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Golden Heart finalist, Nicki Salcedo


I am the Queen of Vanilla Sex


I never thought I’d been the queen of anything. Then 50 Shades of Grey came along.


One of the great things about being a writer is talking to people about books. Everyone wants to know what you read and what you like. I’m a notorious book whisperer. I give books to strangers on the street.


Last summer in New York, a lady noticed my Romance of America conference badge in Times Square. “I’ve never read one of those books.” She had that superior tone, but I could tell she was curious. I reached into my bag and handed her my signed copy of The Devil Wears Plaid by Teresa Medeiros. Terry signed that book to me, and I gave it to a stranger! I’d rather give it away, than have someone miss out on the pleasure of reading one of those books.


Recently, a few of friends brought me into their 50 Shades of Grey debate. One hated it. One wasn’t sure about it. One loved it. The one who loved it, really loved it. I decided to try it. So I read. And then I avoided reading it. Then I read some more. Here is the verdict:


I didn’t dislike the book for the graphic sex or bad writing. I disliked the book because it portrayed vanilla sex as bad. (Note: Vanilla sex is regular sex, nothing freaky.)


Just because I don’t want some mean man to tie me up and spank me, I’m boring? I am not boring…wait….I am totally and completely boring. I am the Queen of Vanilla Sex. I am the Queen of Vanilla Extract. I am the Queen of Vanilla Ice Cream and Pudding. I blush when my husband adjusts his tie.


Now everywhere I go people want to know how sexy are my stories? Sexy? Heck, yeah. Vanilla Sexy. I love vanilla. It is my duty as writer and reader to defend vanilla sex.


Vanilla is the second most expensive spice in the world. The word vanilla comes from the Spanish word “vainilla” meaning sheath. It is a diminutive of the Latin word ”vaina” meaning vagina. Ha! Vagina. I said vagina. How boring is that? Not boring, at all. It is sexy!


No one is ever going to swoon because my hero adjusted his tie. Or might they?


The world is full of people like the “Those Books” Lady, me – The Queen of Vanilla Sex, and you – Spanky McSpank.


Can you recall a scene from a novel you read that was really sexy, without involving sex? Are you a writer who is willing to take the challenge to write outside of your comfort zone? Maybe more sweet? Maybe more sexy? I’ll take the more sexy challenge, but below I will reveal my favorite “sex scenes” for some of my novels.


Elliot looked up. He didn’t seem happy or unhappy to see her.  After a moment he returned to chopping parsley. She started breathing again when she realized that a slight smile touched his lips. – Wait For Midnight


She worked the sixth spot on the teller line, and the distance made it impossible to see her face. He recognized her hands as they slipped under the partition to retrieve cash and a deposit slip. At the sight of her skin and delicate fingers, he imagined the legs of a dancer. Conrad watched the way her fingers moved independently of each other in dainty little kicks. He would never tell her such a thing because she might mistake his meaning. They were beautiful hands, and he had the unfortunate pleasure of holding them once, the day her husband died. –Pine


Graham stood abruptly and cleared the bowls as he left.  She appreciated the gesture, because he wasn’t the type of man to leave behind loose ends. – All Beautiful Things


The firefly opened and closed its wings.  Winter was coming, and we shouldn’t have seen a firefly in October. Now there was another thing that would die on Aaron’s birthday. He blew on the firefly to encourage it to take flight, and with his lips still puckered he leaned down and placed them on mine. When he parted his lips there was the warmth of his tongue and the iciness of my unexpected inhale. I tried to remember all the things Miss Eloise told me about dating and kissing that morning.  

Keep your hands to your side.

Remember to breathe.

Think of Spain. –Pine


Can you write 50 words that create a sense of sexy? Post your thoughts in the comments! Extra points if you mention vanilla. Happy writing and reading.

Nicki Salcedo writes literary fiction and romance. She a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing and. She is a member of Romance Writers of America® and a past President of Georgia Romance Writers. Nicki has received the Maggie Award of Excellence twice for her manuscripts “Pine” and “All Beautiful Things.”  She is a 2012 Golden Heart® Awards Finalist in the Single Title category for her manuscript “All Beautiful Things.”

Nicki has written about parenting for the, because somehow having four kids makes you an expert. This is so far from the truth. She’s also blogged with the Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. An excerpt of her novel “Pine” can be found on her website

Darcy - July 20, 2012 - 9:17 am

Nicki! Thank you for being on IOAN today. Absolutely nothing wrong with vanilla – especially the way you write it. I love the excerpts. Now I can’t wait to read those manuscripts! Looking forward to cheering you on in Anaheim. :)

Marilyn Baron - July 20, 2012 - 10:41 am

Coincidentally, I just got back from Spain! Now I can think of Spain when I… anyway, great post. Good luck in Anaheim. Sorry I won’t be there.

Nicki Salcedo - July 20, 2012 - 10:55 am

Darcy, thank you for having me. If it weren’t for the writing retreat at your lovely house I would not be a Golden Heart finalist. Thank you, thank you!

Marilyn, hope you have fun. I always think of Spain when I kiss!

Neither of you are up to the “vanilla challenge”?

Terri Osburn - July 20, 2012 - 11:05 am

Thank goodness I’m not the only one! I’ve been vanilla for years. Often felt inadequate, boring, and apologetic about it. But this makes me want to stand up and say, “I AM vanilla and that’s just fine.” So thanks for that.

Afraid all my brain cells have fled in fear of next week or I’d try the challenge.

AJ Larrieu - July 20, 2012 - 12:16 pm

Nicki, your writing is beautiful! I especially love the bank scene. And I completely agree: some of the sexiest scenes don’t involve any actual sex (tie adjustment! Swoon!) And I’d add that some of the best sex scenes aren’t about sex at all.

Can’t wait to read more of your work.

Nicki Salcedo - July 20, 2012 - 1:30 pm

Hi Terri, Thanks for stopping by. I should admit that I’m vanilla with a little cherry on top! I will try the extra spanky challenge after Nationals. :) But I’m a proud vanilla. Maybe we need t-shirts?

AJ, Thanks for the kind words. Some of my favorite writers know how to get their “hot” right. My “sex” scenes are more of a stare-at-empty-coffee-cup-then-awkward-glance kind, but one day I hope to look long and hard (pun intended) at my writing and increase the heat!

Nikki McIntosh - July 20, 2012 - 1:32 pm

I am also a vanilla sex person!! I read 50 Shades too but it wasn’t my thing … I like all the tension leading up to the act … I prefer the door closed after that (and with no one tied to the door at the time).

Great post Nicki … can’t wait to meet you …

Nicki Salcedo - July 20, 2012 - 1:39 pm

“This is All I Ask” by Lynn Kurland has no sex. It is one of my all time favorites. Then I have some favorites that are XXX. It is always about the story and the characters and not the sex. I love tension. I could live off of tension…well maybe-maybe not. Story should dictate the heat. We should enjoy the hot and the vanilla. Thanks for stopping by Nikki! Until, Anaheim!

Anjali - July 20, 2012 - 2:06 pm

Vanilla is the most under-rated flavor ever.

Great post, Nicki!

Nicki Salcedo - July 20, 2012 - 3:34 pm

Anjali, the straight, real, good vanilla is life changing.

Nancy, this is my M&M photo from a couple of years ago. I currently look like Santa Clause’s wife. Thanks for the book recommendation. I love a good scene on a punt!

Judy Garrison - July 20, 2012 - 4:33 pm

Cheers to all those vanilla ladies out there.

Thanks Nicki and good luck in Anaheim! I will be cheering you on from my vanilla flavored home in Georgia :)

Sally Kilpatrick - July 21, 2012 - 6:06 pm

You are the Queen of Vanilla Sex. I can even make you blush. Ready? Wait for it…nipple. There. I went there.

I’m with you. I actually took the sex scene out of Beulah Land and the Happy Hour Choir. I’m not a fan of gratuitous. Well, that and I didn’t want my minister defrocked which sounds even worse than non-vanilla sex.

Not a fan of 50 Shades. When I think of my daughter possibly picking up that book and thinking relationships are like that my head tries to explode. And, c’mon, we all know we started our romance reading career by sneaking books we aren’t supposed to have. That book won’t be lying about–let me assure you.

Tami Brothers - July 21, 2012 - 8:24 pm

I am so glad I’m not the only one who isn’t a big fan of 50 Shades. I started reading it, then skipped to the middle, and then to the end. Didn’t care for it. BUT I do not dog anyone who does. Like someone else said, it’s just not MY thing.

I am pretty vanilla. I tried to spice up some of my stories and like Sally said, I didn’t like the gratuitous feel.

Now, with that said, I did get a little ticked off when after I told a friend I wrote romance, she turned her nose up and said she didn’t read THOSE books. I shrugged it off. Until said friend started raving about 50 Shades. I can only shake my head in wonder.

Thanks for sharing your vanilla tastes. Best of luck at nationals. Crossing all my fingers and toes for ya. You too, Sally!



Jean Willett - July 21, 2012 - 10:31 pm

Nicki – Great post! Vanilla..hmmmm. Reminds me of creamy frosting and creme brule. And a host of other images are flashing through my mine.
What writing generations today refer to as “sex or sexuality”, past writing generations refer to the sensuality of a scene. The little touches that invoke the senses, that make the reader feel the emotion. Instead of graphic, invite the reader to experience the moment through sensation.

Love it, Nicki. Thanks for the reminder.

Congratulations on the Golden Heart nomination and good luck in Anaheim. See you soon.

Kathryn Jane - July 22, 2012 - 9:15 am

Great post Nicki – love the giving away your bok like that, kudos!

I confess I have yet to read the now famous book, but I will one of these days, just to see what all the hoopla is about.

For me, one of the coolest things ever, happened to me at a family gathering, I think it was my father’s 80th birthday.

My sisters were talking about my latest story, telling their daughters it was ‘steaaaamy!’ Yet when my neice looked at me with eyebrows up and curiosity on her face and asked, “Sex?” both sisters jumped in and said, ‘oh no, better than sex. The steam rises off the page all by itself.”

Holy cow, they couldn’t have said it any better because that’s what my aim was… although in one or two of my books, the bedroom door closes, a bit slowly :) and perhaps after some loving forplay.

Hence, those who love the down and dirty explicit, won’t be looking for my books when they come out soon, but I hope if they stumble upon one they’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Good luck at the awards Nicki!

Teresa Medeiros - July 22, 2012 - 9:37 am

Aw, Nicki! You should have told me you gave away your autographed copy of THE DEVIL WEARS PLAID and I would have sent you another one :). I totally agree about the “vanilla” observation. I’ve always found that to be weirdly insulting. Hey…maybe there’s a reason French Vanilla has always been my favorite flavor of ice cream!

Nicki Salcedo - July 22, 2012 - 2:17 pm

Judy, Thanks for stopping by and the kind words. Come on everyone, vanilla doesn’t mean not spicy or hot. It just means nice!

Oh, Sally. You had to go the the “N” word. N!pp!e. Ugh. I almost typed it without giggling. This is the year I grow up. It is best and worst word in the English language. It is my kryptonite.

Tami, I’m with you. I love that some of my friends loved “50” and I love that people are reading. I do not think that vanilla is boring. It can be quiet hot!

Nicki Salcedo - July 23, 2012 - 12:32 pm

Jean, I’m team creme brulee. This generation is going to be the “did-he-tie-you-up?-generation” forget sex or sensuality. I’ll look for the frosting scene in your next book!

Kathryn, I love that the “Steaaaamy!” conversation happened with family at your father’s 80th birthday. I’m slowly converting one of my sisters. She is a little hesitant about any level of heat. My other sister is constantly “borrowing” books from my bookshelves. She’ll text me for an airport book store, list the choices, and ask me which books to buy. I will be on the look out for your steamy books. :)

Teresa, I wasn’t without a copy for long… I picked up another as soon as I could and I’m pretty sure my sister (mentioned above) ran off with it! I made sure the lady saw your signature to know it was a big deal for me to give it to her. I hope you have some new fans because of it. Isn’t it a happy thought that someone is out there reading their first romance novel and falling in love? Vanilla or otherwise!

Denise Jordan Lane - July 29, 2012 - 9:18 am

Nicki, My love and admiration for you just expanded to greater heights. Apparently, we share some of the same attitudes. Heck, I even blush a little when I hear Neal Boortz say he’s broadcasting from Naples. Your post and the comments of the other authors have helped me with something I’ve been struggling with, and I think you’ve given me the tools and permission to move forward, rewrite AGAIN, and correct an area I’d completely glossed over in my MS. What Sally mentioned about her minister, uh yeah, I have that whole dimension to consider as well. So thanks so much making Team Creme Brûlée appealing.

Nicki Salcedo - August 2, 2012 - 5:20 am

Shame on Neal Boortz for saying Naples on air! That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all week. Give your self the permission to write true to your story. Hope to see you soon and thanks for stopping by!

Storytelling Unchained » It's Only A Novel - January 21, 2013 - 4:47 am

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[…] her article “I Am the Queen of Vanilla Sex,” Salcedo argues that a story can be sexy without having any actual sex in it: “No one is ever […]

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