Saturday, May 31, 2014

Discovering New Authors

Posted by: Nicole Luiken



I read (and buy) a lot of books. My tastes run to romance and SF/fantasy.  I am a very loyal reader and auto-buy many authors. Every month my husband and I have a list of books culled from Locus magazine and Goodreads New Books By Authors You Like emails that we go in search of.  But how do I discover new authors?

1/ Browsing. In college, I used to spend hours browsing the library paperback racks and used bookstore shelves. Nowadays, I frequent bookstores. Every Saturday we visit our mall bookstore and every 1-2 months we go to a bigger bookstore like Chapters or Indigo—but those are usually hunting trips for specific titles for me. My husband, on the other hand, does a lot more impulse buying based on a good cover/back blurb. And those books often end up being read first by me because his TBR pile is enormous. This is how I discovered Robert Jordan, Ilona Andrews, Diana Pharaoh Francis, Naomi Novik and Jim Butcher.

2/ Recommendation. My husband reads lots of SF/fantasy books, and my mom reads lots of romance. This is how I discovered Terry Pratchett, Charles de Lint and Jayne Ann Krentz.

3/ Buzz. When I hear on Twitter or Goodreads that people are excited about the next book in a popular series, I may try to hunt down book one. This is how I discovered Darynda Jones, Patricia Briggs, Faith Hunter and Patrick Rothfuss.  Since I write YA, I keep my ear open for popular YA titles on the market. I will often try these first from the library and then, if I enjoy them, purchase my own copies. This is how I discovered Sarah Rees Brennan.

4/ Awards.  This works in two ways. I like to vote for the Aurora Awards, which often means trying new Canadian SF/fantasy authors. I have also taken note of which books have won or been nominated for RITAs. This is how I discovered both Tessa Dare and Jennifer Crusie.

5/ Cons. If I personally meet an author at a convention or am impressed by hearing them speak on a panel, I’m more likely to pick up their book. This is how I discovered Diana Rowland (seated at the same banquet table), Carol Berg (attended a panel) and Chadwick Ginther (friend of a friend).




6/ Online: Blogs, book clubs and free ebooks.  An entertaining blog post or excerpt will often lead me to check out a sample chapter or free read by that author.  I also belong to an online Romance book club which emails me the first 25 pages of a new book every week. This is how I discovered Jill Sorenson (book club), Eleri Stone (blog post & sample chapter) and PG Forte (excerpt & free ebook).



Oddly, I almost never read reviews. When I do, it’s usually to see what someone else thought of a book that I just finished reading.

How do you discover new authors? Do you read reviews?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the Demise of Urban Fantasy

Posted by: Seleste deLaney/Julie Particka
A twitter conversation yesterday about how hard it is to break into the urban fantasy genre took a rather depressing turn as more and more authors chimed in that their agents have told them to step away from urban fantasy entirely unless they already have a successful series going. The genre has not only been declared dead by New York, it seems, but dead, buried, and eulogized.

Then a lone voice spoke up (a reader/reviewer) and begged authors not to give up on the genre.

So how did this happen? And what is an author to do when publishers are shying away and readers still want books?

On the former, there are only theories.

  • The typical glutted market argument. Too many books not enough readers. I, for one, don't buy this argument as urban fantasy was not a sudden surge genre and hadn't had some random book or three that was a colossal hit and made everyone sick of it. *NOTE: for the purpose of this exercise, paranormal romance is a different animal, and as far as I know that's still selling okay.
  • People have burned out and moved on. Again, based on that reader who spoke up (and I don't know about anyone else, but jumping into a convo with a bunch of authors was always hard for me as a reader, so I'm not surprised there was only one) people still want these books.
  • They want unique but not too unique. Pretty much this same book, only different. New authors hear this all the time. We want a series like ______ only without vampires. Maybe, but too many books that are supposedly "different" still feel "the same." From the outside, it seems as if New York is afraid of anything really unique, which leads to the genre feeling stale.


So what do I really think happened to urban fantasy? Too many series that dragged on past their prime (or are still dragging on). Rather than finding a good spot where the story could end strong, series were teased out until even die-hard readers were done. And if the ending was unsatisfactory? Why would those readers invest in another series, knowing it could be equally disappointing?

You know what I miss? What I would love to see revived to reinvigorate the urban fantasy genre? Limited run series. Three books and done. Five books and done. Whatever number the series REQUIRES to tell the story--and then it's DONE. No stretching it out because it's selling like mad. Let the profit be in a great story told start to finish. The problem with this is it would take publishers to really commit to an author.

Think about Harry Potter (not urban fantasy, but a good example for my purposes). A SEVEN book series by an untested author. Can she do edits? Can she meet deadlines? What if book one tanks?

Obviously I don't know the ins and outs of the contract Jo Rowling signed but I've heard of publishers trying to back out of signed three-book contracts when they don't feel the first two have lived up to their expectations. That's right, trying to renegotiate on the last book.

But if we can't get New York to commit (and small press/digital publishers are still performing best in the romance arena), the only way for urban fantasy to survive it seems is through authors self-publishing. The commitment there is from the author direct to the readers--with no one else standing in the way.

I don't know about you, but if New York doesn't want to find new ways to support and sell urban fantasy, I'll look to the people who love it like I do--the authors who are willing to go it alone and give the readers what they want.

For me, I want more vampires, werewolves, witches and zombies in my life. Don't you?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Win-A-Book Wednesday with...Jeffe Kennedy!

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy

Jeffe Kennedy


 Jeffe Kennedy is an award-winning author with a writing career that spans decades. Her works include non-fiction, poetry, short fiction, and novels. She has been a Ucross Foundation Fellow, received the Wyoming Arts Council Fellowship for Poetry, and was awarded a Frank Nelson Doubleday Memorial Award. Her essays have appeared in many publications, including Redbook. 
Her most recent works include a number of fiction series: the fantasy romance novels of A Covenant of Thorns;  the contemporary BDSM novellas of the Facets of Passion, and an erotic  contemporary serial novel, Master of the Opera, which released beginning January 2, 2014. A fourth series, the fantasy trilogy The Twelve Kingdoms, will hit the shelves starting in May 2014 and a fifth, the highly anticipated erotic romance trilogy, Falling Under, will release starting in July.
She lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, with two Maine coon cats, plentiful free-range lizards and a very handsome Doctor of Oriental Medicine.
Jeffe can be found online at her website: JeffeKennedy.com, every Sunday at the popular Word Whores blog, on Facebook, and pretty much constantly on Twitter @jeffekennedy. She is represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg of Foreword Literary.

Brand New as of May 27!!

The Mark of the Tala

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

“This magnificent fairy tale will captivate you from the beginning to end with a richly detailed fantasy world full of shapeshifters, magic and an exciting romance! Andi isn’t your ordinary must-have-a-prince-to-save-me type of princess. She begins as the invisible middle sister, not a great beauty like Amelia, nor a warrior like Ursula – instead Andi is content to remain a wallflower, until she meets Rayfe and her entire world is turned upside down. She makes wise choices, all to save her people from the harsh realities of battle, and even when faced with horrible options, her course is one of truth, loyalty and love. Rayfe is dark and intense, keeping his feelings close to the chest, but trusts Andi to make the right decisions. They are a remarkable pair, one who celebrate individuality with a partnership that will last for a lifetime.”
- RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars TOP PICK!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Story Behind Second Chance by the Sea

Posted by: Ruth A Casie
During this year's long frigid winter my critique partners longed to escape to some place warm, the Virgin Islands. Soft warm trade winds, the sweet smell of tropical flowers, the pungent taste of island cocktails. Ah... if only we could. But wait! There was.


If we couldn't actually escape to the islands we could take a virtually trip and that's exactly what we did. We created Star Island, a fictional island off the coast of St. Thomas. The small island became the setting for our short story romances.

I decided to take my story from real life. My brother and sister-in-law, Alan and Eloise, were married ten years ago in Atlanta. It was not the first marriage for either of them but this is truly a love match.

Alan is retired and Eloise is now Vice President of an all girls college in
Alan and Eloise's First Wedding
California responsible for student affairs. In getting their paperwork together for the California benefits program they found that their Atlanta marriage was never registered! Alan, always the jokster called to ask me to stand up for them at their wedding. What? You have to know Alan to understand that if this was going to happen to anyone it would be him. Of course I said yes.

So last October, the Sunday after the NJ conference, I flew to California for their second wedding. I spent a week with them and had a great time.

When Lita, Emma, Nicole, Julie, and I started to brainstorm our summer read I knew Alan and Eloise's story had to be part of it. I used their situation but that was all. Their true story is one of love and devotion and very happily ever after.


Timeless Escapes: A Collection of Summer Stories


Introduction by Roxanne St. Claire

Ruth A. Casie ~ Second Chance by the Sea
Married for ten years, a couple at odds find their marriage was never registered. Will an impending disaster be the final straw that breaks them up or will it rekindle their love and send them back to the altar for a second chance?
Lita Harris ~ Chasing Fireflies
Soured on love by a recent breakup, a travel agent with a fear of flying and open water takes a trip to the Virgin Islands. She meets a boat captain who challenges her fears. Will she survive her breakup and find happiness in the arms of another man?
Emma Kaye ~ In Her Dreams
When an author escapes to the Virgin Islands to work on her latest book, she’s swept back in time to Regency England and must decide whether the love she finds with an English lord is real or only in her dreams.
Nicole S. Patrick ~ Poseidon’s Strength
A beloved hero’s death leads his sister and his best friend, who have never seen eye-to-eye, to discover that helping family can be their happy medium, and possibly lead them to uncover a love that's meant to be.
Julie Rowe ~ A Pirate’s Vacation                                                      
A doctor grieving the death of her husband, buys a B&B in the Virgin Islands in need of a lot of fixing. Her old flame arrives to help with repairs, but will she let him heal her shattered heart?

If you would like to find out more about Timeless Escapes, please feel free to join our Facebook Beach Party on May 30 at http://on.fb.me/1melIKj

Monday, May 26, 2014

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

New Releases


Book one of The Tudor Enigma

England is the prize. The death of a young king is the price.

King Henry IX, son of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, holds the very balance of European power in his Protestant hands. His numerous Catholic enemies have cast greedy eyes upon his crown and will stop at nothing to usurp the throne.

An unassuming apothecary in the Outer Green of Hampton Court Palace is the Queen's last hope.Luke Ballard treats the poor with balms and salves but is careful to protect his greater gifts. For Luke is also an elemancer, one of the blessed few able to harness elemental powers for good. His quiet life ends when Queen Anne commands him to hunt down the traitors, a mission he cannot refuse.

Beset on all sides, Luke mobilizes his arsenal of magic and ingenuity to conquer the enemy. But as the stakes are raised in the uneven battle of good vs. evil, he knows this is only the first skirmish of a lifelong war. The welfare of the Tudors--and England--depends on him alone.

Barnes & Noble - http://bit.ly/QjCaic
Amazon.com - http://amzn.to/1eQ3bFl
Amazon.co.uk - http://amzn.to/1eQ3bFl

**


The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

Get it today!

Group Announcements

Veronica Scott's science fiction romance ESCAPE FROM ZULAIRE has been named as a Finalist in the National Excellence in Romance Fiction Awards.

Available on Amazon (ebook and paperback)  and at other ebook retailers

Andi Markriss hasn't exactly enjoyed being the houseguest of the planetary high-lord, but her company sent her to represent them at a political wedding. When hotshot Sectors Special Forces Captain Tom Deverane barges in on the night of the biggest social event of the summer, Andi isn't about to offend her high-ranking host on Deverane's say-so--no matter how sexy he is, or how much he believes they need to leave now.

That mission proves more dangerous than he expected when rebel fighters attack the village and raze it to the ground. Deverane escapes with Andi.....and the adventure begins!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Fairytale Tropes - What's Your Favorite?

Posted by: Jeffe Kennedy
This is an exciting time for me - Tuesday, May 27 sees the release of my first Fantasy novel!

I say it that way because it's the first novel I've had published that's designated purely as fantasy. Carina Press usually calls my Covenant of Thorns books "fantasy romance." It's been more fun than I thought to have this new book, The Mark of the Tala, available in trade paperback as well as ebook. The cover has this lovely, buttery feel to it, making it ideal for petting. :-) I had copies at the RT Booklovers Convention last week and watching people hold copies, flip through them and read gave me all kinds of delightful shivers.

Even better, some people were reading during the week and talking to me about the story and characters. One reviewer even handed me her copy, so I could see all the sticky notes she'd used to annotate what she saw as the important sections. She thought I might get something out of seeing those and - wow! - did I ever. Truly fascinating.

She and I had a great conversation about the story, too, and the fairytale tropes I explore in it. See, when I wrote this book, I called it "The Middle Princess." The blurb goes as such:

The tales tell of three sisters, daughters of the high king. The eldest, a valiant warrior-woman, heir to the kingdom. The youngest, the sweet beauty with her Prince Charming. No one says much about the middle princess, Andromeda. Andi, the other one.

Andi doesn’t mind being invisible. She enjoys the company of her horse more than court, and she has a way of blending into the shadows. Until the day she meets a strange man riding, who keeps company with wolves and ravens, who rules a land of shapeshifters and demons. A country she’d thought was no more than legend–until he claims her as its queen.

In a moment everything changes: Her father, the wise king, becomes a warlord, suspicious and strategic. Whispers call her dead mother a traitor and a witch. Andi doesn’t know if her own instincts can be trusted, as visions appear to her and her body begins to rebel.

For Andi, the time to learn her true nature has come. . .

I've long been fascinated by the concept of the three princesses, which symbolizes the power of three in the subconscious. Magic works on the construct of three, as in seed, soil, manifestation. Very often stories focus on one and three, but two is a bridge, the intermediary, the incubation.


A very interesting place to start.

And FUN. I mean, I got to write about princesses! They live in castles - and there's even one on the cover! I got to add in magic, draw a map, and have a very noble, handsome Prince Charming. Of course, the *real* fun comes in turning the story on its ear. My princesses are more than icons - they're real women with hopes, sorrows and heavy responsibilities. Nobody is who they seem.

That's the best part of playing with fairytale tropes - taking those shining childhood ideas and reinterpreting them as an adult.

So I have my stories about the three daughters of the High King, each more beautiful than the last. What's yours?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Paranormal Side of Life: Symbolism and the Subtext

Posted by: Danube Adele

Why are we so in love with the paranormal? Winged creatures, shape shifters, witches, immortal demons and vampires are just a few of the creatures that we absolutely eat up like junk food before an apocalypse. Give me the genetically altered soldiers with superhuman powers and strength, give me the hybrid human/animals that are looking for freedom and vindication, and let me pretend to be a fun-loving, vicious Valkyrie for the next several hours. But why? What keeps me buying and writing these books?

Here’s why I think we love this stuff. On a subconscious level, we recognize, relate to and/or desire the experience of what these creatures and powers are actually symbolic of. Using the examples above, it seems to me that being the soldier with superhuman strength and power represents justice and/or vengeance for a wrong committed. The hybrid human/animals let us remember that our inner spirits are wild, that we all have a sense of feeling alienated and want/need acceptance, and underneath it all, we're all animals lurking beneath a thin layer of civilization. A fun-loving Valkyrie is symbolic of the beautiful feminist spirit that lives in all of us. We crave these experiences as human beings, packaged vicariously of necessity because our daily lives can’t afford to run so dramatically. It doesn't diminish the impact. Triumph is ours, particularly when we’ve gone through the scene that takes us through death, darkness and the unknown, and we still come out whole on the other side.

Symbolism runs rampant through the images we create adding layers of deeper meaning to the text, which makes the experience that much more enjoyable to the reader. As we devour a good book, the subtext created by rich symbolism decorates a reader’s mind with layers of thought, feeling, perception, and images without the reader even realizing this is happening. If you remember the movie Avatar, scenes with the native blue people were shot with bright vibrant colors with beautiful ambient lighting, and these creatures were able to directly tie into nature with their braids, which was symbolic of life and regeneration. Scenes that took place with the military were dark, gritty and enclosed in metal rooms with no natural light, symbolizing cold, grim death and destruction. These feelings and perceptions paint the walls of the reader’s/movie goer’s mind. For this reason, you get to the end of an amazing life-altering book and feel like it’s still surrounding you, like you conquered the dragon yourself, as you go about your daily life.

The sequel to QUICKSILVER DREAMS is out June 9th. Shandria Langston is the last remaining daughter of the leader of the Sunan, in DARK SUMMER DREAMS. She is able to connect with the minds of animals and communicate with them. Often a source of nuisance to her in the past, she realizes it’s actually one of her strengths, and she embraces her inner power to overcome the external as well as the internal conflicts that are presenting themselves. She's able to read minds and dreamwalk (hop into someone's dreams), symbolic of the need we have to take control of our lives. Enemies have made attempts on her life since she was a child, which is why she’s lived hidden away in isolation for most of her life, feeling as though she was somehow fragile or weak. Then she’s tasked with saving the life of said sworn enemy who then kidnaps her for his own revenge. Embracing her power lets her recognize just how strong she is, and let’s her break out of the fake mold she was forced into in order to become the powerful woman she was meant to be. And her sworn enemy turns out to be hot, too. Not that she’s paying attention to that.

Thanks so much for giving me your time today. What paranormal characters have been unforgettable to you?
Book two of Dreamwalkers

I freed him from imprisonment, only to become his pawn.

I, Shandria Langston, last remaining daughter of the leader of the Sunan, was charged with an impossible task. I had to rescue Kraggon Dragmor—sworn enemy of my people—from the death chamber. If I refused, our world as we know it would be destroyed.

Oh, but was he happy with my sacrifice? No. Instead of being properly appreciative of this selfless act, of being grateful that I tended to him through a deathly illness, the bastard’s kidnapped me. I’m “a symbol of retribution for his people.” The man has no heart.

I have only one advantage in captivity: I can read Kraggon’s thoughts. I know that he can’t afford to admit that I empathize with his people. He can’t afford to admit that I am more beautiful than any woman he’s ever seen, or allow me to fire his blood with every look…and he can’t afford to admit that he’ll do anything to save me, that I’ve become his heart.

Presale links!
Carina Press, Apple ibooks, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, All Romance, Google Play, Kobo

You can find me at www.facebook.com/Writer.D.Adele, www.twitter.com/DanubeAdele, www.google.com/+DanubeAdele, www.danubeadele.wordpress.com
www.goodreads.com/author/show/7340150.Danube_Adele

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Win-A-Book Wednesday with...Cindy Spencer Pape!

Posted by: Jax Garren

Cindy Spencer Pape




Cindy Spencer Pape firmly believes in happily-ever-after and brings that to her writing. Award-winning author of 19 novels and more than 30 shorter works, Cindy lives in southeast Michigan with her husband, two sons, granddaughter, and a houseful of pets. When not hard at work writing she can be found dressing up for steampunk parties and Renaissance fairs, or with her nose buried in a book.




Don't miss book #7 in the award-winning, best-selling Gaslight Chronicles. Not only will you find pirates, smugglers and kidnappers, but long-time readers will find a surprising fact about some of your favorite characters!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Here Be News

Posted by: Eleri Stone

New Releases


When airship engineer Melody McKay's dirigible explodes and plunges her into the yard of a gothic manor, she suspects foul play. With her ankle injured--an indignity far too feminine for her taste--she resolves to crack the mystery while in the care of Victor Arrington, the stuffy-yet-disarming Earl of Blackwell.

Ex-Royal Navy Captain Victor runs a tight house and is on a mission to protect his niece and foil a ring of smugglers using fire-breathing metal dragons. He has no time for romantic attachments. Particularly not with women who fall from the sky wearing trousers and pilot's goggles.

As he and Melody navigate a treachery so deep it threatens the lives of everyone in Black Heath, the earl becomes unexpectedly attached to his fiery houseguest, and Melody discovers a softness in her heart for him. But when the smugglers strike, there's more at risk than just their future together.

Get it today!


**

In the battle between good and evil, humans have never been more than collateral damage. Now they are prey. Mankind doesn’t need a hero. It needs a sinner.
Corrupt. Wicked. Nefarious. Contemptible....

The Baddest Boys in History are back!

You read about them in school. Now learn the truth. Real men. No vampires, no werewolves, no magic. Just down and dirty raw power —sin to sin, evil to evil, bad to bad. They fight for humanity. It was that or eternal damnation.
They agreed to risk their souls. No one told them they would lose their hearts.

THE BASTARD
Vike died in blood, in battle, in betrayal. His ruthlessness was second only to his brutality. Now one woman makes his blood sing and he’ll stop at nothing to save her. He only has to face half of Hell to do it.
Lacy is unknowingly descended from an ancient Holy line. Someone is slowly destroying her life and wants her dead. A fierce Viking comes to her rescue, and in his arms, she finds more than safety.
If Vike can’t protect Lacy, he’ll have to kill her. And for a bastard, what’s one woman worth when the entire world is in jeopardy?

Get it today!

GROUP ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Authors Angela Campbell and Ruth A. Casie are finalists for the 2014 Reader's Crown from RomCon. Campbell's books "On the Scent" and "Something Wicked" are finalists in romantic suspense and paranormal categories, and Casie's "The Guardian's Witch" is a finalist in Sci-Fi/time travel.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saga of a Slush Pile

Posted by: T.C. Mill
Beginning this past March, and ending, Muse willing, June 1st, a friend and I have been enjoying--or at least experiencing--our slush pile debut. 

We set out with good intentions and with lust to publish the smut we wanted to see in the world.

This crusade, undertaken by my friend "Pasi" and I, started with an adventure in a Belgian bookstore. From America, I sent Pasi electronic messages of encouragement to explore what's being published romance and erotica-wise in her native land. She and her girlfriend promptly went to investigate the contents of some bookshelves...and returned disappointed, even to the point of horror. They bore tales of yawn- and groan-worthy heteronormativity, overabundance of "alpha males" who really just seemed  to be entitled jerks rather than attractive lovers, prose so purple it became ultraviolet. I wanted to comfort her by pointing out a lot of excellent erotica exists out there, too--but my confidence was suddenly undermined by reading the Bad Sex in Fiction award winners. 

The fact is, our disappointment ran all the deeper because we did know some excellent writing existed. When I was younger I'd had the patience to shift through a lot of meh and some downright yucky books to get to a core of authors I really loved, and as an older reader, I began to expand my list judiciously with the guidance of a lot of reviews and more than a few anthologies (for which my habit, at one point, became "read cover to cover, write down the authors of the stories that didn't make me rage outright, hunt them down and never read the antho again, because of the rage outright bit." Sadly, even my best pre-screenings have failed to catch some rage-inducing reading experiences such as romanticized date-rape by the 'hero'). Meanwhile, Pasi had been getting most of her smutty and romantic fix through fanfiction. And we realized: between Pasi’s background in fanfiction and fandom culture, and my experience with the small press and self-publishing, we not only knew there were underappreciated writers out there who could do much, much better if given the chance, we also knew how to provide that chance. 

NewSmutProject Icon

Thus, the New Smut Project was born.  Our goal: to bring the best aspects of NC-17 fanfiction and small press work—character-relevant sex, thoughtfulness, wordplay, and passion—in two collections of original erotica.

We sat down to write our submission guidelines. Aside from as much snickering about “submission” as might be expected when kinky individuals like ourselves sat down together, this went well, because we also shared goals for the anthologies. A prolific fanfiction writer with a Masters in psychology, Pasi wanted to see deeply-characterized erotica, where sex ties into the deepest motives and needs of the people having it, rather than the actions of cliched or cardboard "f*ckbots." For my part, a bit over a year ago, I first played with the idea of a collection of erotic shorts that each featured a character saying “No.” Because real people sometimes have boundaries in the bedroom, and respecting them doesn’t make their sex lives any less interesting or hot, but it's hard to find erotica or romance that reflects that fact! Now, we felt, the time had come.

When we posted our guidelines, we added two additional pages of storylines that made us UGH or SQUEE!  We figured we might as well be clear (plus we just enjoyed hashing out our preferences in such exquisite detail), although we also were a little concerned nobody would read all the way through. Perhaps we were being excessive. I remembered the words of my sister, who edits two fantasy webzines: "Less is more. Too much, and even smart people won't read it. And no matter how much detail you put in...people will still mess up." 

For all that, we did have a healthy bit of back-and-forth over the next few days, further explaining ourselves and answering questions from a combination of experienced writers who had spotted our submission guidelines and from new and fanfiction writers interested in embarking on original fiction, but unsure how to start. Did we offer contributor's copies? (Yes!) Did we accept reprints? (Yes!) Did we accept stories about heterosexual couples? (Yes! And every other relational arragnement you can imagine!) 

On the other hand... Suffice to say, we did get some submissions that obviously didn't fit. More advice from my editor sister: some people are just trying to psych you out, and submit stories purely for shock value. That seemed to be the only explanation for why, after having guidelines that we were pretty sure bled our concern for consent and a general feminist flavor, we got multiple stories in the slushpile that featured the exploitation, assault, and worse of female characters. We quickly added yet another post about submissions, trying to balance encouraging new writers (some of whom spoke with such an air of timidity it seemed they thought we were looking for reasons to reject them) while setting healthy boundaries around things we really didn't want to see. 

As more newbies came to us with their questions and uncertainties, I found myself saying over and over again, "Look, just send us what you've got. You care, your heart is in the right place. I guarantee you won't be the worst we've seen." Sometimes I added, with fervent faith, "In fact, you might be the best."

And somewhat surprisingly to me (although perhaps not to Pasi), some of our absolute favorite, OH MY GOD YES!-inspiring stories did in fact come from new writers and fanfiction writers stretching their muscles with original fiction for the first time. Meanwhile, cover letters laden with prestigious credits sometimes came attached to fiction that, while often technically proficient, just didn't grab us.

I've always known that reading, especially when it comes to romance and erotica, is a matter of taste. And my tastes are somewhat specific (at the least, I get the sense they're not catered to by certain predominant trends in the genre). Diversity of viewpoints is part of the game when you launch an anthology of "character-driven" erotica. It's been extremely fun to see different writers' interpretation of our themes.

And just recently, I've had the breathtakingly awesome experience of reading two stories in a row, and for each one, thinking, "This is my fantasy in words. Did I write this in my sleep? --But no, I couldn't have; this is everything I want but so much better written than I could have done it."

And I look forward to getting to share those stories with the world. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Dispatches from an RT Virgin

Posted by: A. J. Larrieu

I’m writing this from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in New Orleans. (Actually I’m writing it sitting on the floor in my bathroom, because my roommate is asleep. Shh….) Needless to say, it’s been a fun convention.

I’ve been going to the national conference of the Romance Writers of America for several years, but this is my first RT convention. Maybe it’s the fact that the convention is being held in New Orleans, but WOW--it has been insane. Here are my top five reasons for loving RT:

1) Meeting fellow authors
I admit—I had a bit of a fangirl moment in front of Kevin Hearne. And I finally got to meet Diana Rowland, one of my favorite UF authors, who I’ve “known” online for years, but never met in person.

2) Meeting fellow readers
One of the cool things about RT is that a lot of readers come, something that doesn’t happen as much at RWA. It’s awesome and valuable to talk about the business and craft of writing, but it’s been a lot of fun to also talk about books from the reader perspective. I’ve met readers I connected with online as well as new readers, and it’s a blast to hear about people's favorite books and how much their taste varies.

3) The costumes
I should have been prepared for this. I was warned. But I still wasn’t expecting the crowd of wings and horns and halos at the Sinners & Saints party last night. I’m not much a costume girl myself, but author Debra Dunbar passed out these fun devil horns to folks on the first day, and they worked out fine.

Yes, I took a devil-horn selfie.
4) The information
There have been some amazing panels at RT. I went to one on sex and spirituality yesterday, and it turned into an amazing conversation with the audience about how to talk about writing sexy romances with people you fear won’t approve—and sometimes being surprised by their positive reactions. I’ve been to some fantastic panels on diversity in fiction, too. There are so many great conversations to be had.

Amber Belldene, Christa Soule, Tiffany Reisz and
Alice Gaines talking about sex, romance, and spirituality


The food
I’m from a small town about an hour outside New Orleans, so I was expecting a lot of great food. But it’s been better than great. Gumbo, red beans and rice, fried catfish poboys, cochon de lait… I’ve had to try all of the favorites from my childhood. And when I get back home, I’m going to have to eat nothing but vegetables for a week.

Sweet tea!
Have you been to RT as a writer or a reader? What are some of your favorite moments?
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