now.

“I doubt it. I’m sorry.” He hugged her. “If it helps, I will be with you every step of the way, alright?”

“That’s not necessarily going to be an advantage.”

“No.” He smiled but the elation he’d felt only minutes before had evaporated. That had smarted more than he’d expected. Suddenly everything felt a little lacklustre. She looked into his eyes and took his other hand.

“That was a joke, Mister Pan,” she said gently. “I’m sorry if I hurt you, I’m a bit wired and I expect my comic judgement is totally off.”

“No I’m not hurt.” Arnold, why did he have to be so crazy about her? She was going to take him apart.

“Do you mean that? Only you look—”

“You’re fine.” He pulled her towards him to give her another hug. This time, she hugged him back. Properly. There was a lot of contact, almost as if she was melting against him. She put her head on his shoulder, in no hurry to let go. The Pan’s spirits soared skywards again. He closed his eyes and held her tight. “You are more than fine,” he whispered.

She looked up suddenly, smiling.

“I didn’t catch that, Mister Pan.” He looked into her eyes.

“I think you did.”

“Ooo, you’re a cool customer,” she said and she was laughing and hugging him and he was flying. “Honestly, I didn’t.”

“It was nothing worth repeating,” he said. She gave him a measured look so he qualified it, “Alright, nothing worth repeating… yet.”

“Really?” she said flatly.

“Really.” They stood there, gazing into each other’s eyes, for a moment that seemed to last a long, long time. If he tried to kiss her, The Pan wondered, would she scream? On the face of it, it appeared not. She lifted her chin and he took a breath. He leaned in and stopped. Nothing he’d ever done in his life had ever taken so much will power as not kissing Ruth, right there. But, tempting as it was to seize the romantic initiative, the entrance lobby to the K’Barthan Underground HQ was patently not the time or the place. More to the point, if he actually started kissing Ruth, The Pan wasn’t sure he’d be able to stop.

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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 5, Sandra Giles

I’m not one for writing long passages about eyes meeting across a room and describing every surfacing feeling in nauseating detail. I much prefer toying with my characters’ emotions. So much so that I couldn’t resist making things hard for my most arrogant character.
Jared starts his journey as an egotistical jerk. He’s very hard to like, and equally hard to resist. What do I do with a guy who is accustomed to sleeping around on a regular basis? Easy, I make him fall in love at the most inconvenient of times. The following scene has been taken from my first novel. He has just landed in the middle of a ceremony where women are chosen to carry the offspring of various vampires, and Jared is playing along just to save an attractive lady from the grasp of some of the most vindictive vampires known to man. Or unknown to man, as is the case.

Love at first sight – Plead Insanity

“So…” I struggled for something to say. ‘Do you come here often?’ is a bad enough line in normal circumstances, never mind when the person you’re talking to is a prisoner and supposed to be your future rape-mate. I would’ve just said she had nothing to fear, but not only would she not believe me, I couldn’t risk the other vampires hearing. The best thing would be to move her to a safer location, but that would mean either using force or cunning. I wasn’t willing to harm her and doubted anything I could say would make her come with me.

“You could always sedate me again if you can’t think of any other way to get me out,” she said. Her voice wasn’t as harsh as before, and it sent a jolt through my heart.

“I suppose it would be too much to ask for you to just walk with me willingly?” She raised her eyebrows. “Thought so. I don’t want to hurt you.” I sighed. “What I’m going to do is carry you out of here. It may not be dignified but it’s better than sedating or beating you.” I approached her swiftly. My eyes darted down her body and I stopped.

“Getting a good enough look, are you?” she asked.

“No, I was just thinking you might get cold.” Which was perfectly true. Her skin seemed awfully exposed, especially for November. I unbuttoned my coat and silently handed it to her. She took it reluctantly after a few seconds of frowning, muttering something unintelligible as she pulled it around her.

“Thanks, but I’m still not fucking you. No amount of manners or charm will get me in your bed.” She paused. “Willingly.” Ouch. Shaking my head, I placed my hands on the cage and broke a few of the bars off. A gasp brought my attention to her face but she turned away, hiding behind a curtain of hair. The cage seemed a lot smaller once I was inside. I suppose it was only built for one prisoner. She swung around when I was beside her and leapt at my neck. Shocked and slightly amused, I sighed as she tore at my flesh with her teeth.

“What a good vampire you’d make,” I said as I swept her off her feet and carried her out of the cage. A frustrated scream issued from her throat and vibrated through my body from where her teeth were locked on my neck. I shivered unwillingly. It was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the fact this was enjoyable. Her terror, my power. In that moment I was the ultimate villain and predator rolled into one. The thought both scared and excited me. What was being done was a necessity. It was either this or harm her. So what if I enjoyed the rush? It’s not like I was going to take her back to my lair and commit rape. The idea sent another shudder through me. This time it wasn’t pleasure. The thought of denying a human the right to reject somebody was wrong. Even if circumstances changed and she was willing, I could never forget that we had met in such a horrible way. I chuckled at the thought of the woman trying to tear out my throat ever willingly being seduced by me.

Jared faces plenty of confusion from thereon out, and things move so slowly that I’m having to use excerpts from three different novels just to show how things progress. The next portion is from the second novel, when they’ve moved past their awkward first encounter and have progressed to a stage where they don’t rip out one another’s throat on a regular basis. The idea here was to make both characters revert back to their teenage years and make it all very awkward. The scene sees them in the dorm of a bloke Jared is feeding from (by that I mean blood, nothing else) and it’s all too easy for Emilia to make fun of him.

Awkward declaration of liking one another – Minority Rules “See, you must be gay. Why else would you keep choosing men?” Emilia asked.

I scowled but couldn’t give a better response as my mouth was somewhat occupied. It wasn’t until we were leaving the man’s room that I was able to say, “I don’t choose them. I’m just not fussy enough to scour the whole campus for the perfect meal.”

“I was just looking for the perfect starters,” she said. “This is our first date. I wanted to make it memorable.”

“I hardly call feeding on these helpless mortals a date,” I replied, trying to talk over the skipping of my heart that had embarrassingly started at the word ‘date’.

“It is. Your mum set it up. Seeing as you won’t ask me out, this is as good as it’s going to get,” she said conversationally. “Not that I mind. I like feeding. And running. I also like spending time with you. I just wish you were more open about your feelings.”

“What?” I practically shouted the word at her. Mr. Sophisticated, that’s me. She relaxed against the wall with her arms crossed. I couldn’t tell whether she was angry or just comfortable.

“Jared, you are such a guy sometimes!”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“Yes! Most of the time you’re different from normal men. More emotional, kinder, thoughtful, compassionate.”

“Is that why you think I’m gay?” I asked, making a joke but curious all the same.

“You know I don’t think that.” She sighed. “Do you like me?”

“Of course I do.”

“I mean as more than a friend, Jared. The way I like you.” She blushed. It was the first time she’s shown such embarrassment.

“I…Yes,” I said, going equally red. She physically relaxed against the wall, practically sliding the length of it. I relaxed, too. I hadn’t realised how much of a strain not admitting my feelings had brought. With that simple word I was able to feel the tension leek out of my body.

“I feel about ten years younger,” Emilia said, standing up once more. “Who would’ve thought such a declaration would be so awkward?”

“Me, that’s why I never did it.”

“Coward,” she muttered. We laughed and walked back home. No, we didn’t hold hands or start making out partway through the journey. We just walked. I even forgot about finding someone else to feed on.

And later in the same novel they share their first kiss. Perhaps someone else would’ve been kinder by this point, and allowed them a romantic moment where they’re on a date and sharing in a rare moment together. But no, they’re in a field, Emilia thinks Jared is actually his father, and an audience is just feet away. It might be considered mean of me to keep things hard for them, but I feel that the fact they’re still able to progress in their relationship shows just how strong their love is. Most people wouldn’t make it through so many strange scenarios and still feel a pull towards one another.

First kiss – Minority Rules Emilia ground her knee into my groin as only a woman would. I gasped, but more in realisation than pain. The sound brought a smirk to her lips. I never want that look aimed at me again. I took advantage of her leg no longer pinning me and rolled us over, remembering a happier time that we had done this in. It seemed like forever ago. She looked surprised to find herself pinned. Her growl vibrated down me and my body reacted. She growled again, warning me off. I bent my face towards hers and cut her off with a kiss. It wasn’t as deep as I wanted it to be, partially because she was too surprised to react. Right on cue, the wind blew behind me, knocking my scent into her face as she pushed me away.

Realisation dawned on her features. “Jared?”

“Either that or an impostor,” I said. “If you can’t tell the difference between me and my father, there’s no hope.”

“I was…” She searched for a word. “It was so unexpected.”

“Even so, you’d think my eyes would’ve given it away,” I said, looking deep into hers to emphasise my point.

“I was seeing red,” she said.

“That’s never good,” I whispered. She shook her head and tilted her face up towards mine. We kissed again. It was gentle at first, but soon passion outweighed caution. I put everything that words couldn’t say into that kiss. That I cared deeply for her, and it was terrifying to be apart. That the idea of never seeing her again was unbearable. That no matter how repulsed at myself I might be, she would accept who I am with no questions asked, and that meant more to me than words could say. She had done so from the moment I said how I felt about being a vampire. Before she even understood what it felt like to be one, she accepted it. Our hands stayed entwined but motionless throughout the kiss. Every ounce of energy and emotion was said through our mouths locked with one another’s. In that moment nothing mattered but her, and nothing had ever mattered more.

Nauseating, I know. The kind thing to do by this point would be to leave them in the field to progress with their relationship, but instead they find themselves returning to their lives with Jared’s father in tow, and between his presence and other circumstances that arise in the next novel, Jared and Emilia are unable to take things further until book four. I’d like to take this opportunity to point out I’m not always this slow at building fictional relationships. In fact, one of the things I find amusing is that my handsome vampire is the slowest at hitting all the bases. My other main characters are able to progress faster. I like to think it gives the average among us hope, or perhaps a sense of smugness as this seemingly perfect man is incapable of having his desired relationship. But of course I couldn’t torture him forever, and so we move on to – you guessed it – sex. One of the things I dislike about the novels I’ve read in the past is a tendency to turn into soft erotica, so I’ve established my own method of showing this stage in my characters’ relationships. Generally I use one or two lines to hint at what’s happening. This passage is from book four.

Coitus (thanks to Sheldon for making that term so popular) – Proving Negatives

“We should really get you home and out of those wet clothes,” Emilia said, a suggestive note in her voice. “The ghost can wait.”

“What about Ezra?” I asked.

“What about him? You’ll only be changing clothes.” She smiled wickedly. “What did you think I meant?”

“Tease.” The word came out as a growl, and it made her shudder. It wasn’t from fear, either. That made me ridiculously happy, so much so that I gladly ran when Emilia suggested it. We were home in a matter of minutes. What was more, Ezra wasn’t.

“He must be at the house of a lady-friend,” Emilia said, grabbing my jacket and tearing it open. When I looked at her incredulously she shrugged and said, “What? We don’t know how long he’ll be. And I’ve always wanted to do that.”

“I liked that jacket.”

“I’ll make it up to you.” Her way of doing this was by removing the rest of my clothes. I hardly found that fair, and so gave her a moment to stare in the most flattering way before evening the playing field. I was slower about it than she had been, enjoying each new section of skin bared as well as sparing her outfit. I don’t think she cared by this point. When we were both stripped of clothes, wet and dry, we took it upon ourselves to enjoy every inch of flesh that had been hidden for so long before now. Despite what Emilia had said about being quick, we weren’t. Ezra didn’t return home and intrude, and so we had a long and uninterrupted time together. I was immensely grateful that vampires don’t require blood to perform.

Last but not least is the first declaration of love. Sometime after they’ve made love, Emilia actually mentions loving Jared, but it’s a passing comment that is overlooked due to a disagreement the two have. It isn’t until later in the novel that Jared startles even himself by saying those three words, and again I couldn’t have a traditional love scene. I’ve instead taken my two characters full-circle, only it’s Jared who is imprisoned this time. Hey, what did you expect? There are no happily-ever-afters here. This is as far as I can go in showing their relationship, as no wedding bells are ringing as of yet and that’s with seven novels under Jared’s belt. We’ll just have to wait and see if they make it that far.

First declaration of love – Proving Negatives

“I love you.” Where did that come from? Well, it was honest.

“Really?” she asked in obvious surprise.

“Of course. You’re amazing, and I’m sorry for how I was before. It was wrong of me to judge you, and I’ve effectively fallen off my high-horse at last.”

She smiled. “Good. Everything’s so much better when you slum it down here.”

“Then consider me a permanent resident.”


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Gumbe Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 4, Jim Webster

I don’t do what a lot of people describe as love scenes, and certainly not the erotic stuff. I long ago decided I didn’t want to win any literary ‘bad sex’ awards and anyway, my readers either know how this sex business works or they don’t, and if they don’t, then they’re probably too young to understand words like ‘Cartographer’ and ‘Ostensibly’

In Swords for a Dead Lady we do have a description of what might be described as the beginning of a courtship. Here we have Kirisch, a young Urlan knight, who has ulterior motives for talking to Virinal, a servant of Madame Afflagar. Nothing to do with getting her into bed, far more to find out what has been going on in the house, but as usual in these situations, the girl in question is probably sharper than her interrogator.

Benor, now awake, opened the door to see Kirisch and the downcast young lady who had been serving the pasties at Madam Afflagar’s the previous evening.

For want of a better plan he waved them both in and led the way to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name last night.”

The young woman smiled at him, “I am Virinal, and to some extent the cook for Madame Afflagar.”

Benor offered her a hand to shake: “A lady whose beauty is only matched by her other accomplishments.” She raised an eyebrow and he subsided somewhat. “To what do we owe the honour of this visit?”

Virinal looked around the room as if to assess the audience and addressed her next comment mainly to Tillie.

“If a person who is apparently a gentleman of means starts paying court to a young lady with neither breeding nor fortune, the young lady would be wise to question his motives.”

Tillie nodded and Virinal continued. “Kirisch here is perfectly presentable; he is handsome enough, courteous, and judging by his clothes, accessories and everything, he is obviously not short of an alar to two. I mean, the sword belt alone would buy my mother’s house.”

“But it was my grandmother’s.”

She smiled at him, “And a charming sweet old lady she doubtless was, but let us be clear here, I am not what you would call the perfect catch, am I?”

She turned back to Tillie.

“Well, that silence lasted a little too long for my self esteem. I admit I don’t know a lot about the Urlan, but they are supposed to tell the truth.”

Tillie answered after a brief hesitation, “Yes, but you have to know how to phrase the question.”

“I can imagine. Still, when Kirisch bumped into me by chance for the third time whilst I was shopping, and suggested we meet up somewhere for a bite to eat when I finished work, I decided that I had to know what was going on. So I asked him. Pointedly.”

“She did,” admitted Kirisch, “she can use short words in short sentences at times.”

“So he told me about the dead girl, the peddler, everything.”

“Well, she did promise to sit and have a drink with me while I told her.”

“A good tale he made of it as well. But it is true?”

Then in ‘Dead Man Riding East’ I do push the boat out and write a genuine love scene. Well the love is genuine. As with all conversations between lovers there are allusions to previous conversations and events, and it would be utterly tedious to explain exactly why these people say what they do, but should you ever buy the book, all will be clear. However these two are husband and wife and Alina is their daughter.

Benor was sitting in bed, making a few notes in a small notebook. Alissa tucked Alinia into the cot by the bed, glanced at him, muttered ‘Cartographers’ and, throwing a robe over her shoulders slipped out of the room. A few minutes later she came back carrying two glasses on a tray.

Benor blew on the ink and closed the notebook carefully, placing it on the table by the bed. “A drink?”

“Hot toddy,” she said meaningfully. “I was told you couldn’t get to sleep without a pretty girl bringing you one, so I thought I’d better take over the role.”

She handed him a glass and kissed him, then sat on the side of the bed. She sipped her own drink, and said, “You are looking tired. I don’t think Talan agreed with you.”

Benor finished his toddy in silence. He put the glass down on the table next to his note book. Alissa ran her fingers up the side of his face. “Demons, monsters and unsuitable women; you’ve not had an easy time of it have you?”

“Unsuitable women?” Benor tried not to sound guilty.

“Well, stealing people’s concubines for a start.” She climbed into bed and snuggled up against him.

“Anyway, we’re going to have to start north soon.”

“One minute I’m looking tired, the next minute you want to be back on the road.”

“Alinia is not many months from having a brother or sister. Delightful as your nephew Maurshott is, I am not going to spend another winter in a Ranger post.”

“You’re pregnant?” Benor sounded both shocked and delighted.

“Not yet, so I thought it was perhaps time to do something about it.”


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Gumbee Fantasy Writers ‘do’ Emotion: No 3, Will Macmillan Jones

Ah.  Romance.  The thing is, it’s always a bit of a difficult subject for us blokes, isn’t it?  I mean, chocolates, maybe a meal out, fine.  Flowers if there’s been an argument.  Big flowers if we won.  But the slushy stuff?  Not easy in real life, is it?  I suppose that some of us possibly find it easier to write than to live.  I’m not sure quite how my fellows have performed in this challenge, and all I can do us offer up my own poor attempt at showing some emotional angst.

Here, Dai the bass player for The Banned Underground has been lured away by the Dark Lord’s receptionist, who also happens to be a dragon.  Suddenly, she needs his help…

Gloria hastened down the stone steps, occasionally glancing behind her to see if she was being followed. Although she could see no one, she was convinced that she kept hearing stealthy footsteps. At last she reached the iron-bound door and dealt with the complicated lock.  Shadows seemed to flicker on the stairs and she snarled in anger.  Smoke curled from her nostrils.

“Gloria? Is that you?” Dai called sleepily from within his cellar.

“Yes,” hissed Gloria, still watching the stairs.

“I had such a weird dream.”

“Yes?” hissed Gloria.

“I dreamed that you opened the door, and said: ‘Dai, we’re in terrible trouble’.”

“Dai, we’re in terrible trouble,” said Gloria.

“Yes, that’s it Gloria.  Good dream, isn’t it?”

“Dai, we’re in terrible trouble.”

“I love it when you pay attention to what I’m saying.”

“This isn’t a dream!”

“You didn’t say that.”

“Dai!  Will you wake up!”

“I am awake, Gloria. Well, sort of. Maybe.”

“I need your help, Dai.”

“And I need you, Gloria.”

“Dai, I’m serious.  We’re in trouble.”

“You’re pregnant?”

Gloria blushed, and her human disguise vanished. Too shocked to speak, she just shook her head mutely.  Dai looked disappointed for a moment, then leapt over the settee and grabbed her for a cuddle.

“Dai, stop it!”

Dai looked bemused. “Gloria, what’s wrong?”

“I keep telling you, we’re in terrible trouble. We need your help.”

“We?” asked Dai.

“The Boss. And me. We need you, Dai.”

“Wait up, The Boss? If it’s Springsteen, I was born to run!”

“No.  My boss.”

“The one who dragon napped me?”

“Well, yes.”

“He’s born to ruin, instead.”

“Dai, it’s all going wrong.” To his amazement, Gloria started to cry, great big tears that rolled down her face and dripped off her chin onto the floor where they smoked.

“Er…” said Dai.  Then Gloria fell into his arms. Actually, in the interests of truth and veracity, she fell onto his chest and he wrapped his arms around her in an instinct known to every bloke who doesn’t want to get told that he is unsympathetic and without empathy or understanding.

“Oh Dai, say you’ll help!” Gloria looked up into his eyes.  “I’ll be ever so grateful.” Her eyes misted with unshed tears.


“Oh yes. Dai, say you will, oh pleeeeeeaaaaaseeeee.”

“Gloria, I’ll do anything for you, love.”

“But you won’t do that?”


“You know the Boss had a plan to take over the Helvyndelve?”

“Yes, Gloria.  You wanted me to help him.”

“Well, he got some blokes from India to help him out as well.”

“Currying favour, were they?”

“Suppose so.  Anyway, they are revolting.”

“Probably the curry.  You have to go to the right place, you know.”

“They’ve taken the Boss prisoner.  I think they’ve killed Henry, and Ned and his mates are still away. I’m terrified they will hurt the Boss.”

“This is the man who kidnapped me and wanted to blackmail me into helping his evil scheme?”

“He’s such a lovely man.  Just misunderstood.  He keeps rabbits, you know.”


“In a hutch, I suppose.”

“Prisoners of the Evil Dark Lord!” exclaimed Dai.

“Dai, they are rabbits. They live in hutches,” explained Gloria.

“And he experiments on them, I suppose.”

“Dai, will you help him?  For me?”

Dai looked into her eyes and was lost.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“Oh Dai, I knew I could rely on you!” Gloria grabbed Dai, and when they broke apart the temperature in the cellar had caused two of the magazines scattered on the floor to spontaneously combust.

“How about we go upstairs and burn them all?” asked Gloria, venomously.


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Gumbee Fantasy Writers’ ‘do’ Emotion: No. 2, David Staniforth

In searching through my writing for a passionate scene, I have selected this one from “Ruler’s Desire” (the second book in the “Fuel to the Fire” series, and discovered that like the fighting scenes, my narrative style seems to be about avoidance. I’m certain a psychologist would find something interesting to say about that, but the avoidance here is essential to the plot. What made an interesting dynamic for me was the fact that both characters wanted each other passionately, but Ronyn alone knew why they couldn’t have sex. I can’t say any more without making it a spoiler. I wanted the scene to make the character’s bond all the stronger and hopefully send a message to younger readers that sex and love are not the same thing.

The stone floor, cold and damp, stank of urine and defecation. It reeked of death. The air was violated with the metallic stink of spilled blood and the aroma of rotting flesh. People had died on this very spot. How many? Their flesh split like tender fruit, oozing until life was extinguished.

She must remain pure.

Ronyn focused on the filth, the stench, the horror of it all in an attempt to dampen his passion. If they had a chance, any chance at all to escape, to come out of this unharmed, it was all the more likely if he followed the Keeper’s instructions. She must remain pure, Hesperus wouldn’t have written it if it hadn’t been important.

“I love you Davran.”

“I love you too. That’s why…”

Ronyn placed his forefinger to her lips. “Love deserves more than this. Look around. Smell the air. Think of all that’s happened in this place. I want to make love to you too. But making love is not this. Making love is safe surroundings, gentle music, clean sheets, or woodland, even. Or a meadow bathed in dappled sunshine with the music of crisp running water.”

Ronyn placed a hand to her chest and then her forehead. “Truly making love is in here and in here. I’ve been doing that since the day I met you. If we have sex in this place those memories will be tarnished.”

Ronyn enveloped Davran in his arms, his strong chest supporting her head. She leaned back and looked up into his eyes, and they shared a soft kiss. It felt special, somehow, more powerful than the previous kisses of passion. It was warm and soft and sent a jolt to her heart. It seemed to tug on cords deep within her being. The kisses before, when she had wanted him inside her, were forceful, powerful and exciting. This one, this tender, lingering kiss was magical. With this kiss he truly was inside her, deep, deep inside. It was a kiss which carried the bond of true love and formed an impenetrable connection.


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