Thursday, June 28, 2007

Happy birthday, Henry

Here's the lovely and talented Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII in that strangely lifeless TV series (and I thought he did a much better job as Elvis).

Yes, it's Henry VIII's birthday today (born June 28, 1491) and we all know what he's famous for: six wives, some of whom came to sticky ends, in his desperate attempt to get a male heir. The Tudor dynasty was very shaky at the time and there were various ambitious powerful families around who had claims as good (or as poor) as the Tudors' to the throne.

Henry was allegedly extremely handsome and athletic as a young man, so this casting does make some sense although the most common image of him is the Holbein portrait where he's immense and powerful and not at all pretty. And the codpiece. Eeew. I mean, really does anyone find codpieces sexy? Come on, you can confess. We're not judgmental here (well, actually I am but the others aren't). I can't even remember Jonathan RM's codpiece but that's just a sad reflection on my manviewing radar.

To continue. When Pam and I present Writing the Hot Historical (aka Pam and Janet Evening) at Dallas, I take it upon myself to discuss history--what you want to use and what you don't want to touch with a bargepole. Like codpieces. In the right hands they could be sexy. (Pause while I roll on the floor at my own single entendres.) Similarly, the whole atmosphere of the Tudor court--the king's private life made very public because the future of the country depended upon a strong succession, the ritualistic aspect of sex--you could do things with this in an erotic romance. The issue of privacy is interesting too--the word bedchamber did not come into being until later in the sixteenth-century--and most houses were not designed with corridors. Rooms opened onto rooms that opened onto more rooms. Privacy, as we know it, was not an issue.

And back to the codpiece--oh, if you insist, (sigh) here's a more, ah, detailed picture--how about that for a blatant sexual announcement: it's here, it's ready to go, even when you're wearing full armor. You'd think that might get in the way while you're jousting or whatever, if it didn't frighten the horses first. But it wasn't until the Regency that fashions allowed men to so blatantly display their attributes again.

What historical periods do you find sexy other than the Regency?

News from the squeaky-clean side (sort of): go to Pam Rosenthal's site, and enter her contest to win a copy of The Rules of Gentility.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I found the Horse!

A month or so ago, I talked about Theresa Berkeley, known brothel madam and specialist in the birch discipline. One of the items I’d read about was the Berkeley Horse, an invented device but all my sources said that the image was lost.

Not so! While doing research on my upcoming and oft-mentioned talk about Sex During the Regency, I came across an article loaded with images. And the Berkeley Horse was one of them!

According to the author’s article, this image appeared in the collection of the Victorian “Society for the Promotion of the Arts, Manufacture and Commerce at the Adelphi”. The man who donated the item was a member of the Adelphi Society (amazingly, I might add, since by this point he was well known as a publisher of erotic work), and a friend of Theresa Berkeley.

His name was George Cannon and he’s a fascinating man, at least according to Iain McCalman’s accounts. He not only appears in this article “Unrespectable Radicalism: Infidels and Pornography in Early Nineteenth Century London” (Past and Present, No. 104, 1984, pp74-110), but in his book “Radical Underworld: Prophets, Revolutionaries and Pornographers in London, 1795-1840”.

And if those titles alone don’t salivate the creative tastebuds as to the kinds of characters that might be found for future works, well, then maybe you haven’t read Pam Rosenthal’s “The Bookseller’s Daughter”, although her bookseller is a lot more respectable.

This peek at the underbelly of London -- where respectable folk (Cannon started out as either a solicitor or a solicitor’s clerk) gradually become “unrespectable” and really don’t give a damn about it. Cannon was also clever, avoiding arrest for the longest time. And after he died, his wife ran the business, which was not uncommon among these folk.

As you can see, I’ve included a picture of the infamous Berkeley Horse, although I can see from the sketch that it would be quite impossible to whip someone on any part of the body, as a few of them are covered by the boards. But I imagine you would be positioned face forward, as there’s room for your face to stick through and, er, other parts.

I haven’t been able to answer everyone’s questions, although I do wonder if the pet names that sneak through in correspondence come out of bed-talk, but who knows...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Brighter Side of Kinky

As I wrap up the last in my Rodesson daughter’s erotic Regency trilogy, I’m planning my next proposal. And the question I’m wrestling is: can my hero and heroine be kinky? And how kinky can they be?

When I’ve read some erotic romance, I’ve noticed that kinky is often the preserve of the "bad guy"; kinky is the line drawn between good and evil. The villain pursues group sex, bondage, fetishes, and often preys sexually on children (and yes, I’ve had my villains do that too).
The hero and heroine might try a little bondage or some new positions, but can they be truly kinky and be heroic? I.e. can my hero just not be able to perform without a good spanking first? I’m apt to think not—I think that would just raise too many concerns in the reader. Mainly, what has happened to him to limit his sexual responses to one pattern, and how can he be…well, made a more well-rounded and whole lover?

In my proposal, I wanted my heroine to be afraid of her sexual fantasies. The hero will show her how normal, healthy, and fun they are. I want my heroine to reach the level of trust where she reveals the images that disturb her. And as a writer, I know I have to toe a delicate line—I want to celebrate fantasy, exploration, role playing, etc., but I know I can’t just eliminate the weight of morality that comes along with playing those games. The guilt is important, and adds a lot of the spice, but I don’t want characters wallowing in it.

So while I’m crafting villains for my new idea, I want to show that the evil doesn’t come from indulging in kink, but in using power, violence, and torture to harm another person. In all the info I’ve read on the BDSM lifestyle, what is most important in a good relationship is consent and trust.

Here is an excerpt for my August ’07 book, Blood Rose, where my heroine tries to understand the dynamic between predator and prey in a vampires’ brothel:

Serena’s face was on fire, her throat dry and tight.

Mr. Swift leaned forward—heavens, she felt his erection push against her backside. He was aroused. She wanted to push back against him. But she tried to stay completely still.

"Is this the sort of thing you do?" she croaked the question at him. She should disapprove. But she found watching so arousing, so irresistible.

"Is it the sort of thing you would want to do, little lark? Wouldn’t you wish to perform for him, to entice him beyond all control?"

She had no answer, swallowed hard. "But those women are enticing vampires. The vampires will feed from them, hurt them."

"But you know vampires do not always kill—and the only ones allowed here are those with control over their feeding urges. And the girls are well treated, in a way. They have warm beds, beautiful clothing, and are very well fed. They have every comfort they could imagine. These are not girls trapped and abused by a brutal madam."

"They are free to leave?"

"Yes, but they don’t leave."

"Why not—if they have freedom, why would they not take it?"

Swift leaned closer. "Because they need to offer their blood. They cannot exist any longer without joining with a vampire and surrendering their blood."

"Slaves? Or worse—food!"

"In all relationships, one partner feeds on what the other offers. In different ways. The vampires are as much their slaves."

(from Blood Rose, by Sharon Page, Kensington Aphrodisia, August 2007)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Come and Come and Come Again

"They're all rubbish really, aren't they? Read one and you've read them all...."

...Cheryl prattled on. "I mean, they're not really romances....They're just debased versions of the sentimental novel of courtship and marriage that started with Richardson's Pamela. A realistic setting, an ordinary heroine that the reader can identify with, a simple plot about finding a husband....Titillating but moral."
It's with some ambivalence that I confide to you that Cheryl's derisory take on what is referred to a "Bills and Moon type of romance" comes straight out of one of my all-time favorite comic novels. Small World, by David Lodge, is a wildly literate, wonderfully funny and humane book that I recommend with no ambivalence and no reservations (well, one caveat: don't read it if you're too p.c. re our genre to get past the Bills and Moon putdown -- which I will address, don't worry).

I almost called it "one of my favorite comic (non-romance) novels." But then I realized how weird it would be to do that, because the subtitle of Small World is "An Academic Romance." Its plot comprises perhaps half a dozen love stories. And most of them are "academic romances," because most of the characters (though not Cheryl whom I quoted) are academics who talk pretty much non-stop about literature and often about what Cheryl (and Lodge) call "real romance" -- of, you know, the Arthurian/Faerie Queen variety. The characters fall in and out of love and bed; losing and finding, chasing and following each other all over the world, on their way to and from a series of academic literature conferences.

Cheryl, who works in an airport, has only recently traded Bills and Moon in for The Faerie Queen and Orlando Furioso. But for most of the novel she functions as a "helper figure." (Lit crit is big on helper figures: all fairy tales have 'em, and I'd hazard that so do romances of all varieties; the ones I write certainly do). Anyway, not only does Cheryl help Small World's feckless lovers chase each another around the globe, but she helps us, its feckless readers, to make our way through the world of Lodge's novel -- by speaking his view of the early Western European romance tradition that Small World joins, comments upon, and generally has fun with:
"Real romance is a pre-novelistic kind of narrative. It's full of adventure and coincidence and surprises and marvels, and has lots of characters who are lost or enchanted or wandering about looking for each other, or for the Grail, or something like that. Of course, they're often in love too..."
And of course she's in love as well -- unrequitedly, until... but that would be a spoiler.

And though I hope you do read Small World, the real yes-I-do-have-one point of this post goes back to that original putdown of Bills and Moon romance (or what we on this blog would normally just call romance).

Because it's all very well to call Richardson's Pamela a "sentimental novel of courtship and marriage," as long as one remembers that it's usually also called the first novel. And although origins are always debatable, what's not debatable is that one of the great things that novels do is "valorize the ordinary" in "a realistic setting," -- as in Jane Austen's famous advice that "Three of four families in a country village are the very thing to work on." I'd argue that if romance as we know it is in that tradition, I don't think anyone need sneer about where it's coming from.

But I'd also argue that romance as we know it has a great deal to do with the other tradition, of the Arthurian legends and the grail and everything else. Because I'd argue that very few true-life love stories don't come equipped with their own adventures, coincidences, surprises, and marvels -- even if you didn't, as I did, fall in love with your spouse-to-be during the acid-saturated, tie-dyed sixties. I'd argue that there's something so dizzying and challenging about finding one's life partner and coming up against the secrets of one's own nature at the same time that marvels like twins (Eloisa James, anyone?) or spells (amnesia, anyone?) make a certain sense in telling this kind of story.

I'd argue for both sides. As Austen did in Sense and Sensibility.

And I'd argue that the romance as we know it draws upon both the quotidian and the marvelous, the reasonable need for companionship and comfort and the big crazy hungers for wild sexy excess. And that romance ought to do both. More. Bigger. Yes.

Hell, I've just only begun to argue, because my argument hasn't gotten around to sex, which it ought to, given what blog we're on. So here's another quote from Small World, this time from a character named Angelica (because, as you can see, women do a lot of the intellectual heavy lifting in this book). Anyhow, Angelica says, by way of an academic conference presentation:
Romance... has not one climax but many; the pleasure of this text comes and comes and comes again. No sooner is one crisis in the fortunes of the hero averted than a new one present itself; no sooner has one mystery been solved than another is raised; no sooner has one adventure been concluded than another begins. The narrative questions open and close, open and close, like the contractions of the vaginal muscles in intercourse, and this process is in principle endless.... Romance is a multiple orgasm.
And by the way, if you're a romance writer and you're coming to the RWA National Conference in Dallas next month, do check out the workshop Jane Lockwood and I will be giving, called "Writing the Hot Historical." I'm not promising multiple orgasms, but I think it'll be pretty good. It's scheduled for Friday morning at 9:45.

Any questions?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Yellow Room and Little Green Books

I started reading “the yellow room.” on vacation. It is a small book 80 pages in total.
Printed by the Olympia press. if you have never been to this site check it out!

The story in itself is pretty interesting… the blurb on the back of the book says “Another classic account from Olympia’s later years. The yellow Room is the story of Alice Daryell, a young woman sent off to live with her aunt and uncle, there to be educated and disciplined, as it turns out by means of the lash.”

I seem to be drawn to those green covered books mostly written by anonymous persons… Does anyone else have that affliction?

At the beginning of each chapter in this book there is a quote.
Chapter one starts with…

“Come in” said Coupeau “no one will eat you”

I love that quote… and there are several more like it through out the book. I tend to like to put captions and such at the beginning of my chapters. So when I saw this I was instantly drawn in.

The story is filled with BDSM. A young innocent girl is sexually awakened by her “uncle” in the yellow room. (he is not really her uncle just requires she call him such) He birches her… uses a crop on her…restricts bathroom usage… and uses humiliation delightfully. All making her blossom and become aware of her sexual self and beauty.

The book has been a delight! (Thanks Lenora Bell for suggesting it to me)

I seem to have about five books sitting in some sort of half read state on my nightstand. A mixture of romance, erotica, and history books. This one I plan to finish tonight and put on my keeper shelf with the 6 other green books already residing there.

Hugs and kisses.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hard to beat this...

I was all set up to post about a book I've been reading called The Romance Fiction of Mills & Boon 1909-1990's" by Jay Dixon when I re-read Jane's post and fell in love with the lovely imagery of the velvet and that beautiful portrait. I kept thinking about one of my favorite poems by William Butler Yeats which kind of sums up the lusciousness of fine fabrics and falling in love...

Aedh Wishes For The Clothes Of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Author: William Butler Yeats
Online Poetry at

I can't beat that...
I'll save the feminist discussion of romance literature for another day!

And the wearing of everything else

How lucky we are to write and read about this era.

As Colette pointed out so eloquently yesterday, we have tight pants for the gentlemen, and very nice too.

While we tend to think of our heroines draped in light muslins, there were lots of wonderful, gorgeous fabrics around with exotic names--linsley, sarcenet, nettlecloth--and all sorts of weights and weaves of silks, velvets, gauze, net. This Ingres painting is from the late teens/early twenties when a wave of nostalgia made Elizabethan-style clothes fashionable, hence the ruff and slashed sleeves of the velvet gown.

Imagine this dress in motion as the wearer moved, the play of candlelight on the flow of the velvet, the drape of her Indian shawl, the slight bounce of the ruff. Why anyone would want her to take it off is beyond me...

And the sounds of the fabric. I know later in the century the rustling of a woman's petticoats etc. would drive a man wild with lust (no wonder they had to cover the piano legs), but with this outfit you'd certainly get a slithery sound of the velvet over the cotton petticoat. I have a Regency gown of gray-blue silk that has the most luscious, delicious rustle; it's a real treat to wear!

What's your Regency dream outfit? (No, a pair of earrings and a whip does not count).

Monday, June 18, 2007

It's all in the wearing of the trou...

I have a thing about the way men wear their pants.

Have you ever sort of noticed that some of them wear them...well...well, and others...not so well. It's not only the way they walk, but the way the pants hang from their hips and the way it covers their crotch.

A guy like Brad Pitt wears his trousers. See what I mean? Unself-consciously, yet fully aware of how he cuts a dash (to borrow a phrase from Mr. Brummel). I mean, Pitt owns those jeans. See?

And his good friend Mr. Clooney has the same appeal. Lean and long and cut perfectly. Casual elegance. Love it.

But then there's someone like Gerard Butler...and you know I think he's hot as hell (why else would I write a version of the Phantom of the Opera after seeing the movie?)...but the man's pants just don't look right on him. Ugh. Check this out: too tight, too short, just...not...right. Sorry Gerry.

So that got me to thinking about the men of days gone by, where they had to wear...well...breeches. I'm trying to figure out if I would have liked that...shall we say...insight into Or not.

I mean...well, it probably was quite interesting and enlightening for the viewer (not to mention embarrassing for the man in question).

(And I thought Speedos were bad.)

I can only imagine how Byron or Brummel wore their breeches. Nicely, I'm certain. Quite nicely.

So what do you think? If it's all in the wearing of the pants....breeches or trousers?

Friday, June 15, 2007

Sex Backwards

You won’t think that sex scene would still be a turn on if you read it backward, but lo and behold, that’s where I found myself while I worked on the copy-edits for ONE MORE TIME.

I am a believer in the saying that if the sex scene doesn’t turn me on, chances are it won’t turn the reader on either. So there are a couple of scenes in this book, which after a marathon session in writing them, I had to take matters into hand, as it were.

When I do copy-edits, I do a breeze through, reading the post-it notes and generally groan at the dumb mistakes I didn’t catch. Then I read forward, examining each of the copy-editor’s red pencil marks to see whether or not I agree with them. Then, I read it backward, sentence by sentence, looking to spot mistakes both I and the copy-editor have missed.

I always find some.

At any rate, you really wouldn’t think that a sex scene read backwards, starting with the climax, would get you all hot and bothered. But it does apparently.

Maybe its true what Pam and Jane have been saying about the erotic pay-off coming with the description of what leads up to the climax, rather than the climax itself.

So, fellow authors, do you review your copy-edits the way I do, and if so, is it still a turn-on?

And readers, anyone game to grab a book and take a crack at reading it backward? I wonder if part of the arousal is from remembering how I wrote the scene (in that I know what comes before).

Over to you!

(And there was going to be a picture by Rowlandson with a couple doing it "backward" as it were, although more truthfully from behind, but I ran out of time to scan it in.)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Dreaded "E" Word

I hope that got you speculating about what the dreaded "E" word could be? Erotic? No. Since I’m finishing up my WIP (an acronym that sounds like ‘whip’ and often feels like one), my dreaded "E" word for the day is "Epilogue".

For the readers out there, what do you think of the epilogue? Are they evidence that the author didn’t know when to shut up? A sign the author couldn’t think of the perfect ending so she threw two slightly inferior versions at you in the hope that volume would win the day? Do you groan when you see them, or do you relish that chance to jump into the future and take a look at what’s happened, how things have worked out, and get a taste of the "after" in happily ever after?

As I writer, I’m addicted to the epilogue. And since my hero and heroine have been, well, ****ing like bunnies for 300 and some pages up to this point, there’s usually a baby in my epilogue. But I wondered—why do I enjoy writing the epilogue and visiting my characters as their family begins to grow? Since the conflicts of the story have been resolved, what is driving me to show how the relationship has worked out?

I think I love epilogues because I have the chance to show the friendship that has evolved between my characters, and to show that the passion hasn’t faded. Epilogues make me smile because they prove to me that I wasn’t wrong to feel hope at the end of the story.

And while I don’t usually have a love scene in the epilogue, I do like to make it clear that my hero (or heroes) and heroine are having frequent delicious sex. And since time has passed and they have gotten to know each other better, the sex has just gotten better.

One of my favorite epilogues is Julia Quinn’s in On the Way to the Wedding. Her chronicle of a man’s and a woman’s reactions to childbirth—multiplied eight times (resulting in nine children) is heart-warming and hilarious.

So the question here is—do you like or hate epilogues? Do you write them, read them, or skip them? And if you are an ‘epilogue addict’, how far into the future do you like to see?
Also congratulations to all the Crumpet Strumpets who have been wrapping up manuscripts in the last while. There’s nothing more thrilling than writing "The End". Well, possibly a few things, but it’s still a wonderful, exhausting, and exhilarating achievement.

P.S. my picture today doesn't have anything to do with epilogues, though there is an epilogue in that story. But he's my cover and I love him. :-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I'm still savoring Jane Lockwood's food post from last month. Sadly, the Tom Jones video seems to have been nabbed by the YouTube police and labeled "no longer available." But the memory lingers on my retina, on my tongue and other fun nerve endings.

So when I bought some gorgeous purple-black figs yesterday, I paid them proper attention, perhaps for the first time. I ate one really slowly, really looking at the inside of it, the seeds, the fibrousness, the subtle fleshy pink color of the insides.

It made me think of the word "incarnadine," which I always think of in its blood-stained Lady Macbeth associations, but which, it turns out, according to the OED, has the more primary meaning of the pinkish color of flesh under the skin. The OED gives a wonderful snippet of a Lovelace poem:

Whose white satin upper coat of skin,
Cut upon velvet rich incarnadin,
Has yet a body (and of flesh) within
I've got to find the whole poem.

And for the first time, as well, I really thought about D. H. Lawrence's poem, called "Figs," that Jane Lockwood has wisely been trying to call our attention to in various blog-comments over the last year or so. I've always thought of figs as little sacs of seeds -- in Almost a Gentleman, I have Phoebe rolling her tongue around David's balls "as though they were a ripe double fig." But I never really thought about that subtly-colored fibrous inside, what Lawrence writes about as "the flowering all inward and womb-fibrilled."

Lawrence keeps going with the inwardness thing -- getting a little strange, perhaps, about the hiddenness of female sexuality. Still, read the poem. As Shellie once said about Holling on the late lamented TV show, Northern Exposure, it's "got a motor on it."

I guess figs are up there with mussels and oysters, aren't they, as classic erotic food. And pomegranates -- there were pomegranate seeds at the center of the first sexy story I ever read, the myth of Persephone. I couldn't have been more than eight.

Of course at the time, I didn't understand why I kept reading it over and over. Little girl goes out picking flowers, big hot brooding dark guy appears in his big black chariot drawn by four big black steaming frothing horses and steals her away to his gloomy underground hideaway. I guess the message was don't take pomegranate seeds from strangers, little girl -- or you'll go straight to hell, with your big hot brooding dark guy (at eight, I was innocent enough to think that I was the only person in the world who would have wanted to stay with him in Hades).

What makes a food seem sexy? I've been supposing that it's its resemblance to flesh, or to genitalia. But if so, what to we make of the sexiest food of all?

Which is of course the humble, everyday apple. Neither soft nor saclike nor seeded, it's your generic fruit, your basic keep-the-doctor-away nostrum. Perhaps it's the irrevocability of that first crunchy bite that gets everybody's attention. Once you've pierced the bright red or green skin with your teeth, there's no hiding what you've done, no going back.

I like remembering that in The Slightest Provocation, the first food my youthful hero and heroine share is an apple. I wasn't thinking deeply or symbollically about it. One doesn't have to. The cultural resonance has been so obvious, so everpresent, since...

...well, I was going to say "since Eve," but that would've been awfully, parochially, Judeo-Christian of me, wouldn't it? How about since Sappho, of archaic Greece, in the seventh century BC?

And what of this fragment (only fragments Sappho's work survive) translated by the poet and classical scholar Anne Carson, in her book Eros: The Bittersweet:
As a sweet apple turns red on a high branch high on the highest branch and the applepickers forgot--well, no they didn't forget--were not able to reach...
The syntax is desire itself -- the apple more unreachable as it becomes more precisely articulated. Eros is in the reach, the distance. As Carson says, "The poem is incomplete, perfectly.."

Incomplete, perfectly. I may have repeated that phrase to myself as many times in the last few weeks as I reread the story of Persephone, a whole lot of years ago. I haven't finished reading Eros: The Bittersweet yet. I'm savoring it, like I did that ripe black fig. I'm finding it the most exhilerating and reassuring book about sex and writing that I've read in a really long time -- reassuring for its telling me that I'm not crazy to think that desire can inhere not only in the meanings but the syntax, that eroticism isn't only a matter of ends but of means.

I really don't know what question I should be asking you here -- but it's my birthday today, so I'm not going to knock myself out for one. Maybe something like does any of this stuff mean anything to you or am I really weird and crazy?

But isn't that the question every erotic writer asks all the time?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Squeezing in here, excuse me, sorry, pardon me...

Sorry, I'm English, it's natural for me to apologize when I'm late and rushing to complete cowboy books and promote things and blog and...what was the other thing I'm supposed to do-oh yes, WRITE.

The more I read about the erotica v erotic romance debate, the more I feel I might be writing erotica because all my stories would fall apart if the sex wasn't in them. All my characters learn and develop from their sexual encounters and they are absolutely integral to the plot. They can also be remarkably edgy. Is it possible to have bisexual heroes, marriages where couples have sex with other people and even menages in erotic romance? God, I hope so.

I'm fascinated by the ambiguity of sexual choice and that's what I write about. My characters make decisions that can be quite outside the norm and that's fine with me. It will be interesting to see if readers feel the same way.

In "Antonia's Bargain" my hero is bisexual and choses mainly to have sex with men. When I first wrote the story my editor said she wasn't convinced that the hero, Gideon, would ever fall in love with a woman and I was temporarily flummoxed. It seemed obvious to me that he would. But I had to go back to the story and use another male character with an equally ambivalent sexuality to explain.

"Gideon reached across to slide his fingers beneath the open neck of Peter’s shirt. He tugged gently on his nipple ring. “A woman who only chooses to acknowledge me when she is dressed as a man. Take off your shirt.”
“I can’t say I’m surprised. A woman masquerading as a man would suit you perfectly. “
Gideon raised an eyebrow as Peter continued. “I know you’ve chosen to bed mostly men in the last few years, but I’ve never believed your heart was in it.”
“You haven’t?”
“Just because you’ve tried to convince yourself that you prefer men, doesn’t mean that it is the truth.”
“And how would you know this?”
Peter locked gazes with him as he removed his shirt to display his lean muscular chest and scarred skin. “Because I spent seven years of my life in a Turkish brothel and I’ve been in every sexual situation imaginable. You use men because you believe they can’t hurt you like Caroline did. If you truly preferred men, you’d let them fuck you as well and you don’t.”
“Perhaps I’m one of those men who believe that if they don’t allow themselves to be fucked, it means they aren’t a sodomite.”
“You’re not like that. “
Gideon let out his breath. How was it that Peter thought he could see things so much more clearly than he could? “Does that offend you?”
“Me?” Peter grinned. “No, because I have no preference either way. I’m happy to fuck or be fucked by either sex.”
Peter was tanned darker than Gideon, a legacy of his years in captivity. He knelt between Gideon’s outstretched legs, the crown of his long cock already showing through his unfastened breeches. He tugged at the fastenings of Gideon’s breeches. Gideon stayed his hand.
“Wait. Why are you so certain that you are right?”
“Why are you even asking me that? It’s very simple. Despite all your lovers, how many men have you fallen in love with?”
Gideon stared at him, his thoughts in turmoil. “None.”
“How many women?”
He shrugged. “Only my wife and look what came of that.”
“And now you are obsessed by another woman. I rest my case.”

I think that explained the situation nicely, but does it skate too close to the erotic romance/erotica line? Possibly, although many readers say they love to read m/m encounters. In my upcoming Kensington books, the secondary character, Peter will get his own book and his story is anything but traditional!

Monday, June 11, 2007

I Finished My WIP And Titles

Woo hooo! I finished.
Grin. I finished my MS last week and I sit anxiously awaiting for my editor to tell me how much is sucks! LoL I know it doesn’t suck but that fear is still there. Do all authors feel that way when they turn in a MS?

This group of stories are about 4 brothers. My Ursus. The blurb that I submitted to my editor was this…

Long ago the clan of Ursus was cursed with the blood of a bear. To all outward appearance they remained human. However, each one possessed powerful mystic abilities and hearty sexual appetites. Only one thing brings out the beast within: being provoked by a male threatening a mate. When this happens, only the strongest can control the animal that lives inside.

When Kensington purchased this book I called it UNTAMED SINS. My editor, knowing I really suck at titles, changed it to ANIMAL LUST. Still not sure how I feel about that name. Hummm... I defer to those who know what sells.

I am horrid at titles. Never know what to call a story. For my first book I submitted 50 titles for WHAT SHE CRAVES. None of them my editor liked. So he picked one… and I LOVE it.

Finding a title that is historical and sexy is extremely hard. Or at least I think it is! You need a combination of sexy yet subtlety. I pull out the thesaurus and my list of historic terms. I think of the theme of my book… and then I laugh, because the titles I come up with are soooo cheesy!

Here are some of the ones that didn’t make it for the title of WHAT SHE CRAVES…

Garters and Lace
A Glimpse of Sin
Intimate Whispers

They aren’t too bad, but some…

Wanton Abandon
Tales of Blush

Shake head!

And then they just get worse…
Wantons and Wickeds
Scandalous Views
Intimate Regards (this reminds me of a feminine product!)

The next story I am working on is titled Blushing Temptations… eeek!
Horrid name. I wonder what my editor will replace that name with...

How do you come up with names for your books?
What is the worst title for a book you have seen in print?

Hugs and Kisses,

Friday, June 8, 2007

R*manc*ng the Ast*r*sk

I've started making enquiries about getting reviews and interviews for my October 2007 release, Forbidden Shores, and received this strange correspondence from a review site (which shall be anonymous):

Since it is a historical erotic romance, my only question is about the language. Is it graphic in a contemporary sense? or at least used the word c*ck at some point? I know it sounds like an odd question, but bluntly graphic language is a requirement. If you did use very graphic terminology please feel free to send us a copy.

I find this intriguing. First, why someone should assume that because it's a historical it may not have dirty words? And why, from a site specializing in erotic romance reviews, the coy asterisk use? It may be an anti-spam device, or it may be to spare my delicate sensibilities.

Of course I could have written the novel without using the word in question once--as we all know, their are many alternatives, particularly for historicals. I could have used lobster, thistle, Old Harrington, poperine pear, or potato finger (or should those be l*bster, th*stle and so on, to spare the innocent?)--just some of my favorites from our very own Lacy Danes' list of historic dirty words.

And I guess that's why they wanted to know if I was using that word since, despite its honorably ancient usage, readers would know what I meant.

The whole exchange--I wrote back that the book had c*cks coming out of its ears--has left me unsettled. It brings up a whole lot of issues with me: the dumbing down attitude I've encountered among romance writers (so what if it's escapist reading? It can, and should be, well written); the girlish coyness about erotic romance (yes, it's meant to turn you on); the belief that if you write a love scene with the 3 Cs it automatically makes it erotic romance (yes and no).

So my question is: could you, have you, would you want to read or write a hot love scene that has no body parts or euphemisms at all?

The pic, by the way, is titled Man With Large Cock. No asterisk necessary.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

My Phantom of the Opera v. Webber's

Some of the questions commenters asked a few weeks ago about Unmasqued got me to thinking about of my favorite scenes in the Webber musical/film.

My all-time favorite song is The Point of No Return, particularly because of the way it was done in the movie version with Gerard Butler as the hottest Phantom ever, practically making love to his Christine there onstage in front of everyone--including her beau. *fans self*

Alas, however, when I was writing my version of the story, and I actually read the original novel by Leroux, I learned that that onstage-switcheroo (in which the Phantom secretly takes the place of the actor playing opposite Christine in a romantic scene) never happened in the book.

And since I didn't want to annoy Mr. Webber (and his lawyers), I decided I didn't want to recreate that scene in my book, and instead stayed with what happened in the original: the Phantom appears, and he does kidnap Christine from the stage, but not as a fellow actor.

Anyway, my point is that for those of you who really loved The Point of No Return scene from the Webber movie...well, you won't get that in my book. But what happens with the harp more than makes up for it....right, Pam?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

One More Time

So my cover arrived yesterday for ONE MORE TIME, my December Aphrodisia, release and I took one look at it and giggled. You may too.


(yes, I need to Photoshop out the hole punched through it)

Yes, indeedy. And you probably can’t see it in this size picture, but he’s got goose bumps around his nipple.

But anyway, I am very happy and excited about it because a) it’s once again a beautiful cover; b) every person I’ve shown it to has been riveted; and c) mantitty sells, apparently.

We’ve talked about mantitty before (Pam here in “Covers and Consternation Controversy” and Jane here in “The Case Against Mantitty”), so I guess it’s now my turn to do so!

Mantitty should leave me cold. I mean, I prefer the studious, slender guy. Or the guy who isn’t so tall. Or the guy that when I say I think he’s hot, people look at me and go “huh?” (And usually, "who?")

Brad Pitt’s mantitties don’t do it for me, for instance.

But seeing a cover with mantitty. Well, I have to be honest. Before the giggle from remembering the word “mantitty”, there is this sucking intake of breath and a perking of interest.

The words “Mmmm. Mantitty,” may never cross my mind, but there is something primal and visceral about the response. Never mind that Anthony Stewart Head makes me weak at the knees, or that Spike did way more for me than Angel ever did. Seeing the slender Edward Fox taking his shirt off to repaint a stolen care in The Day of the Jackal, or at left in a not terribly good screencap at the end of the bath scene in Shaka Zulu (which is even in the Regency period, oh heavens!) was ditto, ditto, oh ditto.

(OK, so some of you are going, Edward who? Am I the only Edward Fox fan out there?)

And yet, seeing James Craig, the new James Bond, topless in Casino Royale had me drooling.

Eventually, that response gets dissolved by the giggling when “mantitty” comes through, but heck, I’ll still pick up the book and read what’s on the back cover because of it!

Actually, what I really like about my mantitty cover, is that it fits the story. You see, I have this Greek god statue come to life -- and you have to admit -- those statues depicted ideals!

Bacchus never bothered with a towel, though.

(The image to the right was an inspirational image while I was writing ONE MORE TIME. It's from a museum in Germany, from memory.)

PS. Spellcheck wants to replace “Mantitties” with “Mantises”. Discuss. *grin*

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Pimping for a friend...

Pssst! Colleen Gleason's new book in her historically-set vampire slayer series ("Buffy meets Jane Austen") is out today! Check it out...Rises the Night, in stores now!

The Bad Girl

Pam’s post on heroines finding their place in the world through their wit and words reminded me of my own heroines. Growth requires exploration of the world and organization of thought. When I write about my heroines, they take 300 pages to experience the world, finds growth, reach goals (or makes new ones) and carve their places in the world. Each heroine must be self-aware, i.e. discuss what she’s learned, what she doubts, and what she simply doesn’t know through the narrative. And she has chattily invited the reader along for the ride.

And while I love my heroines, some of my favorite female characters in my stories are the "bad girls". The secondary characters. Women who walk into the story and must reveal a fully developed character in that first line that introduces them. We can’t join them on a 300 page journey, at least not yet, but we must understand them. These bad girls have goals, hopes, fears, the capacity to grow and the desperate need for a happy ending, but they only get to be on stage for a few pages.

So these secondary characters can’t be there simply to be bad. These bad girls are people too, and it is the very motivation of their "badness" that brings these ladies to life so quickly.
In my first book Sin, my bad girl, a retired courtesan by the name of Lydia Harcourt, is blackmailing her lovers in hopes of amassing a retirement fund. Of course, you’ll recognize Harriet Wilson in there, but I was so taken by the charming, witty, and knowing voice in Harriet’s Game of Hearts (her famous memoirs) that I couldn’t resist writing a bad girl just like her:

"She closed her eyes as Rodesson left her bed to rifle through her playthings. She heard the sharp intake of breath as he discovered the true treat amidst the heap of restraints. A gift from the Marquess of Chartrand—jeweled bracelets designed to be locked to her headboard. They clinked as Rodesson lifted them.
"Roll onto your stomach, lass."
Lydia obeyed. How could she despise this man yet delight in the deep, gravelly sound of his voice? Sometimes she thought she seduced herself."

(-- excerpt from Sin by Sharon Page)

With her last thought--rather jaded and certainly speaking of a lifetime of experience--I understood Lydia. She was tough and experienced, but so very vulnerable. Though a few scant paragraphs later, she’s back to business:
"A deeper excitement set her heart pounding. A troubled man enjoying kinkier pleasures was more apt to spill his secrets."

In my current WIP, my highwayman hero keeps a harem (that he had generously turned over to his gang once he met the heroine), and one of those ladies is hopelessly in love with him. Of course she conspires against the heroine, but her pain and her confusion brought her to life for me. She wasn’t simply in the story because she was meant to cause trouble, she was there because she, too, has a heart and a soul.

I find it intriguing that my six-year-old daughter’s favorite characters in storybooks are the wicked witches, the ‘Cruella de Vil’s of the stories. Is it because the bad girls have all the action and many of the best lines? Or is it because these women are inherently fascinating, because we know they are bad not because the story insists that they be, but because they’ve been molded that way by life. And readers and writers love to find out why.

So who are your favorite bad girls? And did you always harbor a secret admiration for the ‘villainess’?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Progress report: Two orgasms down, ??? to go

Two orgasms into my current manuscript, I'm continuing to mull over Jane's Big Bang post, with its well-wrought orgasm and its equally thoughtful questions.

Which inspired me to revisit my copy of How to Write a Dirty Story, to see what the indispensible Susie Bright thinks about this. And to find that Susie's overriding advice is to be brief. Reading about an orgasm, she says, ought perhaps to be even quicker than having one. And she warns that:

Writers who insist on drawing it out for paragraphs, with detailed ocean metaphors and inner burst of karmic sunlight, are killing it. Because the orgasm scene is the final shoe-dropping from the prosy foreplay that you've been teasing us with all along. When that relief comes, it had better be exquisite, sweet -- and brief.
Which advice gave me pause, because I can well remember how enamored I was of ocean metaphors in The Bookseller's Daughter. And it made me wonder if I ought to check out what my characters and I have been doing in bed together these many years.
And suddenly, she was past caring what he could see. Let him see -- let him know -- every inch, every iota of her, let him hear the deep moans, the gasps, the greedy, bestial growls issuing from her lips, rising from the volcanic tremors (but he must be able to feel them too!) at her center. She threw back her head and cried out; she heard him cry out as well, before he pulled her down to his wet, salty-tasting chest, his heart (or was it her heart?) pounding wildly, his arms hard around her, both their bodies drenched, trembling, exhausted -- as if they’d been out together in a hurricane.

What's interesting to me about reproducing this excerpt here is that I'm not sure I'm past caring what it lets you see about me.

Which is not so surprising, because for me and my heroines, the relief of orgasm is always a relief from exaggerated, wordy self-awareness. Orgasm's the blankness wherein, (as another of my heroines, describes it, in Carrie's Story):
I had lost a kind of authority, a defense, both against the world and my own gleeful, brute body.
Orgasm is the ultimate defenseless gotcha moment. Your human words turn to bestial growls (hmm, the Marquis de Sade has a mechanical device to make this happen) -- and, anyway (excuse the digression), for the moment you don't even care.

For someone like my self and my talkiest heroines (Carrie, Marie-Laure, Mary Stancell) the inarticulate moment may be precious but it's sure as hell gonna be brief.

So it turns out I don't have to worry about that Susie's proscription. Whatever I or you may think of Marie-Laure's orgasm, most of what I wrote was lead-up. The actual event takes no more than the time-space of a semi-colon. The rest - as a wise old guy once said, about something else entirely - is commentary.

Marie-Laure's orgasm is the eye of the hurricane, the moment of silence between her cry and Joseph's, before the chatter of her consciousness starts up again, before she gets enough in control to create the metaphor of the hurricane. She thinks therefore she is (well, she's French). But while she comes, she isn't thinking, she isn't commenting, she isn't quite herself or even quite present.

I love that paradox of erotic writing. All that chatter surrounding the brief, precious moment of release, of submission, of the open mouth, the open cunt, the round, blank pre-verbal O.

And it’s that same paradox that leads me to write about smart girls who try (and gloriously fail and try again) to control, to organize themselves and their world through words and wit. And why I fall in love with them in books and movies and TV, from Jo March to Lizzy Bennet to my new pop culture goddess, Liz Lemon of Tina Fey’s brilliant TV show 30 Rock.

And why my sex scenes get rewritten the most of anything in my books -- sentences turned about until I can get a rhythm that at least for a moment lets me move with it. A pattern of stresses and rests, advances and releases, words and the spaces between the words. Because that's where it happens, in the spaces -- if only for the length of a semi-colon.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Forcing the issue

I've been thinking a lot about the whole 'forced seduction' topic and how it has suddenly sprung to life again after all this time. I grew up in the UK and romance novels over there came in two main packages. Mills & Boon and gritty.

One of the most famous British authors Catherine Cookson is almost totally unheard of in the U.S. because she writes stories about women who start off poor and drag themselves up by their bootstraps to become entrepreneurs (or wonder women), usually bringing some complete bastard alpha male to heel along the way. You'd think that these 'rags to riches' stories would sell well in the U.S. because, well, that is the American dream isn't it? but they don't because the U.S. market has generally been more focused on the happy ever after fantasy.

One of the first authors who really inspired me was Brenda Jagger. She wrote awesome historicals set mainly in the industrial north of England when everything was changing so rapidly. In her books, couples fight, have affairs and are not always perfect. I love gritty books where a marriage can even survive infidelity by both couples. I love finding out how that can be resolved and how true love triumphs in the end.

When I first started writing in the U.S., I think I brought that more gritty, realistic element into my writing, with heroes who weren't always talking about their feelings or being very politically correct. My rejections usually mentioned this, implying that the books weren't romantic enough for the U.S. market. I wanted to sell so I toned down those elements, concentrated on different aspects of the stories or found places, such as erotic romance, where those elements were more welcome.

But even at Ellora's Cave, infidelity after marriage is not appreciated by readers and doesn't sell. (Four intergalactic aliens and one woman okay, one man one woman trying to repair a marriage, not okay) Some of my favorite U.S. authors, such as Mary Balogh, who originally came from Wales, still have elements of that more gritty style in some of their writing and I like that realism. I suspect any Australian or Commonwealth writer who grew up on M&B and 'rags to riches' books probably has that underlying bias as well. (I must ask Anna Campbell about that-she is Australian)

So to ramble back to my original point, (kind of), I'm glad to see a return of the more graphic books. I'm not a fan of rape, obviously, but I suspect forced seduction is one of women's number one fantasies. I realized a while ago that I didn't really have a right to grumble about young women who choose to express their femininity in ways that I feel are inappropriate. In the same way, I don't have the right to censure other readers for their fantasies. We all have a right to dream.

Would you be uncomfortable reading more old style 'Bodice Ripper' stories or do you prefer the romance genre to keep moving forward, maybe incorporating elements of the older stories with stronger heroines?