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Everything Old Is New Again

3 Sep

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s here again. The official end of summer and the start of the marathon run to the end of the year. Pools are closing. Barbeques are having they’re last hurrah. Commutes are once again clogged with cars. Kids are back in school. My Facebook feed is full of my friend’s frustrations and exasperation with their kids school lists and classroom requirements, followed soon by proud first-day-of-school pictures.

But while Labor Day is one last rest before that metaphorical rush to the finish, this time of year also offers a chance at new beginnings. New seasons of fall sports. New teachers and potential classmates. New work challenges in our day jobs. We may be leading the same lives, but every new season is alive with possibilities. Full with the chance for everything old to be new again.

Power up, ladies!

Anyone who has been in publishing for five minutes knows the constant change that happens in this industry. Flexibility is key and reinvention, common. What remains are good writing and great stories, whether under a different publisher or even, sometimes, a new name.

Last week, Lady Smut author Isabelle Drake shared the exciting news of how her previous released cowboy romantic comedy, Cowboy for Hire, once published by the now defunct Ellora’s Cave, is available again through her new publisher, Riverdale Ave Books.

T0day, it’s my distinct pleasure to share with you the news that my novels, the award-winning Wild on the Rocks and its follow up, SEALed With a Twist, will be republished this Septemer.

Earlier this summer, the powers that be at Amazon decided to close the successful Kindle Worlds program under which my novels were published. As it turns out, this was the best thing that could happen. Both novels will now be available on *all* digital platforms. But wait, there’s more! They will also, for the first time, be available to international readers. But wait, THERE’S MORE. They will also, for the first time, be available in print!

I KNOW!

 

I am super thrilled to be able to share these wonderful stories with so many new readers! These stories have traveled far and wide with me, through some significant life deviations and personal heartache. They have taken me on an adventure I never expected and its on-going. Come celebrate with me at the New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book annual conference, October 19-20th. I love to meet readers in person and especially those who meet and laugh with us here at Lady Smut.

The only thing constant is change, they say. And the only thing to do with change is to make it work for you. With the change of the seasons comes the opportunity to reexamine and reinvent. To make something old, new again. I hope you’ll celebrate this change with me this fall and share with me some of what may be changing with you, dear readers, as well. Come take another wild ride with me–perhaps, for the first time.

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 award-winning debut romantic suspense novel, Wild on the Rockswill be available this September. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

 

Romance in the Time of Black Panther

6 Apr

Okoye and Nakia are done with the benefit of the doubt.

By Alexa Day

I missed you all last month. I’m not going to offer you any excuses. Let’s just say that a lot of things went off the rails at the same time, and that I would much rather have been here with you, and we can leave it at that.

My plan last month was to present you with a post about the phenomenon that is Black Panther. I was going to give you a thumbnail review — short version: IT IS INCREDIBLE — and then I was going to ask some hard questions about why traditional romance publishing can’t be bothered with compelling stories by black creators about black characters. Then, like I said, things went a little crazy and I wasn’t able to get to you last month.

As March went by, I thought I’d have to write a new post. I thought the post I had in mind would certainly be outdated by April.

And I’m wrong. As it happens, the thrust of my post is even more relevant today than it would have been last month.

Let’s begin with the good news.

Black Panther is incredible. Created by black people, featuring a predominantly black cast, and set firmly in the Marvel Universe, it presents an easily accessible story. You don’t need to know anything about superheroes to get into it. The sibling relationships speak to people with siblings. The female characters speak to women who don’t need to be rescued, who have to make a place for their identities in a world that’s constantly changing around them, who have relationships that challenge the traditions they might have grown up with. Things get blown up. Sterling K. Brown will make you cry. No film is perfect, but this one is mighty close.

The New York Times captures the importance of Black Panther’s success — and the essence of my joy surrounding it — in this article. Black Panther is a wildly successful story, featuring black characters, set largely in Africa, that is not about ‘black poverty, black pain, or black suffering,’ the ingredients that typically spell box office billions for movies with predominantly black casts. No slavery. No Jim Crow. No drug abuse. The closest we get to rap music is Klaue, one of the film’s two white characters. I haven’t even said anything about natural hair. Or representation for darker-skinned black women in these powerful, beautiful roles.

When I first wrote this post a month ago, Black Panther was closing in on $800 million dollars in international box office receipts. Today, it’s at $1.3 billion worldwide. It was released about six weeks ago.

People worldwide wanted this story. They loved it. They told their friends and went back for seconds.

At about this time, The Ripped Bodice released the 2017 results of its survey on diversity in romance publishing. This is the romance-only bookstore’s second year asking romance publishers how many of their releases were created by authors of color.

This year’s numbers are worse than last year’s. Last year’s numbers were not good. Here’s a highlight: the imprint with the highest number of romances produced by authors of color in 2017 was Crimson Romance with just over 29%, up from around 12% in 2016. Simon and Schuster shut the imprint down without fanfare within days of the report’s release.

The news gets worse.

In the month since I wrote the first version of this column, Romance Writers of America announced the finalists for the RITA award, which recognizes excellence in romance fiction. RWA noted that there were no black finalists this year. RWA further noted that no black author has ever won the award. The organization recognizes this as a serious problem. I do, too, but I think of it as a symptom of an even larger problem.

I’m damned impressed by the phenomenon that is Black Panther. Don’t get me wrong. But black creators have been producing stories with black characters for decades. Stories that don’t center on poverty, slavery, racism and pain. Stories with loving family relationships and with families facing the same kind of troubles families face all over the world. Stories with heroines who don’t need to be rescued. Women who find love while saving the world or just handling their business or looking the other way.

These stories are everywhere. Sure, some publishers are hiding them (yeah, I said it) in their own separate lines and imprints where readers of other races will have trouble locating them. But they do exist. Indeed, The Ripped Bodice can’t keep some of them on the shelves — some of their best-selling books are romances by black authors.

So if the stories exist, and they are selling, what’s the problem?

Perhaps romance publishing is fully aware of what Black Panther is doing for Hollywood (i.e., stuffing everyone’s pockets full of money) and does not want to risk that happening for them. That seems an odd business model, but hey, I’m just a writer.

Alternately, romance publishing thinks that you, the reader who pays the bills at romance publishing, are too racist to read those books. I do not believe that is true for most of you. I know that describes some people with photographic perfection, but I don’t think that’s most readers.

The obvious answer, of course, is that romance publishing itself is so racist that they will deny access to black authors and will resort to any available excuse to avoid giving black authors access to the marketplace. I will not address this issue further here. I will instead refer you to The Ripped Bodice’s Twitter account. The proprietresses are calling publishers to account for their embarrassing numbers, and I will allow them to speak for themselves.

Not all superheroes wear capes.

Let us proceed with the presumption that you, the non-black reader, want to address the problem black romance authors are facing. What can you do?

Start by finding some books.

So where do you find romances by black authors? A couple of easy answers come to mind. First, find a black author. You already know me, and everyone knows Beverly Jenkins, and this is probably the last time you’ll ever see the two of us in the same sentence because I’m not worthy. But if you’re wondering who else is out there, well, can I introduce you to Google? When I wanted to know where the nearest auto parts store was, I went to Google for answers. When I wanted to know if my cat would eat me if she were large enough to do so, I went to Google for answers. (She would.) Try Google. Just put in ‘black romance authors.’

I don’t want to fall into the very, very popular trap of making Beverly Jenkins the first and last stop in the world of black romance, and you should avoid that trap, too. Go see WOCinRomance.  There are more black romances than you can shake a stick at, and it’s run by a black author, Rebekah Witherspoon. Joyfully Reviewed presents another list of authors of color, complete with Twitter links. So you have a lot of black authors, and an extensive reading list.

Now you have to actually read the books. I wrote about this before. It is not enough for you to spend the money and then pat yourself on the back.

Well … what are the books going to be … about? This is an easy question. I’m glad you brought it to me because I like you all, and I want to make sure you hear this the right way.

The black author’s romance is going to be a romance novel. It will be about the same things any other romance would be about. My friends-to-lovers romance, Illicit Impulse, is at its core much like any other friends-to-lovers romance. There’s another dude in it, and a sex pill, but the center of it is two people wondering if it would be weird to sleep with each other. (Little plug: If you’re interested in Illicit Impulse, you should click that link today. It will be out of print in a few weeks when its publisher closes its doors.)

The sports romances are sports romances. The paranormals are paranormals. The snozzberries taste like snozzberries.

Honey, you’re not going to catch anything from a black author’s romance novel. Find one you think is interesting and read it. If you cannot find a single book on WOCinRomance that you think is interesting, you may be a bigger part of the problem than you realize.

How did you find the last book you read? Word of mouth? Amazon also-boughts? A trusted, romance-only bookstore’s list of bestsellers? This really is the same process.

I’m not trying to be small.

Look, when I was a girl taking the stagecoach to school, I learned very quickly that if I wanted to read about kids having adventures, rescuing racehorses, traveling into the frontier, exploring space, or living in the world outside my small hometown, that meant reading outside my race. I say “kids” because in the era of the stagecoach, it was hard to find books about girls, let alone black girls like me. So while I’ve been reading outside my race forever, I recognize that this was not a requirement for everyone. Let’s be frank. If you’re white, you may have gotten all your fictional needs met without having to read outside your race. You didn’t have to build that habit as a kid, and all habits are harder to build as an adult.

I know it’s hard. Start building now. Ask questions. If people are perhaps a little sharp with you when they answer, ask someone else. But don’t stop reading. Don’t stop discovering.

Twitter has had a lot to say about race and romance in the last few days. I want to leave you with this tweet from a completely different discussion. It’s from a librarian, about one of her young patrons.

Doesn’t that make you tear up, the thought of a girl learning that there are shelves and shelves of new books to discover?

That magical, hand-on-heart, oh-my-gosh feeling is here for you, too. I promise.

Google. Go to WOCinRomance. Hit Joyfully Reviewed’s Twitter list. Enjoy that moment of joy as all those covers appear in front of you.

Then get to reading.

The world is waiting. Climb inside.

Alexa Day is the USA Today bestselling author of erotica and erotic romance with heroines who are anything but innocent. In her fictional worlds, strong, smart women discover excitement, adventure, and exceptional sex. A former bartender, one-time newspaper reporter, and licensed attorney, she likes her stories with just a touch of the inappropriate, and her literary mission is to stimulate the intellect and libido of her readers.

Whiny, Pathetic Losers Who Can’t Get Laid – And Why You Should Know About Them

13 Nov

By Elizabeth Shore

Remember right around this time last year when many of us were more than ready to kick the hot mess of 2016 to the curb? Don’t blink, but we’re now practically through 2017. While this year has had its share of crap, there’s positive momentum as we’re heading into the home stretch. It’s empowering and showing no signs of slowing down, and I for one am completely pumped. How ’bout you?

Let’s review. After the paralyzing shock of having a misogynistic, narciscisstic man baby elected president had subsided enough for rational thought to emerge, women roared to action. March on Washington 2017 in January saw millions-millions!– participating across the globe. Take that, you disgusting, self-professing, I-grab-women-by-the-p**ssies jerk. It was a good start. And we’re headed toward a strong finish. Women in 2017 decided their crap meter had reached its limit. A few brave souls spoke up, and then more, and then the tsunami wave began. Now it seems like every time we turn around there’s another male celebrity being exposed (as many of these cretins were wont to do toward their victims) as sex offenders. And that’s a very good thing.

Except, not everyone thinks so. Enter, the incels.

Incel is a portmanteau of involuntary and celibate. Incels are frustrated dickheads whose interaction with women has been so horrendously unsuccessful that it’s resulted in them never getting laid. Not surprisingly, they don’t like that. It’s made them angry. Very, very angry. Like any really pissed-off group of people, they come together to vent their frustrations. In the case of the incels, to rue the day they ever met a woman. After much gnashing of teeth and spewing of venom, their unified conclusion to deal with the double X chromosomes also known as woman is to encourage violence against them.

These sad sacks used to gather virtually in the subreddit r/Incels, but recently Reddit announced, as part of their policy to ban content that “encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people,” that they were shutting down the incels’ subreddit. Incels can gather there no more. Good on ya, Reddit! Alas, there are plenty of alternate options. Widespread misogyny on the internet is alive and well. But it’s a start.

Odious incels love to cry like babies at how horribly women have treated them, never for one milligram of a second acknowledging that maybe their creepy disgusting behavior has a little something something to do with whatever shunning they’ve received. The thing about incels is that they’re not just a forum of lonely hearts. Oh, no. In the incels’ simplistic world view, their lack of sex has nothing to do with them and everything to do with women. It’s 100%, entirely, wholly those vile women who’ve caused these men to involuntarily have no sex. Because, I guess, if it weren’t for women they’d be having lots of sex…with women? Who they hate? Or…?

A part of me – while not feeling sorry for these creeps – does try to understand where the anger is coming from. Identifying the motivation behind someone’s behavior can be enormously helpful in trying to address the problem, right? So it’s a pretty safe bet that the numerous rejections from women that incels have received eventually pushed them over to the dark side. No guy wants to be emasculated. It’s the rawest form of humility for a man. So rejection from a woman, the “weaker” sex, can strip down their very maleness and turn them into stark raving, violence-promoting, scary wackos. That’s why you should know about them.

One thing the revolting incels seem to have conveniently forgotten is the shit-ass treatment that women have received from men ever since the f**king beginning of time. Rape and bullying and violence and unfair treatment from men toward women for no other reason than because of their sex. Not because women have “done” something that in their twisted minds justifies shitting on them. No no. Men have simply been brutally horrific toward women because they can be.

What do we do? We stand up and fight. We speak up. We create a movement (hello #metoo). And if we’re romance writers, we still in our minds think up beautiful, wonderful stories about the awesome relationships that can be had between the sexes. We conjur up our dream men. Men who are kind and thoughtful and supportive and generous. Oh, and super scorching hot.

So incels, how about a challenge? Why don’t you start your own romance novels? Why don’t you dream up a woman you’d love to be with and write a story about it. A story in which you’re not rejected and in which, after a few bumps along the way (cause it’s not really a very fun story without a conflict to resolve), you work together, as partners, to form a relationship. You have hot amazing sex. You share laughs. You support each other. And you always end up happy at the end.

This whole girl power thing has worked pretty well for us. I dare you to give it a try. If you’re man enough.

Elizabeth Shore writes contemporary and historical erotic romance novels. Find her on Twitter, Facebook or her website. Her next release will be Hot Bayou Fire, the second of her steamy, sultry series after Hot Bayou Nights set in the Louisiana bayou. Look for it in 2018. Release date announced here as soon as it’s known! 

 

 

The Author Witness Protection Program and Other Writerly Secrets

28 Sep

By Elizabeth SaFleur

It’s Throwback Thursday, and we’re putting up popular posts for your enjoyment. Below is a blog post that first appeared on our LadySmut Romance Blog Facebook page. Give the page a “like” if you haven’t done so and never miss our shenanigans.

The Author Witness Protection Program and Other Writerly Secrets

Ever wonder what life is like for your favorite author? Not the stuff you see on Facebook or Twitter. Not the sunshine and roses or even ranty stuff. I mean the Stuff We Never Talk About. Here are secrets that might be just me. But then, again, who knows? For instance….

I have often put my life in danger in the name of research.

First, there is Death By Boredom. I watched three hours of Supreme Court documentary hell. I suffered through this for ONE LINE so it’d be accurate. Even my husband turned to me half way through and asked, “can we be done with this?” This question came from a man who gets a thrill when the new year’s Tax Code comes in the mail. (This two inch book makes him happy. It whispers “deductions.”)

As if that’s not enough I’m going to take a tour of the Supreme Court so I can describe the marble correctly. Honestly, this book cannot be published (The Supreme Spanking, the third Justice series novella) without this trip.

There also is death by Real Crazy Shit. Like I needed to know how it feels to get a fishing hook stuck in your hand for a book I’m writing right now. I asked my husband to do this to me. He refused. I felt unsupported. So, instead I’m YouTubing what it’s like to have a piece of metal pierce your flesh. Hey, marriage is all about compromise.

Since I have BDSM elements in many of my books I have also sampled some Other Wild Things. I can tell you this: Wax play is awesome. Fireplay isn’t so bad. The Violet Wand is evil incarnate. A whole other post could be about the BDSM Stuff I’ve Done. But let’s not let that topic hijack the other parts that are important to note, like ….

Pseudonyms are often critical to an author’s life.

We aren’t trying to keep ourselves from you, dear reader. Oh, no. For some of us, a pen name is like an Author Witness Protection Program (AWPP). It keeps the mortgage-paying clients in our day jobs from throwing our buttinskis on the street. If my uber-conservative clients knew what I wrote? They would have a heart attack. No matter they have s-e-x themselves, but my writing about the horizontal mambo? Heavens to Betsy and Holy Smokes!

For other writers, pen names are a safety thing. We don’t want crazed serial killers and mentally delusional people showing up at our house. I might write about a kidnapped girl falling in love with the guy (who turned out to have no choice and is really good underneath), but that doesn’t mean I want that to happen to me – with them! (Jason Momoa, if you are reading this post, I give you carte blanche to kidnap me. In fact, I’ll be sitting on my front porch in about 5 minutes. I’ll go quietly.)

Book Butt clearly was inevitable.

Or call it Author Ass. It’s all the same poundage on the hippage. I gained 20 pounds in the last two years thanks to  my books Lovely, Untouchable, Perfect and Lucky. That’s 5 pounds per story. It’s like the college Freshman Ten, except back then you didn’t have your current responsibilities and got to go home with the guy manning the keg. The current BB/AA syndrome is so prevalent that the #RomanceFit online group is a thing – like a very real, very necessary thing. I tried to join this online support group’s fun, but I kept forgetting to log in those 5 miles that I never ran. What can I say?

P.S. Don’t yell at me saying I just called a bunch of romance authors fat. I did not. I mean, have you SEEN J.R. Ward? I’m just sayin’ I didn’t realize MY 20 pounds came with publishing. That’s all. Lay down the sword—unless you can carve out those 20 pounds. If so, have at it.

I (sometimes/often/perhaps always) love my characters more than real people.

I love it when plans get cancelled. It means I can stay home and play with my fictional Doms. (Is that bad?) This last summer has been hellish with family invasions of all types – father, stepmother, cousins, children of cousins, stepsons and wives – who have taken me away from my characters! Do you think I’m horrible? No, don’t tell me because…

I care what you think.

MOST of us care what you think. Like really, really care. That’s why we read our reviews and check our rankings – some of us to obsessive levels. Sure, some writers do this more than others. Yet, I cringe a little when an author boasts on social media, “I never read reviews! They are for readers! I don’t need to see them!” Uh, huh. Right. You sneak a peek now and then, don’t you? Admit it. And, you know what’s worse? When we don’t have reviews at all. (Sniff. What’s wrong with my books?? No one loves me!!)

But we love you at Ladysmut, so please keep reading us, commenting, posting and click that like button if you liked being in on these secrets.

Speaking of love, have you checked out Kiersten Hallie Krum’s latest? SEALed with a Twist. In the follow-up to the wildly popular, Library Journal starred review, RONE award finalist, WILD ON THE ROCKS, a fan favorite returns to Barefoot Bay… One click today!

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur is a contemporary erotic romance author and dying-to-retire public relations practitioner who writes, tweets and posts under a pseudonym since her business clients might be (WOULD be) shocked at her second career choice. Her books, the Elite Doms of Washington and Justice series, were inspired by her thirty-year career serving D.C. clients where she learned not all power in our nation’s capital is wielded by politicians. There’s way more interesting things happening there than politics.

Chances To Ogle Lady Smut Bloggers In Person

19 Sep

By Madeline Iva

NOTE TO READERS: I’m now going to be blogging on Tuesdays at Lady Smut.

Breathless note!  Things have been super busy—but very exciting. I spent an exceptionally gorgeous day last Saturday teaching a writing workshop up in Louden County, and this week —

Alexa Day and I are at #Fred Fest this weekend, Saturday Sept. 23rd. I’ll be the one with 100 lavender votive candles to give away. Perfect for your local coven meeting.

(The lovely Elizabeth SaFleur gave them to me.)

I mean, really, it’s going to be an EXTRAVAGANZA! Lots ‘o romance writers and our very own 3 tents, Q1 – Q3 will have historical romances (by Sue London), BDSM romances, Y.A., Urban Fantasy, and Fantasy Romance.   And that’s just us – Washington Romance Writers & Virginia Romance Writers will be there as well.

Now, what am I going to wear?

The time to register for Hearts to You – aka the Washington Romance Writers luncheon for readers and bloggers — is upon us.   Kiersten Hallie Krum will be there with an awesome Lady Smut basket to give away.  Alexa Day, who last year got to sit all lunch long with Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches Trashy Books (ooh, I was so envious) will be back again this year.  Elizabeth SaFleur enchanted readers last year at her table with some excellent girl talk about sex and BDSM will also be kickin’ around in her elegant high heels.

Me? I’m not a squeal-y type of person, but this event gets my voice pretty high pitched. It’s just mega-fun. I’m not sure why.  Is it all the give away baskets, the excellent location, the chance to take home a ton of free books? Maybe.  Ultimately, I put it down to the rockin’ energy of the WRW tribe.  They just make me want to stand up and testify to the power of romance.

So register at the WRW blog. It’s pretty inexpensive. I love it.  We love it.  You’ll love it too!  Come meet us in person, chat romance, enjoy the day.  (There’s even a rumor that some folks are going out for drinks afterwards.)

Okay — I’m off running around again.  See you next week. 🙂

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.

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.

daly-hollow-book

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.

Pictures In The Eyes Of The Beholder

19 Jun

Woman Hiding Behind BookIn going through the process of getting my website completed, I’ve been thinking a lot about author photos. For writers of erotic romance, in particular, this can be a tricky decision. To have a photo, or not to have a photo. That is the question. Like many, I have a “day job” unrelated to my passion for writing, and the day job folks  . . . well, let’s just say there’s a certain image in the corporate world which may or may not look favorably upon an erotic romance writer.

So. The photo. In my quest to address this issue as it pertain to my own site, I decided – for inspiration – to go on a voyeuristic exploration of other writers’ sites and see what they’re up to, photo wise. My first stop was at the port of Ms. Misty Dietz.

Now, before I say anything about the photo Misty uses on her site, let me just say that I really love her site in general. First off, it tells me what she’s writing. I know within seconds after her homepage opens that Misty’s stories have a dark side, that she veers toward suspense/paranormal romance versus sweet or inspirational. Her tag line, “Love, Sex & Danger. Buckle Up.” gives me a pretty darn good clue about that. And she does have a picture, beautifully displayed in the bio section of the site. Good on ya, Misty.

Hmmm. OK, that was informative. But perhaps I also need to look at a writer who’s really known for her blistering hot erotic romances. I decided to check out Delilah Devlin’s site.

Like Misty, Delilah chooses not to put her photo on the homepage but instead reserves it for when readers click through to the bio page. There we can learn about her childhood, her writing awards, her loves and interests, even where she went to school. Very informative! And we also get her photo. Unlike Misty’s photo, which is so good it looks professionally done (or maybe Misty is just uber photogenic), Delilah’s picture is more like a good picture that a friend took with a smartphone. Oh, and she also has an adorable picture of her and her sister when they were kids. Love it.

Next stop, Tiffany Reisz. Author of the very sexy and extremely hot The Original Sinners series, Tiffany’s a writer we love here on Lady Smut. (see Madeline’s Q&A with Tiffany here). Tiffany also has a really cool website. It’s moody, all black, white, and grey, well organized, and let’s us learn a lot about her. Going with the theme of no photo on the home page, Tiffany’s pretty mug is revealed on her bio page. The picture, I must say, really goes along with the mood of her writing. It’s a black and white picture of her in profile but looking out at the viewer. Really cool.

In my (admittedly somewhat limited) research of romance and erotic romance writers’ websites, the majority (although not all) of writers are indeed using author pictures. Other sites I looked at include Shoshanna Evers, Erica Chilson, Joey W. Hill, Robin Schone, Ella  Quinn, and Lisa Valdez. Now, I wasn’t born yesterday and am aware that some of the pictures may not be of the authors themselves. For a variety of reasons, some of us just don’t feel comfortable having our faces out there. Hey, I get it. That was the point of this exercise, after all. To photo, or not to photo. How do you answer the question?

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