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