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Booked author Leandra Vane on BDSM romance, writing male/male sex scenes and #ownvoices

16 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

As soon as I heard about the new BDSM romance novel Booked by Leandra Vane, I knew I wanted to read it. Actually, as soon as I saw the sexy cover with a man’s wrists handcuffed and the words “Detectives Were His Ultimate Fantasy” at the top, I knew. Isn’t that a wonderful feeling? I don’t know if there’s a specific word for it besides “anticipation,” but I get tingly when I see a book and immediately know: You’re going to be mine.

Isn’t this a HOT cover?

I’m pleased to report that Booked was every bit as sexy and fascinating as my initial inkling indicated it would be. Vane, a prominent sexuality blogger and author, has spun a small town romance that’s kinky, smart and edgy, with a fast pace that kept me turning the pages as fast as I could (it’s for sale in print and ebook, but I’m a sucker for print). There are many layers to this romance novel, which features a kinky bisexual male protagonist, Nate, a writer who volunteers at the local library and also suffers from nerve damage. He has a BDSM mistress, Charlotte, who’s just started dating the also kinky Ian, but then Nate also falls for his town’s hunky new librarian, James. All that, and there’s even a happily ever after!

I wanted to learn more about the process of writing Booked, which seemed extra fitting for Pride month, so I emailed Leandra Vane and here’s what she had to say about writing male/male romance, #ownvoices, the mental side of kink and BDSM, self-publishing and much more. You can follow her on @Leandra_Vane on Twitter to find out what she’s up to next, and she also has an original tale, “A Stolen Story,” forthcoming in my November anthology Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3.

Booked author Leandra Vane

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: How long have you been writing erotica and how did you get involved with it? How is writing erotic fiction different for you than writing nonfiction about sex and kink?

LEANDRA VANE: I’ve been a reader of erotic fiction since I was a teenager. It has been a constant and important aspect of my sexuality for my entire sexual life. But I didn’t start writing erotica until I was 25 years old. I had been surrounded by a lot of sex negative attitudes growing up and had the basic impression that romance and erotica wasn’t “Real Writing.” But in 2013 I launched my sexuality blog The Unlaced Librarian where I reviewed non-fiction sexuality books that had been really helpful in my life. This bolstered some confidence so I started writing erotic stories and submitting them to anthologies. At first I just wanted to experiment and see how it felt to write in the genre. What I discovered was the kind of writing that suited me so well I could grow and thrive as a writer. June marks my four year anniversary as a sex writer and I’ve genuinely never been happier.

I think writing erotic fiction is interesting because it lets me explore certain topics from the perspective of different characters as well as exploring how the setting is infused into the sexual aspects of the story. For example, a lot of my stories take place in small Midwestern towns and that flavor certainly impacts how my characters work through their relationships and kinks. Writing non-fiction is more focused. I tend to take one viewpoint and keep it as concise as I can. It’s more structured in order to be effective as sex education and help people work through aspects of their sexualities without becoming overwhelmed.

Both types of writing are rewarding. But I love the ability to see different perspectives around a topic and explore the harsh and painful aspects in a creative way. There are some aspects of sex, disability, and embodiment that are difficult for me to write in non-fiction. But I dive right in with these themes in fiction because I’m more emotionally connected and my characters can serve as an outlet for all the different ways I feel about things, even when these feelings conflict.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You’ve written that while the idea for Nate and James came to you easily, you almost didn’t write Booked because you weren’t sure you could do justice to a male/male plotline. What made you push past that initial resistance?

LEANDRA VANE: Ultimately I just loved my characters so much I couldn’t not write them. At first I felt like I was somehow “stealing” an experience that was not mine – being a gay man. But when I looked at certain characteristics and qualities of my characters, I saw that I was bringing a lot of my own experiences into the story and the characters. I asked friends and readers of an array of sexual orientations and body identities if they would like to read a story about a librarian and a tattooed novelist exploring kinky role play together and the answer was a resounding yes. I’m now open to writing a lot of different pairings I haven’t been in the past. I’m a romantic erotica writer and readers need and want interesting characters in a variety of pairings. So I’m going to write the ones that interest me. I’m easily seduced by my characters so this breakthrough has been really freeing.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since this was your first time writing a male/male romance, I’m curious about how the experience was similar and different from the pairings you’ve written in the past. Were there aspects of it that you struggled with more than when writing female characters?

LEANDRA VANE: At first I was a little caught up on trying to do things the “right” way and doing justice to my masculine characters. I asked both gay and straight guys in my life how they felt during and about sex. I learned a lot, but I was mostly struck with how their experiences with sex and romance were not so different from mine. I certainly kept some things in mind but ultimately I focused on making unique and complete characters. Once I got rolling, I was led by their unique pasts, motivations, and desires. Confronting this challenge has made me more aware and able to write well-rounded characters no matter what body or sexual orientation they possess, which is invaluable for me as a writer and an experience I’m so grateful to have had.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: There’s a gradual education about BDSM that unfolds for James, who’s had kinky fantasies but has never acted upon them until he gets together with Nate. Nate and Charlotte recommend books for James to read and they have plenty of detailed discussions before they actually try anything kinky together. Why was this important to both the story and to you as an author to have this slow buildup?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally think it’s important to bring a more varied level of sexual experience to erotic stories. One of the reasons I didn’t try to write erotica myself for so long was because I felt I was sexually inexperienced or not kinky enough. But there are way more people I know who are curious about or just beginning to explore aspects of sexuality than people who have had loads of hardcore, creative, kinky sex. I started wondering, why can’t I have characters who haven’t been sexual with a lot of partners? Why can’t I have a main character in a BDSM story who had fantasized about BDSM but had not tried anything yet? These were more interesting stories to me and ones I connected to.

Also, I feel like talking about sex and desires is intimate and vulnerable. I’ve read a lot of erotic stories where the action happens so fast and the characters go into the sexual situation nervous and sort of looking at each other from the corner of their eye and then things just happen. It’s exciting and all, but I don’t think the tension or excitement is lost when characters talk about things first. In a way, some of the dialogue scenes in Booked felt very erotic to me.

Communication and understanding yourself as well as your partner is a high value for me as a sex educator so I try to infuse this into my fiction when I can.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Something that stood out to me is how much attention is paid in the book to making sure there’s both consent and participation from both tops and bottoms in the BDSM scenes. At a play party, Charlotte asks Nate, “What is it you want out of this scene before you’re at the mercy of my hand and mood?” This struck me as different than a lot of the dominants I’ve read about. What does this level of care toward the submissives from dominants in the book signify about their relationships?

LEANDRA VANE: I personally find it erotic and enticing when the top is fully engaged with the bottom and the scene. It’s a personal preference but I often get turned off if there’s not at least a hint in an erotic story that all partners are consenting. When I play in kink scenes with my current top, I still always ask things like if I can touch him or if it’s okay that we do certain things in a scene and he does the same for me. We’ve been playing together for over a year.

I feel this reiterates the underlying friendship that the characters have for each other outside the dungeon. Sometimes I feel sexual or kink relationships somehow fall outside of parameters of being supportive friends toward each other and I wanted my characters to have a foundation beneath their power dynamics.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Another aspect of BDSM that I really liked was that you explore the psychological aspect of kink as much as (if not more) than the physical side of it, which is often the main image vanilla people have of BDSM. During their first time playing together, Nate tells James that he likes being blindfolded even though it’s “its own special kind of torture” because “It forces me to really give up control.” For Nate, what makes that giving up of control so arousing?

LEANDRA VANE: The psychological aspect of BDSM was really important for me in the book. I wanted it to be just as prominent as the physical aspects in the story.

For Nate specifically, giving up control is a complete matter of trust. Since he can’t feel half of his body, being blindfolded means he will not know if he accidentally gets hurt or even where the top is touching him. As a disabled person with nerve damage, I can say giving your partner complete control over your body like this takes an astounding amount of trust. Call me a vulnerability slut, but when you trust your partner that much, I find it really hot. Considering Nate had a very bad relationship based on lies and mistrust in his past, this is a personal development aspect of his character that shows he is moving on, investing in healthy aspects of his new relationship, and growing as a person.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Nate also compares the physical pain he suffers because of his nerve damage to the kind he craves in kink as a submissive, the main difference being he has control over the latter and can stop it at any point. Can you elaborate on that connection between unwanted and wanted pain?

LEANDRA VANE: Unwanted pain is terrible and for many people is a non-negotiable part of life. Not having a choice is perhaps one of the most difficult things to cope with in life. BDSM is all about choice, negotiation, and consent. When elements of pain feel good, it can be empowering to play with it and help you cope with the times in your life that you have no choice but to endure the pain.

I also know that certain aspects of pain can be very pleasurable but physical pain from sickness, chronic conditions, or illnesses can frighten people away from harnessing pain for pleasure. Having a character that goes through both experiences was important to me to include in the ongoing conversation about BDSM, which I feel I can contribute to through fiction.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: While the heart of Booked is the romance between Nate and James, Nate is also bisexual and a submissive to Charlotte, something that James takes very much in stride and is even interested in learning more about. Was it tricky to navigate the various relationships among the three of them as well as Charlotte’s other partners?

LEANDRA VANE: This aspect was not tricky in the sense that this is how I see things and how I experience sexual attraction. I get into a bad habit of thinking everyone is a bisexual polyamorous person and my friends have to remind me that isn’t how it works. (I can still dream!) Early feedback I received warned me that perhaps the aspect with Charlotte would not be believable or that James wouldn’t be okay with Nate having a Domme. I took a chance and developed this aspect of my characters anyway. I hope that in exploring the motivations and attitudes of my characters that the relationships feel natural and genuine. I’m toying with writing a sequel in which Nate, James, Charlotte, and her partner Ian have formed a loose BDSM-based Polycule. We shall see.

But, just like writing sexually inexperienced characters, I decided there was nothing wrong with writing sexually fluid characters too. It reflects my own experience of my sexuality and of some of my friends so I feel the representation in fiction is important.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Since the library where James and Charlotte work, and Nate volunteers, plays such a central role in Booked, I’m curious about the connection between books (and reading and writing) and romance in the novel. Clearly, all three are huge book lovers, and books play a central role in both entertaining and educating them, so I’m curious what you see as the role of books in Booked.

LEANDRA VANE: In the story both Charlotte and James first stumble upon their kinks in books: Charlotte in history books and James in a book about detectives and crime. Nate is also a novelist who uses his writing to explore some themes in BDSM. All three are indeed book lovers and though each character possesses their kinks for different reasons, it is the element of books that binds all three of them together.

My idea initially was to have the library serve as a metaphorical symbol for a church. It’s an historical building that becomes a sanctuary for my characters. Through the stories and information in books my characters transcend the mundane aspects of their sexuality to engage with their bodies and their fantasies in a deeper, more textural (and enjoyable) way.

It’s also a blatant relay of some of my experiences working at a library in the past. Whether it was the cute white haired lady who checked out mountains of “bodice-rippers” or stories of romance, sex, and violence that I read in the microfilm reels of my local newspaper, the library was and is a well of human experience. Sexuality is part of that experience I wanted to bring forth.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Booked is an #ownvoices novel, meaning that you, like your protagonist, Nate, share certain elements in common, such as having nerve damage. Can you share how your experiences with nerve damage relate to Nate’s, and why the ownvoices element is important to you, and to readers?

LEANDRA VANE: I used to think I shouldn’t write about disability in my fiction because people would call me a self-absorbed “Mary Sue.” But I learned that most of us carry around shame and never grow because we guard our secrets and experiences from each other. I believe by sharing our stories we can all learn and grow together. So I started mining the experiences living with a disability has given me and putting them into some of my stories. All my life I’ve turned to books to have the conversations with me that people in the real world were unwilling or unable to have. So I encourage all writers to share their experiences. You don’t have to be disabled to learn things from disabled characters. And if you do share the experience of disability, there might be pieces of your own puzzle you find in the story. So now I don’t shy away from writing about disability in my fiction.

As for Nate and I, one of the most amazing things I’ve found in experimenting and playing with BDSM scenes is how I experience sensation play and pain when I literally cannot feel over half my body. Exploring this through another character was not only fun but nurturing to me in validating my experience of sex.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: Along the same lines, James has to overcome some of his preconceived ideas about BDSM as he learns what it’s like in real life for Nate and Charlotte. Did you have any stereotypes or misconceptions about BDSM that you had to unpack when you started getting involved with it?

LEANDRA VANE: I had always viewed my kinks as a “dirty little secret.” This bit of my soul I kept wrapped up in a shoe box in a dark corner that I only took out every once in a while. I thought if I let it out my whole identity would be dictated by the fact that I was a fetishist who had kinky thoughts.

Becoming involved with the BDSM community and the fantastically supportive world of erotica writers has changed all of that. Imagine, well-rounded, kind, creative people who are also kinky as fuck. Amazing!

I believed in a stereotype that if you’re kinky, it infiltrates every part of your life until you’re just a sex-crazed drone intent on only one thing no matter who you hurt to get it. (Did I mention earlier I was surrounded by a lot of sex negativity growing up? Yeaaahhh.) But now I know the complexity and deeply human aspects of kink and BDSM and I’ve brought it into my life in a healthy way, embracing my kinks and unleashing my creativity as an erotica writer.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: You self-published Booked, as well as several other books, such as your memoir Trophy Wife and fiction A Bloom in Cursive and Cast From the Earth. Why did you choose self-publishing, and do you have any advice for new authors looking into self-publishing?

LEANDRA VANE: I honestly chose self-publishing because of the combination of things I write about. BDSM/Multiple pairing and disability? Yeah, that’s probably a Venn Diagram not many publishers want to see in a pitch. But just because there aren’t oodles of people wanting to read what I write, they are out there. I’m more interested in getting my work to the readers that need to read it or appreciate it the most rather than going the traditional route right now. And I’ve found the small or independent publishers that publish really unique erotica anthologies are a great fit for my work and are the stories I want to consume as a reader. I’ve found a wonderful home for my work this way and I love it.

Of course this did not happen overnight. Before I became a sex writer, I published books under two different pen names, submitted work to lots and lots of lit journals, and launched and folded two blogs. My books and stories were half-baked and my platform was unorganized. I made mistakes. But I learned from them.

As far as advice, I would say work on becoming a better writer first and foremost. Don’t focus on things like awards or accolades. Read, read, read then write, write, write. Find a book that makes you think “how can I make readers feel the same way as I did when I read that last word?” Practice.

Also, even if you self-publish some work, do submit stories to outside publishers. It helps you network, keeps you writing, and builds your CV. It also gives you practice for coping with the business of writing when your work is declined (and it will be declined). But write new things. Try again. Listen to feedback.

Finally, I say this as a joke, but really, you might also want to convert to Buddhism. Your ego is your worst enemy once you start putting work out there. Managing it well will help along the way.

RACHEL KRAMER BUSSEL: This week we’re celebrating luck here at Lady Smut in honor of the release of Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur. Does luck play a role in Booked for any of the characters?

LEANDRA VANE: Every time I pick up an erotica book or write a sex scene, I truly feel lucky to be living in a time and place where we can read and write about sex and relationships. A little over 100 years ago things like the Comstock laws prohibited the sending and receiving of “obscene” materials including books and sex education writing. So I feel lucky to be living in a time and place where technology allows me to not just write but also self-publish my work.

My characters comment in places how lucky they feel to have met each other. Also, there is an historical undertone of the small town they live in with buildings from the 1800’s and the tragic stories of people that lived before them. My characters definitely feel lucky that they were able to work through their kinks in time to still have plenty of life left to enjoy them.

Booked by Leandra Vane is available now in print and as an ebook.

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This post is part of our Lucky week at Lady Smut, celebrating the release of the latest Elite Doms of Washington erotic romance novel, Lucky, by Elizabeth SaFleur! If you like hot , hunky dominant heroes, you don’t want to miss this book.

Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur

Billionaire, entertainment investor and resolute bachelor Derek Damon Wright and dance studio owner Samantha Rose are unprepared for their mutual attraction to one another. She desperately wants to have a baby, and family doesn’t match Derek’s sophisticated life of private jets, vacations in the Caribbean and his BDSM activities. Yet a magnetic passion draws them closer—at least until their past mistakes arise and threaten all hope of a real future.

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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. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

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.

The Men Who Dare To Go There In Erotic Fiction

27 Jan

By Elizabeth SaFleur

The evolution of Viagra’s marketing from Bob Dole to 40 something men during football games (so now she wants it) has given me further insight into the degradation that women experience every day, living up to impossible standards of beauty and sexuality. ~Spencer Dryden

You pretty much have to love a guy who emails you the above lines in response to your interview request related to why he writes erotic fiction. And then when he—and other male erotic writers—jump in with other awesomeness, well, it’s hard not to let pride swell one’s little heart that these gentlemen are part of our book tribe.

Authors DaddyX, Spencer Dryden, Daily Hollow and Ian Smith graciously shared their experiences writing erotic romance and erotica, including why (oh, why?) they went there. Few men do. Let’s hear from the few, the proud and the brave.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Okay, guys, how did you get here? Why do you write in the erotic genre?

SPENCER DRYDEN: Nearly all my life I have been enchanted by female allure. I come from a time and background where anything sexual was obscured by a cloud of guilt and shame. When I reached my early 60’s (I’m 66 now) I gave myself permission to explore those fantasies through fiction as it would be much safer that trying to carry them out in real life. I have learned so much about sex and sexuality in the process, things I wish I had known as a younger man. A guy could learn a lot by reading my stuff.

DADDYX: To be honest—and I will be honest—being horny. And in appreciating the fact that I still felt sexy rather late in life. It’s what was always on my mind, even at 64 years of age, when I began writing erotica. Figured to document my libido before it went away.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: We love honest guys.

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Good things come in plain brown wrappers. Daddy has stenciled a big red “X” on the cover of his new collection to warn the reading public. Open this book only if you’re ready for X-rated excesses beyond the ordinary. The five tales Daddy has chosen for this volume are X-tra outrageous.

IAN SMITH:  I read some ‘chick lit’ for relaxation, and enjoyed the development of the characters and the romantic story, but felt the lovemaking scenes were a bit tame. I decided to try writing this sort of story, but with rather steamier scenes. Sex is an integral and important part of most people’s relationships, and I thought it must be possible to be realistic without being ‘porn’.”

DAILY HOLLOW: I wanted to get back into writing fiction so a few years ago I googled ‘writing competitions’ and stumbled across Literotica. After reading a few stories I was like “I can totally do this.”

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: There’s that honesty again. You all come from different walks of life so I’m calling you my ‘representative sample.’ Here’s what I want to know. Why aren’t there more male authors in the erotic genre?

DADDYX: Hah! Momma X says that when a woman writes smut, it’s considered cute. A woman can get away with appearing something akin to adventurous without looking like a perv. Conjure a naughty picture of a cute girl, book in one hand, masturbating with the other. Isn’t that sweet? But a guy in a basement who can’t get a date, one hand beating Red Roger, typing like crazy with the other? Let’s just say it’s a different picture.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Okay, true that.

SPENCER DRYDEN: I don’t have a clue other than women weren’t seeing what they liked and have systematically taken over control of the ship. Very admirable. We need to get more male readers into erotica but I don’t see many characters I can identify with. Until men can identify with character and plot in erotica, what little fiction they read will continue to be action genres.

DAILY HOLLOW: I think because there are more female readers of erotica, so it would make sense more women would write it. Men (such as myself) tend to gravitate more toward action, horror, etc. Honestly, I very rarely read the genre, unless one of my friends has a new book or I am beta reading for someone.

IAN SMITH: There appears to be a widespread opinion that “men can’t write romance’” which I disagree with. Men feel romantic and get emotionally involved, probably in similar ways to women. Fewer men appear to write romance, or at least not under male pen names. I know the market for romance generally is predominantly female, and I can understand that people reading for escapism will typically identify more readily with their own gender.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: So as a man, do you feel responsible or obligated to write erotica or erotic romance a “certain” way? Such as more respectful (or more blatant) in certain areas because people know you’re a man?

DAILY HOLLOW: Not really. I write what I feel, then send it off to the betas. I have never had anyone tell me my writing was derogatory or disrespectful.

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Plumbers and Other Lovers is collection of four short stories about tradesmen who find unexpected rewards in home repairs as they stumble into romantic encounters during the course of their everyday blue-collar lives.

DADDYX: Not at all. But I sure get told when I get it wrong. :>) Much of my experience in offering, receiving and observing criticism is through The Erotica Readers and Writers Association lists. I have acted as Storytime editor for either flash fiction or short stories for the past few years. There, I see varying perspectives of criticism and as many ways of interpreting the same work. Everyone has his/her own way of perceiving and receiving erotica. That’s one of the more intriguing aspects of writing in our genre. Everyone absorbs the material according to their own turn-ons and squicks. In fact, with all the variety out there, it’s a miracle a writer ever connects with a reader.

SPENCER DRYDEN: My writing reflects the way I feel about women, which is that I hold them in high regard, especially the way they can use their powers of enchantment.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: See opening lines above.

IAN SMITH: No, I try to write with my own “voice.” I like my male lead characters to be decent, nice guys, and be courteous to the women they’re involved with, but that’s at least partly because it’s how I hope I am myself. I find it difficult to imagine being anything else, but that might be something fun to play with when I feel more confident about my writing.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Do you find people hold you to a higher standard? Like a woman can get away with writing certain things, but a man would get his hand slapped for “crossing a line?”

DAILY HOLLOW: Not really. I have heard some male writers feel that way, but I have never encountered any issues.

SPENCER DRYDEN:  I don’t know if “higher standard” is quite the right term for what I feel. I have read lots of short form F/F erotica (which I love) as a way to improve sensual vocabulary. Often these stories move fast and feature plots that move quickly from initial encounter to sex. (Hi I’m a girl that likes girls. Oh I like girls too….begin humping) My stories have the same structure and character arc as F/F stories but my are frequently labeled as “stroke” or “only about sex.” So it’s more like a double standard than a higher standard.

DADDYX: Some of my characters can be despicable. I do have to work to tone them down upon occasion. Though assholes make for interesting subjects, there should be someone for the reader to relate to. Often the reader equates a character with the author, so I wouldn’t want to alienate readership of any sexual orientation. Despite everything as personal as squicks and triggers, I’d like my work to be universal; but that’s nigh impossible, considering that many people wouldn’t open an erotic book in the first place.

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Paul is Hayley’s lover and now her leading man. But acting and portraying a hero on a period TV show takes far more than a suit of armour. He’s totally out of his depth, personally and professionally. Help arrives with dramatic lessons in leadership and courage, when strange events put him and his friends in harm’s way.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: And, you Ian?

IAN SMITH: I don’t think so. Well, aside from trying to write from a female POV and getting it wrong!

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: In general, men’s fantasies vary wildly from female fantasies. They experience sex differently in real life. Do you believe that colors a male author’s viewpoint when writing erotic fiction? Do you try to write something that will appeal to what females (the bulk of erotic fiction readers) want to read?

DADDYX: Wish I had an inside track for success with female readers. Any readers. It sure would be nice. Maybe then I could sell some books. :>) So here’s what I think:

Again, I can’t really say that I write to a particular gender. To me, it’s all about the story, no matter who’s reading. The plot has to be fresh, intriguing, and hold together. The story arc must be accessible, if not immediately obvious. I like to give my readers credit as intelligent people who will extrapolate content and subtleties by my prompts and suggestions. I don’t want to alter or conform my work to appeal to the lowest common denominator. By the same token, while I’m writing, I wouldn’t want to distract myself imagining my readers as any particular gender. I feel that engineering the delivery by gender could effectively limit scope in development of the story. I like to think of literature as universal.

That said, I also like to get my readers juices flowing, no matter their gender. Problem is, how would I know?

DAILY HOLLOW: I write what I feel. I’ve actually written a few F/F stories, and honestly my novella, Leslie’s Dilemma, may be my best fiction piece to date.

SPENCER DRYDEN: “I hope that female readers will find my male characters to be genuine and memorable. There are no billionaire bad boys, alpha males or self- destructive ego-maniacs in my stories. I feature ordinary guys who fall into the orbit of sexually assertive women. [As for a different viewpoint?] Absolutely. It’s why we are more visual and more mechanical in our fiction writing.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Confession time: Are you writing stories you wish would pan out in real life?

DADDYX: Heh. I’m 72 years old, for chrissakes. My fantasies will remain as such. :>) If Momma and I can achieve orgasm in the missionary position without injuring ourselves, we consider ourselves lucky. Best fantasy these days is a sexy dream. Or a trip to a thong beach.  In truth though, I often write situations I’d like to have happened. Other situations, not so much. Depends on the character. He/she may think like me. Or decidedly not.

IAN SMITH: In a general sense, of people meeting and forming solid, emotionally-fulfilling relationships, and having a few adventures along the way.

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Mark Jenson is a handsome, easy going man who enjoys drinking with his buddies and the occasional Myrtle Beach golf outing. Gabriella is a beautiful, yet intimidating Jamaican assassin who has nearly fifty kills to her credit. Because Mark unknowingly insulted a mobster’s daughter after they had a drunken night of sex, Gabriella is hired to end Mark’s life

DAILY HOLLOW: LOL, who doesn’t? I also try to throw a little personal experience in as well. I’ve been in several multi-racial relationships and have written a BWWM novella and short story. I’ve also had sex in public and one of my works in progress is going to have a scene where my MC has sex in a river at a popular college hangout. In my short story “Charlene’s Surprise”, my MC is tied up while his wife and her best friend “put on a show.” I guess that would be something I wish would have panned out in real life. 😉

SPENCER DRYDEN: I think fantasy; especially sexual fantasy is a very important part of a balanced life. Fantasy helps us set boundaries and then offers us a risk free way of seeing life on the other side of the boundary. In my case, through fiction, I can make love to any woman I want, my wife could care less and the woman even likes it. I think it would cause lots of marital difficulty if I were to ACT on my fantasies. I can also brutally murder people I dislike without fear of jail time.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: Isn’t that the best? I digress… For you, what is the most satisfying part about writing erotic fiction?

DADDYX: Positive feedback. Connecting with a reader in an erotic endeavor. Nothing feels better than hearing a reviewer you don’t know say: “That’s the most erotic book I’ve ever read,” as has been said about “The Gonzo Collection.” Considering the aforementioned variety of erotic preferences (and the odds against of making that connection) the connection, once made, may be on some level equivalent to sharing sex with those readers.

SPENCER DRYDEN: When I see the whole story arc. I write most of my stories backwards, that is, I start at the end and work my way back to the beginning.

IAN SMITH: Readers telling me they enjoyed my storytelling. If they found it hot and steamy as well, that’s a bonus!

DAILY HOLLOW: Typing the words “the end.” One of the most challenging parts about writing is actually finishing. I currently have about five WIP going at once.

ELIZABETH SAFLEUR: So, I guess in the end, it turns out all writers are alike!

Thank you, gentleman. Keep up the great work. Readers, below is how you can stay in touch with our male cohorts in sexy crime. And follow LadySmut. We know all the great writers…and lovers of sexy romance.

 Love Links

Daily Hollow’s Facebook and Amazon author page

DaddyX’s  Oh Get A Grip blog  (where he posts fortnightly with nine other accomplished erotica writers) and Amazon author page

Ian Smith’s Facebook, Facebook Author Page and Blog

Spencer Dryden’s Facebook, Twitter and Amazon author page

~~~~~

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.

Lady Smutters Out and About…and Causing Trouble

17 Oct

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Okay, the causing trouble aspect might be a wee bit subjective, but Madeline Iva came home from the Washington Romance Writers Blogger and Reader Luncheon with a bag of (very cool) skull jewelry, so really, anything goes.

But you, lovely Lady Smutters, already knew that.

Last week, I posted about how our Lady Smut bloggers were out and about in the real world. This past weekend, I was bouncing around the New Jersey Romance Writers annual Put Your Heart in a Book Conference. Two days talking about books and publishing and romance. Oh my!

Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore was also there, but she’s wily and slick, so though we caught glimpses of one another and even one side-arm hug, unfortunately there’s no evidence (i.e. a photo) of us in the same place. Bestselling authors HelenKay Dimon, Tessa Dare, and Terri Brisbin graced us with their publishing and writing experience and wisdom. I unfortunately missed Tessa Dare’s special presentation (in my defense, it was very early in the morning), but greatly enjoyed both HelenKay and Terri’s wit and insight.

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With HelenKay Dimon at the conference

Conference keynote speaker, HelenKay Dimon, spoke passionately about why reading matters, why it is so important. We don’t read only to escape or for stress relief or to indulge in fantasy. We read to survive. To escape bullying. To escape family illness or tragedy. To believe and feel better and to figure out how to defeat the monsters in our lives. In books, the bad guys are defeated, and that gives us hope that the bad guys in life can be defeated too.

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Worst margarita ever. No, REALLY.

“I have never felt guilty for reading a book,” HelenKay said. “Love is empowering. It has the ability to take us to a different place, to make us feel great.” In romance novels, she said, women are the heroines of their own stories (sound familiar?). To the hero, no matter how plain or regular or normal or whatever, to the hero, she is the most beautiful woman in the world. “In romances, there are women who are comfortable in their sexuality and men who celebrate it. Romance is about hope that you can overcome, no matter how many mistakes you’ve made or how flawed your past is, that someone will love you for you. When someone writes that romance doesn’t matter, my answer is ‘kiss my ass!’.”

Preach it, HelenKay.

Luncheon speaker, Terri Brisbin, spoke about the rules of writing–write what you know, make sure hero and heroine meet within first 10 pages, write the breakout book, blah blah blah. According to Terri, none of them really matter. Terri counseled that only three rules were important: If you want to be a writer, you have to write, and you have to find the time in your life to do it whatever your challenges. Tied in with that advice is that you have to read, you have to keep reading to refresh the well that hydrates your writing. She also advises to gather good people around you and hold on to them. “Trying to be a creative person in a business world is hell, unless you have good people around you,” she said. “Sometimes, they’re right there with you and you don’t even know it.” Finally, as a dental hygienist, Terri emphasized the only one true thing in life that everyone must do: “brush and floss two times a day.”

 

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First-line bingo fun

On Sunday, after the conference, we had the inaugural NJRW Hearts & Sparks Reader and Blogger Brunch. Here writers mixed and mingles with readers and bloggers with a delicious full brunch. First-line bingo sheets were employed as a fun, interactive ice-breaker where guests had to find out which first line on the bingo sheet came from what author’s book. Given my book WILD ON THE ROCKS starts with the line “Check the stalls.” I got a lot of people wondering just what kind of stall was being employed–and exactly what they were doing in the stall! Naturally, I told them to read the book and find out! Okay, I gave in and told ’em because I hate waiting. But still!

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First-line bingo fun

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Swag tables at the brunch

It was so wonderful to meet so many enthusiastic readers and bloggers–people who love passionately love romance novels. As bestselling historical romance novelist Tessa Dare noted, we sit behind our computers and laptops all day, in our PJs or our yoga pants or whatever (I’m writing this wearing a new nightie, FTR. TMI? Oh well.) and we so rarely get to meet in person the people for whom we’re writing (after ourselves, naturally). And that’s you, lovely readers and Lady Smutters, and that’s why we have our MEET page here on Lady Smut, so that you can come on out and meet us and, even better, we can meet *you*.

Plus, ya know, free stuff.

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Giveaway!

That’s right! I have goodies for you–free, author signed books, including the super sexy MINE by HelenKay Dimon,  one of three Scottish medieval adventures from Terri Brisbin, and Tessa Dare’s new historical regency romance A WEEK TO BE WICKED. Subscribe to our Lady Smut newsletter and/or click the FOLLOW button, and then leave us a shot of the confirmation in the comments along with your choice of the above pictured books. I’ll do a random selection and post the winners on next Monday’s post.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll give you lots of reasons to keep reading to survive.

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 Rocksis now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

Lady Smutters Out in the Real World

10 Oct

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

From time to time, we here at Lady Smut step away from our laptops, peek cautiously out the door, and venture out into the real world.

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Okay, not really. We tend to go charging out into trouble. Making it if we can’t find it, because what fun is that?

It occurred to us that you, lovely readers, might want to find us out in the wild to chat or hang, share a coffee or a drink, talk romance and/or get a book signed. To this end, we created the MEET US page, right there up in the right-hand corner of the page. There you’ll find where *we* can be found throughout the year. We’ll be updating it regularly, so make sure you keep checking it for new events.

Talk about a timely initiative because we’re already heating up the cooler days of Autumn. Last weekend found Lady Smut bloggers Madeline Iva, Alexa Day, and Elisabeth SaFleur at the Washington Romance Writers Readers & Bloggers Luncheon. (I’m sure there’ll be more detail on that exciting event later in the week.) If you missed it this year, be sure to get it on your calendars for 2017.

Next weekend, it’s my turn as I’ll be at the New Jersey Romance Writers Hearts & Sparks Reader and Blogger Appreciation Brunch. I’ll have some packets of goodies ready to go for those lucky enough to join me at my table and a few extras to random attendees. This brunch follows the conclusion of the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference, where you’ll not only find me floating around instigating trouble good times (let’s be honest, usually in the bar), but Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore will also be in attendance!

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Next year, Elisabeth SaFleur is taking another wild ride at the Wild Wicked Weekend in San Antonio while a veritable passel of Lady Smug bloggers will be present at the Romantic Times Book Lovers Convention in Atlanta, GA for our first ever Lady Smut Panel!

And we’re just getting started!

 

For romance novel professionals–authors, bloggers, readers, editors, publishers, etc.–conferences and conventions are like the mothership calling us home. I know for me, it’s a step away from real life, the day-to-day of day jobs (for those of us for whom writing and/or publishing aren’t our day jobs, that is) and family responsibilities. It’s a chance to be with people who know and love romance, who speak the same language whether they prefer sweet or sexy, HEA or HFN, military or Amish. I love these times when I’m with my tribe, be it on a national level at the yearly RWA conference, regional at NJRW’s conference, or every month with my local chapter. Meeting readers is a new aspect for me, and one I love more and more with every new person, that thrill of knowing I gave someone an hour or two of entertainment as they delved into the story and characters I created. This will be my first conference with a book on sale where I’ll be participating in reader-focused events, and I genuinely cannot wait.

So be sure to hit up our MEET UP page for ongoing updates about the wheres and whens of Lady Smut Bloggers out in the real world. I hope to see some of you next weekend–or surely, someplace soon.

Follow Lady Smut. In the real-world or out of it, we don’t disappoint.

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 Rocksis now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

 

Six-Figure Book Contract – A Horror Story

7 Sep

By Elizabeth Shore

Although writers say, and it’s true, that their pursuit of writing is primarily for the satisfaction they get from a creative outlet, who among us hasn’t indulged in the dream of landing a big book contract? A nice hefty one, enough so we can quit our day jobs and do nothing but churn out book after fabulous book, generating still more big hefty deals! From the outside looking in, it’s an enviable dream, one to which we can all aspire. We’d land on the New York Times bestseller list, have tons of marketing muscle promoting our work, even get our faces on daytime TV! Getting a big book contract would be just awesome. Right?

Meet Dan Blum. Dan’s a writer, a poet, and a blogger. I first came across his hilarious blog, The Rotting Post, (“The Finest in Literate Snark”) when I saw a piece he’d published about badly written sex scenes. As it turns out, however, Dan is also a novel writer. His new book, The Feet Say Run is due out in December. But several years ago, Dan wrote what he describes as a “post-modern sex comedy” novel entitled lisa33. For his effort, Dad snagged a well-known agent who handed him a dream: a book contract with major New York publisher Viking and a six-figure advance. Dan was on his way to author nirvana! But not so fast…

LadySmut: Hi Dan! Thanks for agreeing to tell your story to our Lady Smut readers. Let’s start, as all good yarns do, at the beginning. Before being offered the deal for lisa33, you’d been trying to get a “serious” novel published but without success at that point. Was lisa33 born out of frustration with the publishing process?

Dan Blum: Not exactly.  I have to be genuinely inspired by an idea to put the time into writing it.  I had always enjoyed both humor and serious fiction.  With the dawn of the internet, the world of the chatroom and instant messaging and all of the anonymous flirtation and sex that it led to, I felt like there was this new world that was fascinating and comic and sexy and worth exploring.

LS: You’d put massive time into writing a serious novel and couldn’t get a publisher, yet you dash off a sex comedy in three months and get offered a six-figure advance. You must have been surprised that it was picked up so quickly, but were you also angered that this lighter novel got so much attention over your other fiction?

DB: It was very frustrating – particularly because I wanted to shout out, “This isn’t me,” or rather, “This is just one small side of me.” But there was no way to explain it. lisa33 was what got published and so it was all I was known for. It was me.

LS: The new agent you signed with for lisa33 was bursting with confidence and enthusiasm – did you have any hesitation at all in having him represent you? One of those “if it’s too good to be true” moments?

DB: I definitely wondered if he was for real. It happened incredibly quickly once he picked it up, all a bit dizzying. And I hadn’t really focused on what it would feel like to have that book actually published. I had a young family, was living in suburbia. After it came out, I remember waiting to meet my son at the elementary school bus stop, and wondering what all these mothers who were waiting with me thought of me. If I was the neighborhood creep.

LS: You wrote that Molly Stern, Viking’s Editor at that time, was a big fan of the book but wanted a couple of changes – like making it even funnier! Can you talk about those conversations? Did you feel like it was a collaborative process with her?

DB: Molly was a great supporter and if the rest of Viking had been behind the book in the way Molly had been, it would have been an entirely different outcome. At the same time, for anyone who writes humor, hearing, “Make it even funnier,” is a bit like a personal trainer hearing, “I want to be taller.”  There is only so much one can do. I have only good things to say about Molly, but I never really felt secure at Viking. I was always trying to please, trying to prove how accommodating I was, never quite there.

LS: When things started turning sour with Viking, where was your agent in all of this? Was he going AWOL on you at the same time?

DB: Yes. As it later turned out, he was off on a cocaine bender.  A good agent will not only represent the book through its sale to a publisher, but also make sure the publisher is doing the right things and assist some in promotion.  Just when I really needed that, my agent flat went missing. I never really knew what had happened until he published his own memoir about it.

LS: (And for which he himself received a giant advance. Ach! But I digress). So, OK. You’ve got an agent you can’t reach and a pub date that keeps getting pushed back. Did you at any time think about pulling your book from Viking?

DB: The short answer is no. I just didn’t know enough at the time to know what my options were. And I continued to get reassurances from Viking. “It will all work out in the end.” “We’re still behind it.” Etc.

LS: I’m curious about the contract you were offered. Since your agent had gotten a bidding war going for the book, it seems like Viking, the eventual winner, would have offered you a multi-book deal. Was that not the case? And if not, what did your agent have to say about that?

DB: This was something that in retrospect I should have insisted on. I’m confident we could have gotten it. But my agent was focused on getting top dollar, not on the other aspects of the contract, and it never came up.

LS: So your pub date gets later and later, your agent disappears…did you ever consider quitting writing altogether after this happened? It seems like the emotional toll would have been monumental. How did you get through it?

DB: For years I not only stopped writing, I even stopped reading – or at least stopped reading fiction. I just wanted nothing that reminded me of the publishing world. But at the same time, you need perspective. There are worse tragedies, worse misfortunes in the world than a writer getting screwed over by the publishing world. It’s been over a decade now, I have a new novel coming out, a humor blog I’m having a great time with, and it is a distant memory – like a bad break-up might be after a decade.

LS: I have to ask the “lessons learned” question. When you look back on the experience, what were those lessons for you, if any? Were there things you would have done differently?

DB: That’s a tough one. You finally get your dream, and it is not what you expect at all. In fact…nothing changes. You have the same friends. Enjoy the same things. Are frustrated by the same things. Maybe the dream is an illusion. There is no amazing, joyous, completely fulfilling other life out there. There is just this one. So make the most of it.

LS: Lastly, congrats on the upcoming book! The Feet Say Run is due out from Gabriel’s Horn Press in December (read the blurb here). Are you at all concerned that history will repeat itself with the new book?

DB: Thanks. But no, I don’t really worry about history repeating because I did not get a huge advance, and have not been told I would be famous. So I am much more grounded. If it’s a big success, that would be wonderful. If not, then so be it.

LS: Anything else to share with our Lady Smut writers and readers?

DB: Well, first of all, to the writers:  best of luck to all of you. As the site is all about erotica, I would add that I often feel we’re in an era of disappointingly prudish serious fiction. Shouldn’t sex be a topic to be explored like any other? In lisa33 I tried to mix erotic, comic and serious elements in a story about real people. I would leave it to others to decide whether or not it works for them. But I will say this:  I wish more writers today were willing to try it.

Amen to that! Thanks so much for joining us today, Dan. Great having you here.

For Dan’s own account of what happened, dash on over to his blog. You can access the harrowing tale here.

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

 

 

Read it already! A writer’s confession.

12 Aug

by Isabelle Drake

I’m not so great at reading my own writing aloud. Sure, I’ve done it. For small groups, large groups, for college credit, and a couple weeks ago, for fun.

For fun? Well, sort of. Partly for fun, partly out of curiosity and well, yeah, I also did it for promotion. Promotion! Marketing! These are topics writers are encour50s-pin-up-girl-picturesaged to think about all the time.

  • Where are you going to promote your new release?
  • How’re you going to promote your backlist?
  • What about your work-in-progress makes it marketable?
  • How are you reaching new readers?

You get the idea. We’re encouraged to try new marketing strategies–all the time. We should be innovative and exciting. Relevant. We must keep up with our blogs, twitter accounts, and Pinterest boards. On the side, we’re also writing.

That’s a lot of pressure. No, not the writing. That’s not pressure. That’s fun. We’re writers, so creating stories and torturing characters, that’s what we do. It’s that marketing and promotion stuff that stresses us out. Not because we don’t want to do it, don’t understand it, or even because we’re not good at it. It’s because there’s always something newer, fresher, and more exciting we need to do. Right now that new fresh thing is Facebook Live.

Now here’s my confession. I don’t care that I’m not good at reading my work aloud.

NVP final coverI’m a writer. I write stories for other people to read. I love crafting stories and I’m thrilled that I have readers who support my work. Isn’t that what matters? The words on the page? The story? I think so. I probably shouldn’t admit this either, but I think its funny that I’m not a great performing-author. Sure, on occasion, I have pulled myself together and done a fine, if not good, job at reading. Like when I did my MFA graduate reading. But for the most part, I’m happy to hand over my work for other people to read (inside their head) and enjoy (without me there staring at them).

So, if you haven’t guessed already, I did a live reading of my new release, BAIT, from New Vintage Press, on Facebook. I was at the Romance Writers of America national convention, standing on my balcony in San Diego, wearing my favorite Hello Kitty t-shirt, and I did it. I hit go live. I said, hi, showed people around, then read.

 

Yeah, it was promotional, but more important to me, it was fun. Will I do it again? Sure. Will I worry about how well I perform? Nope. Not at all. The only thing I’ll be concerned about it whether or not people have a good time.

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Here at Lady Smut, we love to know what’s on your mind, so comment and let us know what you’re thinking. And follow too, for all the news you need–and want.

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Want to check out Isabelle Drake’s next live reading? Come find her on Facebook. Cuckold Beach 3, her newest release is the third in her smexy Cuckold Beach series is available now for preorder.

Finding Your Tribe–A Guest Post From Jessica Scott

8 Aug

Note from Kiersten: In keeping with my unofficial military theme these past weeks, I invited military romance writer Jessica Scott to guest post at Lady Smut today. I first became aware of Jessica when she was serving in Iraq and Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books put together a book drive to send romance novels over to Jessica in an effort to ease the strain of war. Since then, Jessica has become a personal pal and a huge inspiration. I admire her greatly for her service, her writing, her many academics accomplishments (she currently teaches at West Point Academy while pursuing a PhD), and her emotional books that take a frank and often decidedly unromantic view of soldiers returning from war–and all they may bring back with them. I’m delighted to have Lady Smut host her perceptive reflection on the Romance Writers of America (RWA) conference and the concept of “tribe”–a watchword I heard a LOT at the conference–today.

Welcome Jessica!

At RWA this year, I noticed a pretty big shift in the conference. Well, there were several, but a couple really stood out to me.

Jessica Scott

We made room at the table. The Romance Writers of America has been struggling to find its voice when it comes to welcoming all members–authors of color have been remarking for years that there have been deep, systemic problems at the conference. But recently, the RWA board has started listening. This year, there weren’t just panels on diversity–diverse authors were mainstream, even featured at both the Keynote luncheon and the Librarian Day luncheon. Authors like Beverly Jenkins who started her speech by discussing slave narratives that had informed her writing. It was an amazing, powerful speech and what’s better is that she didn’t change anything because her audience was largely white women. Sherry Thomas talked about her journey from China to America and how she learned English through reading romance novels. But more, she spoke about her struggles with postpartum depression–a struggle many of us went through in shame and secrecy because what could possibly be so wrong with us that welcoming our child into the world wasn’t the joyous commercial break we saw on TV?

These authors spoke about the things that connect us. In our case, it was our collective love of romance. Each of us came to our place in the romance world through different means. I started writing when I was in officer candidate school, when I was away from my kids for the first time. I kept writing through my deployment in Iraq and through what were arguably the roughest years of my life as I transitioned back to being a mom after only being a soldier.

Click on image to buy!

I distinctly remember an author posting a blog years ago when I was first starting out about how a woman wrote to her about the impact her books have had on her life. See, she was going through genital reconstruction after have been subjected to female genital mutilation. And this author’s books made her realize that there was hope, that maybe she could find pleasure one day.

Each of our romance journeys are different. Each of us comes to the table from a different place. But the thing about RWA this year that made me tear up several times was that we demonstrated there was room at the table for all of our stories. Writing and publishing is not a zero sum game. Sure, there are finite number of readers out there, but that’s not what I get out of the RWA national conference.

I get to reach out and connect with part of my tribe. I get to reconnect with women who get what it’s like to try and write when you’ve got kids in the house. I get to connect with fellow readers and gush about books we’re supposed to be ashamed of but aren’t. Because these are our stories. They come from a place within us that is very personal to each and every one of us. Our stories connect us with readers–men and women–out in the world.

Before I Fall

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That’s what was so important about the RWA national conference this year. We opened the hidden door and talked about our struggles. We acknowledged that depression is real and it’s dark and it’s scary–but that you are not alone. We made room at the table for diverse voices and learned that ours are not muted because we add to them, rather that we are all lifted up when our voices are combined.

I left RWA this year feeling re-energized in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. I needed this reconnection with my tribe. To sit around with other moms who were enjoying time away from mom duty and laugh about the crazy things our kids did. To be around other writers who were struggling. To be the voice in someone else’s head when they need someone to drown out their own because their own is toxic at the moment.

I hope the changes we saw at this  RWA conference stick. I want us to continue to lift each other up. To stop pretending that life is the five minutes of perfection we see on Facebook and to connect with the real people out there in the world. To reconnect with our tribe. Who lifts us up.

Jessica Scott is the USA Today bestselling author of novels set in the heart of America’s Army. She is an active duty army officer, a veteran of the Iraq war, is the mother of two daughters, three cats and three dogs, and wife to a retired NCO. She and her family are currently wherever the army has sent her. She has written for the New York Times At War blog, War on the Rocks, PBS Point of View Women and War and has been featured in Esquire Magazine as an American of the Year in 2012. She has published 11 novels and novellas about soldiers returning from war and has hit the USA Today Bestseller list twice. She has compiled two nonfiction projects about her time in Iraq and the return home. She has recently completed a Master’s degree in sociology from Duke, a Master’s degree in Telecom Management from University of Maryland University College, and a BA in Cultural Studies from State University of New York. She is currently pursuing a PhD in sociology. Learn more at http://www.jessicascott.net

When A Book Just Sucks Too Much

13 Jul

By Elizabeth Shore

One aspect of the romance writing community that forever keeps our spirits buoyed is the unfledgling support we give and get from one another, like a big beating heart of love for those of us who write about it. That support can be a lifeline when doubt or rejection or eroding self-confidence come knocking at the door. It can also help beat back the judgmental scorn we sometimes get from ignoramuses who dismiss the romance genre as so much bodice-ripping trash for desperate women craving mommy porn. We’ve heard it all before and we’ll hear it again yet we persevere and push on, knowing our peeps will have our backs at all times.

Except when we can’t.

Enter, the Unsupportable Book.

The UB is a book that, no matter what, you just can’t get behind. In theory you’d like to. You’re a writer, after all, and you support your fellow writers, even if just on principle. You know the effort it takes, the sacrifice needed, the hours and hours spent cooped up alone in your home when everyone else is basking outside in the summer sun. It doesn’t matter if another writer’s genre is vastly different from your own. You write romantic suspense and your fellow ink-spiller delves into paranormal? No problem. The support is as solid as your hunk’s marble chest. But such is not the case with the Unsupportable Book, because the UB’s got something in it that’s objectionable beyond redemption. The UB taints other books in the genre, putting a blight on us all and giving romance naysayers fuel to keep supporting their derision. I recently came across one such UB, a book that made me both sad and furious for all the reasons cited above. I almost didn’t finish it, yet I gamely trudged on, reading all the way to the end in the hope that it would get better. Instead, it got worse.

In the spirit of Lady Smut practice, I’m not going to name either the book or the author, but I’ll tell you this. It’s a paranormal vampire romance, the first in a series, it’s indie pubbed, and the author is listed as a New York Times bestselling author. Oh, who happens to be a guy. Ironically enough, I didn’t notice that last point until I was nearly finished with the book. But toward the end it occurred to me that the author’s voice really didn’t seem like a woman’s, and I wondered who it was. I pulled up the cover to look and ho and below (as my bff’s mother says), this UB was written by a dude. That in and of itself should be of no import as there are men out there writing good romance. But as one of my objections to this UB is gender-based, the fact that the author is male adds an interesting point to consider.

The book’s heroine is a Colombian prostitute who started turning tricks at age 14. The book begins with her in the U.S. illegally, but we learn that back in Bogotá she was sold to ply her trade to a drug cartel pimp. Of course she was. She’s Colombian, after all, a country of nothing but drug pushers who also, according to the book, “aren’t known for advance planning and organizational skills.” Yikes. What a charming little quip of racist commentary. With eyebrow raised, I nonetheless pressed on. To my detriment.

The biggest problem with this UB was two-fold. One, the misogynistic descriptions of the heroine. When she’s first sold to the cartel drug guy – I repeat, at age 14 – she’s made to sit naked around his house for three straight weeks while cartel guy invites friends and family over to sample her goods. So, in other words, repeated rape of a minor girl. O-kaaay. Then a few pages into the book is a really long, really graphic sex scene between our heroine and a female client. Nice messy violent lesbian sex, just what romance readers typically go for, right? And the hits just keep on coming. The second big problem with this UB is the frequent racist remarks. To wit: The female client is described as Asian American with her ancestral roots being Vietnamese. But she’s referred to as China girl.  Of course, who can blame our ignorant little Colombian whore, right? All those Asians look alike. An NYC taxi driver is alternately referred to as the “Abdul-Camel Jockey” and “the Jihad cab driver.” Never mind that he does nothing to indicate fanatical leanings and his ethnic background remains unknown. Silly details! Those NYC cabbies do seem a little suspicious. Everyone knows that.

The sad truth is, this UB wasn’t badly written and the heroine was likeable. But the barrage of racist remarks was too tough a hurdle for me to climb and there’s no way I’d recommend this book to anyone. Ever. Thus my support for this fellow romance writer’s book is, unfortunately, shelved.

Have you come across any Unsupportable Books lately? If so, what were the problems to put that book in the shameful category? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to follow us at Lady Smut. We’ll support that.

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

 

 

Romance Invasion

16 May

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Romance has invaded everywhere.

That was the lead statement in the speech made by guest speaker Leah Hultenschmidt, editorial director for Forever and Forever Yours imprints at Grand Central Publishing, at the Long Island Romance Writers 19th annual Agent and Editors luncheon.

“Romance has invaded everywhere. Readership has been changing over the last few years. The ‘rules’ are completely out the window. This freedom has allowed the storytelling to shine through. Writers can write with passion and tell the stories of their hearts.”

This, for most of us who live in Romancelandia, is a bit of a no-brainer. Try and think of an action film, however sexist and annoying, that hasn’t had some bit of a romance woven in, be it the loyal wife waiting at home, the rescued damsel, or the sultry siren who may or may not be working for the enemy. Romance crosses all genre lines one way or another. It has, as Ms Hultenschmidt stated so succinctly, invaded everywhere.

That wasn’t all she had to share at the luncheon. With regard to the never-ending question of print vs e-book publishing, Ms. Hultenschmidt likened the divide to be like network television vs cable TV. Print publishers are looking to convince the book store owners that this book or that one is worth putting on their shelves. E-book publishing allows for more leeway for readers to give something new a try.

Part of this is because the distance between writers and readers is much smaller now than ever before. Social media and the digital age has narrowed that gap considerably, and more and more readers are using their social platforms to make their wishes known regarding what and who they read. Perhaps this is why, Ms. Hultenschmidt stressed that it is more important than every before that authors know their audience. Knowing your audience helps shapes these expectations while creating a plan for your books–perhaps even that book of your heart. Is it part of a series? If so, what is the series hook? Know how the books in your series relate and make sure that relation is there in book one and carries through the series.

Likewise, it’s key for an author to know their market. What are the holes in that market? Are there opportunities in those holes? What are people talking about on Goodreads? Is there a new angle in a crowded category, like paranormal romance or small-town contemporary romance? Knowing your market and your audience and how the two relate together can offer an author key insights in how best to craft and target their books.

As for what that market was currently in the market for, Ms. Hultenschmidt noted that Walmart particularly loves contemporary cowboys. Despite the report from the RT convention that romantic suspense novels are dead (again), Ms. Hultenschmidt noted that romantic suspense is on an uprising in print. Contemporary and erotic romances are both crowded marketplaces, but still selling, while paranormal romances are underselling in print publications.

In e-book publications, Ms. Hultenschmidt reported that the billionaire romance has begun to go bankrupt and, along with NA romances, is a crowded category. Readers, she said, are also done with trilogies with contemporary characters. I’m of the mind that series will never go out of fashion, but it’s interesting to hear that contemporaries particularly, always a reliable category, are wearying readers in this manner.

Sports romances and romantic suspense are currently trending categories in e-book publications. Ms. Hultenschmidt claims that readers do not go to romance for issues. They go to escape. While I don’t doubt many romance readers come to the genre for an escape, the fact that the romance genre by its very nature is feminist fiction means that even in stories without an overall “issue,” the journey of personal discovery made by a heroine between the pages is one for which all romance readers are eager, whether as escapism entertainment or to learn about a new profession or a new cause brought to light by a character’s journey through that story.

As always, the Long Island Romance Writers annual luncheon was an inspiring and informative event during which Ms. Hultenschmidt and other editors and agents shined a light on romance so that all of us who attended could feel a bit of that glow.

Follow Lady Smut. We loved to shine down on you.

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.

 

 

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