AustLit includes empowering country romance novella

I recently discovered that my Australian novella Elizabeth was listed in AustLit’s directory of books. It was a happy surprise and an honor to see something I’d written in their database.

What is AustLit?

Image source: www.austlit.edu.au

AustLit is a searchable, scholarly source of authoritative biographical, bibliographic, critical, and production information about Australian writers and writing.

Led by The University of Queensland, AustLit is a non-profit, research-driven collaboration between a network of researchers from Australian universities and the National Library of Australia. Its mission is to be the definitive information resource and research environment for Australian literary, print, and narrative cultures.

AustLit provides rich resources for teachers and students throughout Australia and has an amazing team of scholars, librarians, researchers, and volunteers.

Fun fact: My BA was from UQ ( The University of Queensland).

Elizabeth book blurb

Elizabeth
Elizabeth, the prequel Australian country romance novella to the Starling Sisters series, published by Magnolia Blossom Publishing.

Newsday Australia reporter Elizabeth Martin seems to have it all. Until her boss gives her an ultimatum that will change her future.

It’s 1996 and Elizabeth has to choose: work for six months at a country newspaper, Maranoa Herald, or lose her job. Convincing herself this is just another stepping stone, Elizabeth leaves the city and her fiancé, lawyer Paul Ricci, for a small town in rural Australia. Despite the scorching heat and pests, Bandara holds a charm of its own—Keith Starling, a handsome farmer with sky-blue eyes and a spellbinding smile.

What happens when Elizabeth returns to the city and discovers what Paul’s been hiding from her? Will she choose her career or everlasting love in the country with Keith?

This Australian romance novella is the prelude to the Starling Sisters series, country romance stories published by Magnolia Blossom Publishing.

My personal view on Elizabeth and the Starling Sisters series

There’s so much more to Elizabeth than just Romance, and I wonder if it slightly touches the ChickLit genre. A few years ago, I wrote a story of a similar tone for Wattpad, a platform with more than 90 million readers, and my story was handpicked to be part of the platform’s Summer of Sisterhood project, run by its ChickLit profile. It went on to win a bunch of community book awards and was featured on various official Wattpad profiles.

I’ve since removed the story for my own personal reasons. Maybe I’ll put it back…I don’t know. One day at a time. For now, my focus is on the Starling Sisters series.

Having a voice

Elizabeth is more than just about romance. It digs deeper into what it means to lose one’s voice at some point in our lives (i.e., through a form of violence or oppression) and the importance of regaining that voice.

I’m not a wordsmith, and I only type what Elizabeth and Keith dictate to me. Lol! My characters came to life during the autumn of 2021, waking me with their loud chitter-chatter at 4 a.m. There I was—at my desk bashing the keyboard while listening to songs on Aussie radio Triple J.

The experience left me emotionally charged from my characters’ strength, courage, and willingness to stand strong.

Image source: Canva.

Standing strong

Standing strong, having a connection with the land/country, and holding onto unbreakable bonds even when the going gets tough are all thematic throughout the Starling Sisters series. Though I’ve only released Elizabeth via my publisher, I have a whole world that will be ready for readers when the time is right.

What’s next?

The next book in the series is currently being edited before submission. I’m excited about Keith and Elizabeth’s daughter, Rose, and her partner Liam’s second-chance story.

Unlike the more traditional romances, each main character must achieve self-empowerment without relying on each other before reuniting at crossroads. Is this more in tune with real life? Maybe.

I try to keep it real.

There are tough times ahead for the Starlings in the series, but they are a strong bunch.

Perhaps the series is about resilience.

Image source: Canva.

Links:

The story behind Flowers for Kate in Rainbow Desire

I enjoyed writing Flowers for Kate, a short story about a fictional character named Kate Calloway, who seeks true love in the late 1980s. No, her love interest is not a dashing man, but Dahlia, a stunning woman who would make your mouth water with desire.

The story is part of the Rainbow Desire anthology published by Black Velvet Seductions.

What is the story about?

It’s 1988, a decade after video killed the radio star. Disco’s out of fashion, and pop music dominates the dance floor.

At twenty-two, Kate Calloway is a bangle-loving university student finding her way in life with her friends. She’s allergic to pollen and hates flowers until she meets the mysterious Dahlia, a florist who takes her breath away.

Kate wants Dahlia, but does Dahlia feel the same for Kate? Will they forge an unbreakable bond of love, or will circumstances tear them apart?

>> Find out in this short story about finding true love.

How did I feel about writing an LGBTQ+ romance?

It was an incredible experience! I felt so free writing the story, and the flow was amazing – everything went smoothly. Flowers took an unexpected and eerie turn, with a surprising twist about 80 percent into the story when I was writing it.

I’ve written about characters who are heterosexual, pansexual, and bisexual, but Kate was the first woman I wrote about who had zero interest in men. A few people asked me if this would be challenging, but I shook my head and simply got to know Kate – she’s a welcoming character, bringing me into her world.

Pushing away people-driven doubt

Despite people-driven doubt on my ability to write Kate’s story, I immersed myself in her world as I burned the midnight candle. Of course, there is research in the stories I write (as a former journalist it’s important to get your information right). The fun part about going back to 1988 was listening to music from artists/bands such as Bananarama, Eric Carmen (remember Hungry Eyes from Dirty Dancing?), U2, Cyndi Lauper, and The Bangles.

What message does Kate bring?

Kate brings a message of empowerment (of course! It wouldn’t be me writing any other way), hope, and friendship. And, love is a given – always in my stories.

Kate showed me the power of friendship and how our friends can be the family we need in times of trouble. However, we need to pick our friends carefully – the true diamonds from the fairweather friends. You learn who your real friends are when you put yourself first – your physical and emotional health. Kate can count on three friends (Andy, Frances, and Jasper) who are her family by choice. Friendship works both ways, and she proves to be a loyal friend from start to end.

Friendship is such a powerful gift and we must always treasure our true friends.

Anyway, that’s it from me. You can preorder your ebook copy of Rainbow Desire, published by Black Velvet Seductions.

Book links:

I’ll leave you with an awesome tape mix – Guardians of the Galaxy, which features songs from the 70s, 80s, 90s, and early 2000s – whichever decade you fancy. Yes, I’m a Marvel comics fan. 😉

Challenges of writing steamy scenes

Writing steamy scenes

E Pettersen, author of Lessons on Seduction.

A while ago, a few writers in my 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: RWA)

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.

Readers want empowerment

Kick-ass career guide

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