Tag Archives: reader expectations

Waiting for Godot: Living Through Series Delay

13 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

Recently, an author for whom I am a big fan–in fact, I think it’s safe to say I am a superfan–released the first book in her new series. Cue the confetti. Strike up the band. Huz-freaking-zah. Right?

This new novel is in a new genre for said author and is the start of a three-book series, the remainder of which will come out throughout the rest of the year. Goodness abounds, yeah? Well, no, not really.

The author is rightly super excited about her new foray, a genre into which she has long been noodling on her own, ramping herself up to finally go for it. She also values her readers and is enough in tune with them to know not all of her dedicated flock are going to happily trot along behind this new venture. To this end, she’s taken great pains to explain the long path that’s brought her to write this series. She’s posted blogs on her web site and on social media patiently laying out, not her argument, because she needs make no defense for following her heart into writing the stories that have been weighing on her or so long, but an explanation as to what led her to make the decision to pursue this series. No author or any creative force, is obligated to take this sort of effort to, essentially, state her case. She’s done this with grace and care, and I have a lot of respect for her, or rather, even more respect for her, for doing so. And I’ve read enough of her books (over and over and over again) to feel confident that she has hit it out of the park.

That said, I’m unlikely to read this series because its genre is not in my wheelhouse. Like I said, I’m a superfan and have deep dived into this author’s extensive back list. That said, there’s a dozen or more of her novels I haven’t read, or ones where I’ve read the first in the series and the genre and situation didn’t/doesn’t appeal to me.

But, I’m woman enough to admit, this time, I’m a little miffed.

This is not because this author has written a series in a genre I don’t like, which leaves me going nearly a year without new goodness from a favorite (my choice, admittedly). Okay, it’s not only because of that. Mainly though, I’m miffed because this author has at least two unfinished series for which I am rabid and another series that readers (including moi) have been greatly anticipating for years, all of which are being denied for something new. Instead of working on what is already in play, she’s taken a new creative direction and thus created another new series.

I don’t want a new series. I want the books that have been explicitly or implicitly promised for existing series I’m on which I’m already thoroughly hooked. I want the series installments for which I have been (im)patiently waiting.

And yes, I would like some cheese to go along with that whine, thank you very much.

Look, I’m miffed, I won’t lie. That’s the reader side of me. I want my jones for those existing series to be fed. I got hooked on one of them fast and deep only to have the brakes slammed on the three or four books yet waiting to be written. Now I hafta wait out this unwelcomed series and hope that maybe next year there might be a hint of these upcoming books being in the works much less the break off series that has been promised for years.

But the writer side of me gets it. Sure, you have to sit and write whether the Muse or the spirit or whatever floats your boat gets your butt in the chair and your hands of the keyboard or not. Especially if you’re a full-time writer making a living off your words. You have to produce pages in order to get paid. It’s much easier to do this when you’re passionate for the project, when you’re driven to get that story out of your system. A writer can’t always pick and choose what story grabs her and when. In order to be true to reader expectations of the quality of your work, you have to make sure your commitment to that work is on par. That doesn’t always mean giving them the story they think they want. I know enough to know it doesn’t always work that way. Added to that, when an opportunity presents itself to do something different, something you’ve been somewhat secretly working on or leaning toward for some time, you don’t say no. You pursue that opportunity with prejudice if necessary. No author jumps off into the deep end of something new, knowing you might be risking a portion of your readership and therefore your livelihood by making a drastic turn in what you’re writing. Don’t get me wrong, I totally support this writing and admire her for having the guts to pursue this direction for which she clearly feels substantial compulsion.

To be honest, I wouldn’t want those upcoming books that I’m keenly anticipating to suffer from a rush job either. If the author isn’t feeling those stories, isn’t prepared to live in the heads of those characters, I sure don’t want her to force herself to write them simply to appease her readers’ desires when she’s not prepared to tell those stories. That disappoints everyone.

Look, it’s not like this is the first time I’ve waited on a series. Diana Gabaldon cranked out Lord John novels and novellas in-between her Outlander tomes. We all know the pain and suffering G.R.R. Martin fans have been going through for decades. Cripes, Godot shows up more often than new Game of Thrones novels.

Maybe I’m feeling this one so keenly because to me, it feels like a waste because I have no desire to read this series. This means I now have to wait for it to burn out so she can get back to writing what I want, because I’m a selfish superfan in need of her jones. God forbid she come out with an announcement later this year that she’s writing more installments in this new series. I may just plotz.

It’s a weird line to walk. I support the author’s new endeavor because I like her and I dig her work hard. I’ll probably read it too at some point, despite my dislike of the genre, because I’m curious to see how her voice comes through in that situation. What her unique take on the genre turns out to be. But I also resent it because it just means more and more delays until she writes the stories I’m waiting for with ever so-much-less patience.

The writer/reader relationship can be so wonky.  There’s an ownership a superfan feels when they’ve invested time and emotion and dollars into a writer, or any content producer really, and then something happens that makes the reader feel as though they’ve been gypped. It’s not just in books either. Lord knows, I’ve railed and fumed when TV shows and movies don’t fulfill the promise of relationships or story lines. It’s gotten to the point where I refuse to invest in a TV series until I can wait out the will they/won’t they of the primary ‘ship. (Do *not* get me started on Arrow’s abysmal treatment of the Olicity ‘ship, which has made me stop watching the show altogether.) This resentment I’m feeling now is along the same lines, the continued disappointment of not getting what I want, no matter what the motivations or desires of the content provider. And yet, as a content provider myself, I understand the creative and marketplace demands that may take precedent over one reader’s (or a thousand readers’) preference.

Have you been disappointed by a writer or other content provider’s creative decisions? Are you waiting for a book that feels like it might never come? Have you had a favorite author go in a direction you don’t like? Tell me your experiences in the comments!

Lady Smut is out and about in the wild again. We have a hot and spicy event at the upcoming RT convention in May. Share your sexy secrets at the “Never Have I Ever, Ever, Ever” game with in-person Lady Smut bloggers Elisabeth SaFleur and Isabelle Drake. We’ll have more information on the event in the upcoming weeks so be sure to follow Lady Smut so you don’t miss a trick!

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.

Cuckolding: the femdom lifestyle

8 Jul

By Isabelle Drake

A married woman having sex with a man who isn’t her husband? Yes. A married woman having sex with a man who isn’t her husband–and he arranges it? Yes. And–he watches it? And likes it? Yep.

About two years ago, before I was a Lady Smut regular, I wrote a Fetish 101 post on cuckolding. I offered up the basics: a cuckold marriage is one in which the husband selects men for his wife to have sex with. As with all sexual preferences, there are variations. The husband may or may not watch the couple having sex. He may or may not participate.

There are commonalities. Most often:

  • The husband is the one who first suggests they adopt the lifestyle.
  • The couple has been married for ten or more years and consider their marriage a happy, successful one.
  • The couple hides their choice because mainstream society has a harsh, negative view of this lifestyle.

Order-cuckoldry-ca1815-French-satireIt’s this last point that intrigues me. Ever since I began writing cuckold stories, I have found that many people, even those who consider themselves accepting and open-minded, disapprove of this type of marriage. Errol Gluck, a radio host, did an hour-long radio show,  Cuckolds: Men Who Share Their Wives, on the topic. Although he claimed to be open to the idea of accepting the practice, it is clear that he did not. Questions such as What do they tell their children? show both his lack of respect for the married couples and his inability, or maybe its unwillingness, to take the topic seriously.

To be clear, a cuckold marriage is not an open or a polyamorous one. Those marriages are, in my mind, more fluid in definition and in practice. Specifically, both partners are involved in sex outside the marriage and both partners may develop deep emotional bonds outside the two-person pairing. In a cuckold marriage, the wife alone participates in sex outside the marriage and that sex is for physical gratification only. She does not love the sexual partners as she loves her husband. Her deep emotional loyalty belongs to her husband alone.

In our culture, we value the emotional loyalty of monogamy. Dr. Shirley P Glass, in her book NOT “Just Friends”: Protect your relationship from infidelity and heal the trauma of betrayal , writes in great depth about the new threats to marriages. “In the new infidelity, one doesn’t have to have sex to be unfaithful. In fact, secret emotional attachments outside a marriage can be just as great a betrayal as extramarital sex. When sex and emotional involvement combine … the threat to the marriage is more catastrophic-much more so than traditional affairs used to be. In the current crisis of infidelity, men are more likely to fall in love with their affair partners-in the past, they were more likely to have uncomplicated sexual liaisons. Today, women are also getting more sexually involved than they did in previous generations.” Using extensive research, she supports her position that more now than in the past, men are seeking deeper emotional connections while women are seeking greater sexual satisfaction. Given that the cuckold marriage provides for both of these needs, perhaps it is not surprising that the practice of this lifestyle is on the rise.

Who, you ask, are these individuals picking up this not-so-unique habit?  Anneli Rufus may have been the first to dub this particular fetish The Intellectual Sex Fetish, but others have also supported the idea that it is a more common practice of highly educated professionals. The theory is that these individuals are better able to understand the complex psychological dynamics behind the practice and are therefore better able to exploit them to their benefit. One of these dynamics is the element of erotic humiliation.

Theories that seek to explain why erotic humiliation works focus on the physiological and emotional responses to humiliation. The area of the brain that responds to emotional tinydickcuckold1pain, including humiliation, is the same as the one that responds to physical pain. Thus, humiliation is a very strong emotional trigger. That emotional trigger requires a significant amount of mental manipulation as the person being humiliated finds a way to “deal with it.” One method of “dealing with it,” or managing the emotional pain, is to disassociate, to set aside ones normal identity. This break from identity leads to a temporary loss of self-awareness, loss of focus on oneself as seen by others and ultimately relaxation. This combination naturally enhances sexual pleasure and allows for the husband to enjoy watching or thinking about his wife being sexually active with another man. And so, when a person is humiliated to the point of loss of self-awareness, and physical pleasure is introduced, the likelihood of ultimate sexual release and satisfaction is achieved.

Do I have more to say about the complexities of the cuckold lifestyle? Such as the intricate differences between male and female orgasms and how women are aroused by different types of men at different points in the menstrual cycle? Yes, I do. But  I’ll save those for next time.

For now, I’ll offer up a short excerpt from the first in my Cuckold Beach series. So you can get a taste for how this lifestyle can make a hot, fun fantasy.

~~~

Pink Bow

Get your copy for .99.

Cuckold Beach 1: Pink Bow excerpt:

Troy didn’t say anything as we passed through the towns along the water. It wasn’t the kind of quiet when he’s upset, but the kind when he’s excited or anxious or just considering something important. So I didn’t worry about him not talking. I looked out the window and tried not to think about the fact that only a tiny layer of fabric separated my bare pussy from Troy’s view.

As we went farther down the coastline, the buildings became smaller and closer together but it was obvious that everyone who lived along the coast was loaded. The yards were landscaped with flowers, beach grasses and fan palms, and lit with soft spotlights. Many of the houses were tall and narrow, with parking garages on the ground level and living spaces above. It was a neighborhood way out of our price range, that was for sure.

Another thing I was sure of—we didn’t know anyone who lived here. Or maybe it was just me who didn’t know anyone, otherwise why would Troy bring us here?

After a long while, Troy turned off the main road and started checking the map on his phone. My curiosity was making me so jittery, each minute dragged, but finally he parked. Once he cut the engine, he turned to me and put his hand on my leg. “You know how much I love you, right?”

“More than the moon loves the stars,” I said, repeating our special phrase.

“That’s right. And I always will.” He slid his hand up my leg. “I know about the porn.”

My mind went blank.

Was that what he’d been thinking about during the drive? Heavy silence settled between us until I broke it with words, even though I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say. I explained about a girl at work telling me to check out a particular site and how the site made me curious, so I kept looking… And I kept babbling, telling most but not all of the truth, until he cut me off.

“It’s okay. I love you, Abby. And I know what you need—so I’m going to make sure you get it.”

I started to talk again, telling him how much I loved him and that he always satisfied me, but he cut me off a second time by kissing me firmly on the mouth. His hard kiss stirred up all that lust that had brewing since he’d told me to change clothes. Within a minute, I was panting and reaching for his belt. He guided my hands away with a smile and laugh.

“No, no. Tonight is going to be different. For one thing, you aren’t in charge.”

“What else?” I asked, eager to know.

He shook his head and climbed out of the car. “Follow me and find out.”

~~~

Here at Lady Smut we know you want to be informed, entertained, and kept up to date. So follow us, and ‘cause we’re here to make sure you’re satisfied.

~~~

Isabelle Drake writes erotica, erotic romance, urban fantasy, and young adult thrillers. You can also check out her erotic, zombie erotica right here, every Sunday, on Lady Smut.

I’ve Been Had! Book Betrayals: Who’s at Fault?

17 Aug

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

It’s no secret that several of us here at Lady Smut are huge fangrrls of author Cara McKenna. A quick search of our achieves will pop up multiple posts on her and her books. I re-read McKenna’s Hard Time and After Hours this week and, as per usual, as soon as I finished, I immediately wanted to start each one all over again. Instead, given it was already midnight, I downloaded a novella prequel to McKenna’s Desert Dogs romantic suspense series, Drive it Deep. It was a good, relatively quick bite that gave me a taste for the rest of the series…right up until I got to the end.

From here on in, there will be some mild spoilers for Drive it Deep and the Desert Dogs series, a series I have not yet read except for this novella. Carry on at your own risk.

Drive it Deep is about Jeremiah Church, local rancher, and Raina Harper, local bar owner, two people who have known each other their whole lives and have only now, in their early 30s, discovered an electric passion they proceed to explore quite successfully. Friends to lovers is one of my favorite Romancelandia tropes so I happily dove into the sexy story. They fall in love and are momentarily happy, but they have a deep divide that seemingly can’t be conquered: Jeremiah ultimately wants a wife and family to carry on his family’s ranching legacy while Raina has absolutely, 100%, zero interest in ever being a mother. (I’m simplifying things here, but that’s the gist.)

Drive it Deep

Click image to buy.

But this is a romance novel, so I read on, expecting somewhere along the line to have them find a solution given how much they’d already confessed to loving one another. In general, romance novels come with the expectation that the relationship issues will be resolved by the end into an HEA (happily ever after) or at least an HFN (happily for now). Imagine my surprise when I reached the end of Jeremiah and Raina’s point-of-no-return argument and the novella ended, relationship conflict left unresolved.

OK, I thought. No big deal. I’ll do a quick Amazon search and see which of the novels in the series continues Jeremiah and Raina’s story. Maybe it’s even the one I already have in my TBR pile. Well, I found Raina’s book, Give It All, only, according to the back cover copy, Jeremiah is not her hero.

What the hell?! I invested in these people. I waded through their angst with the expectation that they’d eventually resolve it, perhaps in the midst of some ongoing suspense plot in a full-length novel. I was pissed. It felt like McKenna had jumped up and down on my Kindle for Android shouting “Psyche!” Any desire I had to read Raina’s story immediately dried up. What other carpets might similarly get whipped out from under my proverbial feet? Plus, having established, in great detail, how good Raina and Jeremiah are together, the bar a different hero has to clear to be worthy of Raina’s forever love is high. Like, skyscraper high. Ditto that for Jeremiah.

Honestly? I’m still pissed.

Prequel novellas and/or short stories are often used to set up a series or a full-length novel as they turn what would have been potentially ponderous back story into its own story (often at a lower price point). Roxanne St. Claire’s wrote a (free) short story Taken to the Edge as a prequel to the first novel in her Guardian Angelino’s series, Edge of Sight, that highlighted the first, steamy hookup of the hero and heroine–back story, successfully dramatized. Readers were then able to plunge into the novel already fully vested in seeing these two crazy kids resolve their issues over approximately 100,000 words. Not so the case in Drive it Deep.

Edge of Sight

Click on image to buy.

And yet, one could reasonably imagine McKenna saying, “why would you think that?” It’s not like she didn’t warn me in the telling. The setup of Raina and Jeremiah’s core conflict is clear and detailed. Neither one of them can budge from their convictions without seriously compromising who they are at their core and no romance love story involves either party betraying themselves for the other. The idea is for them to make each other better, not worse. Ultimately, no matter how much they may love one another, for Raina and Jeremiah to pursue a permanent relationship in spite of their conflict would eventually leave one or both of them deeply unhappy. And yes, hi there real life, sometimes love isn’t enough.  But hel-lo? Romance novel! Gimme the happy, dammit!

McKenna’s apparent bait and switch made me think of Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series. In Flashpoint, Brockmann introduced readers to Lawrence Decker and Sophia. (Sidebar: Flashpoint is a great book, part of a wave of fantastic Troubleshooter novels that made it my crack romantic suspense series back in the day.) Undercover in a (fictional) closed Islamic state that’s been struck by a cataclysmic natural disaster, Decker “meets” Sophia through a charged, complicated, sexual interaction loaded with dubious consent and capped by her attempt to kill him. Their immediate situation is resolved by the end of the book, but their emotional conflict continues through at least two more books of the series. Ultimately, both Decker and Sophia’s forever loves are not each other, a “betrayal” I, as a reader, felt deeply having waited for “their book” only to find it was not about them getting together at all. (There’s a deeper discussion to be had here about what an author does or does not “owe” their readers, especially when it comes to series and fan-favorite characters whose story resolution may or may not go as desired. I touched on it a bit in another post featuring the Brockmann book that put me on the breakup path in Which Came First, The Writer or the Reader?)

Brockmann’s response to the significant reader outrage over this development was a puzzled one: Given the circumstances of that first interaction between Decker and Sophia, especially the lack of consent issues that could categorize the occasion as at least rape-adjacent if not full out rape proper, why would any reader have expected them to be each other’s forever love? 

Flashpoint

Click on image to buy.

I have to concede this is a good point and apply it to Drive it Deep: Why would I expect Jeremiah and Raina to resolve such a fundamental difference in their life and family goals when those desires were patently in opposition to one another? Because it’s a romance novel! There is an implicit contract between writer and reader in Romancelandia–there *will* be a happy ending of some kind between the hero and heroine. And therein lies the issue: In both McKenna’s novella and Brockmann’s book, the mistake is in assuming these pairings are the hero and heroine (a mistake easily made in Drive it Deep given they are the protagonists of the story). Readers have been trained, especially when it comes to long-term series, to identify sequel bait characters, secondary heroes and heroines primed for their turn at above the title billing. When that expectation isn’t met, well, if hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, imagine an industry almost exclusively made up by female consumers who are all feeling mightily put out. Duck and cover, man. Duck and cover.

Back to Drive it Deep. I still feel like I’ve been had and this has, at least for now, negatively influenced my desire to continue reading about Raina and Jeremiah. (As mentioned above, I broke up with Brockmann years ago, despite my deep, deep love for the [early] Troubleshooter series novels, and this was partially influence by the Decker/Sophia thang.) Yet, the assumptions made were all mine as were the expectations based on 30 years of romance novel-reading experience. McKenna wrote the book she had planned; she always knew Raina and Jeremiah weren’t meant for one another. As a writer, I can see the advantage to setting a ripple through a reader’s expectations, especially when the resolution novel that does presumably give both characters their expected HEA/HFNs is already available. But as a reader and lover of romance novels–well, I’m still pissed.

Have you ever felt “had” by a romance novel or novella where the ending didn’t give you the expected HEA/HFN? Where do you think lies the implicit contract between romance writer and reader for that happy resolution? Is the sense of an author’s bait-and-switch more acceptable in a prequel novella when the character find his/her happy ending in an upcoming novel? Is it really a “betrayal” of reader expectations when the signs of that unexpected ending are retrospectively clearly developed?

Follow Lady Smut. We excel at exceeding expectations.

 

Is Forewarned Forearmed?

10 Aug
Halt! Do you have your flame-retardant underpants ready?

Halt! Do you have your flame-retardant underpants ready?

By Alexa Day

As a lawyer, I live with a certain amount of disillusionment toward the garden variety warning sign. To explain why, let’s take just a second to look at our hair dryers. If yours looks anything like mine, there’s a tag around the power cord. On one side, you’ll find a dire warning, in all caps with lots of exclamation points, that says not to remove the tag. On the other side, you’ll find a list of rather self-evident warnings. Among them is the admonition not to use the hair dryer while bathing.

Why do we need a warning not to use the hair dryer while bathing? Leaving aside the fact that it makes little logistical sense to use a hair dryer during a process that typically results in wet hair, do we need to be told that this sort of behavior is the short route to electrocution?

Maybe. But that’s not why we have a warning label there.

The truth is that the world is full of people who will blow dry their hair in a tub full of water. That’s always been the case, and it probably isn’t going to change. Those people are going to keep drying their hair in the bath, no matter what we tell them to do or not to do. The warning label isn’t for those people. It’s for people who want to use the dryer in the bath and then blame someone else, like the company that made your dryer, for the inevitable results. The warning protects the company in the resulting lawsuit; essentially, it says, “See? We told you not to do that.”

Now, I’m not going to argue that the warning labels I’ve seen on romance novels serve the same purpose. I will say that they’re not around because people actually need to be warned about the content of their books.

I don’t want to use anyone’s real warning labels here, and I don’t use them myself. But if I were going to make one up off the top of my head, it might sound like this:

Warning: This book contains one kick-ass bounty hunter, one fugitive alpha male, one very open-minded pleasure robot and lots of very, very hot pursuit! Make sure you’ve got your asbestos panties on!

Yeah, that bothers me for a couple of reasons, not counting the asbestos panties.

First of all, I know how sharp you all are. So I know that you already know that the book is hot. No doubt it has a hot cover. It’s hanging out on a website with a boatload of other hot books, or on a shelf with some other hot books. So I don’t think you need a warning to tell you that the book is hot.

Second, I know you all read the blurb as you made the decision to buy or not buy our example book. You probably had to read it to get to the warning. So I know that you already know about the bounty hunter and the fugitive and the pleasure robot. You already know, or at least strongly suspect, that things are going to get sexual with the three of them. You do not need to be told about that stuff again, either.

Finally, anything else that might go into the warning can only serve to give away parts of the book that I think you’d rather discover by yourselves. When are a bounty hunter and a fugitive going to find time for sex? How is our robot friend involved? There will be a threesome, won’t there?

That curiosity is the fuel that drives you to buy or pass, right? So isn’t it better not to have all the answers on this end?

I imagine some people started with the warnings because they were genuinely concerned that readers would be shocked by their content. I’m not sure we need to worry about that. Between the blurb, the cover, and the excerpts, shouldn’t readers should have a pretty good idea of what’s in the book?

And how easily shocked are readers these days anyway? I like to think we’re all down for anything, but are we?

It’s possible I’m a little (or a lot) jaded. Maybe there’s actually less to these warnings than meets my eye, and they’re just a little touch of fluff designed to whet the appetite in case all other measures fail to do so. If that’s so, then I guess I can look the other way.

As long as they don’t mention the asbestos panties. Just the thought of an undergarment made of asbestos is disturbing.

Warning: Following Lady Smut will lead you to all kinds of unpredictable, sexy fun! No asbestos panties required!

%d bloggers like this: