Archive for May, 2011

Book Sale at AllRomanceEbooks

Book sale! AllRomanceEbooks is offering a 50% Rebate on all purchases made via Paypal or Credit Card between 12:01 am on 5/28/11 and 11:59 pm on 5/30/11 (US/Central). That means Exiled, Young Blood, All Too Human and The Hunted Key would be about $1. Melting the Ice would also be half-price! Have at! Visit http://www.allromanceebooks.com

Morning Sun

I’ve just posted a new short story. It’s available on StoriesOnline.net, EroticStories.com and has been submitted to Literotica. It’s called Morning Sun and was inspired by the song of the same name by Bad Company (from their Burning Sky album, if you’re so inclined).

Morning Sun

The morning sun came through the windows as Cody Elliott stepped through the door. He closed the door behind him, locked it, and dropped his bag on the floor. He’d sit soon, but he had to check first.

With soft steps, he walked up the stairs and down the hall. The floor creaked and he stopped, but heard nothing and continued on. He opened the bedroom door, leaned against the doorjamb, and looked in.

There she was.

He watched her sleep for a minute, shaking his head at himself for fearing she might not be. Her dark hair spilled onto the pillow as she lay on her side, clutching the covers to her chest. He was tempted to wake her, but could tell by the deep, even breaths and circles under her eyes that she needed the sleep. Cody stepped back, pulled the door closed, and returned to the living room.

God, what a night it had been, he thought as he sank onto the couch. He dropped his head back, half-closed his eyes, and the sunlight suffused everything with a soft golden glow. For just a moment, he needed to rest. The constant motion was, at last, over for a while.

Continue reading at StoriesOnline.net.

Please let me know if there’s a problem with the link. I believe you need an account to read at EroticStories.com, so can’t give a link there. When the link is available for Literotica, I’ll post it.

Bad Company has inspired two other stories of mine. I’m just a sucker for guitar-heavy rock and Paul Rodgers’ voice. 🙂

Facing the Past was inspired by Love Me, Somebody. Silver, Blue & Gold was inspired by the song of the same title. Both songs were on the album Running with the Pack.

Bad movies

The other night, I watched a bad movie. Mega Piranha. I couldn’t help it. I already had Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus; how could I resist another in the series? At $5 a copy?

I had two main thoughts after watching.

  1. Mega Piranha is no Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.
  2. Tiffany is no Debbie (aka Deborah) Gibson.

These awful movies and others are brought to you by The Asylum. According to Wikipedia:

The Asylum is an American film studio and distributor which focuses on producing low-budget, usually direct-to-video productions. The studio is best known for producing titles that capitalize on productions by major studios. These titles have been dubbed “mockbusters” by the press.

I love it. Bad movies that are made with the intention of at least not being very good can be great fun. And oddly, MSvs.GO was better than one might expect, provided one’s expectations are fairly low. With that damning standard, Mega Piranha fell short. Which is not to say that I didn’t enjoy some, or laugh out loud, which I did. And points, honestly, for Tiffany, who looked probably more like a real marine scientist than one usually sees in a movie. She wasn’t rail thin, didn’t wear white coats, and didn’t have flawless skin or makeup.

She also had zero chemistry with Paul Logan, who played the American “expert” who goes to Venezuela (played, very convincingly to me, by Belize) to look into the disappearance of the US Ambassador. Who, as most US Ambassadors do, I’m sure, died while on a boat with bikini-clad and topless young Latina women while he himself was a pudgy white guy in a bad shirt. Okay, he was eaten by large fish, but hey — there were scantily-clad young hotties. That was about as erotic as things got, which is to say, not erotic at all. Debbie Gibson had more chemistry with her guy in MSvsGo, seriously.

The piranhas… what can one say? If I remember correctly, Dr. Sarah Monroe (Tiffany) had an experiment gone awry. Said experiment resulted in the titular piranhas, but really, that’s not important. Even Freddy Kruger would have a hard time with these guys. They grew extra organs, extra layers of skin, were hermaphrodites, doubled in size every 36 hours (and then less), and could survive salt water (piranhas are fresh-water critters), not to mention a nuclear blast. These guys gave new meaning to omnivorous as not only do they feast on diplomats and cute females, but helicopters, submarines and naval battleships.

The piranhas make their way out of the Oronoco river in Venezuela, into the ocean and up to the Florida Keys. I actually forget how they were finally stopped. But that doesn’t matter either. You know they will be stopped. The fun is in seeing the idiocy that occurs in attempting to stop them.

Lessons learned: Strafing piranhas at night from a helicopter is not a viable strategy for stopping them; there will always be a military/government person who knows it’s really piranhas, but wants to blame the US for destabilizing the country; anyone can be a Navy SEAL (like a totally untrained scientist) when mega piranhas pose a threat.

And the most important lesson:

No one will think to find a way to get the fish out of the water, since that’s what will kill them. That’d be way too easy.

Hold back the love, please

Paranormal romances are fun — you have have your human/human love, human/were (or shapeshifter), human/vampire, and various permutations. I’ve written four paranormal romance e-books and another short story.

Before writing them, of course, I read a number of paranormal romances and noted certain themes that run through books by different authors. Nothing wrong with that. It’s fun to see the various “rules” in place if only so that you can play with them later on.

However, one trope has always stuck out, and I think it’s over used: love at first sight, aka LAFS.

In para-roms, LAFS is often an instinctive identification of a mate, and let’s face it, it cuts out the middleman of how to get the guy and woman together. Your woman is walking in the park, crosses paths with a werewolf or vampire who does a double take and goes after her and voila — you have your meet cute and love declaration all in one fell swoop. The problem with LAFS in any genre is that it often deprives us of seeing the couple work it out and get together. Paranormal LAFS is helpful in that it gets your peeps together quickly as they band together to face a common threat. That’s cool; it’s better to be on the same team than opposing. United we stand, etc.

I’m not immune; in my weretiger series (Exiled, Young Blood and All Too Human) I used this same idea, and gave this instinct a name, the Pull. However, I tried to make it more than just hey, hi, wow we’re in love.

In Exiled, there were two pairs who felt the Pull. The first couple were both weretigers who had known each other before.Angela Griet had been banished from her pack when she lost her ability to shift. Her father was the pack leader and he feared challenges to his leadership if her situation were known. When Angela finally encounters Aidan Ligeret, the man she had loved before, she tries to get away despite the Pull because she doesn’t want him to be ostracized as she was.

The second couple in Exiled was a witch and a werepanther, who were strangers and neither expected it. There were some hurdles to overcome, and although their feelings were instinctive and strong, the witch was still unsure about it all since it was outside of her experience.

In Young Blood, Jura Griet, a weretiger, is Pulled to a vampire, who doesn’t have the same instinct. So, basically, what do you do when you love someone you aren’t sure could love you? Finally, in All Too Human, Tina Griet is attracted to a human man, and neither feel any kind of “Pull.” Not to mention, said human had kidnapped her; not the most auspicious start to a relationship.

So while yes, I did use LAFS to some extent, I tried not to rush it. Part of what people like — and want — about romance is the conflict. Sure, we like the hugs and kisses and all of that (come on, you know you do) but it’s more fun and more rewarding when they get those after they solve their problems.

I think it’s easier for many people to write a LAFS situation for their protagonists, and then they can concentrate on the main non-romantic plot, where usually they face a common enemy. It’s difficult to write a developing relationship; so much of it is fairly mundane and devoid of the melodrama one sees in soap operas. We don’t all need to be rescued from window ledges to see how much we care for the other person, or have a major misunderstanding about a half-heard text message that requires a book’s worth of miscommunications and arguments.

But people are fairly mundane most of the time, and it’s the slight miscommunications and insecurities that cause problems. The thrill of the chase is fun, but sometimes the chase needs to run a little longer.

Fairy Tales

Fairy tales, often dealing themes of love and being in the public domain, are great pickings for revisions and re-imaginings. This is fun, both to read and to write. Alan Moore, for example, made his League of Extraordinary Gentlemen with the famous characters Captain Nemo (from 20000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne); Dorian Gray (from The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde); Mina Harker (from Dracula by Bram Stoker) and others. There’s a lot of stuff out there if you can find it.

Many fairy tales, with their princesses and milkmaids, princes and paupers, are also full of possibilities for romantic and erotic stories. Men and women, I’m sure, both dream of being picked by the pretty one from obscurity, or of finding a diamond in the rough, a love where they least expected it. And then we all like to read about it when they hop into bed. Although many fairy tales offer these elements, the one on my mind lately is Beauty and the Beast.

This has great elements for love, romance and sex: the reclusive and somewhat misanthropic, often scarred or deformed man; rhe young, usually innocent girl who becomes indentured to him; the isolation of two people with no one else for company. What else can they do but discover the love in their own hearts, or at least the lust, and then… well, and then.

Currently on Literotica, there are two modern takes on B&TB being posted. The first is by a user named AccentsNTattoos, the other by PepperPace. Both, interestingly, are interracial romances — black woman, white man. Also in each story, the man is facially scarred, one from a burn accident, the other as a result of surgeries done to correct a severe cleft palate. So in each one we have a somewhat literal “beast.”

This is probably the easiest element of the story to replicate. Despite our medical advances, people still do suffer from deformities, from various causes. And it is almost always a heart-warming story to have one character see past the physical imperfections and into the heart of another. We all want to be loved despite our flaws.

What’s missing in both stories is the element of isolation. I can’t blame either author for that. It’s hard to get and be alone today. We’re all connected. A third story with the B&TB motif that I saw recently involves an 18-year-old heroine (another pet peeve of mine, btw) who will have to marry in order to save her family, and the “beast” in that story is a blind man who imposes conditions such as no computer and no cell phones on his unwilling bride-to-be. (I have various issues with this story and won’t be finishing, but we know where it’ll end up.)

I myself got around this, slightly, in a story called Light and the Darkness. My beast was a vampire named Jordan Castle, and my beauty was an artist named Erica Wellstone, who was a witch, and not a powerful one. The trick to the isolation was that Erica’s brother had made a bet with the vampire and failed to fulfill it. Jordan threatens to kill the brother unless Erica fulfills the debt, which is to paint a certain picture. She goes to his home to do so, and he keeps her there by a) not telling her exactly what the picture should be, and b) the threat of ending her brother’s life.

Not auspicious beginnings for love, but then it wasn’t in the original, either. And without some conflict and struggle, where’s the fun in getting to the happy ending? Or the sex? So there’s give on both sides, a little at a time.

Especially, perhaps, with stories using fairy tale motifs, the “how” in getting to the end is more important than the end, since the reader is assured (most times) of what the end will be. I’ve also seen a version of B&TB — and I’m sure there are many more — where the Beauty is a willful, spoiled brat, and then elements of D/s come into play, which at least is an interesting change.

Perhaps what makes this and other fairy tales like Cinderella ripe and useful for love/erotic stories is the heroine. Beauty, whatever her name might be, goes into the situation to save her father (or someone else) and although perhaps intimidated, refuses to cow before the Beast. It is her strength that she gets from caring for others that ultimately appeals to him. Cinderella bears bad to abusive treatment from her step-mother and -sisters, yet does not break, and her strength is rewarded. Snow White has to run for her life, but she handles herself pretty well until she’s tricked by her step-mother (pity the poor step-mother with these stereotypes; they’re as bad as mothers-in-law). Snow White also, obviously, provides fodder for group sex, a take I’d bet the original author never thought of.

Really, who doesn’t want to see these women get the guy and get some great sex out of it? And for the writer, how can you not want to help them get there?

Erotica Pet Peeves

I read a fair bit of erotica, and write some, although mine isn’t as hard, explicit, or graphic as some. That’s fine. It takes all kinds, everyone likes something different, and all of that. I’m not going to go on about how people shouldn’t write rape/ravishment fantasies, or incest stories, or non-consent or what have you. I don’t like those, but those aren’t my pet peeves. I just don’t read them. My pet peeves are themes that show up so often in erotic stories as to make one roll one’s eyes. The kind of thing where you read and think: “Really? That’s the best you could do? That again?”

1. Petite women with DD/DDD breasts. This is ridiculously common, and will crop up again along with my next peeve. And I realize that there are indeed well-endowed petite (5’2″ and under) women. What bothers me is how they pop up again and again in erotic stories, as though the authors were clinging to some sexual stereotype, which I suppose they are. But how many 32DDDs are out there? Honestly? Or even better, the 5′ heroine with the 38DDs. Come on, guys. Let’s go with something more likely, more plausible. I read about women with chests that size and all I think is: Ow. Hope she has a strong bra. Bet it has an underwire. Hope she can afford reduction surgery.

2. 6’6″+ men, with outsized equipment. Again, no doubt such critters exist. However, must every guy be tall enough to play center on a basketball team? There are tall men, I know — I’m 5’4″ and my husband is 6’1″. My dad is 6’2″, my brother is right up there with them. My son seems to be on track to follow. Still, most guys are not as tall as Zdeno Chara (6’7″). Ratchet it back and while you’re reducing their height, you can reduce their dicks. I don’t want to read about one more 12″-long penis that is as thick around “as a soda can.” (Yes, I read that in a story.) People — it won’t fit. There just isn’t room, even if the woman is on the Amazon side herself.

3. Combination of 1 and 2. For God’s sake, people — someone’s going to get hurt. The guy is going to throw his back out leaning 18″ down to kiss the woman, and she’s going to get a crick in her neck reaching up. I know it’s kind of an ingrained thing, whether biological or cultural, for women to look for taller men, etc. It’s natural, if only because men tend to be taller. So, fine. But let’s bring things a little more into sync so no one pulls a muscle.

4. Waist-length hair on the women. Many women wear their hair long, or long-ish. Mine is past my shoulders now. But waist-length? Do you know what a pain that would be? It’s not very practical, and it’s difficult to keep clean and to care for. I sense this is put into many stories because the authors think this is what guys want, but I wonder if they really do, in real life.

5. Petite women with long legs. Not sure how this works. It’s a little disconcerting to read about a woman who is 5’3″ and has legs “that go on forever” or that “go right to her neck.” She has no torso? Providing there are no problems and the woman is proportional, I can’t see this.

Let’s expand into the paranormal realm, since I write that as well.

6. Vampires named Alexander or Gabriel. These names are so overused, and not just in paranormal romance, but boy, I’d like to see some different names. (I have to say, it’s bugged me enough I’m working on a humorous story about a vampire named Bob.) Cael seems to be a distant third, so that doesn’t bother me as much.

7. Asshole alpha males. Be they vampires or weres, I’m pretty fed up with these guys, not to mention the women who find these asshole qualities attractive. If there’s something under the arrogance, fine — show me. Make me care. Give me a reason to believe he’s a decent guy somewhere, and that the woman has a shot at uncovering it. But a guy who is otherwise a jerk, except for the tiny circle in his life where the woman is, does nothing for me.

I’ll stop there. For now. 🙂

Wherefore art thou, critical reader?

At the risk of sounding a though I’m saying “Get off my lawn,” I have to say to all of you (and me) who read — WTF? Where are our standards?

I read a number of (romantic/erotic) stories online, and since getting an Amazon Kindle (love it!) have gotten a number of e-books cheap and free. I’m a reader, always have been, and voracious when I get the chance.

Allow me a quick digression: My mom says the first thing I read, when I was about four, was a newspaper headline: Snipper Kills Five. It was “sniper,” of course, but hey, I was four. She also says I learned to read from The Electric Company — sigh, where have you gone, Letterman? No, not David Letterman, but Letter-man — stronger than a silent “e,” able to leap capital letters in a single bound!

To the subject at hand — So I read these stories, and these books, and many of them make me shake my head. Never mind character or plot development — what about punctuation? Grammar? Spell check? Okay, spell check won’t catch everything, so you need more attention there. But how many times do I have to see dialogue like this:

“Jim I don’t like the blue shirt” She said.

“Oh why not. Its nice” Jim replied.

Can you find all the errors here? (This is just a made up example, btw.)

1. The comma after “Jim” is missing.
2. The comma after “shirt” is missing
3. “She” should be lower case (she).
4. The comma after “Oh” is missing in he second sentence.
5. There should be a question mark after “not.”
6. The word is “it’s,” for a contraction, not “its” in this case.
7. The comma after “nice” is missing.

More generally, I will see “waste” for “waist,” “your” for “you’re,” and of course there’s the constant “there/their/they’re” misuse.

And I see these things all the time. I’m baffled. Now, not everyone took Sister Kathleen’s English class like I did, but come on — this is so basic! I know English is a difficult language to spell, and homonyms don’t make things easier, but how do we not know this?

The kicker (or killer) is that I will read stories with consistent errors like this, and then in the public comments will be things like:

“This is so great! Cant wait for more!”
“Your a great writer!”

Should someone point out the errors, you frequently see a follow-on comment like:
“Ignore the critics.”

Well, okay. You can ignore the critics — but your grammar is still terrible and, to paraphrase Roger Ebert, your story sucks.

Plot and character suffer as well. Characters do what the author wants, regardless of whether they would. Shy, virginal women are suddenly coy vixens in the bedroom; geeky guys instantly possess knowledge of how to woo a girl who is not Princess Leia. Hard-ass alpha males melt into a puddle at the site of their woman. (For a great essay on the alpha male, click here.)

For plots, well… often if the writer wants it to happen, it does, no matter how forced from circumstances.

And… after all that… readers rave.

I’m all for fluff, believe me. I love me a fluffy romance, or a pulpy sf novel. But why can’t we have well done fluff? Why can’t we have fluff with well-developed characters and a plot that has all its ends tied together?

A friend suggested this is a problem that shows up for romance and sf — and that goes back a bit to my previous post. My editor and I had a conversation on Facebook about this — is it because publishers think no one will notice the errors? Or, more cynically, are they dissing their readers? Do they figure that “Hell, it’s just bodice rippers for women? They won’t care if we say hockey has three-minute penalties, or that Paris is in England.”

I hope not. One disadvantage to finding problems in reading is you don’t know until after you’ve read it how bad something is, or how full of mistakes. If you’ve bought it, you can’t exactly vote with your pocketbook. You could probably write to the author or publisher, who knows what kind of response you’d get, if you got one.

So what can we do? Writers, we can learn the basic rules, start using them, and bend them when necessary to make a point in our books. Readers, we can demand a little more. We can criticize — in a constructive way. We can stop buying writers until they fix things up (or hey — go back to the library! :).

But fellow readers — it’s not wrong to want more, nor to ask for it. It is wrong to think this is the best we can get.

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