Getting Inked

Remember that creative slump I mentioned last time? Yeah, I’m still there. It’s a sad, yet comforting place to be. No pressure, just the stories gradually fermenting until they get so bubbly the cork pops off, and I can write again.

In the meantime, good thing I’ve got plenty of finished stories to revisit! Today I’d like to offer my free novel, Major Arcana: Sex, Love, and Tarot, available to read on Inkitt. Remember this one? It was my experimental work from last year: each chapter began by drawing a Tarot card from my own deck, and using that to guide the story. Lots of fun. And I am really pleased with the result. It’s contemporary erotic romance (heavy on the erotic parts, naturally!), set in my lovable hometown of Seattle, and featuring a diverse cast of characters. Oh, did I mention it’s free? Yeah, so go get on Inkitt and read it now!

What’s Inkitt, you say? Well, I heard of it from indie author/publisher/editor extraordinaire, Ms. Eeva Lancaster.It’s like Wattpad in that authors post their work, either in progress or complete, and readers can peruse, glance, or read for free. Unlike Wattpad, Inkitt offers the possibility of a publishing contract. For authors, it can be a great way to preview your work, see how readers respond to it – and maybe even get offered a publisher in the bargain. For readers, it’s a chance to get first looks at new indie stories and novels from all genres (Yes! Erotica is allowed! Hooray for dirty words and graphic sex scenes! No need to curtail your content, as Wattpad requires). So far, I’m enjoying it.

So whether you’re new or an old Inkitt fan, check out my free novel there. The cards lead in mysterious directions… and all of them somehow involve our valiant protagonist in all sorts of sexy-romantic situations.

Major Arcana: sex, love, and Tarot

Rosemary has just been dumped. Again.

Everything in her life seems stuck in a rut: work, family, romance, not to mention her sex life. In desperation, she takes her sister’s advice and begins a journey of self-realization with a deck of Tarot cards. That decision is what changes everything.

Guided by the Tarot, she soon finds herself making decisions she’d never considered before. With two attractive men vying for her attentions – and her body – Rosemary is forced to reconsider what she truly wants, and how far she’ll to go to get it.

Set in the artsy, quirky scene of Seattle, Major Arcana offers a glimpse into the power of the self, the diversity of erotic experience, and the joys, agonies, and risks of love.

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Addressing White Privilege in Writing

As a relatively aware White person — that is to say, an individual who was raised in a dominant White culture and socioeconomic group, who both presents as White on the outside and identifies as White on the inside — I am on a personal mission to challenge myself in this world where, through no merit of my own, I have been handed privilege on a silver plate. Whatever your feelings on issues of race relations, or the social construct thereof; the heavy weight of history, the state of politics, or globalization, the simple fact remains: White Privilege is real. (Still not convinced? Take a look at the classic Invisible Knapsack checklist, by Peggy McIntosh.)

While there is plenty to be said about how White Privilege manifests in the larger world, my focus today is bringing it down to the arena in which writers and artists can make a difference: noticing, identifying, and addressing White Privilege in writing. And, oh, it’s there in a big way!

Remember when The Hunger Games movie came out? And there was all this racist sputtering from people who expressed surprise and annoyance that the character Rue was Black? If they’d actually read the book, they might have figured it out on their own… but maybe not. The author Suzanne Collins included information that a thoughtful reader could use to visualize Rue as the young, dark-shinned girl she was intended to be, but because this was not explicitly stated, people were able to form their own ideas. And those ideas populated the story entirely with White teenagers, because that’s what people expect. Hollywood reinforces this with their whitewashed casts of characters, and if we are not careful, book characters can easily suffer the same fate. Poor Rue.

White Privilege is precisely that: a normalization of white-looking people; the assumption that they are “normal” and everyone else, therefore, is “different”; the classic exotic Other. (By the way, this goes for Ablism too… when was the last time you visualized a character in a wheelchair? Or with leg braces? Or an amputated limb? Yeah, you didn’t, because disabled folks are also relegated to the “other” category.) The challenge for a reader is to remove themselves from the story. However tempting it is, we cannot imagine ourselves as the protagonist in every tale, because in some cases, the main character is vastly different from us. Then, the challenge becomes one of molding yourself into another person’s body, trying to live and learn from their experiences.

This especially irks me in historical fiction. I firmly believe — and research supports — that history has always been far more diverse than typically portrayed in mainstream media. When we think about cowboys, why do we always imagine them as tall, fit, white and blue-eyed, when a large proportion of them were, in fact, Black, Latino, or mixed-race? (The answer? Hollywood. And the general, ongoing white-washing of history.) People of all shapes, sizes, and colors have shaped this world, and continue to do so. Historical fiction should reflect that.

So what can writers do? Well, the first step, I think, is to combat the assumption that characters, unless otherwise described, are de facto white people. Take the time to describe your character in a rich, illuminating way: everything from the shape of their body, the texture and style of their hair, their features, their skin color, and everything else that makes them stand out. Each person is an individual, and as a character, should be presented as such. Next, push the boundaries of what kinds of characters you’re writing. Historical fiction can be a great avenue for this, since you can research and create authentic characters of various backgrounds, without necessarily digging into the can of worms that is modern-day racism and society. (Need some ideas? Check out my blog post on writing characters of color – for white writers.) Story by story, character by character, little by little, we can change people’s expectations and views. Push White Privilege to the background by putting diverse characters first. Right where they belong.

Flowers working cover.jpgI’m trying to do my part through writing. Some recent examples include my Flowers for the Ancients collection, which features women from ancient societies in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. In writing this, I was able to develop characters from diverse cultures and backgrounds, all set in fascinating periods of history.

major arcana coverAlso, I am currently working on a Tarot-inspired erotic romance set right here in my hometown of Seattle. Free to read on Wattpad, Major Arcana features a cast of characters I am rapidly coming to love. I had fun thinking about the diversity of my city and how that could be reflecting in writing, from the free-love Hippie momma (inspired by a friend’s mom… I’ll never reveal her name!), to the blended family and sibling relationships (there’s one in every family, right?), to the sexy, sensitive hero, a UW student from Yakima who also happens to be in a wheelchair. I had fun researching sex for paraplegic men, oh yes indeed! (Porn as education. Enough said.)

Anyway, I hope I am on the right track toward addressing and correcting White Priviledge in writing. (And in my everyday life, though that, as they say, is another story.) I would greatly appreciate any feedback and advice on how to do it better. We’re all works in progress, just trying to make this world better for everyone in whatever ways we can.

Sexy shower scenes and a giveaway with Siren Allen!

silvercover
Oooh, those dreadlocks… drool…

You all know I love my SciFi romance, right? Ooh, yes, I do enjoy a good Big Bang! (Hehehe… okay, yeah, there’s a reason I’m not a stand-up comedian.) Anyway, I am excited to introduce to you a new author on the hot SciFi/romance scene: Siren Allen. She’s got a sizzling new book coming out, and you need to take a look! The excerpt alone gets me hot. Time to go buy it!


Siren says:  Hi guys. I’m so excited about my new release, Silver, a Sci-Fi romance. Silver is available on Amazon and free with Kindle Unlimited. The two main characters, Malia and Silver, are now my favorite people. Watching them fall in love was fun, sexy and sometimes heartbreaking. I’ve included an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes. It’s a shower scene. Enjoy!

A sexy sneak peek:

He tried to recall the last time he’d bathed.

Silver lathered his chest with an unscented bar of cleanser. He hadn’t bathed once while on Venus. They’d stolen a tank of water from a nearby store and had used that to wash their face, hands, and other junk that got sweaty.

But a full shower. He hadn’t one of those in a long time. It felt nice. And with Malia only a few clicks away from him, it felt naughty, especially since he was showering in the dark. In a rush to get back to her, he bypassed the light switch and headed straight for the stall. His mate was awaiting him in bed. His heart leapt at that thought and so did other things.

With hot water falling over his frame, Silver slid one hand down to his cock and gripped it tightly. Stars, he was rock hard, his body yearning for his mate. Silver stroked himself. Closing his eyes, he let his head fall forward as images of his mate masturbating while dreaming filled his mind.

Sex with her would be spectacular. He knew it would. He wasn’t an untried male. He’d been with plenty of females. None had ever stoked his desire the way his mate was doing. And it wasn’t just the mating pull forcing him to feel things for her. It was her, the little things she did. The way she smiled, they sound of her laughter, the way she cocked her head to the side when she was thinking about something he’d said. She was perfection.

He couldn’t wait to rub his hands over her flesh and feel her shiver underneath his touch. He was going to take great pleasure in making her moan all night long as he kissed and licked every inch of her. Silver thrust forward, pushing into his palm, wishing it was her heat he was sliding into. She would be wet. Oh so wet. He groaned as he thought of her wetness sliding over his cock. His dick jerked. He stroked faster, pumping his length.

He was going to come. That was probably for the best, to take the edge off before he climbed in bed behind his mate. Behind his mate. That thought caused images of him taking her from behind to form in his head.

The doorknob to the bathroom turned. His head jerked in its direction. Had he locked the door? Nope. In stepped Malia.

“Silver, are you okay? I heard noises.” She flipped the light switch on and her mouth fell open in shock.

He wanted to stop. He really did. He couldn’t. His orgasm was too close and the sight of her sent him over the edge. Silver came hard, groaning as his hips jerked until every last drop was ripped from him. Shit. She was still standing there.

Silver stared down at the shower floor watching water and his semen wash down the drain. This was the ultimate embarrassment. He heard her clear her throat. He didn’t look in her direction.

“Uh, okay,” she told him from the doorway. “I see that you’re okay. Um, I’m going to let you finish… showering. Take as long as you need.”

Silver nodded and waited on the sound of the door closing before he began cursing. “Shit, fuck, fucking shit.” He banged his head against the wall.

Get the book!  …on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LZJG2P3   …and check out Siren Allen’s author website!coolbnw

Writing Characters of Color (for white writers)

So by now it’s pretty obvious – especially for those of you who checked out my boudoir photos earlier – that I am white. Like, very white; the kind that’s see-through for most of the year. (Living in the Northwest doesn’t help, but hey, my Nordic skin can soak up even the measliest bit of vitamin D from our cloud-covered sun!) I grew up in a majority-white neighborhood, went to school with mostly other white kids, and even now most of my friends are, still, white. That’s the way White privilege has manifested for me, thus far in my life.

Which brings me to the subject of my blog post today. How can I, as a white writer, create authentic, powerful, believable characters of color?

As a fiction writer, I get to create worlds. Whatever I imagine becomes real on the page; people spring to life; stories unfold. With so much possibility at my fingertips, I am always tempted to push the edges of the mold. The old advice says: “write what you know.” Been there, done that. To challenge ourselves, we must sometimes write about what we don’t know. But carefully, respectfully, and with humility vis a vis our own limitations. It’s no coincidence that the majority of my protagonists are white – (with the exception of the Ancients, which features women who lived so long ago our modern conceptions of race and culture have no meaning) – because that’s my default “safe zone.” As a white woman, I can confidently write a white, female character and say, yes, I have been fair to her; she is not a stereotype, not some fetish; no one will say “oh, she’s acting that way because she’s a typical white American girl.” (And there’s White privilege again, right? The idea that a person’s actions belong to them alone, instead of as a representative of whatever cultural or racial group they happen to be part of… but that’s a whole different conversation.)

But as a creator of fictional worlds, I don’t want to be stuck writing only characters like me. (Of course, all a writer’s characters are somewhat like them. They are pieces of ourselves, refolded and adapted, but still us at the root.) I want to explore other perspectives, other ways of life. (Other love interests, too, since erotica is my thing!) Plus, I don’t want to live in a monochrome world, so why should my characters to do so? Fiction should reflect life on some level, and our world – thank God – is becoming more beautifully diverse, more multicultural and blended, every day. Can I, as a white writer, do that authentically?

This blog post is more about questions than answers, really. The only thing I can say is that each character must be an individual. Wherever they come from, however they look, they must be more than what’s on the surface. (Plus, skin-deep characters are boring as hell. We need soul, if readers are to care about them.) Interracial erotica has its own category on most sites, and there are plenty of readers looking for that. But real issues arise if “interracial erotica” becomes “racial-stereotype erotica.” It’s okay to have a preference – we all do – but once again, that character had better be a real person behind his/her fascinating physical qualities. (Plus, seriously? The “Big Black Cock” thing is totally passe. Also, silly. I can personally attest to the fact that you don’t know what you’re gonna get until you unwrap the package. And I’ve been around the world enough to have a fair-sized sample set from five different continents… ahem, moving on. Sorry, Australia. I never made it down there in my single days, but I’m sure you gentlemen have plenty to offer!)

Now I know I will never truly understand what it’s like to be a person of color. Just like I’ll never really understand the inner workings of a man’s brain… which is probably okay with me, on second thought. But I hope I can make an honest, sensitive, and respectful attempt to create characters who represent diverse cultures and backgrounds. I’m not brave enough – yet – to go all in and try to incorporate some real issues into my stories. Maybe someday… For now, at least I can assure my readers that in my stories, each character is a real person. Unique and wonderful, because of and in addition to their outward appearance.

I’ll keep writing what I know, and how the world really is. But I’ll also do my best to write what I want to know; and how I hope – and believe – the world can be.

*

(Fellow writers, I am hungry for your thoughts! (Especially writers who consider themselves a person of color…) Do you think we’re getting anywhere close to the mark? Or does erotica just perpetuate the normalization of White culture overall? What a conundrum! Erotica authors are only a small piece of it, but everyone can do their part to contribute – or fight – the status quo.)

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.