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Rise Up, Kittens! Or at least stop lying down . . . .

Words of wisdom from Lucy Blue. So wise that I thought I’d post them here so none of you would miss it!

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Without writers, publishing as an industry would not exist.  Well, duh, you may well say; how obvious; how trite; how could any sane person not know that?  And I would agree.  But I begin to suspect that this truth we declare self-evident is in fact the greatest of mysteries to the rest of the monstrous machine.

One of the great traditions of traditional publishing is treating the people who write the product they sell like galley slaves, a necessary inconvenience that whines too much and smells kind of funny.  Myself, I’ve spent immense slabs of my professional life waiting around on some agent or editor to give me an answer on something even when they called me first.  Hurry up and wait and don’t ask for anything has always been the order of the day, and writers have had the choice to either take it on the chin or head…

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What’s Wrong with Romance?

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Click me for more info!

No one could possibly be as surprised as I was the first time I wrote a romance novel.  Given my track record as a reader, I’m probably the most unlikely romance novelist that you’re ever going to meet.  While I believe in true love, I don’t believe in being stupid and the problem with most romance novels is stupidity.  Stupid people in stupid situations making stupid decisions with stupid dialogue.  Now, I know some writer folk are going to get all up in arms about that statement thinking that I’m insulting their work.  Look, if you’re that insulted that means you got some stupid goin’ on in your book.  If you’re a reader, then use this little vignette as a primer on how to choose a good romance novel.

Don’t think that I don’t believe in the genre.  I do.  I think writing good romance is damn hard work and is an art form in and of itself.  The problem is, it has a shit reputation because there are so many people out there who think it’s a quick path to fame and fortune.  Therefore, the market is flooded and it has gotten nigh on to impossible for good writers to get their work in front of readers.  In a sea of $0.99 dinosaur porn and incest fantasies, good books are drowning.  So as a reader, you have to consider what you’re looking for:  a satisfying story with believable characters and interesting plot OR shower nozzle masturbation material.   Don’t get me wrong, both are worthy endeavors.  But if you’re going to spend the money, you may as well get the good stuff.

I offer, for your convenience and pleasure, the biggest mistakes going on in the romance industry:

1.  Underestimating the intelligence of the reader.  There seems to be this idea in publishing that every romance reader is a mouth-breathing, undersexed soccer mom who can’t understand big words or shifts in POV.  I like to think that the folks reading my books are smart people who are looking for a good story and perhaps a little erotic inspiration.  I refuse to dumb down my plots or use smaller words to “make the story accessible.” I also refuse to believe that my readers are incapable of following a third person omniscient point of view.  To me, limited POV is well… limiting.  I want to see the whole picture.  “Head-hopping” is a fan fiction term that has no place in the literary world.  Word choice is part of what makes erotica so appealing and so sexy.  And in my opinion there is nothing sexy about crude language and degradation.

2.  Sacrificing story for more sex.  I admit it– sex sells.  But I hate reading books where interesting plot points are ignored in favor of having another poorly executed sex scene.  For real people, how many different ways can you say “insert tab A into slot B.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.”.  I’d rather have a good story with lots of action that shows our hero and heroine working together as equals and in turn growing their relationship instead of a sex scene every few pages.

3.  Same shit, different day.  Think back to when Fifty Shades of Gray became such a hit.  Remember how for the next year, every romance novel had the same cover?  They were all BDSM romances and they all had young nitwits falling in love with billionaires?  Yeah, we have this problem in romance where if one dwarf with a foot fetish fairy tale romance is good, then a million is better!  We jump on bandwagons and flood the market with a billion copycat stories.  I even watched my friends, desperate for sales, jump on the Pervy Billionaire Romance train.  Of course it didn’t work because there were a million other people with the same idea.

So what’s the answer?   Where is a smart, sassy gal (or guy) to find a great romance novel?  Well, the folks over at Seventh Star Press have decided to help us all out.  On Friday, they announced the launch of a brand new imprint, Seventh Starlight, that will showcase unique speculative fiction with a romance twist.  Seventh Starlight will literally be romance novels for folks who don’t like romance novels. The imprint embraces cross-genre adventures with a strong romantic element.  It looks to be extremely promising.  Already they have publishing vet Jessica Glanville as the managing editor of the imprint and three incredibly talented authors ready to launch:  Siobhan Kinkade, Crymsyn Hart and YOURS TRULY– Alexandra Christian.   In keeping with the Seventh Star brand, each book will also have hand painted cover art done by Anne Rosario.  If history is any clue, then Seventh Starlight will be romance of the finest quality.  Watch this space for more details on release dates and launch parties.

So take heart, kittens.  It’s an exciting time to be a romance reader, writer and lover!

 

 

 

NEW RELEASE!! Strange Bedfellows: Dead Sexy

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Good afternoon, friends!  I’m so happy to be here pimping my own book for a change.  I know, it doesn’t happen often.  I’ll try not to let it go to my head.  Anyway, you know how I’ve been writing that series for Mocha Memoirs Press, Strange Bedfellows?  Well, I finally managed to finish the third installment!  Cali and sexy vampires Andre and Leo are up to more shenanigans in this one.  There’s a walk through Hell, a zombie speed dating party and evil attack spiders with baby faces.  A new character is also introduced, Seth, a fallen angel that is in desperate need of Cali’s help to save his soul.  It was a total surprise to me when he showed up, but my muse seems to want to be in everything these days (ahem… paging #BenedictCumberbatch).  Anyway, here’s a little excerpt since y’all are my friends…

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“Hello,” she said softly.  Her voice wavered a little but strangely she found that she wasn’t afraid.  Not like before.  Perhaps she was bewitched, but her mind was quiet.  “Who’s there?”  No one spoke, but she could feel the warmth of a body close by.  She knew he was male, she could smell him.  A light scent of leather, cool mint and a light musk permeated the air and Cali couldn’t help but shiver.  She wanted him to come closer, but she was afraid to ask.  She should be frightened.  Panicking that some stranger was watching her, taking in every naked inch of her flesh, but she wasn’t.  She wanted him to look and in fact, could feel herself arching slightly and thrusting her breasts into view.  “Is it you, Necromancer?” she hissed.  “Standing there in the dark, wanting me but afraid to touch?  I can smell you, you know.  The scent of your desire is pungent, Sir.”  Cali inhaled deeply, a seductive smile crossing her ruby lips as she took in the masculine aroma.  She shuddered, her body responding almost involuntarily.  He hadn’t even touched her and already she could feel the dewy pearls of wetness forming at her center.  “Has it been so long? So long since you felt the touch of a warm, living body that hasn’t been poisoned by your obsession?”

Her visitor still did not speak, but she could feel him coming closer.  The bed bounced lightly as he sat down beside her, still just staring.  She could hear him breathe, slow and even, trying to hide any note of his own arousal, but it was too practiced.  Cali grinned, knowing that she was having some effect.  The stranger reached down, his arm lightly touching hers as he leaned forward.  This time Cali did gasp, as the sound she heard at first was unrecognizable.  Then it dawned on her that there was water being poured from some vessel into a bowl.  A heavy, liquid sound that was just beside her ear.  She would have expected it to be cold, but she could feel some kind of warmth emanating from whatever basin the liquid was being poured into.  The pouring ended in a slow dripping and the basin was brought across and laid by her side on the bed.  She could hear it sloshing around and she tried not to move.  If she spilled the contents, her strange host might be angry and in her current predicament, that could be exceptionally bad.

The light scent of lavender and cherry bark wafted through the room on a still breeze.  Slow dripping, warm water over hot flesh.  Cali gasped as the drops hit one by one across her chest.  Almost deliberately they beaded just over the curve of each breast and then slid down lazily to heavenly valleys below her sternum.  A single bead alighted on the rose point of each nipple.  They hardened immediately, as if reaching out for the source of the wet heat.  Cali wanted to moan, but she bit down on her lip hard enough to bring blood, afraid that if she made a sound that this delicious sensation would end.  Whoever was with her had perfect control and knew just how high to place the drops so that the warm, scented liquid kissed each erogenous zone as he continued this gradual, sweet Chinese water torture.  A dotted path led the way down the curve of her belly to the subtle dip of her navel.  Her captor dribbled more of the warm water into the tiny cup until it spilled over and began to gently flow down the slope and into the nest of fine, downy curls that hid her femininity.  This time she gasped. She couldn’t help it.  She pulled at her bonds, lost in the delayed pleasure and frantic desire.  “Touch me,” she rasped, but still he did not speak.  Only the sound of the basin being moved aside would answer her command.

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Wasn’t that just hotter than summer in Calcutta?  Yeah, I thought so too.  So now, here’s the good news— if you haven’t read the first two stories, you can get them separately for #99cents on Kindle until July 20th.  BUT, to get all three stories, including the newest installment, “Dead Sexy,” you can get all three collected for just $4.99!  The collection is also available in #paperback for those of you that want something to take on the beach.  Don’t forget to read, review, tweet and share with your friends!  That’s right… pimp it!!

Here’s that link again…  http://www.amazon.com/Strange-Bedfellows-Behind-Red-Door/dp/1500407895/ref=la_B009QU3UD4_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1405618183&sr=1-2

EXCERPT TIME! “Wormwood”

Hey kids!  I have been a bloggin’ fool this week.  I’m probably just feeling guilty because I haven’t done it in so long.  I thought tonight that I’d put up a little excerpt that’s way different than my normal fare.  The story is called “Wormwood” and it’s from an anthology called “A Chimerical World: Tales of the Seelie Court.” The setting is the antebellum south, a place where one might not expect to find faeries.  But one would be wrong, because Robin Goodfellow shows up and helps our heroine get even in a grotesque way straight out of Shakespeare.  I hope you like, kiddies!

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“Are you going to sit there like that all night? Don’t you know it’s nearly midnight?” Freedom’s head snapped up at the unfamiliar voice. She looked up and a blurry figure stood before her, leaning on one of the gnarly old oak trees. She rubbed her eyes to clear them of the grit that tears sometimes leave behind. “Well?” the voice said again, a touch of impatience tempering its tone.

“Who are you?” she croaked, pulling her knees in tighter. “I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

The shadow came forward into the moonlight and Freedom gasped. The most beautiful creature she’d ever seen came fully into view. It was a boy, but not a human boy. For a moment she thought he might be an angel. Of course, no angel would have such a mischievous grin. His skin nearly glowed with the light of the moon and his features were fine. His jet colored hair fell in careless waves over his brow and he had a long, slim pipe perched between his lips. The smoke from the end curled around him like a plume of silvery feathers. His only clothing was a pair of mossy green trousers that fell low on his hips, almost a part of the skin underneath. Most amazing were his wings. They looked like skeletal twigs covered in dewy spiderwebs that sprang from his back. They flapped so quickly in the still air as he lit on the branch just over her head. They hardly looked to be moving at all. “I am Robin Goodfellow. And you are Freedom Jenkins,” he replied matter-of-factly, taking a long pull of his pipe. “And now we’re not strangers.”

“How you know my name?” Freedom asked, standing up quick.

“Your sister told me.”

“You know my sister?” He seemed to ignore her question and jumped down to the ground. As he began to pace, Freedom watched him back and forth, unable to tear her eyes away. Was he even real? His silvery skin and almond eyes were like nothing she’d ever seen before and she sat there transfixed. “What are you?” she blurted, not considering her rudeness.

“Me? Well I’m a creature of the forest. Your kind call us woodfolk or sprites…”

“A fairy? You’re a fairy!” Freedom cried, for a moment forgetting about her predicament.

Robin gave a perturbed scowl and turned his nose up snottily at Freedom. “I prefer Fae, for I am, in fact, the prince of all Fae. A most cunning sprite and knavish Puck, at your service.” He gave an exaggerated bow and nearly fell over, making Freedom giggle in spite of her sadness. He stopped and looked up at the girl, his mouth curled into a thoughtful sneer. “You are so very sad, just as your sister said.” He shook his head and inhaled deeply on his pipe again. This time when he exhaled, the smoke formed a sparkling, silver bird that fluttered toward Freedom. Just before it lit on her nose, the bird blew apart into an entire flock that fluttered around her head for a moment before dissipating. “No little child born of the Fae should be so sad as you. It isn’t natural.” With a graceful leap, he alighted on the low bough of the oak and squatted there. “You have a touch of our magic, of course. You and your sister.”

“What kind of root you got in that pipe, Suh?” Freedom asked, her eyes bugging. “If’n we had magic, we be out of this place long ago.” She sighed miserably and put her head in her hands. “It’s hopeless, Robin. Me and Ady gon’ die here and that nasty old Gerald Wilkins is goin’ to git away wit’ his mischief.”

The sprite had a roguish grin that was almost too large and Freedom couldn’t help but return it. “Sometimes magic is hard to see, but it was magic that brought me to you. If you hadn’t called, I wouldn’t have come. What do you think about that, Freedom Jenkins?”

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Like it?  It’s one of my favorite pieces.  If you like it too, the whole book full of faery stories is available from Seventh Star Press!  You can click on the picture above or here!

Increase Sales Through Stupid Publicity Stunts

Wow… two blog posts on two consecutive days!  That must be some kind of record for me.  I was scrolling though Facebook today (surprise, surprise!) and I noticed that a publisher had put up a link to an excerpt of a book that I personally find a little questionable.  Yes, I write erotic romance and my stuff is pretty darn racy, but I like to think I manage to maintain some class with what I write.  Given what I know of this publisher, they’re pretty well known and in my opinion, have always been a class act.  That’s why I really had a difficult time with this particular book that they’re putting out.  The book in question (and keep in mind that I have not read this book and probably won’t) seems to advocate some unsavory behaviors.  Trust me when I tell you that I have a pretty narrow definition of “unsavory.”  Mind you, the book isn’t rape fantasy or daddy-daughter porn or anything like that.  But I do feel that it paints a pretty yucky picture of women, which in this new age of degradation (i.e.– Supreme Court regulating birth control, rape jokes and Justin Beiber) is pretty unsavory.  The publisher in question has always been about empowering women.  But, how is it empowering to show women– particularly young women– that it’s okay to have promiscuous sex and sell it to get what you want?  Their other titles feature heroines that are smart and sexually liberated, however that doesn’t mean that they’re sexually irresponsible or opportunistic.  Again, let me remind you that I have NOT read this book, only that I’ve heard a bit about the plot.

So my next question is, why would a publishing house that has made such great strides in bringing erotic romance to the forefront suddenly decide that trash fiction is their next big thing?  I can only conclude that they’re trying to drive sales.  With so many other publishing houses producing steamier romance in the wake of Fifty Shades of Gray, sales on specialty houses have dipped.  In other words, they used to be the only game in town and now they have competition.  So they’re responding by using sensationalism and “celebrity” to sell books.  I use the word “celebrity” very loosely.  After all, we live in an age where “you tube personality” is a job title.  I wish I were kidding.  The publisher thinks that by slapping a “celebrity” name on the book that it will be a feather in their cap that will drive up their sales.  Here’s the catch:  anyone buying this particular type of book is not going to buy the book.  They’re going to steal the book (illegal downloads, etc). And they aren’t going to steal it to say “oh what a great book,” they’re going to steal it to say “you will not believe this shit!”  I fear that this publisher, who has had a good name in the publishing industry and with a base of rabid readers, is about to be very unpleasantly surprised. 

The other thing that peeves me about this is the way in which it’s being promoted.  This link on Facebook was to an article on cosmopolitan.com.  Cosmo-fucking-politan.  I also heard about this book on a nationally syndicated radio broadcast.  Have any of this publisher’s other authors been featured in Cosmo or on the radio?  Have any of this publisher’s other authors been offered the level of promotion that this author has been?  Most likely, no.  I would imagine that the other authors are being treated as second class citizens in comparison.  The other authors that have devoted so much time and energy producing quality work for this publisher are now being shoved aside for a flash in the pan who, by all reports, can barely string a sentence together.  I predict that these authors will be looking for a new home soon.  Is it a coincidence that Samhain has just announced that they’re revamping and expanding their press? 

The universe is rarely so lazy.

Writing a Sex Scene to Remember

I’m sure it’s a huge surprise to all of you, my dearest readers, but I write romance novels. 

I know, usually on here I’m talking about a television show or #BenedictCumberbatch ‘s thighs, but today I decided to be different and actually talk about my process.  This came to mind earlier in the week when I was trying to write a sex scene and failing miserably.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write it, I just felt like I was retreading the same soil over and over.  I mean, how many times can you write “put tab A into slot B”?  Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  In case you didn’t know– this is a SERIOUS handicap for an author of erotic romance. 

So how can you make your sex scenes properly smoldering?  I’ve compiled a short list—

1.  The sex must be essential to moving the plot forward.  The difference between a romance novel and any other sort of book is that the center of the plot hinges on the relationship between your protagonists.  External factors must contribute to the growth of their relationship.  Sex is one of those external factors.  Think about it this way– compare Titanic with Debbie Does Dallas.  In Titanic, when Jack and Rose are gettin’ busy in the car, it’s sealing their relationship and essentially setting us all up for a good cry when Jack dies at the end (sorry… spoilers for all you people that have been living under a rock for the last 15 years).  That relationship changes Rose’s life by giving her the strength to follow her dreams.  In Debbie Does Dallas, there is no relationship.  The main characters’ impetus for having sex is well… to drive them toward the next sex scene.  Remember, if you want to write a memorable sex scene, go for Titanic, not Debbie Does Dallas.  There has to be something at stake.

2.  Vocabulary.  In my sex scenes, I tend to have a lot of inner dialogue from my POV character.  It’s not all about describing the act itself, though that’s part of it.  Taking a cue from Anais Nin, I always find that using decadent language sparingly adds some heat without having to say a lot.  No purple prose, mind you, but words and phrases that tumble from the tongue.  I always have the gravelly baritone of my muse reading aloud in my ear as I write.  If it doesn’t sound good to my ear, I rephrase. 

3.  Coarse language should be used sparingly.  Consider the mood you’re wanting to project.  You want your readers to be titillated, enticed and wishing that they were the characters in the story having this magnificent experience.  At no time have I ever wanted my lover to say “show me your dripping wet love hole.”  Eeeewwwww…. Sex and love is beautiful, not gross.  No gaping maws of love or meat daggers, please. 

4.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that erotica is the same thing as pornography.  They can have the same affect, but they are NOT the same thing.  So here’s the Jeff Foxworthy portion of the blog post. Presenting: You might be pornography…

*  If “butt blasting” is in the title of your story, you might be pornography.

* If your characters’ names are Daddy, Mom, or First Cousin, you might be pornography.

*  If your book has a woman in a leash sucking a riding crop on the cover, you might be pornography.

*  If your heroine is pursued, captured and ravaged by a dinosaur, you might be pornography.

Just some food for thought, kids!  Happy writing!