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Blog writing tips healthy romances What readers want

Hot and healthy romances

It’s been a busy week promoting the cover reveal of my debut erotic fiction novel Lessons on Seduction, published by Black Velvet Seductions. My debut erotic romance novel is available for pre-order on Amazon at a discount price and will be out on July 30.

I know I should be writing a chapter for my next project (a short romance with a hot and sexy Aussie cowboy), but after talking to a few wonderful readers and writers, I have to get this off my chest:

How about a hot, healthy, sensational, and sexy romance this summer?

Are you up for that?

I hope that most of you will be nodding in eager anticipation. Well, there’s no waiting line because here’s a few good romance stories where the heat between the protagonist and the love interest is flammable—which could be a little dangerous in the summer heat! 😉

Here are summer reads I recommend from books I’ve read/am reading from BVS authors:

There’s more, and I’m getting through them – including Paging Dr. Turov by Gibby Campbell and A Thread of Sand by Alan Souter.

What I love most about these books is while they’re ultra-hot and steamy, they also have heroines with strong voices. The women in these books won’t tolerate any kind of demeaning behavior from their partners. They are neither passive nor aggressive: they are assertive women.

Their love interests are men of diverse backgrounds who have a few things in common: empathy, love, and respect for their partner’s boundaries.

On Wattpad, I have my reading lists. From there, here are a some hot romance stories I recommend:

There you have it. Hot romances don’t need to tease readers with blurred lines, underage sex with vast age differences (eg. a fifteen-year-old who romps around with her 38-year-old teacher), or love that emerges from forced submission or kidnapping.

The red flag comes up when I see these lines at the start of a book:

“You will be mine…”

“By the time I’m done with you…”

“You will do as I tell you…”

“Other women would kill to be in your shoes…”

What the heck?

I have to share a personal anecdote. When I was an undergrad student years ago, there was one fellow, let’s call him Casanova, who used one of those lines on me in a confrontational manner in a public place. Oh, he was charming and handsome, but my self-respect was more important than submitting to an unhealthy proposal.

What happened next was something I’ll never forget. My male friends stood with me. They didn’t say much, but their unified stance in silence was enough to send the poor guy running like the clappers. 😉

I realized then that there was no room in my life for unhealthy relationships. That included my taste in books and movies.

Enjoy the heat this summer!

If you haven’t pre-ordered Lessons on Seduction, you can do that now for only 99 cents (pre-order sale price).

>> Pre-order Lessons on Seduction

Categories
Writing steamy scenes Writing tips

Challenges of writing steamy scenes

E Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

A while ago, a few writers in my Wattpad network asked if I could put a blog about writing steamy scenes. Well, ask and I will deliver. 🙂

A good plot, well-developed characters, interesting dialogues, a bit of mind-play with readers (I use literary tropes for these), and cliffhangers are all part of the fun in writing.

However, there’s one type of scene that I find most challenging above all. It’s not the twists and turns in the plot, and it’s not the angst or emotions among the characters. It’s the steamy scenes in a romance novel.

Erotic romance vs. erotica

First of all, I’d like to clarify the distinction between an erotic romance novel and erotica, as I’ve noticed in a few forums some confusion between the two.

According to Romance Writers of Australia, an erotic romance is a “sub-genre of romance where sex is crucial to character and emotional development. All stories must conclude with HEA or HFN.”

Meanwhile, erotica is classified as content “where sex is explored in writing, but a happy ending is not required.” (Source: https://romanceaustralia.com/about-rwa/glossary-of-terms/)

Romance Writers of America states that erotic romance novels are “romance novels in which strong, often explicit, sexual interaction is an inherent part of the love story, character growth and relationship development and could not be removed without damaging the storyline. These novels may contain elements of other romance subgenres (such as paranormal, historical, etc.).” (Source: https://www.rwa.org/Online/Resources/About_Romance_Fiction/Online/Romance_Genre/About_Romance_Genre.aspx?hkey=dc7b967d-d1eb-4101-bb3f-a6cc936b5219#Subgenres)

Erotica, from Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries’ perspectives, takes on a more generic and broader meaning. Let’s take Oxford’s perspective, for instance, as it defines erotica as “literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire.” (Source: https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/erotica)

An erotic romance requires character development, a decent plot, chemistry, and emotionally driven, heart-tugging scenes. But what about the scenes that would make my grandmother blush?

These scenes require work too. It’s not about banging smut fantasies in a manuscript (pun intended—that’s my wicked sense of humor); the intimate scenes require work.

Get your facts right

It’s important to get your facts right. I’ve read many romance novels, including erotic romance books, where I had to stop reading because what the author tried to achieve with the characters were, to put it politely, anatomically unreal. There are certain body parts that don’t work or move in a certain way. If these were applied in real life, there would be a visit to the chiropractor, physiotherapist, or doctor, no doubt. Also, I’ve seen misnomers of both the female and male anatomy in scenes.

If you’re not sure or have an inkling of doubt about a certain anatomical part, it’s as simple as going back to the basic biology books. There’s no shame in doing that; I have to admit, I had to do this for some fact-checking to make sure I got things right. It’s better to write correctly the first time than to make a mistake and have your readers notice it.

Be real

Be real with your smut. You can write a good sex scene without turning it into a cringy scene from a crazy porn film. It’s not just the mechanics of the act that readers are after in erotic romance novels. They’re also touched by the emotional aspect of sex that is fulfilling and realistic. More importantly, give the characters feelings—have their emotions connect with the audience.

Here are a few authors who’ve got it right with the balance of emotions and physical action in the love scenes in their romance books:

  • Callie Carmen – author of the Risking Love series. If you read Patrick, you’ll feel the emotions in the scenes. Also good to see a realistic male POV.
  • Annabel Allan – author of the Goode Pain series. If you’re after BDSM scenes that are well written and, importantly, accurate, this is the series you want to read.
  • Gibby Campbell – author of Paging Dr. Turov, which I started reading very recently. Already in chapter three, I see the power in the words that give away a good, strong plot, and characters I connect with.

There are more authors of steamy romances whose books I’m reading from my publisher Black Velvet Seductions, known for high-quality romances of different subgenres.

Get your words right

I want to stress the importance of using the right words for your scenes. These words include body parts and actions.

Here are some words I’ve seen in romance books, and wish I had my eyes shut, with regard to the female anatomy:

  • Hoo-ha.
  • Minge.
  • Axe-wound (what the heck?).
  • Gash.
  • Quim.
  • Kitty.
  • Beaver (what’s with the animal names?).

Honestly, the word “vagina” sounds much better. And there’s nothing wrong with that word either.

Here are some strange references to the male anatomy:

  • Diddly (this sounds creepy!).
  • Joystick (umm, not quite Nintendo…).
  • Pork.
  • Willy.
  • John Thomas (this one was from Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence—great plot and I have high respect for the author, but that scene just made me cringe; it’s just my personal taste, which is subjective).

Sometimes it’s just better to stick with the basics: cock, dick, length, erection. Simple, right?

All in all, I think it’s great when romance writers want to explore different scenes, including ménage à trois, BDSM, voyeurism, dirty talk, the tease, fxf, mxm, and more.

I also like a variety of settings—an exotic place, a spur of the moment in a hidden place, a secret room, something different.

It’s important to research these topics before writing them. It’s just like journalism, where you don’t publish an article without getting your facts checked by reliable sources.

What won’t I write about?

As an author, I keep an open mind when it comes to steamy scenes for my readers; I want them to feel the energy and the bond between the characters in my stories.

However, there are some scenes that I refuse to explore: underage sex and blurred lines. I’ve stopped reading stories when I come across scenes depicting sex between an adult and a minor where there is a noticeable age gap, or nonconsensual sex portrayed in a positive light. No means no, especially if there’s a position of trust or authority of one of the characters over the other.

Ditch or keep a scene?

I’ll be honest and admit that it is difficult to write a good sex scene because it requires a lot of thought and research. It is hard work. If it doesn’t work in the story, then assess if you need to remove it entirely, or rewrite it.

I’ve removed scenes because they don’t add value to the overall story. I’ve also revised scenes or added small teasing scenes to entice the reader, weaving these scenes into the plot and character relationship-building.

My goal is to give an entertaining story that readers can relate to—the steamy scenes have to work for readers.

Categories
Writing tips

Readers want empowerment

This blog post is dedicated to my Wattpad friends.

About a month ago, my nonfiction book Kick-ass Career Guide for Women was nominated for the Readers Choice Awards, one of the platform’s biggest community awards where readers nominate and vote for their favorite books. I wasn’t aware of it until I was alerted that the book had been shortlisted for the voting phase of the awards.

Yesterday, I was both surprised and elated when I received news that my career guide won first place in the awards’ nonfiction category.

Winner of the Readers Choice Awards
Readers Choice Awards winner

I honestly didn’t think the book stood a chance, considering the other nominated books were more entertaining in terms of topic.

Yet, Wattpad readers and writers voted. They not only voted, but they shared the story with their followers, both within the platform and in social media. In turn, their followers also voted. They wanted a book with a message on empowerment to win because they believe in empowerment. They believe in people supporting each other, and they believe in standing strong.

They valued a book that aimed to empower women so much that they wanted it to succeed—not because of the author, but because the book is written to help young women entering the workforce to gain confidence, know how to say “no” without feeling guilty, and be brave enough to take opportunities that lead to their own personal and career successes.

Being an introvert, I’ve never stood out in the limelight, so this is the first time that a collective group of people voted for anything of mine to stand out from the crowd. In a world where books are popular for sexy covers, sordid and steamy storylines, and forbidden love, the less “exciting” books are often forgotten.

What readers want

Wattpad has a huge following of millennials among the 80 million readers and writers of diverse ages, backgrounds, and preferences. When my network (including Wattpaders who read my romances) supports me, they are telling me something—they don’t just want the steamy stories with handsome bad boys, but they also want stories that send a message on personal strength and empowerment.

Don’t get me wrong; I love reading sexy stories with bad boys. In fact, I write them in the form of erotic romances, teen fiction, and a romantic comedy. All my stories have one thing in common: growth and being resilient in both the good times and times of adversity.

One of my books, Lessons on Seduction, will be published by romance publisher Black Velvet Seductions. It’s jam-packed with plenty of sexy scenes, a seemingly good girl, a bad boy, and drama. However, it also conveys a strong message on empowerment and a healthy dose of equality in a relationship. I’ve been reading books from authors with my publisher and their stories feature strong, bold women and men who rock the world, which makes me feel extremely proud to be part of the BVS family!

The point I’m trying to make is that my Wattpad network is reflective of a market of readers who prefer stories with smart and sassy women, yes, even with the billionaires, bad boys, and the steamy love scenes. They want stories that dare to be different from the rest.

I learned one thing about my fellow Wattpaders: they have strong voices. They are not bystanders and they would rather have stories with bold protagonists than books that promote submissive women falling for alpha men.

Many readers, including romance readers, want empowerment. They want strength. They want heroines who can save the day. They want variety and diversity. They want protagonists who are clever, passionate, and break the mold from the stereotypes.

I believe this is reflective of who my readers are—they are strong, they are powerful, and they are clever. They are law students, teachers, health professionals, parents, business professionals, and the list goes on. They deserve to be seen and heard, respected, appreciated, and loved.

As an author, I pledge to give my readers all the above, to the best of my ability through my stories.

Thank you to every Wattpader who brought Kick-ass Career Guide for Women out of the shadows and into the limelight. The book is also featured on Wattpad’s official Nonfiction profile, in the Business & Careers reading list.

Thank you for your continued support.

Wonder Woman. Source: giphy.com

Categories
Writer support Writing tips

Writers support writers

Let’s support each other. Image credit: Pixabay.

This month has been an exciting one filled with achievements.

I have joined a new family—Black Velvet Seductions, a publisher with a wide range of books, including erotic romances, sweet seduction stories, and supernatural romances. My erotic romance, Lessons on Seduction, will be available from them and I am excited!

I’ve also been badged as an official ambassador for Wattpad, an online community with over 80 million readers and writers worldwide.

Teamwork

These achievements are what I call “teamwork” because it is a shared effort together with fellow readers and writers. They supported me through the highs and lows of writing and gave me the kick I needed to do improve in all areas.

Naturally, I was over the moon when BVS accepted my manuscript and welcomed me to their team. I learned that good publishers like BVS offer strong support and encouragement for their authors. Successes are shared and motivation is ongoing among the authors in this team.

The start of the journey

Looking back, I think about where I was a year ago. I had only three or four followers at best on Wattpad. Being a painfully shy introvert, it took a lion’s serving of courage to open up, reach out, and connect with other writers and readers. Not everything has been rosy on the yellow brick road. I’ve dealt with witches, trolls, and the flying monkeys, but it’s no skin off my nose.

What gives me strength? Other writers, of course! They help me stand strong in a tough market.

Standing strong

In one year, my stories were featured on Wattpad’s official profile pages and my profile now has over 1000 followers; from these followers, I have made a few wonderful friends.

I wouldn’t have friends if I hadn’t taken the step to write, edit my work, take in suggestions for improvements, edit, and edit again. An author’s growth is a never-ending cycle; it never stops.

Sounds exhausting?

Not if you’re having fun with other writers. That’s why it’s important to have others around us as we keep writing. My writing buddies are the ones I vent to, laugh with, and smile together as we face our challenges.

Nothing is achieved without another person’s involvement. Writing can be a lonely path, but we are never alone as long as we’re brave enough to reach out. Reaching out means that we may expose our vulnerable selves as authors, but it also means that we are willing to grow.

Give support

Each of us has a personal story of pain that we mask rather well sometimes. This makes it all the more important to ask for support when we struggle.

Writers help each other out, and as I’ve been told, we adjust each other’s crowns. The world is big enough for everyone to succeed.

Unfortunately, I’ve also seen a few talented writers lose hope in their projects because of the criticism they’ve received or an award they didn’t win. This saddens me. Being an author requires thick skin; criticism and disappointment are part of life.

What can we do to support each other?

  • Reach out to connect with others.
  • Reach out when we can support someone.
  • Reach out when we need support.

Let’s all make the most to support each other’s dreams and successes. This sums up my writing journey so far, with miles ahead to go—but I’m not alone.

Here’s a little something from I Love Lucy, one of my favorite shows. Together, we can do it!

Categories
Literary tropes Writing tips Writing your first chapter

Why I love tropes

Text above: Excerpt from my upcoming novel Lessons on Seduction.

One of the things I enjoy most about writing is using tropes. It’s what makes my heart flutter, falling deeper in love with the stories I write. It’s part of what inspires me to breathe life into my work.

So, what is a trope?

The Oxford Dictionary defines a trope as “a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression.”

The American Heritage Dictionary goes a step further to describe in more detail the meanings of a trope:

1. A figure of speech using words in nonliteral ways, such as a metaphor.
2. A word or phrase interpolated as an embellishment in the sung parts of certain medieval liturgies.
3.a. A theme, motif, plot, or literary device that commonly recurs within a genre or work of fiction, especially when considered clichéd: “Finding the corrosion under the waxed-and-polished chassis of small-town America is itself an old trope” (James Poniewozik). b. An often recurring idea or image: “In our conversations, there was a running theme, a trope, of economic havoc, of drowned cities, of time running out” (Jon Gertner).

Did you know?
The word “trope” originates from the Latin tropus, from Greek tropos, turn, figure of speech.

Types of tropes

  • Metaphor – a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy between them (as in “drowning in money”).
  • Hyperbole – exaggeration (such as “mile-high ice-cream cones”).
  • Litote – a figure of speech in which an understatement is used to emphasize a point (e.g. “this dress is not too shabby” with regard to admiring a dress).
  • Antanaclasis – a single word, but with a different meaning each time; is a common type of pun (e.g. “Your argument is sound, nothing but sound.” — Benjamin Franklin). Oh, Ben Franklin’s comment made me laugh!
  • Allegory – using symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths or generalizations about human existence to express a message. It’s also a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. Simply put, it’s a symbol.

The above-mentioned tropes are just a few types. Other tropes include irony, oxymorons (e.g. “a bittersweet experience”), and synecdoches (e.g. “suits”). The television show Suits is one of my favorite binge-watches, by the way.

Try it in moderation

Don’t you just love tropes? Can you feel your story come to life with the use (but not overuse) of tropes?

Try your hand at a couple of these literary tropes and weave them into your story. Get passionate about it and let your tropes become an evocative and powerful tool to tell your story.

Remember, don’t go overboard; you want to keep the purple prose monster away. There’s no need to be extravagant or flowery to disrupt your story flow. Nobody wants to be bored to death.

Readers want to read a good plot and get to know your characters. Use tropes to captivate readers, not to drown them. 😉

I’ll leave you with a snippet of one of my favorite films, Dead Poets Society, directed by Australian director Peter Weir—known for his work on films such as Gallipoli, Picnic at Hanging Rock, The Truman Show, and The Year of Living Dangerously (which inspired me to become a journalist at a young age).

Sources:

Categories
Literary tropes Writing tips Writing your first chapter

Writing your first chapter

So, you’ve written a draft of your first chapter and you’re thinking that it’s darn good. Great. Give yourself a pat on the back.

Now, go and grab a cup of coffee, tea, water, vodka, or whatever your poison is. Do something else, then come back to your writing project in a week.

Yes, you read me. A week.

Read your draft after one week and tell me what you think.

If you still think it’s hot shit, then you must be doing something extraordinary. If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll know it’s time for a rewrite.

Your first draft is never the final piece that you’ll submit. Chances are you’ll find the following:

  • Spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Over-telling the story, loaded with narrative description. This is where your readers yawn and switch off.
  • Purple prose. Unless you’re the poet Horace, just don’t go there. Don’t. Just don’t.
  • You may have written with the wrong tone, style, and pacing that is contrary to the genre or subgenre you’re working on.

If you’ve answered yes to one, two, or all the above, you’re not alone.

This is why writing a novel doesn’t magically happen overnight. So, please take the time you need to piece together your first chapter, which is meant to hook your readers. If you aren’t fully hooked on your own first chapter, then there’s a good chance that your readers will lose interest.

Write your first draft with earnest passion and ambition. Don’t worry about all the small technical details. Then go back and fix your chapter a couple of times.

Heck, you may even need to completely rewrite it, and that means changing the scene/setting, holding off from introducing new characters, or entirely changing the agenda of the first chapter.

It may take you a few days, a few weeks, or even a couple of months (in my case) before you crack the code and have that “aha” moment — the moment when you holler, “this is it! This is what I needed to make my first chapter a flipping good one!”

When you get to that point, go and treat yourself to another cup of coffee, tea, water, or vodka. Whatever your poison is, go and celebrate the achievement of finally writing a darn good first chapter!

Your readers will love you for it. Give them trash and they will loathe you. Be kind to yourself and to your readers.