Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Decisions, decisions...

By Ambrielle Kirk (Guest Blogger)

What factors come into play when you’re book buying?

Buying a book isn’t like buying a car. Well, for some of us anyway. Purchasing a car is a major investment. In some cases, after the transaction is complete, you can’t just take the car back to the dealer. Even though cars depreciate during the entire time you own it, you'll keep this car several years or more before buying a new one. Car buying requires lots of prior research before you even step foot on a dealer lot. You Google the year, make, model car you want to buy, the options, customer reviews, the invoice price, warranties, insurance, future value, etc. etc. etc. So, why did I just tell you that…?

You don’t have to go through all that stress when buying a book. Like a car, a book is something physical, something you can enjoy and keep. Do you pick it up for the pretty cover art? Did you open it and check out the pages, the prose, writing style? Did you read the first chapter? Did you skim the blurb? Was this an author you'd read before? Did someone recommend this book to you? Was it on the clearance rack the day you’re low on funds? Are you interested in a certain genre? Culture? Subject matter? Was it part of an “unputdownable” series?

Are all these factors are part of my book buying process? (LOL) Sometimes I walk up and down the bookstore aisles or surf e-book vendors just as if I’m buying a car. After all, I don’t want to be disappointed with my purchase. The funny part is that any one of these factors in the negative can make me put down a book. I normally judge a book by the cover more often than I should.

Just think about it. The cover, front and back, has everything you need to know before you buy that book. With ebooks, you can read the blurb right there on the World Wide Web. So, sometimes you never have to leave your home to buy a book. If I’m on the fence, I’ll read the first chapter or an available excerpt. Excerpts and first chapters generally don’t tell me anything, for I have read books that had excellent first chapters and flawless excerpts, but whose plot fell flat somewhere between chapter two and the end.

Truthfully, I wish I could read each and every great book out there, but we all know there’s just not enough time in one human lifespan for that.

Maybe I missed some factors. Are there any specifics you look for when buying a book?


Ambrielle Kirk's fiction ranges from contemporary erotic to dark paranormal romance. Her vivid imagination inspired her to create stories in her pre-teen years and now, over a decade later, that inspiration continues to thrive, bringing flair and edge to everything she writes. Please visit her website www.ambriellekirk.com and blog www.ambriellekirk.wordpress.com for information on current and future book releases.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm not a traditionally religious person. I don't belong to any church or assign myself any labels. However I do strongly believe that existence has a spiritual dimension. I'm happy to absorb the insights of any religion or teacher when they strike me as "true".

For many years I have subscribed to a monthly magazine called Daily Word. It is published by an organization called Unity, a non-denominational Christian group that emphasizes the core of Spirit within each of us. Daily Word is a pocket-sized booklet that offers a word, a meditation and a Scripture quote for each day of the month. I try very hard to set aside ten or fifteen minutes every morning to read and ponder the day's word and message.

Today's word (I'm writing this on Friday the 27th) is "grace". This is one of my favorite messages. Grace is the goodness that we all experience, without having to earn it. It's a continuous flow of blessings that rain down on us, which we can discern clearly if we really open our eyes. In particular, it's comfort in the time of trouble, healing and peace in the midst of turmoil.

You've probably heard the term "grace under fire". This is a different side of what I think is the same concept. "Grace under fire" means acting with strength, power and integrity when the situation makes it really difficult. I have a friend who just finished her radiation treatments after a radical mastectomy. She's smiling and sent me pictures of her family's mountain vacation. That's grace under fire. I recently read a post by a fellow author about her struggle to write even when she's in the grip of clinical depression. That's grace under fire, too.

That kind of inner certainty is something I aspire to.

Of course, "grace" also has a physical meaning, in the sense of elegant, flowing, economical movement. As a dancer, I aspire to that sort of grace as well. Sometimes I achieve it, and when I do, I know that it's because I've tapped into my inner reservoir of beauty.

Years ago, I was soul-searching (a lifetime occupation) and decided that I needed to articulate a vision for my life. What was I trying to achieve? How did I see my few decades on earth. My answer was the following poem, which touches on this same concept of grace.


My life will be a dance.

I will try to tread lightly,



touching but not trampling.

I will trust my partners

and be trustworthy in return,

Follow through, complete the steps.

I will dance abundance

accepted and shared;

Faith, power,

peace and wonder,

And always,love.

Remember the dance

flows from inside out,

spirit to body

and out to the world,

And that all, spirit, body and world

are sacred.

Even when solo, know

that I dance a part

in a larger pattern.

Leave behind

some increase of joy,

some greater beauty.

I guess I found some kernel of truth then, because when I read this now, this is still my vision: to walk lightly - gracefully (i.e. full of grace) - through the world, focusing on the positive, celebrating love and beauty wherever I find them.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Returning to the Garden of Eden

By M. Millswan (Guest Blogger)

In doing research for my novels,”Tabu” and ”Living in the State of Dreams” I learned quite a bit about the history of public nudity and sex. From Janet Jackson to Betty Page,and from Lady Godiva to Eve in the Garden of Eden, history offers an interesting insight into the origins of the societal taboos about nudity and sex.

In “Tabu”, a novel which reveals the innermost sexual desires of a 1950s era surburban housewife, our heroine lives in a world where a woman’s sexual desires are strictly taboo. “Living in the State of Dreams” looks at society’s prohibitions and phobias regarding public nudity. In “LISD” as part of a federally funded study, a young woman must live her life for six weeks without wearing any clothes. She goes to school, to the mall, out on a date, and even to church, all while totally naked. In writing about her experience at church I came across some very interesting perspectives about the Biblical origins of prohibitions covering nudity and sex.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve are pure, innocent, and blissfully naked in the Garden of Eden. According to this Biblical scripture, Satan in the guise of the serpent induces Eve to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Once she does, she knows she is naked, and also knows guilt and shame. She has Adam eat from the fruit, and he also comes to know these ugly and negative emotions. According to Genesis, God’s original plan was for Adam and Eve to enjoy each other in a blissful state of natural nudity. But it was Satan who destroyed all this and introduced mankind to the negative emotions of shame and guilt.

If one believes in Christianity and the teachings of the Bible, then one must realize from the story of Genesis that to perceive nudity and sex as shameful, is to fall into Satan’s evil trap. Sex and nudity should be celebrated, not vilified. The ugly and negative emotions inflicted by the prudish and puritanical elements of our society, which cause people to feel guilty about their sexuality are actually the tools of the devil. So, to resist Satan and follow God’s true plan for mankind’s happiness one should enjoy sex as a free and open celebration as frequently as possible.

BIO: M. Millswan has been called, "The Master of Erotic Romance." Born and raised in Houston Texas, he's lived and worked throughout the United States, Mexico and Latin America. Dropping out of a career in international sales, he realized the dream of building and operating an adventure sports white water lodge deep in the jungles of Costa Rica. It was being cut off in the jungle after surviving the destruction of a tropical storm that led to writing his first erotic novel, the award winning, "Rolling the Bones."

Building upon that first success, to date he's authored more than 15 books, also winning acclaim as a writer of the science fiction best seller, "Farlight" and the horror series, "Evil Heights. A sailor, an amateur astronomer, a weightlifter, mountain biker, and also an avid blues guitarist, he has written, performed and produced two CDs: "So Far" and "Lava Tooth." From the cutting edge socio-erotic novel, "Living in the State of Dreams" to the softly sensual "Snap Shot" series of novellas and short stories, based upon actual vintage erotic photographs, his work offers vivid sexuality and powerful emotion.

In '09, his short story, "The Best of Friends" was singled out for critical honors as one the best of the best in the "Swing!" anthology. His recent titles "Tabu" and "The Best Erotic Short Stories of M. Millswan" are available from Fanny Press, who will also publish his upcoming book "Underwood".

Visit M.Millswan at: http://www.farlightpress.com

Buy his most recent books at Fanny Press: http://millswan.fannypress.com

Friday, August 27, 2010

Finding One's Voice

One of the things that draws me to the work of a particular author is his or her "voice"--a style or a unique manner of expression that distinguishes that writer's work from other people's fiction. It seems to me that most romance readers are mostly interested in the story and the characters, but for me, a great deal of the enjoyment in reading comes from the clever, effective, or unusual use of language.

I recently finished my fourth book by the amazing Jonathan Lethem. Two of those books (Amnesia Moon and Gun, With Occasional Music) I'd categorize as science fiction. One (Motherless Brooklyn) is an offbeat thriller. The novel I just finished (You Don't Love Me Yet) probably would be considered an unconventional romance with a hearty dose of satire. Despite the variety of genres, all Lethem's books share some stylistic characteristics.

Lethem is a master of the surprising phrase, the original image. Consider the following, for example:

As she roused herself from the cubicle Lucinda felt a sweet nostalgic stirring of affection, almost like green shoots of horniness under the pavement of her hangover.

Or how about:

Traffic buzzed past on Sunset and Fountain, isolating Tang's like a reef in time. Elderly chess opponents in vintage suits nudged pawns across squares at their booths, under clicking, humming fluorescent fixtures, as though installed there by some miraculous hand that had plucked them from a 1930's Vienna kaffeehaus.

I love authors who have such precise control of their words -- even though they make me jealous!

Another recent discovery with an extremely distinctive voice is erotica author Charlotte Stein. Her voice is a breathless, messy first person that stumbles over itself in its eagerness, propelled by love or lust.

His leg brushes mine, and it's terrible but I like it. I think about last week in the cinema, watching pinkly sweet bodies pretend to enjoy each other on the screen, the screen then fading to black just as it got to the really good bits. And him whispering through the darkness at me: Do you want to make our own good bits up?
I did. I do. But then he asked me to touch myself and I couldn't do it. I told him so, too, and he laughed. Though he hadn't laughed at all when I told him that I'd never touched myself. Not ever.
The look on his face! As though a grown woman who never masturbated was the equivalent of a straight man never looking at a big pair of tits. That shocked, slightly condescending expression made me say some spiteful things to him, but none of them landed. Or, at least, he never made me feel bad for saying them.
(From Things That Make Me Give In)

Another favorite of mine is Sarah Waters, author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. Most of her novels have historical settings; she has a talent for bringing her pasts to life, with language that is simultaneously rich and precise.

Sometimes I wonder about my own voice. I deliberately strive for variety in my work. Sometimes I write in first person, sometimes in third. Although the majority of my characters are well educated (many excessively so!), I've tried my hand at writing people from lower social levels--a city stripper with a high school education, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, a Thai bar girl. Are there some common features in my writing that distinguish it from the work of other authors?

Well--I tend to spend a lot of my effort on my setting. I try to bring the time and place where my characters interact into strong focus. In fact, I normally have a less detailed visualization of the characters themselves than I do of their surroundings.

What else? I guess I'd have to say that my sex scenes are distinguished by an emphasis on the characters' emotional reactions, as opposed to their physical actions. In general, reviewers tend to praise those scenes as intense and engaging--but I'd guess that at least half my sentences describe what the characters think, feel and imagine, as opposed to what they do with or to each other.

I don't know. It's difficult, possibly impossible, to analyze one's own style. I do hope that what I write stands out from the crowd, from a stylistic perspective. Because I believe that I'm not the only reader for whom the manner of expression is as important as the matter.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Blush Factor

By Heather Kuell (Guest Blogger)

I am not usually shy when it comes to sex. I’ve always been able to tell a man what I want, where I want it, and how I want it. I can talk about sex with my friends and go into XXX stores with a smile on my face and a skip in my step.

So why is it that I get red-faced embarrassed when I write about sex? When writing I usually have to break a sex scene into three parts; beginning, middle, and climax. If I don’t I’ll rush through it and turn a ten page love scene into a one page mess. My husband jokes that he can always tell when I’m writing sex because I’m blushing so bad. Luckily, my writing doesn’t suffer and I can end up with a pretty steamy sex scene.

A fantastic example of this is when I was writing Malevolent Dead. It’s in first person, so I had to make sure that I got Sarah’s personal emotions in there as well as make it clear what her partner was feeling. That one scene took three days to write. I blushed while editing it, turned even redder when my mom and best friend read it, and could have been mistaken for a tomato when I got my edits from Eternal Press.

I’m hoping that the more I write romance the more I’ll get used to writing about sex. After all, who doesn’t like to read about the carnal pleasures of gorgeous women or ruggedly handsome men? I know I do!

Heather Kuehl is the author of Promises to Keep, Fade to Black (#1 Bestseller in fantasy eBooks on Fictionwise.com), and Malevolent Dead as well as numerous short stories and poems. Visit Heather online at www.heatherkuehl.com and www.heatherkuehl.blogspot.com or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Check out my latest release, Malevolent Dead, available from Eternal Press on September 7th. All of my books are published by Eternal Press, which is where readers can buy the ebook edition if they so choose. If you prefer print, please visit Amazon.com.

Malevolent Dead is the sequel to Fade to Black and the second book in the Sarah Vargas series. It picks up six months after the end of Fade. You can watch the trailer at YouTube.

Blurb: To save everyone, she'll have to do the unthinkable. Werewolf Sarah Vargas thought all she had to worry about was the Blood Moon Corporation's retaliation. She never dreamed that another vampire would arrive, disputing Damian's claim over the throne to Charleston, SC. To make matters worse, he is no ordinary vamp; he's a vampire necromancer--exceptionally hard to kill. Sarah will have do what ever she can to keep those that she loves safe... Even if it means doing the unthinkable.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Review: Love Without Gun Control

Love Without Gun Control by M. Christian

Available from Renaissance eBooks

I know M.Christian primarily as an author of erotica—an astonishingly versatile writer who swings from gay to lesbian, from contemporary to science fiction, from cyberpunk to humor, without missing a beat. Anyone who's not familiar with his energy and creativity in the erotic realm should get a copy of Coming Together Presents M. Christian (and support Planned Parenthood at the same time). Until he sent me a copy of his new collection Love Without Gun Control, I didn't fully appreciate the darker side of his imagination.

The title story of this collection paints a hilarious but nevertheless chilling picture of a society in which everyone carries and uses deadly weapons—all the time. He cleverly spins out the implications of such a scenario, in particular the difficulties it poses for lovers.

Equally funny, grotesque and scary is “Buried & Dead”, a tale of political ambition amid the zombie apocalypse, overflowing with rotting flesh and dangling entrails. “Constantine in Love”, the impeccably satirical final tale in the collection, will also make you laugh, though not without a grimace, as the unflappable Constantine Foote, polymath, wine connoisseur, seducer and con artist, desperately chases the woman of his dreams.

These are the lighter tales. Most of the other stories in Love Without Gun Control will leave you queasy, terrified, or both. “Needle Taste” portrays a bleak future in which a vicious serial killer has the mass appeal of a rock star. “Hush Hush” unfolds like a nightmare in the narrow alleys of Beijing, as an adventurer watches one person after another being robbed of speech. In “Wanderlust”, a man cursed by a jealous goddess is forced to live out his days driving his Mustang from one lonely gas station to the next. “Shallow Fathoms” is pure horror, fueled by the repulsive fascination of madness. “Nothing So Dangerous” builds an intricately detailed dystopia of universal surveillance and arbitrary detention, in which trust is the most perilous thing of all.

I've always know that M.Christian was a master at evoking emotion. The characters in his erotic tales live and breathe, each a distinct individual, struggling to make sense of love, sex and gender. I didn't realize his talent for plunging the reader into darkness, for spinning tales that are simultaneously frightening and haunting.

Love Without Gun Control may well make you uncomfortable. I couldn't read more than one or two stories without needing some relief. When I finally finished, though, I felt like applauding. If you enjoy being scared—and challenged—I highly recommend the book.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

An Erotic Juggling Act

By Vonna Harper (Guest Blogger)

A few minutes before sitting down to write this blog, I finished the rough draft of a sex scene. Bet you think I'm fanning myself and eager to get back to the editing.

Think again. Psst, don't tell anyone but writing erotica is damn hard work, especially the sex part. As someone who has written well over 30 books, novellas, and shorties since jumping onboard the erotica bandwagon, I know what I'm up against as soon as my characters walk into the bedroom. (A correction: my characters are more likely to be in the woods than a bedroom but you get the idea) Because I strive to make each sex scene representative of my characters, there's no plugging in a scene I wrote in the past. Each one has to stand on its own and satisfy my readers.

Does writing about intercourse satisfy me? I'm shaking my head as I write this because not long ago I was much too modest to reveal all, but since I started this subject, I have no choice but to finish. Of course I become emotionally and physically involved in what my characters are doing—why do you think I keep that fan nearby? But no way is the experience of writing a sex scene the same as reading one.

First and maybe foremost, I have to keep body parts straight. Because I only write m/f, at least I don't need to track more than four arms and four legs. Just thinking about a crowd scene makes my head spin. I need to keep track of what clothes are where, (years ago I wrote a lovemaking scene for a category romance publisher. If not for my critique partners' eagle eyes, my heroine would have removed her bra three times) what the lighting's like, the temperature, whether I packed a blanket so even though my characters are in the wilderness, they aren't going to wind up with a rash or bug bites.

How do I go from point A which is the moment of setting eyes on each other to point Z where man and woman can't do anything but pant? Here's where I have to orchestrate the dance that's foreplay. Who takes the dominant role, who the more submissive one or are they equals? Who makes the first move, who the second, and how are they carried out? (The scene I just finished included a first for me—a recliner) When or if is the condom pulled out and put on? Are clothes slowly peeled off or ripped? Whose hands are doing what to who? Where are the legs?

That's just the physical aspect. Equally important is the emotional component. Where are my characters in terms of their relationship? Is this act a quickie or the ultimate in commitment? Because I can't develop characters without burdening them with emotional baggage, I have to keep that baggage in mind. If the hero is afraid he's going to shape-shift, that's going to impact his performance. Maybe (I write a lot of capture and bondage) he has to take his captive/lover back to his war chief. Can he shove that responsibility to the back of his mind while getting it on? As a captive, can my heroine forget her lot in life and embrace pleasure? Is she hung up on wanting back her freedom or surrendering to her submissive nature and will that dilemma cool her libido?

As if those considerations aren't enough, I have to keep an eye on word choice and sentence structure. I don't want to pound a word or words into the ground until readers become sick of them. Sentences need to be shaken up and turned around for variety. I write for Kensington Aphrodisia, Ellora's Cave, Samhain, and Loose-Id and they have slightly different requirements and ways of handling edits. One publisher is fine with certain descriptions and terms, another not so much. Yep, there's another layer to the juggling act.

Hmm. It sounds if I'm complaining when I'm not. After all, there's nothing I'd rather be doing to pay the bills. I love writing, love writing erotica. At the same time, like every career, writing is a profession. No publisher will have anything to do with me if I don't bring my job skills to the table. It's quite a juggling act.

Right now I have two releases hot off the presses so to speak. Available in print is Falcon's Captive with Aphrodisia. Whitewater Hunter is an ebook with Ellora's Cave. In addition, I've just released my first Kindle only novella called Wilderness Night. (A great price BTW if you have a Kindle)

I'd tell you what's in the pipeline and about the novella I sold last week and the hot, hot, hot cover I just got a sneak peak of, but I can't keep all that straight. That's why I'm obsessive about keeping my web site up to date. It has become my cheat-sheet.

Before I wander off to tackle some writing contest submissions I've agreed to judge, does anyone want to comment on my confession?

~ Vonna Harper


Thursday, August 19, 2010

In Someone Else's Skin

Kate O'Neill, the heroine of my first novel, had quite a lot in common with her creator. Like me, she was petite and curvy, loved to dance, and was sufficiently adventurous to go live in Thailand. She had graduate degrees and worked as a software engineer, just as I did. True, she had flaming red hair – I've always wanted coppery curls instead of my mousy brown – and she was quite a bit younger than I was when I dreamed her up, but I think it's fair to say that many of her emotions, reactions and fantasies mirrored my own. Most importantly, the journey of sexual self-discovery that she undertook in Raw Silk paralleled my personal sexual quest, in spirit though not in detail.

Writing Raw Silk was surprisingly easy. All I had to do was look inside my own heart.

I shared a lot with Miranda Cahill, the protagonist of Incognito, too. Not physically – Miranda was a tall, slim brunette. However, otherwise, she was much like me in during my (many) years in college and graduate school: shy, hard-working, so serious that she doesn't always understand other people's jokes, but seething with desire and sexual curiosity underneath her prim, good-girl exterior.

By the time I got to Ruby Maxwell Chen, I was beginning to create characters whose emotions and history weren't copies of my own. For one thing, Ruby was bossy, bitchy and competitive – nothing at all like me...! Ruby was also far richer than I could ever dream of being, and part Chinese. I tried to make her cultural heritage an integral aspect of her personality. With Exposure's Stella Xanathakeos, I moved even further from my roots and comfort zone. Stella is working class and not particularly well-educated. She's streetwise in a way that I, a product of the suburbs and the American middle class, will never be.

In recent years, I've challenged myself to write characters with whom I have very little in common. In my short story “Fire”, my nameless character is a young man from the American midwest with a fetish that compels him to arson. The story is told in the first person – there could hardly be a voice more different than mine. “Refuge”, the story I wrote for Alessia Brio's charitable anthology Coming Together: At Last, is narrated by a dark-skinned youth from the backwaters of northeast Thailand, forced to join the army and work as a guard in a refugee camp by his family's extreme poverty. Necessary Madness features the rocky relationship between a homeless clairvoyant teenager and a bitter city cop.

As the social, psychological and experiential differences between me and my characters increase, it becomes more difficult to create characters with depth, breadth and believability. To succeed in capturing my readers, I need characters whose emotions and actions are both genuine and compelling. How can I step into someone else's skin and imagine his or her thoughts and feelings, when that person and I come from different worlds?

Part of the answer, for me, is my conviction that individuals, despite their backgrounds, histories, cultures and gender, are more similar than might be expected based on surface characteristics. Certain emotions are fundamental: fear, anger, desire, sorrow, joy. Although different people express and react to emotions differently, we all experience them. In fact, I think my job as an author is to elicit these emotions in my readers. The very act of creating characters with whom my readers can identify presupposes a level of emotional commonality.

So, when I am trying to create a character very different from me, I assume that I can still use my own emotional reactions as a starting point. This seems to work quite well for sexual desire. If my story requires a character whose sexual interests don't mirror my own, I begin by imagining a scene that does turn me on. Then I transplant my arousal to my character, focusing it on different objects or activities. In Raw Silk, my personal kinks drove the story, quite transparently. My lusts and fantasies still stoke the fire in my work, but now they're subterranean, roiling like molten rock beneath the surface of my characters' existence.

Imagination and analogy can take you a long way toward an understanding of life in someone else's skin. But this strategy will fail if not accompanied by research. Writing requires creation not only of your characters but also the world they inhabit. If you are writing a tale set in a different time period or culture (including a sub-culture), you need to have a deep sense of the world you're trying to evoke and the ways that it shapes its denizens. Assumptions, vocabulary, sexual practices and taboos will vary from one world to another. Sadly, I've read far too many historical romances in which the characters wear period costumes but think and act like representatives of modern Western culture.

So if you are writing, for instance, a homoerotic tale, you can't simply rely on your imagination to tell you how gay men interact. You need to watch and read gay porn. You need to talk to gay men and read about their experiences. In the case of M/M erotic romance, it also helps to read other authors in the genre and figure out what works and what doesn't.

This brings up the fascinating issue of realism versus expectations. I will use M/M erotic romance as an example here, but the same question arises with BDSM or interracial or lesbian or historical erotica. Readers have certain notions about what to expect from a particular genre. In the M/M romance I have read, the rough aspects of gay sex rarely appear. Furthermore, the fear of homophobic attacks, the stigma of being gay in an ostensibly straight society, the effects of HIV on the gay community, are mostly absent. I suspect that if an author tried to be realistic about the experience of being a man who desires men, a significant segment of the readership for M/M romance would be turned off, possibly even upset.

The same could be said of BDSM erotica. Most BDSM tales present an idealized dominant who magically understands the needs of the submissive. (Raw Silk is no exception.) They ignore the far more common situation of insecure, incompetent, ego-tripping or genuinely cruel doms. They usually omit the lengthy negotiation process between dom and sub, in which the pair explores the submissive's squicks and limits. It's far more exciting to imagine a master so intuitive, so attuned to his slave, that he understands what she wants and needs without any prior discussion.

Thus, research by itself is not sufficient. Once you understand how your character's world is different from your own, you still need to decide which differences to highlight and which ones to discard. Reviewing the conventions of your chosen genre can help, but this can also be a trap, producing cookie-cutter stories where the characters and situations are far too predictable to be interesting.

Slipping inside someone else's skin and writing from their experience is tough. It requires considerable effort and judicious craft. Writing characters that are similar to me is far easier. Sometimes I feel like being lazy, just opening up my mind and letting my perversions flow unchecked onto the page. When I do, though, I run the risk that I'll just be writing Raw Silk, over and over again. To keep my work fresh, novel, exciting to other readers as well as to me, I need to get away from myself, to look through the eyes of characters who see the world differently.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Question Nobody Asks

By Andrea Dale (Guest Blogger)

Even though, according to an interviewer, I “have so many aliases, you’d think I was a spy!”, I’ve never hidden my pen names. I use them just to delineate between the different genres I write in (erotica, romance, speculative fiction) as well as between my solo writing versus that with coauthors.

So, yeah, I’m not shy about the fact that I write erotica. Yet the question I never get—and the one I’d love to answer—is “How did you get started writing erotica?”

Well, pour yourself a shot of tequila and I’ll tell you!

Back in the mid-1980s, Penthouse Forum (the digest-sized magazine) ran an ad stating that if you they published your letter, they’d send you a t-shirt. Well, I was a starving college student, and free clothes were free clothes, right? I’d been writing and submitting fiction for several years at that point, so this wasn’t a great leap for me.

And I laughed with delight as I wrote that letter—it was so much fun!—and I got my t-shirt (“My Letter Was Printed in Penthouse Forum”), and then I discovered that Forum and its sister digest, Penthouse Variations, would pay me for these letters. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to keep me in cheap vodka (college, remember?).

At the same time, I was writing romances, and it bothered me to no end that I had to go into the seedy back room of a store to buy a magazine while romance novels were proudly displayed in bookstores—and yet they both featured the same sexual acts. Yes, different word choices can evoke a different tone, but at the very least, why couldn’t we call a spade, a spade? (Or a penis, a cock, as opposed to a throbbing shaft of love, or whatever. Come to think of it, throbbing shaft of love still sounds pretty pornographic, doesn’t it?)

So no one was more thrilled than I when romance caught up with erotica and embraced sex whole-heartedly, real words and dirty words and kinky words and all. We’ve reclaimed honest passion from the seedy back rooms and put it out there for all to see—kind of like confidently wearing a certain t-shirt. My stories and novels can be found proudly displayed in bookstores (even if it’s still fun to indulge in occasional trips to seedy back rooms).

It was a slow build over the years—like really long foreplay—but I’m thrilled we made it. I look back with fondness, and some amazement, over my own path: from Forum and Variations, to West Coast Swingers (hey, their annual contest paid really well!), to Cleis Pres and Black Lace and Cheek Books, and even Avon and Harlequin.

And, in case you were wondering: Yes, I still have the t-shirt to prove it.

Thank you, Lisabet, for letting me finally answer the question!

What about you, dear readers? What’s the question you wish everyone would ask you? Or is there another burning question you’ve been dying to ask me? If so, fire away!


I’d have to transcribe my first Forum letter (I wrote it on a—gasp!—typewriter!), so here’s a taste of a recent story “The Broken Fiddle,” in Alison’s Wonderland—my very first Harlequin sale.



Phoebe knew it was useless to deny she’d been ogling. The young man across the room who was pulling a fiddle from its case was delicious. Hair as black as coal and curling silkily to his collar, eyes as blue as twilight eve. High, sharp cheekbones that looked as though they’d been chiseled out of marble. Pale skin that would have made Snow White blanch with envy. Slender but sturdy, wearing a pair of faded jeans so snug he must have to use a shoehorn to get them on. She spooned another bite of crumble, laughing to herself. He was barely more than a boy, and at thirty-two she felt like a dirty old woman for contemplating his impressive bulge.

By the time they finished their meal the crowd was gathering for the ceilidh, and they managed to snag two chairs by the fire just in time.

The band played reels that left Phoebe breathless with melodies that leapt like cold, wild streams. Reels with boundless energy and a relentless beat that made her think of really great sex.

The fiddle player’s hands flew over the strings, made a blur of the bow. He played his instrument with passion, and she imagined that passion extended to other areas in his life.

That left her breathless for another reason altogether, and with her nipples tightening beneath her shirt. She shouldn’t, she told herself, be thinking about the young man’s lips and how they might feel on her skin. But she squirmed in her seat all the same.



Yes, Dayle A. Dermatis got her start writing for Penthouse digests, and the fact that they always changed her byline probably is what makes it so easy for her to slip in and out of pseudonyms now. As Andrea Dale and ½ of both Sophie Mouette and Sarah Dale, she writes erotica and erotic romance. Under her own name, she’s sold speculative fiction and media tie-in. As Kendra Wayne, she writes stories-by-request for Custom Erotica Source. Want to spend more time with any or all of her multiple personalities? Stop on by her website or visit her blog, Facebook, or Twitter…

website: www.cyvarwydd.com

blog: www.cyvarwydd.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cyvarwydd

Twitter: http://twitter.com/cyvarwydd

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fire in the Blood - Finally Out!

Hello, readers!

Well, the wait is over - mine and hopefully yours! You can now get your copy of Fire in the Blood from Total-E-Bound.

My thanks to all of you who left comments here at Beyond Romance during my two-week pre-release bash. My lucky winner is Louisa Bacio. Congratulations, Louisa!

Don't worry, though. My monthly newsletter just came out, complete with a brand new giveaway. You can snare yourself a $10 Amazon gift certificate, just for sending me an email with the answers to two simple questions. For details, go to http://www.lisabetsarai.com/news.html While you're there, check out my free reading page -- nearly two dozen stories ranging from sweet to sizzling!

Once again, thanks for your support.

~~ Lisabet

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fire in the Blood: X-rated Excerpt

In anticipation of Monday's release, here's a super-hot ménage snippet from Fire in the Blood!

Etienne raised his woolly head from Maddy’s breast and turned to Troy. “Do you want some, boy?” he thundered. His eyes shot bolts of dark fire. His ripe mouth glistened, wet with Maddy’s blood. Animal teeth jutted from his lips, bright and terrible.

Troy froze. Who—what—was he? He remembered their conversation on the beach. Darkness. Violence. Madness. He recalled the feel of Etienne’s teeth piercing his groin. His mind reeled. At the same time, under Etienne’s gaze, his cock was hard again, as though he’d gone a week without relief instead of having just climaxed.

Come here,” the giant ordered. “Taste your lover. Drink her lifeblood. Make her yours.”

No…I can’t…” Troy stuttered, knowing he should refuse. No sane man would drink his lover’s blood. He wanted to do it, though. He wanted to feel Maddy writhing under him, wanted to give her the same ecstasy she had achieved with this other man. His cock throbbed, urging him on.

The black man climbed off Maddy’s prone body. “Etienne…” she whimpered, still shaking and weak from orgasm.

Hush, petite. I am here. And your boyfriend—Troy—is here, also, to give you pleasure.”

Troy, darling.” She opened her eyes and gave him a feeble smile. “I’m sorry…I love you too, baby…”

Mount her, Troy. Give her what she craves.”

Desire drowned out the voices of conscience and reason. Troy crawled on top of Maddy and positioned the bulb of his penis at her entrance. She was soaked. With essentially no force at all, he slipped inside.

She was a steamy jungle, a molten volcano erupting around his prick. With all of his strength, he drove his rod into her depths, grinding his flesh against hers. When he tried to retreat, she sucked him back inside, into a seething wetness that threatened to set him off when he’d barely started. He took control from her, fucking her so fast that she hardly had time to breathe, the way he’d seen Etienne fuck her. Her voice, her face, the feel of her body beneath him, everything told him she loved it.

Lick her breast,” the black man murmured in his ear. “Taste her blood.”

Red droplets welled up from the traces of Etienne’s fingernails. Simultaneously fascinated and repelled, Troy flicked up a drop with his tongue. It was hot and salty, with metallic tang. It seemed to go straight to his cock, pulsing in her slick cavern.

Troy…” she moaned. Joy bloomed in his chest. She knew it was him. She wanted him, wanted more. He lapped more firmly at the oozing scratch. She convulsed around his cock. He pulled out the swollen rodand then slammed it back in.

Etienne crouched down beside them. “You must suck hard,” he said. “That is what she enjoyss. Like this.”

To Troy’s horror, he leaned down and sank his teeth into Maddy’s breast, only inches from Troy’s face. Troy could see every detail—the needle-sharp fangs piercing the pale skin, the blood rushing out from the wound, the black cheeks hollowed with suction as the creature drank.

Maddy screamed in delight and arched off the chaise in a tremendous climax. Furious contractions milked his cock. He felt the cum boiling up his shaft and knew that in an instant he’d explode.

No,” Etienne ordered, his gore-stained mouth a breath away from Troy’s. “Not yet.” For one vertiginous instant, Troy thought that Etienne was about to kiss him. “You will come only when I am drinking from you. Not before.”

No,” Troy whimpered. “Please…” He should fight this. He should run. Maddy was lost already, but perhaps for him there was still hope. His cock throbbed in the aftershocks of Maddy’s release and he knew he was wrong.

Etienne was behind him, massaging his shoulders, stroking his hair. “There now, Troy. I know you want this. You want me. I am irresistible. That is my nature.” His powerful hands kneaded Troy’s buttocks. It all felt incredible, too good to be wrong. Troy began to relax, then tensed as Etienne brushed a fingertip across Troy’s anus.

No, not that… I can’t…”

You would not want to disappoint me, would you?” The black demon squirmed one finger into Troy’s tight knot. Rapture shot through him. Etienne opened him wider. He added a second finger. A spasm of pleasure rocked Troy’s body, forcing his cock deeper into Maddy’s cunt and waking her from the lethargy of orgasm.

Troy…” she moaned. “Fuck me, baby.”

New Trailer!

I finally got my trailer for Fire in the Blood - just in the nick of time!

As I blogged a few weeks ago, I spent a number of very frustrating days trying to create the book video myself. Finally, I gave up and went back to GoddessFish Productions, who concocted my trailer for Necessary Madness. Marianne did a great job in record time!

Judge for yourself!

Watch it on YouTube!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

An Interview with Troy Howard

So far in the last two weeks I've let Etienne and Madeleine tell you their stories. I'd be remiss if I didn't allow the third character from Fire in the Blood have some space on the blog.

Interviewer: How did you feel when Maddy's horse took off into the jungle?

Troy: Are you kidding? I was shocked and really worried, especially when I couldn't convince the guy leading us to follow her. In fact, he rushed us back to the stables. The darker it got, the more scared he seemed to be. Of course, I'm not sure we could have caught up with her anyway. There weren't any paths, other than the trail we were on. Her mount simply crashed through the underbrush and disappeared.

Interviewer: You must have passed a pretty tense night.

Troy: Honestly, I had no idea what to do. The police, the management at the hotel - no one seemed willing to help. I thought about contacting the U.S. Embassy, but they're over in Kingston, on the other side of the island. I probably would have done that anyway, if she hadn't showed up the next day.

Interviewer: It must have been a huge relief to have her back.

Troy: Obviously. But she was - strange, different. She jumped me and we had the hottest sex we'd experienced in years - maybe ever. Then she fell asleep, only it was more like a coma, without even showering. That's so unlike her - she's usually incredibly fastidious. She slept all afternoon and into the evening, as though she had been drugged.

Interviewer: And what did you do?

Troy: I really felt at loose ends. I was still worried about her, but I didn't want to disturb her, or make things worse by asking questions. I decided to take a walk on the beach. Our bungalow was right on the water. I didn't plan to go far. But then...I met Etienne.

Interviewer: Tell us more.

Troy: One minute I was alone. The next there was this elegant, graceful black man walking beside me - taking my arm. There was something intoxicating about his presence. I've always considered myself 100% straight but when Etienne was close - I wanted him. I wanted him to take me.

Interviewer: And?

Troy: He did. I really don't want to talk about the details here. But by the end of that night, I was bound to him as strongly as Maddy.

Fire in the Blood will be released in just a few days. You still have a chance to enter my drawing by leaving your comments.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Dawn of Women's Rights?

By Cerise DeLand (Guest Blogger)

Will Dunwick should not find the wealthy widow Bergeron comely, especially because he is charged by his sovereign, King John, to take her to her bridegroom, a callow boy with a spine of mush. Yet, tempering John’s irrational urges is Will’s foremost goal.

I do hope you will come read about one of the motivations of the nobles in John’s realm to press for a bill of rights. Yes, the Magna Carta contains a section devoted entirely to the limitation of the king’s right to abuse widows.

Here is a nibble of my newest cherry, For Her Honour, out now at www.total-e-bound.com.

“Listen to me, Blanche.” Will used her given name against protocol but he knew he had to nip her desire to be free and do so dramatically. She sucked in air at his familiarity as their gazes met and mingled. “John has problems with the Welsh. You know this so well. Your lands sit nearly on those borders. His alliance with the Prince of Wales is not so strong, despite the fact that Llewellyn is married to John’s daughter, Joan. John cannot look lightly on anyone in these climes who shows an independent streak.”

“I cannot pay his new tax from last year. It would empty my coffers!”

Will nodded, knowing this had been the burr that pricked John’s skin. “Your refusal to pay the assize on your beer was the impetus to this marriage. I see you have the means to entertain well. Know this though, if you had been more frugal and paid the tax, I would not be sitting here, dining and drinking, then carting you off to a wedding you do not want.”

She stiffened and tried to retreat.

He jerked her closer. The aroma of soap and some fragrant herb drifted to his nostrils. Had she bathed before she came to supper? Should he be so honoured? Should he be fool enough to care? Unbidden, his cock stirred to life. “You have not paid to your lord and master the tax that allows him to pay for border guards."

“They are too exorbitant!”

“High or nay, the price is not yours to determine,” he corrected her.

“Llewellyn’s men harry my serfs on the western borders, tax or not from John."

“You should have paid the tax. ‘Tis best, you see, when a ruler is high tempered, to pick your battles carefully. You had the money for the tax.”

“I did not! Not then! We had a flood and I had to pay for men from Berwick to help us rebuild a dam before the rains.”

This was the first time he had heard this. The explanation endeared him to her more—to no avail. “I wish you had sent us word of that. I might have been able to help. But now all you have is no stomach for a wedding that is the punishment for your failure to pay.”

She yanked away her arm. Tears glistened in her lashes.

Christ in a cesspool. “Do you not see the wisdom and the logic behind the marriage?” he seethed, marvelling that he refrained from shouting at her. “Hugh de Morency has men at arms. Men whom John will post here.”

“At my expense,” she bit off.

“Aye. For your protection!”

Fast as an arrow from a bow, she rose from her chair. Her chair clattered back and forth on its legs.

At their mistress’s show of ire, the assembly hushed and stared.

“Come with me,” Blanche ordered him. “We will talk in private.” She swished her skirts to one side and proceeded to the side of the hall and the stairs to the upper keep. His own rooms were in the opposite tower, so this invitation to her bower was intimate. Risqué. Appealing. He forced back raw desire

Then ground his teeth. And necessary.

Is this the start of womens’ rights? Of course!

Come visit me for more at http://cerisedeland.blogspot.com

My new website is coming soon, too : www.cerisedeland.com

Monday, August 9, 2010

An Interview with Madeleine Archer

Madeleine Archer, or Maddy as her friends call her, is the heroine of my upcoming release Fire in the Blood. Like most of us, Maddy lives a fairly ordinary life in her native Chicago, where she works as a lawyer and shares a condo with her lover Troy. When she and Troy visit Jamaica for an exotic tropical holiday, however, normality is completely overturned. Rather than my telling you, though, I will allow Maddy to share her own story.

Interviewer: What were your expectations for your Jamaican vacation?

Maddy: We'd heard that Jamaica was gorgeous and very laid back. Troy and I had both been working hard. And November in Chicago was already bitterly cold. We were hoping to spend some time soaking up the sun, lazing on the beach, drinking rum, exploring the country's historic and scenic spots and generally unwinding. And I think we both hoped the trip would kick-start our sex life.

Interviewer: Forgive me for asking, but had you and Troy been having problems?

Maddy: Not problems, no. I love Troy dearly, and still think he's one of the sexiest guys I've ever met. But after five years, some of the sizzle had slipped away. The fact that we both have demanding careers (Troy's an architect) didn't help matters. Sometimes, after long days at our respective offices, neither of us would have the energy to make love. We'd been looking forward to our tropical jaunt for a long time, planning to make it as romantic as we could.

Interviewer: And were your hopes fulfilled?

Maddy: Oh God! Meeting Etienne changed everything!

Interview: Can you elaborate?

Maddy: Well- I assume you know how a storm spooked my horse when we were on our trail ride. The animal tore off into the jungle with me clinging for dear life, crashing through the trees and finally arriving in the valley where Etienne was living, among the ruins of his mistress' plantation. A lightning bolt scared my mount so much that he threw me. I would have been trampled if Etienne had not stepped out of the shadows to save me. And when I saw Etienne - well, from the very first I knew there was something special about him. I wanted him so badly, nothing else mattered, not Troy, not my old life, not even the fact that he was a blood drinker nearly two centuries old.

Interviewer: But when you woke the next morning and found him basically dead beside you...?

Maddy: I was terrified, of course. I raced back to Troy. But I couldn't forget Etienne. It was like I had some kind of fever. I was tormented by the lust that Etienne had kindled in me. I know now this was partially the effects of his blood. Poor Troy! I practically devoured him, sexually speaking. He didn't know what had hit him!

Interviewer: And then what happened?

Maddy: Etienne came looking for me. And he met Troy. But I don't want to give away the whole story. All I can say is that Troy and I are both devoted to Etienne now. We're never going back to Chicago. Who would have dreamed a simple vacation would change our lives so completely?

Fire in the Blood will be released on August 16th. Leave a comment and be entered in my drawing for a free copy.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Taking Liberties With Religion

By Eve Langlais (Guest Blogger)

I freely admit I am agnostic and a surprising number of people I know are too. My lack of religious fervor wasn’t for lack of trying on my mother’s part. She dragged me to church and Sunday school wearing my nice clothes. We did midnight mass at Christmas. I sang in the church choir in Latin. I was baptised, confirmed and communioned, all to no avail. No matter how many times I was told to not question the bible, I just couldn’t help myself. I went through a period where I even antagonized my religion teacher with theories that Eve came before Adam. That earned me a B, but even today, I still say my arguments were sound. In my youth, I kept looking for ways to make religion more logical, or even believable, but when I moved out, I finally stopped trying. Now when someone asks me what my religion is I tell them about my belief that aliens seeded our planet. LOL, I’ll admit I do it just to see the look on their faces!

Older now, and not so quick to drive people nuts—except for my father-in-law who wasn’t impressed when he showed me a bottle of holy water and I exclaimed ‘Woo, we won’t have to worry about vampires now’--I’ve toned down my vocalness on the subject of religion. Not so in my writing, and I’m not the only one doing it. Lately in a lot of literature, we’re seeing authors redefining and using religion as centerpieces for their work. Angels and demons, especially Lucifer, are playing a bigger role than ever in paranormal tales and movies—one of my favorites being the show Reaper with the wisecracking Satan. Have we, as a society, drawn away from religion to the point we can mold it to suit our needs and beliefs? Or are we seeing a more relaxed attitude where people are more able to accept that fiction is for entertainment, and that religious beliefs are separate from that?

Now I also have to ask, is there such a thing as going too far? Sure, I don’t believe in the teachings of the bible, but does that give me the right to rearrange religion to suit my stories? A bit too late now given some of my work, but I do wonder where the line in the virtual sand is for some readers. In Lucifer’s Daughter, a novella of mine coming August 9th with Liquid Silver, I redefine how I think Heaven and Hell works, not to mention, I made God and Satan brothers. In my version, Heaven is all light and beauty, with almost impossible standards to achieve. In Hell, where the majority end up, life of a sorts goes on with only the truly evil being eternally punished and Lucifer griping about paperwork. Is this story meant to make you question your religion or convert you to my way of thinking? Of course not, but I sure hope it entertains you. The beauty of fiction is the only limit is our imagination, something that should not be bound by religion or anything else for that matter.

In closing, as a reader, do you care if a book incorporates elements of religion or are you more concerned with the entertainment factor? What is your virtual line when it comes between belief and entertainment, are there some things you just won’t tolerate?

Thank you Lisabet for the opportunity to blog with you. To view some of the pagan things I’ve penned pop on over and see me at http://www.EveLanglais .com. From paranormal erotica where Lucifer’s Daughter is the heroine, to science fiction tales with alien abduction, I provide a wide variety of stories to suit many tastes.

Blurb: Lucifer’s Daughter

Hi, I’m Muriel, the only white sheep in a sea of black ones, and a virgin to boot. I am determined to wait for love, but my dad, more commonly known as Lucifer, just wants me to stop being an embarrassment. I’m hoping the hunk that I met in my bar will turn out to be the one–just looking at him makes my insides melt like marshmallows over the coals of hell, but trusting is hard when it seems everyone I get close to ends up trying to kill me. Not only am I dealing with an extreme case of lust, there’s a new threat in hell, one my dad says to ignore. Something easier said than done since it seems everywhere I turn demons are trying to kill me. But I’m okay with that, because one thing I’ve learned being a princess of hell is that sometimes I have to grab a demon by the horns and slap it around a bit. A rebellion in hell, demon assassins and scorching kisses, could my life get any more interesting?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We Interrupt This Blog...

...to celebrate the fact the California Supreme Court just ruled Proposition 8, the referendum banning same-sex marriage, unconstitutional!

According to the New York Times, the judge wrote in his decision, “Proposition 8 cannot withstand any level of scrutiny under the Equal Protection Clause. Excluding same-sex couples from marriage is simply not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.”

Of course those of us who support gay marriage knew this all along. But it's heartening to see the law agree.

Unfortunately, this decision does not immediately allow gays and lesbians in California to marry. Apparently the judge has issued an injunction pending the expected appeal by the losing side. However, the decision is critically important because it clearly identifies same-sex marriage as a constitutional issue. It will become increasingly difficult for opponents of same-sex unions to make argument based on "tradition" or "common understanding" or even "dangers to society".

Nearly two years ago I contributed my F/F story "Making Memory" to the charitable anthology I Do. Proceeds from that volume benefited the Lambda Legal Fund, one of the organizations backing the Prop 8 challenge. I'm proud to think that I might have had even a little influence on this glad decision.

The fight is not over. Both side expect this decision to reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The stakes are higher than ever. If you want to do your part for this cause, you might consider buying a copy of I Do yourself. (It's a really good book, by the way, especially if you're a fan of M/M romance!)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Memories of Jamaica

Last week I was a guest at Shelley Munro's blog, "A Taste of Kiwi". Since she's as much of a travel fanatic as I am, I decided to talk about Jamaica, which provides the setting for Fire in the Blood. In case you missed that post, I decided to repeat it here.

As I've shared in other blog posts, my husband seduced me in a Burmese restaurant with tales of his own international adventures. Jamaica was the first foreign destination we visited together. This was almost thirty years ago and I haven't had the chance to go back, so readers should recognize that my impressions are a bit dated. Nevertheless, I suspect (from my research and reading) that the country has not changed that much, especially not physically.

We got a cheap deal on a package―round-trip airfare and a week's hotel in Montego Bay. Actually, the resort where we were booked was a good ten miles outside the city. It had a lovely beach but was quite isolated from Jamaican culture. Fortunately, the tour was cheap enough that we felt comfortable using the hotel as a base of operations and making overnight excursions to locations elsewhere on the island. We also took in some tourist activities around Montego Bay. I recall a trail ride into the mountains above Montego Bay (brilliant blue sky, blazing sun, the smells of horse and growing things). I vividly remember a night-time swamp cruise that concluded with a party on an island―reggae music, dancing and lots of Red Stripe beer!

We took a bus eastward to Ocho Rios, famous for its waterfall. That side trip also included a tour of an old plantation, buried in the forest. I remember the sense of the past hovering over those quiet ruins. The country has a bloody history. Britain, Spain and occasionally France all had commercial interests in the island, with its rich soil and strategic location. Slaves labored to produce sugar, coffee and other valuable commodities. Frequent revolts led to draconian responses from the Jamaicans' colonial masters. Fugitive slaves called Maroons waged guerrilla warfare from the inaccessible, jungle-clad heights.

Later in the week, we traveled to Negril, the westernmost point on the island, where sheer cliffs of lava rock plunge into the turquoise sea. These days Negril has been developed into a major tourist destination, with five star resorts and so on. At that time, it was quite remote, with a couple of thatched roof bars looking out over the ocean and a few simple cottages. After more than thirty years of travel, to every continent except Australia, I still recall the scenery and atmosphere at Negril as extraordinary.

In addition to our sightseeing, we also met some local people: an American woman (whom I'll call Jill) who was making her living as a performer (dancing with a live boa constrictor!), her Jamaican boyfriend and their social circle. We had the chance to hang out with Jill and her guy in their simple two room house made of concrete blocks, near the railroad tracks in Montego Bay. They didn't have much, but their whole attitude was laid back. There was always music playing. There was always the scent of ganja in the air. No one seemed to worry about the future. “No problem, man,” was the response to every concern.

I started writing Fire in the Blood in response to a call for Halloween vampire stories. I wanted to create something really different. Almost all my stories are set in specific locales―atmosphere plays a big role in setting the scene for me. I thought back to our long ago trip, the sparkling sun of Jamaica and its dark history, and decided that a Jamaican vampire might be just the thing. When the publisher read the resulting tale, they asked me to expand it into a stand-alone book, which will be released on August 16th. The book is all fiction, of course, but it incorporates snippets of my own experience: a trail ride into the mountains, a ruined plantation, a naked midnight swim in the volcanic grottoes of Negril. I like to believe these contributions make the book more vivid. I hope that my readers will agree.

Here's the blurb. You can read an excerpt at http://www.lisabetsarai.com/fireinthebloodex.html .

Fire in the Blood

M/M/F vampire erotic romance from Total-E-Bound.

Maddy and Troy hope that a carefree vacation in tropical Jamaica will re-ignite the passion in their five year relationship. On a scenic mountain trail ride, Maddy's horse bolts and carries her deep into the jungle. Injured and lost, she is saved by a seductive giant of a man whose mere presence kindles unbearable lust. By the time she understands his dark nature, it is far too late for her to escape.

Bitter and alone, Etienne de Rémorcy haunts the forest around the ruined plantation of Fin d'Espoir. He has sworn to never again taste taste human blood, but when slender, raven-haired Madeleine begs him to take her, he cannot resist.

Troy is hugely relieved when Maddy makes her way back to their hotel after her ordeal in the mountains. But he finds her greatly changed―fiercely passionate in bed, restless and disturbed at other times. The tall, elegant stranger he meets on the beach holds the key to her transformation―and soon has seduced Troy as well. Even Etienne's most potent magic can't extinguish the fire in Troy's and Madeleine's blood.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Something New

Articles on the craft of writing often focus on the core elements of character and plot. I agree with this emphasis, as far as it goes. A story's success depends on creating multi-dimensional, sympathetic characters that capture and hold the reader's interest. A narrative arc that presents a significant conflict and which drives the characters toward resolution of this problem is equally important.

Character and plot definitely affect my personal reactions to a story. However, for me, there's another essential component that might have even more influence on my opinion: the story's originality. In my roles as editor and reviewer, I read dozens of stories every month. Most of them are competently written. Many, however, are eminently forgettable, because they don't really offer anything new.

A really original story gives me a special thrill. For example, yesterday I read "The Hand & I." by EllaRegina. Her creativity made me laugh with delight. Her notion of a love story between a woman and a disembodied hand was wildly unexpected and beautifully executed.

More than a year ago I read the highly original novel Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. It still comes to mind about once a week. The hero of Motherless Brooklyn is a young man with Tourette's Syndrome, a brain malfunction that causes the sufferer to spout obscenities and generally exhibit an inability to control his irrational impulses. Despite his disability, Lethem's hero is intelligent, acutely observant, and generally sympathetic. Now, you might argue that it was the character who made the book memorable, but I maintain that it was the author's inspired notion to give his hero Tourette's that is really responsible.

This example, of course, demonstrates the difficulty of separating the notion of "originality" from other aspects of writing. Originality can be expressed in the characters, the plot, the setting or the premise of a tale. It's one of those mysterious, slippery concepts--I know it when I see it. And to me, at least, it matters a lot.

I sometimes feel that romance writers and readers don't care all that much whether something is new. Readers seem to love series, revisiting the same worlds and characters in multiple books. The more shape shifters hit the real or virtual shelves, the more shape shifters the readers seem to want. The same is true for M/M and vampire-themed romance.

When I sit down to write a story, I strive--almost desperately--to do something original. Unfortunately, creativity is not an aspect of craft like character development or effective plotting. I don't think you can really "learn" to be creative, though maybe some of you might disagree. You can try doing exercises to stimulate your native creativity, but if the ideas don't come, there's not much you can do. Truly original ideas seem to arrive in those rare, precious "aha" moments, those mysterious flashes of brilliance that are totally out of our control.

Fire in the Blood is yet another vampire story. When I wrote it, I really wanted to do something new, something original. I don't know if I've succeeded or not. And if I did succeed, would that even be a good thing? If my vampire doesn't behave the way readers expect, will that make them like the story less, rather than more?

What do you think? Does it matter much to you whether a story offers something really new? Is originality important to you, or is it trumped by character and plot? I'd really like to know.

(Remember, every comment you make between now and August 15th is one more entry for my give-away!)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Interview with Etienne de Remorcy

Greetings! For the next two weeks, I'll be featuring posts about my upcoming release, Fire in the Blood, coming on August 16th by Total-E-Bound. Fire in the Blood is a vampire ménage erotic romance set in Jamaica. The vampire, Etienne de Rémorcy, is one of my favorite heroes. Although he hungers for blood, he has vowed never again to drink from a human. However, the arrival of a tourist on a runaway horse severely challenges his resolve.

Rather than telling you about Etienne, I thought I'd let him speak for himself.

Interviewer: Tell us something about your history. How did you become a vampire?

Etienne: I was born in Africa, the son of a proud king. When I was fifteen, I was abducted by slave traders and brought to Haiti. The year was 1796. I first saw my mistress in the slave market in Port-au-Prince. She was so incredibly beautiful--I never realized that her heart was a stinking pit of evil.

Interviewer: She was a vampire?

Etienne: A blood-drinker, a sorceress, a practitioner of voodoo and every other black art. Her cruelty knew no bounds. She made me her pet and her proxy, forcing me to procure victims for her wicked pleasures. She tore my flesh and then fed me her cursed blood to heal me for the next round of her games.

Interviewer: Why didn't you try to escape?

Etienne: I was her slave, not just in name but in truth. I was devoted to her and deluded myself that she loved me. When I finally realized how little she cared, I did away with her, but it was too late. I had already imbibed too much of her tainted blood. A fever killed me. I woke me to this horrible half-life, tortured as much by my guilt for all the evil I committed as by my thirst for blood. I hid myself away in the forest-hemmed ruins of her plantation, seeking to make amends for my past.

Interviewer: But Madeleine found you.

Etienne: A tourist! How ironic it seems. One of our cataclysmic Jamaican thunderstorms spooked her horse and sent her straight into my clutches--into my arms. She was terrified, injured. I tried to help her, tried to ignore the intoxicating scent of her lifeblood and the heat rising from her sex. I failed.

Interviewer: Do you regret breaking your vows and drinking from her?

Etienne: How could I regret the first good that had come to me in nearly two centuries? And then because of Madeleine, I came to know her lover Troy, equally comely and strong--I do not in truth know whether I snared them, or they captured me. Their willing surrender broke open my shuttered heart...But I knew that if I cared at all for them, I had to let them go...

Interviewer: And then what happened?

Etienne: I will keep that to myself for now, if you please. Let the readers buy the book if they want to know whether I was succeeded in being noble and responsible, or whether I fell victim to my baser nature...

Interviewer: Well, thank you for sharing a bit of your story with us.

Etienne: Of course. In some ways it helps, to talk about all the pain and loneliness I endured.

To celebrate the release of Fire in the Blood, I'll be giving away a free copy of the book to someone who comments during the next two weeks. So visit Beyond Romance, tell me your thoughts, and increase your chances of winning! I'll select the lucky winner on August 16th, the day the book comes out.