“Up On the Hog Babe, Let’s Go For a Ride”: The Hot Men & Sexy Voices of Male Audio Narrators

27 Mar

HOT MEN, SEXY VOICES: Last Saturday was #VALoveFest at Virginia Festival of the Book 2017.  Among the excellent panels during the day by far the most popular was THE MEN OF ROMANCE panel where audio narrators shared their experiences about the work, a bit about their backgrounds, and their appreciation for the romance genre.  Below is a video that you must watch/listen to if–like me– you twitch involuntarily at any real man who is into romance.

Andi Arndt was the fabulous moderator. She spoke with David Brenin, Luke Daniels, Will Damron, Derek Perkins and Aiden Snow. Jennifer Dodde Conner captured this video of the event. (Caution! It looks like the video goes sideways for a second–but it’s just for a moment and then gets righted again.)

Details of note:

Luke Daniels has done audio for Heather Graham and Sylvia Day among many, many, others.

When Will Damron does the really sexy stuff he uses the name Jeremy York.

Aiden Snow mostly does military romances, but he likes romances that play out deep gender and relational dynamics.  Most of the time, however, he said “it’s like: ‘Up on the hog babe, let’s go for a ride.'” And all the women in the room about fainted.

Speaking of Aiden Snow —  I saw him walking across the lobby at the festival — and having been converted by my friend Adriana Anders to beardy hot goodness, I said to myself ‘Damn, who is *that* guy?’ (Shoulda stopped him and gotten a picture.  I’m just kicking myself now. Oh well!)

Derek Perkins is British and does a mean Scottish Accent.

I, for one, find a man’s voice at the top of the list for the sexiness factor.  I think that romances often neglect the serious ear appeal of the right voice.  There are men who I find reasonably attractive, but when they speak and their voice is like low thunder, I’m suddenly riveted by their whole being.  I want to chitter like a cat at the window watching birds fluttering around outside.

Perhaps it’s because there is something fundamentally right and reassuring to me about a relaxed, warm male voice.  It’s a verbal embrace, a reassuring caress in my ears that everything is going to be all right.

I’m so curious to find out if any of you listen to audio books and if you do listen to audio books, are you aware of who the audio narrator is? I know Richard Armitage narrated two Georgette Heyer book, but do you actively seek certain narrators?

Are you like me? Does the right male voice send you?

If you want to listen to more of the panels from Love Fest, including HEROINES OF DESTINY — which is the panel that I moderated–go here on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/events/1905127766399699/permalink/1909010616011414/

Kiersten Hallie Krum will be back next week — and I’ll be blogging more on Thursday about other fascinating & fun parts of Love Fest.

Meanwhile, get on the hog, babe, and follow us at Lady Smut. ; >

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sexy Sunday Snippet: 1-800 by Alexa Day

26 Mar

Sure, Valentine’s Day may have given way to March Madness, and April showers aren’t far away. But is there ever a wrong time for holiday shopping? Of course not. Take a peek at “1-800,” in which our hero Jason Lowell starts out looking for one thing and ends up finding something far more exciting. 

With Valentine’s Day approaching, Jason has to find the perfect gift for his perfect fiancée, the beautiful, sexy Kate. But where will he find a present worthy of the love of his life? A bit of afternoon channel surfing, meant to stimulate his thoughts, leads to a home shopping network right out of his wildest fantasies. Before long, he’s stimulated in all the right ways! But will he find the gift Kate’s wanted all her life? Or will he be too distracted by the live product demonstrations?

*****

To the untrained eye it would appear that Jason was watching a basketball game in his basement man cave. But he knew he was looking for a Valentine’s Day present.

Sure, most other guys would actually look for a present in a more obvious place. The internet came immediately to mind, jam-packed with so many “Best Presents to Get Your Woman” lists that the websites had to find some way to make them all unique. One list was written by women. Another was written by a call girl. He had a feeling neither of those was entirely accurate, at least not for his purposes.

He could always just ask what she wanted. Kate wasn’t the sort to presume he was reading her mind, primarily because he had failed to do it so many times during the early months of their relationship. What she wanted most, she said, was reliability, even if that meant just asking her for advice. Still, something in him, some ancient provider gene that had survived eons of evolution, wanted to come through for her without any help.

Of course, there were the old standbys: chocolate, flowers, jewelry, what have you. He’d never met the woman who disliked flowers, and he brought them home every so often just to make her smile. He knew she liked chocolates, the darker the better, but if they were in the house his waistline would suffer for it. As for jewelry, well, the only jewel she wore regularly was the diamond he’d put on her finger this past Christmas.

So none of the standbys would prove interesting. He liked being interesting, but it put a lot of pressure on a guy.

In their time together he had usually been successful in getting her just the right thing. His secret was a simple one. He knew immediately that she was not an ordinary woman, so he didn’t bother with ordinary gifts. His friends had all mocked him for the unorthodox ideas. The ornate hardbound edition of Jane Eyre with a hand-painted bookmark at each chapter. The cute little tasseled earplugs for the years with her obnoxious roommate. A heart-shaped infuser for her tea. His friends had gone on and on about his “weird ideas.” But in the end, those guys hadn’t been interesting, and he still was. So there.

He grinned.

So far the commercials had been for beer (not really a present), another kind of beer (see above), a pizza with two kinds of bacon and six kinds of cheese (almost lunch time), diamonds (already got one), and a $45,000 luxury car. He’d watched this ad with her before. She’d taken one look at the car racing down a dark street and scoffed. “Oh, look at us!” she said scornfully. “We have money!” Then she’d flipped off the elegant woman in the passenger seat with one hand, and her smug-looking husband with the other.

No luxury car. Not that he could afford one.

The game started again with a slow-motion replay of North Carolina’s tiny little point guard driving right through Virginia’s entire defense for a layup. He groaned and reached for the remote. If he was going to shop for gift ideas, he could at least find a better game.

His thumb flicked the channel up button with practiced ease, and programs flashed by in a blur. First up was an even worse ball game. Law & Order. Chick flick. Predator movie. Two women in their underwear, giggling into the camera. Hogan’s Heroes.

Whoa whoa whoa.

He flicked back to the ladies in lingerie.

A blonde dressed in a red bra and panties stood next to an olive-skinned beauty wearing a merry widow. He loved the phrase merry widow. Ever since he’d first seen it, in the bathroom with a Victoria’s Secret catalog about a million years ago, he’d committed it and the luscious form it was wrapped around, to his memory.

The girl in red waved at the camera. “Hi!” she said. “I’m Cassidy.”

Merry widow waved. “And I’m Marissa.”

Then, in unison, they announced, “And this is…The Toy Box!”

The two of them put their arms around each other’s shoulders and tittered like this was going to be the most exciting television show in the world. He put the remote on the table.

“We’d like to welcome you to the Valentine’s edition of the most popular show on the Shop From Home Channel,” said Cassidy.

“But these toys are for grown-up boys and girls,” said Marissa. “So if you’re under eighteen, you need to change the channel.”

They stood there and giggled some more.

Come on, kiddies. Change the damn channel.

“All right, then,” said Marissa. “Now we’re ready to show you some awesome gifts that are sure to spice up your special day.”

This was probably going to be something lame, like crotchless panties or a cake pan shaped like a dick. But he kept watching. Just to be sure. Until one of those games turned around.

“Why don’t we get this party started with one of our most popular goodies?” asked Marissa. “Cassidy?”

“This is our Little Giant,” Cassidy said. She held up her hand, one finger extended as if she were pointing at the ceiling. She had a little gizmo on her fingertip that looked for all the world like one of those little vibrators. “It’s a great present for a special someone you might like to know a little better.”

“I’ll take some calls while you give us a demo, Cassidy,” said Marissa.

A demo. Like the people in TV Land needed her to show them where the on switch was. Actually, he and Kate had gotten a toy once where the button was hidden in the—

Cassidy had walked to the back of the set, where she tucked her thumbs into the waistband of those festive red panties and pulled them down, bending at her waist and supplying just the right amount of jiggle. Then she hopped up onto a chaise longue and spread her legs, bending them at the knee. Jason felt his mouth drop open.

What the hell channel is this?

*****

“1-800” is free and yours for the taking at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Kobo. Enjoy!

Sexy Saturday Round Up

25 Mar

Kiss me, I’m Irish.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day Weekend! We’re here to nurse that greenish complexion back to a rosy hue with some soothing links all about scintillating deeds being done in the name of lurv.  So slip some of that Irish Creme in your coffee and enjoy!

From Madeline:

Buffy is 20!

Amy Poehler has a supreme vagina–‘the Angelina Jolie of vaginas

Fictional Literary Texts

5 best literary sex scenes to bone up on

Sleeping naked supposedly has good effects on yer bod.

Romance author Brenda Jackson shares how she worked with her one true love to grow her romance empire out of POC romance.

You’re not just peeing—you’re improving your sex life!

Adorable historical slang for intercourse

What would the bookstore look like with only women authors? One book store tries it for a day…

Tell the men: her orgasm is not about you.

From Elizabeth Shore

Your signs are made, you’re ready to protest – but what to eat? Fuel your activist fire with the “she persisted” energy bar.

What the future of porn and sex technology means for women.

Threesomes can be awesome – but you’ve gotta plan them well.

It’s here all in one convenient place! The Nerve’s official glossary of sex terms.

8 weird looking things to plug up your butt that feel divine.

Is your man craving some wicked big guns? Here are the seven best exercises that’ll give him amazing arms.

Everything you need to know about ball gags.

Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch thinks it’s just fine to ask female employees if they plan on having kids.

Weird claymation video makes people feel either comforted or totally creeped out.

From Thien-Kim

Everyone has fantasies. Here’s 43 secret sexual ones.

Pairing sex toys with sexy reads? Count me in.

How long does an average sex session last? You might be surprised–or not.

Can Ikea ruin your marriage?

Apparently having more sex is good for your career. Let’s get cracking.

Looking for some new super sexy reads? Here are some free books for your ereader.

 

 

 

 

 

Billionaire Romance Will Never Die

24 Mar

by Elizabeth SaFleur

Let me be Captain Obvious. The rich aren’t like us. So it tracks that we’d be fascinated by these super rich creatures, right? Who wouldn’t want to live in that world, albeit virtually and vicariously, through romance stories? The “economic one percent” make problems disappear with the swipe of a credit card. They board private jets when the mood strikes for sushi but only from that little place they discovered in Japan. They buy all the shoes, books and enemy’s businesses they want, whenever they want.

Who wouldn’t want to read about these people?

A bunch of hands just went up in the room, as in “Me! Me! Stop with the billionaire romance already!” Apparently, a tribe of billionaire-hating readers who have a strong disdain for such reads exists! I discovered this on Facebook — the authority on all things true and accurate, right? written with extreme sarcasm. Direct quotes include:

“If I never read another billionaire romance life would be so grand.”

“Can we just have the billionaire thing over already?”

“Oh, yay. Another billionaire romance. Retch.”

I’m shocked, I tell you. SHOCKED.

Then I remembered hearing a panel at last year’s RT Booklovers Convention (forgive me for not remembering the details) where someone said Millennial’s reading tastes are vastly different from older generation’s. The younger generation wants–shudder–reality, as in romance books set in the real-world with characters who were authentic, i.e. not rich, not glamorous, not billionaires. In short, they wanted to read about people like them.

The same RT panelist said the older generations were more apt to want escapism romance. And, sorry to break it to the world, but at some point in the not too distant future the younger generation will become the older generation. So we authors need to care what these youngin’s think–today.

(Side note: Have you heard about the rich kids of Instagram? Well, lest you think everyone young is rolling pennies at night, take a gander at THIS.)

Back to our blog post at hand. Do these predictions mean tales of the wealthy whisking away the innocent virgin to unimaginable pleasures and private islands will go away? Is the billionaire erotic romance market, gulp, fading?

Nope. Not. Even. Close. So say, I, and not because I publish a billionaire erotic romance series. Scout’s honor.

Google images return results when you ask for “billionaire romance.” Thousands! Millions!

 

The Guardian recently published an article on this very topic, triggered by the recent Fifty Shades movie. (Read about my and Madeline Iva’s opinion on the movie here). How could anyone NOT click on an article with the headline, Filthy rich: our tortured love affair with wealth porn.

Wealth porn means accepting that someone is more interesting after seeing their stock portfolio. Kind of like being a virtual gold digger (guilty!). After all, many have said if Christian Grey lived in a trailer, he’d be considered an abuser. The fact he has a penthouse in Seattle’s most expensive building makes his, ahem, viewpoints and behavior around kink okay.

Back to the topic at hand. Forget that in real life millionaires and billionaires rarely have time for Saturday strolls with the family in the park, let alone time to jet off to Japan for sushi. Unless one has inherited a fortune, it takes an obscene amount of office face time to purchase luxury living. But in books, they have oodles of time to lavish attention and resources on their heroines. Thank goodness. I get enough reality in, well, real life.

Below are my super-non-scientific reasons why the super rich will grace our book’s pages for years to come and readers will love it–even the Millennials.

Billionaire romance can be aspirational. A girl’s gotta have a dream, so why not fill your head with visions of full-time maid service and a full-time cook (my ultimate dream)? But more than that, if you believe in the power of manifestation, what you imagine becomes closer to reality. Deep down, I wonder if this is what makes billionaire romance reading so appealing. I read at night and know my dream state is affected by this activity. I have to believe others feel the same.

Reality fatigue is real.  If you seek a break from the negative news filling our airwaves and headlines these days (who isn’t?), romance is perfect for such an escape. Reading about the super-rich takes this diversion to a new level. As for that RT panel that said Millennials don’t want reality? Remember that was before the recent U.S. presidential election, although we were deep in it. Just not as profoundly as we are now. Now we’re so entrenched in absurdity and negativity, we’re like pigs in slop (except pigs like slop).

Billionaire romance features the good guys. Lordy knows, we need some honest-to-God heroes right now, and will for decades to come to get over what’s happening in real life. In reality, the mega rich don’t have the best reputation, especially in today’s times. In romance novels, these wealthy heroes may be flawed, but they sure are heroic and deep down good. Heck, in books even the villains are usually redeemed. Or, if an unethical rich person is cast in a romance novel, they “get theirs” or at least are so obviously bad we know what we’re dealing with. That’s not always the case in real-life. That makes romance novels appeal to the better angels of our nature.

Note: In real life you’d be hard-pressed to find a billionaire who looks like Jamie Dornan. Just sayin’. 

No office pallor here!

Oddly, rich heroes and heroines make me feel normal. When reading, provided it’s not dark erotica or romance, my problems fade for a little bit. In fact, my problems don’t even show up in billionaire romance, even though the characters may be going through the same jealousy, insecurity, emotional vulnerability thing that I might be going through. But it always works out in romance, so I know it will be all right in the end. And if someone with a bank account the size of Fort Knox is worried about being loved, well, dammit, I’m not so strange after all.

In the end, romance has a time-tested appeal that taps into our human nature of wanting love to conquer all. In billionaire romance, we get to tap into that AND our desire for freedom and achievement — ultimately to not be at the behest of others.

Why do YOU love the billionaire romance? Or not?

And while you’re here, sign up for the LadySmut newsletter. We bring you all the smexy things to ponder.

~~~~~

Coming to the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta this May? Join the Ladysmut.com bloggers for a very special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Add this event to your RT Personal Agenda here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary erotic romance and she’s not afraid to get graphic about it  — “it” being the sex, the BDSM or Washington, DC society, which she regularly features in her series, the Elite Doms of Washington. Join her Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty exclusive reader’s group or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Heroines of Destiny!

23 Mar

You could go to college and get married — or you could be a brown fairy with wings instead! Choices, choices, choices.

by Madeline Iva

Go to college, have a career, get married, have children.  Is this the modern woman’s destiny? What if you don’t tick one of those boxes? I’m moderating a panel called HEROINES OF DESTINY on Saturday, 10AM at Virginia Festival of the Book, so I’ve been questioning the concept of destiny lately, especially for women who swim against the strong current of societal expectations.

The ancient Greeks thought of destiny as inescapable–your fate would find you no matter what.  Struggle as hard as you could against your destiny, the outcome would still be the same.  Cassandra is the ultimate heroine of destiny — Her inescapable fate was signed the moment she rejected Apollo’s advances, and that was that.  He cursed her with the gift of prophesy; no matter how often or how much she warned people of their fate, she was never believed. Yet she kept trying to over and over to change the outcome, only to watch events play out the way she foretold–even her own death.

Moving forward a thousand years or so, our panelists (including Pintip Dunn, NYTimes bestselling YA author) will discuss how their book’s heroines are fighting a certain destiny — whether it’s to marry and have children, to accept the loss of a lover, or to remain locked up in prison for a crime that hasn’t been committed yet.

I love the idea of a heroine who changes the course of her life because she’s fallen in love.  I see these works as feminist because the women go against the grain of their lives according to society’s expectations yet it all works out in the end.  Here are some of my fav fantasy examples:

THE LITTLE MERMAID: having fins while your loved one has legs is a pretty big romantic obstacle to overcome.  The Little Mermaid was very bold and plucky when it came to pursuing the object of her love–right down to changing her fundamental physical being–even though she had to pay a very large price.  Let all those considering plastic surgery and other gendered forms of modern torture beware.

STARTDUST: Yvaine is a star, who’s destiny is to twinkle in the sky and watch the doings of men from afar.  Yet she decides to abandon her place, and come down to the world of men to explore their hearts, as well as experience their joys and suffering.  I have some serious issues with parts of this novel/movie, but I appreciate the idea of a great and powerful star forging a new destiny for herself–with the man she loves.

Yvaine is a star who rocketed to earth and met her one true love.

Another way to think of HEROINES OF DESTINY is to think of powerful women who shape the lives and change the future of those around them.

THE FORGOTTEN BEASTS OF ELD: Sybel is content with her own solitude and magical menagerie far from the world of men until fate brings her a baby and a flame haired hero.  Then she is drawn into the snarled paths of men’s destiny.  I love how McKillip shows Sybel, using her various powers to shape and thrust aside the male forces around her rather than become their pawn.  Sybel takes her time and sounds her own heart in her decisions about how to forge the future.  Though the world of men shakes and angers her, ultimately, she finds a way to shed their petty resentments, fear, and bitterness. She finds her way to true love by the end, yes, but more importantly she discovers the path back to the calm stillness of her heart that makes her serene and content.

Sooooo good!

And finally — by far and away my favorite:

MALEFICENT: A fairy creature (Maleficent) and a boy become friends–the first way in which Maleficent goes in a different direction from the other creatures in fairy land.  At one point Maleficent (now grown) is betrayed and loses her wings–a kind of symbolic fairy tale rape.  What happens after that is partly shaped by Maleficent’s determination to avenge herself, and partly shaped by her wounded heart.  The movie offers an unexpected twist at one point — wherein Maleficent, now the wise protector and leader of her land in times of crisi, can shed her identity as victim once and for all.  I LOVED THIS FILM SO HARD.  It really made me want to cheer.  Though it is not in a typical m/f  love story or romance, it provides that same kind of deep joy and overcoming of obstacles that make us romance peeps so very happy.

In my novel WICKED APPRENTICE, Zephyr averts disaster for the people and the land all around her once she becomes a powerful sorceress.  Meanwhile, her desires and magic work upon the hero until he goes from being a tortured, reclusive wizard into a magnificent hero who is the only one that can end a decades long war. She is most definitely a Heroine of Destiny — and if you haven’t read the book yet you should– it’s only .99!

Are you the heroine of your own destiny? What great heroines do you love –and how do they shape the the lives of those around them?

And follow us at Lady Smut–we’re fated to be together.

Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

“Exploited” Bikini Babes Serving Coffee?

22 Mar

By Elizabeth Shore

If you ever find yourself in Kent, Washington and are hankering for a cuppa joe, you could head over to the local Starbucks or Peet’s Coffee. They’re as tried and true as the day is long. Coffee and a pastry and you’re good to go. But what if the same ol same ol isn’t your style? What if, for example, you like cleavage with your coffee? Some pasties with your pastries? Well, fear not, friends. There’s a place for that, too. Introducing Bikini Beans Espresso. As their logo states, “Coffee’s never been this HOT!”

Bikini Beans, as you’ll see from their Instagram page, is far from a normal coffee shop. To start, even the name is a bit of a misnomer. Bikinis? Not entirely. Pasties are the preferred form of “on top” adornment for the servers, with bikinis strictly relegated to the nether lands. Male baristas? Fuhgeddaboudit! Babes only, please. And those babes include owner, Carlie Jo, who isn’t shy about splashing pics of herself all over social media.

In addition to promoting the shop, Carlie Jo stated in an article in The Sun that being a Bikini Beans barista is empowering. “We have the right to work with grace, confidence and dignity,” she states, “regardless if it’s in a business suit, scrubs, or a bikini.” Right on, Carlie Jo. Not everyone, however, shares her views. A councilman in Spokane, Washington has been trying to push forward legislation around limits at bikini coffee stands popping up around the state. Just what exactly those “limits” are isn’t clear, but one can surmise they’re related to puttin’ on some more clothes. Some moms in the area, as shown in this ABC news report, share the councilman’s views.

The councilman states that his proposed legislation is “for the children,” as well as trying to curb the exploitation of women. However, a female barista at Bare Beans Espresso, another bikini coffee stand in the Spokane area, states emphatically that she feels neither demeaned nor exploited. In a YouTube video about the controversy surrounding these risqué coffee stands, store manager and barista Allison seems to share Carlie Jo’s views in feeling “empowered” by working in little more than pasties and a string bikini bottom. And she adds, “No one is forcing me to work here. I choose to.”

That, perhaps, is the rub. By definition, exploitation occurs when someone uses or takes advantage of another person without regard for that person’s interests. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it this way: “to use someone unfairly for your own advantage.” In that vein, can it accurately be said that women working at the bikini coffee shops are victims of exploitation? How about waitresses at Hooters? Beautiful women on magazine covers? The unifying feature is that they’re willing participants. Making the argument that someone is being exploited becomes problematic when the person wants and chooses to do what he or she is doing.

The other primary concern around the coffee bikini shops is from some who feel it’s inappropriate for kids to see scantily dressed baristas. Yet I wonder if those same concerned parents keep their kids safely hidden from the beach? The community pool? Lots of skin in those places. Is this protecting kids, or is it reinforcing the same tired message that the human body is shameful and best covered up.

For the record, there was a male-staffed bikini coffee stand in Washington called Banana Hammock. Hot beefcake dudes either shirtless or clad only in suspenders were serving up hot brews and awesome views to what appeared to be a primarily female clientele. Did the male baristas feel exploited? Demeaned? Apparently, we’ll never know. Yelp is reporting that the Banana Hammock went bust. Same with another place called Hot Cup of Joe. Women went there, according to the posted reviews, but not enough of them. Hot Cup of Joe has been rebranded Whip It A-Latte and is now staffed with…you guessed it…bikini-clad female baristas.

So prevalent are the bikini barista coffee shops in Washington and surrounding area that there’s even an online guide so you know where to go for sizzle with your steamed milk. But if cleavage and coffee isn’t your thing, there’s always Starbucks.

Elizabeth Shore writes both contemporary and historical erotic romance. Her newest book is an erotic historical novella, Desire Rising, from The Wild Rose Press. Other releases include Hot Bayou Nights and The Lady Smut Book of Dark Desires

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anything and Everything We Want: Rebecca Brooks Examines Surprising Desires in Make Me Beg

21 Mar

No need to beg for it. Click right here and buy it!

By Rebecca Brooks

When it comes to desire, books and movies can make it look easy. You see the one, and you know.

Unless you have no idea.

Or you know what you want, sometimes, but then other times it’s not so clear. Or part of you wants something and the other part says, “No way.” Who wins the battle of head versus heart? Should you listen to the voice that’s shouting, “You can’t have that!” Or is it better to lock Lady Responsible in the basement for the night? And why do we say no to ourselves so much, anyway?

In Make Me Beg, bartender Mackenzie swears up and down that she’s never going to fall for the ripped and rugged chef she’s worked with for three years. Connor may be gorgeous, funny, and smart as a whip, but he’s the love ‘em and leave ‘em type, and Mack’s got her reasons for staying away. She sticks to her guns—until the two are given the opportunity to design their dream bar/restaurant, and late nights working together make it hard to remember why she’s so determined to say no.

Early on, an explosive argument leads to some of the hottest sex of their lives. In the morning, they both decide their transgression can be chalked up to stress, hormones, and too many hours at work. It’s never going to happen again.

But then Connor proceeds to blindfold Mack, bind her wrists, and feed her a picnic. Yeah, I know, that’s not where you thought that sentence was going. But the scene really does start off—I won’t say innocent, because everything between these two is crackling with sexual tension. But the point is to get Mack to taste his proposed menu for their new bar/restaurant without letting other distractions get in the way.

But it turns out that no matter what they tell themselves, desire doesn’t fit into neat little boxes, easily compartmentalized and pushed to the side. It’s not long before Connor moves from feeding Mack to putting…other things in her mouth. Mack, blindfolded and bound, hears him undo his belt buckle. Then the sound of him unzipping his pants. She licks her lips, and that makes Connor lose it. He commands her to get on her knees. Mack hears the edge in his voice and thinks:

Oh, fuck, that was hot. Was she allowed to find that hot?

Could she be independent, wear shut-the-fuck-up boots behind the bar, and still be slayed by such a command?

It’s a question I’ve asked before, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Mack is strong, independent, capable, and not at all passive. She certainly doesn’t hesitate to give Connor a piece of her mind the rest of the time, which is why he has to hogtie her for a picnic in the first place. So is it “okay” for her to be turned on by Connor’s command?

In other words, can she be strong, independent, capable, and sexual? Is she allowed to be excited by something that could be thought of as passive or degrading, i.e. being commanded to get on her knees? Could that be empowering instead? And is it okay if she likes it, no matter what the answer is?

I wish I could say exactly where these questions come from, so I’d have a better idea of how to move past the limitations they stick us with. But it’s hard to discount a lifetime of social pressure women face to be good but not too good (a prude), and to please men but not too much (a slut). We’re supposed to make ourselves sexually available, but we have to be careful not to act like we like it too much. Really, are women allowed to enjoy anything guilt-free? (According to television, the answer is salads, non-fat yogurt, and doing laundry. Thanks, but I’ll pass.)

Mack has to work twice as hard to make it in a male-dominated field like bartending. She practically raises herself after her mother dies, finds her own way in the world, and has now worked her way up to become a co-owner of her own bar/restaurant. Mack survives by being smart and always staying one step ahead. She’s pretty much kicking patriarchy’s ass in her killer black boots.

So no wonder it throws her off to get on her knees for this man. She’s not just worried about the usual BS that she’ll be judged or denigrated by society, her friends, and most importantly, herself, if she winds up another notch on Connor’s belt. She’s wondering whether she’ll still be the same powerful woman she aspires to be if she submits to him and likes it.

Anne Calhoun’s Liberating Lacey is a great book, but Lacey’s genuinely upset after she and Hunter role play a forced-sex scene that she specifically asks for. It’s totally okay to want to try something and then decide it’s not for you! But what would happen if Lacey actually loved living out a taboo fantasy? And why does good girl librarian Sophie in Victoria Dahl’s Taking the Heat feel her naughty side has to be secret? Sure, it’s fun and sexy to have such a prim little lady be full of surprises. But the whole reason that storyline works is because everyone expects her to be proper and prudish in the first place. Can you think of a high-heat romance novel where the fun and surprise is that the strong, sexy hero turns out to also have a naughty side? Of course not, because it’s already assumed!

Mack is ready, though, to take charge of her sexuality and own what she wants. She has a very inspiring man to work with, and she goes on to make it very, very clear how much she wants him. Being bound and told what to do paradoxically winds up unshackling her. It gives her permission to let go and do what she wants—not what she thinks she’s supposed to do or has convinced herself she’s not allowed to have. By pausing and having that gut-check, she allows that sex and sexuality can be complicated and gives herself permission to break a few rules and discover what she enjoys. Especially since those rules aren’t necessarily ones she deep down agrees with in the first place.

And she’s not a different person because of it. What we do in the bedroom (or in this case, by a lake) doesn’t have to translate into the rest of our lives; it doesn’t even have to mean anything outside of the particular pleasures of the moment. Mack can consent to one command, now, but that doesn’t mean Connor gets to tell her what to do the rest of the time. Or even at the picnic—the whole time, he’s still very clearly reading her body language, checking in with her, and making sure that sex is something they’re doing together. Mack may be on her knees, but she’s by no means powerless.

Mack isn’t less of a badass because she’s turned on by Connor’s command. She can absolutely wear her shut-the-fuck-up boots behind the bar—and when she’s kneeling in the grass. She’s not a different person for doing it, and she’s not giving anything up. She’s complex, and multifaceted, and human. And isn’t that a good thing?

I like that Mack asks herself whether she’s allowed to want what she does. I’m also glad she decides the answer is yes. She’s all the better for listening to her desires and allowing herself to go for it, even—or especially—when those desires surprise her. I think it’s a good lesson for the rest of us, too.

More about Make Me Beg:

“Intensely sexy and packs and emotional punch!” – #1 New York Times Bestselling author Lauren Blakely

He’ll bring her to her knees.

Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she’s got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Mack doesn’t do players, and she doesn’t do one-night stands. If Connor wants to work with Mack, he’s going to have to keep his strong, sexy hands to himself.

Connor Branding is determined to prove he’s not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves. The two of them can’t agree on anything—except how scorching hot their chemistry is. Connor may be ready to indulge every desire Mack’s been denying herself…but turning business into pleasure is likely to get him burned.

 

Rebecca Brooks lives in New York City in an apartment filled with books. She received a PhD in English but decided it was more fun to write books than write about them. She has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma, but she always likes coming home to a cold beer and her hot husband in the Bronx. Sign up for Rebecca’s newsletter at www.rebeccabrooksromance.com/newsletter to get a free novelette and a monthly email about Rebecca’s adventures.

 

The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Erotic romance excerpt from The Discipline by Jade A. Waters

19 Mar

by Jade A. Waters

Today’s excerpt is from BDSM erotic romance The Discipline by Jade A. Waters, the second in her Lessons in Control series from Carina Press, following The Assignment. Also be sure to check out our Lady Smut Q&A with Jade.

Here’s the official blurb for The Discipline:

How far would you go to fulfill a fantasy?

Maya Clery has taken risks before. Her relationship with Dean Sova started out as a risk—a series of sexual assignments, each hotter, wilder, more intense than the last. Exploring her submissive side with a powerful, trustworthy Dominant has been everything she hoped for, everything she needed.  

Dean pushes Maya to her limits—it’s one of the things she loves most about him. But as they push the boundaries outside their sex life, meeting friends and family members, Maya realizes there’s still much she doesn’t know about the man with whom she’s sharing her bed.

And when a fantasy simmering between them becomes their latest challenge, past secrets begin to reveal weaknesses in their relationship that neither is ready to face.

Excerpt from The Discipline by Jade A. Waters:

A chill blared through me having left the bathwater. It was almost as sharp as the curiosity tripping from my head to my toes. I stepped out and padded across the carpet to the bed, where I spun to face Dean. I made a show of leisurely slipping the towel off my body and tossing it to the floor, but he stayed unfazed and motionless in the water.

Fine, tough guy.

But who was I kidding?

I loved this.

Eager for the game to commence, I lay back on the bed, my toes barely touching the floor and an uncanny ripple of excitement shooting through my limbs. At Dean’s rise from the tub, I saw how hard he’d grown. The bulbous head of his cock stuck out from his pelvis, those beautiful dark veins running from root to tip. He dried off, the view forming a heavy cloud in my lungs, and I lifted my hands to my stomach to spread them over my goose bumped flesh.

How the hell had the mere act of walking over here and seeing him watch me get me this aroused?

Dean discarded his towel. He bent to dig his fingers into the pile of my robe on the floor, and I tried to make out what he was doing. It wasn’t until he stood upright and held the tie in his hand that I clenched my knees together. He curled the fabric around both his palms and walked in my direction at an excruciating pace, then stood against my knees, naked and hard before me. He smelled of the lavender salt we’d sprinkled in the tub, and him. Sexy, masculine him.

“Give me your hands,” he said.

I stretched them out. Dean wound the fabric around my wrists, close to my skin but not too tight. My groin flexed at the scent of his body and the swell of his cock not quite reaching my needy flesh. 

After he tied a loose knot, he gave my wrists a shove to indicate I should lay them above my head. “Spread your legs.”

I did. Dean stared down at my sex, his eyes glazed. His mouth formed that O I adored, and I couldn’t believe how much I was shaking, how fucking riled I’d gotten before he started stroking my slit. I could hear how wet I was in the gentle slicks of his finger. “Oh, fuck.”

“You’re so excited. Wetter than I imagined. I love how our conversation has done this to you.” 

I closed my eyes at the slide of his fingers inside my entrance, pulsing in and out to tease the rim of my pussy. Once I rocked my hips up for more, Dean withdrew his touch, resting one hand above each of my knees.

My eyelids popped open and I pouted, tortured by his naked body between my legs and his faint touch across my thighs.

“Are you ready to hear your test?” That devil of a grin played on his face when he pitched forward to lick one of my nipples, and every fiber of my being screamed for satisfaction.

“Yes. Please.”

“If we’re going to live that fantasy,” Dean said, inching one finger along the inside of my thigh in a dare, “then we’ll need it to be perfect. Safe. I need you to tell me what you want from it. How you want it to happen. What you want to happen.” His finger returned to my cunt, but his stroke was there and gone before he held back. “And if you tell me well, I’ll touch you more.”

Oh, yes.

I tongued my lip. “Why are you such a tease?”

Dean slipped his finger inside enough to make me whimper, then he took it away. “Because you crave it.” He sucked his finger into his mouth, and I groaned before he dropped it back to my thigh with a smack. I gasped and jerked on the bed. “Start talking, sexy.”

“Okay,” I said. He didn’t move, the outside of his thighs against the inside of mine, his cock fucking hard and tempting. I was going to lose my mind. “We start in a room after we’ve made sure all are on board.” To this, Dean curved both hands around my thighs and held them in place. My pulse hammered as I tried to envision how it might go. I rolled my head against my arm, keeping my wrists high above my head. “But we’ll be at a hotel, because it has to be neutral ground.”

Dean slid his hands higher and stopped. “What are you wearing?”

“Something sexy. Dressy. We both are.”

Dean shifted higher. “I know you like dressing up. Feeling sexy, though you always are.” He shifted higher still, his fingers almost reaching the creases between my sex and my thighs. “But get to the good parts.”

I giggled. “Fine. You’ll overwhelm me. He’ll overwhelm me.”

“That’s all you have to say?” He took another swat of my thigh. “No, no. Be explicit.”

I shivered as his thumbs resumed their sway across my skin. “You’ll strip me down for him. I’m yours, but you’re letting him in…” The grip of Dean’s hands crept up. “I’m not sure of everything that will happen.” Dean shook his head, dissatisfied and smacking the inside of my other thigh. My eyelids fluttered and I spoke swiftly. “There will be kissing. Touching.”

“And? What do you really desire with us? You’ll have two men. What is it about the idea that truly revs you up? How do you want us to overpower you?” He ticked his fingers back and forth, his use of my word making me blush. When Dean crouched to the floor and breathed hot air over my sex, I jumped. “What’s in that head of yours that’s got you glistening right now? Because you are…” He shoved my legs farther apart and leaned closer until I gasped.

Opening my mouth, I tasted the words, and when I spoke, I nearly purred. “I want to kiss him while you watch. But while you touch me.” Speaking it amplified the crash of my pulse and shot a bolt of arousal out to my toes. The image alone had me wet, but saying it to the promise of Dean’s fingers? Yes.

“There we go,” he said, strumming me with his fingers, parting my pussy lips with his thumbs. I moaned, and he tongued my hole for one enticing moment. “You taste delicious. Keep talking, naughty girl.”  

The Discipline is available for purchase for KindleNookGoogle PlayiBooks and Kobo.

BDSM Newbies and Erotic Romance: Q&A with The Discipline author Jade A. Waters

17 Mar

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Author Jade A. Waters has made a name for herself with her sexy approach to erotica writing. I have published her work in several of my anthologies and have always been impressed with the way it draws the reader in, whether she’s writing about a flogger (in The Big Book of Orgasms) or Shakespeare and theater and love (in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1).

After publishing numerous short stories, the San Francisco Bay Area-based author landed a three-book deal with Carina Press for her Lessons in Control trilogy, which follows Maya and Dean, both relative newcomers to the world of BDSM, on an exciting erotic journey. The series started with The Assignment, which featured the pair starting to date, with Dean giving Maya a series of increasingly risqué assignments, involving everything from public sex to bondage to sex clubs. Now, it continues with newly published The Discipline, as they take their sexual fantasies to a new level,  and the third book in the series, The Reward, will be published on June 12.

What especially drew me to her series is that while many kinky erotic novels are set in the world of dungeons with confirmed Masters and submissives, everyone fully aware of their BDSM identities from the start, both Maya and Dean are navigating those exciting but often confusing paths together. She has to figure out how much she can share with him about her past, which includes an abusive ex, and he has to figure out how far he can go with his kinky fantasies, especially as they ease into becoming reality. In Maya, Waters has created a heroine who is starting to tiptoe out from the shadow of her troubling history and into a future where she can crave roughness and tenderness from the same person. In our interview, I asked her about her writing career, choosing ebooks over print, BDSM and consent and what we can expect from this exciting literary love affair.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How and why did you get started writing erotica and erotic romance?

Well, I’ve been writing fiction and poetry since I was a young girl, but I was also on the precocious side growing up…which eventually translated into a thing for provocatively reading synonyms from a thesaurus to my high school sweetheart over the phone. (For some reason, me reading the word “smoldering” often resulted in his squeaky voiced “Can you come over, maybe?”) Around the same time I discovered Anaïs Nin and The Best American Erotica 1993, and I realized I wanted to give sexy fiction a try. My first attempt was a story about a Russian princess trapped in a tower; her king father was attempting to marry her off to a bunch of disappointing courters, and she was supposed to be saved by a seductive stranger…but I never did finish that story. After that, I penned the occasional ditty every few years. The truth is that I fought the idea of writing erotica for a long time for too many reasons, but once I finally decided to up and go for it, it was on. I wrote two stories that I tried to submit to a small call (one of which ended up appearing later in Coming Together: Among the Stars), and then when I decided I was really serious in early 2013, I submitted “The Flogger” to you. That ended up being my first publication in The Big Book of Orgasms later that year!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: When did you first get the idea for the romance between Maya and Dean, and was there a specific inspiration for it? Did you always plan for it to be three books?

JADE A. WATERS: Maya and Dean’s story was one part my own experience, and about three parts “what if?” The initial idea was sparked because I had a short-lived relationship with a man who playfully gave me an assignment on date one. I thought it was fun (my turn-ons are “playing” and “trying things”), but it wasn’t my thing in the long run, nor would we have ever worked out in a serious way. Pair with that my own history of having been in an abusive relationship in college, and the “what if” arose as I toyed with the idea of how the assignments and power dynamic would play out long term for someone who liked the submission, but who had only experienced it in a negative context. Maya’s independence is a mix of sass and survival—safety and control are imperative to her daily life, so I wanted to explore how that would work if she desired something considerably contrary. When I started book 1 I had some faint ideas of what could happen as they explored and their relationship continued to develop—so I imagined it could be a series, but I didn’t have much beyond an overall arc when I wrote The Assignment.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: There are some very vivid descriptions of things like sex clubs and rope bondage. Did you do any research for the books?

JADE A. WATERS: I do like to do my research. 🙂 It was a mix of memories of a few trips to sex clubs in the past, knowledge from a friend who studied shibari, and a lot of scouring the internet for alternate ideas. Also, reading is key. You pick up a lot from other stories and supplement with research as needed.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Can you tell me about your writing process? For the trilogy, did you write at a set time every day? Did you outline?

JADE A. WATERS: My “process” has morphed like crazy throughout this series. Book 1 was a breeze; it just popped right out. Book 2 had a lot of life and health issues throwing everything off, and required significant time and rewrites. Book 3 happened pretty quickly but needed a solid tweak between the manuscript turned in and what readers will see. The one thing that definitely held true throughout was that I’m a morning writer. It’s my most creative, calm time. I get up at 4 most days to get an hour or so of work in before I go to my day job. Weekends, I’ll start at 6 or so and go until the lunch hour.

I’m pretty simple when it comes to the how—it’s just me and a Word doc—but I like my coconut milk lattes and water in hand and to just go at it. Editing I seem to be able to do later into the day, which is helpful—but any big overhauls need morning light. As for outlining, that’s a big yes for novels. I use a combination of the Hero’s Journey, a 9-step outline process I picked up at a conference a while back, and then a method posted by Glen C. Strathy that I love. I merge these three styles together in a giant document that I print and keep on hand complete with character sketches and floor plans of characters’ houses as I work.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How did you decide on e-publisher Carina Press, an imprint of Harlequin, as the publisher for your series?

JADE A. WATERS: My agent, Jessica Alvarez, and I shopped The Assignment around for a few months. Some publishers weren’t sure on a series. When the offer came in, we had two—one was for print for a single book, and the other was for the whole series with Carina. While I loved the idea of print, I’ve been fortunate to have been in print in several anthologies and I knew there was time for a print novel later. Carina was enthusiastic about the whole series, which excited me! So, after talking it around with Jessica, it was an easy yes.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Both Maya and Dean are intrigued by BDSM, but are both new at exploring it. Why did you decide to have them both be inexperienced? What was it like to write about a dom who has to act in control but is also, at times, unsure of what he’s doing when it comes to their power dynamics?

JADE A. WATERS: Ultimately, everyone has to be new at BDSM before they’re into BDSM. The desires can be part instinct, but we don’t just wake up one day knowing we like to be spanked or whatever without giving it a whirl. There are a bounty of books out there right now with a super experienced dom and inexperienced (and oft virginal) sub, and it drives me nuts. I wanted to explore two people who had a little exposure and interest in trying more, so that they could develop and cater to their own needs, but together. I find that exploration concept really sexy, which is why it was such an integral part of Maya and Dean’s relationship. However, it definitely posed some challenges in portraying Dean. He had to be in control, and yet he had to make rookie mistakes (he does in The Assignment, after all). It’s maddening to read and watch, but life is all about learning, and that’s what they do. Maya and Dean’s flubs allow them to figure out how to communicate and negotiate their boundaries—something I don’t think ever stops, in reality, in BDSM or any relationship. So they continue navigating that throughout the series.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Maya is intrigued by BDSM and submitting to Dean, but very wary based on abuse in a past relationship that had included some elements of BDSM, and she is also works with abused women at her job, which complicates her perspective. Was it challenging to incorporate the subject of domestic violence into a book of kinky erotic romance?

JADE A. WATERS: In some ways, yes, but not completely. I remember that when I told a non-erotica writer pal about Maya’s background early on, as well as some of what happens in the book, she’d said, “Wait, you’re basically giving her PTSD and having her trigger in an erotic romance book?” I’d found the question rather curious. I think we as a society have a tendency to gloss over the fact that real people have real histories and that can impact one’s choices and experiences. Maya is a fictional character, sure, but I like my characters to be real people. As someone who actually lives with PTSD—which does flare for most PTSD sufferers randomly throughout life—and yet someone who is also extremely sexual, I didn’t find the combination all that strange; I know what that feels like. It doesn’t saturate every moment but there are periods when it’s active. In the same way, making sure that past experience didn’t oversaturate the relationship was a challenge I enjoyed. To me, Maya’s story is about finally coming to terms with her past throughout the course of the series while she finds not only love and lust but herself in her relationship with Dean.

 One of the biggest themes of The Assignment is safety, which is what allows Maya to indulge the side of her that wants to have sexual adventures ranging from bondage to public sex to visiting a sex club. What about Dean makes her feel safe, and what, if anything, about Dean makes her feel unsafe?

JADE A. WATERS: Dean is naturally dominant, but he’s also a playful, compassionate guy. Maya is playful too, which is why they respond so well to one another. His openness allows her to feel safe, as does all his checking in—he may be giving assignments, but they really cater their dynamic together, and flesh it out through the series. We learn more about Dean in The Discipline, and some of his experiences have given him his own reticence that he [foolishly] tries to cover up. But as their relationship grows, it’s got to come out. I’m really into the pieces unfolding in time with people much like peeling back an onion, and yet, that lends to the challenges these two face. Maya’s questioning of safety comes from her background, pure and simple. It’s hard for her to place her trust entirely in someone else’s hands, but she wants to with Dean. Later, when she’s found her confidence in submission, she’s able to use that to call Dean out when he’s holding back. I wouldn’t say she feels unsafe then; in fact she feels safe enough to make the call and draw him out to meet her, too.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: If Maya had not met Dean, do you think she would have found other ways to explore her interest in BDSM?

JADE A. WATERS: Maybe? Frankly, I think she was too busy avoiding. If—and I mean if—she did find it later, I think it would have taken her a long time, because she was mighty happy with her fancy free love and sex life. There’s something about Dean that pushes that button for her in the perfect combo of dominant, charming, and sweet.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: The San Francisco Bay Area, the setting for the series and your home, is very prominent in the series. What’s so sexy about the area? Do you think people are more open to exploring BDSM there than in other parts of the United States?

JADE A. WATERS: I didn’t realize how into the area I was until I started writing erotica, honestly. Someone pointed out that I had a water motif and I had to pause before I realized, um, hello, I’ve been writing watery motifs for a while. I lived in Nevada until I was a teen, and from there I was in Sonoma, Marin, all over the East Bay…this place is just so incredibly lovely. (A 12-year-old me protested becoming a California girl and I now proudly tote that badge.) There’s water everywhere, be it moderate rains or on the coast. And waves…they’re so sexy to me. It’s that soothing but rhythmic one-two punch. I’d read a few erotica books set in other highly populated areas and none seemed to be here, so I felt like it was high time the Bay Area got some quality love! As for BDSM here…San Francisco is such a far cry from many places in our country. There’s a lot of open-mindedness (never mind several BDSM and sex club options), so, if there aren’t more people exploring it here there are at least more aware of and open to it here, I think. 

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Was your focus on safety and consent a response to the perceptions in popular culture of BDSM? Were you trying to address any cultural myths about kinky relationships?

JADE A. WATERS: YES!!! (Sorry, was I shouting?) I have read and heard about far too many misconceptions that BDSM is actually abuse. This is dead wrong. A consensual BDSM relationship is a beautiful thing. A nonconsensual relationship of any type is abuse. But BDSM is not a synonym for abuse, and many people still believe this is the case because unfortunately in real life and in fiction some do treat it as an excuse to abuse. That’s a no-no. Also, I think consent is an extremely important topic. I need to preface this with the fact that I under no circumstances believe it is a fiction writer’s job to educate the public on consent or to only write consensual scenes—and it drives me crazy that people say otherwise. However, if one is writing a BDSM story and they don’t intend for the dom to be an abusive character, then one does have to be a responsible writer and make sure the consent, communication, and negation is there in a healthy way. For Maya and Dean’s story, consent and safety was imperative, both because I wanted them to have a real and healthy BDSM relationship, and because Maya’s backstory requires safety in her relationships. Period.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of writing this trilogy?

JADE A. WATERS: This is strangely the hardest question you’ve given me, Rachel! 🙂 Favorite…man, all of it? The way the story morphed over time, and at the same time challenged me and exorcised some of my own demons. I really loved Maya’s growth throughout the series (just you wait until book 3), and it felt good to watch her develop. Same for Dean. Hardest? Mmmm…my life, like, completely blew up at the start of drafting book 2. So I think it would be cool to try writing a series not under so much life stress! (You hear that, Universe? Eh-hm.) Part of that was the pace, and part was just all that was going on. But, I think it worked out all right!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Can you give us a hint at what happens in The Discipline, which was just published, and the third book, The Reward?

Jade A. Waters: Happy to! The Discipline sees Maya and Dean learning the discipline of having a serious relationship while also exploring more sexual discipline, which means more play, and several really hot fantasies that will definitely challenge them. A. Lot. By The Reward, they’re not only more stable but stronger…however, some past challenges will confront them, hard. We will see tremendous growth in both characters…as well as in their relationship. It’s a mighty reward!

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: What have the responses been like from readers to the series?

JADE A. WATERS: Fairly positive, I think! Some people seemed to really like their dynamic and the story, which is amazing to hear. Some wanted more Dean in book 1, which I knew would show up in book 2 because The Assignment was more about Maya’s growth…so I’m hoping they find what they’re seeking when they read on. I try not to read reviews too closely and when I do I just figure to each her own, but so far it seems people are enjoying, which is such a compliment.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Anything else to add?

JADE A. WATERS: Yes…a giant thank you for having me over!!

Click here to read a sexy free excerpt from The Discipline, which is available for purchase for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo.

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

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