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Cecilia Tan: Multiple Partners, Multiplying Plots

I think it’s wonderful that “menage” and other forms of multiple-partner relationships are finally gaining some acceptance within romance. The realization that true love doesn’t only have to come in a two-pack is one I’ve experienced in real life and truly enjoy reading in fiction. What makes fiction exciting is the conflicts and unexpected twists. Realizing that there are various ways things could go and that it’s not a given who ends up with whom in exactly what configuration in the happy ending adds some of both!  

Since I enjoy multiple-partner relationships, love triangles that become triads, pairs that meet to become quads, and maybe even—as I joked on Twitter with Holly Black and Sarah Rees Brennan the other day—the love trapezoid, it only made sense for me to start writing them as well. In the Magic University series, our hero arrives at Harvard to his own “Harry Potter” moment—the shocking news that he is magical, and will actually be attending Veritas, the hidden university of arcane arts on the campus.


Thus begins a fantasy epic, but since it is paranormal romance, rather than a quest to defeat evil, I have turned the series into a quest for true love. I already knew at the outset that our hero would have a different love interest in each book of the series. In THE SIREN AND THE SWORD, the very first girl he meets seems absolutely perfect for him, and he spends much of the book trying to be perfect for her. But you know a quest doesn’t just end in the first book. By book two, THE TOWER AND THE TEARS, his search needs to move on.


Originally I had planned for Kyle to just have one partner per book, but he has not been very good at doing what I want. He was supposed to start dating a girl named Marjory in book two, but before the second chapter was out, he was making a date with a girl named Ciara from his sex magic class! Marjory was not to be denied, though. As a tutor in sex magic (known in academic circles as the “Esoteric Arts), Marjory gets involved with both Kyle and Ciara, both sexually and emotionally. At one point they even have a foursome with Kyle’s best friend, over the holidays when all four of them live together off campus.


This may sound like all fun and games, but it actually becomes a challenge to give each of the important characters enough “screen time.” In a typical fantasy, the camera is nearly always on the protagonist. But in a romance we are already doubling the difficulty, as modern romance readers want to know what is going on in both the hero and the heroine’s heads. Now add a third or a fourth character to the love mix, and you have a whole additional layer or two of backstory to be told, and limited pages within which to win over the reader with a new person.


To succeed, each character must have an emotional arc that carries them in the story from one place to another. If characters do not grow or change, they are more like scenery than people. The larger the cast becomes, the more difficult it is to make them anything more than spear carriers. The reader wants to go on an emotional journey while reading a romance. They become invested in the characters, and the writer wants to give them good return on that investment!


This is probably why each of the Magic University books has been longer than the previous. In THE SIREN AND THE SWORD there was just one major love relationship to explore. In THE TOWER AND THE TEARS, it evolves into a threesome. In book three, THE INCUBUS AND THE ANGEL, things are complicated further as Kyle is essentially in a love triangle, but when he discovers lucid dreaming, he ends up carrying on the equivalent of four relationships, not two, as each has a waking and a sleeping version.


I’m writing book four now. Maybe this one will end up with a love trapezoid. We’ll see.


About the Author: Cecilia Tan is a writer, editor, and the founder of Circlet Press. She is the author of many books, including Mind Games, The Hot Streak, White Flames, Edge Plays, Black Feathers, The Velderet, and Telepaths Don’t Need Safewords, as well as the Magic University series of paranormal erotic romances, and the currently ongoing web serials The Prince’s Boy and Daron’s Guitar Chronicles. She has the distinction of being perhaps the only writer to have erotic fiction published in both Penthouse and Ms. magazines, as well as in scores of other magazines and anthologies including Asimov’s, Best American Erotica, and Nerve. Learn more at http://blog.ceciliatan.com.


Related Links:

The Magic University Series: Info page http://blog.ceciliatan.com/?page_id=318


Print Book buy links:

The Siren and the Sword: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159003208X

The Tower and the Tears: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/159003211X


Ebook buy links:

Mind Games: http://www.ravenousromance.com/breathless/mind-games.php

The Siren and the Sword: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-book-one-the-siren-and-the-sword.php

The Tower and the Tears: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-the-tower-and-the-tears.php

The Incubus and the Angel: http://www.ravenousromance.com/fantastica/magic-university-the-incubus-and-the-angel.php


Guest Blogger Andrew Grey: Inspiration

As an author, one of the questions I get most is where do I get my inspiration.  For me, I’m inspired by things and events all around me.  They may be unique things, or everyday things that suddenly seem new.  For my upcoming novel, A Shared Range, the story idea came to me as I was watching the Ken Burns documentary on America’s National Parks, specifically, the portion where the documentary discussed the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone.  That brief scene sparked an idea, and I was up all night because the story kept flowing and I had to get it down.  The entire Children of Bacchus series was inspired by a nineteenth-century bronze that stands in my dining room.  I’d seen this piece for years, but a stray idea over Thanksgiving dinner turned into three novels and several short stories.  Bottled Up and Uncorked were inspired by the opening of my brother’s wine store.   

The thing about inspiration that I’ve learned is that you don’t have to wait for it to strike—you just need to recognize it when it happens, and remember that inspiration is not a lengthy visitor.  For example, I was attending a symphony performance at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.  During the performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, I found myself watching the violinists and then I let my eyes close.  That brief moment made me wonder what it would be like for a blind musician.  On the way home from the performance, my partner graciously drove while I sat in the back seat, frantically scribbling the initial notes for what would become Love Means… No Boundaries.  Yet, later that evening after dinner and conversation with friends, I stumbled back on my notes, surprised at what I’d written down, because as strong as the idea had been at the time, my mind and attention had moved on to all the other things that happened during the day.  If I hadn’t made the notes during the drive home, I’d have lost the story.  Instead, I got the character Robbie, who’s one of my favorites. 

My favorite and most naughty bit of inspiration came for the gym series.  Spot Me was inspired by one of the men at the gym.  The inspiration for the character Gene is straight and a former college football player.  He also has no idea that he inspired a story, and he’d probably kick my butt if he found out.   The loud-mouthed character Lonnie in Spot Me, Pump Me Up, and An Unexpected Vintage was inspired by my workout partner of the same name.  For the stories, I actually had to tone him down, because if I wrote him as he really is, no one would believe the character.  Of all the characters I’ve created, he’s the one that most resembles a real person. 

You can’t force inspiration, but by keeping attuned to what is around you, you may be surprised at the gifts of inspiration just waiting to be opened.  So regardless of what your creative endeavors are, when inspiration strikes, grab hold and don’t let go.

Find my m/m fiction at: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/fictionbyauthor.htm#Andrew_Grey
Live Journal: http://andrewgreybooks.livejournal.com/
Web Site:  www.andrewgreybooks.com
And on Twitter: http://twitter.com/andrewgreybooks


Guest Blog: Amanda Young

Hi everyone. Adriana was nice enough to invite me to come here and share my experience at a recent slash convention with you all. Thanks Adriana!


To start, I should probably introduce myself. That would be good, right? Nothing like reading a blog and having no clue who it is you’re reading about. My name is Amanda Young and I’m a writer. I’m published through Amber Quill, Excessica, Lethe, Loose id, and Samhain. Most of my stories these days are gay erotic romance, although I have a few het stories floating around here and there as well. I’ve been writing since 2005 and am still trying to figure out this wild and crazy business. 


So anyway, I had the pleasure of attending my first slash convention this month. CON.TXT was held at Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Silver Spring, Maryland (right outside of DC). It was a lovely hotel. 

Vincent Diamond and I drove up on Friday and arrived late, thanks to traffic on the beltway. Man is that road a mess. We set up for the following day, popped in for the disco duck dance and met a few very nice people (including author A.R. Moler), ran out for a quick bite to eat, then called it a night.  


My table at the Con. 


On Saturday I got up bright and early and headed downstairs to the main convention room. I am not a morning person by any stretch of the imagination, so vast quantities of caffeine were needed. After a slow start, people started wandering in and introducing themselves. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of very nice people and talented authors. Dreamspinner Press, JCP Books, and Torquere all had tables at the event. I met Andrew Grey, Clare London, and TC Blue. Here are a few pics of Andrew Grey, AR Moler, and Clare London.  



Afterward, I had dinner out at a fabulous Thai restaurant right down the street with a large group of con-attendees and then retired to my room for the night.  


Sunday was a brisk, but entertaining day. I sat around and chit-chatted most of the morning, before heading home early. All in all, it was a great, laid back weekend. I’m looking forward to attending again in 2012, when CON.TXT returns.   


For more information about Amanda Young, please visit her website: www.amandayoung.org

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