Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A Man Who Gets It

By Marc Nobbs (Guest Blogger)

First off, thanks to Lisabet for hosting me today. I do appreciate the opportunity to speak to you all. I want to begin with a quote :

Bottom line, this is a well written romance written by a man who gets it.

That’s what Acquanetta Ferguson said in her review of Kissed by a Rose for the San Diego Examiner.

A Man Who Gets it. I actually cribbed that for my website. You see, here’s the thing – there are an awful lot of women who simply don’t believe that men can write romance novels. Common consensus is that romance is a genre written by women, for women, and men should stay the hell out of it.

Okay, so that’s a stereotypical generalisation, but it’s true that the genre is dominated by female writers and female editors and that the vast majority of romance novel readers are women. The UK’s oldest and best know romance publisher, Mills & Boon, insist that all their authors use female pen names – even the very small number of men that write for them. And before their untimely demise, Black Lace even went as far as to refuse to publish books by men.

But you’re not really a man. You’re a woman with a gimmick.

Seriously, I’ve actually had e-mails to this effect. People who’d read one of my books and refused believe it could possibly have been written by a man. But I assure you, I am a man. I have a penis and everything. I’d offer to show you a picture, but, you know... I even have a ‘Man Drawer’ in my shed where I keep all my ‘Man Things’ –screwdrivers, pliers, the pump for blowing up my son’s football, that sort of thing.

You must be gay then. Or a closet gay.

That’s the other response I often get. Because, obviously, only gay men could come up with romantic plots and believable romantic interactions between characters. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I’m not gay either. Not even a little bit. I’m just your average, heterosexual, married father of one who happens to be a bit of an old romantic at heart.

Truth is, I sort of fell into writing romance. I certainly didn’t sit down one day and say, “You know what, I think I should write romance novels.” When I first started this writing lark as a hobby back in the late nineties, I wrote what I suppose a lot of people would have expected from a young, horny twenty-something bloke – sex stories. Simple, let’s get buck naked and f*** stories. I read loads of them in the old Usenet groups and figured “I can do that.”

The first few were pretty bad and had very little in the way of plot or characterisation. Those first few are so bad that I haven’t even put them on my website. And when you read some of the ones that I have put on my website, it makes you realise how bad those first ones must have been. Take a look at Heaven in Leather or Memorable Holiday to see what I mean. Both are ‘stroke’ stories – that is, stories that serve one purpose only, if you know what I mean. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more, eh?)

But here’s the thing – these short stokers never felt very… satisfying.

I’ve always been an avid reader – from a very early age – and as such I’ve been brought up on great stories, great plots and great characters. So writing stories where the characters were stereotypes and the plot was little more than a series of events designed to get the characters naked and screwing as quickly as possible, was never going to be enough for me. It took me some time, but eventually I graduated from simple short stroke stories to longer stories where I took the time to develop the characters and make them more like real people. These stories had better, stronger plots that weren’t all about getting to the sex act. Try Claire, Sophie, or Phone Calls to see what I mean – they are all freely downloadable from my website. Although, be warned – Claire WILL make you cry. I guarantee it.

The stories still had sex in them, though. Quite a bit of sex if I’m honest. But they also became, over time, more romantic in tone. After all, that's what leads to great sex in the first place, right?

The other thing that happened the more I wrote is that I got better at the mechanics of writing. I joined an online smut-writer’s group and learned all that stuff I didn’t learn in all those creative writing courses that I never took. I learnt what to avoid and what to strive for. I learned that the sex in a story should be secondary to telling the story. I learned that a good story depends on great characters that the reader cares about. And I learned that if you, as the writer, don’t give two hoots about your characters, then your readers won’t either.

The culmination of all this learning was Reunion, written in 2004 and available to download for free on my website. It’s the story of a boy and girl who never quite got together as teenagers, and then meet up again ten years later.

It’s a decent story. Not perfect by any means – but it was certainly the best thing I’d produced up to that point – even if I didn’t feel confident enough about its qualities to submit it for publication. I fell a little bit in love with the heroine, Kelly, as I was writing her and I hope it shows. I tend to fall a little bit in love with all my book’s heroines.

Reunion has many qualities that have become my hallmarks. The hero is not your stereotypical alpha-male romantic hero – he’s just an ordinary bloke who’s following his heart and doing the best he can. The heroine is normally strong and independent – the kind of woman I’m usually attracted to. And the primary Point of View character is hero – not the heroine.

And that last point is, I think, the reason that Ms Ferguson described me as a “man who gets it”. I don’t try and copy what most female romance authors do. I don’t try and tell the story from the heroine’s point of view. I don’t try and get into her head and describe what she’s feeling. Instead I give the reader an insight into what’s going on in the hero’s head. I’m not trying to write “women’s fiction” or “out do” the huge number of excellent female romance writers. I’m trying to offer something different to the romance genre. Something fresh and exciting. And, I hope, I’ve achieved it.

To go back to Ms Ferguson’s review of Kissed by a Rose, she said...

If a woman had written this the male lead would have been an alpha male which most women love in fantasy. In this Marc knocks that fantasy on its ass. He writes his romance with a bit more realism, and quite frankly it is a refreshing change. As this is written from the male point of view, we as women reading this get to see how the other half of the human population thinks and reacts to love.

I am very, very proud of Kissed by a Rose. It’s a fantasy to some extent – I mean, how many guys ever meet their movie-star idol, let alone get to date them – but it’s also grounded with as much realism as I could cram into it.

I wanted to write a story where the reader was never entirely sure about the heroine and her motives and I think I pulled it off. I wanted to write a story where the reader would see the hero hurting and feel his pain, and given I had my beta-readers in tears at more than one point in the book, I think I pulled that off as well.

I recently re-read the book in preparation for its print release, and it still stirred in me the emotions I wanted in the places I wanted. And it still gave me a warm glow at the end. So yeah, I’m damn proud of it.

Romantic fiction, even Erotic Romance, isn’t a man’s world. Not by a long way. I’m one of very few men drowning in a sea of women (damn, now there’s an image to take to bed with me tonight) but I hope I’m proving to those who ‘take the risk’ and read my books that men, or at least this man, can write romantic fiction and can do a good job of it. But, I suppose, ultimately, that’s up to the romance reading public to decide.

So, what can you expect from a Marc Nobbs novel? Well, take Reunion¸ (did I mention you can download it free on my website?) which despite being one of my earlier works and not as ‘polished’ as my latest releases, does contain many of the traits I’ve become known for.

It’s got two very likable leads in Matt and Kelly – Matt was described as one early reader as the ‘nicest man in the history of smut, ever’, and while Kelly tends to split opinions for much of the book, ultimately readers love her as much as I do. It’s a passionate story, littered with hot sex scenes but in the end it’s just got a really good plot full of twists and turns that lead to a climatic (and happy) ending.

It’s also fairly dialogue heavy at times. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told that I’m ‘good’ at dialogue. Hell, I’ve even been told more than once that I should turn my hand to scriptwriting for movies – not that I’d ever expect any of them to ever get made. I can’t see Kiera Knightly wanting to act out some of the scenes I write. Although, if I could cast Sasha Grey...

But these are my hallmarks. The hero everyone loves. The heroine we have our doubts about. The twisty, turny plot that races towards the big ending. The passionate, heart-felt, loving sex scenes. The great dialogue. You’ll find them all in a Marc Nobbs novel.

You can learn more about me on my Website. I also blog regularly on topics ranging from my writing to what's going on in the world around me as well as hosting guest posts. And, if you tweet, you can catch me on Twitter where I'm @marcnobbs

Monday, June 28, 2010

Pride

Almost anyone who hangs out on romance lists or visits romance blogs knows that June is “GLBT Pride Month”. But I wonder how many people know why the parades all happen in June. I'll admit that I didn't, not until yesterday when I started reading about the Stonewall riots. I'd heard of them, but I didn't know the details, and I didn't realize the connection with contemporary pride celebrations.

Forty-one years ago today, in the early hours of the morning, the New York City police raided a illegal, Mafia-owned bar on Christopher Street called the Stonewall Inn. The organized crime connections and unlicensed liquor were not the primary reason for this raid. Rather, this was a sadly typical crackdown on the homosexual community in Greenwich Village, for whom the Stonewall was something of a haven. The police burst in and started arresting the Stonewall's patrons, which included many transvestites, both male and female. This also wasn't unusual. At that time, it was literally against the law for men to wear female clothing or vice versa. Homosexuals could be arrested on a range of charges from soliciting to public indecency. Although the extreme persecution of the McCarthy era had eased somewhat, homosexuality was classified as a psychiatric disorder and gays and lesbians were generally considered to be in the same class as rapists and child molesters. If you were gay, your only recourse was to lay low, keep your preferences a secret, and hope that you'd be ignored.

On the night of June 28, 1969, however, something unusual did happen. The ruckus caused by the raid drew a crowd of several hundred bystanders, many of whom were themselves gay or were sympathizers. When the police began to rough up the Stonewall's patrons, they fought back, supported by the onlookers. The scene degenerated into a pitched battle. The police called for reinforcements. The gay crowd refused to be intimidated. They led the police a merry chase through the crooked, narrow streets of the West Village.

You can find a detailed discussion of Stonewall and its aftermath in Wikipedia. Many people view the Stonewall uprising as the birth of the gay pride movement. Stonewall was to gay rights what Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of the bus was for civil rights. After Stonewall, homosexuals stopped trying to blend in. They began to raise their voices against discrimination and for equal rights.

That struggle is, of course, far from over. It's sad to see how, more than forty years later, individuals who are attracted to their own gender are still attacked, both physically and psychologically, still denied the right to marry in many areas, still barred from some careers if they are open about their orientation. It's easy to get discouraged. On the other hand, society has come a long way since Stonewall. Every year, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people become braver and more vocal. More proud.

In June 1999 the U.S. Department of the Interior designated 51 and 53 Christopher Street (the location of the Stonewall Inn), the street itself, and the surrounding streets as a National Historic Landmark. In 2009, commemorating the fortieth anniversary of Stonewall, President Obama declared June to be National Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month. I find these actions a bit ironic, given the fact that the “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” policy still afflicts gays in the military, and that right now the Supreme Court in California is hearing arguments on the desirability of banning gays from marrying.

I write GLBT romance and erotica. As I said last week at the Oh Get A Grip blog, I believe that the experience of love and desire is universal. It really doesn't matter what kind of genitalia your partner has. I think that the romance community may be more tolerant than society as a whole in this regard. Still, think about what it would be like if you couldn't buy M/M or F/F or M/M/F romance—if it was illegal, labeled as obscene or deviant. We've come a long way, but it could happen. The only way to prevent this sort of thing is to follow the lead of the people involved at Stonewall. Stand up and tell the world that you believe in a person's right to love whom they choose—and that you're proud to say it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Anna-Bella the Fickle-Muse

By Janice Seagraves (Guest Blogger)

There are muses that inspire music and there are muses for poetry and writing.

And then there is my muse. *Sigh*

Let me tell you about my muse. She used to get me in trouble at school. “Hey Janice,” she’d whisper during 3rd grade class. “You see those sparrows over there?”

I’d look out the window at the sparrows chirping in the trees. “Yeah?”

“What do you think it would be like to played tag with them?” Suddenly I had wings to chase the birds around.

“Janice,” the teacher yelled. “Are you daydreaming again?”

“No,” I lied, ducking my head.

I loved arts and crafts; it occupied a lot of my free time. I could easily envision how the finished project was going to look, but it surprised me when other people couldn’t do the same.

When I was asked what’s going on in the picture? I told a story. I didn’t mean to, but the story was there in the drawing. I kind of wondered why no one else saw it but me. At age twenty I dabbled a bit with writing, but soon returned to my pen and ink drawings then later woodcrafts.

It wasn’t till a little over ten years ago that I finally followed the calling of my muse and started to write seriously for publication.

My muse finally told me her name: Anna-Bella. She’s about the size of a Barbie doll and wears very feminine clothes. She first showed up when I was the age to play with Barbie, which may account for her looking the way she does.

Often she’s not there when I need her. Sometimes I’d get lucky and she’ll show up, give me part of the story as a dream or a movie like flash. Which could be a paragraph, or page, or if she’s feeling really generous a whole chapter.

Anna-Bella will say, “Okay, got it?” Then my fickle muse will disappear for a while, and I’ll have to figure out what happened next—on my own.

The worst time is Christmas. She’ll disappear completely. I’ll call and call, but I get nothing from her, not even a shred of an idea. Then she’ll show up drunk on eggnog. “Oh sorry,” she’ll hick-up. “I was watching Christmas tree lights. They’re cool. You ought to watch them sometime.”

“Yeah, I use to think they were cool too, when I was nine. What about this story we’re working on?” I’d thump a finger on the keyboard.

“Tomorrow, I’m heading to bed.”

Disheartened, I’d sigh and shake my head.

Last Christmas I had enough. I had the second round of edits to do on Windswept Shores, which is my first book. I thought she’d be as excited, too. After all she had inspired me to write it.

But she just yawned. “Yeah-yeah, I knew we’d get one sooner or later. Edits? Not my department, sweetie.” She wondered off doing God knows what. Stare at Christmas lights again, I suppose.

Then she came home drunk on eggnog, singing silly little Christmas tunes in a high squeaky voice.

“Where the hell have you been?” I snarled at her. “We have edits to do, missy.” Looking her up and down, I yelled. “Just what are you wearing? What’s with the candy stripped dress and stockings, and red shoes with the curly toes?” I narrowed my eyes. “Did you mug an elf?”

Then she pantomimed locking her lips and throwing away the key.

“Okay, that’s it.” I tossed her sorry little butt in a birdcage then hung it by my desk. “Now help me out here.”

Saying nothing, she stuck her legs through the bars to rock it like a swing, and then stuck her tongue at me.

Grrr. Those were some very hard edits to get through too.

It wasn’t until recently I finally let her out, but I made her promise not to run off again. She’s sitting on my shoulder right now, still wearing the elf costume and smelling like a stinky little bird.

For a treat we went out to the mall. We took my daughter to Hot Topic and bought her a jacket. Then my daughter remembered she needed a dress for high school graduation; we found the best dress . . .

Wait a minute . . . where did you get those elbow length, lace up gloves? I know I saw some at Hot Topic. You didn’t—?

The little muse shop? But there’s no such thing. Anna-Bella, what did you do?

Anna-Bella smugly produced a frilly dress and changed right there in front of me. The material is roses with a black background. She also had black stockings and Mary-Jane’s to complete the outfit. She said, “I’m tired of the elf costume.” Anna-Bella kicked it off my desk.

Well, no duh. You’ve been wearing it for months. Picking it up, I throw the smelly Barbie-doll-sized clothes into the garbage.

She made herself comfortable on my shoulder. “Tell the nice people about our book.”

What? I have to go to work—now?

She nods, and then pulls my ear.

Ouch! What did I do to deserve a muse like you?

Just in time for summer reading.

From Pink Petal Books: Windswept Shores by Janice Seagraves (and Anna-Bella).

Windswept Shores Blurb:

The sole survivor of a plane crash, Megan is alone on a deserted island in the Bahamas until she finds a nearly-drowned man washed up on shore. Another survivor, this time from a boat wreck. With only meager survival skills between them, will they survive and can they find love?

www.pinkpetalbooks.com
http://janiceseagraves.org/

Excerpt

If she had to spend one more day on this godforsaken island, she'd go stark raving mad. The thought spurred Megan into rolling a large log with one foot then the other, until it was near the bonfire. "God, this thing is heavy." With a grunt, she lifted one end until it teetered upright then gave it a shove. It landed in the fire, embers swirling in the air.

Breathing hard, she flicked a glance at the teal-colored sea. She'd thought a vacation to the Bahamas would be the perfect getaway, would be a solution to the problems she and Jonathan had faced. She'd been wrong—dead wrong. Tears of grief filled her eyes. The never-ending crash of the waves on the beach and the cries of the seagulls seemed to mock her with the reminder she was utterly alone.

She'd felt like a tiny speck of sand last night when a violent storm had swept across the island. It had made a mess of her meager campsite, which had taken all morning to fix, and had demolished her seaweed SOS sign. She'll have to recreate her SOS. Sighing, Megan trudged toward a pile of kelp. As she got closer, she saw a figure wearing blue jeans and a t-shirt. Her stomach lurched.

Oh, God, it’s another body washed up from the plane wreck. That would be number twelve. As always, she couldn't help but wonder if the next one would be Jonathan. He hadn’t been wearing jeans on the plane, so she knew she’d been spared seeing his corpse this time. Thank God. She approached the body with dread. Tightening her resolve, she knelt. Suddenly the "dead body" coughed and rolled over. With a scream, Megan jumped back. She clutched her chest and pressed a shaking hand to her mouth.

He’s alive!

Biting her lip, she stared down at the still-breathing man. His drenched t-shirt molded against his broad shoulders and well developed upper body. Short, golden brown hair stuck out in all directions.

Megan, get control of yourself. Don’t wet your pants the first time you finally see a living person. She got on her knees, plucked the seaweed from him and wiped the sand from his face. His day-old whiskers scratched her palm. Reddened skin stretched across both cheekbones and over the bridge of his nose. Her thumb caressed his parched full bottom lip.

She patted the side of his face. “Hey, are you okay?” That’s a dumb question. He isn’t okay.

“Hmm?” Gray eyes fluttered open. He stared at her a long moment, frowning slightly. “G’day.”

“Hello there.” She hated the sound of her voice. It sounded rusty, unused.

Abruptly he rolled away from her to heave onto the sand, making a loud, ugly retching noise.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, then looked at her. “Sorry, mate, I swallowed too much sea.” His gaze went over her shoulder in the direction of the bonfire which crackled and popped not far from them. “Mite big for a barbie.”

Sitting back on her heels with her hands folded in her lap, Megan followed his gaze, then back to him. “My signal fire.”

“Signal for what?”

“Help.”

His accent intrigued her. Was he English or Australian?

“G’darn,” he looked around, “where the bloody hell am I?”

“Don’t know. There’s no one here to ask.” Megan shrugged helplessly, but couldn’t contain her curiosity. “Are you from England?”

“Naw,” he rubbed his eyes, “I hail from Sydney, but my port of call these days is Fort Lauderdale.” He blinked up at her. “You?”

Ah, he’s an Aussie. “I’m Megan Lorry, from Anaheim, California,” she said, barely loud enough to be heard above the sounds of the surf and the roar from the fire. “Are you a survivor of Air Bahamas flight 227, too?”

“G’day, Megz,” he answered, struggling to sit-up. “Sorry, I’m not from your plane.”

Megan slipped an arm around him lifting his back off the sand. Turning his head to her hair, he took in a couple of short breaths. Megan pulled back staring at him. “What the—did you just sniff me?”

“Ya smell too good not to.” He grinned, causing his cheeks to dimple. “Name’s Seth Dawson.” Leaning back on one arm, he stretched out his hand to her. She clasped it as if it was just a friendly greeting between strangers back home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ooh La La!

I just got the cover art for my upcoming vampire ménage release, Fire In The Blood and I have to share it with you!

The story is set in Jamaica. The release date is August 16th! You can read an excerpt on my website, at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/fireinthebloodex.html.

Meanwhile, while we are on the subject of covers, you might like to see the cover of the upcoming anthology Best Bondage Erotica 2011, which includes my short story "Wired". The collection is scheduled for release in December.

Even if you're not into BDSM, you can't help loving this cover. I think that the model looks like Buffy!

Getting new covers is always such a tease. It makes it even harder to wait for the release!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

RNA NWS (Read on for an explanation!)

By Maggi Sherwin (Guest Blogger)

I’m Maggi Sherwin and I’m based in the UK. I live in Epsom and it just so happens that as I’m writing this, crowds are starting to gather in town to either walk, or take buses and taxis, past our house and up to Epsom Downs. Its Derby Day, and the racegoers have the weather for it too - fine and sunny. It’s an annual even and I’ve been myself. The crowds present a noisy colourful spectacle, but today I’m more than happy to sit quietly here at home and write something for you about one of my favourite subjects – the RNA.

How many writers’ organizations invite up to 250 unpublished hopefuls to join and learn from them? I know of only one – the UK-based Romantic Novelists’ Association. A few years ago, a helpful editor, instead of a blanket rejection of the partial manuscript I sent her, liked it enough to write back pointing out the strengths and weaknesses in my work. It was just what I needed. I appreciated that if I wanted to be published, my skills needed to improve, particularly in plotting and pace. I’d heard the RNA had a New Writers’ Scheme and decided to join. It’s a move I have never regretted.

The most appealing thing about the Scheme is the opportunity to have an entire manuscript read and critiqued by a published member. A good critique can lead to a second reading, and a second reading can lead to publication. I know of several members who found a publisher in this way in their very first year, others have taken a little longer. Orion, HM&B, Robert Hale and Little Black Dress have all taken on authors who were on the Scheme.

Not all members achieve publication this way but the RNA plays a big part in their success in other ways. It’s like an apprenticeship. You learn so much from published authors, either at chapter meetings or at talks and workshops at the annual Conference. I have listened spellbound to the likes of Jodi Thomas, Jean Fullerton and Jill Mansell explaining their craft or their journey to publication. This has helped me to improve my writing but, almost as important, I’ve learned about the publishing industry in general. Where else could I have heard of the opportunities for new writers in e-publishing? Without the knowledge, support and encouragement of fellow RNA members to persevere and to experiment with different romance genres, I would now be published. The RNA helped to turn a researcher and editor of military history into a writer of erotic romance!

I am still on the NWS scheme because my novella ‘Pure Silk’ is under 30,000 words, but I’m working on the final chapters of a full length erotic romance. This, I hope, will be my ticket to full and permanent membership, the very thing I aspired to when I first joined over three years ago.

Visit me online at http://www.maggisherwin.co.uk.

Pure Silk available now from Total-e-Bound

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer is Here!

Today is the Summer Solstice--the shortest night and longest day of the year (in the northern hemisphere) and the first day of summer.

I now live in a tropical climate, so summer doesn't necessarily mean much change in the weather, but I still remember the excitement of summers as a child. I loved school, most of the time. Still I cherished the freedom that came with the change of seasons. Back, then, summers were endless. Trips to the lake, games in the woods, popsicles and the ice cream truck, lemonade, long afternoons lost in some book, twilights that seemed to last forever...

Summer held a kind of magic, especially when I got a bit older. You could wear clothing that was barely there. The nights were lush and soft, moon-drenched and smelling of new-mown grass. Romance was always a possibility in the summer, the time of bare limbs and bronzed skin, strangers met on vacation, stolen kisses and heartbreak when you had to part.

I just submitted a story set in high summer in the hills of western Massachusetts. I know the area well. Summer is particularly sweet in New England because it's so short. The plot of my tale doesn't really have much to do with summer, except for the fact that the characters are all involved with a summer stock theater company, but the magic is still there in the background, at least for me.

My current work in progress, in contrast, is a holiday tale that takes place during a blizzard. Quite a mental shift!

In any case, Happy Solstice, whether summer or winter. I wish you a season of love!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Today, Sunday the 20th of June, is my twenty eighth wedding anniversary.

I find that un-effing-believable.

I never expected to get married. There were so many divorces in my family that I was convinced marriage was a waste of time and emotional energy. I knew I could support myself through my career; I didn't need a man to take care of me financially. I felt comfortable having relationships outside of marriage, so I could fulfill my needs for sex and companionship. Meanwhile I suspected that the chances of meeting someone who wouldn't bore me after a few years was pretty small.

I'm so glad that I was wrong.

K. was the first men in my life who pursued me. I tried to discourage him, but he was incredibly stubborn. (Nowadays, he says he learned about stubbornness from his wife, but it's not true!) I had to admit that from the first it was amazingly comfortable to spend time with him. I felt as though I'd known him for years. As I've written elsewhere, he seduced me with tales of his extensive travels. I sat there in the restaurant, fascinated by his adventures in Europe, Africa and Asia. Then he looked me straight in the eye and said, "I'm always looking for someone to travel with...".

Our wedding was a highly personal celebration with more than a dash of hippie flair. I wore a white sari with a red blouse and skirt underneath. The ceremony took place by a pond in a state park. It was the only day that June that it didn't rain. (We were ready, just in case, having rented a tent and bought a sledge hammer. After that, we always called it our "wedding sledgehammer"!)

We wrote our own vows and chose our own music, which we played through the speakers of K's car. The food was picnic-style. We cooked some of it; close friends and family also contributed. The guests sat at picnic tables or on blankets, eating lasagna, gazpacho, home-baked bread, Indonesian sate and cheesecake.

It was great fun--and cost us about $500.

I tried to find some photos of us as a couple, but apparently we were too busy organizing things to take many pictures. So I've included the photo above, taken on our honeymoon. We went to northern Canada, the Laurentians, and even though it was July, it was, as you can tell from my husband's hunched shoulders, pretty chilly!

It didn't matter. We were just happy to be together. And remarkably, we still are. I didn't realize right away what an excellent decision I'd made, agreeing to marry him. Not only did he turn out to be intelligent, responsible, considerate, creative and funny, he also had all these practical skills like plumbing and electrical wiring. Oh, and he was nearly as interested in sex as I was!

Twenty eight years later, we're still together and still in love. We've had lots of adventures adventures together--he kept his promise to take me traveling--and I know that even though neither of us is a spring chicken, we'll have more.

Today I'm incredibly grateful. I'm so glad that I turned out to wrong about marriage. If I'd been a bit more stubborn, I might have succeeded in driving away the man who has become my lover, my partner, my editor, my carpenter, my system administrator--and my best friend.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

And What Do YOU Do?

By Shermaine Williams (Guest Blogger)

“I can’t believe your mum knows you write erotica, I can’t even talk to my mum about sex.”

The words of a friend of mind during a discussion on the finer points of writing erotica. Not only did it make me realise how lucky I am to have a mum who is so liberal, but it also made me think about how secrecy tends to be standard when it comes to this particular field.

I use my real name and don’t mind that people know that I write erotica because I am self-employed. Although, I might well feel differently if I were still working in the corporate world, I’ve done my stint and I’m not going back. No, dammit, I won’t go back, I’m not going back and you can’t make me....sorry, lost my train of thought for a moment. Where was I?

I haven’t got around to reading any Jackie Collins, but I suspect that it isn’t for the faint hearted. She is just one example of an author who is quite open about what she does, but she is still firmly in the minority as many of us feel that we need to opt for a nom de plume.

I suspect it is because many erotica writers do not have the luxury of being able to forgo their ‘proper’ job to concentrate on their beloved job, and the knowledge of this wouldn’t go down to well.

Is writing erotica really that shameful or is it just that we don’t want to be judged? I can understand why the latter would be the case simply from the way that many people react when they discover what I do. For the most part, women tend to be quite open-minded while men do that strange thing that happens when people don’t hear your name properly: repeat it back to you incorrectly a moment after you have uttered it. “I write erotic fiction.” “You write porn?” Like the terms are interchangeable.

Maybe its human nature to avoid situations which will cause people to see us in a different light – anything that isn’t deemed normal by society’s standards.

There are many women who are prepared to change the status quo, not least one of the UK’s best known female porn directors becoming a political candidate for the Liberal Democrat party. No qualms, no disguises, nothing.

I’m not sure that I could be that brave if I was in her shoes, but I do intend to take a leaf out of Ms Collins’ book. What about you?

BIO: I began writing after doing the education thing and the tedious office job thing. It took me a while to realise that I could do something that I enjoy and get paid for it, but I got there eventually.

Having reached my late twenties, I have decided that I want to write full time, so that is what I hope to be able to and have gone some way to realising my ambition by getting several short stories accepted for publication.

I am always working on new material (even if it's just thinking about the next story) and hope to get more work published in the near future.

The types of story I write are mostly quite realistic: I like to leave people guessing about whether I am actually trying to disguise my own life in the story! I like people to be able to see some of themselves in my characters. Although I like to try new things, so will try different sub-genres to see if I can come up with a good story.

Visit me on-line at: http://www.freewebs.com/shermainewilliams/

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: I Came Up Stairs

I Came Up Stairs: A Victorian Courtesan's Memoirs, 1867 to 1871

By MC Halliday

Published by Eternal Press, 2010

I've read a good deal of Victorian erotica. The heroine of my novel Incognito is a graduate student doing her dissertation on the topic and of course I needed to do my research! In fact, even before I wrote that book, I was fascinated by the paradoxical Victorian era, with its conservative public morality and its private lasciviousness. Sometimes I've speculated that I had a previous incarnation in Victoria's London.

MC Halliday's novel I Came Up Stairs beautifully captures the style of the period. Ms. Halliday's heroine Mae is rescued from incredible degradation and poverty to be trained as a courtesan. Her sponsor Mr. Vickers raises her from her squalor for purely monetary reasons. He somehow recognizes a spark of brilliance in the filthy young girl he adopts and sets about fanning that spark to full flame, expecting her to make his fortune.

He meets more success than he could have dreamed. Mae (originally Mabel Gray, rechristened Marisa Montague) grows into a charming, sensual woman with the manners of a lady and the lusts of a kitchen maid. She attracts the attention of noblemen and princes, catering to their desires and frequently satisfying her own. Her tastes run to women as well as men, and she's never so happy as when she's lounging naked, drinking champagne.

Mae earns her independence from Vickers by becoming a featured dancer in a music hall, where her risqué, “Oriental” gyrations earn her huge acclaim. However, she is subject to the typical risks facing a woman of the period. She becomes pregnant, possibly by the heir to the British throne, and is forced to slip away to France for the period of her confinement. There she meets her true love, but their relationship comes to a tragic end in the heat of war.

I Came Up Stairs feels genuine. The sex scenes are rife with euphemism but still arousing. Actually, it is Mae's enthusiasm that lights up every encounter. She is a true hedonist and as is typical in real Victorian erotica, will eagerly indulge herself with whomever happens to be present—a handsome earl, her buxom maids, or her well-hung gardener.

However, Mae is far more complex and engaging than the women in The Pearl or My Secret Life. Remembering her own origins, she is unfailingly kind and generous to her servants. She acts with a spontaneity that is consistent with her youth. When she loses the love of her life, she descends into a drunken slough of despond. She feels quite real, unlike the cardboard cut-out women in many Victorian tales, who exist mainly as willing orifices.

Ms. Halliday also excels at painting a picture of the rigid, hypocritical, class-oriented society in which Mae exists. Mae herself is in some sense immune, far freer, due to her anomalous history, than any true lady of the time.

The language in I Came Up Stairs is deliberately archaic. Readers who prefer more direct locutions may find it tedious, but I was impressed by its ring of authenticity.

My one complaint about the book relates to what seems like a factual slip. When Mr. Vickers first takes Mae away from her impoverished existence, she comments that she had not yet started to menstruate. Yet after a period of tutelage that is not specified but seems no more than a year or so, she seems to have blossomed into a voluptuous, physically mature young woman. Ms. Halliday is not explicit about the time involved, but there's no suggestion that it involved anything like the time necessary to effect this transformation.

Of course, it is true that modern women reach menarche quite a bit earlier than women a century ago. Furthermore, the malnutrition that Mae likely suffered in her early life would also have affected her physical development. Nevertheless, this nagged at me through the first half of the book.

By the time I reached the middle of I Came Up Stairs, however, Mae had charmed me, just as she did everyone else who met her. I didn't care about her past; I was just concerned about her future.

I Came Up Stairs will delight anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially from the Victorian period.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Re-make, Re-model

By Elizabeth Coldwell (guest blogger)

A few weeks ago on this very blog, Bailey Bradford described her dilemma when hitting a stumbling block in her writing, and the steps she took to resolve the situation. She’s not alone. Ask any writer, and almost without exception they will have at least one half-finished novel sitting in a drawer or on their PC. We’ve all had what we thought were strong, original ideas with lots of potential, embarked on the first few chapters with great enthusiasm then, somewhere along the line, come to the conclusion that it just isn’t working. We’ve lost sympathy with the characters, the plot seems full of holes or we discover the clever twist ending we were so pleased to think up has already been done better by someone else. However, that doesn’t mean you have to give up on what you’ve written entirely. Almost anything is salvageable. Forget about it for a while and turn your attention to something else. When you go back to your work with fresh eyes, you should be able to find a way of transforming it – or at least part of it – into something people will want to read.

If there are scenes you’re proud of, but the overall storyline is weak or really won’t stretch to novel length, you can cannibalise the parts you like. Plenty of e-publishers take novellas, which they generally require to be between 20,000 and 50,000 words long, and there’s always the short story market. One novel I was writing that somehow withered on the vine halfway through was eventually turned into four or five short stories and fantasy confessions for various different publishers. And with holiday-themed and seasonal anthologies becoming increasingly popular, it’s not difficult to rewrite a storyline so it takes place over Christmas, or the July 4th weekend.

It’s always a good idea to check publishers’ websites on a regular basis to see if they have themed anthologies in the pipeline, because many of them are looking for the same thing, but at different times. So if you’ve missed the deadline for one collection, another publisher may put out a call for a similar one six months later. Pressure of work meant I didn’t have time to finish a story with an older woman/younger man pairing in time to submit it to a particular anthology. When I had more time to devote to my fiction writing and discovered Total-e-bound were looking for cougar-themed material, I dusted off Something Within Him, and it found its way into their Cougars And Cubs collection.

The third, admittedly most time-consuming option, is to do whatever it takes to make the novel work. This might involve changing the setting, the characterisation or even the point of view from which the story is told. A good fifteen or more years ago, I started working on something which I intended to submit to the UK-based pulp fiction imprint that published my first ever novel, a paranormal offering called An Innocent Death (which appears to be currently available on eBay – though what isn’t these days?). The publisher bit the dust before I could finish the manuscript, so I shelved it, as I wasn’t aware of anyone else at the time who was looking for novels of that length (around 40,000 words). However, I always liked the concept behind it, which was that a woman was hypnotised and shown who she would become in a future life (this was based on something I read in an interview with hypnotist Paul McKenna, who’d actually put me under the influence at the press launch for his range of self-help videos a couple of months earlier – a very weird experience, I can tell you). In the novel, Annie, the heroine, saw herself in the body of a man, in a society which had been ravaged by ecological disaster. The original version had no real erotic content, but the situation had plenty of potential for Annie to enjoy sex both with her boyfriend in her Twenty-first century life and with a female partner whenever she was Jai, her male incarnation.

It soon became obvious what I’d written needed substantial changes to make it work. First, a viewpoint change from the third person to the first, to make Annie’s strange situation more immediate. Second, a radical personality transplant for her boyfriend. In the original, he was a struggling musician who was talented but lazy and liable to cheat on Annie. Now I was writing an erotic romance, he had to become more sympathetic (and acquire a hot bandmate along the way for some kinky threeway action...). Third, a move away from its original setting on a London rock scene which has changed beyond recognition since I penned the first draft, to New York and the bohemian environs of Greenwich Village. And finally, a change from the working title of Bodyswap (yawn!) to the more intriguing Someone Else’s Skin. I was very pleased with the final result – and so, to my delight, were Xcite Books, who accepted it for their e-book range.

So if you’ve got anything lurking in your files, unfinished and unloved, take it out and look at it again. You may very well find it is possible to turn that sow’s ear into a silk purse, after all. And if you have any other suggestions for turning half-baked ideas into page turners, why not share them here? Your comments will be greatly appreciated...

Elizabeth Coldwell can be found in The (Really) Naughty Corner at http://elizabethcoldwell.wordpress.com

Cougars And Cubs is available at http://www.total-e-bound.com/product.asp?strParents=&CAT_ID=0&P_ID=777

Someone Else’s Skin is available at http://www.xcitebooks.com/category-208/XB2056.html

BIO: Originally from South Yorkshire, Elizabeth Coldwell has been making up stories for as long as she can remember, only now she gets to people them with hot men. When she's not got her nose in a book, or trying to stop one or both of her cats from walking over her keyboard, she spends her time following her home town football team and baking the best brownies in East London.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Is there anybody out there?

Hello
Is there anybody out there?
Just nod if you can hear me.
Is there anyone home?

(Roger Waters & David Gilmour, from Pink Floyd's The Wall)

Sometimes that's the way I feel about blogging.

I was amazed to realize, a few days ago, that Beyond Romance is more than six months old. I remember so clearly, debating whether I wanted to make the commitment to a personal blog. Now it has become part of my routine.

I don't regret starting the blog. It has given me the opportunity to meet dozens of new authors. I can offer some reciprocity when I guest on someone's site. And a few of my posts have generated a good deal of commentary.

Most of my posts, though--as well as many of my guests' posts--seem to go by completely unnoticed, at least if I judge from the comments. I'm gratified that the blog has more than fifty followers, but I don't know how often they actually come read the content. You know the old saying, "If a tree falls in the forest but there's nobody to hear, does it make a sound?"? That's the way I sometimes feel about this blog!

One problem, I suppose, is that I don't promote enough. Lately I've been trying to announce all my guests, but I feel kind of embarrassed posting messages on my groups for every single post. If people were interested, they'd come, right? I don't want to bug them. That's probably the wrong attitude. I guess if you want to be noticed in the crowded world of erotic romance, you have to take every opportunity to shout from the house tops. But that's so not me!

Still, if I look at my own behavior, I realize that the only time I go check a blog, other than the ones with which I'm personally involved, is when someone announces a post that sounds interesting. If I don't have the link to click on, I just won't make the effort. I suppose that other readers are the same way. (If I do read a post, I'll almost always comment--assuming that I have something to say, which is practically a foregone conclusion! I want the author to know I've visited.)

I'd love to know what readers think about this--if anyone is reading this post. Would you like to get a notice each time there's a new post? Or would this just seem like nagging? And if you would like notices, where would you expect them to show up? (on what lists?)

If anybody's out there, thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Romancing The Girl (or Why I Write F/F Fiction)

By Sommer Marsden (Guest Blogger)

To celebrate Pride Month, I figured I'd talk about why I can often be found in lesbian anthologies. In fact, once in a while I'm in then as alternate pen names and no one but me (and my editor) knows it's me! There's no big secret that I've been happily married and tethered (sometimes literally) to the same man for a million years. But you will often find me waxing poetic about the female of the species. In fact, some of my favorite short pieces ever have been lesbian pieces. Spitting Seeds (Girl Crazy) and Hot Child In The City (Where The Girls Are) spring immediately to mind. A story called In The Only Girl I Want (Best Lesbian Romance '10) was a story that had me giddy while writing it. I loved every single character and yes, the main character was based on a real girl. Then there's the recent story I chose to pen for the upcoming You Say Tomato (Pretty Things Press) called Waiting For The Harvest. That was a f/f piece that sprang to mind and took root (pun intended) until I sat down and wrote it out.

I never turn down or alter the way a story presents itself to me. If it comes into my head as M/F I run with it. F/F...sold! M/M....go for it! I'm not hung up on the gender or the genitalia of the players, Just their story. And while M/M fiction has taken off like a brush fire in the romance and erotica genres lately (a large amount of it written and purchased by women) I wanted to turn the spotlight on why I choose to write F/F as often as I do.

Firstly, women are hot. Let's just put that out there. Hot and sweet and soft~ big, small, skinny, lush, black, white, whatever. Women are enticing. Telling the tale of two women being attracted to one another, flirting, or falling for each other—or hell, being in love and staying that way—is something I love to do. My first F/F piece ever was about two women in love, a couple who found each other as fiercely sexy as they had in the beginning. And the fact that their relationship was seasoned, so to speak, and that each one knew exactly how to get the other going, is what made the story hot. The story "Apron Strings" is in my upcoming Coupling anthology because I knew from the first moment I had the idea for the book that the story of Kerry and Tina had to be included. To date, those two spicy women are one of my favorite fictional couples.

Secondly, okay, I have a girl crush or ten and I can imagine what I would do with some of these lovely ladies. A prime example was the story "The Scream Queen" found in Mile High Erotica. That story is the result of a long and vivid girl crush on actress Jamie Lee Curtis. There is something I find so appealing about the thought of being able to deliver my personal pleasures expertly to a member of the same sex. Let's just say, I know my way around the equipment, so while I write these steamy love stories, I can put myself on both ends of the equation. The woman giving the pleasure and the woman getting it. Trust me, if I got you in my bed and did all my favorite things to you...you'd never leave. [toot toot...that was my own horn].

Lastly, to me a love story is a love story is a love story. Or you could say, given my alter ego Smut Girl, a smut story is a smut story is a smut story. The bottom line is that sex and attraction and lust—and yes, love—know no boundaries. They are fluid and they are magical and I believe, in my heart of hearts, that they do not discriminate in any way. I truly believe that one soul speaks to another and if they resonate they resonate. Regardless of packaging. Gender, color, height, weight, eye color and musical preference really do not come into play.

It's really all about the love.

Where some F/F can be found: Excessica, Torquere Press, Xcite Books and recently, Ellora's Cave has started offering strictly Lesbian books. Enjoy!

www.freewebs.com/sommermarsden
http://smutgirl.blogspot.com
www.myspace.com/sommermarsden

(A note from Lisabet: If you like M/F shapeshifter romance, check out my review of Sommer's recently published novel, Base Nature!)

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Interview with Stella Xanthakeos

Stella Xanathakeos is the heroine of my erotic thriller Exposure. She's the sort of kick-ass woman I wish I was. Stella works as an exotic dancer at the Peacock Lounge. One night she accepts a contract to do a private dance for a city bigwig and ends up as the only witness to a double murder. Before long she realizes that she can't trust anyone, not even her old friend, Police Detective Jimmy Ostrowski. Her only option is to untangle the motivations for the murder by herself. Her quest for the truth makes her everyone's target, and she risks losing everything she cares about.

Lisabet: Greetings, Stella! Welcome to Beyond Romance. I wonder if you could tell my readers a bit about your job. Why do you work as a stripper?

Stella: You want the truth? I like it. Heck, I love it. I've always liked to dance. Working at the Peacock lets me do what I love and get paid pretty well, too. And I'm not being conceited when I say that I'm very good at what I do. Ask Joey, my boss, or any of the other girls. Or better yet, ask the customers! I leave them gasping for more.

Lisabet: Doesn't it bother you to show off your body to strangers?

Stella: Not in the least. It's a kind of revenge, in a way, for all those awful years in school when guys would tease me about the size of my tits. Not to mention how everyone was always trying to get into my pants. Now I'm the one in charge. They can look, but they can't touch. I'm not a hooker, you know; most strippers aren't. I'm pretty choosey about men—I have to really like a guy, really trust him, before I'll go to bed with him.

Lisabet: So how do you feel about Jimmy Ostrowski?

Stella: Ah, Jimmy! I've know him since high school. He never had the courage to ask me out, but when I went to him about the murders, I could tell he really had it bad for me. He's solid, the kind of guy I could get serious about. But now I'm not sure I can trust even him. The night I went to dinner with Jimmy, somebody broke in to my house and messed up all my things. Nobody but Jimmy knew that I was going to be out that night...

Lisabet: And what about Francesca Pinelli? How do you feel about her?

Stella: Tony's widow? Well—she's smart, that's for sure, and she knows what she wants. In some ways she's like me. It's hard to say no to her. When she asked me to be her campaign manager, I practically laughed in her face. A high-class woman like her, running for mayor, and she wants a stripper to manage her campaign? But I ended up agreeing. I'm still not sure that was the right decision, but I thought being around her would give me some opportunities to investigate why Tony was killed.

Lisabet: Well, I don't want to ask you too many more questions. Since Exposure is a thriller, I definitely don't want to give away the plot. So let me ask you one last thing. Do you regret anything you've done since Tony was shot?

Stella: Hmm. That's a tough question. Would there have been less violence and tragedy if I'd minded my own business and not tried to figure out what was going on? Could I have avoided the emotional scars? Maybe. But you know, I'm just not the sort of person to shrug my shoulders. I'm not going to mind my own business, if something's wrong. That just isn't me.

Lisabet: And you'd never have discovered how you feel about Jimmy and vice versa.

Stella: Maybe not. In any case, it's kind of pointless to play these “what if” games. We all do what we have to do. Then we take the consequences.

Exposure is available from Phaze Books. (http://www.king-cart.com/Phaze/product=Exposure/exact_match=exact)

Note that the book includes F/F as well as M/F interactions.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breaking Up the Word Monopolies

By Jeremy Edwards (Guest Blogger)

Picture me at my desk, writing my latest erotica piece. I draft, I revise, I revise, I revise, and I revise.

Then, at the point where I feel like I ought to be just about finished, I face up to a reality that I recognized long ago: despite my extensive vocabulary and active dedication to keeping the text fresh, my story is sure to contain overused words. Yes, even though I try to keep an eye on this throughout the writing/revising process, I’ve learned that until I specifically scour the manuscript for words I’ve used once (or thrice) too often within the piece, class must not be dismissed. Because, inevitably, something that was the mot juste on page 2 also ended up being the mot juste on page 4, and perhaps again on page 5. It may indeed be the best word each time; but I have to analyze whether its use on three separate occasions detracts from its impact, or from the gracefulness of the story—and, if so, whether there’s anything I can do about it.

A few years ago, my software-maven wife pointed me toward a free program called Simple Concordance [http://www.textworld.eu/scp/index.html]. And when it’s time to play the “find the overused words” game with a given story, I use this tool to help light the way, by generating a list of all the words in the piece in decreasing frequency order. At the top will be the, which naturally I’ve used countless times (though the program will, in fact, have counted them). At the bottom will be all the words I’ve used only one time apiece.

This list is invaluable. But Simple Concordance can’t do my complex thinking for me. And so I spend hours using the list to direct my attention to words that may call out for replacement on the grounds of overuse. Obviously, it’s not as simple as how many times a word has been used; it depends on what the word is, how it’s used (in terms of meaning and also sentence structure), where it’s used (how close to a previous and/or subsequent appearance), and whether there are any acceptable (if not necessarily perfect) substitutes. And most of these judgments are very subjective.

Ignoring workhorse words like a and she (but not as: I may want to change one of the as’s to a while or a when), I scan the list for significant words with repeat incidences. Sometimes as few as two occurrences will bear investigating in the manuscript (for one thing, to make sure they’re not a mere sentence away from each other, where this isn’t desired). Several instances of a concrete word like office won’t raise my eyebrows if the story is, for example, set in an office (though even here it might be worth considering alternatives like room or executive suite). But I usually feel that a powerful intangible like ambivalence should, ideally, not appear more than once in a short story—unless I’m deliberately drawing attention to the concept’s repetition, as in “She sensed my ambivalence ... Now it was no longer ambivalence, but confusion ... This time she was the ambivalent one.” Speaking of which, the concordance program thinks “ambivalence” and “ambivalent” are two completely different words; but I know better, and I concoct my manual-search strategies so as to account for related forms. Thus I often search on abbreviated letter strings to catch related words: “imag” to catch image, imagine, and imagination.

Yeah, it seems I’m inclined to have my characters imagine a lot. But I’ve been through this routine enough times that I know where to turn when I’ve let my imagination run too wild: my folks can envision or visualize for a change. As that example illustrates, this process has taught me to pay more attention to the second tier of my vocabulary, if you will—the words I don’t turn to often enough when drafting prose because, for each of them, there’s an overexposed synonym that has preferred status in my vernacular. In working to bring second-tier words to the fore, I’m breaking up some of those near monopolies!

Of course, it’s better to give a prima donna another encore than send in a shaky understudy of a word. In erotica, for instance, anatomical terms present a special challenge, as I am by no means the first to observe. I try to remain aware of my anatomical options, but tone and aesthetics will sometimes call for reusing a term rather than sounding a false note with a synonym that doesn’t have the right feel.

I find the overused-word assessment and solution routine quite tedious—to be honest, I dread this chore. But though it’s by far my least favorite part of the story-crafting process, it is by no means a thankless task. With every story, I’m aware of the rewards I’m reaping for my drudgery, as I see the vocabulary becoming richer and the prose enjoying a greater variety of shapes and textures. And then there are those satisfying moments when I realize that instead of substituting one word for another, I can improve a sentence simply by removing the overused word. That dog-eared word wasn’t adding anything to begin with, and the sentence is tighter, and better, without it!

Sometimes the best part of writing is erasing.

[The Simple Concordance screenshot was generated from the final version of my story “Ménage à Denim,” which appears in The Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica 9. In order to fit more of the “interesting” words in the picture, I’ve truncated the top few lines, where you’d find the and friends.]


Click here to expand. Use the "Back" button to return to the blog.

BIO: Jeremy Edwards is the author of the eroto-comedic novel Rock My Socks Off and the forthcoming erotic-story collection Spark My Moment (both published by Xcite Books). His work has appeared in over forty anthologies. Drop in on him unannounced (and thereby catch him in his underwear) at www.jeremyedwardserotica.com .

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Critic Within

You've probably read blogs by other authors about dealing with negative feedback: rejections and bad reviews. I can confirm that it really doesn't matter how long you've been writing, or how many books you've published. Having work rejected still hurts, even if the editor softens the blow by telling me she actually liked the story but found it wasn't appropriate for the target publication. A negative review will put me in a funk for days—even when all my other reviews of the same book have been favorable. Either one can take the joy out of writing. For a little while, at least, I find myself thinking “Why bother?” We writers are sensitive folk.

There's something even more debilitating than negative feedback from an outside source, though. I'm talking about the internal voices who tell you that you're no good, that your writing is boring and pedestrian, that your characters are flat and your plots are limp. I don't know if all authors deal with these voices. I do know that I'd be far more productive without them.

Usually my inner critic is at her snarkiest when I am just about to get started on something new. I may be excited about my ideas and enthusiastic about diving in—then the internal monologue begins. Didn't you just read a story with a similar premise a few weeks ago? Why can't you come up with something original? Another romance about a reunion with an old flame? Ho hum. Male/male sex? Aren't you the copycat? Just jumping on the bandwagon just because everyone says it sells. Etcetera, etcetera, on and on, until self-doubt pretty much drains away my energy for writing.

I'm going through this right now. Total-E-Bound put out a call for holiday shorts and I thought I'd try to submit something. I've found in the past that having a release around the end of the year tends to translate into increased sale as well as giving me lots of fodder for blogging. I kicked around a couple of ideas and settled on a tale based very loosely on some personal experiences. It's supposed to be a M/M/F ménage about a busy career woman who hooks up with an old high school friend at a Christmas party, then discovers he's living with his male lover.

As soon as I sat down to write, the critic started nagging me. “Where's the drama in this story?” she complained. “These characters—they're just like anyone you might meet on the street. You call this guy a hero? He's only five nine, for heaven's sake! And this stuff about him being bisexual. Come on. Who's going to believe that?”

I resolved to ignore her and wrote my first sentence, my first page. The story begins with a kiss. All well and good. But then I have to introduce the characters and provide some information on their history, while trying to build the tension.

“Where's the sex?” my critic sneered. “You're nearly 3000 words into the story and all you've managed is a kiss?”

“Shut up,” I told her. “The sex is coming. I have to set the scene first.”

“Hmph. You're going to run out of word count before you get the guy and the girl together, let alone bring in his lover.”

“Leave me alone! I know what I'm doing!” I responded. But then I began to worry that she might be right. Maybe I needed to cut some of the back story. Maybe I should have started with the sex scene and then used a flashback to show how they got into bed.

No. I refused to let her influence me. I tried to reason with her. “Let me get the first draft down,” I said. “I can revise it later, if I decide the story needs to move more quickly.”

“You won't have time,” she told me sourly. “You'll end up leaving it as is and then you'll be sorry. The story will get a wimpy heat rating because it doesn't have enough sizzle. Maybe it will even be rejected. Or it will be accepted and then panned by the reviewers.”

“This is romance, remember?” By this time I was getting pretty pissed off with her nagging. “The relationship is more important than the sex. Now leave me alone and let me write.”

She threw up her hands and went off in a huff, shaking her head and muttering dire predictions. I've discovered that the only way to deal with her is to ignore her. I finished my chapter and decided to stop for the day. I knew that it would be easier the next time I sat down to work on it. Once I'm into a story, it begins to write itself, but the first few thousand words can be torture.

This happens pretty frequently—not all the time, but often enough that I'm pretty tired of it. I wonder if other writers have the same difficulties. The trouble is, I can't completely dump my inner critic. Sometimes she's right. Sometimes her comments lead me to revelations that greatly improve my tale. When she gets in a negative mood, though, she puts me through hell.

I guess it's like marriage. You take the bitter with the sweet. All I can do is keep writing and try to live with her.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Touring the Tarthian Empire

By Kayelle Allen (Guest Blogger)

As an author of Science Fiction Romance, I've made it my policy to create detailed worlds and backgrounds where the characters in my books can play. My son Jamin studied computer graphics in college, and he's as much a SciFi buff as I am. Small wonder we have worked together on so many projects for my website, including the tour I set up.

I envisioned the Tarthian Tour Company as a travel service that would provide custom tours and trips for their clients. Designing the worlds, deciding how they were laid out and where, which was a military outpost and which were civilian, and other details of the kind took more work than I care to remember. I was lost in the empire for a few months, I think!

Jamin and I worked together to create the worlds, and it was during this time that he taught me how to use Photoshop. He has CS3 now, but I still have version 6 -- rather like the difference between a throwaway camera and a massive 3D one. I do my best to create the things I can, and then call him when I need help. If we've been back and forth on an issue, he'll answer the phone, "Photoshop Help Line, may I have your ticket number please?" LOL

Since I have a book coming out June 15th which partially takes place on the planet Felidae, I'd like to give you a quick tour. You can visit the planet's page here. http://kayelleallen.com/TTC-Felidae.html Details about the sixteen separate clans are found here. http://kayelleallen.com/Kin_Family_Trees.html

The cover is by Anne Cain.

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Kin Ambassador Mehfawni Ruh visits the capitol planet of the Tarthian Empire, she meets the human Khyff Antonello, a master of pleasure who satisfies her every craving for illicit and taboo sex. She expected a fling, but found love. Upon discovering her own people devastated his family, she longs to restore all they destroyed, but some tragedies can never be reversed. Her family demands she cast out the human, for if she keeps Khyff, she must deny her heritage and abdicate her future as ruler of her world. Mehfawni searches for an alternative, and stumbles upon Khyff’s darkest secret. Now, she must decide -- is his fragile trust the response of love and a healing heart -- or a ruse for revenge?

EXCERPT

Khyff held a drink, his free hand tucked in his pants pocket, while he listened to the man in front of him talk. Alitus had introduced them and then made a swift disappearance in the general direction of the empress, far across the room. Now Khyff was stuck pretending to be interested in an old man whose name he could not recall if his life depended on it.

The Kin female Alitus pointed out absorbed all of his attention, even though he wasn’t able to look directly at her.

Mehfawni Ruh. If I’d ever thought I’d be turned on by a Kin, let alone a Ruh, I’d have shot myself. That was before I saw her. Why didn’t they tell me she was beautiful? That isn’t the pheromones talking, is it? No, surely not.

He smiled at the man, content not to have to speak. Apparently, the guy only wanted an audience.

Mehfawni’s ears had flicked upward when she noticed him. Khyff sipped the drink. He knew enough about Kin to understand that meant interest. And then she’d flicked one in his direction. That was like saying hello.

She filled out that sparkly white dress, her body all feminine curves with large breasts and wide hips. She knows she’s lookin’ good. A real woman. Oops, real female, he corrected. Kin despised being called men and women. All too human for them.

Is she coming my way? He gulped another slug of the drink and reminded himself to slow down. His heart raced. Adrenaline would kick alcohol into his bloodstream faster, and he was going to need his strength if tales of Kin sexual prowess were true.

Someone mercifully captured the attention of the old man. Khyff turned to see where Mehfawni had gone.

She was standing directly behind him. Her gaze lifted from where she’d apparently been examining his ass. She did not look the least embarrassed at being found out.

She had big golden eyes with green flecks, her pupils perfectly catlike, and the longest lashes he’d ever seen. Up close, she looked more human than he’d expected. Her breasts were round and full, and the cleavage showing at the neckline teased his gaze.

“Hi.”

“Hi,” she said back, looking him up and down. “What’s your name?”

“Khyff.”

Her nose wriggled.

She was smelling him. Was that good or bad? He crossed mental fingers and hoped for good. Alitus had told him to use nonscented soap and avoid cologne. Kin liked the smell of sweat.

“Khyff, hmm? Sounds Kin.”

He smiled, used to the comment. He sipped the drink. “It’s not.”

She laughed. “Figured that one for myself.” She extended a hand. “I’m Fawni.”

He shook hands with her. They hadn’t told him she had such a cute nickname. He set his drink on a passing waiter droid’s tray. “Like a deer?”

“Like a Kin. My full name’s Mehfawni. It means hunter.”

He tucked both hands in his pockets, playing it slow, like Alitus had coached. “Let her make the moves. Let her seduce you.”

“Does it fit you, being called hunter?”

“Oh, yes, Khyff.” She extended one claw and slid it along his jacket lapel. She smoothed the cloth, sliding her hand down to his waist. “It does indeed.”

Damn. This is going to be quite a ride.

“So, Khyff. Are you intimidated by sexually aggressive women?”

His cock twitched. Are there women who aren’t? I’ve never met any. His turn to give her body the once-over. “Sexually aggressive women? No. But you’re no woman. You’re a Kin female. The way I hear it, your kind is aggressive in everything.”

Her fangs showed when she smiled. The bridge of her nose was higher, flatter than a human’s.

“Do you have a problem with Kin?”

“No. Do you have a problem with humans?”

“No.” She stroked her fingers down his lapel again, lingering on the one button of his jacket, near his waist. “Do you have a place?”

“Place?”

“Room.”

Hot damn. He hadn’t smiled this much in years.

Alitus had set him up with a penthouse with a fully stocked bar and plenty of snacks. Good sex always ended with the munchies.

“I’m staying in the hotel.”

“Then, tell me, Khyff” -- she unfastened his button -- “why are we still at this party?”

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For Women Only © copyright 2010 Kayelle Allen

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For Women Only; Antonello Brothers 2, a Tarthian Empire book Khyff is a master of pleasure with a tortured soul. Can Mehfawni redeem him, or will he destroy her for trying? Buy link: http://www.loose-id.com/For-Women-Only.aspx

ISBN: 978-1-60737-435-0 Genre: Erotic Science Fiction Romance, Multicultural, Interspecies, Action Adventure Publisher's Note: This book is a substantially re-edited, revised edition previously released by another publisher, and contains explicit sexual content, graphic language, and situations that some readers may find objectionable: violence, reference to abuse, reference to male rape.

At the Mercy of Her Pleasure; Antonello Brothers 1, a Tarthian Empire book

Buy link: http://www.loose-id.com/At-the-Mercy-of-Her-Pleasure.aspx

ISBN 978-1-60737-552-4

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