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Is On Fire erotica or romance or just plain sexy?

21 Jul

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

My new Cleis Press anthology that we’ve been celebrating all week is called On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, but what, exactly, does that mean? Is it erotica? Is it romance? Is it a little bit of both? And does that distinction matter?

On bestselling author Sylvia Day’s website, she defines erotic romance as “Erotic Romance: stories written about the development of a romantic relationship through sexual interaction. The sex is an inherent part of the story, character growth, and relationship development, and couldn’t be removed without damaging the storyline. Happily Ever After is a REQUIREMENT to be an erotic romance.”

Author Alice Gaines has also written a great article about the differences between erotic romance and erotica, noting, “In romance, the reader usually knows that by the end of the story, the main characters will be headed toward a lifelong love relationship.  That needn’t be true in erotica.”

So what rules did I apply to editing On Fire? Well, not many. For me, it was very much an I-know-it-when-I-see-it situation. I went by the same criteria I use to select short story for an anthology: which ones best suit the theme and will work well together. In this case, I wanted stories specifically about couples, but not necessarily the same types of couples. I wanted new couplings as well as long-term relationships. I wanted couples who pushed each other into new territory (consensually, of course), who brought out the most daring, lusty sides of each other.

Here’s a snippet of what I included in my call for submissions: “Stories can feature couples exploring new erotic territory, strangers who share a spark, lost lovers or exes reuniting, etc. Final book will contain a mix of storytelling styles, settings and heros/heroines. Kink, sex toys, exotic locations/scenarios welcome as long as there is an element of erotic romance as opposed to strictly erotica. Sensual and sexual should coexist. Stories should be strongly plotted, have engaging, unique characters and be hot and original.”

The final result is a mix of tales ranging from playful to emotionally intense, running the gamut from fetishes to kinks to exes reuniting to first dates and beyond. Here’s a little snippet from the opening story, “Sensitive to the Touch” by Donna George Storey, featuring a silk stocking fetish. You can hear Donna read some of the story and discuss its inspiration on our recent appearance on the podcast Sex Out Loud hosted by Tristan Taormino (audio starts when you open this link so you might want to have your headphones handy).

“Well,” I began, “I know how much you admire a fine pair of female legs.”

Jeremy murmured assent, not that I was expecting an argument there.

“So I was going to make you show me just how much you do by kneeling down and kissing my legs very slowly from my ankle to the band of the stocking. Every inch of flesh would deserve at least an hour of dedicated veneration. But then if you were a very good buy, I was going to let you kiss my naked thighs, all the way up to my pussy. Is that something you’d like to do?”

Now, this same stocking fetish could have been tackled as strictly erotica, in umpteen other ways. To me, what makes it qualify as erotic romance is that it’s about a couple learning about each other and getting closer, both physically and emotionally, by exploring a new aspect of their sexuality. It takes a lot to reveal a fetish to someone else; there’s always the risk of being judged, laughed at, or rejected. To my mind, this story tackles that aspect while also being incredibly sexy. I was thrilled that one Amazon reviewer wrote that the story inspired her to go out and buy silk stockings. Another wrote, “Donna George Storey’s ‘Sensitive To The Touch’ is a fine example of what can happen when we embrace a partner’s fetish and see where it takes us.”

While sexuality and eroticism is at the core of these stories, so is the heart, love, romance and the emotion behind the sex. In other words, whether they’re exploring a fetish, femdom, sex toys, submission, swinging or anything else, there’s genuine feelings between the characters. They may want to be ordered around or blindfolded or participate in an orgy or what have you, but none of those desires take place in a vacuum. The story isn’t so much about the specific sexual fantasy, as how someone the main character loves helped them fulfill it. To me, that’s the key difference. These stories all circle back to the core of what makes the couple tick, what keeps them together, what makes them want to enjoy whatever their given turn-on is with each other. I can’t say for sure if that falls into the strict definition of “erotic romance,” and some readers have decided it’s more one than the other. All I know is that I intended this book to be focused on couples who are daring, bold and sexy, and if you ask me, I achieved that.

Want to judge for yourself which category On Fire falls into? You can buy it now for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks or Kobo, or pre-order the print edition.

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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.

Sexually Omnivorous

20 Jul

Nico Tortorella and Bethany Meyers. Photo: Luke Fontana

by Madeline Iva

There’s an actor named Nico Tortorella out there on a television show I’ve never seen. But what’s making headlines for Nico is that he’s joined part of brave young new Hollywood in saying he’s not a straight male.

He could also say he’s not cis-gender. But who really is cis-gender and likes this term? I don’t. Oh, I don’t mind the queer advocates claiming that everyone needs a term—not just the “other”. Sure, but why cis-gender? It doesn’t roll trippingly off the tongue. It sounds ugly. I don’t approve on aesthetic grounds. (Of course, it’s not like gay people picked the word ‘gay’ to describe themselves.)

How about demi-sexual? That sounds much better and describes me to a T.  It has a delicate nice sound. Demitasse, demimonde, demigod. ; >

Demi means “lesser” so if by adopting what used to be ‘normal’ I have to somehow accept a lexical smackdown, so be it – demi-sexual will do nicely. Now being demi-sexual doesn’t define exactly who it is I’m romantically in love with, but who cares!

Back to our guy Nico. He tried to describe himself as sexually fluid. No, he was told, the proper term is pan-sexual. I knew a lot of guys who were pansexual back in those ten minutes between being a teen and hitched for life to my sweetie. I did not know the term pan-sexual back then. I thought of these guys as sexually omniverrous. Just like an omnivore will eat anything, these guys would too. ; >

Pan – It means everything. The prefix is derived from the Greek πᾶν, used in English for all. It’s the same prefix for words like pandemic, panacea, Pantheon and Pangaea. A close equivalent would be the Latin prefix omni which also means everything. (Quora.com) Pan-sexual sounds rather clinical. It doesn’t sound like much of anything—except that it makes you think of pan, small, goat-like, played the pipes. Meh.

But omni–Sexually everything. Vs. Sexually all… Hmmmm. I still like my word better. It captures what I encountered in these guys—their raging appetite for sexual passion with almost everyone they encountered.

Sexually fluid, meanwhile, has a much more melodious sound.  Again, I don’t think that it’s the people who are these things who are coming up with these terms.

Nico must have been approached by the bisexuals.  The latest article in People about him shows his progression down the sexual by-ways of America.  An article just came out in which he was like: Okay, guys. Okay, people. If you really insist I will simply call myself bi-sexual.

Now, other than the Hootie and the Blowfish Song, everybody doesn’t love you if you’re bi. Nico said the Bi people have fought long and hard for recognition. They will not be overlooked. Does Nico realize how challenging it was to get that B into LBGTQ? Well it was. And Nico was like, okay, okay. I’m happy to join with you all and be bi. Third time’s a charm, right?

Also, the bi people might have pointed out – the idea of pan-sexual is that you’ll have sex with ANYONE – including trans people and cross-dressers, even someone who’s intersex. Is that what you mean Nico? And possibly Nico backed down and was like – no dude. I just meant if I like someone I have sex with them, that’s all, but no, I’ve never done it with someone who’s trans….

Photo for The Advocate by Luke Fontana

This is all conjecture of course.

Now, Nico could have said, “I’ve only had sex with cis-gender women and gay/bisexual men.” But that wouldn’t be true because….

Nico’s partner of eleven years, Bethany Meyers, identifies as a lesbian. (!) A lesbian who, until Nico came into her life, had never been sexually attracted to men, or fallen in love with a man. But she has done both with Nico. Also, she’s polyamorous. What does this mean in her case? Apparently, it means that she is in a committed relationship with him—but likes casual sex with others on the side.

[Isn’t this what we used to call cheating? Not really. We now recognize that people can be romantically attracted to one sex AND sexually attracted to another sex. Sometimes who we love is not who we want to have sex with and vice versa. It’s not cheating unless it’s with your nanny and you didn’t check in with Gwen about it first. *Cough-Gavin Rosedale-Cough*.]

How bold of Nico and Bethany to come out with all of this in Hollywood—which is chock-a-block with lesbians, gays, queers, and people of every stripe in between—but which has been notoriously conservative when it comes to actor’s sexuality and their ability to get roles.

Women were the first to break out of this box, because no one on the face of planet earth has ever really minded the idea of two hot women having sex. As long as a woman identified as bi–not queer or lesbian. The L-word—despite the TV show—is not cool. I mean, look at how long it took Jodi Foster to come out of the closet! But in the last year or so a few young leading women have jumped on the bi-wagon.  Then some men started to join them on the bi-bandwagon.

In doing so—and in finding acceptance with their audiences—they have come to create a line in Hollywood. If you’re on one side you’re old. If you’re on the other side where all the gender fluidity is, you’re au currant, young, hip and fresh. You’re connected with younger folk who are choosing their sexuality the way people used to chose their Jimmy Choo’s.

Pick which side of the line you’re on stars! On one hand everyone desperately wants to appear young and in the know. On the other hand, these people making headlines are new to the industry and this is getting them attention…will they be cut off in the casting room on the quiet by studios? We don’t know yet.

Nico, meanwhile, told The Advocate he’d rather wait until he feels love for the other person. Nico, my friends–like myself–is a demi-sexual.  Ahhhhhh! Feels so good, doesn’t it Nico?

The thing I like about this couple is that he’s for sexual fluidity—and that makes sense given that she seems pretty sexually fluid herself. Yet I tremble for them a little. There’s a segment of the gender wars that doesn’t like sexual fluidity. Sexual fluidity implies that one can move from having sexual attraction for one sex to another sex. And if that’s possible, well, then, you can ‘train’ gay people not to be gay. And we don’t want that, do we? No, we do not. Meanwhile, lesbians are never thrilled with anyone who likes women but then ends up liking a guy. No, queer folk don’t like that kind of narrative at all.

I see the problems here, but ultimately, I back the side most willing to admit life is gloriously messy. What’s so wrong with taking things on a case by case basis? Isn’t sexual freedom ultimately about not having to fit into any particular sexual shoebox?

Yes, we all are grateful to those people who devoted their lives to saying there’s more than one shoebox out there. But isn’t it okay to expand upon that philosophy and keep broadening our sexual horizons?

In the end, I like Bethany and Nico’s story. I like that they are young, and brave, and honest about who they are—knowing that they could get it on all sides.  I like that they explored and wandered outside the lines when it came to their love. There’s a kind of vulnerability at the core of their complicated love story – and ultimately, I back Nico and Bethany because there story is about love.

We’re ON FIRE this week over Rachel Kramer Bussel’s latest anthology. (See what I did there?)  Couples exploring their sexual needs together — just like Nico and Bethany!  Just like YOU! Click to buy it now —

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.

On Fire Week Continues with a Femdom Twofer Tuesday

18 Jul

Click and get your copy right now — today!

By Alexa Day

We’re celebrating the release of Rachel Kramer Bussel’s anthology, On Fire, all week long, but today is extra special. This is the release date for the electronic edition of On Fire, so if you’ve got a Kindle, you could be reading right now. While you’re clicking, On Fire Week continues with a glimpse of one of my favorite subgenres: femdom.

As my colleague Rachel Kramer Bussel promised yesterday, the On Fire anthology contains a femdom story, entitled “Dreams Made Flesh.” The couple featured in the story is just starting to explore the world of female domination together. The protagonist must overcome his fear of revealing his particular submissive inclinations. He revels in competition with other men for his lover’s attention — my favorite analogy pairs the male submissive with the knight riding in the queen’s service, and author Lawrence Westerman does the same here. But the story’s sensual core lies with the protagonist’s willingness to own his submission, with his lover and with others, until he finds the pleasure he most desires with the dominant woman of his fantasies.

“Dreams Made Flesh” is an enchanting story about two people learning to acknowledge their own needs and meet their partners on their journey to pleasure. A great story to leave on your partner’s pillow if you’re struggling with that tricky conversation in real life. I love stories like that, don’t you?

Click here and get your very own copy of On Fire right this second. When you’re done, I’ve got another surprise for you all.

Ready?

No shirt? Mo’ service! Stay tuned to hear more about this hot military femdom story!

That’s the cover for my own, newly expanded femdom story, Passing Through, which first appeared in last year’s Hero to Obey box set. The novella pairs bar owner Gigi Dean with former Army Ranger Noah Monroe. As Gigi’s best employee, Noah should be off limits. She should do the right thing and refuse to act on the immense attraction between them.

But that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? Seriously, does that sound like the sort of thing I’m going to advocate in the fabulous world of erotic fiction?

I’ll have more to share about Passing Through next week, just in time for its release. Right now, build on the summer heat with your own copy of On Fire.

And follow Lady Smut.

Welcome to On Fire Week at Lady Smut!

17 Jul

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Welcome to On Fire week, where we’re celebrating the release of my new Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories, which comes out as an ebook tomorrow, and a print book on August 8th. And stay tuned for the audiobook, which will be narrated by the fabulous author and podcaster Rose Caraway.

I’ll be sharing more later in the week, including a very sexy excerpt from the book, but I wanted to give you a little glimpse into this sexy book, which features couples having all sorts of erotic adventures, from exploring a stocking fetish to planning an orgy to diving into cherished BDSM rituals.

This is the official blurb:

In On Fire, today’s top erotic authors take us inside the passions of couples who go above and beyond in pursuit of sexual and romantic satisfaction, from kink to fantasies to outrageous, stimulating adventures. You’ll treasure the stocking fetish in “Sensitive to the Touch” and travel to “A Place as Beautiful as This.” You’ll go “Beyond the Blindfold,” find out what lurks in the “Art of Darkness,” delight in discovering “The Sweetest Thing,” and observe a feisty femdom couple in “Dreams Made Flesh.” These steamy stories by Kristina Wright, Delilah Devlin, Giselle Renarde, Kay Jaybee, Victoria Blisse, Jade A. Waters and others are perfect bedtime reads for your lover or for your own pleasure.

Here’s my introduction to the book, and keep reading Lady Smut all week for all our fiery posts!

Introduction: Fired Up

What does it mean to be On Fire? The characters in these stories know! It means to burn with need for your partner, to be willing to do anything for them, to take risks because you know they’ll be there to catch you. In this collection of erotic romance stories, you’ll read about all kinds of ways that desire plays out between couples. They know each other inside and out, know what makes the other tick, and use that to their advantage. When the narrator of Jacqueline Applebee’s “Approaching Hardcore” reveals, “I’m a filthy girl. My husband, Dan, always says so,” we know that we’re in for a treat as we find out just how filthy she can be.

Yet these stories are both tender and dirty, sometimes within the span of the same page. That is the beauty of these erotic storytellers—they don’t skimp on love or lust, instead entwining them in tales that will make your pulse pound, your heart race and your breath sigh. Some of these are about new lovers, like the one who helps Deb get over her ex in “Just Knowing.” Some are about long-term relationships where a new revelation leads to the type of intimacy neither partner had imagined, such as in “Every Second of It,” by Lynn Townsend, in which she writes, “Twenty-three years of marriage, and if he knew that she masturbated, he had never mentioned it. Until now. ”On the opposite end of the spectrum are couples who know each other so well, they know exactly how a command like “No underwear” will go over when given from a Dom to his submissive in “My Wife, My Sub, My Love,” by Victoria Blisse.

The couples here also learn how to understand and embrace each other over time, using the power of love and trust to further their sexual and emotional closeness, as is the case in the fun “Sensitive to the Touch,” by Donna George Storey, about a stocking fetish fulfilled. These are transformative, powerful moments that I hope will move you as much as they did me.

Sometimes the most wondrous thing is for lovers to watch their partners with someone else, with their full approval and consent—the couple made all the stronger for their extracurricular passions. This is the case in the paranormal “Masquerade,” by Angela R. Sargenti, and with the swingers in my own “The Dance.”

However these couplings happen, whatever fire warms them from the inside out, transferring from one person to another, all of these tales are ones that are daring, taking risks of the body and soul, in order to reach a new height of pleasure.

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Intrigued? You can buy On Fire for Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks or 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. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

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.

——————————————————————————————————-

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.

——————————————————————————————————-

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.

Guess the Lady Smut TBR Stack–Win $10 Amazon Gift Card!

4 May

Hi RT Orphans! Does your TBR pile have some of the same titles as ours? Let us know–leave us a comment below. 🙂 Want to buy the book on our TBR list? Click the link.  Meanwhile, here’s another fun game you can play at home.

FIRST Read the TBR lists. THEN guess which list belongs to which blogger. Your blogger choices are below & we’ve abbreviated the longer names for you. We also provided some hints.  THE FINAL STEP IS TO email us at LadySmutBlog@gmail.com with your guesses. The first reader to email us the most correct answers wins a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

CONTEST ENDS FRIDAY MAY 5th AT 12PM PST!!!!!

OUR BLOGGERS:

Elizabeth Shore

G.G. Andrew

Kiersten Hallie Krum (KHK)

Alexa Day

Rachel Kramer Bussel (RKB)

Elizabeth SaFleur (ESF)

Isabelle Drake

Thien-Kim Lam (TKL)

Madeline Iva

Ready to play? Here we go——

Lady Smut TBR List #1

Hint: This blogger is a foodie who loves diverse romances & sex toys

  1. Alpha by Jasinda Wilder
  2. Nine Kinds of Naughty by Jeanette Grey
  3. The Muse by Anne Calhoun
  4. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
  5. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Lady Smut TBR List #2

Hint: This blogger likes to share all after a few dirty dates. ; > 
  1. The Pawn by Skye Warren
  2. Trophy Wife by Alessandra Torre
  3. The Truth About Love and Dukes by Laura Lee Guhrke
  4. An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole
  5. The Night Mark by Tiffany Reisz

Lady Smut TBR List #3

Hint: This blogger is a big fan of New Adult romances, secrets, and other crazy, sexy topics.

  1. Bellweather Rhapsody by Kate Racculia
  2. Radio Silence by Alyssa Cole
  3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  4. Deadly Testimony by Piper Drake
  5. Ghostland: An American History of Haunted Places by Colin Dickey

Lady Smut TBR List #4

Hint: This erotica author loves blogging about TWD, kidnapping & a few other illicit topics.

  1. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  2. All the Lies We Tell by Megan Hart
  3. Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Chorderlos de Laclos
  4. Slow Surrender by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Infamous Miss Rodriguez by Lydia San Andres

Lady Smut TBR List #5

Hint: This blogger is wild about reviewing her fav authors.

  1. Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai
  2. The List by Tawna Fenske
  3. Madly by Ruthie Knox
  4. Beyond Doubt by Kit Rocha
  5. Edge of Ruin (set of 3 Viking Dystopian Novellas) by Megan Crane

Lady Smut TBR List #6

Hint: This author blogs about edgy topics of desire including: swallowing, tattooing, cross-dressing–even Jewish Swingers. 

  1. Purity by Jonathan Franzen
  2. The Fireman by Joe Hill
  3. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  4. The Book of Lost Fragrances by MJ Rose
  5. Beyond Ruin by Kit Rocha

Lady Smut TBR List #7

Hint: When this author wasn’t all tied up, she’s blogged about CW’s Riverdale.

  1. Lilith’s Brood by Octavia E. Butler
  2. The Vegetarian by Han Kang
  3. DC Comics Bombshells: Enlisted by Marguerite Bennett & Marguerite Sauvage
  4. Initiates of the Blood by Cecilia Tan
  5. The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Lady Smut TBR List #8

Hint: This blogger is a capital BDSM Erom author

  1. Bombshell by CD Reiss
  2. Truly Helpless by Joey W. Hill
  3. Royally Matched by Emma Chase
  4. The Chosen by J.R. Ward
  5. The List by Anne Calhoun

Lady Smut TBR List #9

Hint: This author loves blogging about wicked villains & paranormal television shows.

  1. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  2. The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic V.E. Schwab
Send off those answers and follow us at Lady Smut. If you want to know the about the latest fun when it comes to sex, romance books, and pop culture–we won’t leave you guessing.
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.

Never Have WE Ever Ever! Lady Smut Bloggers Reveal All…

3 May

You shared your fun, sexy secrets  — Now we’re sharing ours!

We just finished our game of NEVER HAVE YOU EVER EVER at Romantic Times and it was a blast!  Not to fear, RT orphans!–it’s your turn to play. Match our bloggers to their sexy/funny confessions below and you could win a $10 Amazon Gift Card.

THE RULES: Read the questions & answers below.  All the bloggers answered all the questions in the same order every time. Match the answer color to the author.

Answer colors: Pink, Red, Blue, Light Green, Lavender, Orange, Dark Green, Red-Violet, Black.   Bloggers: Madeline Iva, Elizabeth Shore, Kiersten Hallie Krum (KHK), Isabelle Drake, Elizabeth SaFleur (ESF),  Alexa Day, Rachel Kramer Bussel (RKB), G.G. Andrew, Thien-Kim Lam (TKL).

Sample email: “Hi Lady Smut, here are my answers:  Pink is Isabelle Drake,  Red is KHK, Blue is Alexa Day…” Email us your answers at ladysmutblog@gmail.com.  The first person who guesses the blogger order correctly wins!

CONTEST CLOSES SATURDAY NIGHT, (MAY 6th) at 12pm PST!!!

1) Have you ever used a sex toy?

  • Yes, indeed, lots of them!

  • Possibly… though most of the toys around here are the kind that I trip over on the floor in the middle of the night. It’s true what they say: there’s nothing worse than stepping on a Lego at 2 a.m.

  • Does the earth rotate around the sun? That would be a yes.

  • Which ones *haven’t* I tried?

  • I had this nasty-ass clog in my bathroom sink. Couldn’t get even a drop of water to go through. So I grabbed my biggest, longest, whopper of a dildo – and I used that sex toy to pummel that drain into submission. Pounded hard–slap slap. Had that baby unclogged in seconds.

  • I’ve been single for a looooong time. You’re damn right I have. And my best friend knows exactly what to do about my “special box” in the event of my death…before my father finds it. She’s my equivalent of the Coupling pron buddy.

  • I am a sex toy virgin. Saliva is my go to sexual aide.

  • Yep. But I’m not going to tell you about that. I’m going to tell you about the time I was asked to review a set of sex toys. The box was sent to me; I took it to the office where I do my writing. There were so many, I wasn’t sure where to start. Maybe to some people five isn’t all that many, but for me it was a little intimidating. I laid them out on the table beneath a big window, so I could look them over to get inspired. You know what I mean. A couple days later, the maintenance guy lets me know the blinds he ordered for the big window had come it, and that he was going to install them that day. Nope. I didn’t remember ‘the display’ spread out right beneath the window. That’s not completely true. I didn’t remember it –later. When I got home. Now,I remember it every single time I see him.

  • Yes, but only after he agrees to being used.

2) Have you ever had sex outside the bedroom — where?

  • On an airplane.

  • Maybe, but it’s a skill I could stand to work on. I’m very into multi-tasking and those lines at the DMV can get pretty long, amiright?

  • How much time do you have? Outside, hot tub, pool, beach, on a (stationary) motorcycle (for real), at a music festival, in a tent, against a tree, in the woods….

  • Bedroom, kitchen, living room, tennis court, but who’s counting?

  • Once I did it in my apartment’s second bedroom. So technically it was outside THE bedroom.

  • In college. Outside up against the wall of the chapel (no judging!).

  • In a pottery studio. Yes, a la the movie GHOST. So cheesy. Sigh. But the sex was smoking hawt.

  • On the beach, of course! You want to know the others? Read my stuff and guess.

  • Everywhere but the bathroom. I mean, no judgment, but the thought of actual sex in a bathroom is not for me.

3) Have you ever had a threesome?

  • Yes and they’ve been some of the best sexual experiences of my life, especially with a couple who were clearly in love.

  • Naw, too much work/people to think about/elbows to nudge me in the face.

  • In my dreams, yes. In reality—no.

  • I can neither confirm nor deny this.

  • Well, sometimes the cat looks on with the stink eye when I and partner have the naughty in full bloom. That’s three, right??

  • A very, very, very long time ago, when I was too young and inexperienced to understand a lot of things…or enjoy them for that matter.

  • No, but I enjoy living vicariously through my friends.

  • Nope.

  • I can’t get anyone to agree to my terms, so sadly, the answer is no.

4) Have you ever gotten sexual with a woman? –to what extent?

  • Yes, I’ve had one-night stands with women as well as relationships.

  • Nope. I’m neurotic enough by myself.

  • Yes. We’ll just leave it at that.

  • There was a reason the other wing on the floor of my college dorm was called Lesbian Lane.

  • The saleswoman at Victoria’s Secret once helped me pick out some new bras. We talked about panties, too. Low-rise hiphuggers versus cheekys. It was intense!

  • Nope. Strictly dickly.

  • Had to kiss a few women while “acting”. It felt strange kissing someone shorter and smaller…but…interesting.

  • Define sexual. Because I think the answer is going to be yes.

  • I have not. I think I am the elusive Kinsey Zero.

5) Have you ever done something where you’ve slapped your hand to your forehead later and said–“I can’t believe I did that!” Some deets pls.

  • Definitely. If I told you, I’d have to kill you though. Just kidding. Short version: Gone out with a stranger because I was impressed with their 15 minutes of fame, then kept the date going into the bedroom even though they turned out to be really weird (they brought their assistant on our date, for one thing).

  • Many, many times, but almost none of them sexual.

  • Yes. I had sex with a married man believing he was single. The bastard.

  • All the time. You mean with sex? There was the one time I fell off the bed right in the middle of my horizontal polka.

  • OK, so. I had this incredible craving for grapes one time. The red kind, cause I find the green ones a little too tart. Know what I mean? So I’m in my car and I’m really close to Whole Foods, like a few blocks away close. Shop Rite, where I should be going, was considerably farther. I was like some grape addicted junkie needing my fix, so I just said “f**k it, I’m going to Whole Foods.  I bought the grapes, but they were like $7.99 a pound versus 2.99 a pound at Shop Rite. The cashier told me I owed almost $25 for all the bleepin’ grapes I just bought, and I smacked my forehead and said, I can’t believe I just did that!

  • There’s stuff I’ve done from decades ago that still makes me cringe…and some from last week. But nothing sexual.

  • That time we were messing around and I got sperm in my eye. Swear I felt wiggling. It really stung. Like, for an hour at least.

  • Are we still talking about sexual stuff? There was a time I attempted to sit on a bar stool and fell…and another time I got a job at ‘being” the Easter Bunny at the mall.

  • I don’t know if you mean this in a good or bad way. This happened to me in a good way. I still can’t believe this happened. Some time ago, I met a trio of military folk from the Army Officer Training School, which is not far from home. One of them sat down next to me at a bar. Turns out he was celebrating his thirtieth birthday. At the time, I could still see thirty in the rearview mirror, but it was very small and receding quickly. The officers and I went dancing, and I eventually went home with the birthday boy. This is not the shocking part of the story. The birthday boy invited me to a party. A pool party. A pool party with lots and lots of hot, shirtless, young, newly minted Army officers. I kept expecting to wake up. We played a couple of drinking games (my first time playing Flip Cup). It was apparently some sort of tradition for guests to be carried to the pool by their hot, shirtless hosts and tossed in, even if those guests are wearing short, filmy sundresses. You know, the sort of thing that sticks to you after you’ve been tossed into a pool. Important lesson: Study the social traditions of one’s hosts before attending their party. Fortunately I was able to borrow some clothes for the long drive home. I wrote an epic poem about this party. Sometimes I still don’t quite believe it actually happened, but I still have the borrowed clothes to remind me. Good times, good times.

6) Have you ever gotten kinky — was it enjoyable?

  • Yes. I’ve been tied up in a dungeon with someone else and gotten spanked in front of a roomful of people.

  • I’m not sure what “kinky” even means anymore. One woman’s kink can be another’s Saturday Night Special.

  • Yes. See earth reference.

  • I’ll try (almost) anything. Twice.

  • One time I fed my cats and I had no clothes on. Not even a stich!

  • Kink is in the eye of the beholder. But generally, no. I’m adventurous, but overall, mostly the usual. Especially compared to the Lady Smut crew.

  • Yes we get kinky, and f*** yeah,…it’s awesome!

  • The answers are yes and yes. If it wasn’t a good time I wouldn’t have done it. What’s that? You want details? I wish I could offer some but I’m not the get kinky and tell sort of girl.

  • Possibly the kinkiest thing I’ve ever done (and yes, I am reframing the question) is to be hooked up to a TENS unit. This was at another kind of party. The sensation is really intriguing. Kind of like having one’s muscles gently twisted this way and that beneath the skin. A strange, fluid feeling. Very pleasant. All things considered, the TENS unit isn’t all that kinky. My host hooked the TENS unit up to my shoulder, under my dress. But a lot of people are all about being hooked up in other places, if you know what I mean. If you get the picture.

7) Have you ever done “something”–wink wink, nudge nudge–with more than one person on the same day (but you know, NOT at the same time.)

  • I have but I actually wound up feeling really guilty about it because it wasn’t planned.

  • I gotta be honest: this question kind of exhausts me.

  • Yes. Yes, and yes again.

  • I’d tell you, but I’d have to kill you.

  • Yeah. Next question please.

  • A lady leaves the dance with the man who brought her.

  • Three dates with three separate guys in one day. Even **I** can’t believe that happened.

  • Do the characters in my books count?

  • I have not. Usually, if I’m with one person, it doesn’t leave enough time for ‘something’ with another person on the same day. I am, however, a huge proponent of dating more than one man at a time, each on his own night, until one of them starts looking like a really good idea.

8) Have you ever read someone else’s blog post on Lady Smut and thought: “Hoo boy! That was hot/interesting/made me feel squidgy inside.” — Which blog post was it?

  • This one: Cum On Are You Gonna Swallow That 

  • I’m not sure about squidgy, but the sex robot posts are always interesting! As are the posts about hot villain characters. Hot villain characters are what makes American great.

  • Yes. A lot of the spanking posts in the spanking category do it for me.

  • Hoo boy! That was hot/interesting/made me feel squidgy inside –That’s not one of the Lady Smut posts!

  • Now that would be telling… So many. Hard to choose.

  • I’m into posts on men. Bald men, sexy older men, and the occasional post-apocalyptic Viking.

  • I have to say Alexa’s post on Sharing Sexy Secrets just about killed me when I read it yesterday…Lexi and Elizabeth Shore get really edgy, and I lurv it! 

  • Oh geez. Lots of them. Learning about, thinking about, new stuff always gets me stirred up. Not just the steamy things, but anything “thinky” gets my attention. Comfort and stability are great, but mixing things up in conversation, and other places, matters to me.

  • You guys are fantastic, and all your posts are fascinating. But I’ve never been tingly.

9) Imagine someone is holding a gun to your head and you now have to choose a sexual activity you’ve never quite gotten up the nerve to try before. What would it be? The upside: you get to pick the hot sex partner.

  • A threesome with two guys.

  • I’d be too nervous to say–there’s a gun to my head!

  • A three-some with Jason Momoa and David Gandy and they can do *anything* they want to me.

  • The fantasy of two men is real but I’d never feel safe enough to do it. I’m totally boring as I don’t fantasize about hot celebrities. Though I never turn away eye candy, champagne, and ropes.

  • Hot partner of choice would be Dwayne Johnson. But that’s not gonna happen. The Rock doesn’t fear no stinkin’ imaginary gun!

  • Hugh Jackman circa 2007 is my reward for all the unbelievable crap I endured in early aughts and beyond. In a hot tub. The rest would be organic evolution from there.

  • After watching the Man From U.N.C.L.E I thought long and hard about several m/m/f scenarios in which I was the filling in a Henry Cavill/Armie Hammer sandwich. But who didn’t? ; > 

  • If I was feeling sassy, I might suggest doing it with a robot. If I was feeling risky, I might suggest a werewolf. Rugged? A cowboy. You get the idea, its going to depend on my mood.

  • It’s a better use of that imaginary gun to put it to his head. I suspect he’ll need to get up his nerves more than I do.

10) What is the most shocking sexual thing you’ve ever done–that you’re willing to tell us?

  • This is a tough one! The very first sex party I ever attended I lay on a kitchen counter while a metal sex toy that had been in the freezer was used on me. That probably counts.

  • I’m willing to tell you–for a price. I accept PayPal.

  • Sex at a NYC play party with 200 people around, some within inches of us.

  • First I’ll need a pitcher of margaritas.

  • That I’m willing to tell? See above re Victoria’s Secret.

  • All the shocking sexual things I do are done in my head and in my books…for now.

  • My Sweetie and I spent a lot of time naked in our bed post-sex with the covers on.  For some reason, our apartment mates often came into our room and hung out while we were in this state. This is back when we shared an apartment with a revolving cast of characters. Why was our room so popular? Why didn’t we just get out of bed and get dressed once in awhile? IDK.

  • See answer to number 6.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever been shocked by any sexual thing I’ve ever done.

Thanks for playing, folks! One caveat–what happens on the blog stays on the blog.  We reserve the right to deny everything in person. ; > Let us know what you enjoy about sharing sexy secrets below in the comments section. Follow us at Lady Smut! Subscribe to our saucy monthly newsletter!  And thanks so much for bringing joy and friendship to our blog. We luvs you, readers.  🙂

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.

How to write erotic flash fiction and turn readers on in a few pages

17 Feb

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m a sucker for a good short story. I always have been, which is perhaps why I’ve made a career out of editing short story anthologies, but I’ve come to appreciate the genre anew by compiling three books of erotic flash fiction: Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex, The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories and The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales. Yes, the number 69 is a cheeky reference, but also rounds out these collections in a beautiful way, allowing room for plenty of variety.

Before I delve into why I love these super short tales so much, I want to let all you writers out there now that I’m looking for the last few ultra hot, creative and brilliant BDSM erotica stories to include in The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2, to be published in 2018 by Cleis Press. Get all the details in the call for submissions and send your stories in by February 28, 2017. Yes, I know that’s around the corner, but at only 1,200 words or less, writing one can be done in a day.

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

So what do I love about these books? As an editor, I selfishly love that I get to say yes to 69 authors, since sending rejections is the part of the job I hate the most. As a reader, I relish seeing just how playful writers can be with such a limited word count. And as a person with ADD, I love that I can read one of these stories in just a few minutes, making them perfect for our often overbooked and overly busy culture.

Some people might see the words “1,200 words or less” and think, That’s nothing more than a sex scene. Au contraire! What’s been extraordinary to me is seeing just how much passion, heart and soul these authors have imbued into their relatively small amount of words. They’ve created stories that are rich with gorgeous imagery and eroticism, the kinds of stories I reread often. One of my favorites is “Housebroken” by Laila Blake, from The Big Book of Submission, about a special kind of roleplay. Here’s a snippet:

The tiny bell on her kitten-collar chimed whenever she moved her head a little this way or that, sparkling like her pink lips with their ubiquitous honey-scented gloss. All of her seemed to glow as she lay there ivory-pink, her knees pulled up in a shallow angle, leaning against each other, her toes wriggling a little. She never did lie completely still—for that she needed ropes and cuffs, commands and punishments. For the moment, though, Imani allowed it, smiling at her kitten’s antics and the way, in her apartment, her kitten could let go completely, with no care in the world but Imani’s pleasure and her own, attaining the purest sense of freedom humans could find.

Yes, in her limited space, Blake takes readers inside an intimate, loving lesbian BDSM relationship and helps bring their roleplaying to life.

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

One of my favorite stories I’ve ever published is the humorous yet thought-provoking gender changing tale “Remote Control” by Logan Zachary in The Big Book of Orgasms. Using the hilarious premise that the title device can change everything from the weather to one’s genitals, Zachary presents a couple who transform themselves inside and out, with fascinating results. You can listen to the whole story on The Kiss Me Quick’s Podcast—I dare you to do so and not wonder what you yourself would do with such a remote in the palm of your hand! Not only is this story sexy and funny, it also manages to slyly comment on gender and sexual orientation.

What the writers who are successful at these sexy flash fiction stories know is that economy of language can indeed be hot, because it forces you to truly say what you mean and imbue every single word with as much power as possible. You can focus on the heart of what makes a relationship or sex act or scene so arousing, cutting out all extraneous distractions. Honing in on what’s vital can help authors see what makes the story tick and force them to value each thought, each touch, each movement as it builds to something greater than the sum of its parts. For the reader, the payoff is that they can get completely sucked into a story, knowing they can fully savor it in the time it takes to enjoy a morning cup of coffee.

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

These tales capture the complexity of trying something new in bed, and instead of jumping straight into the screwing, they still take the time to make imbue realism into the equation. In “Anal-yzed” by Donna George Storey from Gotta Have It, she tackles the negotiation between a couple about exploring anal sex, covering a woman’s doubts, fears and uncertainties while still maintaining the heat level:

“Interesting. I have another theory, though.” As he said this, his finger dipped between my asscheeks to stroke my tender pink valley.

I shivered and arched up into his touch. “Theory?”

“Yes, that anal sex is an unnatural act, so it makes you feel like a dirty slut to do it.”

My muscles down there—belly, cunt, asshole—immediately went into spasm, prickles of shame mixed with sweet twinges of pleasure. He was right. It was a turn-on to be a naughty girl who let boys in the back door. But I suddenly realized something else too. Having him talk about fucking my ass—actually analyze it like this—was making me incredibly hot.

Yes, within the confines of her 1,200 word maximum, Storey takes a common sexual fantasy, deconstructs it and does it justice as the narrator and her partner find out just how they can make this fantasy come true. She doesn’t waste any words, but she doesn’t rush the action either.

For those who prefer watching a sex scene unfold, here’s me reading my face slapping erotica story “Manners” from Gotta Have It several years ago at erotic shop Coco De Mer in West Hollywood, a topic I enjoyed distilling into a few racy pages:

To play devil’s advocate, I know that for those who solely read and write novels, the idea of even attempting to narrow down a short story into the confines of flash fiction is anathema. The biggest complaint I get from readers is that these stories are too short, that just as they get started, they’re over. On that point, I agree; however, I see their shortness as their strength, their beauty, their brilliance, and if they leave you wanting to know more about these characters, I consider that a win. So if you’re pressed for time, have a limited attention span like me, or simply want a huge amount of variety in the palm of your hands, check out these flash fiction books, and perhaps they’ll even inspire you to write one of your own.

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, 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.

Sex in public, or why I read my erotica to live audiences

18 Mar

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Writing is a lonely act, and while I wouldn’t trade my writing time for anything, ever since I was first published in the erotica genre in 2000, I’ve sought to take that act out into the world and make it interactive with live readings. Because my stories and books veer toward the sexier side of things, I’ve found that audiences are incredibly hungry to hear people talk about sex in public in an honest, open, unashamed way. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction, or what the exact details are: if you stand up in front of a crowd of people and are talking about getting naked, people will listen.

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Me with burlesque performer Gigi La Femme at In The Flesh

For five incredible years of my life, from 2005-2010, I took that spirit and ran a reading series in New York called In The Flesh. In that time period, I hosted over 300 readers covering a range of genres, from erotic romance to memoir and poetry. While these days it’s but a fond memory, running In The Flesh remains one of the highlights of my career because it taught me an incredible amount about getting out of my shell and connecting readers with authors.

Yes, it was exciting when the events were covered on Gawker and Flavorwire, but what warmed my heart was walking into the relatively small bar where the readings were held and seeing both familiar and new faces each month. The people who showed up valued the community that formed sitting around tables before the readings just as much as what was said into the microphone. They valued the openness about all kinds of sexual interests that were presented with complete honesty, whether they were sex confessions or love stories, fetishes or fears, tender moments or raucous ones.

What thrilled me was when authors who made the erotica genre what it is today, like Susie Bright and Zane, deigned to grace my stage. If you want to make friends with writers, my advice is to start a reading series. Writers want to bring their words directly to people, want to find out which lines sizzle and which ones fizzle. They want to have a give and take with an audience, to share a part of themselves and have listeners share right back.

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Zane reading at In The Flesh; photo by Stacie Joy

One piece of advice I give my writing students, but don’t always take myself, is to read your work out loud. Yes, it’s time consuming, yet I’ve never regretted doing it, because I always find elements that work differently when voiced. Well, live readings take that sensation and amplify it. If you’re reading from an already published work, sure, you can’t change the text on the page (unless you’ve self-published in ebook form), but you can learn how to phrase things differently next time. You simply hear yourself in an entirely new way.

That’s why, even though I now live in suburbia and don’t have access to many literary events, for my newest anthology, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, I’ve made it a point to travel and bring these stories to life live. It also gives me the chance to get to know my authors in person and introduce their work not just on the page, but in front of actual people.

That’s an important part of my value system as a writer and editor, because I know that those who come out to hear a reading, given the myriad other options for how they could spend their evening, will remember the little things. They’ll remember the funny behind the scenes story or bit of local inspiration a writer shares. They’ll remember the way someone’s voice drops or how they shift or blush. They’ll remember the sound and texture and rhythm and energy when they’re at home, rereading those same words. I know I certainly do, and once I’ve heard an author read their work out loud, that forever changes the way I approach it when I return to it on my own.

For all that, though, readings are not easy. You are competing with the weather, with other events, with TV and every other form of entertainment out there. You never know how many people will show up, or how much they will pay attention once they do. You don’t know if someone will ask a question during a Q&A that is utterly inappropriate. There’s no guarantees and room for any and all surprises, which is part of the magic and the horror of doing live readings. There’s no delete button, only spur-of-the-moment decisions.

Then there’s the actual opening your mouth and sharing your words part. The truth is, for me, even reading my work out loud is incredibly scary. No matter how many readings I’ve done, I still shake and get nervous and want to duck and hide whenever I step in front of a mic, or look up and see eyes eagerly expecting me to entertain them. It’s a far cry from staring at a blank screen, which, while demanding in its own way, is not one I will ever disappoint.

I don’t know if something that was a breeze to write will suddenly remind me of an intimate part of myself I didn’t realize I’d revealed in print. I often cringe as I mentally go back and try to re-edit my words, inserting a more charming phrase rather than a clunker that now seems totally wrong.

But what I’ve learned from sharing my stories everywhere from famed lesbian bar Meow Mix (RIP) to London sex toy store Sh! and countless places in between is that it’s worth getting over those nerves. Why? Because readings bring out our humanity. While words on a page (or screen) remain the same, we will never speak them aloud again in the exact same way. I learn more about myself and my work every time I read it aloud, and as an anthology editor, I treasure being able to hear my authors voice their work and bring out nuances I never would have gotten if I hadn’t heard them.

If I were rich, I would find a way to do readings with every author in my anthologies, because while I’m infinitely grateful that my books are on bookstore shelves, in ebook formats and out as audiobooks, it makes me fee like I’ve come full circle as an editor to get to smile and look directly into my authors’ eyes, to get to know the person behind the story, to take a tale I’ve come to think I know and add even more depth to it.

I also want to help create public spaces where listeners can hear writers, especially women, sharing stories about love, sex, romance that come from the heart. When my voice drops as I read, or I stammer, or I make a last minute decision to skip a part that no matter how many dirty words I’ve written, suddenly seems “too embarrassing” to say in front of people who I’ll be mingling with in an hour, I’m being human. I’m not three names in a fancy font on the cover of a book or a Twitter handle, but a person revealing my flaws and insecurities.

That human element is one that can’t be replicated. As I said at the beginning, writing is lonely, but when you hear someone chuckle or exclaim or gasp or whisper, it’s an incredible feeling, one that, for me, is worth all the nerves. It means that my words, the ones I often struggle over, the ones that seem distant because they were written one or two or ten years ago, are suddenly vivid and alive.

Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that audiences don’t expect me to be perfect (I do enough of that on my own). They’re okay if I trip and stumble over a word, if I suddenly get shy, if my persona on the page doesn’t quite match up to who I am in a room full of strangers. They aren’t looking for a false version of perfection, but for genuineness, and that I can amply provide.

So if you’re in Chicago, or know anyone else who might be and would like to hear some sexy stories about everything from a woman used as a lover’s canvas to a couple and a tentacle dildo to a woman whose erotic airplane adventures are reported back in breathless detail to her husband, I hope you’ll join me and my authors Tara Betts and Rose P. Lethe on March 31st. I promise we’ll give you an event to remember.

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