Murmur was a demon, an immortal. His race had been created by the gods to fight their wars, carry their messages, and die if need be. He protected. He served. Not once in all his centuries of service to Lugh had he yearned for more than what the Golden God provided. Until now that is… Murmur now dreamed of a woman with rich honey-blonde hair and pale skin whose mind could touch his own. But Demons don’t dream. Was he going mad? Could such a woman truly exist?
Gabriela could not remember a time when life had been easy. Darren, her roommate, insisted she needed a keeper most days. And perhaps he was right. She didn’t try to read minds—not often. It’s just that sometimes, her feeble barriers couldn’t keep the noise at bay. So, when she began to escape her dreary life by daydreaming of the perfect man, Gabriela hadn’t thought too much about it. The warrior who met her in those dreamscapes was strong and confident, all the things she was not. Gabriela never once thought a man that beautiful could be real—or that he might be a demon.
This week I’ve been at home mostly, spending a lot of time on Medium…reading articles and writing poetry. You’ve probably seen the links on my Facebook page where I’ve posted something new every day. Here’s a sample of my poetry efforts: (Published May 21st, 2020 with the Partnered Pen)
Gray light of a rainsoaked Sunday, Breakfast crumbs pressed into rumbled sheets and cooling coffee sits.
Cell phones lay facedown. Digital expatriates — the pitter-pat against windowpanes is our chosen anthem.
We are languid explorers of sensual lands within bedpost-boundaries. — Discovering each other again.
Some of these poems will make it into my collection, Love, Sex & Witchery, which I plan to release right before Valentine’s Day next year. You can read more about the specifics of this collection on the book’s dedicated page. Truly, this is something I am doing for myself more than any of my romance readers. I just wanted to have all my favorite poems in one place. Something I could point to and slide off my bookshelf in the years to come.
Though Georgia is officially open, my husband and I are not ready to venture out much. That does not mean I’m not going a bit stir crazy here at the house! My plans for travel this year have been curtailed by the virus. I desperately need an escape, so beyond the poetry writing, I’ve been doing a lot of book reading. Romance, crime, mystery and some erotica. I’ve also been making an effort to leave a review behind for potential readers with Amazon and Goodreads.com. This is the best way to support the authors of the books you like. Especially, if like me, you read digital books. The cost of an ebook is so low that most authors don’t make much money off that format.
As for the Legends of the Pale Books…
The Dreams of Demons will be available in all online bookstores by June 1st. I am very excited about this book! I absolutely adore Murmur’s character. I believe the paperback is already live on Amazon’s site. My author copies of this book won’t arrive until June 9th, so if you’d like to purchase a physical book directly from me, I will find a way to accommodate readers. I intend to get several copies to The Madison Artist Guild and to The Southern Pen Bookshop in Monroe. Links to their online sites can be found on this site’s sidebar.
Hopefully, in Mid-June I will find a way to organize a drive-by book signing. As soon as the details are worked out, I will make an announcement on Facebook.
Everyone stay safe out there. And I’ll keep writing.
Tarrant Smith May 13 · 4 min read (First published on Medium. Some text has been highlighted by Medium readers.)
I’m not a poet but in fits and spurts, I pretend to be. I think forcing myself to think lyrical, choosing each word with care, and the tortuous imposition of brevity is an exercise worth the effort — even if the results are far from perfect. Reading and writing poetry has made me a better prose writer. And because poetry is the language of imagery and emotion, it can help you too.
I’m an author with several romance titles to my name, but I was an aspiring poet first. I’ve been writing bad to mediocre poetry since the age of eight. Just ask my parents. They still have some of my earliest attempts framed and on display. The rhyming, self-involved drivel of my pre-teen mind is scattered among family photographs lining their bookshelves. It’s embarrassing and sweetly endearing that they’ve kept them.
I know I’m not a real poet because I have friends who are honest to God poets. They’re different than ordinary folk. I believe, they see and experience life more deeply — their minds making strange and wonderful connections that I struggle to notice in my ordinary day to day life. But it works for them, and with each poem they produce, I get to experience an emotional moment of their lives encapsulated inside a few well-crafted stanzas.
Because I don’t claim to be a poet, don’t attempt to judge the poetry of others according to the correctness of form. My only standard of saying ‘this is good’ or ‘this is bad’ rests solely on whether I’m moved by the end product. Did I understand the overall meaning? Was it clever? Did I feel something after reading it? And, these are the same standards I apply to my own efforts.
So what is it about poetry? Why is it important to read and attempt to pen a poem yourself?
Well, and I can’t stress this enough, poetry is the language of emotion. Its entire purpose is to elicit a feeling from the reader. Using metaphor, symbols, meter, repetition, sound, color, and other tools, a poem has the power to seep past our critical minds and touch the very heart of us.
Though Medium isn’t a profitable place to share your poetry, it is a welcoming platform. The community of poetry writers are supportive. They read and clap. If you’ve managed to string together a striking image they tend to highlight it. And on occasion, you’ll receive an encouraging comment. I love those!
You’ll find all kinds of poems to read on Medium, from the brevity of Haiku to long free-verse poems that take you on a journey. Search the word poetry and you’ll discover publications dedicated to all sorts of poetic forms. And whether you share your efforts through one of these publications, publish on your own, or never show your poems to anyone, the time you take learning the art will not be in vain.
Lately my poetic efforts have been centered around sex, love, and the power dynamic of BDSM. I seem to have sex on the brain lately. Some people are baking during this pandemic to deal with stress. I tried that, but my husband complained about his weight gain, so I turned to the next best thing.
Like a melody, the sound and beat of the words on the page will start to produce music inside your mind. Read aloud, rhythms will appear in your prose work. You may begin to notice the dance between breath and pause, phrase and emphasis. Overall, your writing will become more musical.
When I’m stuck because I’ve written a character into a corner or I’m not ready to write a difficult scene, I’ve discovered that taking a break from my current manuscript to write a week’s worth of poetry is extremely beneficial. By the time I’m done with that exercise, I can return to my book with fresh eyes and the words flow freely again.
So if you’ve never written a poem in your life, I urge you to give it a try. If you are a closet poet, I encourage you to share your poetry on Medium. But above all, my friend, I hope you take a few minutes every day to read a poem. Not only will it teach you the language of emotion, but it will feed your writer’s soul.
It’s been a busy week! The most notable news that I have to share is that The Dreams of Demons, book 3 in the Legends of the Pale Series is now available for pre-order in ebook format with Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks…and soon many more. Just follow this universal link…Here to order your copy. I’ve also just ordered my paperback proof for Dreams of Demons and am eagerly waiting to hold my newest baby in my hands. I absolutely love Murmur and Gabriela’s story. And I hope you will too!
This week I’ve also been sharing my poetry on Medium. It’s quite personal as poetry tends to be. Here are links to my latest offerings published by The Partnered Pen. I intend to submit many more articles and poems in the coming months.
I also managed to put to bed the fourth book in my series this week, The Souls of Witches. I am extremely happy with how the book came together. I love Lars, but I have a soft spot where Rowan is concerned. She, like me, is a kitchen witch. This book was surprisingly hard for me to write because it required me to explain what it feels like to be a witch, to handle and read energy, and all the pitfalls of that kind of calling. This book is slated for release in October or early November. It all depends on my editor’s timetable.
Now that my desk has been cleared, I can get back to writing the next few books in this series. As always, the Legends of the Pale books are designed to be stand-alone novels with satisfying endings. No cliffhangers! I promise. 💕
Next week I will celebrate my 23rd wedding anniversary with the love of my life. I must say that my life has never been so good; writing full time, a son finally out of college, and travel on the horizon once this pandemic allows it. I thank you, readers and visitors to my site, for allowing me to share with you the worlds and characters roaming around inside my head. I hope I have touched you in some small way.
Much to her husband’s delight, Author Tarrant Smith is a practicing kitchen witch. She lives near the picturesque town of Madison, Georgia in a slightly dilapidated Antebellum house with the love of her life, her college-aged son, two cats, one worried rat-terrier, and a blind dachshund. She graduated Queen’s University in Charlotte, North Carolina with a degree in English Literature because…well, she was told to do something she loved.
She abandoned corporate retail within a year or two of college and bounced from job to job earning a variety of skills and meeting interesting people. Among other things, she’s been a horse breeder and trainer, a cook, a baker, kitchen manager, waitress, dog trainer, yoga teacher, and Reiki master. When she’s not in nature hiking, kayaking, or cycling, she’s curled up in a comfortable chair reading or working on her next book.
Ramona: Tell me more about your latest book:
Tarrant Smith: Without dropping spoilers, The Fate of Wolves is a stand-alone paranormal romance that can be read on several levels. On the surface it is a romance between Deegan, a world-weary werewolf alpha who has lost everything he’s ever loved to the curse, and Eva who is the very last of her bloodline and the culmination of a prophecy written by a god hundreds of years before her birth. The book is steamy in parts and delivers an unexpected twist for the reader near the end.
On a deeper level, the book wrestles with themes like the worthiness of being loved, can monsters find redemption, the duality of mind, and how do you hang on to your humanity when the world you live in is cursed.
Because of the depth and insights into the nature of love and the various forms that love takes within its pages, I’m very proud of this book.
Ramona: What was the most challenging aspect of writing this book?
Tarrant Smith: I had three challenges with The Fate of Wolves. The first was that it was the second book in a series of stand-alone novels. I knew that the gods would make appearance in each of the books, but I had to find a method of introducing the concept of the Pale and gods in a way a new reader would understand, and yet not bore a reader who’d already read The Love of Gods. It had to be succinct and something I could replicate in the books that would follow.
My second challenge was creating a werewolf mythology and a prophecy that could ultimately be fulfilled by the end of the book. That took a good bit of research into the various werewolf traditions—movie, literature, and lore. My love of history also helped me decide the place and time the original curse might have occurred.
The last challenge, and probably my biggest, was establishing the duality of the wolf-mind verses the human-mind, monster verses humanity. I wanted the reader to understand the different motivating factors within each character and also be willing to accept the mind-speak that occurs later in the book when the pack is in their wolf forms.
Ramona: When writing a book, how do you keep things fresh, for both your reader and yourself?
Tarrant Smith: To stay fresh, I give myself a new skill to master or angle to explore with each book. Whether it’s dialogue with multiple characters in a single scene, creating clear action sequences, exploring new mythology, or genre-bending, I never want to bore myself or the reader. As a whole, the genre of romance is dismissed far too often. Prospective readers have told me that romance is just too predictable, which translates to me as too shallow or lacking in deeper themes. Yes, some elements are required, but that can be said of any genre. I love nothing more than giving a new reader an appreciation for the sophistication my genre can offer.
Ramona: What is your normal procedure to get your books published?
Tarrant Smith: While producing a first draft, I’m usually working on more than one book at a time. This allows me to jump between books whenever I get bogged down because I’ve written my characters into situations that I don’t have answers to yet. It happens quite often. They’re a rowdy bunch and tend to exactly the opposite of what I had planned. But once I have a first draft, there are the rounds of rewrites and edits where I look for plot holes and sharpen the themes and dialogue. The actual rounds of grammatical edits happen once the book feels whole to me. This often take months. Once I’ve done all I can, I send the book to my editor who I trust with my life.
During my initial editing process, I am also working on designing possible covers and blurbs. I’m updating my website so readers know where in the process each book is and when they can expect a book to reach the marketplace. I don’t like to keep secrets from my readers. I don’t do last minute cover reveals. I operate more like Marvel movies by starting the book buzz a year before the release date.
Once I get the book back from April, my editor, I do a read through with her suggested changes. I then format the book myself and let Microsoft Word read it back to me so I have a chance to catch any lingering mistakes. Even with this final proofreading, one or two errors sometimes make it to final print and publication. Over the years I’ve learned to let that go. All I can do is give my very best effort and hope I’ve gotten them all.
I use Amazon platform to produce both a paperback and kindle edition. I use Draft2Digital to create and distribute the epub file to other retailers like Barnes & Noble, Nook, Apple, and others. After that, it’s all marketing. And a lot of hope.
Ramona: What motivated you to become an author?
Tarrant Smith: I’ve always written and been an avid reader. When I was younger, I mainly wrote very bad poetry. By college, I discovered my narrative voice and began learning the rules and forms of short story, novella, and novel writing. Even then I dreamed of being a published author, but I didn’t attempt it because of a college professor who warned me about how hard the publishing process could be. She wasn’t saying I didn’t possess talent, but she understood that I was too easily shattered by criticism and rejection at that point in my life. I’m now grateful that I waited to put myself out there.
With age comes a certain level of confidence and knowledge about life and relationships. I have far more to offer readers now than I did as a twenty-three-year-old. As to why I began publishing? It was for the money. My family was in need when I published in 2010. I had to find a way to pay bills. I needed another source of income, however small. And luckily for me, Amazon allowed me to bypass the traditional publishing world’s gatekeepers. Ebooks were still catching on with the reading public and I understood how to market myself using social media. In the end, I had a decent amount of success for an indie author, but more importantly the bills got paid.
Ever since that first royalty check, I’ve never looked back. I love being an indie author.
Ramona: How many books have you written so far? List and name them all here:
Tarrant Smith: Between the two series, I’ve published seven books thus far.
My first paranormal romance series consists of five tightly knit books which draw heavily on Celtic mythology, fey (fae) folklore, and Arthurian Legend. I began publishing these in 2010 with Enchanted Darkly. It was quickly followed up with Bound Darkly and Kept Darkly. Surrendered Darkly came next but it took until 2019 to release Resurrected Darkly. This final book was delayed because these were characters I loved, and I found it quite hard to say goodbye to the series. I now offer this series in a completed boxed set in ebook format only for readers who binge read like me.
In March of 2019 I also released the first book in my Legends of the Pales Series, The Love of Gods. It was followed up with The Fate of Wolves in October. Unlike the Darkly books, I wanted to give readers the freedom of reading the books out of order without feeling as if they’d missed anything from a previous book. Creating stand-alone books that all take place in the same universe has been a challenge, but I’ve populated the world of the Pale with so many supernatural communities that I don’t think I will be limited creatively as an author. My eighth book, The Dreams of Demons, will be released this June and the ninth, The Souls of Witches, in the fall of this year. I’m currently writing two more books scheduled for release in 2021. They too will be a part of the Legends of the Pale Series.
Ramona: Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotion strongly?
Tarrant Smith: Depending on the genre, I absolutely believe that someone could be a writer even if they don’t feel emotions strongly. Non-fiction and History are prime examples where emotion is not your friend. However, for the genre of romance—my genre—it’s all about the emotional connection between the author and his/her characters, the strong pull between the characters themselves, and the emotional ties between the reader and the book’s characters. To really make an impact, it’s best if I delve deep into that pool. If I don’t fall in love, hurt, laugh, and cry while writing then neither will the reader.
Ramona: How hard or easy is it to establish and maintain a career in writing? What is your advice for aspiring writers?
Tarrant Smith: I’m going to combine the last two questions because if you read my website blog, The Chalkboard, you’ll see that I spend a good bit of time answering these two questions for myself and others. My answer is always: Writing is Hard. And Publishing is Brutal. At least, this has been my experience.
Once a writer has learned the nuts and bolts of the form and formatting of a novel or short story, your success rests entirely on perseverance and a bit of luck. That is probably not what an aspiring writer wants to hear, but there’s no sugar coating this truth. Most writers I know have a 40 hour a week side-hustle to pay the bills and fund their writing habit. The exceptions are these…I have one friend that earns enough income with content writing to write fulltime. Or like me, a writer that is retired from their previous careers and is now writing fulltime. Or, they are independently wealthy and don’t need the income. The JK Rowling’s of the world, going from living in your car to selling millions of books, is that bit of luck I mentioned earlier. It doesn’t happen often.
However, that doesn’t mean you should give up writing. The best writers write because they must write. They have a story to tell, even if it’s to themselves. The indie authors that make the most income are the ones who are consistently producing good work. Their readers can rely on a new book coming out, usually twice a year. They understand how to brand and market themselves. And, they give back to the writing community whenever they can. For example, I keep an updated resource guide on my website for authors to utilize. When I learn some new marketing idea or avenue, I share it. I also do book reviews for indie authors whenever I have extra time. All of that effort plus consistent marketing across social media culminates in name recognition. And name recognition can get your books past the marketing noise and into the hands of readers.
So, if you are an aspiring writer. Write. Get the first draft done. Then keep writing because it takes writing a novel to learn how to write a novel. All the other stuff like marketing you can learn along the way. There will be others to help you. But first you have to begin.
I’ve contracted it. And no, I don’t mean Covid-19. I’ve come down with that debilitating malaise known as Marketplace Anxiety. It usually comes in waves and without warning. One day I’m happily writing and publishing, full of faith that readers are finding my published babies… and then one morning I wake up and I’m worried that the titles are going unnoticed. Suddenly, panic sets in and I’m doubting every choice I’ve made. I can’t write and all editing comes to a screeching halt. And before I know it, I’m contemplating a massive giveaway. Maybe, if I stand in front of Walmart and just hand out my books, or toss a tweet into the Twittersphere announcing everything I’ve ever written is free things might be okay again.
Does this sound familiar? If not, then perhaps you’re a more stable-minded author than me. I go through bouts of this kind of anxiety. It doesn’t help that I’m seeing traditionally published authors struggle during this pandemic. And though it might not be good business for me to admit it, part of the reason I have a blog is to share these kinds of behind the scene human moments.
Writing is hard. If you’ve ever read my posts, you’ve heard me say this. Let me add to it by saying that the publishing process is brutal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but you have to maintain a certain level of unwavering optimism about your work and marketing strategies to survive. Not to mention a degree of deafness when faced with naysayers and trolls.
Even armed with these qualities, I oftentimes worry that I’m just yelling into a void, my voice lost among so many.
So what do I do?
Well, firstly I pull out my Feel Better Notebook. I suggest every author keep one. In this notebook, I have a copy of all my awards and a smattering of book reviews where a reader praised not just the book but me as a writer. After reading them, I can say, “Self, you have talent. The books are good, just as good as any bestseller. These readers found them. Others will too.“
Once my confidence is boosted, I climb into the design chair to spruce up my promotional materials – but I give myself a limit. Ultimately, I know I have to get back to producing books. A new book hitting the market is the best way to engage previous readers and gain new ones.
So in my limited design time (one week), I’ve made new ads. Some of which I am running as campaigns on Facebook. I’m probably over posting across my list of Facebook groups but posting helps me feel better. I’m posting more on my author’s website and I have made changes/updates to several pages. I’m also tweeting more, taking advantage of the hashtag #indieApril. Is there anything else I can do? Sure.
I’ve animated several book covers using Glitterboo.com. This is a new skill I can now add to my wheelhouse. And, I will go back to Pubby.co in hopes of gaining a few more reviews for my books.
Will I do a massive giveaway? Probably not. Although I see other authors doing this, as well as, deeply discounting their books for what seems like an indefinite period. I believe engaging in this strategy too often hurts authors across the board. We get paid little enough for our creative efforts. $3.99 for an ebook is not asking too much for a year’s worth of work. That’s still one hell of a bargain no matter how you look at it.
My design week is now up. Do I feel better? Yes…kinda. I’ve done all I can do. I’ve shared what I’ve learned through my blog and on my resource page. I’m getting back the final edits on Dreams of Demons from my editor, which means I need to let go of my marketplace anxiety and begin the final stages of getting book 3 market-ready for release in June.
Eventually, you have to trust the process. And hope.
I’m always looking for ways to have my books stand out. An animated book cover is just one avenue that I’ve been curious about for quite some time. Most of the animated covers look so cool. Surely I could figure a way to do it, so I did a little research and it turns out basic glitter and stardust aren’t very hard to accomplish.
This evening I tried my hand at animating my book covers with just a bit of bling. For other authors that want to give it a try, Glitterboo is an easy online program that you can use to create gifs utilizing your cover image art. The options are limited, but I find too much movement to be distracting.
I know that the size of the resulting gif needs to remain relatively small to display quickly and well on Facebook. I also know that these gifs will likely be for online marketing only. Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and other E-readers don’t support gifs as covers -not yet anyway. In the meantime, Glitterboo lets you download a static jpeg of your sparkling cover – and that can be used as an ebook cover if you want your marketing and cover to more closely match-up.
You are going to want an account with Giphy.com to have a home for your gifs. This will enable you to share your creations across various platforms relatively easily. You can also resize your gifs in Giphy. You can also create an account with Imgur as a way to get your gifs out into the world.
I plan on researching this idea further and will share what I find.
Beyond getting exercise, the writing, the edits, the blogging, the Medium posts, the constant meals and snacks, and the ongoing search to find one more roll of toilet paper…I’ve been watching authors scramble to figure out how to reach readers during this pandemic. April and May are huge months for book releases in the publishing industry. Oftentimes the hype and planning for the events surrounding a book’s release have been going on for months in advance. Now with Covid-19, all those parties and signings have been canceled or postponed. And Indie Bookstores are getting hit particularly hard as state after state enact shelter-in-place orders. Not only are they losing their usual sales, but also the extra income that author events bring in.
Some have argued that the industry will never quite look the same when all this is over. So what’s an author to do? How do you anticipate and position yourself for an altered publishing paradigm?
Well firstly, from what I see, both the indie and traditionally published are postponing their book releases – if at all possible. I have also seen a wave of book advertising online. Everyone is pinning their hopes on ebooks sales. We’re hoping that readers will utilize their Kindles, Nooks, and Ereaders while they’re stuck at home. So even if an author is forced to release his/her book during the middle of the pandemic, we’re praying that it won’t be a total loss.
I can report that I’ve sold more ebooks in March than I did in February. It’s not a huge amount and I was running a sale, but people do seem to be more willing to download an ebook to fill the hours and that is a hopeful sign.
Luckily my book, The Dreams of Demons isn’t due out until June, which means I still have a little time for the virus curve to flatten. How Amazon is doing at the end of May will directly affect my ability to generate a paperback for readers, but the digital version won’t be an issue. It will be ready for purchase and downloadable within days of the file being uploaded.
When I will be able to schedule events and signings again is anyone’s guess. No author knows. And like other indie authors, I rely on those direct interactions and sales to support my book-writing habit.
But back to the question of what will the future of publishing look like…
I personally don’t think the larger picture will look that much different.
Most authors will never be able to make a living through book sales alone. They will always have a side hustle to pay their bills.
The big five publishers will continue to consolidate. With the likely sale of Simon & Schuster coming, the big five will become four.
Small niche and boutique publishers will continue to sprout up. Some will make it, some won’t.
Indie authors will continue to flood the marketplace with ebooks. And it will continue to be hard to stand out in such a crowded marketplace.
I believe the ebook market share will enjoy a boost that is directly related to the pandemic, but there will always be readers who will prefer a paperback to an ebook.
The popularity of Audiobooks will continue to grow and new cost-conscious avenues to creating an audiobook will begin to appear.
Now whether struggling indie bookstores will come back stronger than ever is anyone’s guess. For obvious reasons, I hope they do.
Here is my smaller picture answer…as an indie author.
Indie authors will use this time to keep writing their books. Some will forgo creating a paperback version until life is back to normal.
We will obsess over our sales reports, or lack of reports, and do our utmost to get the best bang for our buck with our online marketing.
Some authors will panic and give their books away for free. (I won’t, but that’s another blog post.)
Someone will monetize their websites to sell directly to readers. (Looking into it but I don’t want to take online sales away from brick and mortar stores who carry my books and have an online presence.)
We will blog.
We will digitally network with other authors.
We will read and leave reviews for other authors because we are a community who tends to support each other.
And we will wait… and hope as we look forward to the day that our in-person events can safely resume.
One of the nice activities that came from sheltering at home with my husband has been our daily walk and talk sessions. Across from our house, we have a gravel road that is approximately 2.5 miles there and back. It takes us about 45 minutes to make the round trip and during that time we converse about subjects both big and small. Today, we discussed the various shades of BDSM in porn and books.
That may shock you, but back when I first starting writing romance using dual point of views, it was important to me that the male perspective to sound…well, male and not just what women think men should feel, think, or sound like. So we had a very frank series of discussions on sex and the development of relationships as seen through the male and female experience. Those sometimes awkward but candid conversations helped both my writing and our relationship.
What prompted today’s topic had everything to do with the changes I’ve been noticing in the publishing world- specifically the erotica genre. Romance and erotica books are getting edgier, the sex scenes longer. And there is now a clear line of distinction between erotica and romance that used to be considerably more blurred in the past. Romance is about the emotional development of the relationship and can have sex scenes or no sex scenes as the story/plot unfolds, and Erotica is all about the sexual experience first and the story/plot second -if at all. Each has its place in the publishing world but please don’t confuse the two of them.
But back to the talk…
It’s kind of amazing what pops up on a daily Facebook feed when you’re a writer. In early March, I was inundated with ads for gay romance books. M/M, M/M Harem, and the occasional Lesbian Dominatrix books. There were a few gay terms I didn’t already know which my husband was all too willing to explain. I think he thought I’d be shocked. I wasn’t.
But lately, I’ve been seeing quite a few sponsored FB ads for erotica books that fall into the M/F Alpha shifter, M/F Vamp-slave, and Dom-Mafia category. A good many of the excerpts were clearly BDSM in flavor. Okay, to each their own.
So let’s talk BDSM. A good many romance books rely on the dark and overly dominating hero character. That’s the Dom part of the equation. He sees her and for whatever reason he must have her for himself.
Then there’s the sub, the female who ultimately submits to the Dom’s desires. She can be a spunky, kick-ass, and a smart-ass heroine but still, in the end, she surrenders to the passion that only he can ignite in her. That’s your basic Dom/sub dynamic. He dominates and she submits. This can be a 24/7 lifestyle or just in the bedroom dynamic.
The B stands for bondage. This is often found in romance books, primarily in the historic and paranormal sub-genres. The hero restrains his captive (heroine) for a short period of time. This can take many forms. It can be as mild as regulating her to a room, cell, or castle grounds. Or it can be putting her in chains, cage, or ropes until she’s willing to cooperate. Still, this is pretty standard stuff and rarely is done to the heroine to hurt her. The dynamic, of course, can also be reversed…where the male is the submissive and the female lead is the Dom. But that’s another book entirely.
That leaves M. I don’t like M, never have. M stands for Sadism/Masochism. In the excerpts I’ve recently read, the Dom degrade and hurts the sub for pleasure. Oh, I am so not cool with this floating around in books! The excerpt in question (the one that prompted the walking discussion today) was mainly the verbal degrading of a heroine, though the male in power also slapped her. This is straight-up abuse and is not sexy at all to me. Running for your life, only to be caught, slapped around, and be threatened with rape or death is not good erotica.
I realize that this unhealthy abuse disguised as love paradigm is nothing new to the world. It’s just as a romance author, I hate to see it gaining any traction with readers. And I suspect it is, if only for its shock value.
While we walked and talked…
I realized that my steamy romance books are fairly vanilla in the big scheme of things. Yes, my dark heroes are domineering but they also have hearts of gold. Each of them would do anything to please their women. My heroines are all strong in their own way. Somehow they quickly learn how to manage their muscle-bound, testosterone-filled suitors. In a world filled with books trying to shock you, my sex scenes tend to focus on the emotional give-and-take and less on the mechanics of the act itself. I have always measured myself by the Christine Feehan/Sherrilyn Kenyon standard. If my love scenes didn’t go on for as many pages as theirs did…and yet I still blushed, then I had hit the mark.
I used to be embarrassed to tell people that I write those scenes. When speaking to a new reader, I’d always warned them that those scenes existed. Some readers expect them. Others just skip over them. I know flipping past them is a huge mistake; simply too much of the connection between the characters is lost. It would be like skipping ever other line in a poem. The heart of the meaning is missed.
I tried to explain this to my husband, who is proud of my books but has never read any of them himself. In typical male fashion, he shrugged and gave me one of those non-agreement grunts of his.
I understand. Why read the book when you have the real thing walking beside you.
3) Writing is an internal struggle that never ends and a learning curve you never quite master.
4) Bad reviews will happen…harden the fuck up!
5) Your best writing efforts will be intensely personal.
(That’s the shortlist. If you want the long list, pick up any book on writing. There are thousands of them and more being written daily.)
Because I write steamy paranormal romance, you’d think that my books are just a product of sheer imagination – but each of the above rules apply. Despite the gods, demons, werewolves, and other assorted supernatural beings, I am still writing about love, commitment, and the assorted emotions that play a part in those relationships. And to have a reader buy-all-in to this universe I’ve created, I have to dig deep and embrace rule #5. And it’s this rule more than any that I continually struggle with.
You’ve probably noticed that I didn’t spend much time addressing the nuts and bolts of writing. The editing. The rewrites. The form and formatting. The reason? You will never stop learning new-to-you grammatical rules. That’s why authors have editors.
So back to rule #5…
Intensely personal writing is the emotional life-blood of a tale. It’s what connects the reader to the story being told. It’s what brings us to tears and makes us laugh out loud. It’s why readers keep reading until the very last page of a book.
Here’s an example of me getting personal, The Love of Gods: (explicit content)
Her body was no longer entirely hers. Keely was aware that in her mind she was no longer alone. There was more than just Keely, there was her—his woman, his other half. She was strong and giving, loyal and brave. She had many names, many lives, but she was forever the same when he found her, when he held her, loved her, cherished her. She was his, as he was hers. She felt the power of him flow into her and then back again. The beat of who they were rolled and crashed inside her. Back and forth. Retreat and return. Life and death. Joy and pain. Again he came, driving into her, sharing his power, sharing his body. And she received him, welcomed him, soaked him in, drank her fill before giving back. Giving herself, giving her body, giving her life, giving her love.
“Stay with me,” he coaxed against her ear.
He breathed with her, across her skin, his body hot and hard, hers soft and melting. There was nothing more perfect than when he came to her, needing her. There was only Lugh, his heat, his body, his need, his power flowing through her. She was a part of him as he was a part of her.
She felt him swell inside her body. She was coiling again, racing for the edge with him. Her nails dug into his skin. He was her anchor. They would fly together this time, him cradling her, surrounding her always.
“Please,” she cried.
The rhythm of their music changed, became faster, a driving beat. He was pushing them now, sweeping her toward the edge with him. He moved into her harder, the power of him crashing into her more quickly.
She responded in kind, giving all of herself to him, a complete surrender to him and to what she would become because of him.
And then they were exploding together, two stars burning with one light, beyond the bonds of time. They were perfect. They were eternal.
The Love of Gods
The above speaks of connection -of the give and take that is at the center of really good sex when you are with someone you completely trust. Yes, Lugos is a god and Keely is mortal in this tale, but really good sex is transcendent. If you haven’t ever felt this with a partner, then you’re with the wrong person.
In the current book I’m working on, I’m getting very real about magick. My magick. What it is really like to live magickally. What it feels like to direct energy. What it is like to be a witch. And because I want to give readers a clear understanding of this concept and not some Harry Potter version of witchcraft, I am finding it frustrating to articulate the sensation in an honest way. I think I’ve come closest thus far in this brief example.
The following is from Chapter 1, The Souls of Witches:
The clink and chatter of the cafe’s kitchen fell away as Rowan’s focus spiraled inward, ever-narrowing until all she saw or felt was the vanilla buttercream as it slid smoothly along the cake’s cold surface. Memories of her grandmother’s kitchen, its sights, sounds, and aromas flowed into her mind and along her arm as she guided another dollop of white frosting across the cake’s cold surface. The air grew heavy with the scent of powdered sugar and of baked delights, of remembered love, and of cinnamon belonging.
The flow of energy was easily directed, as if it were her own wand and not the metal baker’s tool. A whirl here for love. A reassuring hug from one who cares. A graceful wave of longing along the side—the white veil now sweet and dense with promise. She worked widdershins, counterclockwise, until the whole of the hummingbird cake lay blanketed with her magick and the flavor of home lay thick on her taste buds. Rowan ignored the ache in her shoulders and topped the uniquely Southern confection with chopped walnuts, toasted and still warm from the oven before tying off the simple spell. Stepping back, she surveyed her work and let a soul-deep smile lift the corners of her mouth before moving on to the next dessert.
The Souls of Witches
Granted, this hasn’t been vetted by my editor yet but I think I’ve been able to communicate the dynamics of memory/feeling/and energy that the spell in this particular scene requires. My biggest problem is that in a universe where so many of my characters are supernatural, I find that I need to share something of myself that many would consider not-real. Make no mistake, witches are real. Magick is real. The Craft is a learned practice. The ability to wield power can be learned and nurtured over time, but usually, it is a natural phenomenon someone is born with.
This particular book will be released in October of this year, but my struggles with rule #5 will go on.
For all my fellow authors who read my blog, I hope this post helped remind you to keep your own writing raw and personal. Write what needs to be written, and say what needs to be said as honestly as you can.
And for all my readers, thank you for letting me share a bit of me with you today.