Sunday, February 28, 2010


One of the things that most of my readers don't know about me is that I used to belly dance. I took lessons while I was in college and graduate school. The city where I was studying had many Middle Eastern restaurants and I had a brief career dancing for customers as they ate their kabobs and drank their raki. Unfortunately I got my degree and left the city shortly after I began performing. I look back on this experience with fond memories, though, especially now that arthritis has made it difficult for me to walk, let alone dance. I still can't hear Turkish or Lebanese music without wanting to pick up my zils and do some snake arms and some figure eights!

A while ago I was contacted on MySpace by a painter named Roger Woods. He had come upon a photo of me in my costume, posted on my website, and wanted my permission to use it as the basis of a painting. I was delighted to agree--in fact I sent him several shots. A few months later, he sent me images of the finished work, which you can see below.

You can see other paintings in his series at

Coming This Week

This coming week I have a couple of special guests. On Monday Cecilia Tan, founder of Circlet Press, will be here talking about sex, magic and metaphors. Wednesday I'll be hosting Laura Tomolei, an Italian who sets her erotic romance in that fascinating and romantic country. On Friday, Fiona Jayde will be talking about feminist heroines in romance. Finally, my Saturday guest will be Aithne Jarretta.

Just to encourage you to drop by and welcome all these guests... I will give a copy of my paranormal romance Serpent's Kiss to one lucky reader who posts a comment this week, starting today, Sunday. I'll announce the winner next Sunday, the 7th of March!

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flaws versus Foibles

By Misty Malone(Guest Blogger)

Jane Smith is perfect. She’s funny, witty, sings like an angel, and gorgeous. Though she can be a bit too nice at times, and has a tendency to be a bit clumsy.

Mary Johnson is also popular, but she’s known for her hot temper and often acts without thinking of the consequences first.

So, which one of these characters would you rather read about?

Mary, right? Bet I know why.

Mary has a character flaw. Jane has a character foible.

Merriam-Webster defines character foibles as, “a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior.” These “quirks” don’t impact the character’s life in any significant way and rarely have the power to carry a main character through a plot. Being clumsy, like Jane, may make a reader identify with the trait, but rarely with the character herself.

On the other hand, Mary’s anger and impetuousness open up a whole world of plotlines because of the fatal character flaw at the core of her personality. Whatever situation she gets in, her fatal flaw will make it worse. The reader will cringe when Mary makes yet another mistake, but that’s what you want as an author: character flaws are what make readers care about your characters.

Here are some tips and tricks:

  • Avoid “flaws that aren’t flaws”

Here’s where those “She’s too nice” or “He’s too good” descriptions fall. This also includes personal habits like messy hair or your biting nails, which aren’t real flaws. They can be humorous or charming quirks, but don’t impact the plot in any way.

  • Don’t use flaws that are easily fixed or ignored

Don’t make things too easy for your character. If part of Mary’s character arc is working through her hotheadedness, let her hit some plateaus and valleys along the way. For example, just when she thinks she has her impulse issues reined in, someone picks a fight with her and Mary loses control and ends up in jail.

  • Flaws have to hinder the character and the plot in a real, meaningful way

What good is having anger control issues if situations never arise that will challenge that fatal character flaw? If your character has a severe public speaking phobia, what purpose will that serve if you never introduce a situation where your character is forced to face their flaw? But just giving your character a fatal flaw isn’t enough—it has to impact the plot in an important way.

  • Don’t pass off flaws as strengths

Ever been on a job interviews where the recruiter asks about your weaknesses? Bland phrases like, “I’m too dedicated” or “I’m over-organized,” are sure-fire ways to get you a one-way ticket to the unemployment office. Know why? It’s because those aren’t real flaws. They’re foibles (or outright lies). How is being dedicated a flaw? If an interviewer can see through these shabby excuses, then your readers certainly can.

Some authors tend to only show the fatal flaw in a positive light. Let’s say Mary lost control and accidently killed Jane. There have got to be some consequences, both internal and external ones. If all that happens is some jail time for Mary, and no change in her character arc, then Mary has become an uninteresting, two-dimensional character that readers will stop caring about.

Good character flaws will be shown in both lights—positive and negative. Perhaps while in prison, Mary discovers a plot to assassinate the warden. Without thinking of the consequences, she pushes the man out a bullet’s path, saving him.

  • It’s okay for characters to make mistakes

We learn from our mistakes, and characters do, too. Many authors seem afraid to let their characters do anything too bad or test the limits. Why? We change through adversity, through making horrible mistakes and hopefully learn from them. The most meaningful arcs often come when a character recognizes what their fatal flaw has cost them, and how it affects their storyline.

Be careful that not every flaw a character has is attributed to the past. Blaming others for their flaws makes a character unsympathetic. Readers best connect to characters who have real flaws, can eventually understand how to work through them, and find a way to transform the flaw into an asset.

Mary’s ability to think on her feet and make those split-second decisions allowed her to save the warden, and thus earn herself an early parole, while also teaching her that she can find better ways to redirect her anger and impulse control problems.

  • Here is just a handful of examples of real character flaws:

    • Lying

    • Being a cheapskate

    • Severe memory issues

    • Aggression

    • Arrogance and cruelty

    • Overdeveloped sense of self/narcissism

    • Laziness

    • Selfishness

    • Self-righteousness or judgmental

    • Indecision

    • Trust issues

    • Non-assertiveness

Keep in mind that you don’t want to overload your characters with flaws, either. Just as all positive traits won’t make your readers love a character, an influx of negative ones will prevent people from identifying and sympathizing with them. Try to strike a balance—a little bit of good, a little bit of bad, and what do you have?

A normal, flawed, human character.

BIO: “Normal is overrated” is the mantra of author Misty Malone. A hard-core Taurus with a love for elves, zombie squirrels, and cannibalistic cotton balls, Misty is an avid reader, a cat wrangler, and can usually be found glued to her laptop, driven by the desire to tell unforgettable stories. Inspired by the likes of Joss Whedon and Piers Anthony, and fueled by green tea lattes, Misty's work has been published in literary journals, trade magazines, and anthologies, ranging from horror, travel writing, high fantasy, and tongue-in-cheek humor (sometimes under the pen name Lori Strongin). Under the pen name Misty Malone, she has published with Ravenous Romance and Phaze Books.

Check out her website and blog at for more ponderings from this not-quite-normal author.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ever After

Happily ever after. According to my mentors, this is the sine qua non of the romance genre. These days, romance can be sweet or steamy, with any mix of genders and quite a level of flexibility in numbers, but the story must conclude with the protagonists in love and together for the foreseeable future.

“Happily” I get. But “ever after” can be a practical problem, especially in realistic contemporary romance, which is mostly what I have penned thus far. Taken literally, “ever after” means “eternally”, or at least, “until death do us part”. Alas, most of us know all too well how elusive such enduring love can be. Divorce or death, wars or disasters, disease, aging or simply the inevitable changes in personality that people experience over time, tend to work against the dream of “ever after”. Yet it remains a delightful fantasy that perhaps only romance can fulfill.

“Ever after” requires more than sexual compatibility. It goes far beyond physical attraction, and runs deeper than emotional sympathy or congruence of interests, values and desires. “Ever after” is about a heart and soul connection that transcends the physical world, a spiritual bond that cannot be severed no matter what may come to pass.

Paranormal romance may offer the best opportunity for believable “ever afters”. This might account for some of its popularity. Vampire couples have eternity together. Demons and angels, fairies, elves and other creatures of power and magic cleave forever to their predestined mates. One of my favorite paranormal concepts is the notion of lovers continually reincarnated, finding their way to each other arms age after age despite all obstacles. I first encountered this theme in H. Rider Haggard’s classic adventure She. It’s eloquently expressed in the song “Old Souls”, from the musical Phantom of the Paradise:

Our love
Is an old love, baby.
It’s older
Than all our years.
I see in strange young eyes
Familiar tears.


Our paths have crossed and parted.
This love affair was started
Long, long ago.
This love survives the ages.
In its story lives are pages.
Fill them all.
May ours turn slow.

An advantage of the reincarnation device, from a writer’s perspective, is the fact that it automatically provides a source of movement and conflict. “Ever after” runs the danger of becoming static and boring, after a few centuries or millennia. In the reincarnation scenario, we know in our gut that the protagonists will finally recognize each other and find happiness (again), but a skillful author can play on the risk that maybe this time, things won’t work out. Plus there is the bittersweet knowledge that eventually, death or some evil influence will part the lovers, leaving them to discover their connection anew in a future life.

My paranormal romance Serpent’s Kiss is a shape shifter novel based on ancient Mayan mythology. It’s full of perilous rituals, supernatural visions, and apocalyptic confrontations between age-old enemies. Furthermore, it uses reincarnation to give the lovers the ever after they deserve.

I didn’t originally intend that Elena and Jorge should have known each other from previous lives. About half way through the book, I realized that was what was going on. Why else would they be so irresistibly attracted to one another? Where else could they have acquired their knowledge of each other’s souls? I’m contemplating writing a prequel to explore their connection during earlier rounds through the cosmic cycle.

You can find an excerpt from Serpent's Kiss here.

As a teenager and young adult, I was convinced that everything was transient, especially relationships. My high school yearbook quote was a set of lines from Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Leaves that are Green”:

Hello, hello, hello, hello
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye
That's all there is.

Surrounded by divorce in every branch of my family, I was certain that I’d never find a life mate. It is rather a shock, twenty eight years later, to find myself that I have been living with, and in love with, the same one man all this time.

Maybe there’s more to this happily ever after stuff than I thought

What do you think?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stop and Smell the Detours!

By Shayla Kersten (Guest Blogger)

Life has a way of controlling us instead of the other way around. The whole “best laid plans” thing…

For years, I tried to be in charge of my life but things kept getting in the way. My plans for college fell to the wayside due to a number of factors. One being I was too young! *cackle* Youth truly is wasted on the young. Instead of finishing my degree, entering the Army as an officer and hopefully law school bound—I dropped out and enlisted.

Detour number one. I loved the Army. After basic training, anyway. Basic training in July in Oklahoma in the hottest summer on record. Big yuck! But I loved Germany. When I returned to the States, I went back to Oklahoma with my sergeants’ stripes and a position as an instructor at the school where I learned my job.

I married twice while in the Army. Of course, there was a divorce in between! My first husband was a mistake we don’t discuss in my family. My second, well, we lasted nearly eleven years. Not bad. But because of him, I got out of the Army.

Detour number two. After the Army, we moved to his hometown of Brooklyn, New York. Yes, small town Arkansas girl in the big city. Took me two years to get the nerve to drive! As a former missile specialist, I was qualified to shoot bottle rockets on the 4th of July so I took the first job offered me. A clerk in a tax department. I couldn’t afford to go back to school just then. I’d backed away from my dream of becoming an attorney when I decided I wanted a career in the Army.

I worked in accounting and eventually received a degree in the field. In the end, I loved New York. Would have been happy there. Except for the divorce.

Detour number three. Living alone in the big city wasn’t very appealing. My dad had had a couple of heart problems, bypass surgery and the like. It was time to go home. As much as I missed New York, it was the right decision. My stepdad died about two years after I returned; my dad a year and a half after him. I still miss them both terribly so many years later.

But I was here for my mother. My stepdad was seven years younger than my mother. She never expected him to go first. She was lost. Sometimes, she still is and it’s been thirteen years this month.

So here I was, back home, working as an accountant, but something was missing. I needed a hobby. A creative outlet. Creative accounting would only get me in jail. Then in 2004, I discovered fanfiction.

Detour number four. I’d always enjoyed writing, did well in classes and the like but never thought to put anything out for people to actually read. With the internet, I found my creative outlet. I enjoyed creating stories about characters in my favorite fandom. Even more, I enjoyed creating original characters within the stories. Then a friend of mine, Delilah Devlin, read some of my fanfiction. Delilah and her sister Elle James are both published authors. I’d known them since high school. Elle and I were in the same class and had been inseparable back then. We’d kept in touch over the years. Both of them encouraged me to try original fiction and submit it for publication.

Detour number five. My first book, THIRTY DAYS, released in December, 2006, with Liquid Silver Publishing. I was ecstatic! And hooked. Subsequent stories sold to Ellora’s Cave, Kensington Aphrodisia, Black Lace and The Wild Rose Press. I write a mix of gay, straight and bisexual romances! And I love it. Of course, making a living off writing is very difficult. Only the very top tier of authors are actually getting rich. Some midlist authors can make a living. Most of us flounder with our evil day jobs and work on our books in our spare time.

But I had a goal! Write to pay off debt, retire early, write as a living! Yay!

Detour number six. The economy crashed. I ended up laid off in October, 2008. So much for the goal! Scraping by on unemployment, part-time work and royalties is interesting. But, you know what? I’m happy. For the first time in my life, I’m really happy. Yes, I’m mostly broke. *cackle* But I don’t have the massive stress of my full-time job. I love spending my free time writing. I treat it as a job, with hours and all that, but I’m happy to go to work!

Life is full of detours. Very few people actually end up spending their lives as planned. I learned to stop and smell the flowers along the detours but I finally found what I want to be when I grow up. Since I turned fifty earlier this month, that’s probably a good thing. *cackle*

My nineteenth story, ANGEL MOON, released in January, 2010. A little twist on vampire and angel lore, my creatures are aliens. Think space cowboys with fangs. And the angels are the bad guys. Sometimes the demons need a break!


Terra offers sanctuary to both Angellum and Virkola. Unknown to the humans, a truce exists there. To Terrans, the two species exist as myths. One is a frail, winged creature from religious texts. The other, a demon of the night, living off blood. Both are far from the truth…

Sorin thought sanctuary was the answer to their problems. Terra with its plentiful creatures, full of fresh blood and off limits to the millennia-long war with the Angellum—who wouldn’t think it paradise? Except paradise comes at a high price. Claiming a bounty on a renegade angel hasn’t ended up the way he planned at all.

Teo loves his ship, his life in space, but he loves Sorin more. The plan seemed sound, but the bounty is a fraud and now the price is on him and Sorin. He’ll make the best of the rest of his life with Sorin, even if it’s only for a few weeks.

But when hope appears from an unexpected source, both men grab chance by her wings.

Visit Shayla at

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Seeing and Believing

We may hear "I won't believe it until I see it," yet wise people know that we won't see it unless we first believe it.

I found these words yesterday in my Daily Word, the little inspirational book I read every morning. I was struck by the truth of this simple observation. Our reality, our vision, is profoundly shaped by our expectations and beliefs.

My mother was a brilliant and talented woman who by any objective measure had a successful life. She was married for fifteen years, had three healthy children, brought them up to be decent, self-reliant, basically happy people. She graduated first in her high school and college classes. She had careers as a commercial artist, a dancer, and a teacher. She was politically active, supporting liberal causes and even running for the state legislature. She could sing like an angel, cook like a professional chef, and create a dynamite Halloween costume from scraps.

Alas, she believed that nothing good would come to her, that she would always get the short end of the stick. So she focused on the negatives in her life: the fact that she went to a state university rather than an Ivy League; the fact that she didn't become a lawyer as she had dreamed; the fact that she lost the election; the fact that my father divorced her. She expected to be disappointed. She believed that she was unlucky. And thus, in her eyes, she was. Instead of celebrating her achievements, she was bitter about what she felt had been stolen from her. She saw what she believed.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are people who have handicaps, physical or mental, yet still manage to press on and make a contribution to life. I've encountered quite a few of these brave, cheerful souls on the 'net. Some of them write romance. Recently I read a guest blog by a woman who was paralyzed from the neck down by a stroke. After watching television and being bored for a year, she decided she would try to write. She learned to use the computerized tools available now for the disabled. She is now a successful children's author with several books to her credit. She believed that she could move past the tragedy of her stroke and create something new, and she did.

Being an author certainly requires belief in any case. Otherwise we'd never dare send our stories off for anyone to see. You have to be able to imagine someone else reading and enjoying your words. You have to believe that you're good enough.

Actually, I think some excellent writers get stuck at this point. They spend years polishing a novel, worrying it like a dog with a bone, but can't quite get up the courage to submit it to a publisher.

The lesson is clear. Believe that you can succeed. Believe that you can realize your dreams (though you have to be ready to accept some detours that the universe might throw in your path). Look for the good in your life and you will find it. Expect the best and you will not be disappointed.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Footsteps Through Time

By Gregory Taylor (Guest Blogger)

Today I laid down another footstep on the great pantheon of time. I've turned fifty. I refused to accept it, but I could not ignore the reality of it. Self-denial only resulted in self-delusion. I how have passed five decades of history, a half-century. I feel like a walking history book.

Looking back on my life I immediately recognize the milestone birthdays. I could focus on each birthday, but fifty is an overwhelming accumulation. Instead, I mark my growth and maturation by the tens: my 10th, my 20th, my 30th birthday and so on. These are stages most everyone must pass; I now am blessed with having more than most.

My tenth birthday marked a settling period of my childhood. Through family trauma that Jerry Springer would love to exploit, I was passed through many families. Finally, at age seven, I was adopted, leaving behind three mother figures and four father figures. And at age ten I had now remained in the same household for well over two years, far longer than any previous stop.

At age ten I was in fifth grade, under the instruction of Mr. Niedermeier, my all-time favorite teacher. His response to any question of mine was to pull me aside and say "Let's find that out together". My grasp of science blossomed and I gained the courage to take, (and succeed in), high school algebra and English literature classes that year.

Come twenty I had let my intelligence turn me into a social disaster, a smart-ass that antagonized all and everybody equally. The common belief about me was that I'd get cut down a measure or two, and I did. My twentieth birthday was "celebrated" at the Navy boot camp in Orlando, Florida. As a special "gift" the Navy had arranged for our platoon to have a guest drill sergeant, a salty old Marine who had no patience and little appreciation for Navy recruit. In its infinite wisdom the Navy thought this experiment would foster better Navy-Marine relations; in reality it only provided a vent for the jarhead's frustrations. I couldn't keep my mouth shut, and my opinions and wisecracks were quickly redeemed for marathon sessions of sit-ups and push-ups. I came away severely chastened and much more willing to use my two ears than my one mouth.

At thirty I had come to realize how narrow my perspective on the world was, as well as how limited my knowledge. I stepped out in ignorance (perhaps), or in thirst for learning and got myself into The University of North Dakota. Thankfully my excellent scores on the ACT and SAT tests allowed me to become a freshman honors student, and I was given the freedom to learn at my own pace. Looking back, I can say my two years in school there were the most satiating experience I had, as I gobbled up class material voraciously.

But this time was also where I started to become so critical and cynical about the generation coming up behind me. I saw kids 12 years younger than I, freshly-released from family life, and unable to cope with the basics of life. Mom had always cooked their meals, now these kids couldn't even make macaroni. Dirty clothes accumulated in the dorms because young lads didn't know how to do laundry. The first classes of the morning were poorly attended because junior couldn't get himself out of bed.

My fortieth birthday was a benchmark for me for I spent the day at a new job, one which I would work at for the next nine years without missing one day. It was a bit of a lonely birthday, for I had no significant someone to share the day with, as most everyone else did. But I compensated by devoting myself even to my work as a convenience store manager. Daily I'd have over a hundred customers come in, almost all regulars. Didn't their presence each morning make up for the lonely nights ? At forty I also discovered how mortal I was, when a case of pneumonia resulted my needing cardiac-shock to survive. And, if that wasn't enough, I discovered I had diabetes and high blood pressure. It was blatantly evident that the old plumbing within was having problems keep up with my lifestyle.

And now I turn fifty. The job I had at forty went up in smoke at age 49. Nine years of loyal service rewarded me with nothing, for even that employer no longer exists. Resultant of that permanent job loss, I've been homeless and jobless, drifting from town-to-town, seeking solutions. In the last six months I've seen more about the harsh realities of life than in all my life preceding. Stereotypes and biases I had held dearly have been turned topsy-turvy. My blinded eyes have been opened to what is really going on around me and I have gained much in discernment. I prioritize better and appreciate more fully that which I do have. And I've become quite resourceful out of sheer necessity.

Looking back on the footsteps of my life, I recognize that I don't share in many things common to most. I've not been married, I haven't had kids. Because of choice, I am still a virgin. I haven't had a divorce. Even within Ginger's Group I am a minority, having yet to get a book published. But I see ahead that the footsteps through my life have blessed me uniquely to combine my writing ability with life experiences. The result may be that I can then share a journey for others to travel, without having to face the hardships firsthand.

Each of us has a unique journey we've traveled, and we bless others when we put those experiences on paper and share. May you be so motivated to share the Footsteps Through Time" that you have set in place along the way.

A Note from Lisabet: I first "met" Greg on author Ginger Simpson's Yahoo group, where he has shared his life, his thoughts, and some wonderful writing. I'm honored to have him as my guest today, especially since it's his birthday. May the future bring you many blessings, Gregory!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Contest Curmudgeon

I guess it's contest season.

Practically every message I get from my various Yahoo groups includes notes from authors whom I may or may not know, begging for votes. Now, perhaps I am being overly scrupulous, but I don't feel comfortable voting for a book that I haven't read. In addition, what I am supposed to do when there are several of my esteemed colleagues in competition? Sorry, but I don't want to choose.

Do romance contests really mean anything? Are they anything more than a popularity contest? Are they any reflection on the true quality of the winning titles? I know lots of my colleagues who title themselves "Award Winning Author...". Should I be impressed? I really don't know.

Mostly I don't bother to enter contests. I just don't have the time or energy. I figure that my circle of readers isn't big enough to make a difference. And I hate asking people to do things for me. Heck, I feel sort of embarrassed every time I put a notice or an excerpt out on my usual lists. Like maybe I'm bothering people. Begging for votes? I just can't do it. I have too much respect for my readers and my friends.

I did enter the EPPIE contest a couple of years ago. That actually cost money, but I figured that it might be worth it if I won. I didn't. The book that did -- well, to be honest, I had read it, reviewed it in fact. I didn't think it was nearly as good as my submission.

Sigh. Maybe all of us authors are egotists. We all think we're great writers, undiscovered, unappreciated. We all think we should be the winners.

What I'd really like to know, though, is whether winning a contest makes any difference to readers. If you hear that a certain title won an EPPIE or a prize from Love Romance Cafe or Whipped Cream or The Romance Studio or whatever, will that influence you? Will you go out and buy a book based on the awards it wins?

Clearly, winning a contest or award brings you some level of free publicity. So readers are more likely to hear about your book in the first place. Other than that, does it matter?

I'd really appreciate your opinions!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Love is Timeless

By Cornelia Amiri (Guest Blogger)

During February, the month of love, I think about the myths and legends of the ancient Celts, full of romance and fantasy. With their belief in rebirth and the next life, they truly sought everlasting romance.

The Celts quest for love left us with some quaint and endearing traditions. At the Celtic harvest festival of Lughnassadh (LOO-nahs-ah), young men and women paired off to pick bilberries and didn’t return until nightfall. This included the sweet custom of boys threading the berries into bracelets for the girls to wear that day. Another important festival for the ancient Celts was Beltaine (bell-tayn), which in modern times we call May Day. The May Queen led the Beltane procession with her ritual courtship of the Green Man. These symbolic marriages of the god and goddess, in the form of King and Queen of the May, were mirrored in human courtship. One of the most popular May Day traditions was to set a basket full of spring flowers or other small gifts at a neighbor’s house without them seeing you. If you got caught, they would chase and then kiss you.

Courtships for the ancient Celts would often begin at Beltaine and the marriages would be held at Samhain (Sah-van), which in modern times we call Halloween. Samhain, as the beginning of the New Year, was the main season of weddings for the ancient Celts. A tradition that survived in Wales, in Montgomeryshire, was on Samhain they made a mash of nine ingredients: potatoes, carrots, turnips, peas, parsnips, leeks, pepper, salt and new milk. A wedding ring was hidden in the mash. Teenage girls dug into the mash with wooden spoons, anxious to learn their fate, for the one who found the ring would be the first one married. The way it was done in Carmarthenshire, was that on Samhain, nine girls made a pancake together, containing nine ingredients, divided it among themselves, and ate it. Before dawn, each girl would have a vision of her future husband.

Moving forward, up to the 16th century, we find one of the most interesting Welsh customs, loving spoons. Celtic handmade love spoons were carved from one piece of wood with symbols on the stem, which had various meaning, from two hearts “We love each other” to an intricate knot meaning “together, forever.” A farmer might carve a vine with flowers on the stem which would mean “love grows.” A sailor might carve an anchor which would mean “steadfast love.” The spoon was the main eating utensil of the day, so by giving a lady a spoon the man was also saying I can provide for you, you won’t go hungry. Love spoons were like engagement rings, if the lady accepted the spoon, she accepted the proposed marriage.

Another quaint courtship custom which began in the 16th and 17th century was bundling. On long, dark, cold winter nights, courting couples were encouraged to share a bed - but they were fully clothed and the boy or girl was sewn into a "bundling bag," a linen sheet that would bind, confine, and conceal the legs, and consequently, private parts of the body. By the late 1600s, Wales's supposedly relaxed sexual morals had become the brunt of English jokes, with the scarcity of Welsh virgins the tired old punch line. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English historians blamed the wayward Welsh for the bundling custom. Though bundling was a perfectly innocent courting ritual. A visitor to Wales reported that female servants were so fond of bundling, they refused to work unless their lovers were permitted to share their beds.

With this romp through the ages, from bilberries to bundling, romance was as important in ancient times as it is today. For as the ancient Celts firmly believed . . . love is timeless.

BIO: Cornelia Amiri draws on her love of history and fifteen years of research on the ancient Celts, to write tales of long swords, hot heroes, and warrior women. Ms. Amiri is the author of eight Celtic Romance books.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Double Happiness

Romance readers and writers everywhere--today's your day! Every romance blog is celebrating St. Valentine's Day. I thought I'd be a bit different and wish you a Happy Chinese New Year. Welcome to the Year of the Tiger!

As you probably know, the Tiger is one of the twelve animals that define the Chinese Zodiac (also influential in Japan and Southeast Asia). Each animal is associated with different personality characteristics. Thus, as in western astrology, your nature is determined by when you were born. In the case of the Chinese zodiac, your primary nature is determined by the year rather than the month of your birth.

According to Wikipedia, the twelve different types of personalities as follows.

  1. Rat: Forthright, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, self-destructive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.
  2. Ox (Water buffalo in Vietnam): Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
  3. Tiger: Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be cold, restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, ruthless, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable, moody.
  4. Rabbit: ambitious, gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.
  5. Dragon (Snail in Kazakhstan): Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, jealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.
  6. Snake: Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.
  7. Horse: Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile - mentally and physically, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.
  8. Goat, or Sheep: Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
  9. Monkey: Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.
  10. Rooster: Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.
  11. Dog: Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.
  12. Pig (Wild boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

In Chinese astrology the animal signs assigned by year represent what others perceive you as being or how you present yourself. It is a common misconception that the animals assigned by year are the only signs, and many western descriptions of Chinese astrology draw solely on this system. In fact, there are also animal signs assigned by month (called inner animals) and hours of the day (called secret animals).

So while a person might appear to be a dragon because they were born in the year of the dragon, they might also be a snake internally and an ox secretively. In total, this makes for 8,640 possible combinations (60 year cycle (5 elements x 12 animals) x 12 months x 12 times of day) that a person might be.

According to my research, I am a Dragon. Remember that you cannot rely just on the numeric year of your birth; a particular animal/year doesn't start until Chinese New Year. Since my birthday is in January, sometimes it occurs before the start of the Chinese Year and sometimes after (the Chinese calendar is lunar). 1953 is normally reported as year of the Snake, and in fact I have quite a few "snake-like" traits. However, the year of the Snake in 1953 did not begin until February.

The animal signs might be an interesting method for coming up with characters. Tigers, in particular, sound like great alpha heroes: powerful, passionate, impulsive, vigorous, affectionate and generous.

In any case, I hope that you enjoy both your Valentine's Day and your New Year. As for me, I'm off to dinner and a movie with my DH. Maybe not the most romantic celebration you could imagine, but it doesn't really matter what we do as long as we're together.

By the way: I just posted my monthly newsletter at, with all the latest on my releases, reviews, free reads and upcoming appearances, plus two easy contests. AND some great tiger pictures! Check it out.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Children Are Our Future

By Chelle Cordero (Guest Blogger)

I touched on the subjects of orphans and foster care in both of my latest releases, A Chaunce of Riches and Common Bonds, Tangled Hearts. In Chaunce both Samantha and Ben had grown up together in the same foster home; in Common Bonds the heroine Layne was orphaned young and made a ward of the state when her ailing grandmother couldn’t care for her.

In Common Bonds, Tangled Hearts Layne wasn’t nearly as fortunate as her predecessors who found warmth and comfort with loving foster parents. Her fate was much more dreadful and she wound up walking into a bad situation because she had no guidance to steer her. If just one person had been able to take her hand and help her… But then what would my book have been about?

As Dennis got ready for bed, Layne thought of her own childhood. Her parents had died in a car accident when she was just a toddler, she didn't even remember them. Her grandparents raised her; grandpa died when she was six, her grandmother had a stroke which left her in a coma when Layne was almost eight. Layne was put into a foster home close by so she could visit her grandmother in the hospital. Grandma died the day Layne turned eight. She figured it was because the state had never been able to trace down any of her mother's relations that she was kept in the foster care program rather than put up for adoption.

Some of the foster homes weren't too terrible, the parents were friendly and her foster siblings were nice to play with. But as Layne grew into a teen-ager and her tall lanky shape developed into a womanly figure, Layne found herself in a dangerous situation. She had been put into a home where the parents had two teen-age boys of their own. Her foster parents called her ungrateful when she complained that the boys were sneaking peeks of her while she showered or changed in her room. Layne tolerated it until the night one of her foster brothers climbed into her bed and touched her in ways he had no right to. She ran away before dawn broke.

The next few days she literally lived on the street with no money, no food and no bed to sleep in. That was when she met Charlie. He found her in the alley outside of his gallery and he invited her in to warm up, use the shower in the back of the store and sleep in the stock room; it was the first solid sleep she had in days. When she woke up, she found a tray laden with juice and milk and cereal and fruit. She was so grateful to him.

After she was rested and clean and the hunger pangs in her stomach were gone, he invited her into his office to chat. She told him what had happened and thanked him for his rescue. He asked her how old she was, she told him sixteen; he was forty-nine. He offered her a permanent solution, one which the frightened teen-age girl saw only as a fairy tale come true. He had money, he lived in a big house, he owned an international art company and he was willing to marry her. Because of her age, he handed her money and travel directions to a nearby state where the age of consent was even younger and he told her he'd meet her.

They met at the hotel and went to the justice of the peace where Elaine Cowan became Mrs. Charles Harris. That night he took her to bed and when she cried from the pain he caused her, he told her that the first time was the worst and it was a small price to pay for all the comfort she now would be living with. They went home the next day.

Layne got used to Charlie taking what he called his husbandly rights, but she never looked forward to them. She learned quickly that any refusals she made only made things worse. He wouldn't be denied; he didn't care what her reasons were. After the second month of their marriage, Charlie demanded that Layne take a pregnancy test. It was negative. He demanded another one every month after that and with each negative response, he became angrier and more abusive. Charlie told Layne that he "bought her" so that she should give him an heir. He told her that horrifying fact the very first night he beat her.

Recent news reports have been filled with the terrifying accounts of the earthquake aftermath in Haiti – among the many, many tragedies are thousands of children, many orphaned, who have no shelter or loving arms to hold them. Some of the orphans, in the system before the quake, were in the process of being adopted and sadly the paperwork is now buried in rubble so the delight of the children and their parents-to-be has to be put on hold until governments can sort through myriad details and red-tape.

This poignant plight leaves me so saddened – I wish I had space and money to house scores of these children, I would have the love. There have been many hopeful parents who have opened their hearts and arms just to be told that paperwork had to be filed and visas had to be issued. Current estimates say that these processes could take up to two years. Even opening our homes today will be met with delays and unfortunately children who were already being adopted will continue to take up bed space from many new orphans.

Hopefully governments throughout the world will help by making special emergency plans to push through the adoptions that were already in process. We must each ask our governments to consider refugee status for these orphans so that they can go to loving homes as soon as possible. If the paperwork waits to be done – it’s just paper. The children are our future.

Visit Chelle online at

Common Bonds, Tangled Hearts is available now in print and e-book.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Give My Regards to Broadway

For my recent birthday, my brother sent me the soundtracks for "Gyspy" and "My Fair Lady". I knew why, even before I read his note. Our childhood was full of music, and Broadway shows ranked high on the list of our favorites. I guessed, correctly, that he was indulging in a bout of characteristic nostalgia.

My mother used to play "Gypsy" a lot (I think she identified with Rose--certainly she encouraged us to go into show biz...). I knew all the lyrics, and can still sing them now:

Let me entertain you.
Let me see you smile.
Let me do a few kicks,
Some old and then some new tricks,
I'm very versatile.

Hmm. Might be my theme song as a writer!

Anyway, I've always loved musicals. I didn't grow up reading romance, but perhaps the Broadway shows from my early years taught me about love and happy endings.

I could have danced all night,
I could have danced all night,
And still have begged for more...

I have often walked
Down this street before
But the pavement always stayed beneath my feet before.
All at once am I
Several stories high
Knowing I'm on the street where you live.

I enjoy singing, and have a moderately good voice, but I never learned to sight-read music. Still, one of my long-time fantasies is to perform in a musical. Which one would I pick? That's a difficult choice. "West Side Story" has always tugged at my heartstrings, but I'm not sure that I'm the serious heroine type--and after all it is a tragedy, almost an opera. Certainly not a "musical comedy". I'm a huge fan of Gilbert and Sullivan with their topsy-turvy logic. I don't know how familiar readers are with their repertoire, but I'd adore the chance to play the part of Mad Margaret in "Ruddigore", a woman driven insane by thwarted love, or Katisha in "The Mikado", the brash older noblewoman who sits at the right hand of the Emperor and tries to win the love of his son. Then there's the glamorous actress Desirée in "A Little Night Music":

Just when I'd stopped
Opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours,
Making my entrance again with my usual flair,
Sure of my lines--
No one is there.

Or I could play Mary Magdalene in "Jesus Christ Super Star", perhaps an appropriate role for an erotic author:

I don't know how to take this.
I don't see why he moves me.
He's a man.
He's just a man.
And I've had so many men before,
In very many ways
He's just one more.

Considering my personality and my appearance, however, I just might opt to play Shirley Maclaine's role in "Sweet Charity". I love her eternal hope as well as her sassy attitude:

The minute you walked in the joint
I could tell you were a man of distinction,
A real big spender.
Good looking,
So refined.
Hey wouldn't you like to know what's going on in my mind?
Let me get right to the point.
I don't pop my cork
For every guy I see.
Hey, big spender,
Spend a little time with me.

I love the old Broadway classics, silly as some of them were, and the newer musicals, too. A measure of my addiction: I generated all the lyrics in this post from memory. Since receiving my brother's package, I've been indulging myself, singing in the shower and while I'm doing the dishes. Soon I'll be working out to "You've Got to Have a Gimmick" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face".

Life is good!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

98% Scared and 2% Excited…Or is it the other way around?

By Rebecca Clark (Guest Blogger)

I have my first ever signing this weekend for my first ever book, BORROWED STILETTOS. Part of me is super excited, and part of me is scared to death. I feel like Oscar in the movie Armageddon: “I got that ‘excited/scared’ feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or…it could be 98% scared, 2% excited, but that's what makes it so intense.”

I was okay until I heard the signing will be a Q&A, and I’ll have to introduce myself and read a short scene from my book. Yikes!

I’m not the most out-going person by nature. I hate being in the spotlight. I hate talking about myself. So, right now as I write this, as I’m thinking about this upcoming event, I’m more like 98% scared. Luckily, I’m signing with four other authors, all veteran signers and public speakers. Most of the attention should be directed at them and I can sit there on the end in relative obscurity.

I tend to be a “worst case scenario” type of person. If I imagine the worst that can possibly happen, things rarely turn out that bad. My husband calls that negative thinking. I call it self-preservation.

And really, what’s the worst that can happen?

  • No one shows up. Then there will be nothing to be nervous about.

  • Lots of people show up but no one buys my book. Well, that won’t happen. I have a ton of friends and family coming. If they don’t buy my book they know I’ll hurt them.

  • My voice shakes when it’s my turn to speak. Is that really such a big deal? No. Have a sip of water (or tequila…).

  • I get tongue-tied and can’t put two coherent words together. Okay, this is a big fear. But again, will that be the end of the world? No. People will just think to themselves, “Man, I hope she writes better than she speaks.” I could even make a joke about it: “Obviously, I’m a writer not a speaker.”

  • Someone asks me if my book is hot (it is) and how I research my sex scenes. Why this question intimidates me, I’m not really sure. I could say, “You’ll have to ask Mr. Clark.” Or, “I research my love scenes the same way I research my murder scenes.”

  • My books won’t arrive from my publisher on time. Then I’ll bring along my author copies. Just in case.

It’s all about being prepared. I need to figure out now what I’m going to wear. I have these awesome stiletto earrings and necklace my sister got me. I’m planning to borrow same sister’s stiletto shoes so if someone asks me if I’m wearing “borrowed stilettos,” I can honestly say yes. I need to try on my outfit a day or two before, making sure I don’t have any runs in my nylons and no dog slime on my dress.

I need to prepare a short blurb on my story and write it down on an index card, in case my mind goes blank when it’s my turn to talk about my book. I should also imagine what types of questions the audience could ask, just in case any are directed my way. Having a somewhat intelligent response would be quite nice.

Hmm. Now that I’ve put my fears on *paper*, I feel so much better. Getting closer to the 98% excited.

Those of you who’ve done a signing, do you have any words of wisdom for me? Any brilliant tips?

Wish me luck!

You can learn more about Rebecca on her website and her blog for shy writers at

Monday, February 8, 2010

I Believe...Some words to ponder

This was sent to me by an old friend, but I thought it would bear sharing... I Believe... That just because two people argue, doesn't mean they don't love each other.. And just because they don't argue, doesn't mean they do love each other. I Believe... That we don't have to change friends if we understand that friends change. I Believe... That no matter how good a friend is, they're going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that. I Believe... That true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love. I Believe... That you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life. I Believe... That it's taking me a long time to become the person I want to be. I Believe... That you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them. I Believe... That you can keep going long after you think you can't. I Believe... That we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel. I Believe... That either you control your attitude or it controls you. I Believe... That heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences. I Believe... That money is a lousy way of keeping score. I Believe... That my best friend and I can do anything, or nothing, and have the best time. I Believe... That sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you're down, will be the ones to help you get back up. I Believe... That sometimes when I'm angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn't give me the right to be cruel. I Believe... That maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you've had, and what you've learned from them.....and less to do with how many birthdays you've celebrated. I Believe... That it isn't always enough to be forgiven by others.. Sometimes, you have to learn to forgive yourself. I Believe... That no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn't stop for your grief. I Believe... That our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become. I Believe... Two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different. I Believe... That even when you think you have no more to give, if a friend cries out to will find the strength to help. I Believe... That credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being I Believe... That the people you care about most in life are taken from you too soon. As another friend recently wrote: He who dies with the fewest regrets wins. Warmly, Lisabet

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Writer, Get Thee Online!

By Shanna Germain (Guest Blogger)

As I write this post, I’m teaching my first-ever online erotica class. I’ve taught in-person writing classes for a number of years, but this venture into online teaching is a whole new deal. I miss sitting with my students, exploring writing, laughing at each other’s stories, and feeding off the interaction that happens in the classroom. On the other hand, this new medium is bringing writers from around the country together in one spot, and creating a safe, semi-anonymous space for them to work on their fiction. In lieu of sitting in a real classroom, we’re using the virtual classroom to share links, insights, new work and successes. It's different, for sure, and a little discombobulating, but it's the future, and as a writer, I need to be part of it.

As an industry (and as a culture), we are moving online, more and more every day and I think that the erotica/romance world is forging much of that web-wide path. Long before other genres were interested in e-books (except, of course, for Stephen King’s early online horror novel, which was so far ahead of its time that people were confused by it), erotica and romance writers and readers were embracing this new market. Now, books are being sold on Second Life, readings are taking place via You Tube, and authors are offering contests and giveaways via their websites and blogs.

Chances are, if you're a writer who's reading this, then you're already online and you have an inkling of how beneficial the Internet can be to your career. But are you using it to your best advantage? Are you ready to move forward into the web-based future of writing? Putting the web to use for you as an author is a fairly easy endeavor. It just requires a little know-how, a little time and a willingness to try new things.

Here are five ways to take advantage of all the web has to offer to you as an author:

1. Get a web presence. This could be a blog, a website, a Twitter account or a Facebook page. Whatever you choose, however, make sure it's at least somewhat professional (blogs are great for this, because they're usually free and they have templates that are clutter-free, simple to use, and flexible enough that you can showcase your personality). Readers should be able to find you by Googling your name (or your pen name). Thus, having a site that's gorgeous and fun, but doesn't have your name on it is mostly useless. As is having a site that has your name on it, but is cluttered, hard to read, or just slow to load. There are a number of things you should consider having on your website -- this article at Dear Author does a fantastic job of outlining the must-haves.

I don't care if you have never published anything -- having a web presence is an absolute must in today's world, even for beginning writers.

2. Join a support or critique group. There are a ton of these out there -- some of them are helpful, some of them are time wasters. Ask around, and get suggestions from other writers you trust. These offer a place to bitch about your recent rejections, crow about your successes, promote your work, and get tips and ideas from your peers. The web has already created a proliferation of writing magazines, websites and classes. Don't be afraid to check into these -- there's a lot to be learned online, and you can do so at your own pace, in the privacy of your own home. The Erotica Readers & Writers Association has a great email-list-based critique group called Storytime as well as a writer's discussion list. For more information, visit:

3. Learn about the online markets that are available. From websites to PDFs to e-book readers, there are a lot of ways to get your words out there without going the traditional book route. The sales of digital romance/erotica books are rising and rising, and there's a good chance that trend will continue. Many authors are choosing to reprint their stories in some sort of e-book format, as it creates additional revenue for them and introduces them to a whole new category of readers. Erotica Readers and Writers has a list of online erotica and romance publishers, as does ebookcrossroads.

4. Brand yourself. While doing all of the above, from your web page to your Twitter to your emails, present yourself as professional, interesting, talented and contactable. Watch your spelling and grammar, don't post irate blogs about the editor that rejected you (it's going to come back to bite you, says this voice of experience), don't slam other authors or their work out of spite. Give at least a basic email signature on every email, with your name, email and website.

And most of all, remember: everything you do online is going to be online forever and ever. Even if you remove it, there's a good chance that it will stay in caches and be available to those who know where and how to look.

5. Get off the Web and write. Twitter, Facebook, Foursquares, Google Wave, Yahoo groups: If you dig deep enough, you can fill every waking moment scouring the Internet for the newest, coolest technology and promotion tools. It's a great procrastination technique, and there comes a point where promoting yourself doesn't do any good if you're not doing the real work: writing. In order to use the web (and not let it use you), make sure you don't get so caught up in promotion, announcing and surfing that you start cutting into your writing time.

Right now, I have a website, three blogs, a Twitter account, a Facebook, an online class... and I'm sure a few more things floating around out there. If I let it, the Web would tangle me up and take over my life and I wouldn't have time to write another thing. But I refuse to let it, because when it comes right down to it, it's the writing that matters. The web is just the tool I use to get that writing out in the world.

Personally, I'd rather see everyone with a tattered book in their hands than an e-book in their pocket. And I'd rather have my students sitting in front of me, where I can see their faces as they discover their writing strengths. But as someone who makes a living with my writing, I know that the digital revolution has arrived, both for writers and readers, and that by using the Web to my advantage, I can boost my sales, increase my available markets, enjoy the support of a community of peers, and promote myself. And that, for any writer, is the kind of opportunity you can't afford to miss.

BIO: Shanna Germain writes for traditional print markets, as well as for a wide variety of digital formats. Her work can be found in places like Alison's Wonderland, Best American Erotica, Best Gay Romance, The Cougar Books, Hint Fiction and more.

Visit one of her many online homes at, or

Friday, February 5, 2010

Genre Purity

The day after I last posted, writing about reviews, I found a new review for Necessary Madness. Matthew at Rainbow Reviews wrote:

The villain in this tale is deliciously drawn. I think a story is only as strong as it's hero and villain, and this villain is top rate! His seductive manner and twisted mind combine to equally attract and repel.

Obviously that comment made me very happy, especially since I worked extra hard to make Stefan a complex, believable character with plausible motives for his evil behavior. On the other hand, I was disappointed that the reviewer only gave me three and a half out of five stars. Now maybe I'm just conceited, but I thought the book deserved better. I was really grateful to Matthew for taking the time to review the novel, of course. But I wondered why he didn't like it more.

Then I noted the following caveat:

One note of caution for the gay readers who are less interested in bisexuality ~ there is a vividly described scene of female masturbation as well as some male/female S&M action in this story.

Was this the reason that Rainbow Reviews, which dedicates itself GLBT fiction, dropped me a star or so? Because I failed the "genre purity" test?

The scenes that the reviewer describes are about one page each and do not involve the main (male) characters. The interludes exist primarily to establish the nature of Stefan's character (manipulative, charismatic, sadistic) rather than to arouse. It never occurred to me that they might bother some readers.

This isn't the first time I've encountered this perspective. Another review site refused to review the book at all because of the minimal M/F interaction. I was annoyed, I must admit, though obviously this was the site owner's prerogative.

It really makes me wonder, though. Are readers so particular that they will reject a book that has some variety in its sexual pairings? Are they so sensitive that they're going to be turned off by a little bit of something they might not have expected from the genre label?

Perhaps I'm the one being overly sensitive. My first three novels all contain pretty much every variety of pairing: M/F, M/M, F/F, plus threesomes and foursomes. I enjoy mixing things up, partly because I'm convinced that most humans fall somewhere on a continuum between homosexual and heterosexual and might well get involved with a partner of either gender under certain circumstances. These books did fairly well, especially the first, Raw Silk. Maybe there's a big readership out there that enjoys the kind of no-holds-barred pairings that come naturally to me. Maybe the readers who like M/M are unusually picky. Or maybe I'm getting all riled up about nothing--a few comments by a few individuals who don't represent the majority.

So what do you think? If you like M/M fiction, will you get upset if you discover that a book you've chosen isn't "pure"? And what about the other way around? If you're a fan of heterosexual romance, will a bit of gay or lesbian activity turn you off?

I'd really love to know.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Getting to this point…

By Jeanne St. James (Guest Blogger)

When I started writing many, many moons ago I wanted to write category romance. Yes, at that time I was an avid reader of Silhouette Desire. I also read historical romances but knew I didn’t have the patience to do all the research that should be done to write a historical that wouldn’t make readers want to wring my neck because it wasn’t factually correct. Since my neck is needed to write (amongst other things), I decided to write contemporary category romances.

I, along with probably thousands of fellow published authors, have some of those under-the-bed babies that I wrote way back in the beginning. But I learned quite a bit along the way.

Anyway, my point is that I wrote and wrote and wrote romantic stories intended to eventually submit to the editors of Silhouette. And the longer I belonged to Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the more writers’ conferences and seminars I attended I saw that dream fade into oblivion. Why? Because I heard it was hard to get in with a New York publisher. I was told you “need an agent,” and “so many writers are vying for sooooo few spots.” I became discouraged.

I had a manuscript almost done (I was good for “almost” finishing manuscripts – but that’s another story). I had entered it in several contests and either won or placed. But still I hemmed and hawed about finishing it and hemmed and hawed about submitting it to an agent, etc. I was a procrastinator. Boo. Hiss.

Now, along come epublishers and ebooks. I didn’t pay much attention. Then they start making a larger and larger splash. More and more writers are getting contracted with these “small publishers.” I poo-poo’d them still.

Eventually, I started to sit up and take notice. I can’t remember exactly when or why. Then I read some ebooks. Huh. I began to think that ebooks were here to stay. These epublishers were serious. And real publishers! Oh, and now they are making EREADERS! Ebooks are more cost effective and cheaper for the consumer. And, best of all, they are opening up the world of publishing to more writers and to different types of stories -- stories that a NY publisher may not touch with a 10-foot pole, but are great story none-the-less. In turn, the reader benefits: more variety, more authors, more ways to read a good book. And if they are limited in their time, they can buy a novella or a short story. Reasonably priced, mind you.

So on that note, I started writing erotic romances (again, a whole other story) and within a span of six months or so, I contracted THREE stories to publishers. I was finally living my dream. My first book, BANGED UP, is a male/female erotic contemporary romance with some elements of suspense. It released on September 21st and is available at Liquid Silver Books. My second story, RIP CORD, a male/male erotic contemporary novella, which released last November is now a bestseller with Phaze Books. And most recently, on January 5th, my male/male/female interracial ménage a trois, DOUBLE DARE, came out with Loose Id. Three great epublishers. Hopefully you will think they are three great stories. To read blurbs and excerpts of all three, or to get a sneak peek into future projects, please visit my website at or visit my blog at

BANGED UP at Liquid Silver books here:

RIP CORD at Phaze Books:

DOUBLE DARE at Loose Id: