Friday, December 28, 2012

Extreme Writer's Block

I suppose most writers have trouble writing now and again. I've blogged about some small cures for writer's block. I'm blocked sometimes. I get sick of rewriting and rewriting and rewriting, or life gets in the way. Often it's just laziness and aversion to pain. Like most writers, I push through. But some folks just can't. I have two acquaintances like that. 

I know a woman who planned to write an autobiography.  She had an extraordinary past, well worth reading about. She proudly told her children she was writing the book for them. She collected files and created a special room to write in. But she didn't write. Decades after making the choice to be a writer, her files and special room stand dusty and unused. She tells her children she has writer's block.

And then there's a man who tells his family he's going to write a travel book about certain sacred religious sites being destroyed by parking lot style progress. It's an important and controversial project. His family is in awe. They call it "His Book"--in caps. He quit his job to spend three years exploring these holy places. And three years after that? Not one word on a page. He also says he has writer's block.

Given that I get a lesser form of the malady, you'd think I'd be sympathetic. But I'm not. These folks are trying to collect on prestige they aren't entitled to. It's a form of narcissism. How long can a writer have writer's block before they shouldn't call themselves a writer? I'm not sure. But it's not years. It's not decades. If writer's block is so severe that it's paralyzing, then do something else! Don't call yourself a writer. There are plenty of other, easier ways to be creative or to give life meaning.  The supposed status of being a writer comes with a high price. The actual work is often tedious and hard (and rejected).

Grandiose delusion from fake achievement bugs me. It's commonplace, though. Like when folks say they have a master's degree--having done everything but the thesis. Huh? Isn't writing the thesis important? Isn't that proof of successful study? Hey, if the actual thesis is irrelevant, I want me some admiration for being an Olympic-quality sprinter. I've got everything but the speed.

Best wishes for the new year!



Thursday, December 6, 2012

New Ebook Publishing Partnership: Cosmo Red Hot Reads from Harlequin

Harlequin and Cosmopolitan magazine have just announced a new partnership to publish novella-length eBooks. Called Cosmo Red Hot Reads from Harlequin, this digital first series will launch May 2013.

Red Hot Reads is actively looking for authors who can write the Cosmopolitan fun, fearless female sensibility in a contemporary sexy romance.

Writing guidelines can be found at www.harlequin.com/harlequincosmo.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Critique Me Maybe

I've been member of a lot of critique groups over the years. With only one exception, I valued each and every critique, even if I thought it was wrong, or when the critique was just a scattering of smiley faces. Their comments or glyphs--as a whole--made me a better writer.

To keep a critique group healthy, the critiquee (the official writerly term is "victim"), must shut up and listen to the critiquer. Not explain, not clarify, not defend. The basis for this "shut up rule" is that a writer can't be standing over every reader's shoulder to explain what they really meant. If a critiquer says some passage doesn't make sense, maybe it doesn't make sense.

I just recently dropped out of my critique group because the "shut up rule" wasn't followed. Frankly, I don't care if a writer rejects my advice. My comments are opinion, not truth. My issue with defensiveness is that it wastes way too much time.

One group member would always respond to suggestions with long, drawn out descriptions of back story--not in the novel. Another member spent a lot of time telling us what would happen in the next chapter and how that would fix the problems in the current one.  She would also say "Since two of you said this was a problem in my manuscript, it must be a problem." Like critique is the same thing as an election. When confronted with her defensive behavior, she told us her other critique group knew that she wasn't being defensive when she did stuff like that, so she assumed she would always get a pass on the shut up rule. She was defensive about being defensive. She would also grunt her approval or disapproval at critiques directed to another member. I absolutely hated that.
 
Anyone who's in a critique group should, of course, decide if the critiques are valuable. Take it or leave it, burn it or worship it. But they should do it on their own time. If a victim requires postmortem analysis or cleansing rituals, they should do it afterwards, not during.

Clarifying or rationalizing or interrupting during a critique group meeting insults the process.


Psychology Today: Do You Get Defensive When You Get Feedback?

For a great example of how not to respond to critique, see: Why Isn't My Book Selling? 1/1 Jihad Britain

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Samhain Publishing's Seventh Anniversary!



In celebration of their anniversary, Samhain Publishing has commissioned a cute and sexy video on "How to download an e-book".

I laughed out loud.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

BDSM Collars: Definitions



The BDSM collar is a symbol of being owned. Collars are often described as the BDSM analogue of a wedding ring.  Certainly, a collar can indicate a strong level of commitment and care, but it doesn't have to. Just like the concept of slavery, ownership means different things to different people.

At its most basic level, ownership is a mental thing, like loyalty and love. That means there's nothing wrong with a sub wearing a collar. Conversely,  I’ve known slaves who don't wear collars at all. Instead she might wear a vanilla-appearing necklace, or be tattooed or pierced.

Sometimes an owner will hold a formal collaring ceremony, with friends and family as witnesses. More often it's private. And once in awhile a collaring is completely virtual. These collaring rituals can be romantic, crude or beyond gross, just like the people involved. Sometimes Master and slave will just spontaneously go off collar shopping.

A catty term that's used frequently by BDSM practitioners is the “Velcro collar”. A Velcro collar snaps off and on quickly. It's a contemptuous phrase describing a collar for folks who don't take the whole relationship thing seriously, and hop from one interaction to the another. A Velcro collar is quite different from a "play collar", which is a fun toy for Master/slave roleplay.

Another sort of collar is the "collar of consideration". This jewelry marks out ownership territory without any ownership commitment. The collar is supposed to scare off other suitors. It has nothing in common with an engagement ring. It's not a promise. It's a plan B, while the potential Master looks for a better slave. I don't respect people who resort to (or consent to) such nonsense.

An acquaintance of mine was looking to be owned, and was speaking to a potential Master in another city. He wanted to temporarily mark her as his, just in case she turned out to be good enough.  He ordered her to wear a "collar of consideration" before she went to a BDSM event. And he even demanded that she get her own! She made her collar out of twine and ribbon. She was mighty proud of it. But I thought the guy was rotten and lazy. Needless to say, that relationship didn't progress very far.

A Master who wants the status of a collared slave but doesn't care enough about the symbolism to actually supply a collar, is telling the world loud and clear how well he'll treat her when she's well and truly owned.

The collar pictured above is available online from the Chain Gang.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Good Toy, Bad Toy

EL James is teaming up with the erotic website Lovehoney to launch a collection of 50 Shades-inspired sex toys.  I think it's amusing. I also believe it's a good thing. Whatever encourages couples to experiment with some kinky loving is fine by me.

However, there's been some blogger criticism of this sex toy collection, along the lines of "That's not a real BDSM toy."

My take on BDSM (and, by extension, toys) is that the interaction should be fun for both parties. There's no "lifestyle directive" that prohibits certain toys because they are too soft and fluffy. So what if the 50 Shades paddle is padded? It is likely to make a nice smacking sound. In fact, some folks think the best BDSM scenes involve mindfucks. Sounds are legitimate tools for the mindfuck. And maybe an expensive, light-hearted bag'o'toys will be the gateway to bigger and better things. Or not. It doesn't matter, as long as everybody is enjoying themselves.

My husband (recall, he's a converted vanilla) once bought us a blue suede flogger. I was charmed. The thing is cute and pretty. It doesn't really work well for our purposes, but I'm grateful that he bought it. It's the kind of small step that should be encouraged in a vanilla conversion.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Kickstarter: A Fishy Story

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects. Ideally, the crowd-sourcing site could encourage arty diversity by supplying money for risky, non-commercial endeavors. But is that actually happening? I'm not so sure.

A "sci-fi fantasy" novel called The Drowning World is one of the projects begging for backers.

In this first-person story, a mermaid from Aquantis heads to the coast on a spy mission. She'll ultimately fall in love with a human man, and have to make difficult choices. This particular little mermaid speaks in modern teenage colloqialisms such as "This would be a test unlike any other I'd ever aced," and has a talking dolphin sidekick.

The kick-startee Brenda Peterson is asking for $5,000 from backers. She's reached that goal--and more. She needs the money to pay the best professional editors, designers, and proofreaders to polish her self-pubbed book.

You, too, can help her! Back her for $15 or more, you'll get a copy of the mermaid book. If you pledge $500 or more, Peterson will read 50 pages of your manuscript and give you a writing consultation! Yes. She'll edit. That's pretty nervy. Peterson isn't good enough to edit her own self-pubbed book, but she'll charge you $500 bucks. 

In any case, 19 pages of the novel are now available on amazon for 2.99. That's right. 2.99 for a snippet. I wonder how much the entire Kickstarter-backed novel is going to cost.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I'm a Sad Football Fan

Where's my Tebow?
Football season is starting in earnest. I'm a long-time Broncos fan--in the loosest sense, as my knowledge of the game pretty well centers on the personalities of the players.

I saw this ad for an Ashton Drake doll, licensed by the NFL. This baby sums up my feelings. I'm a sad fan. I want my Tebow back. Now I'll have to comfort myself with longing looks at Champ Bailey.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

BDSM Books for Writers

Given the the popularity of the Fifty Shades books, I started to wonder if more romance writers will jump on the BDSM bandwagon. If so, how will these folks do research? Will these authors, like EL James, just use the internet? Or will they buy and read "BDSM for authors who don't know much about BDSM" books?

I've already mentioned Tymber Dalton's book Whip Me, Beat Me, Make Me Write Hot Sex in a previous post. (In related news, Tymber has recently published a marketing book Pimp Yourself: Easy, Painless, and Cheap Self-Promotion for Writers).

BDSM for Writers by Charley Ferrer is also a potential resource. Ferrer tells us "It's imperative to understand that BDSM is a distinct community with its own belief system and even its own psychological make-up."  This grand statement is intended to establish her authority in BDSM matters. It's also wildly incorrect. Kink folk don't take a certification class in order to call themselves BDSM practitioners. They are not a mono-culture. BDSMers are just as inhomogenous as the rest of society. I suspect such simplifications may be a general problem with "BDSM for authors who don't know much about BDSM" books. In reality, one person can't explain everything about BDSM. Not the belief system, not the psychology. That usually makes writing BDSM fiction guides pretentious or defensive. Or both.

I was pretty interested when The ABC's of BDSM by Dama deNoche came out.  This book is not meant for writers. Officially anyway. It's a sort of dictionary, wherein various BDSM terms are defined. I downloaded a sample--getting all the A's and midway through the Bs.

I don't review BDSM fiction in this blog, because I consider it a conflict of interest. But I'm okay with reviewing non-fiction. So here's a review of the sample.  (Is it fair to review just part of a book? Maybe not. But the abc's aren't intrinsically biased, and there's no true climax and resolution in a dictionary. )

The ABC's of BDSM starts out with a forward which refers to the "Lifestyle".  Guide books use the lifestyle term all the time. I've blogged about my objections to it. In my opinion, it's an example of pretension: everyone's doing the same thing and lives the same way, and the way BDSMers live is important enough to be capitalized.  

Now to the dictionary--at least up until the middle of the b's. There are indeed many relevant entries in the sample: anal play, aftercare, bondage. The emotional content is, unfortunately, missing. The book gives a dry recounting of what's what. Not the whys. Why does the bottom get a charge out of immobility in bondage? What does the Top get out of tying someone up? No answers in this book.

The weirdest thing about deNoche's book (partway through the B's at least) is a rather long explication of Bestiality. She points out that "the human and the dog can be physically harmed during the sex act even if they are trying to be careful and safe." Most of us, Lifestylers included, would not classify bestiality as a part of BDSM. Neither would they think a dog is capable of being "careful and safe." To her credit, she does admit that consensuality is absent in these interactions.

Books on writing BDSM don't sell as well as general writing books like The Elements of Style by Strunk and White, or Stephen King's On Writing. That could mean that most writers unfamiliar with BDSM use the internet as a research partner. That's probably not such a bad thing--if the research includes investigating the emotional aspects of kink. There are many intimate, highly moving blogs by practitioners on the web.

Another option for BDSM writers is to read guide books for BDSMers. I'd recommend books by Jay Wiseman, Dossie Easton, and John and Libby Warren.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Saturday Musings: Rough Times in Colorado

Fire in Northern Colorado
It's been a difficult summer here in Colorado.

In June and July we had fires in the nearby foothills. I took this photo from my back deck during the first week of the High Park fire. The plume of smoke reflects the setting sun.

Colorado is certainly feeling the effects of global climate change. Summers are replete with damaging hailstorms, tornadoes, abnormal heat and, of course, fires. Even the winters are too warm, resulting in overwintering pine beetle, which kills off the pines. Last year, when the snow fell, the trees were fully leafed. The hard frost--and a true autumn--never came.

Carpenter Greg Zanis erecting crosses in Aurora
In late July came the Aurora movie theater shootings. Discussion of gun control heated up afterwards. Some folks were offended: "Can't we grieve first? Can't we talk about changing laws and society later?" Um. No.  Kids on Facebook or politicians don't get to tell me how and when to grieve.  It's reasonable for tragedy to propel action. It makes zero sense to me that citizens can purchase an AK-47. Not everyone here agrees, though. The sales of firearms in Colorado jumped the week after the shootings.

I've lived in Colorado for a long time, so it was painful to watch news coverage of the Aurora rampage. Beyond my horror and sadness, I also resented hearing sentimental platitudes about how the community of Aurora will eventually heal. The news programs used Littleton after Columbine as an example of a community coming together after a tragedy. In reality, the Columbine killings fractured the community. Video feed showing swarms of police outside the school building, waiting for the victims to crawl out, or drop down from windows, is something you can't forget. Even after the shooters killed themselves, the police remained crouched outside the school, weapons at the ready, while children and teachers bled inside.

Columbine resulted in years of accusations, civil suits, and fake martyrs. Poignantly, the carpenter who erected makeshift crosses to acknowledge the Columbine dead felt forced to remove the crosses after he got too many nasty phone calls. His highly personal method of grieving included acknowledging the death of the two teen gunmen. A group of Grief Deciders took it upon themselves to harass the man. The Columbine crosses builder, carpenter Greg Zanis, returned to Colorado recently. This time he honored the Aurora victims. He's pictured above. I'm glad he came back. I'm not very religious, but when I see compassion mixed with sincerity, I have to applaud it. Grief Deciders don't have either.

Flash mob
On a less serious note, today is National Dance Day.
To celebrate, I participated in a flash mob in old town Fort Collins. We all did some Zumba grooving. A little silliness is good for my soul. Especially when I can lord my flash mob participation over my kids. Because, yanno, I'm just that cool.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Time Off

I'll be taking a blogging break for most of the summer, due to a crazy confluence of family, fun, and a slew of non-writing deadlines.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Links

Vetting an Independent Editor Sound advice from the Writer Beware Blog
Amazon's Plagiarism Problem Literotica fertile source for erotica plagiarists 
Best Practices for Amazon Ebook Sales. Not
Is Writing Replacing Reading?
Do Orgasms Make You Live Longer? Yes, yes, yessss!
Kinky Killer on Dateline NBC The extra-marital affair might be relevant to the murder, but the BDSM is not.

***

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guest Post by Verity Ant, Author of Master's Hunt

Dominance: Kevin versus Christian

Guest post by Verity Ant

Before I get started, I want to offer my thanks for having me here today. I applaud January for sharing a different kind of romance with her readers. Thank you, January.

Fictional heroes in erotic romance novels have a lot in common. For this article, I'd like to briefly compare and contrast two fictional heroes who are popular right now: Kevin, from Master's Hunt (Verity Ant) and Christian Grey, from Fifty Shades of Grey (E L James). They're both smart, successful, respected, physically fit and able to defend themselves, and are more than a little pleasing to the eye. But are they both Dominant, as they are purported to be?

Christian says clearly in the first book of the trilogy, "I'm a Dominant." But is he? He is a controlling person, without a doubt, but his dominance fades away over the course of the trilogy, until he's giving in to Ana's every whim. He loses control of a 22 year old woman who has virtually no relationship experience. How Dominant is that?

In Master's Hunt, Kevin's relationships have all been based on Dominance and submission. We have the sense that this is so much a part of him that nothing else would satisfy him. Dominance an ingrained part of his nature. A woman who seeks to change him, as Ana does to Christian, would be rejected by Kevin out of hand. He never has to say he's a Dominant, he shows it instead. He does not apologize for his strength of character. Kevin is a natural dominant, not a vanilla or submissive guy who's posing in order to build up his ego.

I could go on and on about these two, showing their contrasts, and Kevin's honesty and consistency would show him to be the stable and responsible character he is. He's not perfect--who is?--but he isn't wishy washy either. When I look at these characters, at the contrasts and similarities, I much prefer Kevin. A strong man who knows what he wants and doesn't allow an immature and demanding female take over his life is a lot more appealing to me.

You can meet Kevin and his two submissive women, Renee and Amiko, in Master's Hunt, my recently released novel. Get it at No Boundaries Press, where they have all the formats for you to choose from.

Master's Hunt Book Trailer



Master's Hunt Blog Tour Contest:


Verity is having a blog tour contest! She's giving away one GRAND PRIZE to one commentor. GRAND PRIZE is a $25 Gift Certificate to the Pleasure Chest online.  She is also offering two SECOND PRIZE giveaways to two other commentors. SECOND PRIZE is an Amazon Gift Card for $10. All giveaways allow for multiple entries. (Commenting on one blog gets you one entry, two blogs two entries, etc.)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mainstreaming BDSM

My local grocery store offers Fifty Shades plus snacks.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Are Safewords Really Safe?

Safewords are a formal way for the bottom to stop BDSM play. They add to the kinky mystique and drama, like contracts or other forms of protocol. Safewords might be used when "Stop, you muthafucka!" isn't considered cool enough. The most commonly used safeword is "red."

However, it's worth noting that a safeword is only as safe as the integrity of the Top. A safeword isn't safe if the Top doesn't respond correctly to it.

A safeword is not a magic incantation. It's not a "Beam me up Scotty, this scene sucks." Too often, bottoms are persuaded to engage in dangerous play because they get a safeword. And too often, the safeword is not honored. (Or the bottom can't use the safeword because the bottom is in subspace or gagged or whatnot.) How does this happen? A bottom can get into this predicament because he or she is expected to show "good faith" by trusting a Top. That's ass backwards. Trust is earned. Always. Anyone can call himself (or herself) a Top (or Master or Dom). That doesn't mean he or she actually has the bottom's best interests at heart.

I think safewords, though glamorous, are superfluous. They add a layer of danger, rather than safety, to BDSM interactions. A Top should know the bottom well enough to figure out when they have had too much. A Top should be able to read expression or sounds. Or a Top could even use ordinary, pedestrian communication.

If your Top is a person you really don't know well, and needs a glitzy form of "stop", you should reconsider playing with that person.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Musings

Progress

Earlier this spring I completed a science fiction romance novella. I actually made the deadline for an open call. I'm usually a day late. Now I'm continuing to work on a new BDSM erotica. (This is the story of the creation of the B&B in Management Skills. The H/h are older. I'm planning a series centering around the establishment.)

Reading

In between the two projects I took some time off to read. I read Nora Roberts' Black Rose as a model for an older couple romance. Unfortunately, when I write romance, I have a tough time reading it. I read like I'm a back seat driver, critiquing the entire thing. (Yeah, even Nora Roberts!) That sucks the joy right out of reading. Usually I'll read non-fiction or a thriller to get out of that critical frame of mind.

Last month I decided to read a bit of literary fiction. It was a way to "cleanse the palate" in between courses. I read Justine by Lawrence Durrell. This is a first person story written in 1957 about a group of self-absorbed, intellectual snobs. The tale is only mildly chronological. The star of the novel is not Justine, or the narrator, but the Egyptian city of Alexandria. The world-building is spectacular. Sadly, the human characters are so unaware, they don't offer much insight into "the human condition", which is one possible role of literary fiction. Oh, but the language! Extraordinary, poetic and vivid. If I could only write like that! Reading Justine was a refreshing break.

B&N and Fifty Shades

Last week I went to the local Barnes and Noble store to get a map of Connecticut. I like the ambiance of B&N. However, I usually buy stuff online at amazon, and never from BN.com. As background, I've had friends who have tried to get jobs at B&N, and been turned away because they don't know enough about books. So, supposedly even the checkout people are expected to up on bestsellers, genres and whatnot. While I was checking out, a checker asked another checker if she had ever heard of "a book called Fifty Shades of Grey." Neither of them knew anything about the book.

This little anecdote illustrates why B&N will ultimately fail at modern book-selling.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Threesome Fantasy: Double Impact

I think this advertisement for Liquid-Plumr is hilarious. I just wish the heroine got to keep her initial plain look. Because feeling sexy isn't a matter of makeup, loose hair and 20/20 vision.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Dear Janny Column Debut!

I give acerbic, common-sense advice to BDSM folk in my new Dear Janny column. Based on real online discussions. (Please take my snarky replies with a grain of salt!) I'll update at random intervals.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Before You Hit Send Workshop

Angela James of Carina Press is offering another session of her Before You Hit Send Workshop. It's three-weeks of interactive nuts-and-bolts advice about self-editing.

I got to participate in a beta test of this workshop awhile back. It was fun, a bit overwhelming and very valuable. I couldn't believe how many things I was doing wrong (even as a published author)!

--

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Fifty Shades of Hype

Last September I blogged about Fifty Shades of Grey's origins as Twilight fanfic. Since then, the trilogy has reached the top of the NYT eBook bestseller list. As a consequence, Fifty Shades of Grey is making national news. Last week, the book was discussed on the Today show. It was also the subject of a recent New York Times article.

I own the original fanfic version, called "Master of the Universe". I've read the first 60 pages (out of 600!). There are clear similarities between this story and Twilight. They both take place in rainy, cloudy Washington State. Early on, the hero saves the heroine from getting run over by a vehicle. The romantic plot is also fundamentally the same: both explore the inherent drama of trying to deny a forbidden, dangerous--and ultimately irresistible--attraction. The fanfic is not hard to read, though the overuse of ellipsis is annoying. So far, the pages are not a whole lot different than the first draft of a Harlequin contemporary. The couple meets cute. He's handsome and rich. She's spunky. They have the hots for each other the second they meet.

I believe that the mainstreaming of BDSM fiction is usually a good thing. I'm thrilled when I see a kink novel become a bestseller. According to readers who have read the novel, and are familiar with erotic romance, Fifty Shades has only mild BDSM elements. However, traditional media is in an uproar. The book has been variously described as "mommy porn", "disturbing", "XXX", and a "bodice ripper". That hasn't hurt sales at all.

The trilogy has snagged a new publisher (Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group). “The people who are reading this are not only people who read romance," crows the publisher. "It’s gone much broader than that.”

Isn't that pretty much the same as saying Fifty Shades is a better kind of romance? Call me insulted.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Paypal's Rules on Obscenity

The eBook sales platforms Bookstrand and Smashwords have recently changed their publication policies in order to comply with PayPal obscenity rules, according to a series of posts by ERECsite. These new policies are hitting self-pubbed erotic fiction authors hard--and not just the people who write the taboo stuff. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater comes to mind.

However, Bookstrand and Smashwords weren't blind-sided. The PayPal obscenity rules have been around for a long time. Most folks who sell using PayPal are perfectly aware of these rules. The payment service evidently just decided to enforce the obscenity prohibition.

Here are the relevant portions of PayPal's rules:
You may not use PayPal for transactions involving... (f) items that are considered obscene ... (h) certain sexually oriented materials or services.
So what does obscene mean? For more detail, you'll have to look to eBay, the company that owns PayPal. Here are eBay's rules:
Obscene materials, while not easy to define, aren't allowed on eBay. For some guidance, we prohibit items depicting or describing bestiality, necrophilia, rape, scat, and incest (real or fictionalized).
Further, eBay explains:
Child pornography is illegal and not allowed on eBay. We generally don't allow the listing of any item that depicts people under 18 years of age naked, including child erotica. We may also remove listings that involve the exploitation of minors, regardless of whether the items are sexual in nature.
So there you go. You can't pay for incest and pedophilia fiction with PayPal. The rules were always there. The ebook sales platforms should have expected the crackdown.

--

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How Not to Write a Book Blurb: Part II

In a previous blog post I discussed creating a book's "cover copy". In part I, I listed three things not to do. Here I continue with Part II.

1. Don't overwhelm the blurb with names. It's not necessary to give people's last names, particularly if there are more than two characters in the blurb. Try to avoid listing names of secondary characters. Sometimes relationships are enough to identify them. Her brother, her boss, his mother, their children, is preferable. The same thing goes for locations. Don't overload the paragraphs with names of cities or states or regions unless it matters. Don't present lots of names of coffee shops or hotels or companies, no matter how clever you think the names are, if names aren't really critical to the story.

2. Avoid the temptation to give long, poetic descriptions of character's physical attributes in a blurb. Go especially light on describing eye-color and hair-color. "When smoky-eyed, blonde Gemma first sees tanned, green-eyed, curly-haired Ronald, sparks fly." Really? Is the eye-color important? Will a reader buy the book because the heroine is smoky-eyed? Romance/erotica blurbs are permitted to describe a bit about the characters' hotness, like hunky or sexy.

3. Don't provide long excerpts of reviews in the blurb. Self-pubbed folks often list review after review in the description, hoping to lend credibility to their work. It doesn't impress. It usually results in a potential purchaser giving up. A reader wants to know what the story is about. Sure, if you got a review that says "..altogether superior" from some bigtime reviewer, put it in your blurb. Use a very short excerpt (no more than a phrase), the attribution, and only one review. Don't list awards the book has won unless it's a real contest everyone has heard of. Blurb real estate is valuable. Don't waste it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Living What You Write


A few months ago an interesting drama unfolded in the m/m fiction writer world. A popular m/m author, who claimed to be a gay man, was outed--as a woman. The author had evidently even hired a gay friend to impersonate her at signing events. She also published autobiographical pieces on her life as a gay man.

Can a woman write gay m/m fiction? Sure. To broaden the discussion: Must an author have provable cultural provenance to write about that culture? Such questions have been posed for hundreds of years. Controversy still whirls around William Shakespeare, for example. How could the son of an illiterate glover have created plays about kings and courtiers? Was he a fraud simply because he wasn't a king or courtier? Nope.

I believe an author who has absolutely no real-time experience with a culture, character or gender can write credible fiction. A stand-up guy can write convincingly about a psychopathic serial killer. A great-grandmother who has never ventured outside of her little town in Arkansas can write a war novel. A woman can write stories about gay sex. A non-scientist can write SF. A vanilla man can write hot BDSM novels from the sub's point of view.

Writing outside of experience is possible with enough research, imagination and empathy. In fact, I always distrust BDSM fiction authors who trot out their kink cred at every opportunity ("my Master approved this story", and "I live the lifestyle".)

What about the author who hires an impersonator for a signing event? I think that's fine, too. Writers invent. Why shouldn't they be able to create an identity at odds with real life? Most authors pretend they are more good-looking than they really are. Writers attempt to project glamor, thinness, intelligence, success. An author who hires a gorgeous, edgy model to sign edgy books is just giving the readers what they want. It's performance art, not fraud.

But it's a completely different story when is comes to fakery in non-fiction. If readers are looking to an author as an expert, the author had better be one. Authors who get confused between autobiography and story-telling are cheating. An author shouldn't blog about her firsthand penis experiences--when she doesn't have one. It's unethical, especially since real life m/m frequently involves two.

Friday, January 13, 2012

I Adore this Cover


Wouldn't this make a terrific erotic romance cover? Hunky, moody man with helmet hair, partly hidden in shadows. Yum. Actually, this image is being used in the Jockey underwear ads. The Jockey.com website was broken for several hours, presumably because too many people (i.e. women) wanted to see the debut of this shirtless image. Not surprisingly, Tim Tebow is spurring sales of women's Jockey underwear, too.

Good luck against the Patriots, Tim! I'll rooting for you and the Broncos.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Management Skills to be Featured on Diesel eBooks!


Diesel eBooks will feature my novella, Management Skills, in the Diesel eBooks webstore as the "Deal of the Day" on Friday. 9 copies will be sold for $0.50 each, starting Friday 01/13/2012, 11:00 AM EST.

First come, first served! The deal lasts 72 hours, or until all nine are sold.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pirates in Translation

Like most e-books, the cover of My One was constructed using a stock image. I wondered how many other books have similar covers. So a few weeks ago, I did a cover search. Google allows a user to upload an image and search for similar or identical images. And guess what came up?



This book is titled El, by January Rowe. According to my Spanish-speaking(ish) son, "El" means "Him". Knowing the title made it easy to find a pdf of El. My novella was translated into Spanish. Without permission. (The pdf has no copyright info. The Samhain symbol has also been obliterated on the new cover.)

Here's the blurb of El:


Can anyone tell me if the El blurb is well-written? Should I be flattered somebody bothered to translate My One--or embarrassed? Or should I just be mad at the pirates?