Monday, January 31, 2011

Gifts

Today's my birthday. I'm really busy; it's Monday, a work day, plus I have a dentist's appointment, so I don't expect to have a chance to breathe. However, I still tend to wax philosophical on the day I turn a year older. Today, I'm thinking about all the gifts that have been bestowed upon me over the past year.

At the top of the list is decent health. Both my husband and I have avoided any serious ailments, despite our advancing ages. The worst we've experienced is a nagging cold or two. And this year actually finds me feeling at least five years younger, due to the hip surgery I had in May. After years of gritting my teeth and limping along like some crone, I can now walk without pain, even dance! I definitely know the meaning of the term "a new lease on life"!

Another gift - we're managing to keep our heads above water financially. We're still both employed and even got a modest raise this year. Of course, prices are going up all the time. Sometimes I feel like Alice, running as fast as I can just to stay in one place. However, when I look around me at all the people who have lost their jobs and are truly struggling, I have to be grateful.

My writing accomplishments over the last year have been modest but worthwhile. I'm particularly proud of my vampire ménage Fire in the Blood and my BDSM tale The Understudy. Sometimes I get a bit depressed, looking at the output of my more prolific colleagues, but then I have to remind myself that this is not a competition. If I just keep writing, keep publishing, at my own pace, I have reason to be proud.

My extended family is all well, with the exception of my nephew who's undergoing chemotherapy for recently discovered testicular cancer. Even there, we've been lucky. The prognosis is very good, although the poor guy is going to have to endure the loss of his hair and other symptoms before he's cured.

Yes, I've been given many gifts this year. And I want to share some of the bounty with you, my readers!

As my first birthday gift to you, I have added a new free read to my website, an intense M/M erotic tale called Mad Dogs. Actually, this was the first M/M story I ever wrote. It has been published in several anthologies. Although it's not really romance, I hope that you like it.

Second, I'm giving away a copy of my latest release Almost Home to one person who leaves a comment for me today, either here or at Marian Perrera's blog Flights of Fantasy, where I'm guesting today. Comment on both posts and double your chances of winning!

Finally, my monthly contest is still going on. I'm celebrating my birthday by giving you whatever you ask for. That's right, tell me which of my books you'd like to read, and your wish just might come true. Just send me an email to contest [at] lisabetsarai.com with the subject "Birthday Contest". In your email, tell me which of my books you'd pick if you won, and why. On February 15th, I'll randomly select one lucky winner who will receive the book cited in his or her email.

I hope you enjoy your gifts as much as I enjoy giving them!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Secret Treasures

By Jade Archer (Guest Blogger)

Hi, Everyone! It’s wonderful to be here and once again heartfelt thanks to Lisabet Sarai for inviting me to post here today.

Today I thought I might share with you one of my life long addictions. And before anyone gets the wrong idea, I’m talking about quotes. Yep, quotes. For as long as I can remember I’ve collected them. I don’t know how strange or unusual that is, but I have quite a few books and journals full of “words of wisdom” I’ve jotted down over the years. I’ve found them hidden in a calendar, secreted in books, and the internet has certainly been my friend.

To me, finding a good quote feels a little like uncovering a secret treasure. Mostly I collect them because they mean something to me at the time. Or, if I’m really lucky, one will give me a light bulb moment—helping me to understand something about myself or the world I hadn’t appreciated before. Some have even inspired me to write stories.

Recently I rediscovered one I’ve loved for a very long time. One I thought I knew all about. And this brings me to the real joy I find in quotes and inspirational phrases. Sometimes I’ll come back to one I thought I understood and something will have changed—usually about myself and where I am in my life—and it will mean more than ever before.

Anyway, this is the particular quote I wanted to share with you today:

Hold tenderly that which you cherish ~ Bob Alberti.

As I said, one of my long time favorites. When I first stumbled upon it I think I was about six months pregnant with my second child, so for obvious reasons, I’ve always thought of it in terms of how precious my children are. I think of how blessed I am to have them in my life and how I want to end each day knowing I’ve done my best to love and care for them when I read this quote. I want each one to know by my actions that they are adored.

I know this all sounds like a fairly average sort of goal for a parent. The reality and practicalities can sometimes be more of a Herculean task in a busy working mother’s life, but really it’s pretty standard stuff. Recently, however, I began to think a little more deeply about this quote.

While it will probably always inspire thoughts of family and children first and foremost for me, I started to wonder what else it might encompass, or more specifically, whether my application had been too limited. I started to think about what are some of the other things in my life I cherish, and more importantly, how I might hold them tenderly.

To be honest, once I started thinking about it lots of things started springing to mind, making me realize just how blessed I am in my life. But there was one thing that occurred to me, one thing I cherish which I probably haven’t been doing a very good job of “holding tenderly” recently that I wanted to share with you. It’s me, or more specifically my health.

It’s not something I’ve ever really thought a lot about before. As I said, I’m a busy working mum and I don’t often find the time to focus on myself. But I’m beginning to think that might be a mistake. And quite possibly not one I’m alone in being guilty of.

I’ve blogged briefly before about having difficulty sometimes finding a healthy balance between work and play. I think I’ve finally figured out I need to start cherishing myself a little too. I need to be healthy, strong and balanced or not only am I not likely to enjoy what I’m doing, but I’m probably not going to be able to continue to do them for any length of time either!

So, I guess that’s what this blog is all about. What things do you cherish and what do you do every day to hold them tenderly, to show each and every day that you acknowledge how precious and blessed you are to have them in your lives? How much you appreciate them?

For me this year is about spending more time with each of my kids one-on-one. Writing from my heart and enjoying the process as well as the finished product. And finally…and don’t laugh…I’ve started karate lessons with the kids. A little down time for my overactive brain and a little up time for my body.

Bio: Jade Archer was born in 2010, after a prolonged pregnancy and labour of over 34 years! I’ve decided she’s about 24, enjoys long walks in the country because she doesn’t have five kids and a husband to care for, eats as much chocolate as she wants because she never has to worry about putting on weight (must be all those long walks!) and can often be found planning her next whirlwind world tour or endlessly typing away (without any interruptions) on another hot and steamy erotic romance. It might be space pirates; it might be shifters or a lonely vampire with a hunger for the girl next door, one thing’s for sure, she loves variety and can’t wait to meet the next characters destined to fall in love.

www.jadearcher.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cat Follies

We are lucky enough to have an enormous apartment. It's not fancy - the building is nearly fifty years old - but we have as much space as we did in our entire house in the U.S. My best friend says that our living room is big enough to have its own zip code!

Anyway, I usually love the place. But yesterday I discovered at least one disadvantage to having so much room to spread out.

We had an appointment to take our two cats to the vet for feline leukemia vaccinations. On days like this, we try to act normal, following our usual routine until it's time to catch the kitties, put them in the carriers and head for the animal hospital. Unfortunately, cats are pretty bright, and really fast. We managed to get hold of Blackness quite easily, especially for her. (She was originally a feral cat and hates being cornered or even picked up unless she initiates the contact.) We were patting ourselves on the back,figuring it would be easy to get hold of the much larger and more laid back Mr. Toes.

Think again! We looked everywhere, but our massive double-pawed tiger had simply vanished. He wasn't behind the drapes. He wasn't behind the books in the bookshelf (one of his favorite places to relax). He wasn't behind the refrigerator (thank heavens!)

We pulled out our flashlights and looked under every piece of furniture, behind all the air conditioners, in every closet (even though they were all closed - Mr. Toes' extra digits make him an expert at prying doors open). No luck!

How can twelve pound cat simply disappear?

If we had a smaller apartment, it would have (I surmise) been easier to find him. As it was, it took us more than half an hour, and we ended up being late for our appointment. We finally discovered him huddled into a dark corner in our office. He managed to shrink himself down to about half his normal size (or at least that was what it looked like) and he was perfectly still.

Anyway, we learned our lesson. Next time, we'll close as many doors as possible before we let on that something's up. Meanwhile, the vet trip is over and both felines are breathing sighs of relief.

I thought I'd share some photos of Mr. Toes. I think they will give you a much better idea of his personality than any description I might provide.

Is this a new kind of cat food?

Helping Lisabet write

Friends in high places

I never met a box I didn't like

The Power of Love

By Taige Crenshaw (Guest Blogger)

Love is such a powerful thing. It moves people in so many ways. As a writer I love exploring the various ways that love unfolds. All the paths it takes are fun to explore.

I enjoy watching movies based on love. The last few weeks have had some very interesting ones. Each was so different and to see the ways love came and was shown made me think. One of the theme of the movies was they followed families. The love, tribulations and all the things in between. From the beginning of time people have been falling in love. Love can make you crazy, giddy and bring you such hope and joy.

Love has many types - the love between friends and family. The love between lovers. Each has the core of opening yourself to another person and becoming a unit. With friends it is building a close-knit relationship that stands through good and bad. The same with family. With family we share and love.

The love between lovers is what I explore in my books. From the start of the initial attraction, the first steps to getting to know each other, the dating and then finally the all encompassing feelings and knowing you belong together. There are of course the ups and downs and the times when you fall in and out of love. But when you find that right someone it is magical, exhilarating and soul moving. Yeah I am a romantic at heart. All the steps to the power of love fascinates me.

****

Taige Crenshaw is a multi-published author with books available at Ellora's Cave Publishing, Liquid Silver Books, Loose Id, and Total-E-Bound. Taige has been enthralled with the written word from time she picked up her first book. It wasn’t long before she started to make up her own tales of romance. With novels set in today, in alternate dimensions, or in the future she writes with adventure, fun sassy heroine’s, and sexy hero’s. Always hard at work creating new and exciting places Taige can be found curled up with a hot novel with exciting characters when she is not creating her own. Join her in the fun, frolic, interesting people and far reaches of the world in her novels. You can find out more about Taige at her website: http://www.taigecrenshaw.com or blog: http://www.taigecrenshaw.com/blog.

Power of Attraction

A woman whose destiny has been ordained from birth meets the man who has been prophesied for her--but there is more to him than meets the eye. With prophecies and legacies to fulfill, which way will she go: to a man who may be possibly her mate, or to a dark legacy that could take her life?

Buy January 31, 2011 - at Total-E-Bound.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I've got style, baby!

Google Alerts just informed me that I've been given a "Stylish Blogger" award by my colleague (and former Beyond Romance guest) J.Rose Allister. Thank you, J.Rose! Please visit her blog at http://jroseallister.blogspot.com to find out more about her recent adventures!

Meanwhile, here's the deal. I'm supposed to tell you all seven things about myself that I've never revealed on the blog. Then, I get to pass the torch, nominating up to fifteen other great bloggers I've recently discovered. Finally, I have to notify them - so they know that it's time to step up to the plate and share their secrets!

With my passion for self-disclosure it's difficult to think of tidbits I haven't yet shared, but here goes:

  1. 1. My husband's birthday is the day after mine. Double celebrations!
  2. 2. There were so many divorces in my family that I swore I'd never marry. My thirtieth wedding anniversary will be in June!
  3. 3. I've been dancing since I was seven years old. Okay, so it gets a bit harder every year, but I'm not giving up yet!
  4. 4. My mother, among other occupations, was a professional belly dancer. I was semi-professional.
  5. 5. I could live my entire life without chocolate and never miss it. But don't please take away my tuna fish sandwich!
  6. 6. I'm definitely a morning person. My husband's a night person. We've compromised at eight AM in order to be able to eat breakfast together. I think that's shamefully late, while he complains that it is obscenely early.
  7. 7. My cats understand English. I have lots of evidence to prove this claim. Unfortunately, like most cats, they do not always pay attention, so it's difficult to demonstrate this capability on demand!

As far as turning you on to some other Stylish Bloggers, please check out:

  • Bianca Sommerland: Bianca writes sizzling menage erotic romance. As far as she's concerned, the more guys involved, the merrier!
  • Devon Rhodes: Devon writes pretty much every genre you can think of. I like a versatile lady!
  • Kathleen Bradean: Kathleen is a long time friend. She and I are both contributors to the Erotica Revealed review site and the Oh Get A Grip blog. Kathleen writes both erotica and erotic romance in a wide variety of styles.
  • Keta Diablo: Keta's always up to some mischief! Her specialty is M/M BDSM romance.
  • Kim Dare: Yet another author of juicy M/M stories with power exchange themes. Kim understands that dominance and submission is about emotion, not toys.

Well, that wasn't too hard! Now it's back to my editing...!

Once again, a hearty thanks to J.Rose Allister, for dragging - um, I mean inviting me into this game!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keep 'Em Guessing

By Shermaine Williams (Guest Blogger)

In the process of some promotion, I noted on one website that readers apparently like to know about the writers behind the stories they like. This point remained on my mind as I tried to figure out what information I should include in biographies, which are often required when submitting a manuscript. It all made me wonder how much readers really want to know and why.

I received one answer after getting a complimentary review (that we writers love so much) from a friend after he read my latest Lust Bite with Total-E-Bound, Remote Control. “The only thing is...” he added, making me steel myself for criticism. “...the woman was submissive.” What an anticlimax!

This friend and I have known each other for several years, and he is no prude by any stretch of the imagination, so the question of where his disbelief stemmed from was bound to arise. I could already tell what he was thinking, but I still answered, “so?” just to see how he’d react.

Of course, he expected me to reveal that the story was inspired by a period in my life before he knew me, by a man that he doesn’t know. I could see his cogs whirring. We are close enough to be able to discuss sex, but on a general basis rather than any personal details, so I could see how he could consider an unexpected wild revelation a possibility. However, his puzzled look earned him only a knowing—if not cheeky—smile.

I suppose his reaction is to be expected because he knows me, considers me dominant and, therefore, incapable of writing about a submissive woman. But what of those that don’t know the writer? It must be easier for readers to get an understanding for those writers who stick to one genre than for those that write many.

This, I think, is the beauty of erotic romance—it is one of the few genres that give rise to speculation about the writer’s experience simply from reading what they write. When I read mainstream fiction, I might give the author biography and photo a cursory glance, but I don’t consider why they wrote the story or where they got their inspiration. Can you imagine trying to decode Stephen King from his writing alone?

Maybe it has something to do with the intimate nature of writing about sex and what it takes for a writer to be able to put it into words. I think it sets us apart, somewhat, not least when the Booker Prize judges have complained about not seeing enough sex in the books recently nominated for the prize. Apparently, this is due to their concern about receiving the Bad Sex Award for the sex scenes that they pen. Maybe, they’re also worried about the assumption that one can only write about what they actually experience.

So, did I reveal all to my good friend? Of course not. Just for kicks, I’ll get him to read one of my stories where the heroine is dominant...just to keep him guessing.

Remote Control is available now from Total-e-bound!

Joseph is more than capable of getting into Paula’s head over the phone – she knew he could take complete control if they ever met.

Paula is a whole different woman over the phone – confident, in control, even dominant. Except when it came to Joseph. He was in a class by himself and he knew it. Not only could Joseph control her actions by voice alone, every pleasurable sensation that flowed through her was his to demand.

But Paula would have to find the courage to agree to meet him before he could really own her body—a step that’s against all the rules. If caught, she could lose her only contact with him and what they’ve built...forever.

Find more of my titles on my website http://www.shermainewilliams.co.uk and at my blog http://www.shermainewilliams.wordpress.com

Bio: Shermaine Williams is a Londoner who often finds inspiration for her contemporary tales in the city. First published several years ago, she writes within a range of sub-genres, including multicultural, humour and BDSM.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Engaging the Senses

How do you make your stories come alive for readers? One important factor is your ability to engage their senses. When you give readers some idea of how your fictional world smells, sounds, tastes, and feels, their vicarious experience becomes more vivid and compelling. (I left the sense of vision off the list above because most authors already describe how things look.) In erotica and erotic romance, of course, sensory details become even more critical, because sex is such an intensely physical activity and because arousal depends so much on non-visual stimuli such as touch and smell.

Personally, I find it quite difficult to come up with effective sensory descriptions. All too often, I sit there at my computer, a scene playing out in my mind, knowing how it would feel, smell and taste, but finding myself at a loss as to how to convey those impressions in language.

The fact is, words can never adequately capture the nuances of sensory perception. Actually, all you can hope to do is trigger the recollection of sensation on the part of your reader. Your words must act as cues that evoke a kind of recognition. Ah, yes, you want your reader to think, I know how my nipples feel when I'm turned on - like I'll die if someone doesn't touch me. I remember how my husband smells when we've been working out in the yard all day and he hasn't showered. I can call up the slightly bitter taste of semen, the salt-and-iron flavor of blood. I know the crinkly sound a condom packaging opening and the gasp of lube spurting into a palm. Actually, of course, conscious thought isn't what's going on. Descriptions evoke emotion via memory or imagination.

Starting this post (without really knowing where I was going) led me to consider what strategies we have at our disposal to work this little trick. It seems to me that there are three basic methods for engaging the senses: adjectives, metaphors, and mirroring.

Adjectives, of course, exist to describe. The trouble is, the most obvious adjectives are frequently overused. Again and again, I find myself describing skin as "smooth", voices as "low","rich" and "melodious", the scent of arousal as "musky", the taste of muscular flesh as "salty". Bring out the thesaurus, I can hear you say, and I do. However, it's not necessarily a better solution to use some other term that is less frequent in the language (and thus more difficult to understand) or perhaps not exactly right for the sensation I'm trying to convey.

Let's try "smooth", as an example. When I dig out my trusty Roget, I find three inches of entries in the index under "smooth". I guess "smooth-textured" is the closest to my meaning when I'm writing (for example) about the feel of a man's erect organ in one's hand or mouth. I flip to entry 287.9 (287 as a whole is "smoothness") and find the following:

sleek, slick, glossy, shiny, gleaming; silky, silken, satiny, velvety; polished, burnished, furbished; buffed, rubbed, finished; varnished, lacquered, shellacked, glazed; glassy.

Aside from silky, silken, satiny, and velvety, which are metaphoric, which of the above adjectives would be a better description for my hero's penis than "smooth"? It might be "slick", but only if I've already dispensed the lube (or I have a ménage going on). "Sleek" seems to me to have a different meaning, and also to be a strange description for part of a man (though you might talk about sleek hair). "Gleaming", "shiny" and so on refer to the sense of sight, not touch. I would imagine that my hypothetical penis would be "rubbed", but not in the sense mean here! I rather like the notion of a "laquered" penis, but that would have to be a sex toy, not the real thing!

So in fact, my hackneyed adjective "smooth" may be the best choice, at least among the options here. Sigh. (I'd be interested in hearing other suggestions.)

Metaphors work by explicitly stating or implying a comparison between the sensation being described and some other well-known or prototypical sensory experience. (Actually, an explicit comparison is called a simile, but the effect is the same.) "Silky", "satiny" and "velvety" are all metaphorical when used to describe skin. They refer to three different textures, associated with different types of fabric. I've used all three of them - a lot. In general, I rely on metaphor for the bulk of my sensory descriptions. Excitement is likened to electricity or fire. Pleasure is described as melting or boiling, compared to slow-pouring honey or breath-stealing race cars.

Metaphors offer a far wider variety of options for sensory description. First, one can draw on the full range of natural and artificial phenomena as potential sources of metaphor. Second, we already understand and describe our experiences in metaphorical terms. We talk about "burning" pain, a "heavy" heart, "biting" sarcasm or a "bitter" argument. Strictly speaking, these are all metaphors.

But metaphor can be overdone, too. I know, because this is one of my weaknesses. Over-reliance on metaphor to describe physical sensations can end up distancing the reader from your character, rather than bringing her closer. This is particularly true if the metaphor is "strained" (a metaphor in itself) - if basis of the implied comparison is not immediately obvious or possibly inappropriate. Overuse of metaphor can also make writing sound overly precious and "literary".

Mirroring is the third alternative for engaging the senses. Don't go looking up this strategy in your writing text books; I just came up with this name, though I'm sure many of you use this technique, consciously or unconsciously. What do I mean by mirroring? Instead of describing the sensations themselves, you describe the character's thoughts and/or reactions to those sensations.

Here's a short excerpt from my BDSM story "The Understudy". It uses all three techniques, but relies quite heavily on mirroring. I've highlighted in red the sentences where I'm using the character's reactions or thoughts to imply sensation.

Geoffrey positioned himself between my splayed thighs. “Remember, Sarah,” he said. “Be still.” Then he rammed his cock all the way into my cunt in one fierce stroke.

The force drove the breath from my lungs. The fullness made me suck the air back in. If I hadn’t been so wet, he would have torn me apart, but as it was my flesh parted for him as though sliced open.

My pussy clenched reflexively around his invading bulk, but otherwise I managed to avoid moving. His eyes, locked with mine, told me he approved. His hardness pressed against my engorged clit. A climax loomed, then faded away as he kept me there, motionless, pinned to the bed.

He pulled mostly out. My hungry cunt fluttered, empty for an instant. He drove back into me, harder than before. I strained against the bars, struggling not to jerk and writhe as his cock plunged in and out of my cunt like a pile-driver.

God, it felt good! His roughness somehow heightened the pleasure. I was his, to use and abuse. His fuck toy, as he had said. At that moment, that was all I wanted to be.

I am not holding my own writing up as a model here. I'm merely trying to illustrate what I mean my mirroring. There's very little direct description of sensation in this passage but I hope that it evokes the intensity of this experience for my heroine.

I don't know if this analysis is any help. It's still agony to come up with vivid, original sensory descriptions. I remember recently, for instance, I was trying to describe the smell of freshly brewed coffee. How would you convey that unique sensation? You recognize it in an instant, but what are the characteristics of the smell?

Warm. Rich. Dark. Earthy. Sweet? Stimulating. Mouth-watering (that's mirroring, really). Complex. Chocolatey (a metaphor). Roasted (but can you really smell that)?

I'm getting nowhere here. Maybe you'd like to give it a try. Maybe you'll be more successful that I am. And I'd love to know what techniques you use to engage your readers' senses!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Interview with Author Clare Dargin

Clare Dargin is an author of science fiction and science fiction romance books. Her newest work Speculative Sky is available from Red Rose Publishing.

What inspired you to write this book?

Well, ever since I was a child I always wanted to be a writer. It was a dream of mine to be published and to write stories that everyone could enjoy. Speculative Sky was created because I’ve always had a fascination with stories about Extra-Terrestrial Life and S.E.T.I. and I wanted to integrate such a story with a female character as a strong and intelligent lead.

Do you have a specific writing style?

Yes I do but I am not sure what to call it. When people read my work I want them to feel as if they are right there in the midst of it all. I want them to be able to hear, taste, smell and see the action as if it is happening all around them. I also tend to write tight stories with quick pacing. It's what I like to read and consequently how I write.

How did you come up with your title?

To be honest I’ve always been attracted and fascinated by the abstract and the symbolic. I wanted the title to be symbolic of what April Mullen, the main character, has to deal with as an Astronomer and all that came with her assignment.

What is Speculative Sky about?

It is about a woman who takes a chance and leaves for an assignment on a science colony far away from Earth. As an astronomer it is her job to monitor the stars at night and to record her findings. Nothing more than that. But when she arrives, she notices that her new home is a bit odd, and that though there is evidence of life out there… they don’t want her to either acknowledge it or do anything about it. She of course finds this troubling.

What books have most influenced your life most?

To be honest, in fiction category, it would have to be the old star wars books that came out in the eighties after Return of the Jedi. The expanded universe books taught me more about atmospheric and expanded universe development then any book I know! I read them over and over again and learned about non-human creature development, planetary science fiction and description of space travel and not to mention how to write a cool leading man. I still read them!

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?

Douglas Preston and/or Lincoln Child. They write incredibly compelling books which I generally can't put down.

What book are you reading now?

To be honest -- I am almost finished with Book of the Dead with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child! I'll be going through their back list very soon in order to get caught up.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

Last night I was thinking about the Friday House, about D. K. Gaston and how it's a compelling story about assassins who have no memory of their being programmed and stuff. I think it's cool. And several books on the military scifi romance front that I have recently heard about. I write in a tiny subgenre so it's nice to see what other authors are doing in it. That way I don't get lonely!

What are your current projects?

Presently I am finishing up the final editing for Ice and Peace, the sequel to Cold Warriors. As well as having another expanded universe book in the works. Not to mention, two futuristic romances that are completely different from my military fiction.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

The Motown Creative Writers Group-- they helped get on the road to being published. And not to mention the many groups in the Romance community. They really pointed me in the right direction. I'm grateful for that.

Do you see writing as a career?

Yes! One day I hope to do it full time.

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Yeah that's why I have to hurry up and get it out of my hands cause I keep changing it!

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

When I was a child my father used to encourage it. I would write stories for my family and they would say “Maybe one day you could get this published!” I was like five.... and then when I was in middle school I found out that S. E. Hinton had been published at sixteen-- I became truly determined then.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Yea, getting through the first draft!

Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?

Just get the first draft down on paper and don't be afraid to make stupid mistakes and have dumb lines on paper because it's the first draft and you are allowing the characters to come alive. Later on you can fix and micro manage but don't try to do it the first time through because it will stifle your creativity.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Don't give up on being published! Try every avenue! There is a way for you!

Where can people find you online?

My website, The Haven, is at www.claredargin.host22.com. I've got two blogs, at www.claredargin.bravejournal.com and http://theembraced.blogspot.com. I hope that readers will drop by!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taking Shape Shifting to Extremes

I just put my January newsletter online. You can find it at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/news.html. As usual, I've written a new free story for you. This month, it's a tongue-in-cheek romance that pushes the shape shifter genre to new extremes.

I've got a contest so easy it can be summarized in a single command: "Tell me what you want!" Plus you'll find reviews, new covers, blog schedule, my Web Pick of the Month and a pair of feline cuties from Japan. Lots of fun!

Here's the beginning of the story, just to whet your appetite...

Snow Bound

By Lisabet Sarai

"Where ya goin', Elsie? To a funeral?" Bert cracked up at his own joke. He pointed his beer-laden fist at her, drawing his cronies' attention to the formal black outfit she'd chosen for the party. They snickered at her obvious discomfort. She hated it when he called her Elsie. Made her sound like a cow or something.

Turning her back on her ex, Ellen headed for the bar. Okay, maybe she looked slightly ridiculous, or at least out of place, in her velvet gown and rhinestone earrings, but it was New Year's Eve, for heaven sakes. Everyone else in Alicia's vast Soho loft wore jeans. So what? She'd always loved dressing up, and what better occasion than tonight?

Too bad that everyone she knew was Bert's friend, too. She'd broken up with Bert more than six months ago, but she was still forced to see him constantly, if she wanted any social life at all. She needed to meet some new people. That was rough, though, with her sixty-hour-a-week work schedule. She picked up an open bottle of champagne and poured herself another glass. Staring at bubbles rising through the golden liquid, she wondered how to get out of her social rut.

"Mind if I have some?" An unfamiliar male voice cut into her reverie. Ellen looked up to find a stranger holding out his goblet. He had pale skin, jet black hair, plump lips as red as strawberries, and the most gorgeous tuxedo Ellen had ever seen - inky dark satin that gleamed in the dim light, a snowy expanse of ruffled shirt, and a scarlet cummerbund. It fit his lean, muscled body perfectly, too.

"Of course," Ellen replied, a bit flustered at being faced with such a vision. "I didn't mean to hog it. Here, let me...." She filled his empty crystal flute - at least Alicia had pulled out her good glassware for the occasion - admiring the strong looking fingers that held the delicate stem.

"Happy New Year," the stranger said with a melting smile, clicking glasses.

"The same to you," Ellen replied. They sipped their champagne in silence. Ellen felt as though similar bubbles were cavorting in her chest. "I'm Ellen," she blurted out as the silence lengthened. "I work with Alicia."

"Very pleased to meet you, Ellen." The impeccably attired stranger took her hand. For an instant Ellen thought he intended to bring it to his lips. At the last moment, he merely gave it a firm squeeze. "Sean. I just joined the IT department. Night shift."

"Ah, that explains why I haven't seen you around the office. I'm sure that I would have noticed someone like you!" Ellen realized after she closed her mouth that she must sound like total bimbo. She blushed to the roots of her blond hair.

"Someone like me?" Sean raised one eyebrow, a twinkle in his blue eyes.

"Well - you know, so debonair and sophisticated... I mean, there aren't too many guys who would could wear a tuxedo like that - so comfortably, I mean, as though you were born in it...oh, dear, I'm being terribly silly. I'm just impressed, to be honest. Most of these guys - outside of work, they're such slobs..."

She gestured toward the other end of the loft, where Bert and his buddies gyrated to the beat of AC/DC. Topping their baggy jeans, they wore football jerseys, faded flannel, or stretched out hoodies.

"I must say that you look lovely," Sean told her. "The black velvet makes your hair glow like spun gold. And your eyes remind me of emeralds."

"Gee - um - thank you." Ellen was dumbfounded. Men just didn't say things like that these days.

"Dance with me," Sean insisted. Ellen was about to refuse - she hated heavy metal - when the strains of a Strauss waltz reached her ears.

"What...?"

"Come on. Don't disappoint me." Graceful and confident, he folded her into his arms. They swooped across the floor of the loft, wings on their feet, while the music swelled around them.

Ellen felt completely comfortable in the embrace of this stranger. She looked up into his smiling eyes. "This is wonderful. But where did the music come from?"

Sean shrugged. "The plot required it."

His cool hand rested on her bare back. Then he moved it a bit lower. A little shiver ran up Ellen's spine. Who was this elegant stranger? Could she really trust him?

****

Want to read the rest of the tale? Go to http://www.lisabetsarai.com/snowbound.html!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Change in Plans

I had great plans for this coming weekend. Top on my list were the three blog posts I have due over the next week. Then I was going to finish my were-penguin story (what? see my newsletter in a few days!) and work on my website update, which I usually release on the 15th of the month. Once I got that done, I had a long list of other tasks: editing the latest volume for the Coming Together Presents series, a wonderful set of noir stories by Robert Buckley; finally putting together a travel log and slide show from my travels in November; do some research into music players, since mine is on my last legs.

Then there were the household tasks: groceries, cleaning the cat litter, taking in the dry cleaning. And of course I planned to work out at least two out of the three days.

I was all reved up and full of energy. Alas, it was not to be. I did something to my back - I have no idea what. Now it's excruciating to sit at the computer (though I'm trying). Every time I stand up I feel like someone is sticking hot needles into my lower back. I have no idea what's going on. I don't normally have back issues. I'm a bit worried that this is all displaced pain from my other hip - that now that I have one bionic hip,the other one is going to disintegrate.

Argh!

My husband's been great, and I'm trying to stay positive. Hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow. Aren't I lucky that this happens so infrequently? And so on. I remind myself that my worth is not determined by what I accomplish. I pray. And I try to smile.

Keep me in your prayers, please!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

But Will It Turn Me On?

By Rachel Randall (Guest Blogger)

Finding the best words to describe your own writing can as big an adventure as putting the story down on paper in the first place.

And it’s oh-so-important to get right. Readers want to know that a story will push their buttons and turn them on, and one of the most important parts of my job as an author is to show them how it will do just that.

In some ways, it’s pure pleasure. I know my characters intimately. I’ve got my favourite scenes. I want to share everything about the story RIGHTNOW and OOHLETMESHOWYOU and ISITRELEASEDAYYET?

In others, it’s pure challenge (which, fortunately, brings its own piquant pleasures). Many of you will know the agony/ecstasy of struggling with a synopsis or cover copy. It’s quite thrilling when the words come together, but there’s that midnight-moment of desperation when you just want to babble them all out in a big mess and leave it at that.

That’s why I love wordle.net. Wordles are “word clouds” that take the most commonly used words from your text and represent them in beautiful visualisations. It’s free, and you can tweak your creations exactly how you please.

Taking It Off, my next release from Total E-Bound, is due out on Valentine’s Day. I love this story. I think it’s funny, flirtatious and full of really hot sexual tension. I want to share everything about it with you RIGHTNOW and OOHLETMESHOWYOU and ISITRELEASEDAYYET?

But what’s the story really all about? There’s nothing quite like seeing it all there in burgundy, white, grey and pink!

Visit me at rachelrandall.wordpress.com where you can find free stories and Wordles galore. You can also check out my recent interview on Jenika Snow’s blog, where you’ll hear all about my love for my bicycle (when you live in the Netherlands, you love your bike), my dream date (a Britrock threesome), and my recent release His Christmas Present (also featuring Valentine from Taking It Off).

Thanks, Lisabet, for letting me stop by!

Add Taking It Off to your Valentine’s Day wishlist.

Valentine’s got a talent for finding the right fit—whether it’s matching an executive to a job or finding a lover for himself—but he’s never had a first impression like Lucy before.

Commandeered by the intriguing stranger at a luxury London department store, Valentine’s more than happy to provide the masculine opinion Lucy demands. After all, watching her model fabulous cocktail dresses, saucy shoes and mouth-watering lingerie is his pleasure.

He soon realises that he wants more than just one seductive afternoon with the luscious Lucy. Getting under those new clothes will be a challenge since she's gone back to New York, but he's not the only one being driven mad by the heat of their long-distance flirtation. Now Valentine just needs to convince his little tease that the best part of trying things on is taking them off again.

(A Wordle picture may be worth a thousand words, but it’s always fun to have an excerpt too! Read a selection from Taking It Off here )

Monday, January 10, 2011

Using Reviews for Marketing

A few days ago a friend who's an excellent writer but new to promotion asked me a bunch of questions about reviews. How do you go about asking for them? Whom do you ask? Where do you get the books to send? There must be a tutorial on this, he commented.

Well - there may well be, but given the scattered nature of the web, it might be tough to find. Since I wanted to post to my blog today anyway, I figured I would kill two birds with one stone and talk about what I've learned regarding reviews and marketing.

Let me start with a caveat: in no way am I claiming to be an expert in this realm. I am just sharing what I've learned so far in my twelve years of publishing. I hope that commenters will add their own insights. I should also say that given the dramatic changes wrought by the Internet, best practices will undoubtedly continue to change. However the principles remain the same:

1. Get your book out and reviewed as many appropriate places as possible.

2. When you receive a favorable review, broadcast that news widely.

I've divided my comments into four sections: finding potential reviewers, requesting reviews, using reviews for marketing, and follow-up.

Finding Potential Reviewers

Where can you send your book for reviews? Clearly this depends on the genre. There are dozens of websites that publish reviews for romance of various flavors. I know a few for erotica (specifically the Erotica Readers and Writers Association, Erotica Revealed and Erotica For All). I strongly suspect that there are similar sites for mystery, suspense, young adult, chick lit, and other genres.

In addition to websites, many individual readers post reviews on their blogs. Some focus on particular genres while others read more widely. Some individual book blogs get as much traffic as the major sites.

Thus, your first step has to be research. Use the sub-genre or topic of your book to narrow the possibilities. For example, if you have an erotic story set in Japan, look blogs or sites devoted to Japanese-related topics. If you write speculative or science fiction erotica or romance, spend some time searching out sci fi reviewers. If you have a book set in Pittsburgh (as I do), maybe you can find some dedicated fan of the city who'd be interesting in reading and reviewing it.

Be somewhat selective. It won't do you any good to send your book to an inappropriate review site or reader. If a site focuses on gay erotic romance, don't send your heterosexual book. If a site does not review fantasy, or historical, or paranormal, and that's what you write - skip it, for now. Target the review sites in the same way you'd target a publisher. Look for a good fit with your book.

It can be dangerous to send a book to the wrong sort of reviewer. For example, a reviewer who expects romance will be upset by erotica that does not have a happy ending. He or she may still review your book, but express negative opinions because of lack of understanding or failed expectations.

What about print reviews? For most of us, a review in print is an unrealistic dream. If you can get a reviewer from your local newspaper interested, great. I've more or less given up on the New York Times! A digital review has some advantages in any case. Despite the volatility of the web, an electronic review tends to have greater longevity than print. You can link to it. You can tweet or share it.

And what about reader reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other bookseller sites? I know some authors and editors who solicit such reviews from friends and family, to the point that they'll give away a free copy of the book to anyone willing to do a review. Reader reviews do help book sales, from what I've seen. However, I find myself a bit uncomfortable with the notion of actively soliciting them. It's a slippery slope. At what point does it become unethical? At what point are you "paying" someone to give you a favorable review?

Your mileage may vary, as they say. I'm always delighted to get a favorable review on Amazon. I have had situations where a reader contacted me raving about a book he or she had already read and I gently suggested that they might share their opinions on Amazon. That's my limit.

Requesting Reviews

Once you have a list of target reviewers, you need to submit your book to each one. Read the instructions provided by each review site or blog. In some cases, they will have a special email address. In some cases they will provide a web form. Pay attention to the details. Do they want a blurb? A buy link? A cover? If so, what size? Sending a 1200x1600 JPEG to someone who wants 200x320 will not win you friends.

For review targets that don't use a web form, develop a simple, professional query letter that includes:

- Book title

- Author name

- Publisher, publication date and purchase information

- Genre/sub-genre

- Book length in pages or words

- A blurb - 100-300 words briefly summarizing the book (but not revealing the ending!)

- Your contact information (email at least)

- Your links (blog, website, etc.)

Do not talk about how your other books won awards. Do not discuss the other five star reviews this book has received. Really, the only message you need to convey is: I have a book with these characteristics - would you like to review it?

Don't beg or grovel, either. A review site needs books to review. Often they support themselves via ads. The reviews are the content that pulls visitors who will see the ads. The sites are not doing you a huge favor for which you must be eternally grateful.

Do you send a review copy with the query letter? That depends on the site. Some sites will want only print. In this case, definitely wait until you get a confirmation of interest. Mailing print books is expensive. Ebooks are great because they are so easy to distribute. Watch out, though. When you send out free copies of your book, you are definitely increasing your risks of being pirated. Weigh that risk against the benefits of a positive review.

Some publishers regularly send out review copies to a pre-determined list of sites. Find out whether your publisher does. Don't duplicate your publishers' efforts. But at the same time, don't just sit back and assume that they're going to do all the work. My publishers tend to send books to the big, general romance review sites. I try to find smaller or more specialized venues to complement their work.

Some publishers will send out review copies upon your request. Others require you to send some of your author copies. Find out the policy for each of your publishers and make sure that you follow that policy.

When should you request reviews? Ideally, you'd like to have reviews hit the cybersphere around the same time as your book is released. So lining up your reviews ahead of time can be useful. There are some potential problems with this strategy, however. If your release is delayed, the review may come out before readers can actually buy the book. Talk about frustration! Also, if you are soliciting reviews in advance, you will need to send what's known as an Advance Reader's Copy (ARC) or "uncorrected proof". If this pre-release version of your book has too many grammar, spelling or formatting problems, the reviewer may react negatively.

One more thing: keep track of where and when you send out review copies. You can make a spreadsheet or just have a simple list. You don't want to send a book twice to the same place!

Using Reviews for Marketing

So you've received a stellar review of your book from SuperReviews.com. Now what do you do?

First of all, how do you find out in the first place when the review is posted? The Google Alert service does a pretty good job of informing me of newly published reviews. Set an alert on your name (if it is distinctive), your title, or some other diagnostic phrase. Sometimes the review sites will also send you a note, but in my experience that is pretty rare. Some review sites (like Erotica Revealed) schedule their reviews months in advance, so they'll be able to tell you when to expect yours.

Once you have a review, you want to share it with the world. Post a quote and the link on your website, your blog, your Facebook page, or whatever. Talk about the review in your monthly newsletter. Tweet it to your followers. Announce it (with a quote and a link) on Yahoo groups or email lists that are relevant to the genre.

Oh, and make sure that you send a copy or link to your publisher. They will want to keep track of who reviewed you, and may want to add favorable quotes to your buy page.

What else? Is that it? I've used review quotes to develop advertising banners. "Edgy, dark and smoking hot..." one reviewer said of my vampire ménage Fire in the Blood. I've used that quote in two animated GIF banners so far.

You can use review quotes in a trailer. Include them in your email signature. Order pens or keychains or other promotional material with the quote included. Seriously, when you get a favorable review, flaunt it! Don't be shy. Wallflowers don't sell books.

What if the review is not so favorable? First of all, don't get discouraged. There's no book that every reader will adore. Sometimes a reviewer won't understand what you're trying to do. Sometimes a review will hone in on real flaws. View that as a learning opportunity.

Even reviews that aren't 100% positive can be used for promotional purposes. Focus on the complimentary things the reviewer says. You don't have to post the link to the full review. Does this seem dishonest, taking things out of context? Well, maybe, but as I see it, marketing is the art of accentuating the positive and de-emphasizing the negative. You should always cite the source of review quotes. If a reader is really interested, he or she can find the full review.

Follow Up

Once you've got a review and you're actively using it to promote, you're mostly done. Here are few additional actions that I recommend as follow-up:

1. If possible, write a quick note or leave a blog comment thanking the reviewer. Do not defend yourself, if the review had negative things to say. Don't gush if the review is positive. Just be polite, positive and professional.

2. Update your list or spreadsheet to indicate that the review was published. Add the date and the URL if possible. You might want to make a note of the specific reviewer. I definitely have repeat reviews from people who seem to like my work.

3. Make a local copy of the review web page if possible. I used to simply bookmark reviews, but I've found that over time, every site or blog needs to reorganize and to purge old content. Just choose "Save As" from your browser's File menu. Create a special place on your computer for storing copies of reviews. And be warned - they can take up quite a bit of space because the browser will normally save all the images and other content.

Conclusion

I know, I know. Writing is hard enough work as it is. All this promotion stuff just seems like a distraction from creating new books. It does pay off, though. Personally, I don't spend nearly as much effort as I probably should on promotion (including soliciting reviews) but I have increased my activity over the last year or two. My sales have increased, too.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Destroying Complacency

By Tom Olbert (Guest Blogger)

Currently popular vampire/human romances, like most romances, feature journeys of self-discovery or evolutionary change. In the Twilight series, for instance, the protagonist, Bela, is a lonely teenaged girl trying to figure out where she belongs. A child of divorce, she feels alone and out of place; incomplete. She feels the world she was born into isn’t one she’s suited to at all. Her romance with the vampire Edward fills in the missing piece in her life. There are a few things she has to figure out along the way, of course, and trials she has to overcome, but centrally, hers is a journey to complete herself.

The Vampire Diaries series follows the trials of another troubled teenaged girl, Elena. An orphan surrounded by friends and relatives with their own complicated issues to sort out, Elena has her hands full. Like Bela, she falls in love with a vampire. Unlike Bela, she can’t solve her problem simply by convincing her vampire lover to turn her. Elena’s story is more quest than romance; she wants answers about where she came from and who she is. Her romance with vampire Stefan may or may not work out, but mainly, she has to figure out for herself who she is. Both Bela and Elena seem damaged or incomplete and desperate for change.

But in some romances, love brings change crashing into the protagonist’s life like a bolt from the blue. Instead of filling in an obviously missing piece or providing a long-sought answer, it smashes a long-standing complacency which was preventing the protagonist from growing or questioning. In classic dystopian future fictions like Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and George Lucas’s THX 1138, the male protagonist’s lifelong innocent acceptance of the established regime is shattered by the intervention of an alluring woman with “dangerous” ideas.

In my vampire novelette Unholy Alliance (published by Eternal Press), the 16-year-old protagonist, Chris, is a vampire-hunter, a soldier whose life has been laid out for him since he was an orphaned child. Virtually his entire life, his world view has been pure and simple: a war of good vs. evil that allows no quarter and no choices. That view is shattered by his first love: Sara. A vampire. She shows him things about herself and her kind that he never believed possible. His loss of innocence sends him on a dark and deadly journey of self-discovery. He learns that life is a lot more complicated than he realized and that good and evil aren’t always clearly distinguishable. He loses his faith and then struggles to get it back. It’s a bloody story of exploited minors, revenge, street justice and murder. But, it’s also a coming of age story, and a teen romance. That trembling first kiss comes in an extremely dark place, between two orphans who’ve grown up in hell, but still find their lost innocence in each other.

Here’s an excerpt:

The priest was silent for a few moments. “Are you telling me, son...you’ve killed someone who was living? Someone human?”

Chris lowered his eyes in shame. “Yes, Father.”

“Who?”

“Kenny,” he sighed.

“Kenny. You mean, your...I don’t really know what to call him.”

“He saved my life the night my family...died. He practically raised me after that. I owed him my life, and betrayed him. I didn’t actually kill him, but...I helped. I helped one of them kill him.”

Father Donovan looked up. “One of them? An undead?”

“Yes, father.” He felt strangely numb as he said it. It should make him feel bad; he should hate himself for it. But he didn’t. Not for that part of it. “I didn’t try to help him. I turned on my own crew. I protected the killer, and I let her walk.”

“Why?”

He bowed his head, rubbing his rosary between his fingers. “I don’t know, Father. It just...I couldn’t kill her. There was...this pain in her eyes. It was like...she was somebody. She wasn’t this thing I was supposed to kill. She was somebody. I’ve killed so many like her. It never bothered me. But all of a sudden, everything was wrong, everything was backwards. Am I going to Hell, Father?” He looked up, his eyes clouding. The tears weren’t for Kenny or Pete or Danny, but for his mom and dad. And for Karen. They were the ones he really felt he’d betrayed.

“Only God decides that, son. Do you repent?”

He sniffed and rubbed his eyes dry. “I want to, Father. I really do. But...I can’t. I’ve asked myself a million times if I’d do it again. And all I can see is her eyes.” He cried, hating himself for his weakness. He wasn’t some damn bitch. He was supposed to be strong. What had she done to him?

Buy link:

http://www.eternalpress.biz/book.php?isbn=9781770650343

*****

This is my first attempt at vampire/human romance. I’m mainly a science fiction writer. But, characters who find their worlds and assumptions disintegrating around them is a recurring theme with me.

Another recently published novelette of mine, Meeting (published by Lilllibridge Press) is a science fiction about one man’s quest for the truth, and his struggle to understand a rapidly fracturing reality, and his own identity, as his own complacency shatters. His pursuit of the truth takes the form of a mysterious and elusive woman.

Buy link:

http://www.lillibridgepress.com/book/Meeting

Another SF novelette of mine, Flags (also from Lillibridge Press) deals with the ultimate race war in the distant future. Two men must question their own established mores, and struggle with loss of faith in a rapidly changing world torn by war and revolution. Not a romance, but a bro-mance, born of an unlikely alliance.

Buy link: http://www.lillibridgepress.com/book/Flags

My full-length SF novel Nexus (coming soon from Phase 5 Publishing) takes place in an all-female future and deals with another forbidden romance which shatters a lifetime of complacency and challenges the lifelong values and beliefs of two women. The first installment of Nexus Book I – Dissent is available in the December Issue of Phase 5 Monthly Review at:

http://www.phase5publishing.com/olb1001p1.htm

Amazon offers: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=Tom+Olbert&x=0&y=0

Bio: Tom Olbert lives in Cambridge, MA, comes from a great family, volunteers for progressive causes like clean energy, and has been writing sci-fi and paranormal fiction most of his life.

*****

Thank you, Lisabet, for hosting me!

-Tom (http://tomolbert.blogspot.com)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Snowbound in New England

Just got my first review in for Almost Home, my holiday M/M/F tale. Emily from Sensual Reads says that the book is "a seductive read pulling the reader in with each turn of the page". Thanks, Emily!

To celebrate, I've decided to offer you a new excerpt (rated R). Enjoy!

****

The mug of tea cupped in her hands chased the last bit of numbness from Suzanne’s fingers. Propped up on a couch in Gino’s spacious kitchen, swaddled in quilts, she watched him toss another log on the roaring fire. He moved with easy grace, a man at home in his own skin.

The heat from the blaze matched the desire simmering in her belly. She felt her body expanding, unfolding. Her tension and fear evaporated. In their place came delicious comfort edged with arousal. Gino poked at the glowing timbers piled on the hearth. She admired the line of his broad back and the curve of his buttocks under the stretched denim.

“Gino,” she called softly. “Come here.”

He gave her a smile that rivalled the blaze he tended. “Suzanne?” He sauntered over to sit beside her half-prone form. “How are you feeling?”

“Much better, thanks to you. I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t come along.” She grasped his hand, entwining their fingers. He laid his other hand on top. It might have just been a gesture of friendship, but it sent sparks swirling through her. Her nipples tightened into hungry knots.

“You know, Suzy, I had this strange feeling. Jack and I had just settled down to our annual game of chess—one of our traditions—when suddenly I knew I had to leave. I told them I had a headache, and actually, it felt a bit that way—some kind of urgent need pounding in my skull. When I saw the car burrowed into the snow bank, I knew right away that it was you.”

“I’m so grateful.” He was close enough now that she could smell him, wood smoke with an undercurrent of wintergreen. “I was pretty scared.”

“You should have let me drive you,” Gino scolded. “But then you always were stubborn.” He leaned back, away from her, and released her hand. Suzanne wanted to pull him closer. Why did he hesitate? Didn’t he know she wanted him?

“I’ve got to be back in California by Monday morning,” she murmured. “Important meeting. But I don’t suppose there’s any possibility of getting to my hotel tonight, is there?”

“Not a snowball’s chance in hell,” Gino replied triggering a laugh that relieved some of the strain. “The governor’s called for a state of emergency. The Mass Pike is closed to all but emergency vehicles. Latest forecasts say we’re going to get two feet.” He caught her eyes as though trying to read her thoughts. “Lady, you’re stuck here for the foreseeable future.”

Suzanne reached for him. “In that case, why don’t you kiss me?”

He allowed her to bring his lips within inches of hers. Then he stopped her. “Are you sure? I got the idea back at the party that I made you nervous. That you still weren’t interested in being more than friends.”

“You do make me nervous—but in a good way. I feel like a teenager when you’re around, hot and bothered, excited and embarrassed. You’ve always made me feel that way.”

“And that’s good?”

“I’m beginning to think so. Why don’t you kiss me and we can find out?”

He didn’t need a second invitation. Sliding his hands under the blankets, he gathered her to his chest and planted his firm lips on hers. Even though she was expecting this kiss, it still shocked her. Sudden heat swept through her like a forest fire. Any last reservations burned to a crisp. He took possession of her mouth, scarcely allowing her to take a breath. Meanwhile his hands roved over her curves, sending waves of electric pleasure shimmering down to her sex.

The velvet transmitted every brush of his fingertips. She might as well have been naked. It hardly mattered that she was wearing a bra or panties. He rolled one brazen nipple between his thumb and forefinger, waking tremors in her clit. She gasped into his mouth. He cupped her damp mound through her clothing, his lips still glued to hers. She spread her legs, begging for more, and he obliged, rubbing the velvet back and forth along the groove of her pussy.

His groping made her increasingly desperate. As though he read her thoughts, he broke the kiss. “I want to see you naked,” he breathed. “I always have.”

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Seeds of Magic

By Rachel Smith (Guest Blogger)

Hello, and thanks to Lisabet for hosting me today. I’m Rachel Smith, guest blogging about something that’s recently been on my mind—that’s right, New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps because I’m keenly aware of my personal “growth opportunities” (shortcomings, in other words), the New Year has always been magical to me.

Even as a child I was thrilled by the notion of a clean slate, a chance to start over and try again, or begin something new, for that matter. I created my own little ritual around making resolutions. They were always handwritten, using a unique or unusual pen and pretty paper. They were always fairly comprehensive, and always posted in a prominent position in my room, so that I could refer to them often. Did I always keep them? No. But I still loved having them around.

New Year’s resolutions have fallen into disfavor nowadays, which saddens me. As an adult, I’ve used the New Year more than once to jump start new directions in my life, with fair success. Granted, my adult resolutions are less sweeping than my childhood ones. I try to follow the expert advice touted all over the Internet: limit resolutions to specific, manageable, concrete actions. It works pretty well for me, and leaves me shaking my head at folks who won’t make resolutions because “No one keeps them anyway.” Where’s the magic in that?

We all need a new beginning sometimes. We just need to construct it with common sense and compassion for ourselves. New Year’s gives us the perfect platform, and the structure we erect on it is entirely up to us. I’ve heard folks say, “If you need a special day to begin something, you’re really not motivated.” Oh, how not true! Some changes are scary. Anchoring them to a pinpointed day lets us work up courage while developing a plan for success, and provides a strong, reinforcing sense of a fresh start, going forward.

New Year’s Day is a fallow garden. Resolutions are seeds. Plant them, water them, cultivate them…and just like the first flowers of spring, you’ll be amazed by what blossoms. Among other things, in 2011 I resolve to promote my published books and boost my writing productivity. Prosaic resolutions, both are presented here in their less specific forms, but both bear the potential for more sales and new novels. Both results would be magically wonderful, to me.

Although the New Year’s hoopla is over, I challenge you, before packing away your party hat and moving on, briefly examine where you are. What magic do you need in your life? Where would you like to see revitalization or renewal? Or what are you mostly satisfied with, but would like to slightly improve? What is hum-drum, ho-hum, or just plain routine? What have you always wanted but never had? And which small step or steps can you take this year, starting down the road to get there?

Bio

Rachel Smith is a wanna-be farmer, part-time gardener, mostly-retired mother, doting grandmother and persistently procrastinating novelist. Aside from writing and family, she is absorbed by reinventing a neglected West Texas cattle ranch as an olive orchard. Rachel’s books This Train and Texas Hearts have been recognized as 2011 EPIC ebook Award Finalists. Her newest release, “Hidden Hearts”, is available through Awe-Struck Publishing.

Website: romancebyrachelsmith.com

Buy links:

This Train (Whisky Creek Press)

http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=58&products_id=798

Hidden Hearts (Awe-Struck Publishing)

http://www.king-cart.com/Awe-Struck/category=Rachel+Smith/exact_match=exact

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Over Forty

Have you noticed that the majority of romance authors are over forty? In fact, lots of us are in our fifties or beyond. I know a few authors who buck this trend, but I'd be willing to bet that at least three quarters of your favorite romance writers were born in the seventies or earlier.

One might be tempted to attribute this phenomenon to the "empty nest syndrome". Younger women are too busy taking care of their growing children to spend time concocting stories. Not until their children reach the teen or adult years do they have the necessary leisure to pursue a career as an author.

I'm sure that this is one factor, but I think there are other things going on as well. For one thing, I know some prolific forty-plus authors who are still the primary caretakers for children, grandchildren or parents. Then there are authors like me. I never had children (by choice) but nevertheless, I didn't begin writing and publishing until I was in my mid-forties.

My theory is that when you're younger, you don't have enough experience or perspective to write convincingly about love and desire. It's only when you reach the point where your hormones have calmed down a bit, when you've experienced the ups and downs of real world relationships, that you can begin to share some of those insights with readers.

I know that there will be twenty-something authors out there screaming that this isn't true. Yes, I'm generalizing - of course there are exceptions. I still think that women in their twenties are more focused on pursuing love and romance than on writing about it.

There's another factor that may be responsible for the mature demographics of romance authors. For lack of a better word, I'll call it nostalgia. We write about intense love and heart-stopping desire in order to remember and re-experience those emotions.

Certainly this is true for me. I've been married almost thirty years. I love my husband dearly, but not in the same ferocious way I did when we first got together. There's a lot more comfort but somewhat less excitement. So I'll admit that I concoct my erotic tales at least partially for vicarious satisfaction. I had some amazing adventures in my search for Mr. Right. The spirit of those loves, if not the details, come to life in my stories.

I hope that I'll be able to continue writing as I grow older. I want to be able to lose myself in the breathless, world-shaking experience of falling in love even when I'm eighty. Our bodies may age - but love is timeless.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

More Kinky Fairy Tales

Little Red Riding Hood

She was little, barely five feet tall, but her nickname derived from her glorious mane of copper hair, not her costume. No, she wore the regulation fairy-tale uniform, a green dirndl with embroidered bodice. The full skirts complimented her broad hips and tiny waist. The finely woven white blouse offered a tantalizing glimpse of her firm, apple-shaped breasts. Not that she deliberately intended to arouse. Red Riding Hood was an innocent maid of eighteen, scarcely aware of the effect her ripe young body had on the lads of the village. A good and dutiful girl, each Sunday afternoon she'd make her way through the woods to bring some cheer and company to her aged grandmother.

He was a lone werewolf, expelled from his pack for his perverted desires. Hunger drove him to the crone's cottage, though the skinny old woman hardly made for a satisfying meal. He morphed into his human guise and washed the last traces of blood from his handsome face, disgusted by his beast-ways. With a sigh, he opened the trunk where the granny had stored her clothing.

As she did every Sunday, Red knocked on the wooden door before entering the cottage. "Granny, it's me," she called. Normally her grandmother would already have the teapot on the table, ready to share whatever goodies her granddaughter had brought in her wicker basket. Today, the kitchen was empty, though a merry fire burned on the hearth. "Granny?" Red cried again, a quaver in her voice. Doubt shadowed her normally sunny disposition.

"In here, child," a deep voice answered. "I'm resting."

"Grandmother!" Red rushed into the bedroom. A figure huddled on the wood-framed bed, buried under a mound of quilts. "Are you ill?"

"Just a bit under the weather, my dear. Come, sit beside me. You're looking very lovely today." A ghand emerged from under the coverlets, captured her wrist and began to stroke her palm. The old woman's flesh was hot as a furnace.

"You feel feverish, Gran. And your voice sounds so harsh..."

"Yes, well, perhaps I've caught some sort of bug. Come closer, darling. Let me feast my eyes on you."

Grandmother wore a lace-trimmed cap pulled low over her brow. Not a trace of her gray curls were visible. Her dressing gown, a lovely thing of peach-colored satin embroidered with birds and flowers, was buttoned to her chin, the ribbons tied in an elaborate bow. Her cheeks were ruddy and smooth under her wire-framed spectacles. Although she claimed to be ill, she looked better than Red had seen her in years.

"My, grandmother, how bright your eyes are!"

"All the better to see you with, my dear."

The other hand shot out from under the covers, caught her around the waist, and dragged her half onto the bed.

"Grandma! What are you doing? What big, strong hands you have!"

"All the better to touch you, my sweet. Do you like my nightgown, by the way?" The elderly woman threw off the quilts, showing off the gown, which covered her down to the ankles.

"It's lovely - isn't it one from your trousseau?"

"Yes, I believe that it is. I thought, it's crazy to let it rot in my trunk." The figure on the bed tried to pull Red down next to him. "Why not take a bit of a rest with me, darling? Keep me warm..." For the first time, the maiden resisted.

"Yes but - Granny, what big feet you have!"

"All the better to - um - stomp on the grapes during the harvest. Come, Red Riding Hood, don't be selfish. Give a bit of comfort to your old granny..."

"But - OH Granny! What a big....what is it? What is it it for?"

"Lie down with me, little darling and I'll show you."

***

Red pushed her Titian tangles away from her face. She gazed down at the splendid young man she held clasped between her thighs. Her grass-hued skirts were bundled around her waist. Her bodice hung open, exposing her cream-colored breasts and strawberry nipples. He arched his back, driving that mysterious appendage of his deliciously deep into her secret places. She tightened around him and he let out a satisfied groan.

"Ah, Red...You've made me hard again."

"Oh... How lovely! I never imagined..." She surveyed his muscular form, still attired in her grandmother's wedding finery. Something nagged at her, even through her lascivious haze. "Henry...what happened to Granny?"

Her lover answered with faster and more potent thrusts. Pleasure forced the niggling worry from her mind. "Oh, Henry, that's divine! Oh! Oh, I think... yes ... yes, like that ... Oh YES!" Paroxysms of delight shook her. Finally she collapsed on his broad, satin-clad chest. "Oh Henry, darling! I love you so much. I'd do anything for you."

The rugged, jet-haired man gave her a wolfish grin. "Really, Red?"

"Oh yes," she exclaimed. "What would you like? Do you want me to lick you? Do you want to do it doggy style?"

"Well...actually..." Embarrassment made her prince look younger. "I was wondering if I could try on your dirndl."