Tag Archives: Rachel Kramer Bussel

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

16 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

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

Isn’t this a HOT cover?

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

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

Booked author Leandra Vane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur

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

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

Sign up for a free copy of On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories

5 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Who’s excited for summer? Hopefully, all of us! I am looking forward to vacations by the beach, attending my first bachelorette party and, of course, beach reads, including my July Cleis Press anthology On Fire: Erotic Romance Stories.

If the title and/or steamy cover (isn’t it HOT?) sound intriguing, I’ve got a great deal for you: Through June 18, 2017, one month before the ebook release (the print version pubs on August 8), I’m offering a free e-copy to interested readers in exchange for an honest review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. To sign up, fill out this form with your name and email address by June 18th. Your contact information will only be seen by me, and only used to send you the review copy. I’ll send you a copy, then you can post your review any time on Goodreads, and starting July 18th on Amazon. I just ask that you include the phrase “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review” with your review when you post it. It’s that easy!

Here’s the book’s blurb:

In On Fire, today’s top erotic romance authors don’t skimp on love or lust—they are entwined in tales that will make pulses pound and hearts race. Bestselling editor Rachel Kramer Bussel takes us inside the passions of couples who go above and beyond in their pursuit of sexual and romantic satisfaction, exploring the racy to the outrageous during their many arousing adventures. You’ll treasure the sex toy exploration in “Every Second of It,” find paranormal pleasure in “Masquerade,” and be transported to “A Place As Beautiful As This.” You’ll go “Beyond the Blindfold,” find out what lurks in the “Art of Darkness,” and delight in discovering “The Sweetest Thing.” These steamy stories by Kristina Wright, Delilah Devlin, Giselle Renarde, Kay Jaybee, Victoria Blisse, Jade A. Waters and others are perfect intimate reads to enjoy with your lover or for your own pleasure.

Want to know more On Fire? Visit the official Tumblr to read my introduction and the table of contents. And if you want to get a free copy for review, use this form by June 18, 2017 and check your inbox!

And stay tuned for our Lady Smut week celebrating all things On Fire and Fiery starting July 17th!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com. You can follow Rachel on BookBub to get notified about new releases and ebook sales.

The Master of None “First Date” episode made me glad I’m not on Tinder

19 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m writing this post while binge watching Season 2 of Master of None, the Netflix comedy created (and often written and directed) by and starring Aziz Ansari as actor and newly single Dev Shah.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2:

It took me a little while to warm up to the show; I started Season 1 soon after it debuted, but didn’t get far. But over the last week I’ve been making my way through Season 1, then went right into Season 2.

There have been moments of recognition, but episode four of the new season, titled “First Date,” was one that made me grateful that I’m not using dating apps. I almost wrote, “grateful that I’m not single,” but that’s not totally accurate. While I’m happy to be in a five-year long-term relationship, even back when I was single, I could barely handle online dating, let alone dating apps.

I think the reason they never did the trick is that, unlike the woman Dev goes out with who, mid-date, starts using the app where they met, Love at First Sight, because she’s both just not that into him and truly enjoys swiping, I was never “into dating,” I was into meeting someone I could connect with. I hated the awkwardness of first dates, the way they could very easily feel like job interviews in more casual settings.

Back in 2010, I went on what’s still my worst date ever, in which a guy seemed to be deliberately trying to make our date agonizing. The thing is, on a dating site or app, it’s relatively easy to make yourself seem more interesting than you are in real life. The converse, for me, was also true: the few times I did using dating sites, I always felt torn between being honest about who I am and trying to upsell myself. If I painted too rosy a picture, I worried I wouldn’t be able to live up to the hype. But when would the right time have been to tell someone I was a hoarder who couldn’t open the door to her apartment without slamming her body weight against it? That’s just not something that would ever work in the context of an “about me” blurb.

But Tinder, which I’ve only observed on a friend’s phone, seems to take all the pressure of summarizing yourself and presenting a pretty image to a whole new level. I imagine that if I were on it, I would also become obsessed with not the quality of my matches, but the quantity. My mood would swoop up or down depending on how popular I found myself with the people there. And while there are exceptions, I have trouble imagining I’d have met someone who I could actually settle down with via a dating app.

I’ve always preferred to meet people I date more organically, either through a shared activity (like playing Boggle or trivia, both of which have yielded me dates), via a mutual friend or simply by chance. As my sex column and erotica writing career developed, I also faced a clash between my public, online persona and the “real me.” That’s not to say that I wasn’t myself in my writing—I always was (and am), to a fault—but it’s awkward when someone can Google you and find out you like giving blowjobs or have posed nude or an endless stream of other details I’ve shared with the world. There is a tension between the me who sits around in sweats and binges TV shows, who’s super dorky and romantic and cries easily, and the more readily available version that comes up via Google. They’re all parts of me, but ones that are hard to convey in an hour or two, especially when there’s all the pressure of a first date.

I know there are some people who simply enjoy the act of dating, of going out and meeting multiple people, no matter the outcome. But I was never one of them. I was more about the destination than the journey. That’s not to say I didn’t like when a date went perfectly, the kind where I lost track of time and wound up getting home in the wee hours when I’d planned to be back early. But watching Dev go on so many dates on Master of None, I didn’t feel a shred of envy. I didn’t think I was missing out on anything, and while I don’t plan to ever be single again, if that should ever happen, I won’t be using technology to help me bond with anyone. I’ll fumble through the madness that is dating all by myself. At least I don’t have a Tinder worst date story, right?

What do you think? Are dating apps a modern blessing or curse? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

KFC Colonel Sanders romance novel Tender Wings of Desire is a real love story

8 May

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

What does mom want for Mother’s Day (and dinner)? If you guessed fried chicken and romance, then KFC has just the thing for you: a free novella on Amazon called Tender Wings of Desire, starring (and written by) Colonel Sanders (aka Harland) as the hero (which they’re calling their “first romance novella”). They even made an ad for it, which you can watch to get a sense of the hilarity:

According to a press release, the fast food chain was inspired by the fact that Mother’s Day is their bestselling day of the year. “The only thing better than being swept away by the deliciousness of our Extra Crispy Chicken is being swept away by Harland Sanders himself. So this Mother’s Day, the bucket of chicken I get for my wife will come with a side of steamy romance novella. Dinner is taken care of and she’ll have the time to escape her busy schedule,” George Felix, director of advertising for KFC U.S, said.

While the ad is totally over the top, I wanted to read Tender Wings of Desire, described by The Daily Mail as a “steamy, greasy fantasy,” for myself to see whether it was super cheesy, full of product placement or whether it actually worked as a romance. The work is described in part in its official blurb like so: “When she finds herself swept into the arms of Harland, a handsome sailor with a mysterious past, Madeline realizes she must choose between a life of order and a man of passion.” Yes, it’s true: whoever actually wrote this novella has read a romance novel or two, because I was rooting for Lady Madeline, with her family part of the ton in Victorian England, bemoaning her fate of being married off to lackluster Reginald.

Madeline runs away on her horse, escaping a life of luxury that felt stifling to her. She reaches a tavern two hours away and quickly finds herself a job and friend, becoming immersed in a new way of life. Soon, she meets “the most handsome man she had ever seen,” Harland, a dashing sailor. The attraction is mutual, even though, of course, it takes them a little while to figure that out.

Soon she winds up giving in to her urges and kissing him. “This was the closest she had ever been to a man, and she would not want it any other way. She felt as if she were a woman on fire, feverish in the best way possible, and something seems dot take her over when he deepened the kiss.”

Though the book isn’t actually all that “steamy,” with more of a fade to black approach to sex, it does manage to get in some plugs for independence and against slut-shaming. “Kissing a man who wasn’t her betrothed was supposed to imply that she was tainted in some way, as though she had been spoiled for her future husband. Perhaps that might have been true, but as she drifted off to sleep, the only thing she could think was that she felt free. She felt in charge. She felt as though she were finally coming face to face with the wonder of her destiny.”

Now, is Tender Wings of Desire the best historical romance I’ve ever read? No. But I can’t dismiss it simply as a corporate stunt (even though I would strongly urge you to try a home-cooked meal for mom rather than fast food) because it completely conforms to the romance genre, with a happily ever after that never once mentions fried chicken. It manages to play on the character of Colonel Sanders (who Harland is revealed to be) in a way that actually made me smile at the end, rather than the slightly smarmy guy hawking deals in their recent commercials. In truth, the novella is as much about Madeline discovering who she really is when not under so many rules about what she can and can’t do as it is about her falling in love. When she falls fast and hard, Harland really is tender and patient and sweet with Madeline. She really does end the book far happier than she was when it started. And you don’t even have to be a mom to appreciate that!

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Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 and 2, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

The Uncomforatble Intimacy of Audio Books

3 Apr

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Last week, Lady Smut blogger Madeline Iva titillated us with tales from the Virginia Love Fest panel with the men who read romance…or perhaps that was just me. Had I been there, hearing the one guy say most of the time, “it’s like: ‘Up on the hog babe, let’s go for a ride.'” would have generated a mini-orgasm on the spot. I won’t lie. But I haven’t entirely made it through the accompanying video of the panel and here’s why: it all kinda makes me squishy and not in a good way. I too dig the deep and sexy man reading voice. Hoo. Shah. Maybe that’s the whole problem.

This is the thing about audio books, something I wholeheartedly support and appreciate. I don’t listen to audio books. Like, at all. I like music when I drive, mostly because I get into a zone and let my brain works on its own pathway, especially on long trips. When I have listened to books while I drive, I do a lot of rewinding because I miss things due to zoning out. Then, if I’m listening while commuting to the day job, I don’t want to stop once I get there (providing it’s a good book, and it almost always is).

A few years ago, I went through an audio book stage. I got all the Outlander and all the Harry Potter books on CD from the library and, one by one, loaded them first onto my compute and then onto my iPod. (Then, shortly after, my brand new iPod crashed and I vowed never to buy an Apple product again, but that’s another story.) I listened to each and every one of them and I loved them. How had I not been listening to audiobooks all this time? This was the BEST THING EVAH.

Mind you, this was before Wispersync and Kindle Fire and the Kindle app–I don’t even think smartphones were all that common at the time either. It was big, expensive CDs that you were better off getting from the library. As  I did.

So I was hooked. I got some murder mysteries out and continued “reading” in this way.

Then I tried a romance.

Big mistake. Huge.

I got Linda Howard’s Cry No More from the library and plugged it in. Here, for the first time, I had an audio book with two narrators, a man and a woman, each reading the POV chapters for their respective hero and heroine of the story.

I was a huge Linda Howard fan in the 80s and 90s but hadn’t read her in a long while, so I thought I give this a chance. I didn’t like the book at all, it’s slow and boring, and maybe that’s because I was listening to it and not reading it in my own mental voice. The narrators were competent, the story just dragged.

And then came the sex scenes, read in both the male and female narrators voices. Together.

It majorly squicked me out.

Romancelandia deals with a lot of crap accusations of being porn for women, an accusation to which a vehemently object. Listening to the audio version of Cry No More, I had to check myself. Because I felt like I was listening to porn. Transferring the sex and romance scenes from the page to real men and women reading the words for me, out loud, transformed the entire “reader” experience for me and not in a good way. I was disturbingly turned and seriously uncomfortable, but not in a “damn, that was a good scene” way, rather in a “I should not be listening to these two people bang” way.

This, I think, is the uncomfortable intimacy of an audio book. When we read, it’s private. We’re in our own heads imagining our own versions of what were reading, what the author has crafted for us to sink into. When it’s suddenly read aloud, it’s completely different (duh, right?), and I wonder now if that difference transforms the material and/or the experience into something else. Especially having a man read the hero parts, like boy! howdy! does it make the goings-on super intimate. Like I was right there and not as a participant. Welcome to Voyeursville via audio books.

Now, I’ve changed a lot in the years since I listened to Cry No More, and I can’t say that I’d have the same reaction I did back then, but that reaction was strong enough that I haven’t had the desire to listen to a romance or any other sort of book since.

Back in April of 2013, Lady Smut blogger Elizabeth Shore wrote about her uninspired experience with audio books. She had a much less satisfying experience.

“Taking the first point, about the performance, leads me to think that the romance audiobook clip I listened to made me feel squishy because the performance was as enthralling as watching paint dry. Or perhaps, in this case, listening to paint dry, meaning there was no performance whatsoever. The reader made the decision to be dry and unemotional. It may work for some, but for me it was a complete snooze with a dash of discomfort. If the hero is baring his soul and revealing his issues and declaring his love well, damn it, I want emotion.”

For her there wasn’t enough intimacy offered by the reader/performer. For me, too much.

Thinking about this post this week made me realize how readings of our own books aren’t that much different. I did my first reading last summer at The Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City, CA for the Orange County Lady Jane’s Salon. I was beyond thrilled to burst my live reading cherry at the only romance bookstore in America. I had an absolute blast. One man even said that even though it wasn’t his kind of book, I was the best reader and had the best content of the four of us authors who read (but he’s my sister’s partner, so he has to say that).

But I also chose a scene to read that would make my story seem enticing (and had swear words and naughty talk, because, it’s me) but it was not a super sexual scene that would squick people out to hear read live and in person by the creator (aka, moi) and/or make my face turn red against my own internal wishes. Dang physical reactions!

Our own Rachel Kramer Brussel wrote last year about why she reads her erotic romances to live audiences.

“I’ve found that audiences are incredibly hungry to hear people talk about sex in public in an honest, open, unashamed way. It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or nonfiction, or what the exact details are: if you stand up in front of a crowd of people and are talking about getting naked, people will listen.”

Well, yeah. Duh again. But people who attend erotic readings are indeed prepared for what they get and are going for those reasons. Of course, if you’re listening to a romance novel as an audio book, you should know that you’re going to get the same heat in your ears that you once consumed through your eyes. And having the many, many intimate and sexual scenes in the Outlander novels read to me didn’t bother me one iota. It was adding in the male narrator and having the narration become a two-pronged, back and forth exchange complete with inflections and emotional heft–I need a cold shower stat.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all in any way shape or form against audio books or suggesting they’re porn or inferring that we shouldn’t have romance novels on audio. Surely, you know me better than that by now. Only that I, for one, was shocked but the unexpected intimacy that came from listening to a romance novel and it made me so uncomfortable, years later it’s made me have zero desire to listen to another.

I guess I like reading and talking about my romance…I just don’t want to listen to it. Which, judging from those male book readers, is my very big loss.

Coming to the RT Booklovers Convention? Join the Ladysmut.com bloggers for a very special reader event – Never Have You Ever, Ever, Ever — and win crowns, toys, books and more. (Ooo, and we’ll have brownies….) Goodybags (with fun stuff!) to first 100 people in line! Wednesday, May 3 at 1:30 p.m. Link: https://www.rtconvention.com/ event/never-have-you-ever- ever-ever

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten Hallie Krum avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. She writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. Her debut romantic suspense novel, WILD ON THE ROCKS, is now available. Visit her website at www.kierstenkrum.com and find her regularly over sharing on various social media via @kierstenkrum.

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

17 Feb

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

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

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

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

The Big Book of Submission: 69 Kinky Tales

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

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

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

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

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

The Big Book of Orgasms: 69 Sexy Stories

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

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

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

Gotta Have It: 69 Stories of Sudden Sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel Kramer Bussel (rachelkramerbussel.com) has edited over 60 anthologies, including Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, Come Again: Sex Toy Erotica, Begging for It, Fast Girls, The Big Book of Orgasms and more. She writes widely about sex, dating, books and pop culture and teaches erotica writing classes around the country and online. Follow her @raquelita on Twitter and find out more about her classes and consulting at eroticawriting101.com.

How to talk about sex in public

20 Jan

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’m in the midst of getting ready for my upcoming Best Women’s Erotica of the Year book tour, which will take me to four cities: Los Angeles on January 31, Baltimore on February 9, New York on February 11 and Jersey City on February 13.

Join us on the Best Women's Erotica of the Year book tour!

Joining me will be contributors to Volumes 1 and 2 in the series. As these dates inch closer, the two words I’m hearing most often from seem of the authors reading are: “I’m nervous.”

My response, which sometimes feels like a dirty little secret, is always, “Me too.” Because despite the fact that I believe readings are a vital career tool for authors, and that I’ve been organizing and participating in them since 2000, I still dread having to read my dirty words out loud. It’s gotten a little easier over the years, but it still makes my heart pound wildly every time I look out over a crowd and realize I will have to navigate language like “cock” and “pussy” and “orgasm” and, the one that always causes me the most anxiety, “cunt.” I never know whether I should pronouncing with a loud, proud, hard “t” at the end, or let the four-letter word almost trail off with a soft “t,” as if that will lessen its impact.

So despite this post’s title, I don’t have the secret to getting over your fear of public speaking, especially when it comes to speaking about sex, but I do have a few tricks I’ve picked up along the way after seemingly countless readings in bars, bookstores, community centers and other locales. When I read my work, I often feel like I’m reading it to myself anew as well, because once I put the final edits on an erotica short story and it goes to print, my mind tends to move on to the next thing. I don’t always grasp how odd it might seem to read about, say, an oral sex restaurant, such as the one in my story “Secret Service,” until I’m actually doing it. Here’s a peek at me reading that one at my old reading series In The Flesh, nervous tics and all:

Here are some tools that have helped me get over that fear and nervousness, and push through it when it strikes during a reading. For one thing, I think you want to remember what compelled you to write the piece in the first place. On one of my favorite podcasts, Bad With Money, host Gaby Dunn discussed the topic of self-promotion with Real Artists Have Day Jobs author Sara Benincasa, and Sara said something I’ve always believed: that you have to believe in yourself 100% and not be shy about letting others know about your work (I’m paraphrasing, but I promise the episode is worth a listen). Tap in to your motivation for telling this particular story, and channel that as you give voice to that tale.

I believe readings are the epitome of that practice of putting your work out there, because even though you can, of course, do some last minute editing on the fly, you don’t have the time to agonize and overthink and cut and paste and edit and delete and hem and haw that you do with writing (yes, I do this with almost all my writing). You are there, live, raw, and showing that you are showing up for your words and ready to share them in this personal format. The words are already there, and your job is to do them justice and bring your own personal spin to them.

Most likely, you’ll find that as you read, even if you start out nervous, at some point, you will get lost in the story, and find that it becomes a separate entity to what’s on the page. It’s only when I read my work out loud that I often get its nuances. I don’t tend to think of myself as a funny writer, especially of erotica, but during readings is where I start to notice the humor in my pieces. Sometimes, I gravitate toward those aspects, selecting passages that play up the funnier angles. Since you’re usually only reading a small selection of your words out loud, you can shape and frame them, tantalizing the audience with a teaser of your work, and encouraging them to read the rest on their own.

I also think it’s important to remember that even if you’re nervous, audiences don’t mind. In fact, they appreciate you all the more when you reveal your humanity and let them know that you’re nervous. In all my years of doing erotica readings, I’ve never had anyone criticize me when I’ve faltered over a phrase, or skipped over a line, or couldn’t stop my voice or hands from shaking. We are all human, and we all know that talking about sex can be challenging, but I think that at a time when the arts are under attack, it’s vital that we meet that challenge and show that we don’t see anything wrong with writing explicitly erotic material.

It also helps me to think less about the individuals I’m reading to, who in the past have included friends, family members and current and former lovers, and instead focus on the story. I do try to look up and make eye contact, but at the same time, in my mind’s eye, I’m picturing the action of the story, and trying to do it justice.

Another way to lessen your nerves is to give audiences a little peek into your writing process. Whether you do this before you read, after you read, or with small asides as you go, this gives them additional insight they won’t find on the page. Bring a prop if it’s relevant to your story, as D.R. Slaten plans to do at our reading at Sugar in Baltimore. Tell us something personal about yourself; this doesn’t have to mean your sexual history (though it could), but something that makes readers appreciate having taken the time to leave their homes when they could be curled up under a blanket watching Netflix. Give them a juicy detail, tell them how you came up with your story idea, offer a tidbit of writing inspiration, or anything that will add to the words you’ve already crafted on the page.

Bring your personality with you when you read. Remember that you don’t have to be an A list quality actor in order to bring your words to life; you just have to be yourself. Here’s a wonderful example of a reading by a woman who inspired me to get into the genre, Susie Bright. Watch her reading from her story “The Best She Ever Had” in her gorgeously crafted anthology X: The Erotic Treasury, back in 2009 at In The Flesh, for an example of a master of how to talk about sex in public:

The awful/wonderful thing about readings is that anything can happen. I recognize that for women, especially, it can be unnerving to talk so frankly about sex in public, lest we be greeted by flirtatious, inappropriate or downright creepy comments in return (I’ve experienced all three), with the assumption being that because we aren’t ashamed about sex, we want to sleep with anyone who happens to be around. At the same time, I think staying silent about sex adds to our cultural confusion around it. Exploring it, whether in fiction or nonfiction, is a way to break some of the taboos, and in a culture when so many of us, myself included, live our lives behind a computer screen, saying those dirty words, giving them context and meaning and emotion and weight, is all the more valuable.

The awful/wonderful thing about readings is that you can’t predict how they will go. The audience may listen avidly, or twiddle with their phones. They may laugh or gasp where you don’t expect them to, and your favorite jokes may fall flat. Someone may catch something in your work you’ve never thought about before.

Lastly, remember that readings don’t last forever. They may loom large when they’re on the horizon, but the time really does fly by when you’re up there speaking into the microphone. I can’t tell you the number of times an author who’s seemed nervous beforehand has trouble sticking to their allotted time, because once they get started, they get swept away.

I hope you’ll join me on this book tour, and if you’re not in any of these cities, I would love it if you’d pass on the details to someone who is. I’ve organized it in part to promote my books, but also to stand up for erotica, to ensure that it’s not relegated to some bottom shelf or back corner of a bookstore, only ferreted out by the truly dedicated. Plus, on a personal level, it’s another way for me to help conquer that fear, to leap into the unknown and find out what happens. I want to see erotica front and center, next to the latest mystery and romance and fiction titles. Here’s where to find us – all our events are free and will be followed by Q&As and book signings.

January 31, 7:30 pm, Skylight Books, 1818 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles

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February 9, 6:30 pm, Sugar, 1001 W. 36th Street, Baltimore (Hamden)

baltimore-reading

February 11, 7 pm, Bluestockings, 172 Allen Street, New York City

bluestockings-edit-2017

February 13, 7:30 pm, WORD, 123 Newark Avenue, Jersey City, New Jersey

word-reading-image-2017

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.

The joy of travel sex

16 Dec

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

If you ask me, travel sex is some of the hottest sex in the world. Why? Because travel puts us in a different headspace, where anything can happen. For me, there’s a mix of anticipation, uncertainty and adventure that, when combined as I step onto a plane, check into a hotel or set foot in a new to me city, make me feel far more uninhibited than I do at home.

One of the most outrageous travel sex adventures I’ve ever had happened during an unexpected overnight layover. My flight had been cancelled and I decided to stay at the airport overnight. This was long ago enough that I don’t actually remember what airport it was, which doesn’t really matter save for the fact that the place cleared out as people scrambled to find hotel rooms. Except for me…and a guy who was also stranded. I believe he was from somewhere in South America. He was incredibly sweet and as we waited next to each other, we talked…and then did much more.

It’s hard to put into words without it sounding sordid but what we shared in that airport is actually one of my favorite sexual memories. Why? Because it was completely unexpected. Because we likely never would have met had fate not brought us together that night. Because I would have been scared as hell to spend a whole night in an airport entirely alone. So yes, it was much more than stolen hand jobs. It was a chance to connect with a total stranger and get through a frustrating situation and release some sexual tension. It was an opportunity to be exhibitionists hidden in plain sight.

I also have a huge fondness for hotel sex, whether during a staycation or a full on trip, because hotels are such gorgeous blank slates, with their freshly made beds and amenities, with the chance to shed all my mental baggage for a few nights and bring out my most erotically adventurous side.

on-sale-now-best-womens-erotica-of-the-year-2

So it’s no surprise that travel lust made its way into my brand new anthology, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, released this week. I didn’t set out with that plan in mind, but as I read the submissions that landed in my inbox, over and over I found a trip to be the key to starting a fling or relationship. This made perfect sense within the context of each story, and as I crafted the table of contents, I realized how perfectly each travel erotica tale fit within the greater whole. Each of these women are on an adventure, whether they know it when they start out or not, that takes them somewhere they didn’t expect to go. They don’t just “make the best of things” and muddle through, but truly use travel to learn more about themselves and avail themselves of the erotic opportunities awaiting them.

dorianne-best-womens-erotica-quote

One of the travel stories in the book is “Like Lights in the Northern Sky” by Dorianne. Here’s how she describes the title phenomenon:

Green and blue waves of light pirouetted across the sky. The stars were dazzling here every night, but now they played peekaboo, constantly disappearing behind a vibrant wash of color only to reappear a second later as the real color (teal, royal blue, emerald and chartreuse green) pulsed in a different direction. Valentina stopped breathing, her entire awareness focused on the light show playing against a rich, black backdrop.

“Aurora borealis,” said one of the tourists.

Wawasayg,” Johnny whispered in her ear.

Dorianne paints an intriguing and intimate portrait not just of this natural phenomenon, but also about the lodge owner and his wife, who are in an open relationship, and how tourist Valentina gets an unexpected but very welcome erotic introduction to the land she’s visiting.

kay-jaybee-best-womens-erotica-of-the-year-volume-two

In “Brick Dust” by Kay Jaybee, protagonist Liza, who lives in England, takes a job at a South African sandstone brick quarry, which leads to some very sexy on-the-job training. We find out she’s taken this assignment in part to escape her ex, Ryan, and his kinky requests, but in this isolated location, with hunky boss Mick, they just may be right up her alley:

Liza could picture the words her ex had written clearly despite her blindfold, she had read them so often. “He…he wanted to tease my body until I begged.”

“That’s the bit that I’ve waned about the most.” Dropping to his knees, Mick sent a shower of particles spraying across Liza’s legs. “It’s not the fact you are bound at at my mercy, but that you’er going to have to plead for me to fuck you that’s working the magic.”

The blanket of ground brick beneath Liza’s body that had initially felt like a soft mattress morphed into unyielding grime-covered earth as Mick spoke. The top layer was sticking to her back, making Liza feel as though she were a living piece of sandpaper. Each time she wriggled her back was scratched, but rather than feeling uncomfortable, it sent ripples of confused desire tripping through her veins.

Jaybee does an excellent job of making sure we get up close and personal with how aroused Liza gets by their public sex, precisely because she’s in a new environment with someone she trusts completely.

josie-jordan-best-womens-erotica-of-the-year-volume-two

In “Volcano Nights” by Josie Jordan, strangers are thrust together when they have to share the only available room in a hotel. When I interviewed the author about the story’s origins, she told me, “There’s something inherently sexy about long-haul travel. All these strangers briefly thrown together, never to meet again.”

Indeed, the surprise layover, combined with her feelings after catching her boyfriend in bed with someone else, make Monica prone to flirting in ways she like wouldn’t be back home:

“What are you thinking?” he asked.

“That I’m going to bed with you in a minute,” I blurted before I could help myself. To hide my embarrassment, I drained my wine.

His smile widened. “I keep thinking about that too.” His eyes sparkled.

My stomach fluttered again and I toyed with my empty glass.

For me, whenever I roll my suitcase away from home and set forth on a voyage, a part of me does step into that anything-can-happen mindset. It’s part of what, in my opinion, makes joining the mile high club so much fun. These days, I’m in a monogamous relationship, but were I to find myself on a crashing plane taking my last breaths, I have a feeling I wouldn’t be worried about propriety. While I am not too fearful about air travel, that frisson of concern and the fact that there are so many factors out of my control, have in the past helped me blurt out similar sentiments to Monica’s. It’s almost as if when we travel, we are adding a layer of sexual bravado that allows us to go where we’ve never gone before, in more than the geographic sense.

Reading itself offers a similar feeling from home, letting us virtually travel to other lands, other worlds and other people’s beds and, perhaps, letting us absorb some of the characters’ coveted bravado. If you’re curious about just what kinds of naughty adventures traveling can lead to, I hope you’ll check out Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, out now in print and ebook and available at your favorite local bookstore.

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

Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1 excerpt: Simply Sinful Giveaway

25 Nov

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

Welcome to our Simply Sinful Black Friday Reader Event, where we’re sharing excerpts all day and giving away the gorgeous basket you see below, full of goodies any romance lover would want.

My excerpt is from Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, part of the annual series I edit for Cleis Press, from my bisexual open marriage travel erotic short story, “Flying Solo.”

Blurb: Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 1, edited by award-winning author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, delivers risky, romantic, heart-pounding thrills. Featuring a diverse range of characters, sexualities and scenarios, these 22 steamy stories revel in erotic adventure, from the sparks between strangers to the knowing caresses of longtime lovers. Women learn “The Ropes,” get “Starstruck” and dine with “Two Doms for Dinner.” Penned by beloved authors such as L. Marie Adeline and Tiffany Reisz along with newcomers to the genre, these sexy encounters will give you plenty of fantasy fodder to last all year long.

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Excerpt of “Flying Solo” by Rachel Kramer Bussel

I’ve made sure my camera has plenty of battery left for this trip, because you’re not here to watch me. I wish you were, but life sometimes keeps us apart. You didn’t ask me to, but I want to send you photos of me naked, turned on, wet for you. Even though you’re not talking up a storm as you usually are when we travel, I feel you with me as I pass through security, and especially as I head to the gate and start casually, quietly, discreetly looking around, the way we did on our honeymoon. Has it really been four years? They’ve flown by.

I’ll never forget sitting with you and hearing you whisper, “Find someone to take back to our hotel room with us.” You didn’t specify if it should be a man or a woman, and although I’d never considered it before, the idea of being pressed between you and another man made me so excited I almost spilled the medium coffee I’d just purchased. You took it from my hand and blew through the small opening in the plastic top for me, raising your eyebrows. I giggled, then started looking. I reached for your hand for support; you squeezed it but then let me go. I fiddled with my wedding ring, twisting around the new gold band over and over, afraid I looked like a kid in a candy store.
You’d whispered to me again. “I’m just so madly in love with you, and I think this should be a new tradition; when we travel, we find someone to join us. Just for fun, no strings attached.” I’d spent the entire time before we boarded perusing every adult sitting around us, mentally undressing them, wondering who had piercings or tattoos, who was kinky, who was the best kisser. I pictured the tall man in a suit, speaking rapidly in Spanish on the phone, with his cock in your mouth. I pictured the short, curvy redhead with her head buried between my legs while you entered her from behind.

“Well?” you’d asked, as they started to board the plane.

“I can’t decide. And I certainly can’t go up to any of these people. What am I going to say? ‘I just got married and my husband wants to have a threesome?’” Yet even saying those unspeakable words made me wet, made my mind and heart race. I’d told you that I was bisexual after our third date, wanting to make sure you wouldn’t have that awful, frat-boy, “That’s hot!” reaction that even most seemingly sophisticated men busted out once I revealed I went both ways. You just nodded and let me tell you all about Simone, the gorgeous woman with the smoky voice and beautiful, curvy body I’d most recently bedded.

I’d fallen in love with you in part because you let me tell you anything, and in turn revealed some of your fantasies. We’d tried out many of them—bondage, strap-ons, hot wax. We’d talked about threesomes and orgies but in a fantasy way, until that trip. For whatever reason, you’d never mentioned wanting to be with another man, but I liked learning new things about you just when I thought I knew it all. “Let’s wait until we’re on the plane,” I’d said, and lucky me: my dream girl, the one whose face I kept returning to, was sitting next to me on the plane. You’d pretended to sleep while I made small talk with her, all the while working up the courage to say what I most wanted to. As it turned out, she’d been the one to whisper in my ear, “I wish I could be alone with you for an hour. I want to kiss you all over.”

I’d stared right back at her, barely hearing the screaming infant behind us, or the blaring music from the woman’s headphones in front of us. I just saw her, Katia, her ripe, naturally pink lips, her jet-black hair, the tiny diamond glinting from her lightly freckled nose. When I reached up and traced her lips, you’d stirred, gently knocking my knee with yours. “You can. Well, not alone, exactly. I’m with him,” I’d whispered, getting close enough to make sure my lips grazed her earlobe. “It’s our honeymoon, but he wants me to bring someone home for us to share.”

“I’m good at sharing,” she’d whispered back, and she’d proven exactly how good once we were settled into our suite. Fresh from a hot shower we’d shared, our kisses making me tingle all over, Katia had gotten you and me on our backs and eased her mouth from one to the other until I was absolutely dripping wet, desperate for more. “You get on top of him,” she’d instructed, in the sweetest, silkiest voice possible. It was an order, but a gentle one. If I’d had a better plan I’m sure she’d have gone along with it, but there was nothing I wanted more than your cock inside me, my body primed from her hot, hungry tongue. She eased you inside me and just as I moaned and thought I might come right then and there, her tongue was back, lapping between the cheeks she held open with those soft, delicate hands. Her tongue pressed against my rosebud, making me groan.

“She’s licking me,” I’d whispered frantically before burying my face in your neck. She worked me into a frenzy, one that your hard, driving cock only made more frantic. When Katia’s fingers reached around me to circle my clit, I came, trembling against both of you, then biting your neck when her fingers didn’t stop dancing against my hard bud. She raised her head, only to nip at the soft flesh of my ass while she coaxed another climax from me. But it wasn’t until she lifted me off of you, pressed three fingers deep inside me, then eased them out and put them in your mouth that I really lost it. The look of sheer ecstasy on your face had me slamming down on top of you, fucking you harder than I ever had. You looked right at me while you sucked her fingers, and I came for the third time, something I’d also never done.

“Can I taste him?” she’d asked, and no sooner were the words out of her mouth than I was climbing off of you, wrapping my hand around the base of your cock, and feeding it to her. She didn’t swallow the whole thing greedily like I would have. Instead, Katia was like a cat with a bowl of milk, her tongue slowly licking up the cream at the tip, one long stroke at a time. I’d never seen a woman give a blow job up close like that, and I didn’t even think about what I did next, I just leaned forward and joined her, my tongue on one side of the ridged crown, hers on the other. Soon we were taking turns putting the head in our mouths, but I let her do the honors when you started to buck your hips up and down. I was too blissed out to give you the proper care and devotion you deserved, but Katia certainly wasn’t. I saw her saliva glinting off the length of your shaft as she rose all the way up, opened those beautiful brown eyes to stare at me, then, keeping her gaze locked on mine, moved all the way down. When I reached out to stroke her hair, you grabbed my hand and we both put just a little pressure on her head, enough to make her moan. Soon you were fucking her face—there’s no other way to describe it. She was grunting like an animal and you were lost in the feel of her mouth.

If someone had told me I’d spend the first night of my honeymoon watching another woman giving my husband head—and liking it—a few years before, or even a few weeks before, I’d have thought they were crazy. But in the moment, it was the hottest thing ever. There was no separation between us; we were all connected by our desire, our yearning to give and get pleasure all at the same time. When you came, I could tell instantly, even though Katia expertly sucked down every drop. “I think you should let Katia sit on your face,” you told me.

Oh my goodness. Of course. I lay back and soon she was on top of me, not writhing wildly, but slowly pressing herself against my mouth, enveloping my senses with her perfume. You got between my legs and ate me while I ate her, and even though your tongue distracted me from what I was doing, nobody minded. Eventually her languid movements weren’t enough for me, and I pulled her tight against me, loving how wet she was getting, loving it even more when she came. She repeated her clit stroking as you kept your mouth on me, so I got to experience a fourth orgasm that knocked me out. Katia was gone by the time I woke up, but what she left us with was an insatiable sense of sexual adventure.

Since then we’ve bedded men, women and couples—only while traveling, never back home. Today will be a first, though, and I not only don’t want to let you down, I’m curious what it’ll be like. Though I’ve had more partners than most of my married friends, when I’m with you, it always feels like married sex, no matter how many people are in the room. This time, it’s just me, and I have to imagine you watching, you whispering to me, you encouraging me. I still get nervous, as you well know, but I’ve loved every single one of our encounters, both in the moment, and how they spur us on later when we’re alone.

I text you a quick hello along with a photo of me, and just as I’m finished sending it, I see a man watching me. His head is shaved, and he towers over my five-two frame. I can tell he’s muscular from how his suit doesn’t quite fit him, even though he looks amazing. He’s taller and wider and probably stronger than you, but again, I know that if you were here you wouldn’t be threatened. Remember that pro football player we picked up, the one who not only bent me over and, with my head buried in the sheets, fucked me so well I squirted, but also fucked you? I think about that when I’m alone sometimes. It was one of the hottest things we’ve ever done. I wonder if Mr. Muscles would ever want to be with a man like you. Instantly, I blush; I can never hide that.

You’ve told me that’s one of the things you love about me—how easily I blush, how readily you can tell when I’m thinking something dirty. The muscle guy walks over. “Hi,” he says, his voice deep yet somehow boyish. “You busy?”

“Just waiting for my plane. Going on a business trip,” I say.

“Me too. Meetings, but not till three tomorrow.” Our flight’s at seven and is only an hour and a half, which means we both have a whole night free. “Look, I don’t want to bother you if you aren’t interested”—he nods at my wedding ring, which I only take off when I shower—“but I couldn’t help noticing you.”

“I’m interested,” I say quietly. I’ve had this conversation dozens of times, but it’s never easy to tell a stranger you’re in an open marriage, and it’s even more challenging without you by my side to help ease things along. “I’m…available. Tonight, anyway,” I say with a laugh.

“Tonight works for me,” he says. I motion to the seat next to me and we sit in companionable silence. I have an urge to lean my head on his shoulder, so I do. He strokes my hair, a seemingly gentle touch, but one that sends shivers running through my body. I picture you on my other side, and me snug between two men, one who sets me on edge and one who makes me feel safe—and sexy too. That’s what you do, if you didn’t know; I feel like I could take on the world in every way, knowing you’re there for me.

flying-solo

You can read the whole story in the anthology, available in print, ebook (including Kindle, Nook, Google Play, iBooks and Kobo) and audiobook. You can also listen to the full story free read by Audible audiobook narrator Rose Caraway

Comment below–or on any post published today, November 25–and be entered to win a Simply Sinful basket of book goodness.

Books! Wine! Bath bombs and soaps! Scones! What more could you need?

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Giveaway closes at midnight (Eastern), November 25, 2016.

Next up in the LadySmut Simply Sinful Reader Event is Isabelle Drake at 11 a.m.

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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.

On creating inclusive, multicultural erotica in the age of Trump

18 Nov

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

In the nine days since I woke up and learned that Donald Trump had been elected president, I must admit that everything I do with my life has seemed largely pointless, from sex journalism to erotica editing to even blogging. How could it not be n the face of public discussions in 2016 in favor of a registry for Muslims and praising Japanese internment camps? The question that made my 41st birthday on the tenth and the rest of the ensuing days pass by in a blur of bingo and the blahs has been, What am I doing to make this world a better place? Because I had already been in somewhat of a creative lull and mental haze, the answer I kept coming back to was: nothing.

It felt ridiculous to be talking with the social media manager I had been so proud of myself for hiring about what quotes and images to use to promote my books, like I was ignoring the very real problems that have exploded into our world with a vengeance since last week’s news, despite not being able to take my eyes away from my increasingly scary Facebook feed for more than a half hour at a time.

And then copies of my new anthology, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2, arrived, all 200 that I had purchased in a burst of optimism and eagerness. There’s always something thrilling about seeing a book with my name on the cover for the first time, knowing that it went from a mere concept in my head into an actual paperback that will soon be on the shelves of bookstores and sex toy stores in all its shiny glory. I savored that moment, realizing that the book was bigger than me, and that I had authors who were excited to be published, many of them for the very first time, and that by helping them share their work, I might also be encouraging future authors to get writing. So I stopped feeling despondent for a little while and got to work packaging up those books and mailing out contributor copies to my 21 authors from around the world. I actually think my trips to the post office are my favorite part of the anthology editing process, even more than opening those boxes, because I get to be the one to deliver something that’s so much more than the sum of its individual parts to the people who helped create it, without whom the book wouldn’t exist.

Hot off the press Best Women's Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Hot off the press Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 2

Holding those books in my hands made me realize that while I don’t consider myself an activist, what I can do in my own small way, is continue on with my vision for inclusive erotica. When I took over editing the series (which used to include calendar years in its title; my editing started with Volume 1), I decided to make some changes. One biggie was that authors who’d been published in one of my volumes before wouldn’t be able to submit again, in order to make room for more voices. While I’m only contracted through Volume 4, my dream is to get to edit 10 volumes, and in the process, publish writing by over 200 amazing authors, while also boosting their profiles and helping them gain a dedicated readership. I also started doing more outreach to writers who might not consider themselves “erotica writers” but who might want to contribute, because I believe there are so many people with brilliant untold stories that speak to their deepest desires, even when times are hard, even when other things may seem and actually be far more urgent than plain old s-e-x.

Now, I vow to do even more of that, because while I only have 65,000 words to do so, within that space, I want to publish the types of authors who may not be heard in mainstream erotica, yet whose perspectives are vital and urgent and powerful and lively and fierce and tender, who find eroticism within circumstances that may seem unlikely or unusual, whose fetishes defy categorization, whose desires continue unabated no matter how many hurdles, internal and external, they have to jump through to act on them. I want to continue to seek out women from small towns and big cities, from atheists to dedicated believers, from brand new adults to those many, many decades their senior, to contribute and make this a more varied, diverse series and share aspects of sexuality that help us understand each other better. This may be my Polyanna side showing, but I hope that in illuminating how sex and lust and love play a role in the lives of the kinds of women readers may or may not know in real life, these stories bring us all a little closer together.

So here is what I will ask you: please think about women and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people you know who might have a fascinating erotic story to tell, and pass on my call for submissions for Best Women’s Erotica of the Year, Volume 3. The deadline, December 1, is soon, but for those with stories to tell, I hope this call inspires them (and I will be editing Volume 4 next year, so stay tuned). Authors whose stories are accepted for publication will receive $150 and 2 copies of the book (plus as much social media promotion and support as I can possibly provide).

While I intend these volumes to be timeless and, hopefully, still in existence twenty, thirty, fifty years from now, I also want them to grapple with what it’s like to live and love and lust now, in such a chaotic political climate, not just in the United States but all over. I want them to run the gamut of human experience and look at how sex and religion, sex and age, sex and race, sex and disability, sex and gender, sex and anger and sadness intersect. I don’t want cardboard cutout characters or agendas, but humanity in all its messy imperfection. I want characters who break the rules (their own and society’s), who try something new, who surprise readers and themselves by following the path their desire takes them, even if it’s not “smart” or “rational” (perhaps especially if it’s not). I want them to defy stereotypes and slut shaming and the notion of being “good girls.” I want characters who deserve (and maybe even get, or have gotten) their own novels to truly see thir journeys to their fullest course. No, these aren’t essays, and their primary purpose still needs to be to arouse readers, and perhaps offer them an escape from the real world, but I don’t think that’s antithetical to also giving those consuming those words something lasting to think about.

On a personal level, I also am grateful that I’ve already got a mini book tour in the works, because I’m sure if I had the option of planning one now, I’d chose instead to stay home, to savor the small comforts of my little corner of suburbia, where people from different cultures do actually live together in harmony, rather than going out into the big wide world where it seems like we are becoming more and more divided and the worst of humanity is on full, loud, public, scary display.

Will anyone want to hear erotica read to them after the inauguration? I have no idea, but one of the things that has sustained me through editing anthologies over the last 12 years is taking an often lonely process that happens solely in my home and channeling it into something that brings real, live people together in a room. I also believe we need our independent bookstores and sex toy shops more than ever to be community spaces, places where we can find new ideas and entertainment, and I’m proud and honored that they want to work with me and my authors.

I don’t know what the future holds, for my country or my career. But right now, I know that this is my path, and I intend to use it to help other writers get published, get paid and help spread their words as far and wide as I can. It may be a drop in the ocean in terms of making the world a more understanding, less hateful place, but it’s the drop I can offer.

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.

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