Thursday, May 29, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mark Orr

Those of us who write fantasy/paranormal/horror often come up against some unique challenges in the course of a story. My friend and crit group partner Mark Orr, author of Howling in the Park, writes about Harvey Drago, intangible detective. Harvey has the power to move through just about anything solid - walls, floors, furniture. Cool, huh?

In a draft of the sequel to Howling, Harvey has a romantic encounter with a ghost. When he talked about it in group, I wondered how the heck that was going to work, being that one of them is intangible and the other insubstantial. Although the scene ended up not being right for this particular book, Mark pulled it off beautifully! So I invited him to come talk with us today about the art and logic of creating such a love scene.

Welcome, Mark! Thanks for being here!

Contest: Comment by 12:00 a.m. Central time for a chance to win a copy of Howling in the Park via a Fictionwise gift certificate!


The Effects of Alternative Planes of Existence on the Procreative Activities of Metahumans and Supernatural Beings

Mark Orr

When Mel asked if I might be willing to write a guest blog for this space describing the process of crafting a love scene between two characters in my Harvey Drago, Intangible Private Eye novel series, my initial reaction was to jump at the opportunity to indulge in a little blatant self-promotion. My second reaction was confusion and despair, as the scene I had worked out so carefully and read aloud to our writers' group had not made it into the final version of the novel for which I wrote it, Dead Women in Love. Why get so worked up over a passage that wound up on the cutting room floor? Apparently, Mel thought more highly of it than I did.

That's not altogether true. I thought it turned out fairly well, in a grotesquely kinky sort of way, but it did not fit the context of the events occurring immediately before it. I determined to extract it and save it for a later book in the series. My editor at Renaissance EBooks has not seen it, therefore. If I decide to stay with that publisher, she may, eventually. Time will tell.

If it seems like I'm dancing around the topic, well, I am. The only thing I find more embarrassing than writing a graphic love scene is writing about writing a graphic love scene. You'd think after twenty-seven years of marriage I'd be long past coyness or shyness or any related –yness when it comes to sexual matters. Truth is, I've never found it easy to describe intimate acts in words. How much can one say about a basic physiological function? It eventually boils down to inserting tab A into slot B at some point. Most literary love scenes remind me of the 'some assembly required' projects I've wrestled with for the past twenty-four Christmas Eves. For some reason, my wife thinks this is simply more evidence of my terminal non-romanticism.

This love scene is a little different than most, I suppose. The participants are a hard-boiled private investigator with the ability to render himself insubstantial, and a very frisky ghost. He's a detective, she's a secret agent. Both can readily walk through walls, allow items like bullets and scimitars to pass through them without causing the least inconvenience or injury, and conduct clandestine operations from inside solid objects. They arrived at their arcane capabilities from different avenues; he by experiments performed on his father before he was born, she through the unpleasant expedient of being hanged for cattle rustling in 1881. Of the two methods, I personally prefer his.

They met in the first Harvey Drago novel Howling in the Park (available in e-book format here), when the late Amy Marten attempted to recruit my boy Harv for the top secret government agency she represents, the Supernatural Investigations Bureau. She re-entered his life in Dead Women in Love, while Harv was working for a vampire pimp who desperately needed to know who was leaving his ladies of the evening out after sunrise. About a third of the way through one of the myriad drafts of the books, Harv and Amy found themselves in a position neither ones' mother would approve of. I like to think the chemistry between them is right, but the timing was off, so the love scene had to go. However, that doesn't matter to Mel. She's merely interested in how I worked out the physics of the metabiology involved. How does one intangible being get jiggy with another? Can astral displacement interact with ectoplasmic non-corporality in such a way as to provide sufficient friction to achieve the intended result? Does a ghost have a g-spot? What protection is recommended, or even applicable? Can you really call having sex with a dead person necrophilia if the corpse isn't present? These are matters of clinical importance, if not literary.

Obviously, I am not insubstantial, and I've never gotten around to making love with a 127-year old ghost, so I had no first hand knowledge of how it would work. I made what I like to believe are some fairly shrewd guesses, and cobbled up the rest out of whole cloth.

The first assumption I had to make was that even a ghost has erogenous zones of some sort. Since her creation a decade ago in an online role-playing game, Amy has been a lusty sort; sex wouldn't have been one of her favorite forms of recreation for so long without her possessing the usual tickle spots. The second assumption I had to accept was that she could adapt her ectoplasm to whatever state of existence her partner enjoyed. Harv's ability to shift himself out of phase with the world we normal mortals live in should lessen her need to firm up the ghostly goop as much as she would with a regular guy, but just what would their love-making look like if you found it on one of those tapes hidden in the back room of the video store where minors are discouraged from venturing?

I would probably be more impressed with myself if I could claim that I likened it to the slow intermingling of galaxies as seen through the Hubble telescope. Nothing that elevated, I'm afraid. I compared it to something much more mundane:

"I lay there, eyes closed, and drank in the sensation of the sheets against my back and Amy fitted to me like we were pieces of a jigsaw puzzle made of gelatin. Her legs stretched past my hips and through the mattress. She put her hands on my shoulders and started to pull away, but my hands on her hips kept her in place. It was a year since Sonja, and I had some catching up to do. My ass sank down into the bed until I almost came out of her, then with a snapping curl of my whole spine, I thrust up. She met me on the stroke, sliding back and forth, bouncing up and down, loin to loin, rhythm to rhythm, taking me further and further inside her until there was no point of juncture between us, just a writhing merger of ectoplasm and sentient ethereality, a single unit pleasuring itself."

Of course, since it won't appear in the next book, nor at least the one after that (All the Damn Vampires), I have the luxury of slipping in the more elegant analogy when the time does come. Which might never have occurred to me to do if Mel hadn't badgered me into this exercise.

Thanks, Mel.


Mel Hiers said...

Yeah, I'm really good with the badgering. *grin* But I'm glad I badgered you! What a great post!

I'm looking forward to seeing more of the Harvey/Amy storyline. Write faster, man! (Yes, I AM a fangirl. :-D )

Satirist63 said...

Loved this article. It's plain that Mark Orr is an author who isn't afraid of experimental fiction, and one who is inspired enough to be meticulous with essential details. As far as pairing of humanities species goes; I think that's great. Corporeal should feel free to flirt with incorporeal, and spiritual with metaphysical, etc. In fact, it's just nice to see so much potential for love, especially with today's world climate :)

Sir Otter said...

Thanks, ya'll. This was fun! As for writing faster, I am proceeding as expeditiously as possibly!

Evonne Wareham said...

And I thought writing love scenes between humans was complicated! Why is it, as writers, we have to make it difficult for ourselves? All part of the fun, or a very deep character flaw?

Sir Otter said...

Probably a little of both, Evonne. Thanks for stopping by!

Helen Scott Taylor said...

Hi Mark, Great post. Thanks for being here with us on Title Magic. You made me laugh, which is always a good thing. Great advantage for a PI to be able to melt into the walls. Sounds like a fascinating premise!

Savanna Kougar said...

Mark, your post made my day! Believe you me! I've always wondered how I would handle that kind of love/sex scene between the incorporeal.
Hey, the imagination is a great thing. And I thoroughly enjoyed the way you created and handled that scene. I think sometimes we authors forget, it's not just insert A into slot B -- it's sensation, feelings, the energy that's created -- whether in physical form or apparitional, or out of phase.
Thanks for sharing! Glad Mel talked you into it. I learned a lot.

Sir Otter said...

Thankee very kindly, Helen! Of all the super-powers, I've always thought that would be most useful to a private eye. :{)

Sir Otter said...

I appreciate the kind words, Savanna! It always makes my day when I can make someone else's day. :)

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Thanks for joining us on Title Magic and for getting my creative wheels spinning with the idea of incorporeal beings having sex. That is one idea I'd love to tackle myself. ;)

I also like the inventiveness of your stories--I love to read stories that break out of the tried and true.

So when is your next novel due out?

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

Oh, also, any back story on your screen name "Sir Otter"? *G*

Lexie O'Neill said...

Thanks for blogging with us! I really didn't know what to say when I read this highly unusual (to little old me) blog, but funny thing, it helped spark the next scene in my WIP. No, no one in my story is lacking in the physical arena, but I loved the imagination in your story and it got mine going!

Mel Hiers said...

"Oh, also, any back story on your screen name "Sir Otter"? *G*"

Heh. I'd like to hear that one too! :-P

Sir Otter said...

Muchas gracias, Anitra and Lexie! I have no idea when Dead Women in Love might be coming out, as I'm considering changing publishers at the moment. I hope it won't be in the too distant future.

As for Sir Otter, that came about because I used to use otrfan as a screen name. I'm a big fan of old time radio, AKA otr. Hence, otrfan. A friend of mine, who was briefly my agent, thought otrfan looked enough like Otter that she started calling me that. I adopted it as an online alias and used it to sign up for various boards. Alas, one day I tried to sign up for one that already had an Otter, so I tacked on the Sir to differentiate myself from him.

Savanna Kougar said...

Sir Otter, thanks for the explanation. I love it when an unknown plan comes together.

Anitra Lynn McLeod said...

I knew there had to be a story there! Can't wait to pick up one of your tales!

Sir Otter said...

Anitra, you'll have your chance to sample my wares fairly soon. I have a short tale in the upcoming second issue of Dark Corridor, available from the fine folks here:

'Plastic Jesus' is the tale of a young man traveling cross-country in a van who stops for gas in the wrong town, with only the plastic Jesus sittin' on the dashboard of his car to protect him from the inhabitants.