Pick a Path, Any Path

For the past few months, I’ve been working on my erotic novella trilogy. I released Book 1 on May 27th, 2014. Book 2 should be released at the end of this month and then, for the next couple of months, I’ll be working on the release of Book 3. Hopefully, that will be in the fall. The beauty, for me, of writing these stories is that I’m writing them for myself. I had a goal. A tale I wanted to tell in a way I wanted to tell it. And that’s what I’m doing – with input from dear and wise beta readers, and a brilliant copy-editor. I’ve hired an awesome designer for my covers and formatting, and I’m promoting the trilogy myself with the help of some wonderful friends and dedicated readers.

It has been an awesome ride.

I explain all of this because I’m probably like a lot of authors who never expected to have their work out there via self-publishing.

I had always imagined taking the traditional route. I hoped I would query agents, have one see potential in my work, take me on as a client and then shop it around to publishers who would do the whole thing – copy-editing, book doctoring, marketing, cover design, printing and distribution – the way it had been done for ages.

Instead, for this series – which I’ve written under my pen name since it’s erotic fiction and I wanted to distinguish it from my romantic suspense – I chose to take a different route. Yes, I started the traditional way by sending out queries. The responses, however, were requests for me to revise and then resubmit. The requested revision had to do with turning my gritty erotic tale into erotic romance with a happily ever after ending. “Romance” and “Happily Ever After”, are the last words I think about when I consider my trilogy, so that was not a request I felt comfortable fulfilling.

I’ll admit, the decision to keep the trilogy as is and publish it myself was an easy one because self-publishing and erotica seemed, to me at least, to go hand in hand.

Does that mean I’m against traditional publishing? Absolutely not. Though, sad as it is, some rather intelligent people seem to think so. There’s a petty battle being waged between some in the self-publishing corner and some in the traditional publishing corner. Because of that petty battle, any mention of one method over the other is often met with defensive comments and accusations.

I don’t speak for every author, I speak for myself, and I will say this – I admire anyone who puts their work out there for public consumption, no matter the publishing path they take.

This is not a business for the faint of heart. Reviewers – professional and otherwise – can be as wonderful as they can be brutal. You have to trust yourself and your work enough to ignore the random insults while absorbing constructive criticisms and acknowledging that maybe the work isn’t as brilliant as you originally thought. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be out there. It means everyone has a different opinion. And whether you’re self- or traditionally published, a newbie or Nora – you’re going to get great and not-so-great feedback. Success is not determined by the route you take but by timing, luck and the effort put into the project.

I self-published my current work and people seem to be enjoying it. I don’t care that some people look down on self-publishing. I’m not a threat to traditionally published authors, though some react as if I (meaning the entire self-published community) am indeed a threat, a peon, a person who couldn’t get work past the guardians, and decided to enter the market through some dark and dirty tunnel instead.

There’s not a shred of fact in that assumption. I said above that, in my mind, erotic fiction and self-publishing seem to go hand-in-hand. That’s why I chose this route for this series. Would I choose the same route for my romantic suspense? I don’t know. I believe I would query agents as usual. I believe I would hold the same hope I originally held for this story – that they’d see the potential in the work and want to take it on. I also know now that if they decide not to, other quality options are available to me.

*Most* self-published authors are people who believe in their work. People who have poured their passion into it. Who have a dream of seeing their name on a book. Who feel this giddy rush of pleasure when others buy the work, and an even greater rush when they receive a nice review. Most self-published authors aren’t looking to take over the publishing world. Nor are most looking to somehow belittle the accomplishments of traditionally published authors. They’re just creative people who have a story to tell. And if it’s riddled with typos? If the prose drags on or is incomprehensible? Does that mean every self-published book is the same? If you pick up a book from one of the big-five publishing houses and find it to be a wall-banger – and there have been plenty of wall-bangers over the years – is that a sign that standards for the entire industry have plummeted? Or does it mean you bought a book you didn’t like? Or a book that should have received more attention from an editor?

Is there arrogance in some self-published authors? Is there indignation? Of course there is. And it’s exactly the same for the traditionally published community. We’re all part of the same. We’re all authors. We all have stories to tell. Some of us tell them in a more commercially-acceptable way than others. Some of us have the business and common sense to take it slow, to check and recheck before putting it out there. Some of us are still learning, and some of us don’t give a shit. It all shows in the work – whether that work came to life via self- or traditional publishers.

It’s not about the path you take – or about the path someone else chooses to take. It’s about the story you tell.

 

And now for a shameless plug…

 

Cover RevealHistory is revised in this erotic tale of choice removed as the duty to submit wars with the desire to resist. Abigail Prescott, a 17th Century woman accused of witchcraft, seeks to prove herself unmarked by Satan. She willingly submits to her governor’s thorough examination but is ill-prepared for his shameful grueling probe, as it permits him to see and test her every inch and every hollow.

“The Governor is one hell of a Dom.” – award-winning author, Bianca D’Arc

“I defy you not to squirm and moan right along with Abigail as you read The Mark. Rejoice, erotic-fiction fans. Arla Dahl has arrived!”-best-selling author, Pam McKenna
“The Mark, a beautifully written and captivating novella, kept me on the edge of my seat and completely spellbound.” -Smart Mouth Smut
From the Author:
THE MARK, Book 1 in the Immoral Virtue Trilogy is a highly erotic, non-romantic tale of sexual awakening and abandon, of the duty to submit vs. the desire to resist. Due to its explicit sexual nature, with elements of BDSM and dubious consent, THE MARK is intended for audiences 18 and over.

Amazon   –   Barnes and Noble   -   Smashwords   –   KOBO

My Writing Process – Blog Hop

My thanks to Debora Dennis for inviting me to participate in this blog hop to discuss my writing process. I accepted twice – once last week under my pen name and once this week. To see what my alter ego had to say, check out the post here: Arla Dahl

What am I working on?

I am working on keeping track of who I am on a given day since I’ve been switching hats, playing erotic author one day and romantic suspense author the next. At this moment, I’m working on revisions for a story I fell in love with – flaws and all. I am now smoothing those flaws – or trying to.

CANYON ROAD, my current romantic suspense, is set amongst the stunning, though unyielding, Colorado Rockies. It delves into the heart of an abuse survivor as she fights to overcome the past and move on with her future, only to become trapped in the crazed and deadly world of a man determined to rescue his kidnapped sister and nephew. Survival techniques abuse survivors employ are explored as danger levels ratchet ever higher. But no technique is guaranteed, and without wit and a willingness to join forces, survival may be but a fading dream. As I drive my hero and heroine toward that common goal – to rescue mother and child from a deranged drug dealer – I force them to they fight a growing attraction that could – will – change them forever.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My hero is a regular guy who becomes a hero because he’s been thrown into a situation where he’s forced to think and behave in ways that are more fine-tuned and forceful than he’s accustomed to. His background isn’t military or law enforcement. His background is a strong family where each member does what they can for the others. I have a soft spot, myself, for men and women who show their own unique heroism in surprising ways, whose bravery has been untapped, untamed or undervalued. And I have a lust for those same heroes and heroines who can tap into something before-unseen that lies deep inside of them, something they call on as danger ratchets ever higher. No formal training. In a life or death situation, they don’t crumble. They become the one to count on.

Why do I write what I do?

When I sit with the family to enjoy a movie, that movie will most often have a main theme of action and suspense. Of course, I love comedy and romance. I love whodunits. But a movie with action? A movie that makes me think and wonder and hold my breath? That is the kind of movie I want to see. And that is the kind of book I want to read. And write.  

How does your writing process work?

There’s no question that I’m a planner. I am the workshop queen and have taken an uncountable amount of classes on the subject of craft. From each workshop, I’ve taken something, usually something I can weave with other somethings from other workshops.

I’ve pieced those bits together to give myself a process that excites me, that makes me eager to dive in and write. Charts are involved but nothing extreme – too much pre-planning and my muse goes on hiatus.

By the time I’m ready to start Chapter 1, I have a very loose list of events for the story, and a simple chart plotting the order of those events and their emotional impact on the characters.

That’s basically it. If I include too much information upfront, my creative side gets bored because there’s nothing new to discover during the actual writing. Also, if while I’m jotting the notes for potential story events, my muse is stirred, I will stop jotting and actually write the scene, then save it to be inserted into the story at some future point. Some of my most powerful and emotional scenes have been written well before the plotting was through. Its surprises like that which make me fall in love with the writing craft despite the occasional muse mutiny.

Thank you for coming by to see what I’m working on and how I work it. It’s been fun talking about my process and it’s been exciting to talk about my hero and heroine. They’ve been patiently waiting for me to finish some other work and come back to them. And now I am eager to do just that.

Also posting their writing process this week are Debra Druzy and Tuere Morton

Debra Druzy is querying her first finished Christmas story called SLEEPING WITH SANTA, a sensual contemporary romance. She had a job (several of them) but has gone the stay-at-home-mother route, making writing her full-time gig, in the wee hours of the morning, during school hours, and any spare time in between. http://www.debradruzy.com

Tuere Morton writes young adult fiction by night and is a health professional by day, earning an MS from the University of Stony Brook. When she isn’t voraciously reading, the Long Island native’s fearless children and lovable German Shepherd serve as inspirations for her stories. She hopes you’ll enjoy the first book in her series, ICON. http://tueremorton.wordpress.com/

 

 

Throwback Thursday – March 20, 1988

Twenty six years ago today, I made the move to adopt my first pet. I wanted a puppy. From a shelter. My mom happened to call a local shelter after she learned I planned to drive more than an hour to one of the more popular places. Well, at the local shelter, she learned about a shih-tzu who had been there for one day short of two months. The dog was five years old.

I reminded her that I wanted a puppy, not a five year old. Thing is, when the shelter told her this dog had already been in their care for one day short of two months, they also told her dogs who are not adopted by the two-month period are put down. Healthy, young, happy or otherwise. This was not a no-kill shelter.

The five year old shih-tzu had only hours left to live unless someone got over there and signed her out.

My mom, my sister, my grandmother and I piled into the car and hightailed it over. High-tailed was the shih-tzu the moment she saw us. It was as if she knew we were there to rescue her from imminent death.

Tiffy in her sweats greeting a piglet

The shelter didn’t know anything about her except her age and that she seemed like a purebred shih-tzu. They said she was found wandering the streets and, from her appearance, had been out and about for at least several weeks. This was March 20th. That means this little one had suffered the worst winter weather with few chances to find food or even water instead of ice. But she survived and happily came home with me where I immediately gave her a bath and a haircut.

She must have been treated well with her family, with baths and other pampering, because she lifted her chin, turned this way and that, closed her eyes and seemed to bask in her day at the spa.

Her name was Tiffy. She became my constant companion, my sounding board, my cuddle queen, my full heart.

I knew nothing about dogs before her because I’d never been able to have a pet – allergies, partly. House rules, mostly.

But Tiffy taught me what I needed to know. She was patient and understanding. Never seeming to forget what nearly happened to her and never – ever – letting me forget that she was not only grateful but more than worth the effort.

Tiffy in her favorite sweater and hat

Tiffy lived to the ripe old dog age of 117, which is only 16 human years. I had her for 11 of those years and my life was enriched because of that time with her. Because of her. I’ll never forget that precious beauty. I’ll never forget her prima donna stubbornness nor her unconditional adoration. I’ll never forget how she waited to have her hat and coat put on before we went for a walk, nor how she’d run and bark at dangers in her sleep. I’ll never forget the way she looked at me with love when I carried her out of that shelter, nor how she looked at me with bittersweet thanks, years later, when I helped put an end to the suffering of her cancer-riddled body.

I’ve rescued other animals since then. I’ve adopted, fostered and adopted out kittens and cats. I have six cats now in my house, and I love each of them more than I can ever express. But there will never be another to fill my heart and soul like Tiffy.

Tell me about your first pet. Who was he or she? What do you remember most, what made you smile, what melted your heart?

Revision Tool – Text-to-Speech

AGood books a writer, when you snuggle into the corner of your sofa or favorite chair to read, do you read aloud or to yourself? When you write a scene, do you think it, hear it in your head or speak it, dictate it? What about revisions? When you sit with your story, red pen and highlighter in hand, do you read those pages to yourself or do you let yourself hear the words, the flow of a scene, the rhythm of the sentences?

For many of us, the most enjoyable way to read a book is silently. I have found, however that the best way for me to determine whether a scene or a chapter I’ve written is working, is to have it read to me. But, of course, since what I’m working on is probably only a draft, not a polished piece, I shy away from handing it to someone. Instead, I use a great tool called, TextAloud.

I’m not a spokesperson for this software, I just like it and want to tell you about it. You might know of other text-to-speech programs, but this one works for me for a variety of reasons.

1. It’s affordable. :-)

2. You can set the pace of playback so you can edit as it goes.

3. You can modify the voices depending on the lines being read.

4. It drones.

Reasons 1 and 2, I believe, are self explanatory. Reason 3? The program comes with standard voices but I bought extra that are slightly more realistic. I regularly use three female voices and two male voices during playback of my scenes. I mix them up so one narrates the story while the others take turns with the dialogue, adding personality – as it were – to each character. It’s easy but time consuming to set up voice changes so I don’t do it all the time. I usually save the variety of that for when I’m getting closer to that polished work. If you’re looking for ways to procrastinate, then adding a variety of voices does make for a more enjoyable listen.

I, of course, never procrastinate. I’m sure you never do, either.

Reason #4 might sound like a negative but, for me, it’s a definite positive. The voices are much better than computer voices of days (thankfully) gone by. Still, they come through with a mechanical rhythm. Emotion and inflection are, of course, absent.

TextAloudI find that helpful. Hearing prose recited in this way highlights long-winded sentences, boring phrases, clumps of description or verbose dialogue. It also makes the snappy prose more obvious – if it sounds good while droning on, then chances are, you’ve hit the right balance in that bit of story. If it sounds monotonous, dull, never ending, you know changes need to be made… the change can be as great as slicing an entire scene out of the book or as simple as modifying a word or varying sentence length.

This particular text-to-speech program is my non-judgmental partner, my otherwise-silent alter-ego. No inner editor there. I can never take offense by something it says because its words are mine and if I’m unhappy with them, it’s up to me to make them better. And if I am happy with them? Then I know I’m getting close to ‘there’.

What is your revision process? Do you wait until you’ve reached the end then go back to the beginning to edit or do you edit as you go? Do you hand off your first draft work to critique partners for feedback or polish before passing it on? Have you ever used a text-to-speech program to help you hear the story? If not, would you? Do you have your own go-to tools?

The Agony of Defeat, The Thrill of Victory

I’ve taken on a new venture. Writing erotic fiction. My go-to genre has always been Romantic Suspense and so by taking a little time now to work on an erotic novella series, titled Immoral Virtue, I feel like I’m having an adulterous affair with a different –and most salacious – type of character.

It’s fun. It’s torture. And so is the plot. ;-) Immoral Virtue Trilogy - Arla Dahl

Thing is, I’ve given myself a deadline in the form of a date by which Book 1 in this trilogy – The Mark –  will be released. Look for it this spring. The cover for The Mark is being designed as I type this, a new website for the identity I’ve assumed as its author – Arla Dahl (www.arladahl.com) – is being created, I’m working on some swag, and I’m writing Books 2 and 3 in the series.

Which brings me first to the agony of defeat.

I had been struggling with a specific chapter and had therefore saved several versions of it so I could flip back and forth to cut and paste, combine, highlight, etc. After a full day of that – seriously, a FULL day – I had finally found my groove and produced what was as close to my vision for the chapter as I had come to date. And then I did something stupid – I clicked and clicked “undo” so I could get it back to a previous version to be saved with a different file name. However, instead, of clicking “save as”, I clicked “save”, thus overwriting everything I had done.

Like *that * a day’s work was gone. I was crushed.

This happened last night so the prickle of agony is still there.

This morning, I found myself questioning where to go from here, and thought I could easily move my deadline. It’s self-imposed after all. No one is counting on me but me… but…

With the Olympics having just ended, the words, “the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat” kept ringing in my head. And I remembered something one Olympian endured – a heart wrenching twist of fate which obliterated all chance of victory for him. As all Olympians, he had trained harder than most of us can imagine, he was pumped and ready to go. The bell rang. It was time for him to start, time for him to shine. He took off.. and stumbled. He, literally, tripped himself up. That amazing, talented man was then forced to spend what should have been the most thrilling moments of his life trying to recover from that fatal mistake. His dream was crushed the instant the clock started ticking and no amount of adjusting could save it.

THAT is the agony of defeat.

A lost file? Ha. Can’t even compare.

It can, however, become the thrill of victory. I have only to begin again. At least I, unlike the athlete to whom I referred, have that option.

Let the games begin…

How 15 Minutes Changed My Life

vacuum

Like most people, when it comes to housework, I do it when I have to. I vacuum when clouds of cat hair rise from the carpet as I walk on it, I dust and I put stuff away. I’m not, obviously, what you’d call a happy homemaker. I never was and probably never will be. But, of course, I like a clean and tidy house. Ah, the dilemma.

I read an article recently which suggested taking 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before bedtime to tidy the house – you know, pile the strewn papers, empty the bathroom trash, put away the ‘stuff’ that appears from nowhere on the kitchen counter. All of that. Morning and night.Cleaning supplies

Well, if you do that, only fifteen minutes, the first day you’ll see a whole lot of things you could put away, and feel overwhelmed, knowing it would take much longer than 15 minutes to do it. But stick to those fifteen minutes. Do it daily and soon – since you’re tidying before bedtime, too – by  morning, there’s not much to tidy. What then? Pick up a dust cloth. Spend the fifteen minutes doing that. No? Then organize a bookshelf. In the evening? Vacuum or pay the bills. I know, I know. I said those 15 minutes changed my life, how is that? By making me a happy homemaker after all?

Um. No.

By organizing and energizing me.

My routine used to be to get up at dawn, feed the cats and get to work (from home, writing). Before the rest of the house stirred, I’d take a break from working, get on the treadmill, shower make breakfast for all then head back to work… taking a serious break again only for lunch and dinner.

Each morning, my sleepy eyes would scan the mess that was my home. I knew I’d have to spend an entire day each week cleaning it and sorting the mail that had piled so high it was falling over. But I had work to do so I kept putting off that day of cleaning. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

By forcing those 15 minutes into my morning and evening routines, the mess was gone. Once everything was in its place after a couple of 15-minute tidy sessions, it was easier to clean – and the clean was more noticeable – and lasting. I could go to work and not worry if someone came to the door unexpectedly. :oops: My bills were paid on time and papers were filed where they were supposed to be. Knowing the chore would be limited to 15 minutes made it manageable. It also awakened the worker-bee in me. I might lag when it comes to home chores, but when I work, I work hard. I looked at it as a job and a challenge. How much can I accomplish in this 15 minute block?

Something about it was energizing. It also didn’t hurt that I could scan the house and see how pretty it actually was.

The added bonus? The life-changing effect? My mind feels clearer. As if that has been tidied, too. Decluttering my space decluttered my mind, seeming to clear a path for the muse to come out and play. I picture her now, as she had been, like a hoarder trapped in her own space, tripping and climbing over clutter so she could come to rest on my shoulder all day. The more clutter there was, the longer she struggled to get through. The harder it was for me to work.

Fifteen minutes in the morning. It takes ten for the coffee to brew. Five for it to get nice and hot on the warming plate. There’s my fifteen minutes. In the evening, on the way to the bedroom, make a quick stop here and there to pick up things in the way. The incentive? Waking early and seeing everything – mostly – in its place. Of course, no matter how diligent you are, there will always – always – be that one dirty dish in the sink that no one ever recalls placing there even though the dishwasher is two inches away.

Fifteen minutes. It made the air cleaner in my house – I have cats, you know.

My Pride

Fifteen minutes. It decluttered my space and, by extension, freed my muse. Fifteen minutes. It makes unexpected company less unwelcome (ha), clears the dust from the muse’s eyes, and has, honestly, changed my life.

Are We There Yet?

When I saw the date of my last post here, I shivered with thoughts of how much time had passed since then. I thought, like so many people, about how quickly time slips past us. But as I sit here in my kitchen typing this note, inhaling the aroma of baking cookies and enjoying the smooth flowing rhythm of white twinkling lights on my Christmas tree just a yard away, I realize how much “life” and “living” has been packed into these last few months. Months BEFORE Christmas had been announced in stores.

It’s true, I haven’t posted anything here since July. I have stopped by intending to post, though. Inevitably, something would require my attention and off I’d go again. If I didn’t stop to give some deep thought to why this blog has been so quiet for so long, I’d say the days simply got away from me, time has moved faster than ever, I’m lazy, I’m void of ideas…

None of those excuses/reasons are true, however. I’ve been writing. I’ve been a second pair of eyes for my daughter’s college essays, I’ve designed digital albums for my husband’s customers, visited with friends, paid bills, cooked, cared for sick pets… and worked on Book 2 of my erotic novella trilogy which I intend to self publish in the spring.

I’ve been busy. I’ve had richness in my life. I may be moving a little slower now than when I was in my teens and twenties, but time is not moving any faster. However, more is expected of us than ever before. We read and post tweets and status updates that provide minute by minute reporting of what we’re doing and before we know it an hour has passed. Two hours… But we’re so focused on the reporting of it, that we’re not living it. At least I’m not.

It’s my desire to step back a little. To head into 2014 with a new appreciation of time’s ethereal design. It’s not meant to be captured. It’s meant to be lived – and acknowledged. It’s the foundation for memories.

2014 will be a year of doing, and of savoring every moment. If that includes tweets and status updates – or even blog posts – that’s great. As long as the moments themselves are not shrugged off, as long as the focus isn’t on the outcome but the path to it.

My husband often says something that I tend to shrug off because I’m “too busy” and “need to get there”.

“It’s the journey,” he says. “Without the journey, the destination is just more of the same.”

May your 2014 and beyond be a journey and may your destination be that much richer because of it.

Porn, Erotic Fiction, Erotic Romance: What’s the Difference?

By now, nearly all of us have heard of Mommy Porn. It’s an obnoxious term used for erotic fiction geared toward women. While it was the sweeping success of FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY which attracted so much attention to the erotic genre, erotic fiction, in various forms, has been around and enjoyed – by women and men – for centuries.

I think back to the romance novels of the 1970’s and 80’s. They were called, Bodice-rippers because of the standard theme of aggressive (by today’s standards, abusive) heroes who manhandled the heroines, berated them as if their respective roles were lord and serf, kidnapped them, imprisoned them, and ultimately raped them… only to somehow be portrayed as having been so deeply wounded that only our brave heroines could ever bring light into their lives. And forgive them. Lords of the Were - Bianca D'arc

Today, those heroines would be considered TSTL (too stupid to live), but back then? They offered a glimpse at what would become the strong independent and smart heroines who populate many books of today. Heroines who would never forgive their rapists. Heroines who have spunk and intelligence that, at the least, matches, and at times surpasses, the hero’s. Women who appreciate their own beauty in all its forms. Women who embrace their sexuality – in all its forms – and are responsible enough to fully enjoy it.

Erotic fiction helps to remind us how we – whether male or female – are all sexual beings. How sex for the pleasure of it is not just exciting, it’s normal. Of course, some plot lines fail to remind readers to be smart, safe and aware if you’re going to be sexually active. And some blur the lines of reality and fiction in quite shocking ways. But the target audience of erotic fiction is a reader of some maturity who would understand erotic fiction is just that – fiction meant to arouse.

Bound to be PleasuredHow focused that level of arousal is helps distinguish the difference between erotic romance, erotic fiction and straight porn. That’s not to say any one of those is intended to be less arousing than the others but rather how focused the piece is on sex versus emotion.

To break it down into workable bits, we can look at a story as having three parts – beginning, middle and end. What happens within a story that propels it through action, emotion, narration and dialogue from one point to the next is plot.

Porn does not have a beginning, middle and end – and yes, that means foreplay, climax and afterglow cigarettes are not the beginning, middle and end.

With porn, take out the sex and there’s nothing to the story.

Erotic fiction, or erotica, is a story with a beginning, middle and end that does not end with a happily-ever-after for the star players, whether hero and heroine, hero and hero, werewolf and heroine or any other combination. There are usually several explicit sex scenes within these stories, and there is absolutely no sex behind closed doors/fade to black moments and no purple prose. Characters may care for – or even love – one another, but love is not at all central to the plot.   The Sinners Club

Take the sex out of the story, and the story is still there. It’s not porn because emotions will be explored and expanded. There can be yearning, fear, concern, affection or any other emotion. Not just lust. As readers, we will get to know the characters beyond their sexual desires, though we won’t see them riding off into the sunset. Well… we’ll see them riding but not necessarily into the sunset or with forever in mind.

In erotic romance, the sex scenes can/will be plentiful and explicit, as in erotic fiction or erotica, but the heart-warming feeling of commitment between sexual partners will be clearly presented, built upon and defined.

And yes, it will end with an implied, “…and they lived happily ever after.” Though, some of today’s erotic romances end with a simple “happily for now” instead. There is explicit sex within the pages, but it is not just sex. Instead, it is sex with a sense of commitment between the characters. A joining of hearts, not just bodies. We would see how the characters are attracted to more than each other’s body. How when they look at each other, they see a person who helps make them whole and happy. That brings their story – with all its hot, uninhibited sex – from porn to erotic fiction to erotic romance.

PorAnne Rice Beauty Trilogyn = sex without plot (sex for the sake of sex)

Erotic Fiction/Erotica= sex as an integral but not sole element of plot (sex within a story that has a clear beginning, middle and end as well as some level of emotional depth)

Erotic Romance = sex between characters whose deep emotional connection grows throughout the story and leads to either a happily-ever-after or happily-for-now ending

As readers, we enjoy various levels of heat in the books we read – even within the erotica genre. Some of us enjoy paranormal erotica – whether paranormal erotic romance, paranormal porn or something in between. Some of us enjoy BDSM, ménage, dubious consent, historical or any combination of those and others.

Readers like myself and, probably, like you, regularly browse actual and virtual bookshelves for the type of stories that ignite and quench our desires. With authors’ interests as varied as readers’, there is a book out there for everyone – every taste, every desire, and every level of heat.

 

Rent-a-Cart

photo-5It’s amazing what we get used to and assume is normal not just for us but for everyone.

I live in a rather populated section of the city, so there are several supermarkets/grocers in my neighborhood. Of the closest, three are on the smaller size and one is quite large. I usually go to the larger one. During my last visit there, as I was returning my shopping cart to the stall, an elderly couple was standing there grumbling about something and looking rather confused. photo-2

I greeted them and they watched me with interest as I slid the front of my cart into the back of one already in the stall. And then they watched me with more interest as I popped the ‘key’ from the cart in front of mine into the slot in my cart’s handle in order to retrieve the quarter I had to pay as a refundable rental fee for the cart.

Their expressions went from confused to completely aghast. It seems they had just returned from spending several years in Florida and had never seen the contraption our grocer had set up for the shopping carts and had never considered the notion of paying for one.

photo-4It’s normal here now but it wasn’t normal here about a decade ago.

I remember when I first saw the carts all chained together. I thought, for sure, we were not permitted to use them, but I couldn’t fathom why. Annoyance soon replaced confusion however when I realized I – and all shoppers – had to have quarters at the ready so we could borrow a shopping cart.

Of course, this process of paying forced people to return those carts to the stalls rather than leave them scattered around the parking lot since the only way to get your quarter back was to chain your cart to another. It also prevented people from taking the carts home with them. And you might be surprised by how many people did just that. Some didn’t have cars so they walked their groceries home in the same cart in which they purchased them. Others used them as aides to deliver newspapers or collect nickel return recyclables from other people’s trash. And still others did it just to be wise guys and then they’d leave carts around the neighborhood in all sorts of places – like abused mutilated bodies or failed art exhibits. I guess the description depends on your point of view… photo-1

About the couple from Florida… I showed them how they, too, could gain the prize of a shopping cart, explaining how to use the key to plunge the quarter in fully in order to disengage the cart holding it in line. I laughed when the women muttered something I know I muttered when I first saw these things years ago, “What a stupid idea. Who thought of this?”

I just hope they remembered how to get their quarter back once they finished with the cart.

What about you? Do your grocers make you pay for a shopping cart? Are there other inconveniences or oddities in your area that you once thought were universal then learned were unique?

Beta Readers, Feedback, Pitch Sessions and Pride

My local writing chapter, Long Island Romance Writers, is hosting its 16th Annual Agent/Editor Luncheon this Friday, June 7th. Soon after, in July, RWA is holding its Annual Conference. Both will be a time for mingling, networking, connecting and reconnecting, and, most of all, pitching our work to interested editors and literary agents.

Often, simmering below the fear of the actual pitch is the fear of rejection. Rejections, however, are sewn into this business and no one has, as of yet, determined a workaround. The best thing to do is prepare. By that, I don’t mean we need to expect a rejection, but that we need to put rejections into perspective.

When I say rejections are sewn into this business, I not only refer to agents and editor rejections but also rejections from readers. Face it, not everyone will like our work. This is such a subjective business and we know negativity is out there – or if we don’t know, we find out soon enough.

Unfortunately, I think we tend to cling to the negative even if its dose is a tiny fraction of the positive.

I’m working on an erotic novella trilogy. Book 1 is finished, Book 2 is plotted and waiting for attention, and Book 3 is, at this point, merely a back-cover blurb. I’ve received great feedback from my beta readers. All honest, helpful and encouraging. Out of the seven people who read it, only one did not like it.

Notice, I didn’t say, six loved it.

Though six did love it, one did not. That one is the one that matters most to me. That one unhappy reader, the one negative review, tends to be the one that carries the most weight with us as artists. We pour so much of ourselves into our creations that one dissenting voice comes through as if on a bullhorn.

Alone, that’s not a bad thing. It’s what we do after we’ve digested the reason for the negativity constructive criticism (it’s all about perspective) that matters.

Do we agree? Do we see a way to make adjustments to mitigate some of the concerns raised without compromising our vision for our story? Can we take the concerns to the positive beta readers for additional feedback or perspective? Some of the most negative feedback, when applied properly, can take a rough patch of story and make it shine.

This type of refocusing attention also applies to pitching our stories to agents and editors. Some will latch onto the idea with enthusiasm while others might cringe, pleasantly say it’s simply not for them, or dismiss you – not just your story – outright. And yes, the latter has happened to people I know and love.

So what? Not everyone will love us. Not everyone will love our work. That’s fine. All is good. Criticism is criticism no matter how gently or cruelly delivered. Our job is to determine its value and our next move.

As I said, this business is subjective. It’s truly as simple as that. If we’ve studied craft, applied ourselves to the project, poured our heart, our tears and our sighs into our stories, and others have rewarded us with honest, unreserved feedback and we’ve applied common sense revisions, then we have done our job.

Someone will always be there to point out a flaw. Others will want what we have to offer because they will ‘get it’. They will get us. They will see the potential in our project and make us feel good about it.

So don’t let ‘no’ stop you. Absorb it. Understand the reason for it. Decide whether to give it weight, and if so, how much. Determine the best direction for it – additional consideration or dismissal – and move forward undeterred.

If you’re anything like me, your muse will have it no other way.   

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