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For Your Amusement: Three Diversions to Occupy Your Impatient Mind

24 Jan
Dorothy and Lucas, from Emerald City. This ain't Kansas, and that guy's no scarecrow.

Dorothy and Lucas, from Emerald City. This ain’t Kansas, and that guy’s no scarecrow.

By Alexa Day

Three weeks until The Walking Dead comes back.

Eight months until Pitch returns.

Day 3 of the new President’s first 100.

These are hard times for an impatient woman. I found myself in search of diversions, something to take my mind off the political clusterf*ck that is social media. Something that would make time go by much, much faster.

I got lucky this week and found three.

1. Emerald City. Mixed opinions follow Emerald City, an NBC series inspired by L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. It’s a dark reimagining of the stories many of us know best through the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz. But the Oz books were darker than the film, and the series is darker still. Just within the first few episodes, the story reveals prostitution, ritual suicide, and the introduction of gun violence into a world that’s already a pretty dangerous place.

I love it.

Visually, Emerald City is quite a spectacle. The spires of the titular city rise high over the sea, and we’re treated to a variety of sweeping landscapes. Everything looks just unreal enough. It’s a big change from the Technicolor experimentation of the film.

Women dominate Emerald City’s storylines. The Wizard has forbidden magic in the realm of Oz … and magic is used primarily, if not exclusively, by women. The story traces several women’s relationships with their powers, whether their magic is stifled, latent, or on full, startling display. Morality, identity and power come together in fascinating ways, and before long, the Oz of Emerald City starts to raise questions that have troubled women for a long, long time.

Oh … and the Scarecrow’s never looked quite like this.

Give it a try. It’ll make you think.

2. Playboy. I wrote a while ago about what Playboy would be like without its nudes. I popped over there last weekend, looking for something to read, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Playboy has always upheld a somewhat proud literary tradition; its track record with short fiction is long and impressive. And then there’s the Playboy interview, whose question-and-answer format gave Alex Haley a way to use laconic jazz legend Miles Davis’s curt responses. When I read Playboy, I really was there for the articles. But I’ll confess that I haven’t read any part of it in a pretty long time.

I don’t know if the disappearance of the print pictorial has anything to do with it, but my recent visit to the website revealed a wealth of women writers, alongside their male counterparts. The lineup of articles includes coverage of the Women’s March (including the best of the signs), questions about women, jazz and La La Land, a critique of modern journalism, and my favorite — a peek at how much better sex can be with an unattractive partner.

Are there still scantily clad women on the Playboy website? Sure. But I work in a world of scantily clad men. I will not now be seen to point fingers.

3. Exhibit Unadorned. In its struggle to redeem itself this past week, Facebook introduced me to a new-to-me blog, Exhibit Unadorned. Kayla Lords, a woman I’m proud to call a Facebook friend, wrote this interview with Exhibit A, a male sex blogger from London. Exhibit A didn’t match my stereotypes of what a male sex blogger would sound like. Sure, his blog has a whole page of links to dick pics sprinkled generously through his posts. But his post about a sex party he attended with his girlfriend would be at home in any erotic romance. A his-and-hers commentary about a shabbily written list of sex don’ts is too cute for words, and all too true.

I feel bad for being surprised by this. I don’t really have a reason, other than being narrow-minded, to think that a male sex blogger can’t produce this kind of inviting, fun, sex-positive work. Perhaps Snctm left a bad taste in my mouth.

If you’re looking for a diversion for the next 98 days and beyond, I hope I’ve given you a lot to click on! We’re all in this together, after all. And if you’ve got diversions to share, hit me up in the comments.

And follow Lady Smut. The time will just fly by.

The Naked Male Form

30 Nov

Well. Now that I have your attention.

Romance writers share. We share a *lot*. We share common things. We share…intimate things. We share funny things. We share favorite books and favorite tropes and favorite characters and favorite men. And ladies too. But really, men. A bunch of years ago, when I helped coordinate the #ManCandyMonday hour (every Monday at 9 PM on Twitter) and its coordinating blog (now retired), we shared the menfolk images. Boy. Howdy. (This was back before MCM became “A Thing” and everyone and their BFF decided to run a ManCandy blog/meme. It’s tough being a trendsetter, I’ll tell ya. [Kidding. A little.])

Handsome Is

Yup. It surely is.

One of the best shares I had in recent weeks was to the Tumblr page, Handsome Is, a site that features photos of men–athletes, models, and others–in both candid and posed pictures and even selfies the subject has posted himself.

Somewhere.

It’s a visual feast, I promise you. And given, as I’ve mentioned before, that I’m visually oriented…I pigged out.

Recently, I had the need to scroll through nearly a year’s worth of Handsome Is posts to locate the hero inspiration for my Sekrit Project, but I womaned up and took one for the proverbial team. Oh how I suffer for my art.

nekkid ibiza

Cheeky wave. From Dylan Rosser’s Facebook page. Click image to go to site.

Handsome Is is quite NSFW even though it doesn’t reveal the whole hog, as it were, (or at least not as far as I’ve seen), less so the photography of Dylan Rosser, though surreptitiously place stickers keep the goods from public view. This was another romance writer share, this time in my FB feed, that inspired a click-through to Rosser’s Kickstarter campaign (already fully funded and then some) for his upcoming photography book Naked Ibiza. (There’s a seriously NSFW Vimeo trailer on that link, so proceed with caution.)

Faced with all those manly (sometimes hairy), well-defined chests and abs and shoulders and Adonis Belts (Strewth!), I found it mildly unusual to peruse the pictures without feeling like it (the site, not the perusing) skirted the edge of pervy. Like with woman photography, male photography is as capable of skimming that fine line between admiration/celebration and exploitation. But both the Handsome Is Tumblr site and Dylan Rosser’s photography do something that still, to this day, is relatively uncommon (particularly in relation to its female counterpart): celebrate the naked male form.

Photographer Michael Stokes takes that concept and advances it to celebrate the “damaged” male form. Along with his other male photography, Stokes celebrates the naked (or nearly so) soldiers who have lost limbs or have other permanent physical injuries earned during their service. Their physical losses are so far from being a weakness, it doesn’t even bear association, their appearances instead a testament to their inner resilience, feats of strength many whole-bodied men (and women) could never dream to achieve. Stokes’ Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for both books was fully funded in an hour and a half.

Supply meet Demand.

Michael Stokes’ Always Loyal collection of Gulf War veterans (male and female) photographs is now available.

Always Loyal

Holy cats. Click image to buy. Great holiday gift!

I’m a fan of director/photographer TJ Scott‘s work too, particular his In the Tub series (proceeds of which benefit Breast Cancer Research in honor of his mother’s repeated struggle with the same) of male and female celebrities photographed naked in a tub in unique ways. His use of light and shadow particularly create often ethereal images celebrating beauty in intimate spaces.

kris in the tub 2

From TJ Scott’s upcoming In the Tub Vol 2. Volume 1 is now available. Click image to buy.

Not for the first time, I’m struck by how it’s still somewhat unusual to have professional photographers who focus on the naked male form. Our society continues to place more emphasis on naked women than men. Whether this is a (morally) good or bad thing and whatever your sexual politics, it’s yet far more common to see a naked female breast on TV and film that an unveiled penis and even then there’s some Greater Purpose or Reason than the mere titillation for which female nudity is usually employed. (For more on than, read my A Penis on TV post regarding that magical unicorn that keeps on giving, Outlander.) Even the Magic Mike “phenomenon” was treated dramatically different than, say, Striptease or Showgirls.

I know, I know, I’m revisiting a theme here…but it’s a *good* theme.

Romance writers share a lot of goodness both to each other and to others through their stories. We want to celebrate male and female beauty, the resilience and endurance of love and relationships, and the fact that every woman has the right to be the hero of her own story…and find her hero counterpart along the way.

After all, sharing is caring.

Follow Lady Smut. We share all sorts of good things.

To Love, Honor, And Have Sex With Others

17 Jun

Conceptual photo of a marital infidelity

By Elizabeth Shore

There are lots of dating websites out there that help you hook up. Fill out your profile, slap up a picture, and you can start trolling around for potential mates, or just potential FWBs. But a new dating website puts a different spin on the online hook-up scene. OpenMinded.com offers, in their words, “a safe and stigma-free environment that brings the ease and flexibility of online dating to the currently under-served world of open and alternative relationships.” Another way to look at it: If you want an open marriage, this site’s for you.

In traditional romance novels (meaning just h/h, not ménage or group), there’s little mention of the relationship growing stale. Instead we see lines such as: After 30 years, passion between them still smoldered. If there is mention of marital moldiness, it gets patched up and by the end of the book all’s well. But the reality is that in long-term relationships, it’s tough keeping it fresh.  Some scientists even say that we’re not by nature monogomous beings and that insistence on it means we’re fighting our true selves. Reality, they would argue, is different from most folks’ romantic ideals. Be that as it may, the idea of our committed partner having sex with someone else doesn’t sit well in western society minds. Cheaters are on par with lepers. But what if you’re not, technically, cheating? What if you and your partner have decided to give an open marriage a go?

Sex advice, relationship-columnist, and author Dan Savage has a lot to say on the topic. Savage can be provocative when he says that infidelity might save a relationship, but before deciding he’s nothing more than an affront to the institute of marriage, check out what he has to say.

For starters, Savage is for the most part an advocate of monogamy. He acknowledges the benefits and says it’s right for many couples. Yet with monogomy come drawbacks, such as “boredom, despair, lack of variety, sexual death, and being taken for granted.” To combat this, he says, we have to be honest about our needs and whether or not they’re being met. Couples must decide what being monogomous means for them. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” Savage insists. What any relationship has to have is openness and honesty. If you’re considering an open marriage or open relationship, talk about what that looks like. Do you tell your partner about what you’re doing, or do you advocate for a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach when you or your partner are getting some on the side. Are there boundaries? For example, can you do some things, such as oral sex, but not others, such as intercourse?

Ideas like this are in direct opposition to how most western sociey couples have come to view monogamy. All this talk of open marriage is nonsense, many would think. If there are troubles, you just need to work through them. But it’s this kind of viewpoint that itself, according to Savage, will lead to problems. The strict definition of monogamy can mean that someone’s needs aren’t going to get met and eventually it’ll lead to cheating. “Some people need more than one partner,” Savage writes, “just as some people need flirting, others need to be whipped, others need lovers of both sexes. We can’t help our urges, and we should not lie to our partners about them.”

Although not sure whether I’m totally down with Savage, I think he brings up interesting points and has clearly thought a lot about the topic. It’s certainly a shift in thinking to decide to be OK with your partner having sex with someone else. I’d like to see someone tackle that in a romance novel. I know it’s handled in “women’s fiction,” but I haven’t seen an open marriage couple in traditional h/h romances. Would it sell, or would it be scorned? What do you think?

To have an open marriage, or not to have an open marriage. Interesting question indeed. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. And don’t forget to enter our Lady Smut Dark Desires giveaway.

 

My Favorite Guilty Blog Pleasures

10 Mar

By Liz Everly

Photo by Dollen.

Photo by Dollen.

One of my guilty pleasures is surfing the web. I am of an age where I’m still enamored with the fact that I have all of this information at my fingertips. I find it either maddening or inspiring much of the time—so I tend to go back to some favorite blogs, especially on long winter days when my family is home from school and work. I adore them, but I can only take so much family time and must sneak away for mama-time.

And you all know by now that I have a streak of the naughty in me. I thought I’d share some of my favorite grown-up blogs with you. This is not like our weekly “Sexy Saturday Round-Up” feature because our weekly feature is more news-oriented, you know, the latest interesting blog posts we find. This is more like my own personal tried and true list.

Easily Aroused: Erotic Fiction by an oversexed Englishman  I’ve been a big fan of EA’s for a long time. (He goes by EA, very mysterious and intriguing. ) Once you start looking, there’s a lot of blogs that offer free erotic short stores. None of them are as good as this one. And this man is quite up my own personal naughty alley.

Remittance Girl Erotic Fiction  I find this site and this writer intriguing. I enjoy most of her stories. Some of them are a bit too edgy for me. But wow, I keep coming back because the writing is good. It’s also, um, quite educational for me.

On a WAY different and more serious track, yet it’s absolutely on of my favorite blogs is The Honest Courtesan.  This woman writes from experience and gives great information on being a sex worker. Stuff that will shift your paradigm about sex workers and give you much to think about. Take your time and read through the archives. You won’t be sorry.

On yet another track, I love Brain Pickings. Have you read it? No, it’s not necessarily a sexy site, but it does offer some great posts about sex sometimes. Once again, the writing on this site pulls me in and I love how in-depth some of the  posts get. Here’s one of the sexy posts I really liked: http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/06/13/the-origins-of-sex-dabhoiwala/

And right now my favorite romance-writer blog (other than Lady Smut, of course) is Wonk-o-Mance.  I love the voice, the diversity, and the wonkyness. (Is that a word? I don’t care. It’s perfect.) They seem to have a different take on a lot of all-things-romance. I find the blog thought-provoking and enjoyable.

So those are my favorite blogs that you probably don’t want your kids to see you reading. If you can find some time and hide away from them, (or whoever else is lurking in your house), I promise my go-to escape blogs will do a better job of taking you away than you might imagine. (Lady Smut can do that for you, too. Don’t forget to subscribe.)

Do you have any favorite blogs that you visit? Please share!

In the mean time, the first book in my SAFFRON NIGHTS series is free on Amazon. Scoop it up now– I’ve no idea how much longer this promotion will last.

LizEverly_SaffronNights

Cookies And Cowboys: My Weird Obsession With The Pioneer Woman

21 Jan
Oh Ree, how I love thee

Oh Ree, how I love thee

By Elizabeth Shore

Even though I spent my childhood in the suburbs, as an adult I’m a fully converted city girl. Everything I could ever want is at my fingertips. Yes, I know, in NYC we have rats, roaches, rude people, sky high rent, too many honking cars, and gazillions of tourists, but that’s OK. We also have every variety of ethnic restaurant on the planet, we have theater and arts and culture and music and sports and on and on and on. While some people get panicked by the thought of being jam-packed like sardines on a subway, I take comfort in crowds. Isolation, on the other hand, freaks me out. All that space! No stores, no services. No people! Where do I get my mani/pedi? My lip wax? What the heck do I do about my dry cleaning? Where are all the Starbucks?

These concerns and more are easily addressed in the city. But in the country – egad! You gotta fend for yourself. So it’s quite unexpected that I’ve recently developed a weird crazy obsession with Ree Drummond, a.k.a, The Pioneer Woman. Do y’all know Ree? She lives on a remote cattle ranch in Oklahoma with her husband, Ladd, and their four kids. She cooks and bakes (a lot!), she blogs, she gardens, she’s a photographer, she homeschools her kids, and she has a cooking show on The Food Network. She lives in the middle of nowhere. We have virtually nothing in common. So why do I find myself not only watching her show, but making sure my DVR is set to record every episode? No really. I’m not kidding. Every episode.

As I try analyzing what’s behind this fixation of mine, I realize it’s probably because Ree does a whole lotta things right when it comes to her own career. She can be, and should be, a source of inspiration for us writers because there’s a lot to learn from her, specifically as it relates to her blogs and her website. They’re awesome.

A friend who’s an expert in website communications and publicity told me that one of the most important attention grabbers on a website is high-quality imagery. A page with pictures versus one with just text gets clicked on 94% more. Ree – who happens to be an amateur photographer – has tons of photos on her site. There are pix of where she lives, of her family, her vacation. But where she really shines is her recipes. With each one on the site there’s a step-by-step series of photos showing how everything is supposed to look as you’re preparing it so you can pretty much tell if you’re doing OK or royally screwing it up. And, of course, there are photos of how it all should all look once you’re done.

Photo courtesy of Ree Drummond

Photo courtesy of Ree Drummond

Take a peek at the recipe and photos for chocolate chunk cookies to see what I mean. Absolutely divine.

She refreshes the pages on her website all the time. I know when I go there I’m not going to be stuck with broken links and content that was uploaded last spring. To be fair, she may nowadays have helpers to keep up with all this stuff, but that hasn’t always been the case. She had to build her career just as we need to build ours, bit by bit, and she’s now one of the top three female bloggers on the web. Over the years she’s learned a thing or two about blogging and has got some great advice. Her words of wisdom about blogging are here.

Another thing about her site that keeps me coming back are the sprinkles of humor throughout her writing. Her sense of self-deprecation is often laugh-out-loud funny. To see what I mean, check out her hilarious post,”All I Wanted Was A Doughtnut.”

Ladd Drummond. Photo Courtesy of Ree Drummond

Ladd Drummond.
Photo Courtesy of Ree Drummond

As for her show, her house is beautiful, her man’s a stud and her kids are extraordinarily well behaved. In front of the camera, anyway. Seems it would be easy to hate the woman, yet you just don’t. Her blog is read by thousands every day across the globe, and another thing that keeps ’em coming back are her giveaways. Really good ones, drawing tons of readers. Just recently she gave away three beautiful dutch ovens. All you had to do to win was leave a comment about what you had planned for the weekend. That giveaway alone drew over 126,000 comments. As fellow blogger Alexa Day would say, heyo!

So cowboy hats off to the “accidental country girl” Ree Drummond and her words of blogging and career inspiration. Maybe one day she can teach me how to make those cookies of hers.

And although we Lady Smutters might not be talking about cookies, we bake in words of wisdom of our own each and every day. Be sure to follow us do you don’t miss a thing.

We’re on our blog tour for the Lady Smut anthology — visit us this week! 🙂

16th January: http://www.pinkypollock.blogspot.com

19th January: http://www.confessionsofabookwhore.org/

20th January: http://houstonhavens.wordpress.com/

21st January: http://eroticaforall.co.uk

22nd January: http://sslyblog.wordpress.com/

23rd January: http://www.reviewedthebook.co.uk/

Spinning Gold on Tour!

5 Dec

Spinning Gold by C Margery Kempe - 500

C. Margery Kempe here. I’m grabbing my Fresher Fairy Tales and heading on tour next week: join me to win prizes! There’ll be a Rafflecopter giveaway of an Amazon gift certificate at the end. Thanks, Writer Marketing Services & Lucy Felthouse!

 

8th December http://www.thenovelapproachreviews.com/
9th December http://mmgoodbookreviews.wordpress.com/
10th December http://heartsonfirereviews.com
11th December http://jensreadingobsession.blogspot.com/
12th December http://wowfromthescarfprincess.blogspot.com/

 

Swan Prince by C Margery Kempe -  500

I hope our readers will tag along for the fun. In any case, you want to follow Lady Smut because we’re a gift you can get every day!

tourbutton_spinninggold

Manservants ‘R Us

22 Sep

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I’d planned an entirely different post today and then this crossed Twitter feed.

 

Um. Wow. And also…What?!

I went from GIMME to CREEPY in a New York minute, but then I settled down to read the particulars and turned fully into hmmmmm. This is what snagged my attention: “That’s when we realized male-strippers are hand-me-down fantasies.”

I’m amused by the smug judgmental diss at the end of the ManServants video: “Ladies, if you hate your friend–and yourself–get her a stripper.” I’m all about empowering women and particularly empowering them to claim their sexuality. I’m just not convinced a male strip tease where the dude is all over you like A Night at the Roxbury does that.

Stripping isn’t organically a female fantasy, but one essentially reclaimed from men. Don’t get me wrong, we like to see guys take their kit off. (Boy. Howdy.) But male stripping as entertainment is something women have appropriated from the original male fantasy and it has very different power dynamics then its female counterpart. A bachelorette gig at a male strip club–sorry, male revue club–can be a damn good time, but it’s ultimately not so different from a trip to Medieval Times only with less clothes and no horse shit.

Well, no actual horse shit.

The ManServants web site makes it clear that’s not what they’re about. Based in San Francisco and opened for business this fall, ManServants initially positions itself as an antidote to any woman stuck on the…horns of a stripper dillema. Its raison d’être is to empower women in order to give them an experience that makes them feel worshiped and adored.

ManServants aren’t about what men think women want, or about women acting like men and objectifying men—it’s about the fantasy of finally getting the royal treatment. It’s about adoration, not domination.

With ManServants we want to empower women to define what’s sexy and make their own rules. Rules that a ManServant may then follow.

Sounding better by the minute. Though there’s still a whole “obedience” issue going on there so in that sense, somebody’s being dominated. But wait! How does an enterprising, charming, woman-loving, hot dude get to become a ManServant? So glad you asked!

As a general footnote, this is not an adult entertainment service. No nudity or illegal activities will be permitted. For the love of all that is good and holy, do not send us naked photographs. Your penis will not get you a job, but a great smile and winning personality will. Do not consider applying if you have ever been called the following: douchebag, sexual offender, sexist, creeper, nut job, weirdo, or convicted felon.

I would now like to go do tequila shots with the founders of ManServants. They had me at “your penis will not get you a job.”

manservants

Order up!

ManServants can act as chauffeur, bodyguard, picture taker, purse holder, party wait staff, bag carrier, dog walker, grill master, butler, bartender, live music performer, personal assistant, cabana boy…basically whatever tasks might make you want to call out “oh, monkey boy!”, a ManServant will do. You can customize your ManServant too and choose the clothes, hair color, and even the accent of your choice! Darlings, you know how I feel about certain accents…

It’s fun to joke about the studly guy we’d get to mow our lawns and clean our floors, but do we really want to see that fantasy become reality on our doorstep like a Swifter box delivery? Mmmmmmaybe. But if we reverse the genders and make it Maidservants with similar sycophantic adoration for a fee, it shifts the entire power dynamic and becomes more derogatory, offensive, and pervy. Much like the change in power dynamics between a “male revue” strip club and a standard club with women on the pole.

Factor in that many aspects of a ManServants job are as simple as “compliment her every quarter of an hour” or “go for a walk with her” with even a massage upgrade on the offer. It seems ManServants means to make the most of the (generally true) assumption that women are just not being loved and appreciated enough by their mates or their families or both. It means to provide women with some en pointe solutions to combat that lack. Husbands and lovers take note–and perhaps take lessons.

Gotta say, while I’m not sure I’d do it (I’m fairly certain I can’t afford it), I can totally see the fun of hiring up a handsome ManServant designed and chosen specifically to my tastes whose sole duty is to make me goddess of all I survey for a day. Even if only short-lived. that would be some fantasy. Would you?

Follow Lady Smut. Go ahead. Adore us.

Cooking Up Romance: Q&A With Elisabeth Lane

30 Jun

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I was on The Twitter the other day–Surprise!–and stumbled across a convo between romance writers Jeffe Kennedy and Amy Jo Cousins and a new-to-me reviewer Elisabeth Lane. Being naturally nosy to occasionally stalkerish-lengths, I glommed in and checked out Ms. Lane’s review site. And man, am I glad I did.

Elisabeth Lane writes a unique romance novel review blog called Cooking Up Romance where she matches romance novels with recipes from her archives, cooks ’em up, and describes the process in detail while including a review for the romance novel that inspired her in the first place. Pretty cool, right? I thought so and asked Elisabeth if she’d chat with me a bit about herself and her site.

Warning: The following interview could make you very hungry and possibly add a few pounds by association. It’s not our fault. Really.

How long have you been reading romance? Do you remember your first romance novel?

I picked up my first romance novel when I was in the 8th grade. I was reading a lot of fantasy at the time and I think I mistook a Julie Garwood novel with a kilted Highlander on the front of it for a book with magic in it. I was just too young to know any better. I don’t remember which specific novel it was, but I was hooked from then on. I read a lot of Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts and 25 cent used Harlequins in those days.

Well, there’s magic in romance, right? Works for me! What is your cooking background? 

DSC_0045

Honey and Wine Poached Apricots for Lisa Hendrix’s Immortal Warrior. Click on photo to buy the book!

I don’t have any formal culinary training, but I started cooking when I was 8 years old. At first it was just oatmeal, muffins, and spaghetti, but by the time I hit high school, I was setting brandy on fire and working through 25-step terrine recipes. I guess I just have an aptitude for it.

I would say so! What made you start Cooking Up Romance? Were you inspired by any particular book or event?

I started Cooking Up Romance because I had been reading a couple of other romance blogs for about six months and just loved the community I saw there. Jackie Horne’s Romance Novels for Feminists is what inspired me most. I decided that I had to start my own blog just so I’d stop writing blog posts in her comments section.

What first made you connect cooking to romance novels?

My great-grandmother was one of those stereotypical Sicilian women who would ask us when we came to visit if we’d eaten. It didn’t matter what we said, the answer was always, “I’ll just fix you a little something,” usually resulting in at least a three-course meal. I understood very early on that cooking for people was how you told them you love them. I don’t write reviews of books I didn’t enjoy so each one I do is like a public mini fan-letter.

It’s also easy for me to get into cooking ruts. I never saw a recipe with bourbon, bacon, or salted caramel I didn’t like so picking foods from books forces me to branch out. Plus, I’m a Virgo so I need structure for my creativity. Choosing a food from a book gives me lines to color in and stretches my skills when I can’t find a recipe for something I’ve come across and want to reproduce.

What has been your favorite recipe discovery so far? Are there any funny failure stories to share?

DSC_0008

My favorite recipe thus far was probably the Nutella Crème Brulee I made for Ava Lovelace’s Lumberfox. It was the perfect combination of a food that actually appeared in the book with a twist put on it by an unrelated element of the story. Plus, Nutella Crème Brulee.

What’s not to love about that?

I used to have cooking failures all the time, particularly in the context of dating. The first time I cooked for my college boyfriend, I accidentally put a plate on a hot electric burner. When I touched the plate, it exploded and gave me a third degree burn. These days I have many fewer failures and they tend not to be quite as spectacular. Though about a year and a half ago I did ruin a pan the first time I tried to make caramel. And the second time, I caught the stove on fire. I’ve mastered that now though. I can make caramel half asleep and more than half drunk.

More than half drunk? There’s a story there for sure.

Not every book has a food theme, yet you don’t restrict your reviews to only food-related novels. What is your process for extrapolating recipes or choosing one from your archive for non-food related novels? Do you prefer/seek out food-themed novels?

The food-related books are easy. I’m working on a review for Jeffe Kennedy’s novel Ruby right now, which features the chef of a five-star restaurant. And Laura Florand’s The Chocolate Thief will be up soon too. Those two provide an embarrassment of inspiration. I could cook for weeks on those books. It’s rare that a book has no food in it at all, but for the ones that aren’t totally food-focused like those are, I can usually come up with something based on the time period or the setting. I mostly just use the books for inspiration in either case.

Today’s post, about Patricia Gaffney’s Wild at Heart, is a good example of a book with almost no food in it at all. I chose the scene where Michael gives Sydney a dead fish tied with a ribbon. I just imagined her handing it over to their cook. Since it’s a pretty high-class household, I pulled a menu from an old New York hotel’s website and settled on a standard French preparation for a white fish. So inspiration comes from all sorts of places.

What are your favorite genres? Do you have a preference?

I mostly read romance. I have a bias toward historicals, but since joining Twitter, I’ve met so many writers in other sub-genres that I just love. Even ones like New Adult and paranormals, which wouldn’t generally appeal to me, have their attractions thanks to the wonderful women I’ve met online. If I ever want to branch into M/M, for example, I know just who to ask for recommendations. Honestly, I’m like the virgin who just discovered sex: I’ve become a total sub-genre slut.  I still read fantasy too, but I’m much pickier about those and tend to confine myself to certain authors.

I learned about you on Twitter because I live there, so it was perfect to find your Twitter post and see your enthusiasm. How has Twitter and social media in general affected your reviews/blog?

I started up with Twitter at about the same time as I started the blog. It’s also how I learned about Goodreads, which has been revolutionary for me in terms of organizing my reading. I almost instantly met people like Shari Slade and Amy Jo Cousins who were crazy welcoming to the newbie. I felt like a part of the romance community straight away. Since none of my real-life friends read romance, it was awesome just to have a bunch of smart, funny, like-minded people to talk to. I was in marketing for years so it’s not like I was new to social media, but this was my first time forming anything like a real personal connection. It’s addictive! Also, great for book recommendations, as I mentioned in that post. I probably get 3 to 5 a day!

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Bourbon Caramel Pecan Cinnamon Buns before…

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…and after

Your photographs belong in a food magazine! They are so gorgeous and rich.* Are you an amateur photographer? How do you keep your kitchen so neat while cooking? While cooking is not my forté, I have a yen for kitchen gadgets. Do you have a favorite cooking gadget?

It cracks me up when people compliment my photos. My husband bought me a DSLR for my birthday last year so I do have a really nice camera. I also shoot with a lens that has a really shallow depth of field, which makes the backgrounds blurry. Hence why my kitchen looks clean! Basically I just wait for the sun to come out and then stand on a chair. That’s the sum total of my photographic expertise.

My husband is the only reason I ever have clean dishes. If he doesn’t come home from work to a sink full of them, he’s thinks I must be ill or something. Plus we make sure that the counters are clean and the sink is clean before we go to bed every night. It’s just a habit.

I’m not really a gadget person. I’ve internalized TV chef Alton Brown’s abhorrence for kitchen unitaskers. My favorite tools are probably my plastic Birki kitchen clogs and a little vintage brass box in the shape of a crab that holds my rings when I’m dealing with things like fish and sticky pastry dough.

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Beef pasties from Elisabeth’s review of Hard Day’s Knight by Katie MacAlister, the book with which she hooked her husband on romance novels. Click on the photo to buy the book!

I loved the post of how you got your husband to read romance novels. Can you share a little more about any insight you’ve discovered now that you have a man’s perspective (and a positive one at that!) on romance novels?

My husband is a sucker for a good story and the best romance novels really deliver on that score. The only things that have annoyed him about the books he’s read are things like the character who is never seen working out having perfect abs. I think the biggest change I’ve seen is in my own reading habits. I’ve become a lot more critical of books that I previously just tore through and then forgot about. I’m very selective about what I give him and in the process, it’s made me more selective about what I read.

Food can be intensely erotic especially in romance novels. Have you ever found one particular food to have unexpected erotic qualities?

I think any food, lovingly prepared, has erotic qualities. Though things like whipped cream, chocolate-covered strawberries, champagne, and oysters have erotic caché, a grilled cheese sandwich when you’re hungry or a bowl of chicken noodle soup when you’re sick really spells true love.

Thanks to Elisabeth Lane for joining us on LadySmut! Be sure to check out Elisabeth’s amazing culinary creations and in-depth romance novel reviews on Cooking Up Romance.

 

Follow Lady Smut. We’re cooking with gas.

 

*All photographs are courtesy of Elisabeth Lane and can be seen, along with many other equally delicious images, on Cooking Up Romance.

Cindy Gallop Rocks My World at Romance Festival ’14

8 Jun

By Alexa Day

Cindy Gallop is my hero. If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you’ve heard me talking about her before. Yesterday, I got to listen to her for an hour at the HarperImpulse Romance Festival, at an electrifying Google Hangout. There’s so much to love about Cindy: she opens the conversation by talking about the younger men she dates, she’s on a mission to put porn and sex into perspective for everyone’s benefit, and she is a strong, confident, savvy, successful businesswoman.

I’m going to touch on just a bit of what she covered in the Hangout, but you can see the whole thing right here on YouTube.

1. Make Love, Not Porn. Cindy developed MLNP upon discovering that her younger partners were drawing their techniques from porn in the absence of other information about sex. MLNP is a video-sharing platform through which participants can upload videos of themselves having real-world sex with their partners, and stream videos posted by others. Even porn stars are into it. Porn stars have real world sex, too, after all, and it isn’t anything like the sex they have at work. (Which makes sense, right?) Cindy recalls the TED talk she gave on MLNP: “I am to this day the only TED speaker ever to utter the words ‘come on my face.'” It took her talk viral, and her project, MLNP, reaped the benefits.

2. Erotic fiction. Sexting is evidence of the written word’s power to excite and arouse in a world that’s often driven by the visual. Cindy sees an opportunity for those of us working in erotic fiction — we can tap an individual reader’s creative vision in a way that porn can’t. She also sees a future in erotica for men. So many men are interested in romance and its erotic components in that context, but society’s prevented them from exploring it. Men don’t want to be locked into an artificial gender construct any more than we women do, Cindy says. Erotic fiction also socializes sex and sexual issues. Fifty Shades of Grey made huge strides in this area; because “everyone” was reading it, everyone was talking about the subject matter.

“Women challenge the status quo because we are never it. That’s uncomfortable for men, but from that discomfort comes greatness.” — Cindy Gallop

3. Women in business. Fear of what others think is paralyzing to businesspeople in general and businesswomen in particular. If we continue to bow to that fear, we “will never own the future,” Cindy says. It’s keeping us from self-promoting — nice girls don’t brag. It’s keeping us from stepping into the spotlight — I’m no expert, I only know 99.9 percent of the subject matter. It’s keeping us from participating in the public forum — I have to be here in the office/at home in case someone needs me. Yes, men are in the majority in the business world, Cindy says, but we are still in our own way, and we have to stop that, for ourselves and for the girls who are watching us work.

4. Porn in perspective (or, your kids have probably already seen it). We would be better served to have even more sex and sexual content in YA books, Cindy says, because kids are being exposed to hard-core porn online at a pretty early age. Like at 8. Or maybe even 6. So many of the issues we have about sex in general can be resolved by opening up, says Cindy. Kids’ exposure to porn is no different. The new ‘sex talk’ means saying that not everyone does do the things you’re seeing out there. Some people really like the sorts of things you’re seeing, but others really don’t. Everyone’s different. Parents need more resources to really have this dialogue, and YA literature can supply those resources.

There’s still lots of Romance Festival left. Keep it here for all the hot updates and highlights … you know, if you’re not at the Festival yourself. Which you should be.

Lusting after “Vincent”

13 May

By Liz Everly

Yesterday was not just any Monday. I was in a Twitter conversation with Tiffany Reisz (yes THAT one) and Sarah Wendell (YEP) about the TV show “Beauty and the Beast”—which left us all swooning. Turns out we all loved the show. Do you remember it?

It was about “the adventures and romance of a sensitive and cultured lion-man and a crusading assistant district attorney in Manhattan, New York City,” according to IMDB. And it’s that lion-man that had us all breathless over our Twitter feeds. To this day, when I hear the name “Vincent,” my hearts speed up, just a wee little bit…Vincent-1

 

What is it about that sensitive, yet beasty man that had us all swooning? Was it his love of poetry? His devotion to Catherine? His soul and gut-wrenching agony of never being able to show his face in public? Or was it his mighty roar? The tenderness beneath the roar? All of that reaches into my guts and still makes me yearn, my friends.

And it says something about what we want in a romance, doesn’t it? I mean, as Tiffany said it was, indeed, the most romantic show on television. It wove in art, literature, and love into the plot beautiful ways. The only thing today remotely akin to it is “Once Upon A time,” which I watch with my daughters. It has romance, as well. But its focus is way different.

If you’ve never seen the show you can catch some episodes on TV.com.

Turns out that there is a soundtrack with Ron Perlman as “Vincent” reading poetry. And Sarah pointed me to a youtube reading, which if you have memories of this show might leave you blushing and breathless with the rest of us:

The TV show ran from 1987 to 1990. It starred Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman, airing every Friday night and I rarely missed an episode. I loved the romance and the longing in the show. I was also intrigued by the underneath the city aspect to it. Vincent and his community live in the bowels of the city and I still think about the lovely space he called home underneath and in the midst of the grit and grime. I remember beautiful hardcover books, blankets and quilts, and overstuffed chairs, which all added to the allure of Vincent.

Then there was the writing. Consider the opening lines that ran at the beginning of each show:

Vincent: This is where the wealthy and the powerful rule. It is her world, a world apart from mine. Her name is Catherine. From the moment I saw her, she captured my heart with her beauty, her warmth, and her courage. I knew then, as I know now, she would change my life forever.

Catherine: He comes from secret place, far below the city streets, hiding his face from strangers, safe from hate and harm. He brought me there to save my life; and now wherever I go, he is with me in spirit. For we have a bond stronger than friendship or love…and although we cannot be together, we will never, ever be apart.

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Clutching my heart!

Thoughts?

While you’re thinking, I’m going to give a shout out to the ladies who inspired this post Tiffany Reisz, author of many books, including THE SIREN, which I read and loved.

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Lady Smut’s Madeline Iva interviewed Tiffany here.

The other sparkling conversationalist of the day was Sarah Wendell, of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. If you don’t know that blog…where’ve you been? Check it out now. I’m sure our chat is still floating around on Twitter, if you’d like to read it. Before you go, I’m giving away a copy of LIKE HONEY to one lucky commenter today. So, if you’d like to read about a sexy-spy-turned beekeeper in Scotland who meets a young widow and so on and so forth, comment away! And don’t forget to subscribe to Lady Smut. You never know who will show up here!

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