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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.


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 get published in anthologies

16 Sep

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

First let me start by saying this is not a definitive guide to how to get published in anthologies, but a highly subjective guide based on my editing over 60 anthologies, and now being the Best Women’s Erotica of the Year series editor for Cleis Press, and having my own work published in over 100 of them. Why am I sharing this on Lady Smut? Because writing erotic short stories for anthologies is how I got my start, and how many in the erotica and erotic romance genre have broken in. It’s not for everybody, especially if you think only in novel length plots, but what anthology writing credits can do is give your work visibility and gain you new readers, boost morale, connect you with other writers (and editors and agents, who may be reading and looking for their next big author) and earn you a little extra cash. My anthologies are on bookstore shelves across the country and a few around the world; several have been translated into German. That means that your short story may be read by someone far, far away who, if they like it enough, may start following you online, eager to read every word that follows the end of your anthology tale.

Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 1

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1

Numerous erotica and romance novelists have gotten their start by publishing shorter fiction in anthologies. Delilah Night, whose work I published in my erotic romance anthology Irresistible, put out her first solo novel, Capturing the Moment, this year. She described getting her first acceptance letter for an anthology this way: “I actually found out that my story had been accepted into Irresistible because I was following Rachel Kramer Bussel on Twitter. She said that she had three stories with Jewish characters, and I thought *hmmmm.* An hour later I got the email. I screamed, grabbed my husband, and may have cried.” Jade A. Waters, whose novel The Assignment, the first in her erotic romance trilogy Lessons in Control, will be published in December by Carina Press, got her first byline in the genre in my anthology The Big Book of Orgasms. There are countless paths toward book deals, but having previous writing credits bolsters your visibility and can be impressive to publishers because they know your work is already “out there” and being read.

Jade A. Waters' first novel, The Assignment

Jade A. Waters’ first novel, The Assignment

I also organize readings at bookstores, like our upcoming Best Women’s Erotica of the Year reading January 31, 2017 at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, for my anthologies, giving authors the opportunity to read their words aloud to a live audience, which I find an invaluable experience for finding out what truly connects with readers. Often, local bookstore patrons will attend, who may have never heard erotica read aloud before. You never know who will show up to a reading, and often your words will stick with audiences long after they’ve heard them.

Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Plus, it can often be easier and faster to get a short story published than a longer work. Generally, it takes about a year to a year and a half from submission to publication. It’s also exciting. I too cried when my first short story, “Monica and Me,” got published, and the thrill of seeing my name in a book has never gotten old. It’s also been a stepping stone to a career as an anthology editor I never imagined when I sat down to pen that first story.

So, with the caveat that short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, for those who are interested, I’m sharing my top five pieces of advice on how to better your chances of getting published in an anthology. Please keep in mind that an anthology editor may be inundated with hundreds of submissions and only able to select a very small percentage of them. This means that, simply based on the numbers, not everyone is going to get accepted. Don’t take it personally; if your story gets rejected, send it back out, or polish it and see if you can tweak or extend it. Whatever you do, don’t give up on it because you don’t know all the variables at play that went into an editor’s decision.

Right now, I’m aiming to get 500 submissions to my call for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3 (December 1 deadline), even though I only have room for between 20 and 30 stories, depending on length. Why? Because I want to publish as many authors I’ve never worked with as I can from around the world, and want to offer my readers as much novelty, variety and creativity as possible. The best way for me to do that is to draw from a wide pool. Please don’t let that discourage you, though; in the past, if I had too many wonderful stories that simply wouldn’t fit within my allotted work count for an anthology, I’ve taken the surplus and fashioned some of them into a new anthology idea based around a theme that’s cropped up. I’m also editing the flash fiction BDSM anthology The Big Book of Submission, Volume 2 (January 10 deadline), which will contain 69 stories, three times the usual number I have room for. You can find many more calls for submissions at the Erotica Readers & Writers Association Author Resources section, and also follow publisher Sexy Little Pages for their calls.

Onto my writing advice:

Read the guidelines fully

This rule should go without saying, but with every single anthology I edit, I receive submissions outside the stated word count, not focused on the theme or otherwise outside the rules I’ve set down in the call. My calls tend to be very long (most by other editors are shorter), but that’s because over the twelve years I’ve been editing anthologies, I’ve honed in on the exact what I’m looking for (except for plot and content; with those, I want to be surprised!). What I try to do with my very detailed calls for submissions is save both authors and myself time. Will I read your story even if you submit it single spaced when I require it to be double spaced? Yes, but for every small adjustment I have to make to submissions, that’s time taken away from reading them. One major point: only submit your story once. Don’t consider your submission a rough draft, a suggestion or in any way unfinished. Yes, an editor will be editing it if it’s accepted, but it looks bad and is insulting to an editor’s time and professionalism to submit a piece, have it accepted and edited, then completely rewrite it and expect them to the do all that work over again. Submit the final, polished, amazing, proofread (see last item) story you’d want to see published with the byline you want to use. Following the guidelines shows you want to be taken seriously.

Make your writing stand out

Considering what I stated above, that editors may be facing hundreds of submissions, think about how to make yours stand out. For instance, when I edited Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, I received many more excellent submissions than I could include in the book. Since the theme was sex toys, I read many stories that focused on the same type of sex toy used in a similar way. That’s not to say those stories were bad, but simply that I couldn’t include more than one lest my readers get bored. Some of the stories that stood out as unique were ones like “A Tale of Two Toys” by Chris Komodo, about dueling remote control vibrators, “My Life as a Vibrator” by Livia Ellis, told from the point of view of a vibrator, from factory shelf to being used by lusty women, as well as stories that employed household objects as erotic aids, such as “Icy Bed” by J. Crichton. Obviously, you can’t know in advance what kinds of stories will be your competition, but you can think outside the box. Now, I’m not saying that you should set your story on Mars or some fictional planet if you hate sci fi just for the sake of standing out. I’m saying that if you have a brainstorm that’s off the beaten path, or know about a subculture that not many people do, use that to your advantage. For instance, I used my many years playing in chess tournaments as fodder for my story “Check, Mate” in Alison Tyler’s erotica anthology G Is for Games.

Grab the reader’s attention, but don’t give away too much immediately

When I’m reading story submissions for my anthologies, I especially look for stories that pull me in with an amazing first line and keep me frantically reading to find out what happens next. That’s not to say each story needs to have a fast pace; in fact, in addition to variety in terms of sex acts, sexual orientation, setting, tense, and age and race of characters, I look for stories with varying paces so readers get a wide range of types of stories. But I tend to prefer stories that keep me guessing just a little, not necessarily with a plot twist, but that are full of enough drama to make me keep reading. Sometimes people assume that “erotica” simply means “sex story,” and that’s not the case. A short story, erotic or not, still has to have a beginning, middle and end (no matter the chronology), and the ones I tend to select are intriguing from the start and stay intriguing.

Have fun with the theme

Not all anthologies have themes, but when they do, go ahead and mix things up a little. One of my favorite examples of this is from my anthology Flying High: Sexy Stories from the Mile High Club (originally titled The Mile High Club: Plane Sex Stories), where Cheyenne Blue took the sex on an airplane theme and ran with it (or rather, walked) with “Wing Walker.” In this case, I truly didn’t want every story to be about seat mates getting it on in the air, and she made sure her story spun in a direction I could never have imagined when I wrote the call for submissions. I’ve channeled my fear of driving and cars into a BDSM erotica story about a woman “forced” by her partner to drive as part of their kinky relationship. Once again, if you have insider details about a certain location or fetish or hobby, taking that and eroticizing it is a way to impress an editor, gloss on the theme and stand out from the pack.

Proofread and read your work out loud before submitting

This goes along with my first rule. We all make typos and other mistakes, and I’d say almost everyone will find something to tweak once they read their work aloud. It simply sounds different when you speak the words rather than read them on the page or screen, especially if you’ve already read them numerous times. This is an excellent way to give your work a final proofing before submitting it.

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.



Read it already! A writer’s confession.

12 Aug

by Isabelle Drake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Why are tattoos and their wearers so hot? An interview with Anna Sky, editor of Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica

17 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Before I even though about getting my first tattoo, I was intrigued by them. Not every tattoo, necessarily, but certain ink that spoke to me, that called to me, that begged to be stared at. I’m a nosy person (I’m a journalist and writer, after all), so of course the tattoos that draw me in make me want to ask questions (no, not did it hurt?), ones like What made you get that? Why that location? What does it signify?

That alone is enough to be sexy to me, and tattoos’ sex appeal has clearly swept the romance world, because there’s lists on Goodreads of the Best MF Romance Novels about Tattoo Artists and tattooed heroes aplenty.

In my genre of erotica, I assumed that after I knew what it was like to feel the sting of a tattoo needle, to sit without squirming, to focus so intently on my body for those precious, intimate minutes, plots for sexy stories would simply come to me as if injected along with the new color adorning my body. But writing is tricky like that; it doesn’t arrive fully arranged on a platter there for our minds to simply toss on a garnish and serve. So while I’ve flirted with tattoo erotica of the years, I’ve yet to complete my own.

Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica published by Sexy Little Pages

Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica published by Sexy Little Pages

That’s why I was so intrigued to see that sex positive publisher Sexy Little Pages had put out Inked: Sexy Tales of Tattoo Erotica. Having read the anthology, I can assure you that the stories more than live up to the promise of that hot title. There are tales of tattoo artists plying their trade, those who sport the ink and those who are irresistibly intrigued by it. Each story is intriguing and honors the art of the tattoo without fetishizing the ink; the stories are centered around the tattoo wearers and creators and all the emotions that arise for them. I was particularly smitten with “Uncovering Heather” by Victoria Blisse, in which a woman is greeted during her morning work commute by a lewd, tattooed stranger she should ignore but of course, in his own irresistible way, he gets under her skin and shows her a side of herself no one ever has. “Scissoring” by Annabeth Leong is a fun lesbian erotica story premised around the title sex act, where a tattoo plays a very important role in the protagonists’ meet cute.

Last month I promised I’d get into why tattoos are sexy, and to do so, I got an expert’s opinion. I decided to ask Sexy Little Pages founder and editor Anna Sky, who’s also an author in her own right, about the inspiration behind the book, and, most of all, what makes tattoos so sexy.

Why did you decide to publish Inked

Inked was the first anthology for Sexy Little Pages and I had no idea what to expect in terms of how many writers would submit stories and what those stories could be. I settled on tattoos as a topic as I thought it could have so much scope; as the blurb says, tattoos are intimate and personal. From there, stories could be sweet and romantic or transgressive as hell. Couple that thought with the different attitudes towards ink, from my mother telling me I’d regret mine to people using their bodies as a canvas. From people showing they’re part of a social setting or distancing themselves from a particular group, to those seeking cosmetic touch-ups or post-surgical art.

What surprised you about the submissions you received for Inked?

 I was so excited and curious as to what people came up with and I wasn’t disappointed. My biggest issue was choosing which stories to include and which didn’t fit in with the overall feel of the anthology. I had to turn one or two great stories down. I really loved that the writers took my theme and created so many different stories from them. There’s a huge amount of diversity in the nine stories, from magic and sci-fi to contemporary romance, serious themes and laugh-out-loud moments but overall, just damn good writing.

Do you think the public perception of tattoos has changed over the last 20 years Are they considered more sexy than they were in the past?

I think the internet has made tattoos more socially acceptable in some ways. And I think that increased access to images and ideas has helped people to really express themselves individually and find out who they are through that expression. People who are passionate about their ink and wear it well turn themselves into pieces of living art and I love that.

Why do you think tattoos are sexy?

I love how multi-layered tattoos are—they all tell a story, turn our skin into an artist’s canvas and are a snapshot of a particular time and place. My best friend recently had the most gorgeous tattoo and it says so much about her, and her artist. You can see it was chosen and designed with love and inked-on with so much attention to detail. And it truly is beautiful. Her body has turned an image into something so much more and that to me, is what tattoos should be.

Three cheers for romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice

15 Apr

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m not sure how I first discovered romance, but I distinctly remember being a pre-teen and teenager devouring first Danielle Steel and Judith Krantz novels, then the likes of Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz and Judith McNaught. I mainly bought them at the bookstore at the local mall, Waldenbooks, and my obsession felt like a singular one; I didn’t know anyone else who read romance, though clearly I wasn’t the only one judging by its plentiful offerings on the bookstore shelves. I was never ashamed to read romance, but I wondered exactly who my fellow readers were, and whether I had anything in common with them.


That’s part of why I was so thrilled to learn that crowdfunded romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice was opening in Culver City, California. Run by sisters Bea and Leah Koch, it opened in March and has been off and running. I interviewed the owners when they were running their Kickstarter, and as an erotica author and editor, I was especially impressed by their commitment to the genre as part of romance and devotion to making the store inclusive in every sense of the word. In our interview, they told me:

“The romance section at a mainstream bookstore is organized alphabetically, but we will organize by subgenre. We’ll be able to direct you specifically to the paranormal-witches section or the modern cowboys section. We will definitely have romantic suspense (it’s the best selling subgenre!) as well as a great erotica section.”

I got to see a sneak preview of the store when I was in the Los Angeles area before it opened, and what impressed me the most was the attention to detail they’ve given every aspect of the store, intent on making it a welcoming environment whether you’ve been reading romance for decades or never have. There are couches to sit on and room to simply marvel at all the types of romances available, from mainstream and independent publishers and self-published authors. Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books revealed when she interviewed them for the Dear Bitches, Smart Author podcast that when she saw her novella on their shelves, it was the first time she’d seen it print. As someone who cried tears of joy the first time I saw my words in an anthology on a bookstore’s shelves, I can appreciate the feeling.

I also love how enthusiastic the Kochs are about romance and reading. I gave them a few book suggestions, including one of my favorite recent YA reads, Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and they not only read them but told me how much they enjoyed them.

You need only look at their Instagram account to see just how passionate they are about the romance genre. This is clearly not just a job to the founders; it’s a dream job that’s been fostered precisely by readers who are hungry for such an offering, for a place where romance is treated with as much respect, passion and keen interest as any other genre of writing.

romance love on Instagram

In a recent profile of The Ripped Bodice at Racked, Bea said, “In a normal bookstore, you don’t know what the reaction you’re going to get is when you ask for a romance novel. It can be quite rude, and also a little scary! It’s frequently a sexist, kinda-gross leer. Like, ‘Oh, you like that stuff?’”

I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading Lady Smut, you’ve experienced this. Beyond the fact that the store stocks thousands of romance novels across subgenres, to me the real highlight of such a store is simply making romance more accepted and accessible. Anyone who passes by the store will know that romance isn’t a flash in the pan, something that of course any romance reader or book publishing observer has been aware of for years, but that the average person might not be aware of.

They’re also building a community, with events including book signings, a book clubstandup comedy that promises “Funny people. Sexy books. Free wine” (coming up next week, April 21st, for you locals) and a Mother’s Day tea.

In our interview, they told me “The Ripped Bodice is not only a bookstore. We are a gathering place for a community of intelligent, opinionated men and women. We have so much to offer beyond just books.” Indeed, being a community space is something many independent bookstores strive for—that was a key point Linda-Marie Barrett, general manager of Asheville, North Carolina’s Malaprop’s Bookstore/Café made in her recent New York Times op-ed urging authors not to cancel their appearances at the store because of the state’s discriminatory anti-LGBT law. With romance, it’s even more important because there aren’t that many offline spaces where that kind of community can thrive, where you can talk about the nuances of romance without all kinds of problematic assumptions being made about you.

Brick and mortar bookstores aren’t just places to purchase books; they are places where readers can go to explore, browse, discuss, dream. If there are entire bookstores dedicated to mystery, why shouldn’t there be more dedicated to the most popular genre around? As someone who lives in a suburban town where the nearest bookstore is a giant chain, I am deeply jealous of those who are in close proximity to The Ripped Bodice. Yes, we can all order books online, but what we can’t get from an online bookstore is a personal recommendation, a friendly smile, shelves arranged with the artful care, attention to detail and customer service a store like this offers. If I lived nearby, what I would welcome more than anything else is to simply soak up the atmosphere of such a store, before pulling a beloved book from a shelf and asking “What else do you have like this?”

They also stock LGBT romances, young adult, new adult, Christmas and Hannukah romances, and much more. I would imagine that even if you’re a very specific type of romance reader, the lure of browsing such a wide selection would cause you to at least consider titles you wouldn’t have sought out on your own, which is precisely the joy of such a store. Because they were readers first, the Koch sisters enthusiasm for romance bursts out from both their social media. They are also a wonderful counterpoint to any romance skeptics or haters, or those who insist that “print books are dead,” a phrase that makes me want to scream.

They also have an e-commerce section of their website for those who can’t get to the store, including shirts with some very powerful messages, like “Smart girls read romance” and “I am the heroine of my own story.” How awesome is that?

via therippedbodicela.com









I am looking for an excuse to head back to Southern California and gorge on books at The Ripped Bodice, and am so proud that the girl I once was, who combed my local bookstores, randomly guessing which titles might be up my alley and devoured those early romances now has books with my name on them lining this romance mecca’s shelves.


I am who I am: fiction writer. Why I chose not to use a pen name for my young adult work

8 Apr

By Isabelle Drake

Before signing the contract for Best Friends Never, the first in Cherry Grove, my young adult suspense series, the question of a pen name came up. Since I also write erotic romance, should I use a pen name for my young adult books? Would that be the better? The more I stewed on my eventual answer, the more complex the question became. Here’s how it went.

I started by…um…thinking about myself.bestfriendsnever_800 (1)

If I create a new name, I’ll need to create a whole new online identity and wow… time? Creativity? Rather use those for writing more stories. Besides, the online identity that I do have is not all *that* steamy. I post mostly vintage pics, talk about movies I’ve seen, all “nicer side of naughty” stuff. No worries that YA readers or the YA community will be scandalized by what I post.

Next I thought about YA readers themselves. Will publishing a YA series under the same name as my erotic work be confusing or inappropriate?

Nah. Many YA readers have read 50 Shades, seen the movie and talked to their moms, friends and boyfriends about it. They aren’t shocked by the sex and they’re very thoughtful about the content and the relationship.  Also, there is a long tradition of edgy in young adult books. There are, and have been for decades, many books and movies for the YA audience that have “adult” content. My point, YA readers are already exposed to intense situations, violence, sex, drugs, abuse, in stories. Most importantly, YA readers are savvy, intelligent and sensitive to the complexity of what it is to be human.

Sexuality and the acceptance of non-traditional sexuality is the new wave of human rights. Young people are a big part of this movement. High schools have GLBT student organizations, students are “allowed” to be openly transgender in school, wearing clothes that aren’t traditionally aligned with their physical sexuality (guys wearing dresses, girls wearing boys’ style clothing). This is world we live in, one that is open discussing sex, sexual relationships, and non-traditional roles. Given this reality, most young people, especially those who are likely readers of my YA work, will not be bothered, confused or offended by anything I post or write. In fact, my sincere and open approach to sexual topics would be appreciated.

What about parents?

I asked around, talking to parents, booksellers and librarians. I found out parents are happy to support reading of all types and most don’t place limitations on what their teen reads. Parents are not actively trying to prevent their teenager from being exposed to “adult” books. Teens are “allowed” to read whatever draws their attention, this include adult books of all types. The benefit to a teen being exposed to adult material is that it starts or maintains a dialogue that both the teen and parent are comfortable with. Parents find this extremely beneficial. The parent and teen can discuss what to read and why. When the teen does read something, either a YA book or an adult book, the questions asked by the teen are not, “If I want to drink, have sex or quit school, what would you think of that?” Instead, the questions are “I was reading this book and the character did___. What do you think of that?” These conversations come from the content of books themselves, not from the author who has written them. If a parent is concerned about the content of a book, the concern is applied to a specific book, not to an author.

6a1c4193f5046b3fd2329a80cc12f997Me being me, I did some research. Here’s what I found. Teens typically select their own books. Based on numbers from a 2012 Bowker study, only 12 percent of 28 percent–roughly 3%–of YA books are purchased by adults for YA readers. And, as mentioned above, in instances where an adult does have input on selection, the focus is on the content of the book in question. If the author has written something the parent does not want to teen to read, that conversation is just as welcome and beneficial as the more common ones about the contents of books.

Lastly, I considered the publishing world in general and the YA market in particular.

The line between YA and adult readership is blurring. YA and new adult books sales are rising and not only because teens are reading more. More adults are reading YA books. Consider The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight and the Harry Potter series.

According to the Bowker study:

“More than half the consumers of books classified for young adults aren’t all that young. Fully 55% of buyers of works that publishers designate for kids aged 12 to 17 – nicknamed YA books — are 18 or older, with the largest segment aged 30 to 44. Accounting for 28 percent of sales, these adults aren’t just purchasing for others — when asked about the intended recipient, they report that 78 percent of the time they are purchasing books for their own reading. The insights are courtesy of Understanding the Children’s Book Consumer in the Digital Age, an ongoing biannual study from Bowker Market Research that explores the changing nature of publishing for kids.”

Even more compelling, and, I imagine, of interest to everyone in the YA book market is this analysis from the same study:

  • The trend is good news for publishers as these adult consumers of YA books are among the most coveted demographic of book consumers overall. Additional insights from the Bowker study show these readers are:
  • Early adopters. More than 40 percent read e-books, equivalent to the highest adoption rates of adult genres of mystery and romance
  • Committed: 71 percent say that if an e-book of their desired title was unavailable, they would buy the print book instead
  • Loyal: Enjoying the author’s previous books has a moderate or major influence over the book choice for more than two-thirds of the respondents
  • Socially active: Although more than half of respondents reported having “no interest” in participating in a reading group, these readers are very active in social networks and often get recommendations from friends.

Consider also, Megan Abbott’s Dare Me and The Fever. These books reflect the trend of blurring the line between YA and adult fiction in both content and marketing. Her books feature YA characters in typical teen settings but are marketed in a way that appeals to both adult and YA readers. This strategy is beneficial to the readers, who get the books the desire and publishers, who enjoy business success.

And so that’s how it went. In the end, I decided that potential readers won’t think, “I don’t want to buy/read that book because Isabelle Drake also writes Fifty Shades type stuff.” In fact, I think it’s the opposite. I think potential readers will think, “Cool, she wrote something for us.”


Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy–and young adult thrillers. Best Friends Never, is available now, direct from Finch Books. The general release, including paperback, will be April 19.

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Why I believe in sexy stories for everyone

20 Nov

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

As you probably know from Dirty Dates week here on Lady Smut, my latest erotica anthology Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples was published last Tuesday, on my 40th birthday. While here we focused on the “dirty dates” part of the title, today I’m going to talk about the subtitle and why I believe that sexy stories, be they erotica or erotic romance or porn, are for everyone, not just women or couples.

Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples (but really for anyone who likes sexy smut!)

Dirty Dates: Erotic Fantasies for Couples (but really for anyone who likes sexy smut!)

But first, a word about that subtitle. As one Dirty Dates reviewer wrote, “Dirty Dates is labeled as erotic fantasies for couples but it works just as well if you are not part of a couple!” They are absolutely correct. While the stories in Dirty Dates do all feature couples, anyone who’s interested can appreciate them. I’ve edited many previous anthologies that had the words “for women” in their subtitle. Does that mean I truly believe that only women can will enjoy or “get” them? Of course not. That’s marketing, and that’s part of publishing a book: doing everything in one’s power to make sure as many people as possible read it. And let’s be honest: if the subtitle were “Erotic Fantasies About Couples,” it just wouldn’t have the same ring.

One of my missions as an erotica and erotic romance editor is to craft books that both newcomers to the genres and seasoned readers will appreciate. This is sometimes a challenge, because no matter what you write, you will never please all of the readers all of the time. Yet broadening the reach of your words is something I stress to my writing students all the time. If you are talking about a highly specific fetish or practice, define it, so those who may never have heard of it will understand. Or even if you’re talking about something that seems obvious, like, say, the erotic appeal of Brad Pitt, still, you should define it for that character, because my take on Brad Pitt’s sexiness may be very different from your character’s.

That’s not to say any particular sexual kink should be dumbed down, but that I want the words in my books to be accessible. In the case of Dirty Dates, I want single people and couples to find something that speaks to them in the stories. I decided to focus on couples because I’d already edited lots of other types of kinky books, and I think the introduction of a couple creates its own set of drama. You don’t necessarily have the meet cute or the when-will-they-hook-up-and-fall-in-love element, but you do have the ability to explore how the passing of time influences how each half of a couple perceives themselves, each other, and the relationship.

Just as romance isn’t only a genre “for” women, and plenty of men are reading and writing romance, I want Dirty Dates to appeal beyond its official target market. Do I think couples will get a lot out of reading from it together? Of course. But my aim in putting out a book of erotica about couples wasn’t to exclude anyone else.

Similarly, I just wrapped up my first anthology of 2016. The title? Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1. It’s my first time editing this long-running series, and as per its history, it was only open to women authors. But in no way do I think “women’s erotica” means “only women can read it.” In fact, I think men will both appreciate and gain insight into the minds of women by reading work geared toward women; and let’s please keep in mind that “women” is a gigantic category of people who cannot be boiled down to any single book or genre.

We have to be realistic about the fact that, according to Romance Writers of America (citing Nielsen Books & Consumer Tracker), 84% of romance novel buyers are women. I don’t know of any specific statistics regarding erotica. However, through my own mailing list and marketing efforts, I know I do have plenty of male readers, but I believe the majority are women. Both can coexist. But those kinds of numbers are why books get labeled “for women.” It’s a business decision, not one meant to dictate who’s reading.

Also, the idea that women can and should only target women with their writing, or that men’s points of views will only appeal to men, is limiting for everyone. I want to make it clear, in case it wasn’t, that I encourage new voices, whether they fall into what’s traditional or not. I’d love to see more men involved in erotica and erotic romance, in addition to the many talented ones already writing in the genres, giving their spin on male love and lust, not as a cash grab, but as a way of offering a different spin than what many of us may be used to.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with knowing your main audience and catering to them. But I always want to leave the door open for the audience I might not expect, and I hope, in turn, readers leave themselves open to enjoy stories they might not expect either. I’m not saying “ignore my book title,” but I am saying that the subtitle in this case is a suggestion, not a mandate.

50 Shades of Red

12 Feb
This is our publisher's cheeky poke at 50 Shades promoting their online romance festival last weekend.

This is our publisher’s cheeky poke at 50 Shades promoting their online romance festival last weekend.

by Madeline Iva

“Just finished Fifty Shades of Grey and am now Fifty Shades of Red.” That’s what my sister posted on fb.

Are you all going to watch the movie? I just don’t know.  I’ll read and watch anything I want in the privacy of my own home–but watch the movie in a theatre with people all around me? Eeeesh!

I’ve already sat through many an awkward moment watching unexpectedly graphic sex scenes at the movies, thank you very much.  That time on my first date in high school when neither of us knew where to look.  That time with my then-friend-now-husband during an excruciatingly long sex scene where the actor’s face went red and stayed that way for five minutes while he writhed, grunted and groaned. Oh, it was bad.  I mean, it had to be longest orgasm in oscar history.

The worst part was when I tried to laugh it off afterwards at dinner, but apparently my own face went as red as a beet, totally foiling my attempt at sangfroid.  Neither of us were laughing though, sitting on either side of my prim mother-in-law while watching the lesbian sex scene in Black Swan.  I still slap my hand to my face remembering it.  Of course it was my bright idea to go see it on Christmas day. I’d heard a review describing the film as Hitchcock-ian. Right.  It was only as we got close to the movie theatre that I saw a giant poster for the movie proclaiming in bold letters PSYCHO-SEXUAL THRILLER.  Ugh. (hitting myself) ugh. ugh.

If you’ve been living on Jupiter and haven’t read the book, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Aside from the hype, at its core the plot has an icy/hot hero who’s been deeply emotionally and physically hurt.  He needs healing (and the love of a good woman to bring that about.)  Yum!

It’s total catnip to a lot of readers. Meanwhile, it’s also (surprise!) an anti-BDSM book.  This drives my erotic romance writer friends up the wall.  Yet the heroine is constantly negotiating for what she wants out of her relationship with Christian.  Good for her, right? Okay, well, she ends up compromising a whole lot, but in the end she sticks to her guns–and she wins.

But riddle me this Batman — How the hell did E.L. James get away with depicting a sexual encounter while the heroine is on her period?


People–Aunt Flo never ever comes to visit in romances.  The hero never massages bad cramps.  The heroine never sends him out for Advil, tampons, and Ben & Jerry’s.  No period-related migraines ever drove a heroine to lie upon her couch with a pillow over her eyes.  It just doesn’t happen.  

Yeah–if you were around in the early 80’s I think Erica Jong had some young guy pull a tampon out of her protagonist’s body and chomp on it a bit.  But I mean, common — first of all that’s not romance, and second of all, we know she did it purely for the shock value.  If there’s ever been a romance published that was this popular that treated the crimson tide this casually–I haven’t heard about it.

Page 427:

“I want you,” he breathes.

I moan and reach up and grasp his arms.

“Are you bleeding?” He continues to kiss me.

Holy f***.  Does nothing slip by him?

“Yes,” I whisper, embarrassed.

“Do you have cramps?”

“No,” I flush. Jeez

blah, blah, blah…

“Let’s go have a bath.”


I mean, then we really go beyond the beyond when a bit later on he turns her around against the sink, bends her over, pulls out her tampon, (!!!) and has sex with her.

They collapse on the floor afterwards and…

“I’m bleeding,” I murmur.

“Doesn’t bother me,” he breathes.

“I noticed.” I can’t keep the dryness out of my voice.

He tenses.  “Does it bother you?” he asks softly.

blah blah blah

“No, not at all.” 

“Good. Let’s have a bath.” 

I don’t want to make a big deal of this.  I’m not saying that we romance writers should ALL include this kind of a scene in our romances, etc.  I’m just saying that OUR BODIES OURSELVES would give a thumbs up to how they treat a natural bodily function.  That is all.

But it’s interesting to note that no reader-lovers or reader-haters have pointed out this scene in shock and horror.

Which just goes to show that we’re living in the wild west here.  Along comes an indie author with her spurs a-jangling and rules were made to be broken, sacred cows put on the bbq.  Who knows what the romance gods have to say about all this. One thing you can count on–if something shocking happens out there we’ll keep you posted here at LadySmut.com.  Follow us for 7 days of delectable romance dish.


Kink Goes Paranormal With “Magically Kinky” Author Gianna Simone

8 Oct
Claimed by the Enchanter Cover

Paranormal category Golden Leaf Finalist

By Elizabeth Shore

Hello Sexies! We’re chatting up paranormal and historical BDSM author – and fellow Golden Leaf Finalist! – Gianna Simone. She’s stopped by to tell us why she loves the dark side of romance, why listening to a nun is a good thing, and how not to get burned by a publisher. 

Elizabeth Shore: Thanks for stopping by, Gianna! Let’s first talk settings. I love the twist you give on traditional BDSM stories by generally placing yours in either a historical setting or making them paranormal. What made you decide to go those routes?

Gianna Simone: Basically, I like to break rules! lol It’s true – I have a bit of a dark side to my own preferences, and sometimes those types of things don’t work as well in a contemporary modern mindset of BDSM. And part of it harkens back to the “bodice rippers” of the 70’s and 80’s – so many of those books contained a lot of elements that I incorporate into my stories – though I must make it clear, the heroes don’t brutalize a woman just for the sake of violence. My heroes, while they take what they want, make sure their partners enjoy the encounter.

ES: As all men should. 🙂
But even if you do go historical, you throw us another intriguing curveball by giving us Vikings! Or Medieval! No traditional English Regency for you. Tell us more about your choice for the unique settings.

GS: I like settings that are raw and real and gritty and dirty and… well, you get the picture. The women in those times had to be very strong, just to survive, and talk about it being a man’s world in those eras! Actually, though, the Vikings respected women and didn’t discourage them from being as strong and brutal as they were, which is rather different than many “civilized” cultures of the time. I also like those kinds of settings because there is very little of the modern “noise” that comes between the characters. No cell phones, internet, etc. When you have nothing else to focus on but the other person, things take a much more intimate turn. The only thing that matters is the here and now and all the accompanying emotions.

ES: No cell phones – no rude talkers! Sounds good to me. Tell us … when you start developing a new book, do you think first about the characters or about the plot?

GS: It’s characters all the way. I think of a hero, or a heroine first, then put them into a situation that can be quite life-threatening at times. Not all of them are dealing with such dire circumstances, but basically, the worst thing that could happen to them happens. And now they have to deal with it and all the crap that accompanies it.

ES: Your writing journey is an interesting one. What made you first decide you wanted to write?

Gianna Simone

Gianna Simone

GS: It seems I’ve been writing my entire life! In 4th grade, I had a teacher who would cut out a small magazine picture and staple it to a lined piece of paper. You could write a story about that picture for extra credit. I must have done 5 or 6 a week! By the time I hit middle school, I was writing fan fiction, though I don’t think anyone had a label for it then. But you name it – Starsky & Hutch, Kiss and Bruce Springsteen (see the evolution there?) In freshman year in high school, I wrote my first completed novel. My English teacher, Sr. Maureen, read it and said I should get it published. Damn, I should have listened to her! So I’ve been writing pretty much forever. I found RWA (thanks to a fan letter I sent to Brenda Joyce!) in 1993 and haven’t looked back.

ES: I wrote a post last week questioning whether it’s ever time to quit. Luckily for us, you haven’t and the result is some really great books. But I know it took a long time before you got published and I think other unpublished authors could take inspiration from your story. Could you talk a little bit about what you went through.

GS: You know what? I almost DID quit. Until recently, I worked full time, so the writing had to take a secondary role for a while (kids suck a LOT of time! And energy!). But things changed as my children got older and I could dive deeper again (fan fiction helped get the juices going again). But I hit a ton of brick walls – things would look great, then they’d crash and burn in spectacular fashion. Even had a publisher tell me not to submit again. They said I wasn’t a good fit for them, but it was basically “we don’t want to see anything from you again.” Ouch! Everyone I knew, including several I’d been “in the trenches” with, around me was selling. And I was having door after door slammed in my face. Not long after, a friend posted a comment on another friend’s blog. And it was clearly about me and it was harsh and brutal and made me think “why the hell am I killing myself here when even my friends are slamming me?” I literally said at that point, I’m done, I just can’t do it anymore. I had one more place I’d taken a shot at on a whim and promptly forgot about. Turns out, they snatched me right out of the jaws of defeat!

EM: Wow. And you said the Vikings had it tough! So you survived everyone, including “friends” telling you to give it up but you persevered and finally got published. But wait – there’s more! Because once it happened, you had a tough time with a publisher who eventually went out of business. That had to have been difficult.

GS: Be careful what you wish for, right? Bottom line, I’ve learned to do much better research. There are some things going on right now in the publishing world that are just blowing everyone’s mind, and I’m glad I didn’t have to go quite that far. I had high hopes and I also had some doubts about where I landed, but I looked at it as a chance to get out there, and this publisher was getting noticed. I found out some things later on that would have raised a few red flags if that info was available. And there was the typical and expected “implosion,” followed by inexperienced management (as in NO publishing experience whatsoever) that told us they knew better how to work the business. Yeah, they’re out of business now.

ES: I know you’re legally bound by how much you can say, but is there advice from that experience you can pass along?

GS: Do your research – if enough people are raising questions and sharing issues, then be wary. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask for changes to contracts. If the people running the business are truly running it as a business, they will work with you. And don’t be afraid to walk away from something that seems wrong to you – in this business, you have to cover your back. I’ve been lucky ever since, my current publishers respond to me and work with me and do what they can to help me promote my books.

ES: What gets you in the mood to write? What’s on your desk at all times?

GS: I work best in the mid-morning to early afternoon and late at night when everyone else is asleep. Don’t need much more than to get my ass in the chair and start reading a few paragraphs of wherever I’m picking up. As for what’s on my desk – clutter!

ES: Finally, tell us what’s up next for you.

Warrior's Vengeance CoverGS: I’m starting work on the second book in my Vikings series, and I also have a few pages of the next book in the Bayou Magiste Chronicles, set back around the time of the Spanish Inquisition, but that’s more of a general outline than a real story. And I have a few other ideas percolating that I’m either drafting a scene or writing notes so I’ll be ready to get going when I have those two in good shape. I tend to work on more than one project at a time, I’m a Gemini, so all my personalities are screaming for time!

Being a fellow Gemini, I completely understand! Thanks so much for spending time with us, Gianna. And best of luck in New Jersey!!

You can get hold of Gianna’s books here.

And find her here:




Or via Twitter: @Gianna_Simone

The Last Taboo (Big Book of Submission on Tour)

8 Aug

TBBOSblogtourby C. Margery Kempe

There’s a big blog tour on supporting the 69 kinky tales in The Big Book of Submission (click the picture to see more stops along the tour). The book features my story “The Rhino” about a driven advertising executive who intimidates her colleagues, but has discovered a side of herself that she never expected to find.

Although a lot of people still roll their eyes at the whole Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon, there’s no doubt that it has helped mainstream a lot of practices that would have once only been known to a more discreet group of practitioners. When even big celebrities like Helen Mirren can admit to enjoying spanking, for example, we can see that a lot of headway has been made even if there’s still a lot of giggling behind hands for most vanilla folk.

There’s still a huge backlash against women who submit. While the call for “strong female characters” grows, there’s also a huge misunderstanding about what that means. People love dom women — or at least those who look like they are, such as Emma Peel. But women have fought so hard to be taken seriously, to have their own power and to wield it, that submission can appear to be ‘letting the side down’ as it were.


But that’s not what it’s about: it’s about trust.

It’s about having faith in someone other than yourself. It’s about letting go when you’re accustomed to being in control. And it’s about the excitement of not knowing what will happen next — but knowing it’s delicious. Follow the tour for more delights.

Submit to Lady Smut: we won’t ask much of you, but we’ll give you plenty. Follow us on Facebook, too.