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.
Celebrate a book launch
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.
See a movie
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.
Rekindle the joy of reading
What else did I do? Yep, I read. And read. And read.
By the time this blog is out, I would have finished two books that I started a while ago but took longer than expected due to the busyness (and business 😂) of life:
A White Knight Falls by Virginia Wallace. Oh my goodness, where do I start? This is the first rockstar romance I’ve (soon) fully finished reading. I can relate to the ferocity of the female main character, Kate, and was captivated by the ‘love/hate’ passion between her and fellow musician/love interest Alec. Virginia was smart with the way she weaved the reflective moments in the book. The descriptions were perfect, and the story had a great twist toward the end.
A Merman’s Choice by Alice Renaud. I haven’t been transported to the magical world of merpeople since I was about ten, pretending to be a mermaid and buying a ‘wishing’ bracelet that didn’t transport me to a magical place. Well, the author must’ve put a spell on me because I was transported to that magical place I’d wanted to be in years ago. Alice spun a wonderful story that made me feel I was really there with Yann, the gorgeous shape-shifting merman, and his lover Alex.
If you’ve got time off this Easter or any holiday, I hope that you make time to rediscover the things you love most.
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 empower our voices
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.
You have the power to empower others
I want to challenge every romance reader on International Women’s Day and every other day:
Are you willing to put aside stories that weaken our voices and diminish our role as equal human beings?
Will you read a book that portrays women having an integral role when it comes to decision-making?
Will you share with your friends a book you’ve read that portrays women having an equal future, breaking away from stigma, stereotypes, and violence?
International Men’s 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.
What’s it like being an author, parent, wife, and full-time worker?
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.
What happens when chronic pain strikes?
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.
Do I get depressed?
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.
How do I live with pain?
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’.
Can I still write?
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.
What have I learned from living in pain?
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!
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 andthey 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!).
What’s the appeal?
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).
A short-term fiction fling?
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.
Is there hope for 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.
Who’s your favorite bad boy in literature?
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:
1. Erotic romance authors are little vixens waiting for pleasure in our inboxes.
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).
2. Erotic romance writing is easier than writing a college paper.
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.
3. Erotic romances don’t promote healthy characters and solid relationships.
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.
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