Tag Archives: romance

SKYE WARREN writes Dark Romance Crack

8 Oct
Skye Warren's Survival of the Richest dark romance

Click to buy Skye Warren’s latest book.

by Madeline Iva

DESPERATION AND DANGER IN A BOTTLE: There are certain elements of dark romance that are compelling. The heroine’s life is about to fall off a cliff–is falling–has fallen.  It’s a familiar feeling, people.  If you’ve been there too, you know how it is. While everything is absolutely horrible at the same time you feel very alive. You’re in the jungle, emotionally speaking. Desperation heightens all your senses.  It’s a heady thing, struggling to survive the trauma/disaster/implosion of what was your life.  I don’t want to go back and live it over again–but reading dark romance puts me right back in those feels.  Cue the music–Hello darkness my old friend.  

Few writers have the talent to re-create those feels on the page–but Skye is one of them.  It’s addictive to pop into that heightened state for a few hours, always knowing you can pop right out again and lay the kindle down.

THE SQUIRMY FACTOR: Skye Warren manages to combine all those feels with settings of luxury and wealth.  A very heady combo.  THEN SHE JUST GOES THERE sex-wise. Oy.  What intensity.  It’s the kind of romance that makes you feel like squirrels are fighting in your tummy. One of Skye’s teasers on facebook referenced how the inexperienced heroine’s throat was sore–from the rough sex she’d been having with the hero. (!!!) That teaser put me into a sex-daze for weeks.

trust fund dark romance book cover skye warren

TRUST FUND is the book Skye is offering new readers for free–right now.

Along with Pam Godwin, Skye Warren really knows how to keep us in the vulnerable-desperate-and-need-to-survive situation.  I don’t even know exactly how she does it. Sometimes what she’s writing is really raw yet I’m with her inch by inch. My eyeballs are practically cutting into the page wanting more More MORE.

SKYE WARREN’S BOOKS ARE DARK ROMANCE CRACK–SO TRY ONE ALREADY.  You can do so for free. Go to SKY WARREN’S WEBSITE. Go to the bottom of the page where it says SIGN UP FOR THE VIP READER LIST.  Add your email.  Get the free copy of your book and start reading.

*They’re serials. You’ll read one and wind up buying two or three more.

Madeline Iva writes characters who like to play in the shadows.  She writes fantasy, gothic, and paranormal stories.  Join her Gothic Lair. Check out Madeline’s Lady Smut blog posts.

Cowboy up! Cowboy for Hire…classic romantic comedy from Isabelle Drake

28 Aug

 

Cowboy for Hire-medium

A cowboy, romance, laughs, a sweet happy ending…Cowboy for Hire has all of that. It’s also one of my earliest releases – now rereleased from Riverdale Ave Books.

Remember Ellora’s Cave? I sure do. I had about twenty books with them. Cowboy for Hire was my second. It’s recently been releasesd and to say I’m excited is an understatement. For me, it’s like coming home. Some of my readers may not know this about me, but I wrote sweet, traditional romances before creating my first erotic romance, Everglades Wildfire. I was even a Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist in the Traditional Romance category.

It’s natural for people to ask writers of erotic romance why they write such sexually explicit stories. Interestingly, people don’t ask that  of sweet romance authors. I think that’s because it’s apparent—everyone loves a love story. That’s what Cowboy for Hire is—a tender, light-hearted, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, story about two people getting past the tangles of their past and getting tangled together.

~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt, aka, beginning of Chapter One:

Lang Thompson eased his foot off the worthless brake pedal and waited for the red Arizona dust to clear. A board swung above the cab of his truck, once, twice, three times. The rusty nail holding it gave up the fight and the weathered two-by-four smacked across the hood with a weary thump.

One more dent wasn’t going to matter.

He pushed back his beat-up Stetson, mumbling a string of words that in his childhood would’ve earned him an afternoon in the milk house. He didn’t need this.

Outside his window a hairy, black Australian shepherd barked and waved its tail.

“You don’t need to tell me, I see the mess.”

For a split second he considered backing out and leaving. The way the place looked, the owner probably wouldn’t even notice the new gaping hole.

No, he didn’t want any unfinished business hanging over his head when he hit the highway again to head south, away from the miserable memories he’d left behind. There was that and the fact that his conscience had an unfortunate way of popping up at the worst times.

He glanced down at the animal now sitting among the rubble that used to be the side of a barn. A tired, seen-better-days barn, but a barn nonetheless.

For the sake of his furry witness, he held back another string of words unfit for delicate ears as he shoved the door open and stepped out. He leaned against the truck and yanked his hat down to block out the afternoon sun. The owner had to be around somewhere.

“I guess I should’ve hung a no parking sign there.”

Lang turned to the shapely outline in the shadows. His bad luck kept getting worse. A woman. He didn’t want to shoot the breeze with a bored rancher’s wife.

3979abe550f21576c24f7d58d2210593.jpg“If you’ll tell me where to find your husband, I’ll straighten this out with him.”

As she moved into the sunshine Lang tried to convince himself he didn’t see her thick blonde hair or deep, blue eyes. He didn’t notice the way her breasts strained against that plain white T-shirt tucked neatly into her faded jeans, either. And that bolt of physical awareness that shot straight to his cock? It didn’t exist.

A blindingly bright smile spilt across her sun-kissed face. “I can’t do that.”

No, those sweet lips didn’t really have an effect on him either. But just to be sure, he stepped away as she came closer. “Do what?”

Raising her hand to shield her eyes from the desert sun, she glanced over her shoulder toward the mess. “Did you plow into my barn because you suffer from memory loss?”

Lang turned toward his truck. He had indeed plowed into the barn. Her barn. “Your barn?”

She nodded, then reached down to rub the dog’s ears, giving him the perfect opportunity to look down her shirt. Was that a white bra with pink lace trim?

Damn he loved lace.

Forcing his gaze back to her face, he asked, “You don’t have a husband I can talk things over with?”

Sunlight blinked off the golden strands of her hair as she shook her head and scratched under the animal’s chin. Her silence didn’t make sense. Why wasn’t she pissed? “Look, ma’am, I’m really sorry—”

While waving her hands to cut him off, she moved closer, her sexy, long legs making short work of the distance. “You don’t need to explain right now.”

Judging from the tilt of her head and the welcome in her eyes, he was missing some piece of a puzzle.

But what?

He stamped out his curiosity. He only wanted to take care of business, then get back on the road and find that ranch for sale his cousin Cole had badgered him into looking over. With that out of the way, he’d get back to his real goal, which was putting as much distance between the remnants of his old life and himself as possible. He tugged his gaze away from her all-too-easy-on-the-eyes face, glanced around but soon found himself looking her way again. “Where am I anyway?”

Her delicate eyebrows knotted together and her shoulders dropped. “You didn’t come about the ad for work?”

“Work?” He shook his head. “No. I was trying to turn around, get back on the freeway.”

Her kissable pink lips curved weakly, the glimmer in her eyes faded but didn’t go out completely. “You’re at The Circle Cat Ranch.”

“And where is that?”

“Cactus Junction.” She dipped her head the other way and a few tempting strands of silken hair slipped over her shoulder. “You do know what state you’re in?”

Arizona. Only a couple of hours from the Mexican border.

Her gaze circled his face, considering, then dropped lower, assessing. He straightened, planting his legs wide enough to place the bulge in his pants front and center. If she insisted on getting a good look at him, he might as well give her a view worth the effort.

As though she realized she was rudely looking him over like he was a colt on the auction block, she brought her attention back to his face and tried to cover her actions with a smile as she spoke. “You look like you could use a drink. I know I could.” She brushed past him without waiting for a reply. “Come on up to the house and have some lemonade.”

That place his cousin was so hot for them to buy was in Cactus Junction. At least he didn’t have much farther to go.

Not that he wanted to buy a place and start all over but Cole had cajoled him until he’d agreed to at least look it over. A promise is a promise. Even to a cousin like Cole.

The woman’s hips swayed invitingly as she strode toward the house. Each determined stride called to some better left unspoken part of him.

He grumbled and tore his gaze away. He’d written complicated entanglements with women off. For good.

The screen door smacked shut after she disappeared inside.

Why did it seem like the last shred of control he had over his life was slipping away? The hot wave of lust pooling in his gut shouted a warning, telling him to forget his so-called integrity and take the chance that once he got on the road he wouldn’t need brakes any time soon. He could always coast to a stop.

He groaned. All those hours in the milk house taught him more than to mind his tongue. He had to stick around and settle the issue at hand. That ranch for sale wasn’t going anywhere. With a quick glance down to be sure he wasn’t wearing any of his fast food breakfast on his shirt, Lang headed after the woman and the dog.

~~~~~~~~~~

Get your copy of this sweet but still hot cowboy romance direct from Riverdale Ave Books or Amazon.

~~~~~~~~~~

Isabelle Drake’s other new release, an erotic contemporary romance beach read, Make Me Blush, is currently available for free with Kindle Unlimited. Find her on Facebook or Amazon and follow her Instagram story for the most personal pics.

Sexy Sunday Snippet: Shakedown

12 Aug

by Elizabeth SaFleur

For three years Trick Masters was consumed with revenge. Then she walks back into the door demanding an apology, money and restitution for what she suffered? How rich. She’ll have to earn her way back into his good graces starting with spilling the truth—which turns out neither of them has or ever did.

Read chapter one of the latest novella, Shakedown, which will debut the Shakedown series (debut 2019).

~~~~~

CHAPTER ONE

“Blend in more? Just how does a cocktail waitress do that?” For ten minutes Rachel had stood in her manager’s office, feet aching and her tables unmanned, listening to this crap. She crossed her arms, an unwise, defiant move, but really, this “chat” was ridiculous. “Are you accusing me of something specific, Mr. Jones?”

“The other waitresses have implied you banter with the customers a little too vehemently. There’s flirting, and then there’s . . . well, they’ve complained that you lure—”

“Lure?” She choked back a laugh. She made better tips than the other girls because she was personable. A little harmless flirting never killed anyone, and she was well aware of the game she played. “People like my service. I thought you’d be pleased. In fact, I’d like more shifts. As you said, I’m popular. You’d make more money with me.”

“And, lose my other help.” He stood signaling the meeting was over. “Thanks, Rachel. I know this is uncomfortable. The men at Talman’s are used to getting what they want, but let’s make sure they know you’re not on the menu, too.” He winked.

Un-fricking-believable.

As she fought her way through business suits and raucous laughter to the waitress station at the bar, she attempted to shake off the insinuations her manager had lobbed at her. She needed this job, and she would not succumb to the suggestion she practically prostituted herself for tips. She wasn’t on anyone’s “menu.” So what if a few patrons had asked her out? Big effing deal. She’d turned them all down.

As she waited for Gabe to finish her cocktail order, she glanced down at her phone to see if Jay had returned her call. He hadn’t. Shocker. She wanted to float an idea by her stepbrother, launching a for-hire bartending business they could work together to get them both out of their rut. Jay would never get very far ahead by working on an oil rig, and she’d never finish her bachelor’s degree by waitressing. They both needed something new.

“Order up, Rachel,” Gabe said with a smile and nodded at the drinks he’d prepared. “You outdid yourself with this suggestion.”

“Thanks. They look great.” She adjusted a sprig of lavender on one of the martinis du jour she’d “invented” with Gabe’s help. The same four women, members of the Red Hat Club, came in every Friday with the same request: “Surprise us with the cocktail of the day.” So she did, and her imagination earned her a guaranteed thirty percent tip.

“Interesting, indeed.” A male voice sounded behind her.

Her heart rocketed up her throat, and her knees buckled. She set the tray down to the bar just in time. She knew that voice. It was rougher, deeper than she recalled, but there was no mistaking who that rumble belonged to. She slowly turned and couldn’t believe her eyes. Trick Masters. Jesus, he looked good, but then Trick always had.

“Rachel Grant. As I live and breathe.”

The heartless, deceitful thief peered down at her with those same blue-gray eyes she’d thought so kind—but weren’t. He leered at her with that same charming smile—but which hid a thousand lies.

The floor underneath her threatened to give way, and she stepped backward. He reached around and grasped the side of her tray to prevent the three lavender martinis from crashing to the floor. His suit coat brushed her arm, and just as if a lit match touched a puddle of gasoline, a ball of fire ignited in her belly and all the anger she thought she’d released years ago consumed her. Her therapist’s words flooded her brain. Visualize a stop sign whenever your mind starts to race. Stop the negative feelings, thoughts, and pictures.

“Rachel, you alright?” Gabe asked.

No, she wasn’t alright. At the sound of her name said with kindness, her anger backslid to grief. It started with a tickle inside her nose, then her breath burning hot in her throat, then the prick in her eyes, a cascade of emotion threatening to let loose.

Do not cry. Stop sign. Do not cry. Stop sign.

“Can I get you something else, sir?”

Gabe’s voice likely saved her from doing the unthinkable: shedding another useless, wasted tear over Trick Masters. She lifted her tray. She wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of seeing her come undone.

“Another club soda.” Trick leaned his elbow on the bar and stared at her. “Gabe, no offense to you, but Rachel’s got some interesting mixology ideas. You should put her behind the bar. She’s good at dishing out fantasies.”

His words snapped a lid on her simmering emotion and her anger returned.

“Rachel, I need to talk to you,” Trick said. A fire brewed behind those blue-gray eyes.

“No.”

The haughty bastard’s mouth twitched up at her tone. She’d meant the simple word to land hard—like the punch she never got to deliver on his smug, model-perfect face.

She balanced the tray on her palm and turned away. Her feet finally escaped the invisible concrete that had kept her in place for far too long. Two men parted for her to scoot by, one of them skimming her with his gaze. She hoped Trick saw the man’s admiration.

Shit. Claire, another waitress, stood in front of her table of The Three Suits who had “big tippers” written all over them from their cufflinks to their Berluti handmade shoes.

Rachel quickly hustled over. “Gentleman, I’m so sorry I’ve neglected you. Let me deliver these and I’ll pop back over.”

“No need. I’ve got it, Rachel,” Claire said.

The three men were oblivious, of course, and had returned to their talks of mergers and return on investment.

“What are you doing?” she whispered to Claire.

“Nothing more than you do every night.”

“I told you, those guys last night asked for me, so they got seated in my section. Get over it.” Fury had returned in full force, which was precisely the emotion she should be feeling right now given she’d just encountered Trick Masters. Her therapist would disagree, but whatever.

After delivering her martinis and ensuring her tip from The Three Suits wasn’t in jeopardy, she hustled back to the bar praying Trick’s presence was an illusion or a mental delusion. He couldn’t have been here. The betrayer couldn’t be here in Baltimore.

Stop sign. Stop sign. Stop sign.

Gabe leaned toward her so she could hear him over the symphony of happy hour chatter and laughter. “You know that guy?” He cocked his head toward the exit. She caught Trick’s broad back as he slipped through the revolving doors. “He told Mr. Jones you should join me behind the bar,” Gabe said and then straightened.

“Rachel.” Mr. Jones’s voice behind her made her jump.

“I’d be no good behind the bar,” she said quickly, turning to face her manager. Bartending tips sucked.

“I have a better idea,” Mr. Jones said. “See those two guys over there? They asked for you. I’m putting you on hostess duties. As you said, you’re popular.”

“But—”

“See me when your shift ends. We’ll talk details.”

She dropped her empty tray on the bar. Tears? No way. The wrath she’d suppressed for three years? Bring it on.

“I’m taking a break, Gabe,” she said. Breaks weren’t allowed during peak hours, yet fate presented a gift. She could finally confront the man who had derailed her life. From college student to waitress. What a cliché. She’d spent the last three years scraping dollars and change off dirty tablecloths because of that two-faced bastard.

She pushed her way through a gaggle of women holding martinis and then the revolving door. With any luck he’d still be in the parking lot. She found him leaning against a black sedan parked across the street, casually scrolling through the latest iPhone like he hadn’t care in the world. A hot ball of anger rolled over her so hard, her mental stop sign melted into a puddle. She jogged across the road to him, and immediately a woody scent of cologne wafted between them. The effing nerve of the man, the unbelievable gall to smell good, to look good, to . . .

“Rachel.” He straightened with that same smirk he’d delivered fifteen minutes ago.

He grasped her wrist in mid-air before she could land a satisfying crack on his cheek.

“What the hell?” he barked.

“How dare you be here!” she screamed. So much for her two years and eight months of therapy. Stop sign, meet Trick Masters, the man who ruined my life.

 

Join Elizabeth’s Sexy, Saucy, Sometimes Naughty list to get a notice when this novella releases. (Psst. It’s September 4!) JOIN HERE.

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur writes contemporary romance that dares to “go there.” Expect alpha males (and females), seductive encounters, and love. Learn more about her steamy and sexy stories by following her on Amazon and Bookbub.

 

 

Kiss and Tell: Guest post by Christina Mitchell

5 Mar

By Christina Mitchell

I love first kisses. I love watching them and reading about them. Ennis and Jack. Logan and Veronica.  Megan and Graham. Weetzie Bat and My Secret Agent Lover Man. So many swoons. But in real life, they aren’t always so wonderful. I’ve had a lot more more like Cordelia & Wesley than I have Buffy & Angel. Mostly because I tend to make awkward situations exponentially more awkward and my unintentional comedic timing is superb.

Here’s Cordelia & Wesley’s Awkward Kiss — in which we learn that lust and chemistry are not the same thing.

At 13, I was madly in love with the 16-year-old boy down the street. He wore ripped jeans and had an undercut with a curly blonde ponytail, like my beloved New Kid, Donnie. My diary entries dripped with love and hate, depending on the day. We played a naughty version of red light, green light, with his hand going further and further up my skirt until I shouted RED LIGHT right before he touched my panties. One day we were wrestling around and he picked me up and tossed me on his mom’s bed and gave me my very first kiss. I can’t fault his technique. I’m not opposed to the Me Tarzan, You Jane school of lovin’, but he went in with a bit too much gusto and jammed his tongue all the way to my uvula. Not prepared for literal tonsil-hockey, I shoved him off me, ran to the bathroom and dry-heaved. Which was a bit of a mood-killer. We never really flirted or spoke much after that and my poor diary combusted beneath the flames of my angst.

So I kept my lips (and uvula) to myself until I was 16. I flirted with a boy with a speech impediment who called me KWES-TEENA and wore his drum major bucket hat all the time, even with his t-shirts and jeans. My friends were like, CHRISTINA. NO. But I thought he was quirky and adorable. After two tepid weeks of talking on the phone, the manic pixie dream boy met me in an empty, dark classroom, and went in for a kiss. Don’t know why, but I panicked and jerked my head away at the last minute, and he ended up licking me from the corner of my mouth to my jaw which caused me to burst out into hysterical giggles that wouldn’t stop, until he mumbled an excuse and left the room. Can’t imagine why, but he broke up with me the next day.

sexy bucket hat

Too sexy for this hat.

Then there was that guy I made out with on the bus with the giant raver pants, chain wallet and Marilyn Manson t-shirt. And that other guy I made out with on the bus who didn’t wear raver pants, but did stalk me for a few weeks afterward–hey, we all have that summer, amiright?

At 20, I met a hot gamer. Yes, bucking stereotypes like a motherfucker, this guy was great looking, had his own house and played live action Mage: The Ascension at the most dingy comics shop in town. After game one night, I missed the last bus. It was snow-storming out and he offered to let me stay the night on his couch. I didn’t know how old he was, hell I didn’t even know his last name, but I said yes, because everything looks like a green flag when you’re young and horny. So we sat on the couch and talked for hours. The flirting got heavier and suddenly he yanked me onto his lap,  dug his hands into my braids and gave me THE MOST AMAZING KISS I’ve ever had in my life. No offense to those who kissed me afterward, including my wonderfully kissable hubs, but this guy was a triple gold medalist in Tongue Curling at the Smooch-Olympics. I wish I could describe what made it so fantastic, but I have no idea. The whole time we made out, my brain kept crashing like Windows going straight to the blue screen of death.

Things got hotter and I remember feeling victorious. Nothing would screw up this magical moment! I wriggled around on his lap and my body got all tight and aching. Really aching. Unpleasantly aching. Wow, my stomach hurt. And then…I started my period. Yes. You do not understand awkward until you have your hand in a stranger’s pants and their hand is in yours, just as a rush of uterine hate sluices forth from your wretched baby-maker, turning the hottest experience of your young life into the most awkward encounter you’ll ever have*. We called it quits and he bid me an bemused goodnight. And since I wasn’t carrying a purse with me, I had to make a maxi-pad out of toilet paper whilst contemplating the folly of desire. Oh, and in the morning, he told me he had a girlfriend anyway.

It’s a miracle we humans ever try again, isn’t it? But try I did.  Years later, on a second date with a nice guy I’d met on the internet,  we were standing in a parking lot, outside of CiCi’s Pizza. He was being a total gentleman and I was totally over it.  So I grabbed him by the collar of his polo shirt and kissed him. He had the most delightfully glazed look when I pulled away and then he went for it, giving me a bone-meltingly slow kiss that made my brain short-circuit in a different way.  When I said goodnight and got into my car, Nora Jones’ “Turn Me On” blasted from the radio. I drove home in a fog of giggles and swoons and wrote in my Live Journal that I was in “deep, deep trouble.”  And I was right. I married that guy.

Still though, it’s rare for life to offer up a truly magical first kiss. That’s why we writers do it for you. That satisfyingly deep, dark vortex of desire, the surety of intent, the crashing of lips against each other without the corresponding chipping of teeth, is fiction at it’s best.

*Writing is my gift.

Christina Mitchell writes love stories that fall somewhere between the dark humor of David Sedaris and the sensitive lyricism of Metallica. Her first novel, How to Stay will be available…mumble mumble 2018? Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

 

Altered States With Altered Carbon

19 Feb

With Altered Carbon, that great god of television glory—aka Netflix—has once again launched a binge-watching worthy series that’s smart, sexy, mind-boggling, bloody, engrossing, and, honestly, a total mind fuck. It crosses genres, subverts expectations, and sucks you in like damn and wow. It’s science fiction and romance and film noir and cyberpunk and futuristic and murder mystery and cop show and conspiracy action thriller all at the same time. It’s Max Headroom’s violent, sexual, mind-bendy grandchild. (Appropriately so then, Max Headroom himself, Matt Frewer, shows up for two episodes as Carnage, who runs a real death cage fight.)

Carnage

Welcome to Altered Carbon.

The world of Altered Carbon

WARNING: there will be mild spoilers ahead. I’ll do my best not to ruin the Big Reveals, because they should be experienced organically to properly appreciate the storytelling. But no promises.

THE STORY: In a cyberpunk future, the consciousness of every human being is now downloaded into a hard drive, called a “stack”, that is stored at the base of the skull on the brain stem. The body, now called a “sleeve”, has become merely the shell that encases the “soul stack” of a person. This means a person only truly dies, known as “real death” or “RD”, when the stack is destroyed, like a gunshot directly to the stack. It also means people can live for hundreds of years, changing sleeves along the way.

It’s all in the bag

If the sleeve dies, a stack can be dialed up into a new sleeve, the person therefore inhabiting a new body. A person’s original body can be kept in cold storage while his or her stack is stored elsewhere, for example, when a man is imprisoned, he essentially “goes to sleep” for hundreds of years while his sleeve goes on ice. However, there’s no guarantee that sleeve won’t be used by someone else in the interim and possibly killed while being used, so that when you’re dialed up, it may not be into the sleeve in which you were born. Race, gender, height, weight, health—it’s all a lottery now. You get what you can afford. This is the same for damaged sleeves if you’re attached to your existing reflection. If your arm is injured and can’t be saved, you can get it replaced with an upgrade, bionic arm in moments—if you have the credits. People can also dial up “dead” loved ones, especially if those loved ones are “coded” not to be re-sleeve after sleeve death for religious reasons, and have them live again if, perhaps, not in the same sleeve in which they’d led their lives. (This makes for a hilarious re-use of a biker gangster as a Spanish grandmother and a Russian mobster.)

People can also “double sleeve”, essentially copying their stack and downloading into two different sleeves at the same time. While technically illegal, when you live forever and have unlimited wealth, the sky’s the limit. Literally so, if you’re one of the super rich.

Hundreds of years old, these “Meths” (aka Methuselahs), live far above the common man in sky palaces. Their wealth enables them to grown clones of their sleeves and constantly download themselves over the years into new sleeves that match their birth sleeves. They have a system that regularly uploads their consciousness into back-up drives that protect them against real death. They’re untouchable demi gods to which the lower classes only dream to rub shoulders against.

And one of them has just been murdered.

Enter Envoy detective Takeshi Kovacs who has been in stasis for 250 years and was just woken up by industrial magnate Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve the man’s murder. From the moment he awakens, Takeshi is plague by the attentions of Detective Kristin Ortega (Martha Higareda), a bad ass cop with a jones for catching Bancroft in what she is sure are corrupt and nefarious dealings—if only she can prove it. She also has a deeper connection to the sleeve Takeshi now inhabits, one that deepens the stakes for them all.

Tak was once a super soldier for the police force that menaces the outer worlds. When he’s betrayed by the unit to which he’d dedicated his life, he becomes an Envoy, a revolutionary operator with scary potent observational and investigational skills. Envoys were renown for being able to be dropped in on any world, into any situation, and quickly adapt and manipulate the environment and the people to their own ends—until they were betrayed and wiped out. Tak then became a mercenary, one who eventually was apprehended by his former commander, earning him a sentence of hundreds of years for his crimes.

Until Bancroft wakes him up.

Once an idealist under his battle scars, Takeshi has awoken to a world he doesn’t recognize, on a different planet than the one he was on when he went to sleep, and with the people he loved long lost to real death. He is now a grumpy tool only in the job for himself and the promise of a fortune and his birth sleeve as a reward for solving Bancroft’s murder. Except Tak can’t fight his true nature, the core of him that still cares no matter how much he protests to the contrary. And the list of people worming their way into his circle of protection keeps growing…whether he likes it or not.

Clearly, there’s a LOT going on in the ten episodes of Altered Carbon. And fan as I am of the series, it I have to admit, it ain’t all good.

THE BAD STUFF:

While the show runner on this one is a woman, that doesn’t mean, in a Game of Thrones world where rape is an acceptable plot device, there isn’t a lot of violence and nudity in Altered Carbon. There’s a whole hopping lot of both, though violence prevails most of all. This includes a naked fight scene a la Viggo Mortensen in Eastern Promises, where Ortega engages in a bloody knife brawl with a number of cloned sleeves. This is one case of nudity in Altered Carbon, though, where the nudity is designed to be empowering and deliberately used as a manifestation of the character’s head self-perspective and how she sees her body as a tool, rather than objectifying her for the male gaze. For more on this, check out this interview with actress Dichen Lachman about that scene and her character, Rei, who is the naked combantant. Be warned, it includes series spoilers galore.

There’s an argument to be made that the prevalence of nudity stems not from producers’ desire to curry favor with permanently adolescent fans boys, but rather an outgrowth from a society that has made the human form an interchangeable commodity. How can modesty persist when your body may be interchanged with another’s at any time?

Sexy times for the sake of sex.

And yes, the violence is such that it may as well be another character in the cast. This is a world that uses virtual reality, where time has no constant, as a means of torture. Here, one can kill a victim over and over again in the most brutal and bloody of ways including chopping off limbs and removing innards, all virtually but while being connected to the physical body’s pain receptors, only to start a new VR session and begin again for a seemingly endless amount of time. A sleeve holds no inherent value; there are instances in Altered Carbon where people fight to the sleeve death for the promise of a sleeve upgrade as a reward. Naturally, that makes for an inherently violent world.

For a show with so much female bad ass representation, it’s still driven by a moody, growly, maladjusted white man, one who all the women he comes into contact with want to bone, no matter how badly he treats them. It’s a film noir construct, the Bogey hyper masculine hardliner disdaining all the Bacall femme fatales that rotate into his sphere but banging them nonetheless. Even in a futuristic society where the consciousness can be transported from form to form, women are still portrayed stuck in the past.

THE GOOD:

THE MAIN CAST:

Joel Kinnaman, late of The Killing and the forgettable Suicide Squad, anchors Altered Carbon with his big presence. Seriously, the guy is huge and his normally beanpole form is ripped and cut and beautifully bulked out for this role. Hoo. Shah. He broods and grumbles and bad asses through the entire series, but he also brings out Tak’s tortured sweetness, an idealism that even 200 years of cold storage hasn’t fully frozen out of him. It keeps popping up to conflict him when he wants to be a cold, ruthless operator, but he can’t quite keep his heart from getting in the way.

As Ortega, Martha Higareda plays the perhaps typical cop with a mission, but she does it by distaining a typical approach and instilling Ortega with a man’s attitude and vocabulary. She doesn’t play a lady cop; she plays a cop and has an attitude that would do John McLain proud. Ortega takes on the unlikeable heroine mantle with pride and spews ferocity and anger and complexity all over it.

James Purefoy, a personal favorite in everything he does, oozes through his scenes with smarmy confidence, exuding the charm and power of the wealthiest man on several planets, sprinkled with the comfortable arrogance of someone who genuinely believes himself to be a god. As in the TV series Rome, his…erm…talent is on display here, including The Purefoy, as I like to call it, once again making a casual on-screen, full-frontal appearance. No, I did not hit the pause button, nor did I screen cap it, and I’m sticking to that.

But truly, the one who steals the show is Chris Conner as Poe.

Once Tak accepts Bancroft’s case, he embeds himself at The Raven, a hotel run by an AI (artificial intelligence) named Poe, as in Edgar Allen. Poe hasn’t had any guests for hundreds of years, due to the AIs reputation of getting obsessively attached to their guests. Tak genuinely couldn’t give a shit about this and sets up shop at The Raven. Good thing too as Poe almost immediately proves his worth when Tak is attacked before he can even register as a guest.

Poe is an absolute delight. Snarky, smart, sweet, ruthless, loyal, dedicated, and oh so funny, he’s the land-locked sidekick/valet/butler Tak’s been missing in his life. Alfred to Tak’s Great Detective. As an AI, he’s tied to The Raven, but he can move about in VR (and does) and adds a rich depth and complexity to what’s nominally a bunch of ones and zeros. For a programable entity, he’s the most human and most humane one of the bunch.

THE ROMANCE:

Yes, there is romance. As mentioned earlier, Ortega has a prior connection to the sleeve that Tak is put into, which takes the idea of a love-triangle and really fucks with it. But Tak is also nursing a broken heart from this lost love, and his hallucinations, a side effect of being re-sleeved, keep her front and center in his journey. As Tak and Ortega get closer and the complexity of their connection deepens, the emotional risks of their relationship add texture and stakes to the on-going mystery and the threat of the enemies stacking up against them. It’s no surprise that in the end, Tak’s big heart, and not only for Ortega, is nearly both their undoing.

Sticking close together.

THE MULTICULTURALISM:

Altered Carbon, like Max Headroom and Firefly and Blade Runner before it, builds its world on an Asian heavy multiculturalism. Set in a re-envisioned San Francisco, called The Bay, there are flying cars and neon signs and prevalent blinking screens that never turn off, pummeling the eyes with images and adverts that recall pretty much every science fiction show of the last 20 years. People speak all kinds of languages and understand one another. There’s no Farscape-esque universal translator either. Ortega speaks to her partner in Spanish and he replies in Arabic. There are subtitles; we can read them. There is no spoon feeding required. Tak’s Japanese/Croatian lineage speaks to the show’s inherent multicultural nature too, even if the tone-deaf move of folding an Asian character into a white man’s sleeve stomps all over that same multiculturalism with a pair of Kovacs’ combat boots.

THE STORYTELLING:

The storytelling is complex and deep, but so well paced. Nothing is revealed too soon, but once the revelation is made, one can look back and see the layers being laid in past episodes. That’s bloody hard to do and especially in a visual platform as rich as this show where there’s always something to see on the screen, nothing is wasted, no image thrown away in building the rich texture of this show. One of the appeals of the Harry Potter franchise from a craft perspective is how deftly Rowling plots the series over the length of the seven books; events happen in book five for which Rowling lays the groundwork in book two. Altered Carbon does that too, enough so that when I finished the series, I wanted to immediately watch it again so as to see those touchpoints again, this time with the benefit of foreknowledge of what was to come.

Accompanying this deep plotting and detailed planning is a respect for its audience that is rare to find in entertainment today. In Romancelandia, writers often debate the idea of dumbing down our storytelling, our writing, in order to reach a wider audience, a significant percentage of whom may not have a large vocabulary or an extensive reading and comprehension ability. I deal with this a lot in my day job where much of which we’re producing needs to reach an incredibly large audience, as in millions of people, whose lives may depend on being able to read and comprehend our message. As a writer, I think it’s my job to enhance my stories with complex writing, words that enrich as much as the story they form. If my readers have to look up a few words, then I’ve done my job right. (This is much less an issue in historical romance where a certain complexity of phrase and flowery language is expected.)

Altered Carbon doesn’t dumb down to its audience. The show presents complex word-building from the outset and it doesn’t waste time spoon-feeding the audience as to the nuts and bolts of things. We are plunged right into the muck of things and as the show presses on, it expects its viewers to keep up or catch up. That’s not to say it doesn’t give us a map; the trope of dropping someone new into the situation as a proxy for the audience is used in episode one to bring us all up to speed, but the information we need is parceled out as part of the storytelling without any recapping or “As you know, Bob,” retreads along the way.

THE IMPLICATIONS:

Nearly a week after viewing, my mind is still buzzing with all the implications and raised by Altered Carbon. The show raises questions of the nature of the soul and the value of a bodily form. When a soul can be kept in a hard drive and uploaded at random, what then makes it a soul rather than simply more data? Morality reforms in a world where sleeves can be killed and then the victim dialed back up to testify against his or her murderer. Where a person can voluntarily agree to have his or her sleeve killed for sport with the promise of an upgrade for the trouble. Where death suddenly has several degrees.

It’s a referendum on torture and an examination of whether love can last over hundreds of years. It’s a dissertation of gender identity: when your spouse can be dialed up into a sleeve of the opposing gender, are you still attracted to each other. Do you still love that woman who is absolutely unchanged except for the fact that she now wears a man’s shell? Do you recognize her soul inside that sleeve?

What makes memory when that memory can be obliterated by dying before the next upload. Is any event truly real if the memory of it is destroyed before the backup kicks in?

Overall, I found Altered Carbon to be compelling television. Underneath its science fiction, film noir trappings is an exploration of identity and morality and the nature of self and the soul that still has my mind spinning right round, baby. Right round.

Follow Lady Smut. We’ll mind-fuck you in the very best of ways–but only if you ask really, really nice.

Kiersten Hallie Krum writes smart, sharp, and sexy romantic suspense. She is the award-winning author of Wild on the Rocks, and its follow-up, SEALed With a Twist. She is also a past winner of the Emily Award for unpublished novels.

A member of the Romance Writers of America, the New Jersey Romance Writers, and the Long Island Romance Writers, Kiersten has been working in book publishing for more than twenty years in marketing and promotion. At other times in her career, she’s worked back stage for a regional theater, managed advertorials for a commerce newspaper in the World Trade Center, and served as senior editor for a pharmaceutical advertising agency.

Writer, singer, editor, traveler, tequila drinker, and cat herder, Kiersten avoids pen names since keeping her multiple personalities straight is hard enough work. Born and bred in New Jersey (and accent free), Kiersten sings as easily, and as frequently, as she breathes, drives fast with the windows down and the music up, likes to randomly switch accents for kicks and giggles, and would be happy to spend all her money traveling for the rest of her life. Find out more about Kiersten and her books on her website www.kierstenkrum.com

The Author Witness Protection Program and Other Writerly Secrets

28 Sep

By Elizabeth SaFleur

It’s Throwback Thursday, and we’re putting up popular posts for your enjoyment. Below is a blog post that first appeared on our LadySmut Romance Blog Facebook page. Give the page a “like” if you haven’t done so and never miss our shenanigans.

The Author Witness Protection Program and Other Writerly Secrets

Ever wonder what life is like for your favorite author? Not the stuff you see on Facebook or Twitter. Not the sunshine and roses or even ranty stuff. I mean the Stuff We Never Talk About. Here are secrets that might be just me. But then, again, who knows? For instance….

I have often put my life in danger in the name of research.

First, there is Death By Boredom. I watched three hours of Supreme Court documentary hell. I suffered through this for ONE LINE so it’d be accurate. Even my husband turned to me half way through and asked, “can we be done with this?” This question came from a man who gets a thrill when the new year’s Tax Code comes in the mail. (This two inch book makes him happy. It whispers “deductions.”)

As if that’s not enough I’m going to take a tour of the Supreme Court so I can describe the marble correctly. Honestly, this book cannot be published (The Supreme Spanking, the third Justice series novella) without this trip.

There also is death by Real Crazy Shit. Like I needed to know how it feels to get a fishing hook stuck in your hand for a book I’m writing right now. I asked my husband to do this to me. He refused. I felt unsupported. So, instead I’m YouTubing what it’s like to have a piece of metal pierce your flesh. Hey, marriage is all about compromise.

Since I have BDSM elements in many of my books I have also sampled some Other Wild Things. I can tell you this: Wax play is awesome. Fireplay isn’t so bad. The Violet Wand is evil incarnate. A whole other post could be about the BDSM Stuff I’ve Done. But let’s not let that topic hijack the other parts that are important to note, like ….

Pseudonyms are often critical to an author’s life.

We aren’t trying to keep ourselves from you, dear reader. Oh, no. For some of us, a pen name is like an Author Witness Protection Program (AWPP). It keeps the mortgage-paying clients in our day jobs from throwing our buttinskis on the street. If my uber-conservative clients knew what I wrote? They would have a heart attack. No matter they have s-e-x themselves, but my writing about the horizontal mambo? Heavens to Betsy and Holy Smokes!

For other writers, pen names are a safety thing. We don’t want crazed serial killers and mentally delusional people showing up at our house. I might write about a kidnapped girl falling in love with the guy (who turned out to have no choice and is really good underneath), but that doesn’t mean I want that to happen to me – with them! (Jason Momoa, if you are reading this post, I give you carte blanche to kidnap me. In fact, I’ll be sitting on my front porch in about 5 minutes. I’ll go quietly.)

Book Butt clearly was inevitable.

Or call it Author Ass. It’s all the same poundage on the hippage. I gained 20 pounds in the last two years thanks to  my books Lovely, Untouchable, Perfect and Lucky. That’s 5 pounds per story. It’s like the college Freshman Ten, except back then you didn’t have your current responsibilities and got to go home with the guy manning the keg. The current BB/AA syndrome is so prevalent that the #RomanceFit online group is a thing – like a very real, very necessary thing. I tried to join this online support group’s fun, but I kept forgetting to log in those 5 miles that I never ran. What can I say?

P.S. Don’t yell at me saying I just called a bunch of romance authors fat. I did not. I mean, have you SEEN J.R. Ward? I’m just sayin’ I didn’t realize MY 20 pounds came with publishing. That’s all. Lay down the sword—unless you can carve out those 20 pounds. If so, have at it.

I (sometimes/often/perhaps always) love my characters more than real people.

I love it when plans get cancelled. It means I can stay home and play with my fictional Doms. (Is that bad?) This last summer has been hellish with family invasions of all types – father, stepmother, cousins, children of cousins, stepsons and wives – who have taken me away from my characters! Do you think I’m horrible? No, don’t tell me because…

I care what you think.

MOST of us care what you think. Like really, really care. That’s why we read our reviews and check our rankings – some of us to obsessive levels. Sure, some writers do this more than others. Yet, I cringe a little when an author boasts on social media, “I never read reviews! They are for readers! I don’t need to see them!” Uh, huh. Right. You sneak a peek now and then, don’t you? Admit it. And, you know what’s worse? When we don’t have reviews at all. (Sniff. What’s wrong with my books?? No one loves me!!)

But we love you at Ladysmut, so please keep reading us, commenting, posting and click that like button if you liked being in on these secrets.

Speaking of love, have you checked out Kiersten Hallie Krum’s latest? SEALed with a Twist. In the follow-up to the wildly popular, Library Journal starred review, RONE award finalist, WILD ON THE ROCKS, a fan favorite returns to Barefoot Bay… One click today!

~~~~~

Elizabeth SaFleur is a contemporary erotic romance author and dying-to-retire public relations practitioner who writes, tweets and posts under a pseudonym since her business clients might be (WOULD be) shocked at her second career choice. Her books, the Elite Doms of Washington and Justice series, were inspired by her thirty-year career serving D.C. clients where she learned not all power in our nation’s capital is wielded by politicians. There’s way more interesting things happening there than politics.

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

16 Jun

by Rachel Kramer Bussel

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

Isn’t this a HOT cover?

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

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

Booked author Leandra Vane

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

——————————————————————————————————-

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

Lucky by Elizabeth SaFleur

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

——————————————————————————————————-

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

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!

——————————————————————————————————-

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.

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

4 May

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

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

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

OUR BLOGGERS:

Elizabeth Shore

G.G. Andrew

Kiersten Hallie Krum (KHK)

Alexa Day

Rachel Kramer Bussel (RKB)

Elizabeth SaFleur (ESF)

Isabelle Drake

Thien-Kim Lam (TKL)

Madeline Iva

Ready to play? Here we go——

Lady Smut TBR List #1

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #2

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

Lady Smut TBR List #3

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #4

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #5

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #6

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #7

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

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

Lady Smut TBR List #8

Hint: This blogger is a capital BDSM Erom author

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

Lady Smut TBR List #9

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

  1. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones
  2. The Unlikeable Demon Hunter by Deborah Wilde
  3. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  4. Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
  5. A Darker Shade of Magic V.E. Schwab
Send off those answers and follow us at Lady Smut. If you want to know the about the latest fun when it comes to sex, romance books, and pop culture–we won’t leave you guessing.
Madeline Iva writes fantasy and paranormal romance.  Her fantasy romance, WICKED APPRENTICE, featuring a magic geek heroine, is available on AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo, and through iTunes.  Sign up for Madeline Iva news & give aways.

The Enduring Romance of Beauty and the Beast

20 Mar

by Kiersten Hallie Krum

I remember the first time I saw Beauty and the Beast in 1991. It was in the Berkeley Heights movie theater. Thursday nights were buy one, get one, but I went with my friends for a matinée. Funny, I can’t remember who I was with, but I distinctly remember that first moment when the curtain drew back (yes, it had a curtain across the screen) and the first image of the movie filled the frame.

I gasped. For real. I spent the first 90 seconds wavering back and forth between thinking it was real and believing it was a cartoon. The colors were so bright, the images so crisp, it was breathtaking, as in it literally took my breath away. Minutes later, the opening number “Belle” began and I was officially enraptured. The complexity of the song, the brilliance of the lyrics, the timing of the animation. This was revolutionary. It was pre-motion captured, when digital was only just becoming part of our vocabulary. There were no DVDs yet, CDs were only just becoming known, laser disks were still the premiere idea of home movies. The Little Mermaid had taken the world by storm barely a year earlier. But Beauty and the Beast was a wunderkind of animation never seen before. Its music was fresh and exciting. Its story took a well-known tale and infused it anew with adventure and romance.

And don’t even get me started on the ballroom scene.

A few days later, I took my sister to see it before I went back to college, and after she had to endure me going on and on about it. Within the first few minutes, she turned to me and whispered, “You were absolutely right.”

Last Friday, I saw the new live-action version of Beauty and the Beast, not another retelling of the story, but the same 1991 animated film remade with live people as opposed to cartoons. I’ve been anticipating this movie but at the same time, had little expectation as to what it might turn out to be. Like looking forward to seeing a favorite book brought to the screen, there was bound to be new interpretations to the story that would tick me off (I’m a purist, I confess), but as I was coming off a long convalescence from surgery, I went to a matinée solo simply to enjoy seeing an old friend given new life.

It was, in a word, perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Was it flawless? No. That’s an impossibility. But as Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the Disney logo was replaced by the Beast’s enchanted castle and the familiar words of the prologue filled the air now in a female’s voice, I knew this was going to be the rare film that met the demands of its source material. Perhaps even exceeded it.

I’m not going to go over the particulars of the new movie as it’s enough to say it’s a near perfect match to its animated doppelgänger. OK, scratch that idea. A few quick thoughts: the new movie does address a few loopholes the animated film skipped over that have plague fans for years–or maybe that’s just me. Things like, why does no one in the village see the honking huge palace in the forest? Why is it beautiful autumn in the village and winter around the castle? How come no one seems to remember there was ever a prince in residence nearby? How the hell does wee Belle manage to get huge Beast up on Philippe the horse after Beast collapses following the wolf attack? Answers are finally found. Also, where I often loathe new music added to an established libretto (Phantom of the Opera, I’m looking at you), the new songs added to this version of Beauty and the Beast fit in perfectly. Oh and Luke Evans nearly steals the show as pitch-perfect Gaston. Finally, visually, it is a masterpiece. I don’t even want to know how it was done, which part is motion capture and which part is actual people, or where the animation begins or which pieces are on a set and which are in a proper 18th-century palace. It’s a sumptuous feast on par with the magnitude of its counterpart for its time. You will not be disappointed.

But what struck me as I teared up over the ending (and yea, I did sniffle, and applaud while the credits rolled) was how this well-known and beloved story still had the power to move me. Women are weened on romantic fantasy and Disney has made a killing exploiting that deeply ingrained expectation. But archetype stories like Beauty and the Beast endure because they resonate with truth that is better than any fantasy.

In both films, the key is that Belle must fall in love with a “hideous” beast in order to break the curse. But the prince’s outward beast is merely the reflection of the inner asshole that was hiding beneath his human pretty face. As he learns not only to love, but to be lovable, the core good person who yet lives beneath both beastly versions comes back to life. This is another aspect this film has the time and means to address. Mrs. Potts informs Belle of how the prince was warped by his cruel father after his mother’s death when the prince was but a boy. Adding the somewhat rout psychological element adds layers to the prince’s repulsive behavior prior to his beastliness being made manifest, which also explains why the staff remains so loyal to one who appeared to be so horrible in both guises.

Beast also learns the sacrificial aspect to love, that truly loving someone means putting their needs first and that sometimes can cause great agony for the lover. In the new film, when Beast releases Belle to go to her father, he watches her flee through the maze, her gold dress a beacon, and sings the beautiful, new, heart-wrenching song “Evermore”.

Sidebar: Holy cats, can Dan Stevens sing. Strewth.

In “Evermore,” Beast sings about how Belle has changed his life and how he knows he’ll now be haunted by her for the rest of his days. But even as he despairs over this and the expectation that he’ll never see her again, especially since, in this film, there is a very real threat to his and the others existence, (outside of Gaston and the mob, that is), Beast knows he’s forever been changed by falling in love with her. Whatever the future brings him, he will not be the same person, man or beast, because of Belle.

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she runs away
She will still torment me, calm me, hurt me
Move me, come what may

Now I know she’ll never leave me
Even as she fades from view
She will still inspire me, be a part of
Everything I do

Wasting in my lonely tower
Waiting by an open door
I’ll fool myself she’ll walk right in
And as the long, long nights begin
I’ll think of all that might have been
Waiting here for evermore!

– “Evermorefrom Beauty and the Beast 2017 ©Disney

Poor Beastie. Fortunately, we know he’s not meant to waste away in his lonely tower without his Belle, but still! Sob.

In this live-action version of the story, as Belle and her prince dance through the final moments, she makes a cheeky request of him that makes it clear she actually prefers or at least misses his hairier visage, a request that makes the prince laugh because he knows exactly what she’s saying. She doesn’t love him more or less for now being human; she loves him period. But having fallen in love with his beastly component, she’s not adverse to his human self sporting a sartorial reminder. (And I think, for those of us who may know, there was a sly sexual component to her request as well.)

But it’s not only the Beast/Prince who is loved for himself. Belle too doesn’t fit in her environment. She’s thought to be odd and out-of-place because she reads and longs for a life far beyond that of a provincial village. In the original film, when Belle has her Sound of Music moment running up the hill while she sings “I want adventure in the great wide somewhere, I want it more than I can tell. And for once it might be grand, to have someone understand. I want so much more than they’ve got planned…” my young heart swelled and I got chills. When Emma Watson did the same move and sang the same words in the live-action film, my battered, weary heart swelled and I got chills as I smiled and sang along.

So many of us were that girl, nose in a book, dreaming of more, maybe a prince or at least that one person who “got” us, who didn’t think we were weird because of who we are or what we like to do. Who wanted to be with us because of what others thought made us odd, not in spite of them. Who wanted us for us. Now, as women, some of us have been fortunate to have found that person. Some of us are still looking but remain hopeful. Meanwhile, we read and, in my case, write romances to keep that hope alive. Not because we’re entrenched in romantic fantasy, but because we know the truth that fantasy exploits: happily ever after isn’t just for fiction.

This is why Beauty and the Beast is such an enduring romance. And it’s why those of us who write romance continue to believe. Be it romantic suspense or epic fantasy or erotic romance or BDSM romance or Amish romance, whatever the genre or subgenre, whether we write about hot alpha heroes or handsome beta heroes or gorgeous women who’ve got it going on or ladies in search of their own kind of special who are the heroines of their own stories, at the core, we’re spinning relationships where the parties involved find the one who loves them for themselves, for who they are at the best and worst of times (thank you Victor Hugo), who love those moments when we’re all a unique beauty and more, when we show our inner beasts.

Women may be weened on romantic fantasy, but stories like Beauty and the Beast remind us that true love sees and loves all.

And that is no fantasy.

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.

Now available exclusively from Kindle. Click image to buy!

%d bloggers like this: