- Blog articles on writing
- Making the most of an Easter lockdown
- Celebrating International Women’s Day
- Editing your story: what you need to know
- Writing with chronic pain
For many of us, the Easter holiday gives us a bit of time off work or study to relax and spend time relaxing. During these COVID times, it may mean a different way of celebrating Easter.
My partner and I decided to stay ‘in town’ instead. We picked up our swags (bags) and slept in a hotel for a few days. Our time away from home meant that we let go of cooking, cleaning, or doing the laundry for a few days.
We also celebrated the launch of Cowboy Desire, an anthology of sweet to raunchy romances by 14 authors with romance publisher Black Velvet Seductions. It was a fun day of interaction with authors and readers, as well as old friends I hadn’t spoken to for a while.
My partner and I watched Gunda, a brilliantly constructed documentary directed by Viktor Kossakovsky about the circle of life in a barnyard. My partner didn’t quite enjoy it so much (he groaned loudly when I showed him this part of the blog article 😕) … Just as I don’t enjoy many popular films.
What else did I do? Yep, I read. And read. And read.
If you’ve got time off this Easter or any holiday, I hope that you make time to rediscover the things you love most.
Don’t let anyone or anything steal your joy.
Have a peaceful, safe, and happy holiday. 😊
Monday, March 8, is International Women’s Day in 2021.
According to UN Women, all women deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes, and violence. We’re talking about equal rights where women should have an integral role when it comes to decision-making.
The media play an important role in influencing our thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors when it comes to perceptions of the roles women and men play at work, at home, and in relationships.
I am thankful for podcasts such as Speak Seductively, hosted by five-star romance/erotica author Kyle Canon and his partner Lilly. Lilly Canon is a model, narrator of audiobooks a naturist, and, with Kyle, a swinger. Their podcast explores relationships from a #sexpositive perspective.
The topics on their show include the ‘difference between art, erotica, and pornography’, BDSM, and bring up themes of empowerment in their interviews with various authors.
I was recently interviewed by Kyle and Lilly, and we had a wonderful chat about strong voices in romance novels. We also talked about my female character’s journey in embracing her femininity and emancipating from controlling relationships. Finally, we discussed the importance of trust and communication, which are empowering factors in relationships.
As a romance reader and writer, International Women’s Day is a personal reminder of the stories that made a lasting impression when I was in my teens and early twenties.
Back then, I was influenced by romance novels where the woman came second to the man. He was the rich guy. The smart guy. The strong guy. The playboy. He was the guy with a career, may it be business, law, or a hotel empire.
The female character would, of course, be a virgin or celibate. She would try to outwit her playboy love interest with halfwit jokes. She pretended to be dumb, played silly mind games, and came up with failing tactics. She was less powerful socially, depended on her hero financially, and her voice faded like wallpaper losing its luster as the story progressed. Ultimately, she needed him to ‘save’ her (and the story plot).
Right now, I feel angry at my younger self for being such a gullible reader. Yes, I admit that I wanted the hero to stomp into my life, throw me over his shoulder, and ‘rescue’ me. Back then, I was someone who accepted the status quo and took in all the kicks in the gut that came my way. Looking back, I’m glad I abandoned the books and waved good-bye to my old life.
I started reading a different type of romance book, thanks to a few good friends. I had never read an erotic romance until this point, and the books my friends put in my hands were eye-popping. The novels transported my curious mind to a place where women could dominate their lovers (both men and women) freely.
In addition to the BDSM books, I read other novels that had great messages on equal rights. These books helped me strengthen the voice I have today. I learned that the hero and heroine cooperated and communicated to achieve their journey together. These stories were enjoyable to read and I would read them again.
I want to challenge every romance reader on International Women’s Day and every other day:
Later in the year, on November 19, we will celebrate International Men’s Day. This year’s theme is “Better relations between men and women.” The day celebrates the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities.
I believe it’s important that men are portrayed accurately and that stories show their sensitive side. A man who shows empathy, kindness, and feelings is a man of great strength.
Let’s do both genders a favor and portray them as equals. After all, together, we are stronger.
Loving Jack in Cowboy Desire, an anthology of country and western romances by 14 talented romance authors.
Anyone who’s wearing these shoes can tell you that it’s just part of life and you keep at it. I’ve always been running on a high metabolism, so I enjoy juggling a couple of balls in the air – it keeps my momentum going. I’m an introvert by nature, but once you get a conversation started with me, I can talk a million miles an hour and tap into all kinds of crazy topics; it’s like a multi-track where there are several trains running at full speed. Stories come to life in my head, and my characters urge me to write their stories – something I can’t resist.
But what happens when chronic pain strikes? How do you deal with it? How does it affect you? Do you get depressed? How do you live life with chronic pain? Can you still write?
I’ll answer the questions in this blog article.
All seemed well until chronic pain came into my life a few years ago. The first was cubital tunnel syndrome (like carpal tunnel syndrome), which I had surgery for, and the healing took six months in 2017. Thanks to exercise, training, and relaxation techniques, my arm is good now.
Then, at the end of 2018, unexpected back pain struck me like an insidious evil carving through my skin and scorching wildfire into my left muscles, nerves, and upper spine. At first, I thought the pain would go away after being prescribed anti-inflammatory medication.
The pain did not go away. In early 2019, an MRI scan revealed a prolapse that required immediate surgery. So, I had the surgery.
Things were meant to improve, but they did not. Now, two years later, I’m still living in pain. These ‘best-of-the-best’ private-sector doctors have all played roles of the gods – there was Apollo, then Asclepius, followed by Sekhmet, Wu Tao, Airmed…and the list goes on for the number of ‘expert’ doctors with numerous degrees and university teaching records who were haughty and oh so omniscient. They claimed to know exactly what’s wrong, but their advice and treatment did not work. What amused me was their arrogance when I dared to say I was still in pain!
Then, there were natural healing therapies by chiropractors, naturopaths, physiotherapists, etc. – including one who left me semi-paralyzed for a few hours and my whole left arm bloated in swollen pain – I had to take my wedding ring off because of the swelling that night and suffered from a blinding headache, attached to the nerve pain stemming across a gridlocked highway from my upper back, down to my arm.
My new local GP is fantastic. He’s like Dr. Gregory House from the TV series named after the character. He’s gone above and beyond the ‘expert’ doctors to try to find an answer and treatment. He’s called different experts in his network, and now, after a six-month wait, I’ll be tested for nerve damage and muscle damage by the head of neurology at a local hospital next week. They may not find an answer, but I live with hope every day.
Of course, I get depressed and anxious. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t feel any sadness associated with the long-term pain. However, I live for a better day and try to do as much as I normally can without exerting myself. I make use of the outdoors and fresh air.
I work in my day job as I normally would, with the aid of heat packs, ibuprofen gels, and a strong medication that I take for the worst of days – which I take in the evening as it knocks me right out and I wake up feeling groggy after about 12 hours. When I take that medication, I know that I won’t be writing, editing, or doing anything after work hours.
The other thing I do is switch off from social media when needed. I’ll do the best I can to promote my stories, prioritizing my publisher first – but everything else is placed in the ‘noise’ basket. There are so many social media channels and people with questions I don’t always have answers for.
I don’t answer all the questions – only the important ones and yes, I do connect with readers and authors who hold a special place in my heart. I prioritize them first when I’m well enough to be online socially.
I know my limits and switch off when I need to. I don’t give when I cannot give. I know when my tank is running on empty – so that’s when I say to myself, ‘stop now’.
Yes. Of course! There are windows in my free time when I get a good stretch of minimal pain and that’s when I’m most productive – I’ll prioritize the tasks I need done first, and get these done. Everything else can wait.
I’ve learned to prioritize what I can take in, working with my strengths and weaknesses. As a professional author, the first writing priority is my publisher and activities around my published work. Everything else can wait.
I realize that the least painful days are like windows of opportunity that come – I’ve got a certain amount of time to really focus on completing my writing tasks before the pain intensifies again.
I also have an author PA who does an amazing job promoting my published book, and she’s wonderful. When my pain medication kicks in and it’s lights out for me, I can rest assured that my book is being promoted. It also means that I can use the “feeling well” days to write – again, a focused approach.
I’ve learned to put myself first – that means my health and my family. They come first and that’s not negotiable. We all have our challenges during these COVID times and I need to tackle these challenges with my family first. What would you do? Leave a crying child while you answer a message from a writer who needs feedback on their story? Of course, not! The kids always come first. 🙂
As I said earlier, I do get my ‘blue’ days but I take advantage of my surroundings. If it’s a sunny day, I go for a walk. If there’s a hailstorm outside, I watch my favorite TV show with my husband or read one of my favorite books – right now I’m reading A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud, one of the best fantasy romance authors in today’s world – her books are on Amazon.
Will there be better days ahead? Of course, there will be! I plan on doing so much more as an author. As for my health, I know I’ve got a good doctor who’s earnest and he does his best to refer me to the right people – even if it takes time.
I’m hoping for treatment to minimize/mitigate the pain after my visit to the hospital next week. Here’s hoping and praying for the best!
All good things take time.
By Estelle Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.
I’m writing this blog post for aspiring writers who dream to have their books published one day. I hope this will help you make clever choices as part of your publishing journey.
Okay, so you’ve spent time researching (this is a MUST), writing, editing, editing, and editing your story. Have I emphasized the editing part enough? You’re now feeling ready and excited to submit your story to an agent or publisher.
There’s been a lot of buzz, hype, and excitement about finding publishers, but here’s what you need to know, because amid the good publishers, there are many sharks out there. When I mean sharks, I’m referring to:
Vanity publishers offer you contracts where you pay an arm, leg, foot, or kidney to have your work published. With some vanity publishers, you pay for all the services, but you don’t even own the book because they may demand in the contract the same rights over the book as a traditional publisher would. Does this sound fair? My advice: don’t do it.
They paint themselves as credible but Google them. Google publisher reviews on them. Be wary. Their game is a dirty business, driven by what they can milk out of you, not giving a d-mn about the quality of your content.
You’re only selling yourself short because what have you really achieved? If your work is truly outstanding and you’ve jumped too soon in bed with a vanity publisher, you’ll always be questioning yourself, “What if I had gone with a traditional publisher?” When I talk about traditional publishing in this sense, I’m referring to the Writer’s Digest definition:
“Traditional book publishing is when a publisher offers the author a contract and, in turn, prints, publishes, and sells your book through booksellers and other retailers. The publisher essentially buys the right to publish your book and pays you royalties from the sales.”
False agents will pitch your book to publishers for an inflated fee. What happens? You end up paying a lot of money and they do the work you could have done: send a generic email to a ton of publishers but nothing is personalized; it’s just a big blast.
Companies that claim to have direct contacts with publishers and will write your synopsis and submission letter for a large amount of money also fall into this category. Plus, you can pay more! Why? Because there are add-ons if you want more, such as a tracking list of publishers/agents, edited chapters of your manuscript, etc.
For goodness sake, don’t you trust your own writing and research skills? If you can write your own story, you should be able to write your own synopsis and submission letter. And guess what? Doing it yourself is free!
These are ‘Publishers’ who approach you out of the blue, claiming that they love your work and offer to send a contract. Do they even know your name? Have they really read your novel? What do they like about your work? Did they even mention your novel title in their message? Be very careful about what they promise because all that glitters ain’t gold. Do not lock yourself into a contract that seems too easy and too good to be true.
Did you check their platform and see how many readers they actually have? Or how many stories they have? Are they quality stories? Will you be lost in the sea, competing with others who have been promised the same shady, shoddy deal? My advice: stay away from them.
There’s one last thing that good publishers do: they believe in you. I chose to go the hard road and persevere with my writing. It took me two years from draft to final manuscript of Lessons on Seduction, and I did my research on publishers.
I found my publisher Black Velvet Seductions after doing my homework and checking for erotic romance publishers with great reviews in the publishing industry. It was also listed on renowned sci-fi and fantasy author Piers Anthony’s website, in the publishers’ list.
Finally, there are three platforms I recommend, where you can meet and interact with other readers and writers to help you grow in your writing journey:
I’ve got a presence in all three platforms (I’ve only got draft sample stories on the latter two and haven’t been too active; I just don’t have the time to stretch, sorry!), but I’m most active in my role as an ambassador for Wattpad, doing my best to give other writers a helping hand. I believe we can all succeed. I really do!
Whatever your goals are, please be patient. Please be persistent, and please persevere. Every author who has a contract with a publisher will tell you that they have had to persevere before they get their work published.
The other option, of course, is to self-publish. However, I would suggest trying an agent or publisher first. Why? They can open the door for you in so many ways and can give a boost to lift first-time authors. You can also meet other more experienced authors (with the same publisher) who you can learn from and grow.
I’ll write some more about publishing, but I thought this is a good start.
How do you edit your story before submitting your manuscript to a publisher? Do you use a professional editor? Or do you self-edit?
My recommendation, from personal experience, is to get another pair of eyes to look over your work.
I’m not talking about readers who leave comments or reviews in a writing community, but someone with professional publishing experience: an editor who has the right skills, qualifications, and experience in the editing and publishing world.
Also, find someone who specializes in your genre so they can spot things related directly to your book’s genre. For example, if you’re a romance writer, then get an editor with experience in the romance genre, rather than a nonfiction editor.
Here are the common excuses for not getting your story properly edited:
I’m hoping this article will help writers to consider how a more thorough editing process with the right editor will help boost the chances of a publisher saying “yes” to a manuscript. Of course, you need to take in other factors, for example, is the story potentially ‘hot’ in the market? Is it sellable? That’s why publishers have acquisitions editors.
My question to you is: have you looked hard enough? If you’re still telling me the same thing, then keep looking.
There are editors who are affordable and great to work with. Google is your friend. Ask around in writing groups, community forums, or social media book-related groups. Facebook has a plethora of groups where readers, writers, and editors unite to support each other.
Instagram and Twitter are other places where you can find editors and editing companies.
Writers’ associations also namedrop editors from time to time. There are different freelance websites too, so check these out. Pick your editors carefully; check that they have the right language skills that match the language of your manuscript. Try to find someone with industry experience (they’ve been around long enough to pass on their first-hand knowledge and experience).
There are different types of editors including developmental editors, structural editors, copy editors, and proofreaders. I won’t go into detail in this blog article, but you can read 6 Types of Editing on Reedsyblog to determine what editing suits your needs best.
You scored top grades in your high school English class and got into a literature or journalism course. In fact, you work as a writer, editor, or communications professional in your day job. Heck, you’ve even got a Master’s degree.
You don’t need an editor, right? Why waste time and money when you can do it yourself? You’ve received enough comments, ratings, story “likes”, and other feedback from your writer’s group and community platforms for stories. Your story has been handpicked by the organizers of the community to be officially featured. Your readers tell you how much they love your story and how it made them cry, laugh, etc.
Hmm, yeah. However, is our self-edited work good enough for publishers?
C’mon, let’s be serious. If self-editing has worked for you, then that is an achievement and I’m your cheerleader. I know someone who had his work traditionally published after years of self-editing, and I have a copy of his book on my bookshelf (I’ve read it twice and it’s really good). 🙂
However, many of us aren’t that lucky. The reality is that you may not be the best person to edit your work.
Let someone else be the second pair of eyes to give you sound advice and help you find the flaws in your story, may it be plot or character development, grammar and spelling errors, or even using a style guide that’s different from ones that the publishers use. There are some things good editors pick up that programs such as Grammarly don’t spot.
Well, would you rather wait until you get butchered to pieces by reviewers on Amazon, Goodreads, or other places?
Editors are meant to help you progress, not hinder you. Trust your manuscript in the hands of good editors and you’ll thank them later.
Allow them to criticize and perform surgery on your manuscript. They may save your book’s life. No publisher wants a sloppy manuscript, nor do they want to see poorly developed characters or flimsy plots. If your story is filled with purple prose and overly long and boring descriptions, it’ll end up in file number thirteen (the trash).
I challenge you to find the toughest editor who might even scare you a little. From personal experience, I found the best editors were my toughest critics. They found flaws that I would never have spotted in a million years!
I can’t give a definite answer but I’d like to think that a nicely edited book improves its ratings and reviews. Getting your story properly edited might turn a three-star book into a four-star book, or a four-star book into a five-star book. In the world of social media, where emotions and jealousy are rife, there are plenty of trolls who, like loose cannons, may leave a one-star rating with no review. The four and five-star reviews may save your story from tanking on Amazon.
How do you aim to get good reviews? Make sure your story is a top-quality one.
In my case, I depend on readers I don’t personally know to leave reviews because my family and personal friends won’t buy or read my books.
They’re not being mean, believe me (I’m laughing here). I write erotic romances—my mother, sister, brother, and my best friends will not read something I’ve written along the lines of 365 Dni or Fifty Shades of Grey. They don’t want to think of explicit sex scenes with BDSM, kink, and ménage à trois when we catch up. My husband hasn’t read my stories, and he won’t read them either. He’s not interested in hunky gigolos or sexy cowboys.
Okay, so I’ve been asked a few times: what’s all the hype about bad boy characters in romance novels?
Well, it’s not news. The ‘bad boys’ have been around for centuries and they are appealing for various reasons. According to the Oxford Dictionary online, a bad boy is “a man who does not conform to approved standards of behavior, especially in a particular sphere of activity.”
In fact, they’ve been in literature for a while, including the biblical times. Let’s take Moses; I mean, c’mon—the guy killed a man, talked to shrubbery, turned his staff into a snake, and divided the Red Sea! Now, that’s pretty badass and impressive, if you ask me.
Let’s skip centuries forward to Dorian Gray. He was hedonistic, vain (yup, that portrait!), indulged in debauchery (oh, poor Sibyl!), and yeah, he killed a guy.
Okay, let’s travel to the twentieth century: Dirty Dancing. Wasn’t Patrick Swayze a dream? His character, Johnny Castle, makes me swoon. Who can forget the line “nobody puts Baby in a corner?”
Today, we have characters like Christian Grey from the Fifty Shades series, Massimo Torricelli from 365 Dni, and Kylo Ren in the Star Wars series (yes, I’m a Star Wars fan!).
A study led by Gregory Louis Carter of the University of Durham (cited in Psychology Today) provided insights, revealing that women found men with dark personalities attractive. The results of the study offered two possible explanations. First, sexual selection might be at work; women responded to signals of “male quality” when it came to reproduction. With respect to short-term mating, women may be drawn to “bad boys” who demonstrate confidence, stubbornness, and risk-taking tendencies. Secondly, sexual conflict may be at play.
Stories with sexual conflict, risks, and a bad boy sounds appealing, right? It seems to work for many successful romance stories. The bad boys are exciting and fun, according to psychologist Robyn McKay, author of Smart Girls in the 21st Century (quoted in Good Housekeeping).
Can the bad boys have their happily ever after (HEA) in romance stories? Or will they end up like Heathcliff, Dorian, or some other kind of roadkill?
Carter and his team reported that there were limitations of their study, indicating that the sample they selected were likely to be oriented toward short-term relationships.
Moreover, studies by Urbaniak and Kilmann (2003) and Herold and Milhausen (1999) (cited in Edward Horgan’s Harvard University project “Exceeding the Threshold: Why Women Prefer Bad Boys”) indicate that women adamantly claim to prefer nice guys. Horgan further states that there is an apparent discrepancy within current scientific literature on the subject of female attraction, with regard to the bad boys.
There seems to be hope, depending on the circumstances. Psychologist Forrest Talley, Ph.D. (quoted in Good Housekeeping) stated that women desired to have someone in their life who was tough enough to face the world and punch back when necessary.
In other words, we don’t mind the tough guys who have a protective side, when they’re on our side. They have an even bigger chance of winning our hearts for good if they are kind, sensitive, and romantic. Interestingly, niceness itself is not an unattractive characteristic but is simply insufficient to garner female attention on its own, according to Horgan.
In my erotic romance novel Lessons on Seduction published by Black Velvet Seductions, my male MC, Julian—a guy who sold his body to pay off his college debt—takes his new girlfriend, Sapphire, for a wild ride before he realizes just how much he loves her. However, he makes some pretty big mistakes. Is it too late for guys like him, though?
Well, not if he’s brave enough to punch back at the world, show his sensitive and sweet nature, and fight for his lover. However, if Julian continues taking Sapphire for granted, then there is no hope for him.
I’m proud of Jules for one thing, though—he’s not an abusive man. I’ve met abusive men in my life, and I can tell you firsthand that it’s not a pleasant experience. Abuse comes in different forms: mental, emotional, and physical. That is one thing no one should tolerate from any person, bad boy or not, in fiction or real life.
I’ll admit my weak spot: I’ve always liked the vampire Lestat from Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. The Lestat I read in her books has more appeal and sensitivity than the movie version played by Tom Cruise in the 1990s film Interview with a Vampire (sorry!).
I also don’t mind hot and charismatic Dracula, played by Gary Oldman in the Francis Ford Coppola film version. While others might swoon over Keanu Reeves, who played Jonathan Harker, I’m more interested in none other than Vlad himself. Why? He’s enigmatic, dangerous, mysterious, and yet, he’s protective of sweet Mina—with all his heart. It’s his capability to love (some may disagree, but I believe Irish author Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a love story as much as it’s a horror fiction), his vulnerability, his protectiveness, and his hungry passion for his true love that I liked.
I can honestly admit I’m a sucker for bad boys who are sensitive, protective, and loving—as long as they’re not abusive.
Over to you: Have you ever imagined riding off into the sunset with a bad boy (or bad girl) character in fiction?
If you’re looking for a hot romance with a bad boy, or a hunky good guy, check out the diverse range of romance books, from sweet to erotic, on publisher Black Velvet Seductions’ website: https://blackvelvetseductions.com/
I’m enjoying the experience of authorhood with my publisher Black Velvet Seductions. As an avid reader who enjoys writing, I find writing mentally therapeutic.
However, I’ve also learned a few things about exposure and how to deal with it, especially in the erotic romance subgenre.
A number of assumptions come along with being an erotic romance writer. There are those who believe that erotic romance writers are open to illicit proposals, or that we aren’t as intelligent as MBA graduates, or that we write about unsafe sex. I’ve received a growing number of direct or private messages in different channels related to all the above-mentioned assumptions.
Well, sorry to disappoint, but these assumptions of erotic romance authors are usually just myths. Here are a few myths that I’d like to dispel:
Um, no. We’re regular people who have ordinary lives and we don’t gregariously swing naked on chandeliers while sipping champagne. It does sound rather fun though, but no. In my case, I’m a shy introvert who loves to read books. I’ve been reading romance novels since I was fifteen. Like many erotic romance writers and readers, I also love other genres, including thrillers, gothic horror, classics, poetry, history, politics, and nonfiction books (biographies, business and management books, etc).
Nope. I can vouch for this one because I’ve done both. So have many of my other author friends. Many erotic romance authors I’ve met are highly educated people (both women and men) who have impressive CVs, broad and diverse. They are highly intelligent and can engage in just about every topic on the planet, from anthropology and sociology to psychology, politics, economics, and business.
I can tell you from personal experience that I found writing erotic romance novels to be harder than writing a Master’s paper. I have an MBA from a top Australian university and have had my academic work published on the topic of leadership. I apply the same analytical techniques of plotting a story as I did with outlines during my postgraduate days.
Strong emotions and character development are involved in writing a romance novel, and I have to admit that the sex scenes can be extremely challenging to write. When I start writing a chapter on the intimate parts, I procrastinate more than I did when I wrote economics or financial management assignments.
I have had this debate with a few people, especially with regard to popular novels and movies where there are blurred lines, and in some cases, misrepresentation of communities. I remember the saying that it takes just one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.
When I started reading erotic romance novels, I remember the feeling of disillusionment and the need to research the truth (that is a trait from my journalism days, when I was a newspaper reporter). So, I did my research and found documentaries by journalists, as well as other erotic romance novels along the way, where I learned new things on topics such as BDSM, voyeurism, ménage à trois, swinging, and other kinks that come in an erotic romance.
One author whose work I highly recommend is author Annabel Allan, who really knows her stuff when it comes to writing about BDSM and thrilling, suspenseful erotic romances.
No. When I see these messages come through, they are often harmless. Still, there is no service to provide, except for the service of delivering enjoyable books to read.
We are writers of erotic content, which includes novels, short stories, prose, and poetry. We are not interested in engaging in personal sexual role play or any other kinky requests.
People who read books as a hobby do it because the stories are pleasant and interesting to them. Our stories are written to give people something of interest to them, which they can read and enjoy.
My publisher, Black Velvet Seductions, has a wide range of quality romance novels on their website, which include erotic romances.
As of July 30, 2020, my novel Lessons on Seduction, will be available on Amazon and other places in ebook and paperback formats. Buckle up for a wild, emotional ride with a thriller plot.
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:
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:
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).
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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:
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.