Our sex panel was great fun, even without Barry Eisler's presence. We discussed a variety of topics, from sexual tension to where you draw the line.
We talked about the difference approach to sex in the mystery and romance genres. In a romance, a reader expects a wrapped up relationship with its happily ever after. But in a mystery, especially in series, it's not obligatory to have a relationship, and sex on the page is likely to be handled differently. Rhonda Pollero, who writes a continuing series says that if she allows her lead character to have sex with the man she's attracted to (and who is attracted to her), that will be the end of it. Remember the tv series Moonlighting, which came to a screeching halt once the Bruce Willis – Cybil Shepard relationship was consummated.
Traci Hall discussed handling sex in a young adult book, where it might not get farther than a kiss, but the tension leading up to that moment can be as strong as in a much hotter adult book.
Amy Fetzer spoke to the differences when writing from the male vs female pov, and the basics of keeping the language appropriate to whoever the POV character is.
Leanne Banks talked about how she creates sexual tension, and one of the things she brought up were the 12 Steps to Intimacy. She didn't have them on hand, but I've covered them on this blog previously, and I think I'll repeat them tomorrow, so please come back.
Barry Eisler was still stuck in the snow. On a previous occasion, he'd asked if a reader presented with out of context sex scenes would be able to tell if they were written by a male or female. Unanimously, the panel said, "YES!" Rhonda elaborated by saying "for a man, it's all about the penis." Women want to see the emotional connections (and prefer to read about men who think the way women want them to think).
Interestingly, when I went to a panel on how to deal with violence in a book, the consensus of the panel was that it was more compelling to show the emotional responses to violence on the page rather than the blood, gore, and violent acts. That's exactly what the sex panel said. Women prefer to write and read the emotional responses to all levels of sex scenes, while men tend to focus on the physicality.
I also sat in on a presentation by two members of the Broward County Sheriff's bomb squad. I showed pictures of our tour of their truck, but thought I'd highlight a few points they made.
First -- they use the robot first and foremost. They don't go rushing in. By the time they're actually in contact with the device, they have studied it through every possible means, including x-rays, and they will never cut a wire until they know exactly what it does. (And they've never seen a device that actually has that ticking clock with the pretty LED timer ticking away the seconds).
One question posed to them was how they handle situations when a person has an explosive device attached to them. They responded that it's totally different if it's someone who's using the bomb as a threat, in which case their initial reaction is to tell him to go for it, versus a victim. In that case, they're faced with dealing with someone who's obviously frantic. They go in without donning the bomb suits, because that would scare the victim even more. They say that if they could, they'd either sedate or handcuff the victim so they could do their job, but they do need to question the victim to get as much information about the device as possible. They also understand how frightening it is for the victim when they have to say, "OK, wait here; we'll be right back" as they take their x-rays and go back to safe ground to have them developed.
They also discussed training the dogs, and how sensitive they are to the various components that make up explosives. Most can distinguish 16 different chemical; some more. And you can't really mask the scent; their physiology means they are picking up individual components -- rather than smelling "stew" they will smell beef, carrots, potatoes, salt, pepper, celery, etc.
As I type this, we're getting ready for the trip. As you read it, we're on our way. Please say hi -- I'll be checking in when we reach our stop for the night.