AZ Dreamin - Readers Get Your Fun On!

Saturday JUNE 2, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona
Jimmy Thomas, Romance Cover Model
I'm heading to Arizona Dreamin' for a fun romance reader event in Phoenix Arizona this weekend. If you live within driving distance, come out and see some of your favorite authors and find some new favorites! You can pick up some free erotic romance reads from yours truly and from author Frankie Robertson, and many others. 
Get your books autographed and mingle with other readers, too. In addition to authors writing contemporary, paranormal, erotic, and many other romance genres, cover model Jimmy Thomas is also attending!

Jimmy is the sexy elf that appears on my web site! He's also one of the most widely photographed cover models in the romance publishing industry, and he'll be hosting the Man of Our Dreams Pageant on Saturday night. 

So Readers, come out and get your FUN on this weekend! Pick up some free erotic romance to keep your summer sizzlin, talk with favorite authors and meet cover model Jimmy Thomas! See you there!! 

Wishing you all that's green,


Succeeding Means Believing in Yourself, Part 2

My latest release, DOVER TO VICTORIA STATION, is an erotic short story appearing in the Cleis Press Anthology entitled Going Down: Oral Sex Stories. This story almost didn't see the light of day, and it's a good example of why believing in your art is important. 

Some people don't consider erotica to be art, but that's another discussion. The purpose of art is often to push the boundaries of what we think of as normal or to push our limitations, and that can show up in so many different ways.
For those unfamiliar with the train lines going into and out of London, this story takes place on the train going from Dover in County Kent into Victoria Station in London. Incidentally, I wrote the first draft of this story on that exact rail line, but I was going in the opposite direction (from Victoria Station out to Dover) at the time. When I first gave the draft to my critique group to read, I received mostly negative feedback. This was partly because only one member of my group wrote erotica (she liked it) and partly because it was a work in progress, and it hadn't yet become the story that it is now. I put it aside while writing other things but I believed in it and the emotion that went with it. Several years later I returned to the draft and immediately realized I was trying to go in two different directions with the heroine's journey. One was her inner journey and the other her outer journey. Surprisingly, most people think erotica is about sex. Well, yes, it is. But, no, it also isn't. The most powerful erotica, especially short, that I've read is about the emotion or the internal experience. Sex illustrates that, underlines it, gives it more power. At the very least the story hinges on the emotional or psychological dynamic between the characters. (If you've read my previous entries you are beginning to sense a theme here with my repetitive mentions of emotion). WARNING: Mild spoilers ahead...


Succeeding Means Believing in Yourself: Part 1

Believing in yourself, your creativity, your art, anything that you do, is paramount to your success. This is the first in a series of blogs I'll be writing this year about choosing belief over doubt. Believing in yourself, in your dreams and goals is necessary to your success, no matter what your art form or work industry. I'm a writer, so in this first blog I'll be using some examples of how well-meaning advice can derail the creative artist with external distraction and also lead to self-sabotage. 
Here's a memorized mantra I hear from traditionally published authors quite frequently: 

You must be familiar with everything that's written in your genre or subgenre if you want to get published.
That's rather black and white. Anything said in absolutes immediately raises a red flag and makes my BS meter peg off the scale. It also makes me want to hiss back in my most menacing Darth Vader voice, "I find your lack of faith disturbing!" 
Whether you are published or not, I suggest extreme caution if you find yourself caught up in the idea that you are somehow going to go unpublished if you don't keep up with absolutely everything currently available in your niche. The first story I sold was a short erotica piece. I had read less erotica by far than any other niche at that time. That begs the question: Do you really believe that outside influences are more important than your internal direction or your muse? In the current state of publishing, this rule which used to be part of the roadmap to traditional publishing is now parochial. Certainly you should not be ignorant of what is available to the readers in your genre, but neither should you read everything or even half of what's out there unless you have oodles of time on your hands ... you'd never get anything done! And if you spend all your time reading, it's likely you won't be writing enough to improve your craft ... unless you’re speed reading. And never mind having the time to produce enough product to make a go of writing as a paying business! And it is a business. Anything you love doing, but which you want to make money at, now or in the future, must be treated as a business.
From a craft perspective there are some real dangers to reading work that is too similar to yours: The line can blur regarding where you get an idea or a particular detail (did you think up that character mannerism or that cool plot twist yourself, or was it something you read last year?) If you read too much of other writers works, you are less likely to come up with your own very unique bent on certain story lines because you're subconscious mind and your muse will fill in the gaps of curiosity ... the gaps your conscious mind creates when external input is not constantly streaming in. Why is that important?
Because like it or not, no matter the trope, most of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey  is mirrored in every book, movie and video game that we produce as a species. This is why the Hollywood studios make all their screenwriters use Campbell's work. (Interested writers can see Christopher Vogler's THE WRITER'S JOURNEY for more).

There is really nothing new under the sun as far as storytelling goes. But what is new is your specific twist and your unique retelling of archetypal tales that have been with us since the dawn of language development. It's true that some of our creative inspiration naturally comes from the books we read. But I notice that I tend to gain as much input from movies and video games as I do from reading other authors' work. Stories and ideas are everywhere!
Perhaps most important, if you over-read in your own niche, you can get very discouraged. You can start to wonder whether readers will like so-and-so’s work better than yours. You'll start thinking, "Do I really have a chance to distinguish myself among that group?" and "Why bother even finishing this book?" etc.

Several successful authors have told me over the last few years that you must believe in yourself, in your writing: no matter what.  If you are a writer, you have to believe in the uniqueness of your work, your viewpoint, your voice. But no matter what creative art or work you do in your life or are striving to make a living at, you must believe in yourself. No one can bring your vision into the world in quite the same way as you. So don't deprive the world of your contribution by giving up on your work. Don't allow someone else's constraints to sabotage your thinking and your creativity!
Write! Create! Do! ... and don’t let distractions, doubts or haters deter you. If you are writing, don't dilute your passion and your energy by reading too much within your own genre and letting other writer's voices make you question or discard your own. If you do, you'll rob your readers of the most essential thing you can give them: emotion on the page! And art, in all it's forms, is all about emotion.
Wishing you all that's green,


What Bleeping Century Is This?!

Okay. Fair warning, Peeps: this month's blog is not as uplifting as the last two!
I don't usually blog about politics or other volatile topics, like the innocuous-looking actions that lead to infringement of our free speech. I can certainly be outspoken about things that I believe matter to me and to authors in this country. But, I'm a romance writer. An "Indie Babe." (A term I've applied to myself and other author friends who are taking the Indie publishing road rather than waiting, possibly for many years, for the traditional publishers to find an open slot for us amidst their quickly diminishing sales & severely diminishing world of royalties.) This Indie Babe typically spends more time thinking about science-fiction and fantasy (and my day job) than paying attention to modern politics or to the latest NYC publishing world's vapid and reactionary Amazon-bashing or Indie-bashing propaganda to be blogging about either. Edgar Rice Burroughs Indie published, btw... take that you NYC haters, us Indies are in good company! And anyway, there are plenty of blogs that I read almost daily that are covering all that action. In particular, PG at his blog ThePassiveVoice.com, also Joe Konrath, Kris Rusch, Barry Eisler, and Dean Wesley-Smith, to name some of the biggies.

But really, this past month has just had me wondering more often than I have for the entirety of all the years leading up to it: What f*cking century is this?!

So, earlier in the month we had the hearings in Washington D.C. about reasonable access for women to birth control. And who did we have testifying on the panels of those hearings? Men, and only men. Yes, it is absurd for only men to be commenting on the state of women's access to, and insurance coverage for, birth control. Someday, if and when it's physically possible for a man to choose to carry a baby to term, then the Feds can tell me that a man knows more than any woman what her access or insurance coverage around birth control (or hormone-based medical treatments that my life might depend on) needs to be! The fact that those hearings contained only men (many religiously affiliated, notice?) is certainly common knowledge by now. It was all over the news. Between that and the billionaire Republican talking about women putting aspirin between their knees in the good ole times, I do believe at least one side of the aisle got across very well just how little they value women as human beings. Great job, folks. Thank goodness for technology-driven media or we'd be back in the dark ages with no communication that this had even happened and worse, no accountability. (Well okay, but at least we know it happened). Women walked out of the hearings, outraged upon seeing only men on the panels. Understandable. Umm... wait, we got the vote years ago, right? I mean... did I somehow time travel back to the 1800's? No? Then, ouch! 'Cause it sure feels like it, Peeps.

And then this past week we've just learned that if you are an Indie publisher or author, as I am, that PayPal is being forced by banks and Credit Card companies to CENSOR what we can and cannot publish through our distributors! How, you ask? They are taking the sneaky approach and doing it via nonpayment of PayPal to authors, their publishers, and even large, free distribution channels like Smashwords). Granted, this applies only to certain types of erotic subject matter, which my work does not fall into. However, let me say that if Nabokov's Lolita was written today, it would, under the rules the banking and credit card industry are forcing onto PayPal right now, prevent Lolita from ever seeing the light of day. Now, regardless of how I feel, or how you feel, about the subject matter of that book, it is widely acclaimed as a classic and considered one of the best, albeit controversial, examples of 20th Century literature. (And by best, I mean, for example, that Time magazine named it to the list of 100 Best English-language novels written between 1923 and 2005). 

Art is art, even when I, or you, don't like it and don't think so. The artist has a right to write about thoughts, ideas, and actions that any citizen might find distasteful, even horrifying, and also to write about actions that might be illegal. Writing about something illegal is not the same as doing the thing that's illegal. It's a work of FICTION!

Have you ever seen in a bookstore the true crime books that retell in every disgusting detail what serial killers did to their victims and how? That's not illegal, it's a true crime story. I don't like them, but I'm not going to support their censorship. I might not like a picture someone posts up on their Facebook page either, but I'm not going to lobby for Facebook to remove it, either! That would be silly.

Do you watch crime dramas on TV, like Law & Order? How about Castle? I love that show. It's about a writer, and it's really great! One of the things that makes Castle so great, besides the outstanding cast and crew, is the great writing. But I have never once questioned whether the writers on that show are breaking the law by writing about a murder. They do it every week. I do not question whether the artists on set, the finish carpenters, or the gaffers are breaking the law every week as they help to stage and re-enact the fictional murders that Kate and Castle solve on a fictional show. That would be silly, wouldn't it?

So if someone writes about a character thinking about or committing an illegal activity within a work of fiction, who are the banks to tell that artist or the artist's publishing company that they cannot be paid by Amazon, Smashwords or any other distributor via their PayPal account, simply because the banks have decided that they want PayPal to exclude current books that might have a Lolita storyline, or any other material in a specific author's work? Note that these banks are not responding to illegal activity on PayPal's part, nor to any illegal activity on the part of the authors or the independent publishers who sell their work. No, the banks and the credit card companies have simply decided that PayPal must stop paying authors and independent publishers who publish certain types of erotic literature (art!) just because they say so. Umm ... Fahrenheit 451, anyone?

All of us might disagree vehemently on what constitutes "art" for us personally ... but isn't that the point of art to begin with? If we let banks decide which work of art has value and which work should be banned through nonpayment of legitimate, legal earnings, we may as well rip up every government document including the Constitution of the U.S. and hand Washington D.C. over lock, stock and barrel to American Express or any other financial corporation and put a big red bow on the top.

Censorship is censorship, even if the detail of what is being censored is something that the majority of citizens might find personally offensive. Personally, I find it truly offensive that a distributor or PayPal being strong armed by the banking industry has any right to tell me what types of fiction I can and cannot write and how the distributor can pay me, or any artist, for the royalties that were earned.

So again I find myself asking: What F*cking century is this?! ... Discuss!