Friday, 31 May 2013

Wild Trials Published!

  Despite a few teething troubles, part six of Wild Instincts is finished and available for purchase on Amazon and Smashwords! As usual, the extended wait means it's another long one, and as the story edges towards the end of its second act Lyssa has plenty of new things to discover as she gets to know the Wood Pack.

  After tracking down another pack of werewolves, Lyssa and Hawthorn are finally safe. For now. But with Thorne's past hanging over him, his fate amongst the pack that once cast him out is called into question yet again, leaving Lyssa struggling to cope with her instinct alone as the alpha ponders her lover's fate.
  The idyllic community of the Wood Pack holds the promise of new friends, and a fresh start for the two young wolves; but first they must earn their place among them, and endure the trials of separation.
  12000 word erotic short story featuring graphic descriptions of sex. Not for the faint of heart!

  I've been focusing pretty exclusively on my werewolf serial for quite a while now, and the current plan is still to wrap it up within the next three parts. The possibility of a sequel did pique my interest a little while ago, but I certainly don't plan to jump into any new sexy adventures for Lyssa & co right off the bat. I feel like the paranormal world of shapeshifters I've created for her is one that's worth revisiting at some point. I really like the idea of all the different werewolf packs out there in the woods and how their different societies might operate, plus the concept of "instincts" was a big favourite of mine that got me sold on writing the series in the first place. Nothing's set in stone, but unlike His Darkest Desire, Wild Instincts does very much have the potential to warrant a full sequel at some point.

  Aside from that, it's obvious that I'm going to have to find some new writing projects to fill my schedule with pretty soon. I'm still no closer to pinning down a solid outline for my next eRom serial, but I do have one or two ideas I'd like to include:
  - A shifting of perspective between the hero and heroine (probably told in the third person).
  - A slightly darker and/or more erotic tone.
  - A different subgenre than my previous stories -- something that isn't contemporary or paranormal.

  Historical fiction is still a strong candidate for the next one, and I'd like to try and wind things back to the whole idea of the heroine's (and maybe the hero's) journey of sexual discovery, similar to the premise of His Darkest Desire. Wild Instincts is, overall, pretty story driven. The sex is there to explore the characters and their relationships, but it's not really the driving force behind what happens most of the time. I'd like to get a little dirtier again, focusing on more kinky and taboo themes, and going on a journey with the characters as they experience them.

  One other item on the agenda is to re-edit and publish my first eRom as a full novel. This one has been sitting on the backburner for far longer than I expected, and it's high time I got it done. I'm going to be making it a priority in the coming weeks to start working my way through the first chapters of His Darkest Desire to polish up the quality and compile them together into their own ebook.

  The next big release should still be Wild Instincts #7, but I'll be fiddling around with my other projects as well behind the scenes!

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Review: Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet

  Time for another review! This time around it's a non-fiction craft book by Stacia Kane all about how to write sizzling, fleshed-out, meaningful sex scenes.

  The first thing to note about Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet is that it's an adaptation of a series of articles originally posted by the author on her blog, and the format very much reflects its original incarnation. Chapters are relatively short, conversational in tone, and easily consumed in one sitting. This, for me, was one of the things I really appreciated about this book. It's not a deep and thoroughly complex analysis of sex in fiction, it's not a stuffy and strict set of guidelines on how to write erotica; it's one author sharing her experience in straightforward, practical, bitesize chunks. I very often found myself reading a chapter of this book a day over breakfast before sitting down to get started with my own writing. It was a fantastic way to digest a few tips and tricks while also getting me in the mood to push on with my own work, and I was sorry to wake up one day with no more chapters left to spur me on.

  Kane covers a broad range of subjects in Sex-Writing Strumpet, from dissecting the purpose and meaning of a good sex scene, to picking the right words and phrases to arouse your readers, to overcoming the embarrassment of starting to write sex in the first place. Now, I wouldn't go so far as to say that anything the author covers in this book is revolutionary or ground-breaking advice; if you've studied the basic mechanics of storytelling before then a lot of what she discusses will be familiar to you. Sex scenes do, ultimately, follow the same basic set of rules as any other good scene in a novel. However, the great strength of Sex-Writing Strumpet is that it consolidates and crystallises this advice into a series of very specific, very easily applicable examples, even going so far as to include little writing challenges for aspiring erotic authors to tackle at the end of each chapter. While Kane may not break new ground with her approach to writing sex scenes, that isn't the point of her book. Like any good teacher, she collates everything she has learned as an author, distils it down to its most concise and useful elements, and presents it in a way that is easy for her audience to digest.

  If there was one critique I could make of the book it would be that some of Kane's example passages do tend to take up a lot of page space. While many of these passages are useful in illustrating her topics of discussion, I did notice they had a tendency to cut into the word count of certain chapters, leaving them a little light on the analysis and a little heavy on the excerpts. I feel as though someone familiar with the author's work would get more out of these examples than a newcomer like me, but given the origin of these chapters as blog posts on Kane's website, it's understandable why they'd be tailored to fans of her writing.

  Overall though, Sex-Writing Strumpet gave me exactly what I was looking for out of a book like this. Kane's advice is straightforward, pragmatic, conversational—and often very funny! This feels like a book written by someone who is thoroughly passionate about their craft, with a genuine desire to share their experience with others. It's well written, useful, insightful, and very entertaining for anyone who has a passion for looking deeper into the anatomy of erotic literature.
  I'd give this book an enthusiastic Awesome-Out-Of-Ten!

  Be A Sex-Writing Strumpet is available to purchase in paperback or as an ebook on Amazon, or for various formats across other retailers.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Free Paranormal Erotica!

  Oh my gosh! Well, that serves me right for writing up a different blog post because Amazon are being too slow to price match. Wild Instincts is now free to download on Amazon and Smashwords!

  Every werewolf has an instinct. Lyssa's is to submit.
While the human part of Lyssa rebels against the iron fist of her domineering alpha, the wolf in her is unable to resist his every advance. Caught between the primal draw of her instincts and her desire for independence, she finds comfort in the company of Hawthorne, another wolf living on the outskirts of the pack hierarchy. But as Lyssa's attraction to Hawthorne grows, she realises that his instinct may prove to be even more dangerous than her own.
  The alpha is watching them, and Lyssa must learn to control her animal nature, or be consumed by it.

  This is my current ongoing serial, and parts 2-5 are also available to purchase, with part 6 coming soon! I've especially enjoyed writing this one, and as my second full erotic novel I feel like it's shaping up to be a pretty solid one. Don't take my word for it though, take a look for yourself and see what you think! It's free!

Monday, 13 May 2013

The Rules of Writing, Part 2

  I had planned for my next blog post to be an announcement of another free title, but seeing as Amazon have decided to be super slow with their price matching this time around I'm going to have to return to the same topic I started on a few weeks ago!

  So, last time I talked about the basics of grammar and spelling, then went on to talk about how the pacing and structure of good stories tends to fall into a very recognisable pattern time and again. This week I'd like to begin by discussing some more stylistic "rules" that are present in various genres.

  It might surprise you to know, but before I started publishing at the end of last year I didn't have much knowledge of romance or erotica as genres. I'd certainly read them in the past, but I'd never discussed them in depth with anyone, connected with serious fans of the genres, or looked into the various characteristics of these types of stories.
  Anyone who's a serious fan of genre romance will know that one rule holds true across the board: your story must conclude with a Happy Ever After/Happy For Now, where the hero and heroine finally get together, overcome their problems, and settle down into their blissful new lives together. There's no other genre I'm aware of where fans will react as negatively to a story that breaks the rules than romance, to the extent of a HEA/HFN being a required element for the story to be classified as a romance.
  What this boils down to is simply a case of readers knowing what they like; and a happy ending is what the vast majority of romance readers want out of their novels. It doesn't matter if you want to make a point or write a thoroughly realistic tale where things don't work out quite as the hero and heroine might have hoped -- that isn't what readers are looking for in your work.

  This is an interesting phenomenon to think about in the literary world, and I think it's comparable to the issues I had with the Hunger Games ending, only expanded to cover an entire genre rather than an individual series. Readers like to know what they're getting, and I think this is something that some writers fail to appreciate in its entirety. There's a sweet spot to be found between pandering to your audience with simple, easy, by-the-numbers storytelling, and alienating them with something that challenges their expectations to an unpleasantly jarring degree.

  I've always maintained that I prefer to think of myself as a practical storyteller rather than an artist; I'd much rather be known for entertaining people rather than challenging them. That isn't to say I want to spend my career writing bland and predictable stories, but I do believe very firmly in working within the boundaries of the rules to create something interesting and engaging rather than pushing the boundaries of what's considered acceptable for the genre.
  I read a post over on kboards today about an author who'd finally given up after over half a decade of writing, citing his frustration with the indie publishing scene and the difficulty of getting his work recognised. But, by his own admission, this author was writing stories that were completely unpitchable to traditional publishers, difficult to market, and hard to classify. He just didn't seem to be writing with any particular audience in mind.

  Maybe it makes me a horrible sellout, but I like to dial back my artistic vision to a level that's practical, realistic, and viable as a way of making my living in the self publishing business. What that means, the majority of the time, is working within the framework of the rules, giving your audience what they want, and trying to put your own spin on tried and true concepts rather than splurging your creative juices into the void and hoping they crystallise into gold.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Wild Changes Published!

Chapter five of Wild Instincts is all done and available to purchase on Amazon and Smashwords! Things are definitely beginning to change up for our hero and heroine as the story reaches its mid-way point.

Exiled from their pack and alone in the wilderness, Lyssa and Thorne are forced to rely on each other to survive. But with rival packs and their own alpha hunting them, the burdens of survival and their own feelings for one another are soon pushing the two young werewolves to their limits.
  How much does Lyssa really know about Thorne's past, and how far is she willing to go to preserve her volatile relationship with him? As tensions build and emotions flare, the couple begin to discover new things about one another as they face the reality of their future together. If they want to stay safe from the dangers of the wild, something will have to change between the two forever.

With this instalment published I feel like I'm getting into a better rhythm with my writing. The past couple of months have been a little sparse on the new releases front, but, issues like lack of sleep aside, a large part of it has been the increased length (and hopefully quality!) of the chapters in this serial. I've gone from a weekly publication schedule of ~5000 word stories to a bi-monthly one of ~10,000 word releases. My focus for the foreseeable future is still going to be on finishing Wild Instincts, which should conclude by part nine or so much like His Darkest Desire did.

I still have an editing backlog to go through on my older titles, and I'm really disappointed in myself for not getting that done sooner, but it's still on the cards! Besides which, I'm getting a hankering for starting a new project again. No crystallised thoughts on that the next serial novel is going to be, but I very much want to try out something written in the third person with perspective shifts between the two main characters. It's been bugging me that I never get to poke around inside the head of my hero in Wild Instincts -- particularly since I feel like he's starting to become a very interesting character, with a very solid arc of development compared to my last sexy studmuffin.

So expect more Wild Instincts in the coming weeks, and maybe the beginning of something new!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Writing Sex Scenes is Hard

  ...And I feel like it has a tendency to get harder the more you learn about it.
  Like every creative craft, there's always an urge when writing erotica to go one better than the last scene you wrote, and it tends to result in some very challenging bedroom segments that you spend hours trying to get just right.

  When I first started writing sex it was purely a case of splurging out a ton of stuff that I found totally hot all over the page -- and that isn't necessarily a bad thing when you're writing one-off smutty shorts that're aimed at cheap and cheerful thrills. With erotic romance, however, there's so much more to the anatomy of a sex scene than meets the eye.
  When writing vanilla segments of a story I can usually put out a good two thousand words a day without much slowdown, but when it comes to the sex that output tends to get cut in half. The story is the bread and butter of an erotic romance, but the sex is the succulent filling. It's the focal point, where you can be sure you'll have your reader's undivided attention, and where a good author will be able to create a memorable sequence that will stick with you long after you finish the final page.
  As a result there's an almost painstaking urge to pay that much more attention to writing a sex scene than to any other part of the story. Every word choice has to be sexy, the pacing has to be spot-on, the emotions of the characters involved need to be crystallised and poignant. The bedroom scenes I've written in the past that I've been least happy with (in eRoms, at least) are the ones where the sex feels forced, inorganic, or irrelevant to anything beyond the scene at hand.

  Needless to say, it often feels like a pretty daunting task to get the sex scene in a chapter of a serial right. It's a more directly climactic (hurr hurr) moment than almost anything else in your writing, and once your mind starts to be bombarded by all the things you feel obliged to include in it, the simple process of sitting down for an hour or two and bashing out a sex scene starts to become a lot more complicated.
  I'm at the point now where my sex scenes almost always take multiple writing sessions to get finished, because they tax me a lot more than anything else. That's not to say they're tiring or exhaustive to write (although feeling a little breathless by the end is never a bad thing!), but a good sex scene is definitely a challenge to get right.