Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy holidays from the Crumpet Strumpets!

Celia, Colette, Jane, Kate, Lacey, Pam, and Sharon
wish you peace, love, and joy this holiday season.
We'll be back in the new year.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Little Spice for the Holidays

Well, the holiday season is starting! Last Saturday morning, we were in a clinic with one child, who was a brilliant red, and who turned out to have scarlet fever. (Thank heaven for antibiotics). And last night, child #2 threw up a few times. Looks like that might just be too many holiday party cookies on top of a big ball of excitement. That’s why I was late in posting—a morning at the office, and some "barfy kid" patrol in the afternoon. But he’d much better and was sleeping like an angel on the sofa.

I’m sure everyone is having a hectic time. If it’s not the Christmas preparation, then it’s the realization that 1) it’s the end of the year and 2) people are away for 2 weeks. That always spurs me into desperate action. I finally forced myself to outline my next erotic historical vampire in detail today. No working from the 1 page synopsis in this time. I’m going to try some greater organization in 08 (ho, ho, ho).

I wish everyone a happy holiday. Soon we’ll be thinking of New Year’s resolutions. My kids have already suggested less junk food and more exercise (for me), so I’ll have to think of my own. And I’ve told them that all I really want for Christmas is sleep.

Since Black Silk is set in the winter (around Christmas), I thought I’d include an excerpt:

"Both, perhaps." He sat on the edge of her bed and held out his hand. "I don’t feel as though I am in mourning anymore. Not now that you have come into my life, Maryanne."

"That is so…." It was as if doves took flight inside her. To think she had made such an impact. It stunned her. "Wait right there."

He leaned back on the bed, propped on his elbow, all six delicious feet of him sprawled over her ivory silk sheets. And she shook in her slippers as she went to her wardrobe and dipped to slide out her secret from beneath it.

Maryanne’s cheeks were hot as she returned to Dash holding her muslin wrapped package "I smuggled it in—and it was the very devil to do so. I couldn’t risk having a maid find it during the unpacking. But I have a small compartment in my case."

Dash’s mind ran riot. A whip? A large dildo? What would be Maryanne’s secret? Slowly she drew the muslin down, revealing curled pages, and then finally she flicked the translucent material away to reveal a stack of paper with an ivory ribbon tied around it. She picked it up, cradled it, and then handed it to him.

Handwriting, tight and neat, covered the first page. The writing angled in every direction as though the notes had been added haphazardly and at different times. Then he picked out the words: A Novel by M. Hamilton.

"This is your book. You wrote all this yourself?" He patted the bed beside him.

"Yes." She laughed.

But it still seemed miraculous to him. That she had created a story and diligently set all these words to the page.

"No one has ever read it before. I’ve never shown it to anyone. I was always too afraid to let anyone see it. But I would like you to read it." She ducked her head, cheeks pink. "You see, it is an erotic story."
"Hell," he muttered, instantly erect, lusty, yet completely astonished.

"You must wonder why I did it," she hurried on. "And I really cannot say. I edited those stories for the courtesans who wrote for us, and I…I felt a compulsion to put down words myself. To tell a story. Of course, since it is an erotic story, I was hampered by a certain lack of experience." She stood by the bedpost, her arm curled around it.

Too shy to join him while he read her book? "Not anymore." He grinned, sat up, and spread his legs. "Come and cuddle between my thighs while I read."

"I don’t know. You may find parts that are…silly."

"I doubt that, love."

"Or physically impossible."

God, he was hard with anticipation. As he turned to the first page, he watched Maryanne. A curl brushed her cheek, she looked so sweetly demure. Then he looked to the first lines.

All the best for the holidays! And if you’ve thought of any inspiring resolutions already, please share them now!

(excerpt from Black Silk, ©2007 by Sharon Page. Coming in April 2008!)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Made My Deadline... Glo-o-o-o-o-o-or-o-o-o-o-o-or-o-o-o-o-o-o-OR-ia

I went to elementary school, you see, in the era before holiday celebration went all ecumenical.

So I know a lot of carols (some in Latin), and this week I'm belting them out for joy, especially after my editor actually found the manuscript I sent her (buried, inevitably, beneath several hundred hints as to how she could increase the size of her penis).

"And I don't even have one!" she wailed.

"Which just goes to prove how much you need all that spam they're sending you," I told her.

She decided to settle for my hot, thrusting prose instead and we launched into an enthusiastic chat about production schedule and revision procedures, both of us quite enjoying the detail stuff -- because during my 25 years as a computer programmer for major financial institutions, I learned to get good at schedules and procedures, it being clear to me I was never going to make it solely on my programming expertise... And yes, there is a lesson there for writers of popular fiction.

So now it's all over but the revisions. Oh, and the publicity, though I'm not sure how much blog-hopping I'll do next fall. My book (another erotic romance, this time set in 1829, as George IV's reign was drawing to its bloated, overwrought close) is set for November 2008 -- at the close of another George's... well, you can finish the thought for yourself.

I'm thinking that people may have more important things than another Pam Rosenthal book to think about next November, though perhaps they won't want to.

But I'll worry about that later. Right now (during the month before I get my revision instructions) I'm sort of floating around my house in a giddy delighted stupor of freedom, doing stuff like replying to a friend's (unfailingly witty, charming, and guilt-producing) Christmas letter for the first time in three years.

Which is about as much holiday celebration as we ever do around here (except for an overdue Chanukah check in the mail to the kid, also known as Our Son the Victorianist, bravely girding his loins for on onslaught on the academic job market).

Aside from that, Michael and I mostly drift disembodied through the season like happy ghosts. Not not Jacob Marley, though; I prefer to think of us as the chic-er and much more fun George and Marion Kirby of our childhood favorite movie/TV series Topper.

What with finishing the draft, this year I'm even enjoying taking my occasional swipes at cooking and housework, both of which Michael's been doing way more than his share while nursing me through the novel. As he always does, he helped me research it and then make sense of what I'd written. This time I was sort of a basket case emotionally, which he said made it sort of scary fun.

And then there's the huge pile of unironed clothes I'm amassing. As soon as my local video rental place gets me Disk One/Season Two of Big Love, I'm planning an ironing and irony extravaganza. After which we head east for a week (NY and Philadelphia) to see family, friends, museums, theater, pretty lights.

But meanwhile I have a little holiday set piece to offer, from Carrie's Story, perhaps making the season yet a little more ecumenical in its pleasures:

As the winter wore on, he brought more toys--angry little clips for the nipples and other soft parts, sometimes with little bells attached. He told Mrs. Branden to give me a cup of coffee when I came in and not to let me pee; this would increase the chances that I'd have to squat over the chamber pot he kept for me in the corner. And if I dribbled onto the floor, I'd have to lick up the drops.
He tried different whips on me--whips and broad leather paddles. Once "just for the hell of it," he said, he tried a stiff hairbrush, which really hurt. Another time, an old-fashioned shaving strop--he'd ordered it from a catalog, Peterman or something, just to use it on me; I don't think he ever used it to shave with.

There was a period--Christmas and through January--when he seemed to have presents for me all the time. Things that hurt and humiliated, which sometimes I'd find beautifully wrapped under a little holiday tree in his study, and have to unwrap--of course without tearing the paper--and thank him for. Sometimes I would never have seen them before--strange Victorian posture-training devices, for example--and he'd make me guess what I thought they were for before he showed me.

And then, after the needles of the little Christmas tree dried up and it got tossed into the alley, there were costumes...

Have a great holiday, everybody, whatever you call it and however you manage it. See you next year.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hello From Afar

This past week I actually did some writing. Being a single mom with two jobs my life tends to be a bit on the caotic side. A friend of mine from a tinny little far away land invited me for ten days away from my fast pased unfocused exsistance.

I arranged for my X to watch the kids and I packed one very large suitcase with clothes that I mostly did not wear, and my research books, then headed with passport in hand to the airport. I was nervous; single woman traveling for the first time to another country where I did not know the language. So, I drank two glasses of wine and downed a Dramamine and I was out cold on the 9 hour flight.

I arrived in an airport that had wooden floors, something I have never seen in any airport in the US. I headed towards the man sitting in the glass booth and handed him my passport thinking to myself will he understand me if I speak?
He said in english "where are you going?"

I said "here" and smiled.

He smiled back and stamped my passport for the very first time and said "Enjoy your stay."

I walked through the power sliding doors and into the baggage claim area thinking wow that was amazingly easy.

I then left the airport for a 4 1\2 hour drive to the west coast and a beautiful beach house. I had wine… ate dinner... and then lie awake that night exhausted but unable to sleep! I had always wondered why people complain about jet lag. Now I know. I still have not quite gotten on any ones schedule but that has been okay. My trip has been relaxing and basically time has truly stopped for one week. I woke when I woke… ate when hungry… went for walks on the beach when I was awake and it was light out. (this happened only three times during my stay) and I wrote.

Yes I did just say that… I wrote.

I had been struggling to find the time to do this and then when I did find the time I was so distracted by all the other things I should be doing like taking out the over flowing trash or finally washing the dishes that had been sitting in the sink for a few days that I didn’t have the creative energy to think of what my hero should do to my heroine once he had her naked and sitting before him.

I have had a wonderful time on this escape from reality and I was curious… Do any of you do this? Take a holiday to escape and write? To leave the everyday and be creative?

I am still on holiday… Tomorrow I will explore the city and the local erotic art museum, then I will return to the real world the next day. Until then...

Hugs and Kisses,

PS... No English spell check on this computer. I am sure I have misspelled a few words! Amazing how dependent I have become to that feature... LOL!

Friday, December 14, 2007

It's nearly Christmas!

When I say Christmas, I mean any holiday that works for you:) Christmas is the one I'm most familiar with and the only one I can recount tales of family traditions and mishaps! Researching Christmas traditions for the Regency period can be a bit tricky because most of 'my' family traditions, and those of most people who grew up in the UK, come from the Victorian time period.

Christmas trees? A German import, probably courtesy of Prince Albert. There is, of course, a old tradition of bringing in the Yule log which gets to burn over the holiday period. That dates back to medieval times and is usually considered pagan in origin, as are quite a few of the Christmas traditions.

I think that hunting for small objects cooked into a pudding is also an old tradition that dictated who got to boss everyone around for the season and play tricks. The Victorians added the silver charms in the Christmas pudding but I'm not sure if they had any particular significance, other than you had to be careful not to a, choke or b, crack your teeth!

From my family I carried over the tradition of Christmas stockings placed on the kids beds for the morning. It's kind of a delaying tactic to slow them down with enough chocolate to wait for their big presents later after church. I remember one Christmas when I was about 8, when my father came home from the pub and took umbrage (as you do when you've had a few pints) to the suggestion that my mother was the only one who could fill the xmas stockings for the girls (his 5 daughters). He insisted on doing it himself.The next morning everyone was sobbing because, of course, he had no idea what each of us wanted and we all got the wrong things. It took my mother about an hour to sort out the mess and I realized that maybe 'you know who' wasn't quite who I thought he was.

Recently my husband asked me whether we should continue the stockings-he gets very bah-humbug as Christmas approaches, I suspect it's a money thing. The kids were horrified at the very idea of messing with their xmas and I'll still continue to do them. Mr Kate Pearce has to be kept away from the financial aspects of xmas. He has this weird idea that $50 goes a long way and I hate to destroy his old-world assumptions. We have a deal that he doesn't look at the bills in December!

Something else that's become a tradition in my family is that I always make mince pies and a particularly rich ice cream from scratch. I'm not sure how ice cream became an xmas tradition, but there you are. For my kids, it's part of Christmas, as are the mince pies which I hand out to various guests and watch their expressions as they try and work out exactly what I'm expecting them to eat!

And in case you're wondering about my dad. He never did the stockings again, but he did once bring a complete stranger home for Christmas dinner because the poor guy had no one to celebrate with. Now that more than made up for the stockings in my book :)

And don't forget, if any of you get any gift cards for bookstores-and I know you will-"Simply Sexual" my erotic Regency-set romance from Kensington Aphrodisia comes out on January 29th!

I hope you have a great holiday season!
And please comment about your own traditions, I'd love to hear about them!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Making of an Erotic Romance Reader

Tomorrow my other half will be over at the Risky Regencies blogging about Mansfield Park in the week-long (with a prize!) build up to Jane Austen's birthday on December 16. The Riskies each picked their favorite Austen book to discuss, and I knew Mansfield Park would be a problem, so I volunteered to talk about it. Just to give you a preview, I found it an extraordinarily sexy book; there's a lot of physical awareness among the characters and a huge amount of activity taking place around rooms and spaces and entrances. I kept coming across passages that just didn't sound like Jane Austen (color coded for your convenience):

...stopping at the entrance take a last look at the five or six determined couples, who were still hard at work--and then, creeping slowly up the principal staircase, pursued by the ceaseless country-dance, feverish with hopes and fears, soup and negus, sore-footed and fatigued, restless and agitated, yet feeling, in spite of everything, that a ball was indeed delightful.

And I wondered why the book, that once struck me as being tedious, longwinded, and with the nerdiest of heroes and heroines, now bristles with sexuality. (Oh, okay. Fanny and Edmund are still pretty nerdy.) The simple answer is that I read differently and I've changed, and possibly I'm smarter now about Jane Austen. I'd hope so, considering how long it's been.

On the other hand there are also books I've always found sexy--Jane Eyre, for instance (see my post Jane on Jane). I'm indifferent to Mr. Rochester--for me the big turn-on in the book has always been Lowood. All that discipline. All that spanking, dressed in frilly white underwear and black stockings, under the lascivious gaze of Brocklehurst and the Board of Trustees (I made that up. Didn't I?).

What books have you found that you've interpreted differently at different stages of your life? Or what books do you feel you have a particular insight into because you're a reader/writer of erotic romance?

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Making of An Erotic Romance Author

In my formative years, I was as na├»ve and innocent as can be imagined. I knew nothing about sexuality, at least until I discovered some hidden books in my parents’ house and took a look, with my best friend, at her parents’ copy of "The Joy of Sex". I wrote about this in my very first attempt at an erotic/coming-of-age story, and just for fun, I’ve posted a little of it here:

"Giggling, she promises to come right back, and runs out of the room. In an couple of minutes she's back, pulls a book out from under the loose pajama top. The Joy of Sex.

I'm disappointed. A lot of hairy men and droopy women with saggy stomachs and description of a multitude of positions. I suppose the bodies are supposed to represent reality and not an idealized person, but if I wanted reality I'd buy myself a pair of binoculars and scan the windows of my neighborhood. Books are an escape, I believe.
Anne sighs. "I want to have a boyfriend this summer."
"You want sex?"
"I don't know if I'd go that far. I think we should both meet guys."

It's not a boyfriend that I want, but something physical that I don't completely understand. Something to satisfy my restlessness, the ache within me. Someone on which to release the energy that builds up in me at times, until I feel like screaming and crushing something with my bare hands."

I’m writing erotic romance because it always intrigued me how sometimes men and women can be physically intimate, while not even willing to have a conversation. It intrigues me how the physical part of sex—the caressing, cuddling, touching—gives a sense of intimacy that maybe just isn’t there. And that fascinated me about the role sex plays in romance. I couldn’t see how you could write romance without writing the sex. Getting naked with someone, exploring them, experiencing what you’re feeling (or not), what he’s feeling—what could be more critical to love and a relationship? I wanted to peek behind the bedroom door, because, back when I was a teenager who didn’t know anything, I needed to figure this relationship stuff out.

In my books Blood Red and Blood Rose, I explored male/male relationships. I read stories written by men and found it intriguing that, as Pam mentioned on Friday, it is human nature to wonder about love and to wonder about whether he’s really into you (whether you are a he or she) and vice versa. I remember reading a story in an old-fashioned "confession" magazine. In this confession, a group of eighteen-year-olds set up house together—there are three or four couples. And pretty soon there are jealousies flaring and someone’s boyfriend fancies someone else, and people are going to bed with each other because they’ve just had their heart broken by someone else. I write menage a trois stories for my vampire series, and wonder, would it really work? People do live in successful relationships involving more than one partner. What intrigues me so much as a writer is the process of making that work.

As I was stretching my writing wings and taking that journey to learn about voice and story-telling, I took a fiction writing course at my local university with author Tom Henighan. Tom who looked at my early short stories and told me to write about what is really important to people. Their sex lives was one of the things he mentioned. And I though, yeah, that’s why I was sneaking books out of the bookcase—in the hope that I would learn about life. Maybe I should go there too.

And so an erotic romance author was born.
(Excerpt from "Brash", WIP by Sharon Page ©2007)

Friday, December 7, 2007

Book Bottom II: Pornotopia and its Discontents

Warning: I'm in Theorygirl mode these days, trying to make a whole lot of interesting ideas fit together, which they don't quite yet.

But with Jane Lockwood's "have we lost our way?" post still in mind, and with my brain cells still wonderfully massaged by Katha Pollitt's fabulous wit and smarts, here are some further thoughts about erotica, pornography, and erotic romance.

It's the people who have a problem with porn -- even a simple aesthetic revulsion at the shaved and implanted phoniness of it all -- who are suspect now, and who have to prove their normality by insisting that they "like sex," as if sex were all one thing, like oatmeal. Imagine if you said, Yes I like sex, with the right person, in the right place, in the right mood, preferably after a lovely meal cooked by someone else; otherwise, frankly, I'd rather get on with Daniel Deronda.

That's Pollitt again in Learning to Drive. Is she right? Certainly I do think that there's a certain you-go-girl giddiness in the hype for the romance erotica lines. It's interesting these days how we're nudged in the direction of a kind of tickle-me-Elmo giddiness about sexuality. Doubtless a necessary corrective to many still-current pruderies and hypocrisies, but perhaps not the best inducement to make a book hang together.

Pollitt continues that, "in porn no one takes a night off, no one even rejects one partner for another they like better; they just have them both at once, and the meter reader, too, should he happen to drop by" -- or (I hasten to add) the hunky gardner in the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Bedroom. Rock critic Richard Goldstein once put it more succinctly. "In porn, everybody wants it. All the time."

Of course, Pollitt doesn't seem to have read much erotica since the very male-oriented porn from the 70s, but it's possible that (mostly)-by-women-(mostly)-for-women erotica from the romance publishers is going in that direction. At least I gather from Jane Lockwood's post that there is some sentiment that it's possible to have too much of a good, friendly, down and dirty thing -- and that what you risk is losing the romance.

I'm not sure. Partly because I haven't read enough dirty books lately. My current w.i.p. has taken a lot of effort: the draft's due Monday and after I hit the SEND key I'll find out what's actually happening in the world outside my study.

For now, tho, I only have my experience, and a word, "pornotopia" -- from Steven Marcus's 60s lit crit book The Other Victorians, which introduced books like The Pearl and My Secret Life to a general readership. I don't remember Marcus's exact definition, but I've kind of adopted the word to mean a kind of alternative fictional world -- sort of another kind of dimension, where the ground rules are different, and sometimes the laws of physics and biology. It's a fun, friendly, sort of prelapsarian world. Even when you impose the power strictures of BDSM, it's got a kind of amplitude. It lends itself to episodic writing and ensemble plots (I like the ensemble aspect, because I often find romance novels awfully thinly populated).

But as to plotting: If you're a Shakespeare, you can get the dizzy wonder of A Midsummer Night's Dream out of it. But if you're not a Shakespeare, it can be hard to fit a plot around what's potentially endlessly episodic.

What's interesting to me is that when I was writing erotica-that-at-that-time-called-itself-pornography, I found that I desperately wanted a plot. And so did my characters.

In the Carrie books, a perverse dynamic began to take over. The bigger and friendlier my orgies got, the more seriously I and my characters began wondering about who really liked who best (or even loved them). Relationships formed just below the surface of the action as characters began asking themselves what they really wanted. I began to imagine little offstage tragedies (what's going to happen to Susan when Andrew realizes she's really into Steve?). I loved giving tiny subplots having happy endings (poor neglected Stefan, happy at last as Mr. Constant's boytoy!). I wrote a sequel, Safe Word to figure out whether Carrie's Story had really been Carrie's story at all, or Jonathan's and Kate's.

Which was one of the ways I drifted toward erotic romance.

About which I'm blogging today, at Michelle Buonfiglio's RomanceBuyTheBlog at LifetimeTV, to cap off Erotic Romance Week there and in honor of the mass-market paperback release of Almost A Gentleman. Please come by and say hi.

And about which I'll also be yacking on a panel with romance academics (whom you can also check out online at the Teach Me Tonight blog) . I'll be chatting with them in person, though, at the Popular Culture Association Conference in San Francisco next March. My contribution (which I hope will be provocative) will be called "From BDSM to Erotic Romance: Observations of a Shy Pornographer." I hope to attend in Theorygirl mode, except that by then I hope to have figured out all this out (partly through posts and discussions here).

And if you want to read more from Safe Word, the clue to my current contest is in the excerpt from that book, posted on my web page. And the prize? An autographed copy of Forbidden Shores, by Jane Lockwood.

Oh and as for my question -- well, do you think there's a difference between male and female-oriented erotic fiction?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Mistress of Subtlety

When writing my erotic novels, I don't leave much to the imagination--as far as emotion, action, insert Tab A into Slot B, etc. I mean, to me, that's what an erotic novel is: detail, so one can immerse onself.

And while I love that kind of writing, there are times when I also prefer subtlety. The kind of writing I have to work a little harder to appreciate.

One of my favorite authors is The Mistress of Subtlety--in all facets of her writing. She writes romantic mysteries/gothicky ghost stories. There's always a romance (never any sex; I think she's used the word "breast" five times in more than thirty books)...and sometimes it's more satisfying than the insert Tab 6 into Slot 9 (heh heh) stories.

Her name is Elizabeth Peters, and she also writes as Barbara Michaels. She's brilliant. She's funny and witty and writes the most dry, humorous stories with such a great romance that I read her stuff over and over. And the wonderful thing about it is I always catch something new every time--even the books I've read upwards of five or six times.

Do you have a favorite author who, unlike many of us Strumpets, leaves some of the details to the imagination? Do you find you have a preference between the implications of sex and the immerse-yourself-in-the-moment scenes?

Why and when?

Monday, December 3, 2007


Well, it's been out since just after Thanksgiving so far as I can tell, but it's official release date was Saturday.

ONE MORE TIME, under Kensington’s Aphrodisia line. I was so thrilled when I got the word that I made RT’s Top Pick list! (Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine). Here’s part of the review:

“This scorching roller-coaster of a read is an erotic page-turner. It has romance, intrigue, licentious nobility, a Greek god come to life and an unexpected ending. Feisty Abby and sensual Myles are the perfect couple to surmount the obstacles in their way. This may have been the first book I've read by Hart, but it certainly won't be the last!”
4.5 stars, Bella March, Romantic Times Bookclub Magazine

And Harriet Klausner likes it too! She gave it 5 stars! "This torrid time travel romantic fantasy stars two wonderful lead characters, a horde of profligate aristocrats (she'd make a fortune selling her toys to this crowd), and a Greek god seeking passion. The story line is fast-paced even during the heat of passion and yet filled with twists. Loaded with heat, ONE MORE TIME is an erotic tale with plenty of heat."

So as you might guess, I'm pretty pleased with all that. The blog tour (see the list at my website) is also going pretty well!

So how's your Monday?