Flirting with Amazon: diving back into KU

Like many indie authors, I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. Besides the fact that it employs about half of my hometown — resulting in a Seattle housing boom and shocking real estate prices, I might add — Amazon makes almost every book in the world available to anyone. You have to admit, that’s really great. In addition, Amazon has made it possible for independent authors to publish their books at no cost, unlike most “vanity publishers” who continue to ask hundreds of dollars for the same service. Without it, readers in Great Britain or France or India (all of which have bought my books) would never even know my work existed. My first book was published through Amazon CreateSpace, and honestly, I never looked back.

So, yes, I’m grateful to Amazon. And I will continue to go there first when looking to publish my work. But the trick to Amazon is the exclusivity issue. To benefit from KU (Kindle Unlimited), and have access to author-driven promotions like book giveaways and price reductions, an author must agree to make their book available through Amazon alone.

flowers-working-cover
Flowers for the Ancients — now on KU!

For a while, I didn’t like this. It didn’t seem like a good deal; Amazon is so full of books and information, my work was easily lost among millions of others. Not many readers seemed to be using the KENP feature, which pays per page read by subscribers. So, I branched out. I used Smashwords and AllRomace eBooks – both of which I also appreciated for their more open-minded view of erotica. No adult dungeoning. That place is not as fun as it sounds.

However, again and again I’ve been forced to admit that, despite diversifying, most of my sales still come from Amazon. In which case, it seems silly not to take advantage of their KU program. So, basically, I’m back in. Not all of my work is KU; I picked the stories that sold mostly there, and kept the others up on Smashwords & ARe.

Amazons Equal ebook Cover
An Amazon’s Equal, back on KU!

Also, don’t forget that I offer two short stories for free on any platform, Amazon included! (How did I get Amazon to offer them for free? Price matching. Read this Smashwords blog post for instructions on how to do it.)

Grab One Night To Tango and Taking the Reins as freebies, then go on and check out all my KU books on Fionna Guillaume’s Amazon author page.

Going Without : a guide to ditching your bra

Well, I had a great vacation – and so did my books, from the looks of it! I’m just thrilled that so many new readers had a chance to grab some of my work for free. (And hey, if you like it when it’s free, remember it’s just as good when it costs 99 cents! ūüėČ ) Anyhow, the summer is winding down, and it’s time to get serious. Back to work; back to buying the books you want to read. So the seasons turn.

But not everything has to get all  buttoned-up and serious yet. And I am here to make the hearty recommendation that you consider ditching your bra more often this summer.

Yes, I know, I wrote all about how to find and appreciate a perfect bra, but here’s the deal: it feels even better to go without. Now, I just spent over ¬†a month in France, eating way too much, drinking even more, and spending time with family. Pretty excellent. And most of the time, I did my damndest to spend the whole day without my bra. Oh, the beautiful freedom! While I’m not about to go burning all my brassieres in the backyard – they’re way too pretty for that; plus I’ve got to go to work – it did get me to thinking about why we wear bras at all. It all comes down to culture and clothes.

A recent French scientific study, as seen here in this 2013 article, actually suggests that bras do nothing to help breasts keep their shape and “perkiness.” In fact, the study claims that bras actually make breasts saggier. Now, I am pretty sure this is bogus, because all the women in the study were young and French. Having spent the summer there, surrounded by elegant slim women with pretty, perky little points, I hardly think this is fair. Probably ¬†they weren’t breastfeeding either. Also, women around the world who do not have access to bras – I’m thinking of my years in West Africa, again – certainly develop¬†what we would consider to be “saggy boobs.” (Why that even matters is another argument because, really, it doesn’t.)

Which leads me to believe that we really only wear bras because society expects it. Well, screw what society expects! Your body, your choices. And being braless is amazing, whether out on the street or comfy at home. Do it; love it; and feel superior to all those who, in their sad brainwashed state of mind, are shocked. But how to go about it and still feel great about how you look?

Now those lucky ladies with little breasts can pretty much go braless whenever they want. I shall be eternally jealous of them: their backless dresses, their daring V-necks, their just-barely-a-handful! (Yes, I envy them regularly.) If that’s you, congratulations. You can go without a bra in anything from t-shirt to evening gown, and look just as fabulous as if you were strapped into the most luxurious lingerie around. So enjoy it! Don’t even buy a bra, or if you do, only for purposes of seduction…

Women like me (by which I mean, those endowed with about a basketball-player’s handful) probably won’t love the way they look without a bra in many types of clothes. I know, because I don’t. (For example, I will always wear a bra to work because otherwise my breasts just don’t fit right into a tailored blouse.) However, I still prefer being without a bra in many situations. It makes me feel both comfortable and sensual. (In fact, I am happily braless right now!) What I discovered is that it’s all about the clothes you choose. Here are some that almost always work:

(please note: while I include the buy link in the image of each of these dresses due to professional honesty, I can make no guarantee of the exact model I show here! They’re just great examples. ūüôā )

 

l20110307b_blu-2
It worked for Jane Austen, it can work for you!

Empire waist. With a band that fits right beneath the bust, empire waist dressed and shirts are perfect without a bra! Especially ones that fit tight across the chest, and offer some support. One of my favorite sundresses is like this, and it is delightful to just throw it on and go.

 

plus-size-peasant-tops-63
Pretty & flowy.

Peasant blouse or tunic. By this I mean something that is loose and draped over the chest, usually caught at the waist or hips by a belt or sash. The flowy, drapey design looks fantastic without a bra. And nothing is more comfortable!

  • 3516565-p-multiview
    Fitted bodice all the way around.

 

 

 

Fitted bodice. This is kind of obvious, since dresses and shirts of this kind are designed to support the breasts without a bra. But still, they count!

 

  • womens-sexy-sleeveless-blue-jean-font-b-denim-b-font-blouse-vintage-font-b-halter-b
    Remember – the cut of a halter top REALLY matters!

    Halter neck. I hesitated to put this one on at first, because it really depends on the cut of the shirt. This can be totally great, or a disaster, depending on how the halter works. But if you look around, you can find some beautiful, flattering clothes of this style.

  • de901440_cindy_m_15-12-15_hm_30589_a
    When it’s braless + V neck, the deeper the better!

    Deep V neck. Oooh, this is a fun one, and also daring! If the tip of the V ends up right between your breasts, you can wear it really low… and that’s hot. No crazy cleavage, since you’re braless, remember; but the natural movement of your breasts is sexier anyway.

 

Are you tempted? I do hope so! Make the most of these last days of summer by enjoying life without a bra! Ah, sweet freedom… also, my husband likes it. ūüėČ

Sexing up some Little Free Libraries

Among its many charms, Seattle boasts a proud literary distinction: the city with perhaps the most Little Free Libraries in the country. And as an erotica writer, I have taken the liberty of sexing them up.

Little Free Libraries are a delightful version of the take-a-book, leave-a-book idea. (It’s a full-on nonprofit organisation – take a look at their website here!) Homeowners build their own small book boxes, usually with a glass door to protect from the elements while allowing passersby to glance in at the offerings. Most Little Free Libraries are on the corner of a yard, or sometimes hanging from a retaining wall, faced invitingly towards the sidewalk. And according to this article by MyNorthwest.com, other cities just can’t keep up with Seattle.

SeattleLFL
A Little Free Library in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of Kipp Robertson/MyNorthwest)

There are several in my neighborhood alone, and Little Free Libraries are a common sight when strolling through the neighborhoods. (I asked my husband for one for my birthday, but that all depends on how handy he’s feeling, so I’ll not hold my breath!) It’s so charming to see them there, full of books, just free for anyone to take. I also use them to pass along books I enjoyed, but don’t necessarily wish to keep forever – all my three-and-four-star reads find their way into a library box, ready to be discovered by another lucky reader.

So what am I doing? Well, quite simply, I’m leaving print versions of my work all around Seattle. Print copies are inexpensive and lovely to have, so I order them in bulk whenever I do a giveaway or print promotion. Whatever I don’t list, I send off into the world via Little Free Libraries. And, being the person I am, I do admit to peeking inside later, just to see if my work has gone… as of now, all of them have found a home. Temporary or permanent, no matter; so long as they bring enjoyment to someone in need of a scintillating erotic read. What fun!

If you’re a fellow Seattleite, keep your eyes peeled when passing by. I just set loose a fresh print copy of An Amazon’s Equal in a Little Free Library nearby. If you find it, please leave a review! (And, you know, leave a book. That’s what makes the whole wonderful process work! I love it.)

Speaking of which… have you entered the Goodreads giveaway for a free print copy of An Amazon’s Equal? No? Then head on over here and enter now! Who knows – you might get lucky… ūüôā

The Rites of Spring

Springtime is beautiful in Seattle. First come the crocus, early in February, their colorful heads poking up from the bare ground. Shortly after them the cherry trees come into bloom, their blossoms like pink-and-white clouds against the gray sky. Mobs of people stroll in the Arboretum, or on the UW campus, to enjoy the sakura’s transient beauty.

Pike-Place-Flowers-2
Fresh bouquets for sale in the Pike Place Market.

Then the riot of tulips: fields and fields of them, tulips of all¬†shapes, types, and colors, so many we have festivals dedicated to them, and every bouquet in the Pike Place Market is brimming with colorful tulip flowers. Roses are on their way, already; if it stays cool they will linger through the summer. All of that, plus other blooms and flowers of every description. Yes, it’s gorgeous, a reminder of the Earth’s renewal, the cyclical nature of our lives.

Mostly, though, it’s all about sex.

Flowers, really, are just a plant’s hermaphroditic sex organs.¬†It’s no coincidence that a rose’s curling petals so closely resemble a woman’s inner labia. Nor that those pollen-coated stamens rise proudly erect, just like an eager man’s cock. Nature, that naughty minx, is always¬†throwing sex in everybody’s face. If plants had legs, they’d be spread wide right now, an open invitation to all the other randy Plantae. Humans, meanwhile, are burying their faces in these sweet-smelling sexual organs, just enjoying the flowers.

So keep that in mind next time you’re cutting a bouquet. Those flowers aren’t as innocent as they seem. They’re just out to get laid – exactly like you and me!

Unite in the Dance

This morning I went to a spectacular belly dance event / brunch. Amateurs and professionals all performing to live music, glittering in their costumes, showing off all their favorite moves. As usual the dancers were a delight to watch; one was particularly hypnotic with her zills. For me, though, the best part of the event was the audience.

Belly dance has its¬†origins in specific cultures of North Africa and the Middle East, but I believe it has truly become an international women’s dance. Women of all backgrounds, cultures, and body types have embraced it. Each dancer brings her personal take to the dance, elevating it from a cultural relic to a celebration of the feminine in all its diversity. You don’t have to look a certain way, think a certain way, or be from a certain place in order to belly dance; you just have to feel it in you.

There’s nothing better, for me, than to see women from diverse backgrounds coming together in dance. One of my dancer friends is Nigerian-American, bringing her West African flair to the stage. Another performer¬†was Japanese-American; one came from Algeria, another from Ukraine, one of Mexican heritage, and of course some were¬†good old-fashioned “American blend,” like me, the product of so many European ancestors we’ve lost track of where they came from originally. I sat by a charming older Chinese-American lady, and we chatted and bonded watching all those beautiful women dance. At the table next to me was a group of ladies (Somali, maybe) wearing headscarves. Later we all danced together on the open floor, along with the other giddy audience members.

Diversity, I think, means creating a space where we can all feel comfortable, where we all belong. As evidenced by the¬†above paragraph, I come from a culture of jarringly specific labels, mostly in an attempt to be politically correct yet also open about people’s varied backgrounds. But better than pointing it out, rather celebrate it. Just love and appreciate this dance where we can come together, all of us, and share the stage.

Nipple necklaces: fabulous or faux pas?

So my husband and I spent last weekend in Vancouver, BC. It was gray, rainy, cold, and wonderful. While strolling in the adorable Gastown neighborhood, just after enjoying a ¬†once-hourly serenade by the historic “steam clock,” we ended up outside a lingerie shop. The two mannequins in the window were wearing typical pretty bra-and-panty sets, one a particularly sexy scoop cup of the kind that exposes the nipples. And both mannequins sported jewelry¬†I’d never seen before: nipple chains.

Okay, Canada. I’m game. Tell me more!

il_340x270-263799661
One I saw in the shop window looked almost exactly like this.

These were not for pierced nipples, mind you, but kind of a necklace with wire loops that (I assume) are to be tightened around the nipple to hold it on. I thought they looked kinda sexy, if a bit impractical. (Wouldn’t it fall right off? I guess if you had the right nipples…) My husband sternly decried it as foolishness. Which makes me want to try it out, just to mess with him. That would make for one hell of an entrance. Hehehe!

il_340x270-862978456_5n43
You can really see the wire loops here… I’m curious to know if they actually hold the stuff on!
il_570xn-740947825_o3sv
Another one was like this, a dangle with beads.

Needless to say, my interest was piqued. Further research reveals that indie artisans at the fabulous Etsy.com can hook you up with any number of nipple jewelry creations. If you like what you see, click on the pic and check it out! Or take a peek at these online shops:

WireWear

BoDivas

Nippleicious

Black Velvet

Bodacious Body Jewelry

Serenity in Chains

(There are a ton more artists and shops. Check Etsy out and see what else you can find!)

What do you think? Is nipple jewelry foolish, fun, seductive or laughable? Or all of those together? I’m thinking it would work for a fun boudoir photo shoot, at the very least! Also pretty sure they will be making an appearance in some of my future erotica. I can think of several interesting possibilities…

Bus Commuting For Beginners

I have the great good fortune to live in a city with somewhat useful public transport. It’s sure not great – especially considering our traffic congestion situation, and where does all that tax money go again? – but hey, it’s better than they’ve got in many other cities. I only complain moderately. It doesn’t bother me to commute by bus; my husband and I have only one car, and his work is father away, so he gets it (Fair’s fair; it was me with the car last year, and his bus ride home was an hour and a half! Now that’s true love). I just catch the 6:33 am and start my day from there.

Now it’s hard to appreciate on mornings like today – a full-on thunderstorm, lightning, sideways rain, the works. I huddled there (no bus shelter at my stop, naturally), with my rain jacket hood pulled up, just soaking and waiting for that bus, hoping a fast car wouldn’t come by and splash the gutter water all over me. Wouldn’t be the first time…) thinking of how nice it would be not to stand in the pouring rain. But eagerly awaiting my bus, not only because I could finally sit down, but mostly because I could finally dive back into my latest book.

That’s the secret to a successful commute: a great read. Forget smartphone games; I did the Candy Crush thing for a while, and it just isn’t worth you money, folks! With a book in hand, bus riding becomes a pure pleasure. The trick is to get to know your driver, so he can help remind you when your stop is coming up… I’ve definitely read right through mine on occasion. Worth it, every time.

Short erotica is great for the ride home. Tends to last just the length of my bus ride, and offers inspiration for evening shenanigans. What’s great about a Kindle, I’ve discovered, is being able to stock it with short stories , each a delightful bus-ride in waiting. If you haven’t given it a try yet, you should. My bus rides are adventures every day; if you’re a commuter, yours can be too! (So much better than smartphone games…. yes, even the one where you manage a farm. Seriously. Get a book.)

Claim Your Beauty

curveIn the interest of sexing up my website a little bit (and also, just for fun), I’ve added some little photos here and there. You’ll notice themes of lace and soft lighting, curves of skin and peekaboo poses… and of course the fact that they’re all me. So now it’s clear that I have an exhibitionist streak – no surprises there, I’m sure, given my choice of writing genre! – as well as extremely pale skin, thanks to genetics and the cloudy, rainy, magnificent Pacific Northwest. Naturally I am only sharing photos that don’t include my face, just in case we work together. (I don’t think we do, but you never know! Ditto on the tattoos. I’ve cropped all my tattoos… though if you know where those are, chances are also good we don’t work together, though we may be enjoying a relaxing beach vacation together!)brashot

Now, a little history: these photos come from a wonderful afternoon my husband and I spent in Portland with a professional boudoir photographer. For us it was fun, but also a celebration of our bodies – as they really are at this particular moment in our lives. I haven’t been shy about my body for years; most of the time I am perfectly happy to dance around naked (weather permitting). Made for some fun times in college, and lots of skinny dipping. However, as confident as I feel about my body, and as comfortable as I am with it, I realize that many people – especially women – are not.

frontSociety has a way of telling women, subliminally or overtly, that they are insufficiently beautiful. Surely everyone has had the experience of staring in the mirror and feeling dissatisfied with their looks. This happened to me all the time, especially when I was younger. My breasts were too small, then too big, then not perky enough. My waist didn’t have enough dip; my hips were too narrow; I wished my butt was bigger, or my legs curvier. I used to sigh and wish my lips were fuller, or my eyes wider, or my nose shorter, or whatever. It doesn’t really matter, because at the heart of it is the feeling of inadequacy, of not being pretty according to the standards we set for ourselves – or, I should say, that society sets for us.

Gradually I grew out of this. In all fairness, I am lucky to have a body type that is generally admired in this country, in this decade, in this part of the world (nobody would have looked twice at me in the Italian Renaissance, though!). But that’s not why I got over it. It comes from looking at yourself clearly, seeing your body as a unique work of art, and claiming it. Claim your beauty. Nobody else can do this for you; you have to decide you are beautiful. And once you do, you will be.hello hands

Boudoir photography is just one way to claim your beauty, and have it validated through art. Erotica is another way: I am attentive to this, and write characters – male and female – of various body types, celebrating the deep capacity for beauty, sensuality, pleasure, and love that lies in everyone. True beauty has no body type. It has no skin color. It has no weight, no shoe size, no 34-25-36 measurements, no haircut. It is ageless. Beauty is always there, just waiting to be claimed. You are beautiful already.

So take it, claim it – it’s yours.

An Overindulgence in Wine and Passion

So I enjoy a drink from time to time. (All right, pretty frequently). After a long day at work, it’s just so nice to come home, have a glass of wine, or a cider or beer, and if it was an especially tough day something with rum in it. Plus, as Hemingway discovered, a little bit of alcohol releases all those creative juices. Anyway, I’m not ashamed to say that I have about a drink a day, on average. And yes, it’s always good alcohol; you want wine recommendations that are both well¬†priced and tasty, I’ve got ’em! (On a side note, at my last doctor’s visit the MD kindly informed me that Medicare suggests no more than 3 drinks per week. Hilarious! They must not have a very stressful job… or else they’re on some other kind of drug.) In short, I’m neither a lightweight nor a drunkard, just a one-glass-a-day kind of gal.

Except for Friday night. There were four of us, and in the course of the evening we started with champagne cocktails, then moved onto finishing a bottle of Thursday’s already-opened white, and after that two delicious reds. At some point the other two went to bed (after a long and fascinating conversation, which was I’m sure in the process of solving all the world’s problems. Too bad I barely remember it), and my husband had tottered off to the hot tub. After going to change into my swimsuit, I realized I couldn’t walk in a straight line. The clasp of my necklace had become Rubic’s-Cube-like in complexity. My head was kind of swimming. To my utter surprise, I realized I was drunk.

What? That doesn’t happen to grown-ups! I hadn’t been this way¬†since an ill-advised experiment with absinthe in 2009. (Word of caution: I do not recommend this. You will end up in bed with somebody you weren’t expecting, and it will be totally weird.) Wow. Drunk. But, okay, I thought, and weaving and hanging on the handrails, I too went to the hot tub. My husband and I¬†lasted about five steamy minutes in the water before taking our light-headed, befuddled, totally inebriated selves up to bed.

Where, to my thrill and delight – and of course without really knowing what was going on, thanks to the Cabernet – we dove into sexual explorations way crazier than anything we’d done before, even in those heady getting-to-know-you days of years ago. (And no, I won’t tell you what they were; I’m not THAT pervy! Also, I think I forgot some of it…) Suffice to say that this was a delicious reminder of how a person can surprise you, even after being married for a while and having seen¬†all his dirty laundry. It was a ridiculous amount of fun.

Of course we slept badly and woke up cotton-mouthed, dehydrated, and hung-over. Blearily, in the morning, we agreed that we should definitely do that again… only without the wine.

Yet the wine was what started it all. Overindulgence, letting yourself go, can be exactly what you need sometimes. Go ahead, get drunk. Be surprised at what you might do. Wine takes away expectations and opens doors to all kinds of possibilities. Just don’t do it very often. And believe me, you should stay away from absinthe.