Free Summer Reading Time!

Yes! It’s summer at last! I always go on a relaxing vacation (yes, I am aware of my good fortune), where I eat, drink, and be merry until it’s time to slog back to work.

This summer, I propose a free armchair vacation for my readers. How about a trip to King Solomon’s Court? Perhaps a journey to a magical kingdom where princesses disappear each night, only to return with their dancing shoes worn through? Or maybe you’re in the mood for Tokyo, Japan? And in honor of the new Wonder Woman movie (and Amazons in general), why not spend some time in a world where women rule and men are kept only as tools for pleasure?

It doesn’t matter which destinations you choose, because I‘m making them ALL FREE this summer! Yes, every day you visit my Amazon author page, there will be something offered for free. (Besides One Night to Tango, and Taking the Reins, which as you know are always yours for the fantastic low price of 0.00!)

Enjoy your summer reading!

 

Spinning my wheels

I do love a good fairy tale. But they’ve cleaned most of them up to get rid of all the really good parts, in order to make them acceptable to parents of today’s much more sheltered children. (Pretty sure the old medieval storytellers had fewer qualms… of course, when you only live to be 25, childhood is forcibly much shorter anyway!)

For this erotic fairy tale, I took something fundamentally unsexy — a brutish king obsessed with gold, a pitiful girl doomed to die, and a tricky dwarf who only helps her in return for promises of increasing value — and plopped in right into the middle of pre-Colonial India. So there! Fixed it! Have I mentioned that I think saris are the most physically flattering traditional clothes? Something about the modesty of a veil, with the flash of midriff, and an elegant pleated skirt, just really spells seduction. I enjoyed using that beautiful garment to great effect in Little Big Man & The Rani.

Honestly, this one was purely for the fun of it. And you’ll have fun, too, if you grab it on pre-order today! It will be delivered to you, freshly e-printed, on June 30th. Just in time for summer reading season!

rani cover

The Sad and Shocking Truth…

… is that, although I write romance and erotica, I honestly don’t read a lot of either.

Because so much of it is bad.

I know! That’s a terrible thing to say! (Especially for someone in my business.) But here’s how it came about. I was down in Portland (Oregon, not Maine) last weekend, and made the inevitable pilgrimage to Powell’s City of Books. (Don’t know it? You haven’t LIVED until you’ve been there! Hope remains for independent bookstores, yet!) Anyway, as anyone who’s ever been to Powell’s knows, it’s organized by genre. Eagerly I perused the aisles of historical fiction, contemporary fiction, graphic novels, classics brought to the forefront again, even the latest-and-greatest nonfiction on display. At last, my arms full of books, I ventured into the back corner, behind the cafe, where they stash all the romance and erotica.

From the moment I entered, I felt turned off. What met my eyes was shelf upon shelf of waxed, muscular, glowering male torsos (in various states of undress, to indicate their respective settings), swooning maidens, and cringe-worthy titles. (“His Christmas Bride,” anyone?) I did my best to give a couple covers a chance, but the blurbs had me running back. Back, back into the relative safety and dignity – indeed, the superior sexiness – of the other fiction aisles.

So what gives? Why is so much romance and erotica so god-awful bad? Honestly, it bums me out, because a story without sex is like bread without butter for me. (Hence my lackluster appreciation of YA… but that’s for another post.) Also, I know for a fact that there are many excellent erotica and romance writers out there, who do far more with their work than deliver the necessary bump and grind. And yet, romance remains a genre I am hesitant to read – despite my interest and appreciation of its content – because the vast majority is, sadly, unpalatable. (Even more appalling… might I be lumped in with authors of such books? Worse, is my writing just as – gulp – bad?!)

What is a person like me to do? I love sexy books, but I also love GOOD books. They have to be one and the same! And that, alas, is the pickle. Until we readers demand smart, literary erotica that stimulates our minds as well as our tingly bits, Powell’s is going to have to keep that section hidden in the far corner of the cafe. Where few people venture anyway, and with good reason.

If excuses were wishes…

So I’ve been rather absent these past several weeks. No excuses, really; just a lot of stuff going on these days, and it’s sapping my creativity. In short, real life is busting in, unwelcome, into my artistic life. And, alas, real life takes precedence. Survival demands it. I’ve barely managed to read any good books, much less write one!

However, I’ve got a nearly-finished project just waiting for the last few scenes, and two completed stories that are just edits – and covers – away from hitting the e-book shelves. So don’t despair! More juicy erotic goodness is in the wings, waiting for the perfect moment to waltz onstage.

In the meantime, don’t just sit around waiting for me! There are plenty of amazing indie erotica authors out there, and you should be reading their work. Here’s a brief list of some of my favorites:

  • Patient Lee  :  author of erotic realism (a.k.a. the REAL good stuff).
  • Pandora Spocks  :  featuring hot, modern BSDM relationships. Yowza!
  • Lilah E. Noir  :  all kinds of hot & sexy tidbits…
  • Ian Saul Whitcomb  :  one of the most creative erotica authors I’ve ever read!
  • Emmanuelle de Maupassant  :  sensual, sophisticated erotica with a historical bent.
  • Sexscribbler  :  amazing talent, with stories offered for free on her blog!
  • MS Tarot  :  always surprising, and a superb storyteller. Plus all the great sexy bits.
  • Siren Allen  :  Scifi erotica, with surprises on every page!

It’s here! The last book in the excellent November Snow series!

Those of you who actually read my blog know I am a HUGE fan of A.M. Manay’s November Snow series. I’ve had the great pleasure to read them all, and the frustration of finishing book two – which ends in a nail-biting cliffhanger, by the way. Now, at last, the long-anticipated third book is here! She Marches Through Fire : November Snow book 3.

I’m not a vampire-romance groupie, and usually books about supernatural creatures… well… bore me. There’s so much magic in the real world I’d prefer to sink my teeth into! Therefore it was my delight and surprise to fall utterly in love with A.M. Manay’s characters and story. Despite all their special powers, the fairies, werewolves, demons, and vampires in this series are never one-dimensional. Their world is our own, with all its challenges and joys, its hope and disillusion. It’s rare when an author can blend to much reality into a fantasy tale, but this is it! And the result is something even more rare: a rich, fast-paced, thrilling series that I could not put down.

Please do yourself a favor and buy all three November Snow books today! I’m serious. They’re THAT good.

Celebrate Romance!

Valentine’s Day is coming soon, and to celebrate I’m offering a lovely selection of erotic-romantic stories for your FREE reading enjoyment! These giveaways only last for a couple of days, so get in there now before they’re done. Because everyone knows, the best way to celebrate romance is with lots of steamy hot erotica. To be enjoyed alone or en couple. 😉

Here’s what you can get:

An Amazon’s Equal – free on February 13th!

amazonequal3DcoerPyrena, an Amazonian warrior, lives in an idyllic society. All sisters, the Amazons share everything: work, meals, homes… and captive men. The men they keep are for pleasure; love is unknown among these fierce women. For Pyrena, things become more complicated after she captures a handsome Greek warrior, Astrastos. As she comes to know him, she begins to realize that her world is not so perfect, after all.

Flowers for the Ancients – free through Feb. 14th!

flowers-working-coverThis collection of erotic stories features women across the ancient world, from Africa, through the Middle East, to Asia. Their stories are as diverse as the heroines. They are queens and peasants; virgins and mothers; loveless and adored. Some of their names are familiar. Others are unknown. All of them lived, and lusted, and loved. Just like us.

 

lemonscoverLemons In Their Slippers: an erotic romance retelling of ‘The Twelve Dancing Princesses’– free through the 14th!

If you’re in the mood for some erotically imagined fairy tales, this one written just for you! Why did those princesses really wear out their dancing shoes? (It should come as no surprise that more than the shoes got some action every night!) Romantic and sexy, this remains one of my fuzzy-good-feelings favorites.

And finally, ALL the ‘Ancients’ stories are FREE on the 14th only! The stories (also to be found all together, in Flowers for the Ancients) are: Sheba’s Lovely Maidens,   Queen of Beauty,   Buktu’s Well,   The Girl With The Golden Eye,   A Bride for Seven Brothers, and   How The Lotus Blossoms.

The importance of a varied diet

We all know we need to eat our fruits and vegetables, limit fat and sweets, balance our whole-grain carbohydrates and healthy proteins. The importance of a varied diet is well documented. But the same goes for reading: if we overindulge in our favorite things (and be honest about your sugary favorites!) we end up with rotted teeth and diabetes. Or, in the literary sense, a lazy, mushy mind.

To that end, I encourage everyone — writers especially — to diversify their reading diet. Truly, it keeps your senses sharp, and offers plenty of perspective that can improve your own writing. If you don’t read, you can’t write. Period. (And if you don’t read many different genres and styles, you can’t write well.)

And just so no one can claim I don’t practice what I preach, here is a list of some recent books I have read and enjoyed, more or less in order. Amazon buy links included, as well as genre. With a growing stack on the horizon, I’ll be busily eating my literary vegetables for a long time! (And, you know, indulging in candy bars regularly too…)

Currently reading: The Things They Carried – fiction – The Vietnam War revisited through a series of brief, vivid tales, each a visceral reminder of the horrors of war.

The Cellist of Sarajevo – literary fiction – A gritty, wrenching portrayal of a city under siege, and the struggle to preserve humanity under inhuman circumstances.

Knight of Jerusalem: a biographical novel of Balian d’Ibelin – historical fiction – Well researched and unique, focusing on a little-known character during the medieval Christian occupation of the Holy Land.

The Shipping News – contemporary fiction – Superb characterization, snappy writing, and a darkly humorous look at love, life and struggle in modern-day Newfoundland.

Saga – graphic novel/space opera – One of the best things I have read, ever. Great adventure story, excellent dialogue, and gorgeous artwork. Go get yourself a copy now!

The Sport of Kings – literary fiction – A new take on the dark, gothic Southern family saga. Incest, violence, wealth, and racism intersect in all the worst possible ways.

My Antonia – American fiction – It’s a classic for a reason. People just don’t write like this anymore.

I Won a Basket of Porn – erotica/humor – In case you needed another reason to love author Patient Lee! Hilarious fun poked at small-town politics. Plus sex.

Because Beards – erotica/romance anthology – A fun collection of sexy stories, all with some kind of bearded hero. Some were excellent; all were okay. Plus, it’s for charity!

A Heart’s Promise – romance – On the sweet side, a classic romance novel featuring a horse-loving gal and a hot, modern cowboy.

Little Birds – erotica – Sexy short stories, from back in the day when erotica was all about turning on classy, well-read rich people.

Ancillary Justice – science fiction – An unusual SciFi adventure, featuring a ship that is also, somehow, a person. Totally unique.

All The Light We Cannot See – historical fiction – The kind of book that moves you to tears… and makes you wish you could write like that. Utterly superb.

 

Effortless Diversity : a book review

Some books can justifiably be defined as masterpieces. These are literary works that stand the test of time; The Classics, and all the other fine novels and texts we can read over and over again without tiring. All of us have books like that. I, for one, have always loved losing myself in words, in the geography of my imagination.

My husband, however, is not like that. If he reads a text-heavy book, it is probably nonfiction. However, a true Frenchman, he has long been an admirer of graphic novels. In the American context, these have until recently often been dismissed as (or rather, lumped in) with comic books. Superheroes and stuff. No offense if that’s your thing; too much spandex for my taste.

One book we can both agree on, now, is Saga. This is fast becoming one of my favorite series ever. It is, essentially, a space opera. Think SciFi/Romance. Yet of the deepest, most engaging kind. Yes, sexy aliens are getting naked and busy on a regular basis (That’s fun! And hey, graphic novel, so you get the artsy eye candy to go with…), but there’s so much more to it. Themes of diversity; clash of cultures; discrimination and stereotyping; the meaning of family; even the uniting power of literature; are woven throughout the main story. Adventure can be found aplenty, but for me, Saga is an inspiring example of effortless diversity. (Much like the delightful online cartoon I previously mentioned, Fated.)

15704307With my recent musing on how to address white privilege in writing, reading the recently-released sixth book of Saga was a welcome reminder that there is lots of great literature out there already fighting the good fight. In Saga, aliens come in all shapes, sizes, ages and colors. They live together, fuck together, fight each other, and generally are no better or worse than most “humans;” except way more badass. The blend makes this fantastic world excitingly familiar. Reading Saga, I can totally imagine how an inter-galactic, multi-species society might be. And you know what? All of a sudden, small differences are erased by the bigger picture. That picture happens to be an endless (and pointless) civil war, but hey, conflict has to come from somewhere.

Saga is the real deal. If you want some seriously good science fiction – and enjoy beautiful art, snappy dialogue, an un-put-downable story, thoughtful sexiness, and effortless diversity to boot – then you need to buy a copy right now. I’ll just be counting the months until the next book comes out…

Elizabeth Bennet Syndrome

So I’ve been reading a lot of romance novels lately – what a surprise! And something struck me. Not for the first time, but for some reason I felt the need to define it, and respond to it. I call it: The Elizabeth Bennet Syndrome.

Here’s what it is (and you’ll surely recognize this plot point right away): that typical – almost expected – part of a romance novel, when the two main characters are just getting to know each other. And instead of hitting it off, they actually start out disliking the other. Sometimes mere annoyance or discomfort due to unfulfilled sexual tension, but often full-on “I can’t stand you” confrontations. Yes, just like Lizzie Bennet and her hate/love relationship with the inimitable Mr. Darcy, of Pride & Prejudice fame.

darcy-and-elizabeth-e1313521962809
The smoldering eyes, the sexual tension, the money… Of course, it takes several dramatic hours before the actually smile at one another!  (And before you speak, there IS no other version than the BBC one. Don’t mention that recent movie they made – not a candle to it!)

When Jane Austen does this, it works beautifully because (as we learn throughout the course of the story), Lizzie and Darcy really are a great match for each other, but this only comes about through communication, gradual understanding, and seeing Darcy in a clingy white shirt after a hot&sexy swim in his (huge, rich) mansion’s pond. However, honestly, even when reading the original Pride & Prejudice, Darcy & Elizabeth’s relationship is not my favorite. No, I’m a fan of Bingley and Jane.

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So good together!

In stark contrast to her sister, Jane Bennet falls for Mr. Bingley, the all-around nice guy. (Not as rich as his friend, incidentally, but sufficiently well off for a practical Regency gal). Jane and Bingley are instantly attracted to one another, not merely physically, but also because they have similar, complimentary personalities and worldviews. Basically, they are a perfect match.

So why do we swoon for the Darcy’s of the world, and not the Bingley’s? Why do so many romance novels have characters who dislike each other in the beginning, and then fall in love? Why not fall for the nice guy first?

Part of it, I think, is the idea that the more “tension” you have in your relationship, the more passionate it is. Darcy and Lizzie argue, which leads us to envision bedroom delights of the tie-up-throw-down variety. (You know, the fun kind!) Whereas happy, easygoing Jane & Bingley don’t demonstrate that outward confrontation. Sex is a game and a battle; who’s on top, who’s setting the rhythm; who climaxes first; who yells and who thrashes. It’s all about control and submission, just like an argument, really.

The problem I have is how this translates to expectations, in literature and in the real world. As authors, we are taught that stories must have conflict. So when writing romance, naturally it is tempting to pit the protagonists against one another, only to bring them together in a blaze of exploding hormones later on. I get it; tension is hot, it gets the pulse going, it keeps you turning the pages, wondering how they will end up together. The less they like one another in the beginning, the more dramatic their eventual relationship seems on the page.

But life is not really like that. From personal experience, I can tell you that usually, the guy you don’t like at first is actually a guy you will not like, ever. Probably, he’s a jerk. Maybe controlling, maybe just has personal issues, or someone you don’t click with for whatever reason. That does not make the sex better. (The opposite is often true, in fact; those guys can be selfish in bed, and I don’t care how much erotic tension there is between you, if he’s crap in the sack, he’s not worth your time!) On the other side of the coin, couples who just seem to get along and be cool together can have awesome, passionate, kinky sex lives. True relationships are built on respect and communication. So is great sex. (We don’t read about it, but I bet sweet Mr. Bingley has some unexpected tricks up his perfectly tailored sleeves… lucky Jane!)

We need to see more of that represented in literature and film. Not only because it’s true – and I like to seek truth in fiction – but also because it’s way more interesting than retelling Elizabeth Bennet’s story. That’s been done over and over again. And seriously folks, Jane Austen already did it best.

First Sexy Books – remembering your literary first time

If you don’t already follow SexScribbler on WordPress, you should! Not only is she an amazing writer, she also reveals these bits and pieces that remind me we are never alone. Not now, in our over-connected world, and not ever. Who doesn’t remember the first time they discovered sex in a book? I certainly do… it’s one of those memories that will stay with me forever.

Mine was a surprise. I was a huge horse girl – one of those who preferred horses to boys all through puberty (and with good reason, considering the quality of the boys at the time… men, like wine, are better aged). Anyway, I volunteered at the school library, and as it was a K-12 school there were books at all levels. As I was reshelving some high schooler’s novel, I came across the evocatively-titled The Valley of Horses, by Jean M. Auel. Of course I grabbed it, and therein discovered not only a fabulously feminist version of prehistory, but also enough smoldering sex scenes to blow my little thirteen-year-old mind. Needless to say, I eagerly read through the rest of the series, and the rest is history.

***

My first experiences of sex were in the pages of books. I was an avid reader growing up and one day it dawned on me that not only could I find adventure and romance in books but there was sex too! …

Source: First Sexy Books