Amazon Reviews: Proceed With Caution

beautykingdomGood morning, Dear Readers!  It’s a beautiful day here in sunny South Carolina.  I do hope it’s sunny and warm where you are.  I thought I’d begin this latest rant (yes, brace yourself.  it’s going to be a rant.) with an exclamation of how excited I am to see the newest chapter in A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice for those that might not know)’s Beauty series.  If you know anything about me at all you know that part of the reason I do what I do is because of the original Beauty trilogy (don’t worry, I’m going to put a link up later so you can get them for yourself). If you’ve read my novel Beast of Burden, you probably recognize that I was very much influenced by Rice.

I read the original Beauty Trilogy for the first time at probably twelve or thirteen years old.  I smuggled them out of my sister’s room (sorry, Lucy Blue) and read all three in a weekend.  They opened my eyes to a world of not just kinky sex (I already had a rudimentary knowledge of sexy stuff at that point) but to a world where the act of reading was actually a sensual experience.  With every word in those books I was shocked, delighted, aroused and utterly intoxicated.  By words.  The descriptions of the people and places and experiences are so visceral and those images have stayed with me all these years.  I owe Ms. Rice a tremendous debt of gratitude.  She made me a reader, a writer and a woman in that single weekend with just under a thousand pages of text.  Since then I’ve read those books all the way through at least a dozen times.  I had to purchase a new set a few years ago because the ones I had were missing pages and the covers were torn.  I consider them to be my personal reference.  When I’m writing an erotic book and I get lost, I read Beauty’s Punishment (my favorite of the trilogy) so that I can remember that erotic stories are not just about sex, but about the people and the story.  The words. Nowhere in those books does anyone talk about dripping wet love holes. Nor does the dialogue make you cringe.  (“I fuck.  Hard.”  What?!!)  The world in which Beauty and her companions exist is a world where sexual slavery is not only accepted, but longed for.  It’s a symbol of status.  Therefore, there are no silly contracts or instructions on how to properly flog your sub. Rice has no interest writing a BDSM instruction manual or a treatise on how to properly engage in an abusive relationship.  It’s a FANTASY.  It seems with all the erotic fiction out there, we’ve forgotten that these are FANTASIES that are supposed to entertain and titillate.  Not inspire a lifestyle.  But I digress…

Now comes the rant.

I was reading the Amazon reviews of the new book, Beauty’s Kingdom, this morning when I got to work.  I plan to go and get my copy this weekend, but I was curious as to what others were saying.  They were all pretty positive, but I’m having a hard time believing any of them.  NONE of the reviewers on that first page had ever read the first books.  NONE.  One of them claimed that “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty” came out in 1999.  Another said that she hadn’t read the originals because she didn’t think that they would be her cup of tea, but she got an ARC of this and thought what the hell. I get the distinct impression that all of these folks picked it up and thought, “I wonder if this is as good as 50 Shades?”  Which just cuts me to the core for a number of reasons that I’m sure you can guess based on past posts.  The reason why this is annoying to me is because what I really want to know is— will Beauty’s Kingdom stand up alongside the original trilogy?  Is it edgy and sexy and dripping with raw sensuality like the originals?  None of these folks who I’m sure are very intelligent people could tell me because they hadn’t done their research.  And if they’re getting ARCs, then they aren’t just the “average reader” anymore.  They’re a pro reviewer, for lack of a better term.  The “average reader” is looking to them for guidance before they spend the money.  They have a responsibility, in my opinion.  It would be like Roger Ebert reviewing Star Wars after only having watched the last fifteen minutes.

At any rate, despite the purist rage, I’m really excited to get my copy of Beauty’s Kingdom in a couple of days.  I’ll be sure to post my review here when I’m done AND on Amazon.  If for no other reason, then I believe in supporting authors– even superstars like Anne Rice.  And I wouldn’t be a true indie author if I didn’t remind you…

HEY!  If you like erotic retellings of fairy tales, try Beast of Burden by Alexandra Christian!  Don’t believe me?  Try an excerpt…

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His words were cut short by another booming of thunder so loud it echoed off the stone walls, throwing the oil lamp tobeastofburden_original the floor at his feet. Without care for who he was or how he frightened her, Sascha leapt from the bed and threw herself into his arms. At first he was paralyzed with shock, having no idea how to react to this sudden change. After a few moments of her sobbing into his shoulder, he found himself wrapping his arms around her protectively.

“It’s alright,” he soothed. “You’re safe.”

“No I’m not,” she cried. “I’m as unsafe as any one girl could possibly be. Locked up in this castle without a soul that I know. A slave that has no idea what to do or say!” She burst into another torrent of sobs that left her shuddering against him. In a swift movement, he lifted her into his arms and carried her to the chaise by the fire.

The embers had burned low, but still offered some illumination and warmth. He cradled her body against his, tucking her head under his chin. “You’ve nothing to fear, little one,” he purred into her ear softly. “No harm will come to you here.”

“I wish I could believe you, My Lord,” she sniffled.

“Why can’t you?”

She hesitated, the words catching in her throat. How could she tell him how he frightened her? How the slightest glance from him brought terror and arousal in one crushing wave. It was too humiliating and shameful to admit. “I just…I mean…you…”

“Are you afraid of me, Sascha?” He asked this question so matter-of-factly that she nodded before she could stop herself. She blushed deeply and he chuckled. “Put your mind at ease, girl. I promise that it’s not my intention to hurt you.”

They sat on the chaise for several minutes, neither one speaking. The only sounds were the crackling of the fire and the storm raging beyond the walls. Finally, Sascha stared up at her new Master and realized the absurdity of their situation. “My Lord?”

“Cianan.”

“What?” She looked up at him, clearly confused.

“My name. Cianan. Anyone who awakens me in the middle of the night should call me by my given name.” He smiled warmly then tensed again. “But only here.”

Sascha nodded. “Cianan,” she began, her voice still trembling. “Why are you suddenly being so kind to me?”

“You thought me unkind before?” She could only stare at him. “Perhaps I can be a little rough around the edges,” he admitted. “I never meant to be unkind. I beg your pardon if it seemed so.” She seemed to accept this and their silence resumed. She relaxed into his embrace and he sighed, relieved she wasn’t going to run. He inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of her, committing it to memory. Every breath made him believe in her more and more. She was his mate and he would do everything he could to convince her of that fact. “I can feel more questions burning on your tongue, little one.”

Sascha blushed again. “Well…I was wondering…the library…”

“What about it?” His jaw tensed.

“Might I borrow a book? I like to read,” she asked nervously. She kept her eyes trained on the flames before her, not wanting to see any anger on his face. “And I noticed you had a beautiful library.”

“As I’ve told you, you may go anywhere within the castle grounds you like…”

“Except for the cellar,” she finished. “But why not there?” This was the real question that burned on her tongue. The greatest mystery that had grown in her mind.

“It is none of your affair,” he answered stiffly, moving her carefully aside and standing by the fireplace. “It’s my place and you are never to enter. Do you understand?” His eyes flashed with a sudden fury and Sascha cowered.

“Of course, My Lord,” she replied, her eyes cast downward. “I will respect your wishes.”

He looked down at her, trying to smile reassuringly. “Of course you will.” The clock on the other side of the room struck the hour and Sascha yawned. “We should get you into bed lest you be exhausted in the morning.”

“And what should I expect in the morning?” she asked, allowing him to help her to her feet and lead her toward the bed. “Shall I report to the kitchens or the stables?”

He looked puzzled. “Neither.” He pulled back the covers and gestured for her to climb into the bed.

She obeyed and continued. “Well… I was sent here as your slave. But looking around me and the clothes given for me to wear, I just can’t figure what my duties should be.”

“To do whatever I require,” he answered simply, tucking the coverlet around her body. “And right now I require that you sleep.” He turned to leave, but was stopped with her hand on his arm.

“Couldn’t you just stay with me, My Lord?”

He raised his eyebrow. “Of course not. It wouldn’t be appropriate…”

“Please,” she pleaded. “Just until I’ve gone to sleep.” Her eyes looked past him to the window where the wind and rain still pounded at the stone walls. “Storms frighten me so.”

He sighed, defeated by her eyes again. He looked around and pulled a chair from the other side of the room to her bedside and sat down. “It seems that of the two of us, I am more slave to you.”

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A Review: In the Red by Selah Janel

I’m back again this week to tell you a little bit about Selah Janel’s new book, In the Red.  It’s a story we’ve heard a million times: boy makes a deal with the devil and ends up regretting it.  BUT WAIT… the last person that wrote that story wasn’t Selah Janel.

I’ve known Selah a while now. I’ve been a fan of her writing back when she was still just doing it for fun.  She’s always had a quirky perspective on the world and a way of putting words together that is both disturbing and hilarious.  In the Red does not disappoint.  It is the story of a miserably unsuccessful musician, Jeremiah Kensington, who is willing to do anything to get out of the countrified rut he’s gotten himself into. Enter Jack Scratch.  Jack offers to make him a star with a new life, new band and new image.  With the new image comes a new pair of boots that seem to hold a mysterious power.  But the longer he wears the boots the more he realizes that the price he’s paid is high.

It is obvious to anyone who reads In the Red that Miss Janel did a lot of research.  She’s spoken to musicians and other performers to try and delve into their psyche.  It’s very evident in the first couple of chapters that Janel has a handle on the struggle that Jeremiah is going through.  Then later, the unwilling transformation that he goes through and realizing how selfish his pursuits have been– it really keeps the reader glued to the pages.  At least it did for me.

Another thing that I loved about In the Red was Janel’s narrative voice.  Her snarky personality, clever wit and intelligence comes shining through.  She assumes that the reader is intelligent and doesn’t dumb down situations and descriptives.  Her prose is refined, yet accessible.  The story will appeal to young, frustrated adults as well as an older audience that remember the decadence and opulence of the glam rock era.

If you’re looking for an exciting read that keeps you guessing right up until the end– and oh my sweet heavens what an ending– I recommend In the Red with absolutely no reservations.  It’s just so different from anything else out there.  Skirting the line between urban fantasy and horror, each chapter keeps the reader guessing and engaged.  Run out and pick up your copy TODAY!

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About In The Red by Selah Janel

Live like a rock star. Dance ‘til you die. Are you in?

What kind of a rock star lives in a small town in the middle of nowhere and plays at weddings and funerals? That’s what Jeremiah Kensington is thinking after an unsuccessful bar gig one night. Then Jack Scratch comes into his life, ready to represent him and launch him to stardom. Jack can give him everything: a new band, a new name, a new life, a new look, and new boots…although they aren’t exactly new. They once belonged to The One, a rocker so legendary and so mysterious that it’s urban legend that he used black magic to gain success. But what does Jeremiah care about urban legend? And it’s probably just coincidence that the shoes make him dance better than anyone, even if it doesn’t always feel like he’s controlling his movements. It’s no big deal that he plunges into a world of excess and decadence as soon as he puts the shoes on his feet, right?

But what happens when they refuse to come off?

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About Selah Janel…

Selah Janel has been blessed with a giant imagination since she was little and convinced that fairies lived in the nearby state park or vampires hid in the abandoned barns outside of town. Her appreciation for a good story was enhanced by a love of reading, the many talented storytellers that surrounded her, and a healthy curiosity for everything. A talent for warping everything she learned didn’t hurt, either. She gravitates to writing fantasy and horror, but can be convinced to pursue any genre if the idea is good enough. Often her stories feature the unknown creeping into the “real” world and she loves to find the magical in the mundane.

 She has four e-books with No Boundaries Press, including the historical vampire story ‘Mooner’ and the contemporary short ‘The Other Man’. Her work has also been included in ‘The MacGuffin’, ‘The Realm Beyond’, ‘Stories for Children Magazine’, and the upcoming Wicked East Press anthology ‘Bedtime Stories for Girls’. She likes her music to rock, her vampires lethal, her fairies to play mind games, and her princesses to hold their own.

Peep through Selah’s window…

Bloghttp://www.selahjanel.wordpress.com

Fandom Scene Columnhttp://www.fandomfestblog.com/blogs/selah-janel

Facebook Author Pagehttp://www.facebook.com/authorSJ

Facebook Book Pagehttp://www.facebook.com/intherednovel

Goodreadshttp://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5622096.Selah_Janel

Amazon Author Pagehttp://www.amazon.com/Selah-Janel/e/B0074DKC9K/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1346815995&sr=1-2-ent

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/SelahJanel

Fifty Shades of WTF!?!– PT. 3, The Revenge

My subconscious is telling me not to write this post.  She jumps up and down wearing her angriest steel stilletto cha-cha shoes.  I smack her down.

Don’t worry.  I didn’t lift that line directly from Fifty Shades.  But I could have.  I read three chapters tonight and my first observation is that I want to take Anastasia’s subconscious by the hair, pull her head back and slit her throat.  I really want her subconscious to stop talking.  Look, I’m all for literary devices, but there comes a point when these little inner dialogues become tiresome.  As I’ve told my students a hundred times.  Show.  Don’t Tell.  This chick is hearing more voices than Charley Manson.

And dark, unexplored places.  Can we stop visiting those?  Is she talking about her basement or her vagina?  Or perhaps Christian’s psyche?  I can’t quite figure it out.  But every night she’s dreaming of dark, unexplored places.  My editor gets all over me for using the word they too much, yet this babe is getting away with dark unexplored places on every page.  Though I will say— it’s better than gaping maw.

The last bit I read tonight involved the deflowering of Anastasia.  WTF?!  First off, we spent the previous ten pages discussing how Grey is a cold and unfeeling sadist.  He shows her his dungeon for fuck’s sake (yes… I said it.  I said the F-word.)!  Oh and by the way– can we not just call a spade a spade.  Playroom, oxblood leather that gives it a romantic feel?  Whatever… its a fuckin’ dungeon.  Anyway, the about face was so abrupt that I thought I had skipped a few pages.  I get that we wanted to incorporate the virgin fantasy.  But perhaps that scene would have been better suited BEFORE the dungeon and the “I don’t make love.  I fuck.  Hard.”  line. That being said, I thought that the sex scene was pretty well written and I admit– parts of it made me flutter a little bit.  I have to give credit where it’s due.  Grey is a pretty damn hot.  His choices of words are very believable and very seductive.  So kudos to his end of the dialogue.  But so help me… if that bitch says “oh my” one more time….

I’d like to end tonight with a little taste of my own “deflowering” scene from Beast of Burden.  Like Christian Grey, my werewolf hero, Cianan Marek, is a gruff and dominating son of a bitch with a soft spot for a certain girl.  In this scene, our hero and heroine are finally going to get it on!  And of course, being a good little medievalish slave— she reveals her virginity and apprehension to her Master…. rawwrr…

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Her eyes were open when his mouth descended on hers once more. His kiss was  furious and their tongues fought for dominance before he won out. When he rose, he pulled her with him, gathering her into his arms and turning to lay her back down across his bed, their lips never parting. By the time he released her, she was gasping for breath and pulling at his shirt, wanting him to stay close. He took her hands, putting them by her sides as he knelt beside her on the bed. Her eyes stayed on him as he lifted her pelvis easily, tugging her torn dress over her hips and throwing it aside. He made another growling sound as his eyes slithered over her body and Sascha’s heart skipped a beat. She started to protest, but his mouth silenced her again. His hands were all over her, tracing lightly with the tips of his fingers. She groaned softly, stretching out beneath him, remembering all the things she’d read in Bella’s journal. Would he work the same magic on her? She was apprehensive, but more afraid that this would end.

Cianan slid to his side, his hand placed warmly on her belly as he kissed the cuff of her ear. “You’re so beautiful, Sascha. Seeing you lying here ignites a fire I’d thought long dead.”

She blushed, but couldn’t bring herself to say anything in response, feeling only the palms of his hands moving in slow circles around her navel. It was as if he were memorizing her skin, every curve, every blemish. He leaned down to kiss her again, but she shied away.

“Cianan,” she whispered, her fingers against his lips. “I should tell you. I’ve…” she stammered, losing her nerve every time she looked into those glowing embers in his eyes. “I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what…”

“Ssshhh…” he soothed, kissing each of her fingertips. “You’ve nothing to fear, little one. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

He gave her a comforting smile and she nodded. She grew quiet as he placed a trail of burning kisses across her collarbone. She closed her eyes, wanting to clear her head from the spell he was working over her with his hands. He continued stroking her skin, caressing each little crease and studying her reactions. The sweeps became wider until his fingertips brushed the gentle curvature of her breast. She made a small whine and he took it as encouragement, taking the breast into his mouth again. This time, he took the bud of her nipple between his teeth, nipping it gently with the point of his pearled canine.

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And of course…. you have to read the rest for yourself!  But I can tell you how to get the rest… take a little trip over to Amazon, AllRomanceEbooksBookstrand or B&N.com.  Just sayin’….

As for Fifty Shades, I’ll be back tomorrow with another set of musings LIVE from ConCarolinas in Charlotte, NC!  I’ll be appearing on panels Saturday and Sunday, but I will be available for snarky comments from the audience at many others.  See y’all soon!

50 Shades of WTF?!: PART 2

…or would that be 51 Shades of WTF?!… anyway.  So I finished another chapter tonight and in turn have more observations of my journey through a national sensation.  Or epidemic.

Again I was struck by the Young Adult quality of the heroine.  For those of you that have not read 50 Shades (all 5 of you), the main character is Anastasia Steele (whose actually named that anyway?! WTF?!), a woman in her early twenties who is about to graduate from college.  So why is it that all of her “inner subconscious thoughts” seem to be coming from the head of a 16 year old?  Now I understand that we’re supposed to get that she’s this untouched flower and the author is playing up her innocence.  But phrases like “double crap” just really take me out of the story.  It confuses me, as a reader, because I can’t get a good picture of Ana.  I’m seeing her as my 16 year old goddaughter,  not a grown woman.  We’re also supposed to believe that Ana is an English Lit major.  My sister, Lucy Blue (author of My Demon’s Kiss among other things), holds a master’s degree in English.  More specifically, in Literature.  Anyone that’s ever spoken to her would agree that she has a tone that exudes sophistication and intelligence.  Most people that would study such hefty subjects are academics.  Academics have an arrogant wit about them that our Ana clearly lacks.  They’d also have enough foresight to read interview questions before blurting them out (i.e.– “Are you gay, Mr. Grey?”).

Anyway, I don’t mean to rant constantly about how horrible this book is.  It isn’t horrible.  Obviously it’s done something right, as it’s sold millions of copies.  The story is intriguing and I find myself wanting to read more.  Which I suppose is the mark of a good book right?