Rosalie Stanton

Romance With Pitchforks

EROTIC ROMANCE AUTHOR.

PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN SACRILEGIOUS HUMOR, IRREVERENT BELIEFS, AND TOO-HOT-FOR-PRIME-TIME SEX SCENES.

VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED.

Forbidden Fruit - Now Available for Preorder

ForbiddenFruit_500x750Forbidden Fruit

After high school, Ashlee had enough of being shy and reserved. Now she runs a popular blog, where sex and sex myths are fair game, and every topic is thoroughly researched. Her hook? She’s a virgin, and all of her readers know it. Ashlee’s life is an open book, absent of shame…except for her ridiculous crush on Jason, her high school tormentor, who also happens to be her stepbrother. That’s one thing Ashlee will take to her grave.

For Jason, being near Ashlee is pure torture. Bullying might have kept her at a distance in high school, but Ashlee is a woman now—something his over-sexed imagination won’t let him forget. Learning what she writes doesn’t help. But when she catches Jason having alone-time with pornography, the interest in her eyes defies everything he thought he knew. After all, Jason’s fixation is only a problem if it isn’t reciprocated.

To get his answer, Jason decides to support Ashlee’s dedication to sex research, and what better way than watching an adult film? Should his virgin stepsister have questions, Jason will have answers. And perhaps a demonstration.


 

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Forbidden Fruit is, without a doubt, my most asked-about story. Originally released from Noble Romance Publishing in 2011, it was an incredibly short, really raunchy taboo tale about love between stepsiblings. Or, rather, sex between stepsiblings.

The original story was around 7k in word count. The new one is just shy of 20k. The original 7k story was priced at $2.99 by the publisher. The new, approximately 20k story will remain priced at $0.99 by yours truly.

Prior to revamping and re-releasing Firsts, Forbidden Fruit was my best seller. When I received the rights back in the fall of 2013 upon Noble Romance’s closing, I debated putting it back up untouched (for about half a second), and ultimately decided that—even as successful as it was—I wasn’t happy enough with it to stand by. Much like my revamped heroine, I like my sex with a healthy dose of romance, or at least an emotional connection between the characters. While I believe Forbidden Fruit, in its original incarnation, served its purpose—which was to titillate—it fell flat for me as its author in what I personally crave when I pick up a new book. The emotional connection between two characters I am personally invested in.

So I kept the basic premise -- stepsister spies stepbrother during a private moment. Things escalate. But everything else is different, and in my view, a marked improvement.

Two weeks from today, you can tell me whether or not you agree.

 

In my world: Lucifer and Jehovah have the most epic of bromances.

Sinners and SaintsWhile my contemporary romances are by far more popular, my true passion lies with paranormal. And anyone who's followed me at all knows that my Sinners and Saints series is my baby. It's a world I truly didn't set out to create, but one that constantly drags me back. I love playing in it so much. So how did it come about?

They say you're supposed to write what you know. Well, thanks to being raised in the bible belt, being torn between equally fundamentalist families, having a grandfather who just can't stop preaching, and my minor in religious studies... I know my way around a theological discussion. I'm also quite profane (my nickname in high school included the word Vile), which leads us to that other thing you're supposed to write -- what you want to read. I wanted to find an angels/demons series that spoke to me as a former Christian -- someone who enjoys, but doesn't necessarily believe, the mythology. Thus began the Sinners and Saints series, where Lucifer and Jehovah are estranged BFFs and the world is essentially one big passion project.

I know I've at least intrigued one person, and possibly pissed others off.

Well, if you're brave, you have a week to explore the demons in my mind without fronting a lot of cash. The first in series, Lost Wages of Sin, is available now at Amazon and Totally Bound for just $0.99 to celebrate the release of the 4th book, Sins of Yesterday. If you stick with me, I promise I'll give Lucifer a happy ending.

Click ME!

Firsts - Available in Audio Book

FirstsAudio 2400x2400I am ecstatic to announce that Firsts is now available for purchase at Audible, Amazon, and (soon) iTunes. This entire experience was pretty damn amazing, though I won’t go into it again since I discussed it at length here. I’ll just pause to add the following: I couldn’t be happier with the end result. Trusting my work to someone else on this level is one of the most nerve-wracking things I’ve done, but the result is as close to perfect as I could have hoped. For anyone considering turning a book into an audio production, I heartily recommend Jem Matzan, who masterfully performed Firsts. One of my crit partners, Terri Meeker, was an early reviewer, had this to say:

“This guy did such a great job with 'Firsts'! I totally want to steal him and have him read things to me. Grocery lists, religious pamphlets - it doesn't matter. His voice is terrific (and his British accent slays me!).”

If you know her, you know that’s high praise.

Jem wrote about his take on the characters and their voices in the audio book over at his website.

In addition, I am very happy to announce that I have likewise selected release dates for Forbidden Fruit and Blackout. Forbidden Fruit will re-debut on July 14; Blackout on August 18. I’ll be back to share covers and updated blurbs (though they’re already available on my website in case anyone just can’t wait).

On Writing: Don't Cut Corners, Don't Lose Patience, Don't Sell Yourself Short

6a0120a54c44fc970b01b7c72436c4970bSo Forbidden Fruit, originally released by Noble Romance Publishing in 2011, remains one of my most-searched stories. It’s the one I get questioned about more than any—though a few titles have been unavailable for a couple months. And truly, I didn’t intend for the story to be in limbo as long as it’s been. When the rights were returned to me in September 2013, I had plans of re-releasing it within a couple months. I wasn’t happy with the story. I know a lot of people enjoyed it, and I certainly thank those of you who did. It sold really well—before Firsts was re-released, Forbidden Fruit was easily my highest seller. I really looked forward to those royalty statements. It was a fluff story at the core, short, raunchy, and fun.

So what happened?

Here’s the thing about me: aside from the fact that I like to George Lucas Stephen King/J.R. Tolkien my work (by revisiting, revamping, and re-releasing), it took a couple years and a lot of missteps to learn patience. I had a book done, I wanted it out. Yesterday.

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Well, some things happened in 2012 that taught me a Very Important Lesson™. Work changed. My life changed. Everything changed. And I became very aware that a lot of what I had out…well, I found acceptable rather than yay, I wrote this! The things that weren’t good were probably only noticeable to me, but that was enough. If it’s only acceptable to me as the creator, I still have work to do.

I always want better.

That’s why I added onto Firsts. Why I expanded Lost Wages of Sin. Why I can’t seem to stop from revisiting those books and novellas that came out when I was green and doing my best to get it quick instead of getting it right. 

giphyI’ve said it numerous times, but it bears repeating: I write first for me. Now, I love it (and I mean love it) when my writing finds an audience, when a reader connects with my characters and world, when they see things I didn’t or picked up on the things I really wanted to shine. It’s a feeling unlike anything else. But when it’s a story I’m proud of—really proud of—it’s that amazing feeling times infinity. And as more of my works come out of contract, I think it’s important that I feel really proud of everything to which I attach my name. From the huge, complex worlds like Lucifer and Big J’s to the small, sexy stand-alones like Forbidden Fruit. As an author, I must live up to my own standards before I can be satisfied. I owe it to myself, and quite frankly, I owe it to my readers.

revisionhellWith Forbidden Fruit, I could have put it up without touching the content. It was a high seller. But I wasn’t proud of it. So I started to revise it so I could get it where I wanted…and I got stuck almost immediately. I’ve also learned the art of choosing my moment to work on any given story. So every few months, I’d take it off the shelf, look at where I left off, and add a couple hundred words. But the drive to really work on it wasn’t there, and I didn’t want to force it.

Well, I don’t know what the hell happened, but I’m reasonably confident Forbidden Fruit is close to re-release. It’s at least close to being complete; I’ll need to reread it, then send it to my editor for her thoughts, but I imagine it’ll be back on e-book shelves by August. I only have three scenes to add, and the characters are being chatty, so I hope to have them added over the weekend.

So what have we learned, class?

SM1586 If you know you haven’t done your best work, you’re not done. Learn patience, grasshopper. I promise, once the project is done—and I mean really done—trust me, you’ll know the difference.

Thoughts on HEAs

downloadMy HEAs don’t involve children, because my HEA isn’t one with babies. Unless my husband and I do a one-eighty and decide to become parents, or unless it’s really important to the story or the characters I’m writing, I doubt that will change. My excluding children from my characters wasn’t initially by design; I didn’t even notice it until someone brought it up. Really, it comes from the fact that my personal experience is one where I have opted to remain child-free, and I’m pretty damn happy. That’s what HEA looks like to me. This isn’t an incitement on having a family, raising children, or stories that involve moms and dads, or end with babies on the way. I am in awe of anyone who makes the decision to become a parent. Those individuals have nothing but my utmost respect and admiration. I’ve read and enjoyed any number of romances where kids are a factor, either during the course of the story or mentioned at the end. But one of the great things about this genre is it truly has something for everyone. If space operas are your thing, you’re set. If you jones for cowboys, you’re covered. If vamps and weres turn your crank, you’re in luck. The selection might not be as broad in some niche interests, but for the most part, if it’s a thing, you can find it in the romance section on Amazon.

Exhibit A:

This is a thing, and it's glorious.

That includes aspects that might be more subtle. Not everyone will agree with what makes a truly happy ending. It’s more than the characters getting together—it’s what either sacrifices (and if the sacrifice is worth it). If their emotional needs are met. If he deserves her, and vice versa. These are the small things that will vary from person to person. I’ve become protective of the heroines in the books I read and write, so if they sacrifice a great career or opportunity for the hero, he damn well better deserve it and/or sacrifice something equally important, or my satisfaction rating slips a notch. For other readers, things like this might not even be a consideration. Granted, I know it is for many, because I’ve read some harsh reviews of various works, but it’s not for everyone.

regret-nothingAnd on that same note, neither is having kids. It’s not for me or my husband. We’re both in our 30s now—out of that stage where the answer to why don’t you have any kids isn’t usually, you’ll change your mind. Granted, my brother-in-law and his wife decided to have kids when they were a bit older than my husband and I are now, and while I’m not one to say never, my vision of the future doesn’t have pack-n-plays, diapers, or Thomas the Train (unless my nephew is staying over). So when I write about romantic relationships, the kids question doesn’t really play a role.

That said, my characters might well want to have kids. It depends on the character and their circumstances. Grayson was a human preacher who I could see very much wanting children. Ava, Luxi, Cassie, and Invi aren’t biologically wired to want kids, so it never would have entered their minds as an option. Izzie doesn’t want kids, particularly after her experience with Zack. Serenity and Dash probably won’t be planning a family anytime soon. Savannah and Thorn? They’re a bit trickier, so I’ll leave that up to the reader. I could see it going both ways. What comes after The End can be up to whoever reads it, because at that point, it’s not just mine anymore.

Is there anything that makes or breaks an HEA for you?

Reflections on Making an Audio Book

Hello, world. FirstsIt’s been a few months since I blew off the dust on this blog, and while I can be blamed for some of that, I’m going to convict the Month of All The Things Going Wrong for the crime. Aside from caring for a sick parent—who is feeling much better now and is a testament as to why doctors make diagnoses, not Google—my work life blew up and, well, once you get behind, catching up is pretty much impossible.

But something pretty awesome happened earlier this year. My very first book (appropriately titled Firsts) became my very first audio book -- or mostly, we're still waiting on final approval from the test-readers before I give the go-ahead. There were several things I knew when I first entertained turning any of my works into an audio book, but many more things I learned or had reinforced.

So, let’s start with things I knew.

  1. Audio Books Rock

CHM-audiobooksAnyone who knows me knows that audio books are pretty much how I do my pleasure reading these days. My work schedule is stretched to the max, and when I’m not working, I’m either trying to find the energy to write or, well, caving to exhaustion and/or cutting loose. When I rediscovered audio books in 2013, it was a lifeline. I’d forgotten how much I missed reading for fun, and quickly went on a lets-wrack-up-debt binge purchasing old favorites from old favorites (which was how I subsequently rediscovered my love of Stephen King), and finding new authors to add to my must buy list, including Julie James and Molly Harper. I’ll return to this point in a moment.

  1. perfectionNo Book Is Ever “Done”

Since I’ve become an Audible-addict, I’ve also had the sometimes dubious pleasure of sampling works that were not yet ready for prime-time. One of the things I love about a really good audio book its ability to help you ignore or gloss over poor sentence structure and bad grammar. But I’ve listened to a lot of audio books since I started my Audible membership, many of which I’ve had to give up due to the errors. Yes, I am that type of reader no matter the media. Still, even in the really stellar works, I’ll find my inner editor creeping up and marking certain spots as needs reworking. I can’t help it, my inner editor is kind of a killjoy. But those mistakes are easily forgiven for me. I accept there will be errors in everything, from small to large, because no book is ever 100% flawless—and even if you think it is, this is often a matter of subjective, not objective, opinion.

  1. There Are Narrators And There Are Performers – You Want The Latter

the_stand__spanBack to Point #1. The reason I stuck with and will forever buy anything by Julie James and Molly Harper is largely due to their respective performers. Karen White, who read James’ FBI/US Attorney series, and Amanda Ronconi, who reads (I think) whatever Molly Harper writes, are two voice actors I’ll follow across genres. They understand character voice and how to really bring a narrative to life, helping the reader/listener experience the world rather than just expose them to it. This is also why, while I enjoyed Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, I didn’t get as into it as I did Full Dark, No Stars, which had two narrators over the course of four short stories. And why, when I finally read The Stand last autumn, everything I wrote during that period, I heard in performer Grover Gardner’s voice. And, BTW, if you haven’t read (or hell, even if you have read) The Stand, it’s definitely worth a listening-to. Day-um.

I mentioned in Point #2 that I have given up on a few books due to the structural/grammatical errors sticking out. There are many, many others I’ve given up due to the reader, sorry to say. Books that sound amazing but are read in ways that just don’t suck me in. I hate doing it, but I don’t want pleasure reading to be a chore, so if it doesn’t gel, I return it.

acting-e1322853822443The main issue I’ve found, which has led to returns, is the lack of performance. I want to forget I’m Reading, Or Something Like It. I want an immersive experience, and as some authors are better equipped to pull this off—it’s the same thing with whoever you have reading your work. A really good performer doesn’t just sell the book, s/he sells the author. Case in point: I’ve stuck with books I considered “meh” because the performance was so good—not only that, I’ve bought other “meh” books by the same author because I enjoyed the listening experience so much.

I’m sure there are other Things I Knew, but those are the points that most readily came to mind.

So what did I learn, in this experience? That list is longer.

  1. It’s Difficult Listening To Your Own Work

proud or embarrassedThis is one thing I never anticipated after I uploaded my two self-pubs to ACX. As someone who routinely buys audio books, and someone who isn’t shy about rereading sections of her own works from time to time, I never knew that I’d be so freaking strung out when I received the audition for Firsts. I was, through my adolescence, a shy person. As an adult, I’m really not. I’m outspoken, inappropriate, and the person everyone looks to skeptically when a group is told to be on its best behavior. I like being that person—it’s the person I was supposed to be, but was too afraid to embrace when I was younger due to being, yes, overweight, academic and nerdy. I didn’t start to change until my senior year of high school, and really discovered that self in college (which is evident on my feeling about college if you read Firsts—Wesley’s experience was pretty much mine). Now I’m the person who comes with a disclaimer, and I love being that person.

Still, when I received Jem Matzan's audition for Firsts, I regressed like whoa. And the most frustrating part was I didn’t know why. I am not ashamed at all about what I write. Plus, the section he read was goddamned tame. So...yeah, beats me.

  1. Sometimes, It’s Really Difficult Listening To Your Own Work

Lion-King-Sex-CloudSo above, we established I’m a bit of a wuss. We also established that I have no idea why, as I’m also not easily embarrassed. Everyone I know (except my grandparents, because I want them to hold onto their hope that I can get into Heaven) knows I write erotic romance. My erotic romances have been read by: my husband, my best friend, at least three sisters-in-law, my aunt, three coworkers (who will admit it, anyway), and, yes, even my mother. I’m out and proud among pretty much all my acquaintances. I’ve written articles on why women need to be sex-positive, how romance novels fit into the feminist movement, I spoke to a class at Wartburg about sex-positivism and feminism and how it relates to what I write, as well as panels at conventions. It’s easily one of the topics I’m most passionate about.

Still, still, listening to someone read aloud sex scenes that I wrote? Well...it was hella weird.

tumblr_m6gynx7DLS1qcds4qo2_250By the time I got to that part in the book, I had mostly gotten over the awkwardness I experienced in the point above. There was no reason to feel weird about it. Hell, I’ve listened to more graphic shit with my mother. Sidebar: on our mother-daughter trip in March, she wanted to listen to Fifty Shades because “it would keep her awake" (yeah, Mom, likely story). You guys know how I feel about Fifty Shades, so I told her we could listen to something with cocks and pussies if she wanted, but it was gonna be something good. I suggested (and got her hooked on) Laurelin Paige’s Fixed Trilogy (performed by Carly Robins) instead. And friends, if you haven’t read it, it’s not PG. At all. Was it weird? Yeah, a little, but I got over it. And so did she.

giphyLast night, as I was listening to the steamier sections, my husband kept laughing at me because I reverted to a fourth grader. I can’t explain why, though I am perfectly willing to admit this is all me. I’m not bothered in the slightest at the thought of anyone else listening to the sex scenes. Heck, my mom can’t wait to get her copy (and I hope she enjoys it!). It’s just something else to work on. Maybe a good use of ERP (Exposure Response Prevention)—make myself listen to it over and over until the need to squirm goes away.

  1. Sometimes, You Get Really Lucky (Or: That’s What She Said)

archer_phrasing

It’s really appropriate that Firsts is the first book to make the jump to audio. It was my first publication, and my first self-publication, after I reworked it in late 2013. As I mentioned in the “Things I Knew” section, I went into this thing completely aware of how vital it was to find the perfect reader. I played a lot of things safe when I first got into publishing because I was so goddamned green. I still am green in many ways. But I knew going in that I would absolutely not compromise on the quality of reader for the audio production. I figured any auditions I received would be across the board on talent, but as with everything else, Firsts proved to be the gift that kept on giving. Jem’s audition was the first, and it was perfect. I mean, really perfect. And that’s not just me—I’ve sent the finished cut to two pre-readers and one has already raved on how good he is, and I take zero credit for that, except for I was smart enough to go forward with it. I’m going to have to check out some of his other work after things settle down. Like I said, I follow good voice performers across genres.

  1. What You Write Is Not What Others Hear

252922Of course, this is something all authors know on some level. There is a cadence to your writing that lives entirely between your ears. My characters’ conversations are often Sorkinesque in my head (because if you’re going to emulate someone, emulate the best). And though I heard this some in the finished product, there were other places where Jem’s interpretation of the characters was very different, though in ways I figure only I would notice.

I met Molly Harper briefly at RT in 2014, and when I mentioned that I love her work—via the audio books—she raved about the performer, Amanda Ronconi. If I ever get the chance to chat with her again, I’d like to know if Amanda’s interpretation was the same thing Molly heard when she wrote. Molly’s writing is so wonderfully witty, as is Amanda’s voice; it’s hard to divorce the two in my head, but then I’ve only ever listened to the books.

I could write more on this, but this seems a better place to plug the book, since I talk more about my thoughts on Jem’s interpretation in the author interview.

  1. I Don’t Care How Well You Write, You Need a Goddamned Editor

wrongnumberSo we’ve established that I listen to a lot of audio books. Enough to have caught the occasional flub—a missing word here, the wrong character mentioned there, and so on. I know damn well that my work isn’t perfect, even after it’s been edited within an inch of its life. I assumed to a degree that audio book errors were sort of the equivalent of Cake Wrecks. The material is sacrosanct and presented as-is. And maybe that’s the case with books produced by publishers, but I was fortunate enough to work with a voice performer who informed me of the little typos he caught here and there, allowing me to update the document (digital and print) and ensure the readers/listeners get the best product available.

I had an editor—an editor I’ve used before and will use again. I heartily recommend her. But an editor doesn’t cut it, friends. Even the best editors don’t catch everything. They’re only human. And as an author, you will never, ever be able to impartially review your work. Sure, you’ll catch this grammatically incorrect sentence or this random mid-sentence quotation mark, but you won’t find everything. Your brain knows how it’s supposed to read, and since your brain is an asshole, it’ll fill in the missing word and trick you into thinking it’s there.

jon stewartYou need beta readers, crit partners, editors—people who don’t give a shit about your precious feelings and are good enough to catch the things you’re going to miss. If you’re serious about your craft, you have an editor budget, and you don’t settle for less than the best. And true, there are some poorly written books out there that get hailed as masterpieces, or somehow make it to the top of the New York Times list. Many readers might not notice that you used a dangling modifier or have a character improbably doing two things simultaneously. But to every author out there who cares about their work, you owe it to yourself to make sure you have the best product. You owe it to yourself, and to the readers who will pick up on this stuff. And believe me, they’re out there. Many, many readers don’t have much patience for a lazy author.

All in all, this was a fabulous experience, and I’m really proud of the end-product...which should be released soon. I’m waiting on my two test-readers to give me their final verdict, but I think we’re close. Once we’ve exhausted the post-production motions, I’ll make a general release date announcement.

Until then, I hope everyone has had a good few months. I’m going to do my level best to not let this thing collect this much dust in the future. Happy Memorial Day, my US friends.

PS. If you only see one movie this summer, make it Mad Max: Fury Road. Or, as I like to call it, Furiosa: Drinking Meninist Tears And Giving Zero Fucks.

mental-self-five

Fifty Shades of Perspective

cuffsUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the book series and recent film Fifty Shades of Grey is an international phenomenon. You also know that it is a highly contentious debate topic, and it’s not hard to see why. On the surface, the argument set forward by both sides is rather simple. Fifty Shades is abuse versus Fifty Shades is fiction. Fifty Shades romanticizes unhealthy relationships versus Fifty Shades allows for escapism. The danger here is not in romanticizing Fifty Shades, or in shaming those who enjoy it, though certainly both things are occurring. Rather, there are at least three—and probably many more—arguments that are occurring simultaneously under the guise of one. 660-50Shades-NatlCtrDisclaimer: I have and will not read Fifty Shades. I also have not seen nor plan to see the movie. However, I have discussed the problematic themes with many people, read numerous articles, and reviewed excerpts of the books in question. My opinion of the subject matter is that it does depict an unhealthy, abusive relationship, and I do not understand why so many women would find this sort of relationship, fictionalized or not, appealing.

5c5

My other opinion? Thank fuck for Fifty Shades, and can we please get some more of that? 

One of the most prevalent defenses I’ve seen of Fifty Shades is the old “if you don’t like it, don’t read/watch it” mantra that reeks of the “don’t like it, leave” rhetoric we hear from people of various political persuasions when confronted with an opinion they disagree imageswith. The fact is, I don’t need to have read Fifty Shades to have an opinion about it. No one does. And no one needs someone else’s permission before airing their opinion. When you become so afraid of being confronted with an outlook different from your own, you close yourself off to growth. A convincing argument is worth its weight in gold to me—it’s one of the ways we mature as we grow older. Rather than becoming defensive, make a defense. Even if your defense is, “I see how it is abusive, but I still like the book.” That’s perfectly valid. No rational person should see this as condoning abuse.

downloadThis is something else I’m seeing—people mistaking criticism of the books/film as criticism of themselves. I’m sure there are anti-Fifty Shades people out there who are actively shaming others, but I’m also sure there many Fifty Shades fans taking the book/film’s criticism way too personally. If you like Fifty Shades and I call it abuse, I have not made a statement about you.

That said, anyone who personally criticizes Fifty Shades fans for their tastes/preferences is an asshole. We all have our guilty pleasures. I like the show Once Upon A Time even though it is one of the lamest shows on television. I can objectively recognize its weaknesses and flaws while subjectively gobbling it up.

Slide1So on one side, we have the Fifty Shades defenders, calling for the critics to stop criticizing Fifty Shades because it’s fiction. While cosmetically similar, this conversation is completely different from that the Fifty Shades critics are attempting to have—one is about the pros of escapism, and the other is about the importance of identifying abuse.

And both are important topics. Incredibly important. To ignore the abuse within Fifty Shades is to succumb to intellectual dishonesty. The relationship depicted isn’t a healthy one. And that is a conversation that is worth having. A conversation that you can find in numerous blogs and articles by people who have tumblr_muvlmb5av01qdryito1_5001dedicated much more time than I am willing to dedicate to the subject (link list at bottom of post, with thanks to Bianca Sommerland).

But the Fifty Shades dissenters—myself included—often overlook the one shining virtue the books provided. And as an erotic romance author, I feel to continue overlooking this virtue is a disservice to the genre. Because like it or not, Fifty Shades brought erotic romance to a mainstream audience. It took a large step in normalizing the sort of books I like to read and write. It turned erotic romance from a dirty little secret to a national subject. Erotic romance still has miles to go before it reaches mainstream acceptance, but Fifty Shades did a lot for that conversation by shining a light on just how popular these books are. It also introduced a slew of new readers to a genre they didn’t realize existed. Yes, BDSM books feverything2are a niche in erotic romance that we might not all share, but any new readers to the erotic romance market is a win for the industry, and for the feminism movement. The more we discuss female sexuality and encourage it to move from the shadows of dirty-little-secret to as open and approachable as male sexuality, the further we move toward equality. So even though I might not appreciate the vehicle that drove that conversation into town, I’m glad it got here, and I look forward to seeing how others build upon its foundation.

That is not to say erotic romance has triumphed over adversity. Hardly. Fifty Shades is a divisive topic within the romance community because of the abuse themes. Outside of the romance community, it’s a punch-line used to marginalize romance readers and writers. Many pundits and comedians talk about it to make fun of it, while simultaneously making fun of all who partake in its or any related genre. Fifty Shades might have made erotic romance a national conversation, but it’s up to the rest of us to keep the dialogue going. So by all means, discuss Fifty Shades. Discuss why it does or does not represent your brand of erotic romance. Discuss its flaws and its virtues. Dissect it or defend it. But don’t fool yourself that this is a one-subject debate. Identify the argument you’re making and where you’re making it from. I am pro-escapism and anti-abuse, which makes me pro-Fifty Shades readers while being anti-Fifty Shades itself.

I’d hope that fans of the series could, at the very least, identify that this subject itself is awash in shades of grey.

Fifty Shades Abuse Links

Citizens of Trout Nation! We need your domestic violence and rape support donation links!

Rosie Reviews: Fifty Shades of Grey

Jenny Trout 50 Shades Recaps

50 Shades of Abuse

10 Relationship Red Flags

Fifty Shades of Fucked Up

Women, Relationships, Expectations, and Valentine’s Day (or, TL:DR, Firsts is a February Freebie!)

I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day, as I think most women do. On one hand, I love the candy. And I don’t just mean the chocolate, I mean I have a serious, unhealthy addiction to these things: 14_ConvoHearts_news

I buy a bag every week, and it lasts maybe 2-3 days. I know it’s just flavored sugar, but it’s FLAVORED SUGAR. Seriously. How are these not the best?

Five-Guys-Burgers-and-FriesYeah, it’s a good thing they’re not available most of the year. Though I’d probably buy them less often than I do now. Kind of like Five Guys. Now that there’s one in town, I rarely go there, whereas before if I was visiting a city lucky enough to have one, it was all THIS IS THE ONLY PLACE WE’RE EATING.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, Valentine’s Day.

cut_sentiment_2478969bOn the other hand, having once been a single woman on February 14, I also know that the holiday can be brutal on the ego. Women enter the world at a disadvantage simply for the crime of being, well, a woman. We’re the ones society pressures to be in a relationship, married, expecting or wanting children. Very few people, for instance, would bug my husband about the fact that he has yet to make me pregnant. But me? I’m the one with the ovaries, and therefore the one who gets the shaa7d689b3bfd703c3f79104f1a2a94a0dme-face when I explain I don’t want kids. Or even the more condescending, “Well, I didn’t want kids either, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world!”

Yeah, I get it. But I’m not you. I don’t want kids today, I didn’t want them yesterday, and I’m in my 30s now and still no closer to craving the presence of a human in my uterus. Or, in other words, please stop asking personal questions, strange lady.

Screen Shot 2013-10-03 at 10.33.37 AMThe point is, no matter what women do, accomplish, or where they are in life, society in general expects more. Single on Valentine’s Day? That’s depressing. Single every day? That’s pathetic. Dating someone? Let us know when you get engaged. Married? When are you reproducing? If you don’t fit the role, there’s something wrong with you. You’re too picky, too wishy-washy, too difficult, too stupid, too fat, too selfish, too fill-in-the-blank.

Because obviously what works for Judy is right for Patricia.

tumblr_n44dmmKTnu1rchw9zo2_1280Some people don’t want romance or kids. And they don’t want to be judged for those decisions. My best friend is happily single, and has told me she doesn’t want a relationship or kids. Does that mean she hates on love and all things couplehood? No, she loves a good romance as much as I do, the same way I enjoy shows like Hannibal without feeling the need to pour myself a nice Chianti to complement the human liver and fava beans. Fiction is an escape from the troubles, pressures, and expectations of the real world. We can enjoy it without wanting it for ourselves.

So to celebrate love without making you pay for it, I’ve put Firsts, my best-selling work, out for FREE for the entire month.

Firsts-FB-Ad

wait-seriouslyOkay, so that was one hell of a leap, but you try transitioning from “society expects too much from us girls” to “by the way, you don’t have to pay for my book this month.” It ain’t easy.

I guess I’ll leave you with this: whether you’re single or taken, a proud mother or happily childfree, I hope you have a good month. The decision to raise kids is one I respect and admire. The decision to declare oneself permanently single is brave and empowering. Being alone on Valentine’s Day is not a crime, and you can be romantic without being in a romance. There are many ways to celebrate love. Pick yours and don’t take crap from anyone for it.

 

Also? Firsts is free.

download (1)

Celebrate good times, come on!

Flip Side of SinI will admit, friends, it’s been a slow start to the year. I’ve had a long blog post stuck in my head for weeks, but zero time to write it…so instead, you’re left with the blatant advertising that is me celebrating a new release. Hey, I’m an author, and this is a pretty big thing, whether it’s the first book or the tenth.

And the fact that this release is the first brand new installment in the Sinners & Saints series since 2012 is big for me. I had to take some time off from writing over the past year—namely right after I finished this book, because I realized over the course of writing that the world had grown larger than I originally anticipated.  Going back and reworking the first two books was a mammoth task, but I really enjoyed it, and whereas I was satisfied with the books before, now I’m proud of them. That might sound trite, and probably does…but then, a part of me thinks if you’re not legitimately proud of your own work, you might be better off getting out of the writing business. That’s not to say I haven’t written stuff I consider cringe-worthy, or even that said cringe-worthy stuff isn’t available for purchase right now. Sadly, it is, and another part of being a writer is the ever-shifting bar of judgment. I can be proud of something today and hate it tomorrow. But at least I got there at all, right?

If you followed that bit of rambling, congratulations, you have more mental fortitude than I do.

At any rate, I’m already feeling all kinds of positive vibes about this year. I’m working on a new project, planning the next Sinners & Saints book, and have a monster of a contemporary on my to-do list. After so much time spent not writing, it’s good to be back.

Oh, and check who’s on USA Today!

 

 

All right. I'm up.

d04491b4b0e404afd396b2764ada240e951728929e87252008cb389dbc5bb40d I heralded the new year by battling a cold, as did most of the Western hemisphere, I believe.

198063a07583fe87Well, hello there. You may remember me from such blog posts as “Wake Me Up In January” (which turned out to be oddly prophetic) and such novels as “Hey, Is Anyone Reading This”? Ha ha. We like to kid around here. But seriously, now that I am over the madness that is the holiday rush, I can genuinely say…hello old friends. It’s good to see you.

Me? Oh, I’m doing well enough. I finally finished Sins of the Flesh, the fourth book in the Sinners and Saints series. It’s just under 100k (if you don’t speak “publisher”, that means “hella long but not quite OMGWHY long”). And despite the fact that it took nearly 2 years to complete, I’m satisfied with it. The story didn’t want to tell itself—rather, it insisted on being yanked out in little chunks. Part of this—well, all of this—was my fault for not outlining.

Or aliens. It must have been aliens.

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My New Year’s resolutions were fairly straightforward. As I mentioned in one of my last updates, 2014 was kind of hellish. There are the personal goals and the professional 95f827658e4808a320b4378c14d459c3ones. Really, I’m not a huge fan of resolutions that are about self-improvement, because resolutions themselves are prone to be broken. I’ve done and failed the weight loss resolution, so I’m not going to kick myself if these don’t go exactly as planned. Instead of giving myself a weight goal to have achieved by 2016, I’m setting realistic goals. I already go to the gym 2-3 times a week; I plan on adding 15 minutes to my workout. Baby-steps toward improvement rather than diving headfirst into something I don’t know if I can attain. luaanasAfter all, this goal really isn’t to lose weight. It’s to be healthy. I find it easier if I don’t start from a place of negative thinking.

My loftiest goals are writing related, and the sort of goals I will enjoy pursuing. I’m in the middle of outlining a large contemporary project right now. I also have Book V of the Sinners and Saints series on my 2015 to-do list, and the revamping/rereleasing of Ripples Through Time, which will be no longer available from Siren Publishing come April. I don’t know if I’ll be able to meet all these goals, but I will have fun trying. And that’s not even taking into consideration the 18k-30k story I need to have complete in about a month-6 weeks, or the other contemporary novella/novel I have in the works.

I want to get back to doing what I love this year. What are your goals?

stephen-king_1390945452323_4921_ver1.0

Cover Reveal: Flip Side of Sin (Sinners and Saints #3)

It's actually happening, folks. The next installment in the Sinners and Saints series releases January 30. It has been a long road -- when I first wrote it, I had no idea the world was maturing to the point where I'd need to revisit the first two books. I also had no idea that it'd take so long to get to release. But it's upon us now, and I can't wait. As I mentioned in my last post, 2014 has kind of been a bitch. That said, it has given me back license to write, and I anticipate being even busier next year. I have books I'll be working on re-releasing, plus the next Sinners and Saints book, plus an anthology contribution, plus a couple contemporaries I've been kicking around for a while. In the meantime, though, here's the cover and blurb for Flip Side of Sin.

_________________________

Flip Side of SinShe’s the only woman he’s ever loved, and the one woman he can’t have.

Since her inaugural venture to Earth, Cassie, Virtue of Chastity, has been lost in a sea of doubt. All of Heaven knows how badly she botched her first job. So when the Almighty gives her a new job—one in Sin City—no one is more surprised than she.

Ira, Sin of Wrath, requires only a drink, a cigarette and a warm girl to keep him happy—which makes his new Vegas assignment a very welcome trip. Ira might be there to work, but that hardly means he won’t find time to play… And when he spies a gorgeous blonde wandering through a casino, he knows she’ll make the perfect playmate. Until, of course, he discovers she’s off limits—not to mention, the enemy.

The strain between Heaven and Hell intensifies by the day, as does Ira’s struggle to keep his hands off Cassie’s chastity. With a job to do, and a Virtue stretching Ira’s ability to control his devil-born lust, maintaining priorities has never been harder. And, Ira discovers, come Heaven or Hell, he’s just waiting for an excuse to show Cassie how good being bad can be.

Reader Advisory: This book contains scenes of kidnap and violence.

Wake me up in January (In which I ramble...a lot)

images (1) I won’t lie to you, friends. It’s been a rough few months. Really, this whole year has kind of been an exercise in how much stuff can happen. In fact, this post, much like this year, is going to be a rambly incoherent mess. You have been warned.

So yes. The year has been rough. And unending in the amount of stuff. The thing is, the disruptions are so minute you don’t even realize they’re major disruptions until they pile up. Things like a staff member leaving the office turn your world inside out. Your brother downloadmoving away with your adorable nephew in tow throws you entirely off balance. Presentations you’re asked to make compile to the workload. And did I mention the trips? I’ve been on the road more this year than I can recall being, and a lot of those trips have been last-minute or otherwise unplanned.

Keeping your eyes on the ball is rough, particularly when you feel you’re on the wrong playing field.

I admit, I haven’t made it any easier on myself. Saying no is not in my vocabulary. This would be one of the more unenviable traits I inherited from my mother. And like my mother, when I say “yes” to everything, situations that would otherwise not be stressful suddenly feel like the mother of all roadblocks.

download (1)However—and here’s the rub—I can’t say I regret saying yes once I’m on the other side of it. Even with the rushing and the panic and the inevitable mistakes I make. Yes opens the door to opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have. I was asked to contribute a novella to Totally Bound’s WILD ANGELS anthology, and I made time to write it. It was a fun process, I’ll admit—one pieced together by going to three trusted confidants (Sarah Ballance, Terri Meeker, and Tish Beaty) and taking all the plot-points they threw at me to come up with one cohesive narrative. Indeed, this has actually been a rather productive year for me in terms of writing. I relaunched my Sinners and Saints series and am almost done with Book 4. And I’ve met some truly fantastic people—people who have become invaluable friends—since January 1.

Still, for all the other things that the year has thrown at me, I’ll be celebrating harder than most come December 31.

070876bA part of a writer’s journey is finding balance. With me—as with most people, I assume—that balance at times comes at a price. Either I feel over-extended or anxious because of my commitments, or my anxiety disorder itself decides to reinsert its presence in my life and throw me entirely off kilter. However, if something is important to you, you find the time to dedicate to it. And for me, it’s always better to have too much to do rather than too little. My over-active imagination will create false problems in lieu of real ones to tackle, and those are the most frustrating to let go. After all, if the problem doesn’t exist, how can you trust you’ve solved it?

I’m going to go ahead now, in mid-November, and make my resolutions for next year:

  • Learn to say no and mean it.
  • Don’t feel guilty when you choose to be selfish with your time. You need that time to regroup. You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself.
  • Accept that mistakes happen. Now, tomorrow, and always. The only true mistake is the one from which you don’t learn a lesson. Take your lesson, accept that you’re human, and don’t ruminate over what you cannot change or control.
  • Make as much time as possible for your friends, ‘cause they’re awesome.

For what it's worth...

imagesThere’s a lot being said about one of my publishers now. You can find any number of topics on the matter with a quick look around the interwebs. I’m not goint to discuss the situation as-is, because honestly, I don’t have as much to lose as some others if things go the way people think they will, and I don't have anything new to contribute to the conversation. But it did get me thinking on a subject that comes up frequently among authors -- one that's gained momentum over the past few years. Self-publishing. As an author, the one thing I want is for my works to be represented in its best light, and failing that, the rights to said works returned to me so I can reassess and regroup. I’m not a big earner in any capacity. As I’ve said before, royalties are not why I write. I write because I’m a writer. I care about the stories. I want them to be cared for wherever they land. Others write because writing is their livelihood, and some lucky bastards get to do both—write for the love of writing and because it’s their livelihood.

What grays matters is when works of passion (take that however you want) become company assets...because that's what they are. In most cases, your work is not personal to anyone but you; there are horror stories everywhere of what has occurred on the business end of publication—stories to make any author stop and reconsider the relationships they’ve forged and the decisions they’ve made.

images (1)It's enough to make some people really champion self-publishing as a solution. While self-publishing absolutely has its benefits, it’s not feasible for all authors. The route you choose should be based on your professional and personal needs, as well as expectations. I have two self-published works now, and I love that they belong to me, but the hard truth is to do self-publishing right, you have to do a lot of work upfront. You also have a time commitment and promotion/marketing that falls solely on you.  That’s not for everyone.

Me? With little exception, I’d rather allocate that time to writing itself, because the time I do have is so preciously limited. That's a choice I've made after weighing the pros and cons and changing my mind half a dozen times. I first intended to self-publish the Sinners and Saints series, but I realized that it made more sense for me personally to partner with a publisher to share the workload. Others look at their work and make a completely different decision based on experience and personal circumstances. In the end, do what's right for you. If things fall apart from there, at least you know you went in with your eyes open. Nothing sucks worse than revving your engine only to slam into a previously unforeseen brick wall.

SmeagolI won't lie, signing away your rights to something you poured more than your heart and soul into is intimidating, and not a decision anyone should take lightly. When I first entered the world of publishing, I didn’t imagine that there would ever be a situation where I’d regret signing with any company. I was so green. To me, like to so many young authors, the dream of being published was enough.

It’s not.

Your work deserves the best. If you do go the traditional publishing route, talk to authors, reach out, get their stories, their experience, and really consider their advice. If someone warns you about Publisher X, don’t dismiss the claim. Ask why. Investigate. Authors support other authors, even if that support comes in the form of advising you to turn down a publication offer. We have our reasons, and sometimes the best decision you can make for your work is to say "no."

Educate yourself. Be defensive. Don’t settle.

Depression: The Silent Killer (Good night, Mr. Williams)

Robin I saw today someone commented on how the media needs to not focus as much on Robin Williams’ death as other tragedies, both nationwide and internationally. And for as much as I agree with the sentiment that one’s celebrity status shouldn’t make them more newsworthy, I think the thing to take from the tragic passing of Mr. Williams is not that he died, but how he died.

DepressionBecause, as it was confirmed today, he died at the hand of a killer that has claimed too many lives. A killer who killed yesterday, the day before, and has undoubtedly killed many more times since news broke about Mr. Williams’ death. A killer whose victims are not all beloved celebrities. Mental illness and depression is so stigmatized that admitting you’re a victim takes its own sort of bravery. We’re embarrassed by what our brain tells us, and we’re told repeatedly by well-meaning people to “get over it” or “shake it off” or “focus on the good” or “look at everything you have” or other bits of spun fortune cookie wisdom that ultimately do more harm than good.

These things don’t make us feel better. It’s not as simple as snapping out of a mood. It’s not about distracting ourselves and coming back to the real world in a better mood. You don’t turn off kidney disease or chronic back pain. You don’t wake up one morning and not have cancer because you feel better that day. You don’t get to get over illness by sheer force of will. And that’s one of the most frightening and misunderstood things about mental disorders—that because you can’t see it, because the thing growing inside you isn’t a physical entity, it doesn’t really exist.

I don’t believe in demons from Hell. Those of the mind, though, are very real, and infinitely more terrifying.

DepressionNo one has ever asked for mental illness. No one has ever enjoyed it. There are no perks. When I tell someone I had a bad day because of my OCD, I mean because my brain has done its best to turn me against myself, and despite all my tools and knowledge, my OCD still happens. And in my world, when OCD strikes, it brings depression with it. I can laugh and joke and go through my routine, and unless you really know me, you don’t know that I’m not feeling at my best. You don’t know that at any point, my mind is at war with itself.

Because depression isn’t Eeyore. Some people with depression might fit the caricature, but not all of them. I’d wager not even most of them. Many people who fight depression do so silently, with a smile in place. Most sufferers—most of us—are repeat victims, and many of us can get by with the promise that we’ve been here before, and we’ve gotten out before. And honestly, that’s how I manage more days than others. I think about how bad it once was and how bad it’s not now, and even if I don’t like the way I feel, the sensation will ultimately pass and I’ll be back to my version of normal.

EeyoreDepression doesn’t discriminate. Mr. Williams was the definition of a success in his industry. Improved circumstances don’t make depression go away. Right now, I’m about the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Yet still, and even recently, I’ve felt some of the old familiar pangs of my OCD and its companion depression. Because OCD and depression don’t give a shit how happy I am, and they never will. Telling myself that I have no reason to feel a certain way doesn’t make the feeling go away. If anything, knowing that I shouldn’t feel this way makes the sensation worse. Knowing that others have it worse than I do makes me feel guilty for feeling the way I do, and resent the brain that enables it.

We become our own worst enemy, and we feel bad because of it.

And all our well-meaning friends do their best to make us feel better, and sometimes only make it worse. Yes, it should be simple. But it’s not. The brain is too complex to be simplified in such terms, and with conditions we only recently began to identify, fixing them takes more than just an evening out. It takes time, patience, knowledge, and understanding.

When you’re depressed, your brain can’t be trusted. Your body revolts. And no amount of pep talks or well-meaning-but-misguided advice can change that.

So yes, while I agree that a celebrity death shouldn’t dominate headlines, I hope this one does. Because Mr. Williams was taken from us by something that is still so mischaracterized, misunderstood, and underestimated that it deserves to be brought into the mainstream. If you loved Mr. Williams, don’t let the killer who took his life escape the limelight. Don’t belittle or roll your eyes or claim he should’ve realized people loved him. Depression doesn’t work like that. Not for Mr. Williams, nor for the millions who are suffering silently right now under the crippling influence of his killer.

Help

To those people who fear speaking about their depression for the stigma that exists, who resist asking for help because they don’t want to appear weak, who suffer in silence because that’s the only way they know. You are not weak. You did not ask for this. And with time, understanding, and yes, a lot of work, it can get better.

I promise.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, please seek counseling. If you are in crisis, get help immediately.

Other pieces worth reading:

When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News

Robin Williams and the Mask of Humor

Robin Williams's death: a reminder that suicide and depression are not selfish

So, there went July

Well, it's been a long, crazy month. I'm not sure, honestly, if I would do another blog tour. I had a blast on the one from Bewitching Book Tours, but with all the content that needed to be generated and my determination to provide something fresh with every post, I ran out of steam. Fast. Plus, I'm becoming more and more convinced that the happy medium an author needs to find between BEST SELLER and ANNOYING SPAM ARTIST lends itself to the less is more philosophy.

Truth be told, dear readers, it's been a stressful few weeks. Between work and blog tours and family and writing, I've been existing on a steady diet of caffeine and sleep deprivation. I've also been waiting for a time when I have something profound or particularly witty to share with you, because no one likes a pointless update. And yes, there are any number of topics that have me fired up that I wouldn't mind discussing. Such as the Hobby Lobby case, or the depressing Women Against Feminism trend. Trouble is, I look at these things and I have a reaction I more or less call The Feels and working up the energy to put my thoughts into a coherent stream of consciousness is, well, taxing. And I don't want to half-ass my thoughts when it comes to the things that really matter.

I'm sure I'll work up to it eventually.

In the meantime, there are some upcoming events where yours truly will be making an appearance. Well, okay, one upcoming event until RT 2015, but it's a good event. For authors in or around the Midwest, ORAcon 2014 is a great small-to-midsized convention that asks only a modest fee to enter and offers a lot. Aside from some great authors, Entangled Publishing, Samhain Publishing, L Perkins Agency, and The Seymour Agency will all be represented by editors/agents taking pitches and giving talks. Some great workshops and networking opportunities, plus prizes and free stuff. I've been to conventions big and small, and this one was one of my favorites. And price of admission is outrageously cheap. I'll be there signing books and the like, and doing some other things for my alter-ego. I hope to see some friends there!

I also have some good news on the writing front. Sins of the Flesh, the fourth book in the Sinners and Saints series, is over the 50k mark. I honestly wasn't sure if this would happen this year, but the writing bug bit me, and I'm confident the book will be done sometime in mid-September. Book III of the series, Flip Side of Sin, has been signed at Totally Bound -- this is the first BRAND NEW book in the series I'll have released since 2012. Release date is set for January 16, 2015, with preorder available December 19.

Which, naturally, means we're getting close to the release of Sex, Sin, and Scandal. The coming soon link went live on the publisher website earlier today.

 

Sex, Sin, and ScandalShe can handle lusting after a target, but loving one might bring all of Hell to its knees.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

It’s an order that Luxi never saw coming. She is the Sin of Lust, and adultery is her bread and butter.  Yet for the first time, Lucifer sends her on assignment under orders to keep her hands, and other parts, to herself.

Her target? A preacher-turned-politician…who happens to be sex on legs.

Since his wife’s infidelity, Grayson Bailey has avoided opening his heart to anyone. This changes when Luxi, his new intern, walks into his office. The intensity with which his heart and libido react makes for rotten timing. He is not one of those politicians. Yet nothing, not even the increasingly bold death threats in his inbox, can keep his mind—or his hands—off Luxi.

Resisting Grayson is the largest challenge Luxi has faced, and the more Lucifer dodges her questions, the more she wants to break the rules. Luxi knows the devil has an agenda and fears it involves a crazed assassin. With her heart compromised, Luxi is willing to do anything, even take on Hell itself, to save the life of the only man she has ever loved.

 

So there -- a modest amount of self-marketing with some substance freckled around it. If you take anything from this post, please let it be the Ozarks Romance Authors annual convention is awesome, especially considering the hefty price tag that comes with a lot of other, larger conventions around the country. Let me know if you plan on coming; I'd love to meet!

 

Never get used to this feeling

Lost Wages of SinRelease day. It's different for every author, I'm sure, but for me, there's nothing more exciting or unnerving than putting your work out there. But it's today. Lost Wages of Sin is now available in print and e-book. It's weird pimping the first book when you're editing the second and writing the fourth, but I can say, without a doubt, the series is going the way I want it to. And that really is all an author can ask. And thus far, the revised installment is doing well with fans of the original. I was incredibly humbled by the review from Wendy Mitchell's Rage, Sex and Teddy Bears that went live yesterday. I know how much she enjoyed the first, and I was more than a little nervous to see how the updated version struck her.

I tell you, knowing your work resonates with readers is worth its weight in gold.

I have blogs to plan, posts to write, and a busy month ahead. I hope to see a lot of you at the Facebook Party on Monday. It'll be a fun couple hours, with prizes out the wazoo.

But I hope to have other material for you. I have some posts I've been wanting to write for a while. Those are all coming up.

Some fun stuff ahead...

Well, this is release week. Yay! Lost Wages of Sin officially releases from Totally Bound Publishing in e-book and paperback this Friday. So you know, I have some stuff planned. First of all, I'm kicking things off with a Facebook Party, to which everyone is invited. This is my first Facebook party, aided greatly (I cannot emphasize this enough) by the multi-talented and totally rockin' Lisa Medley (whose book, Reap & Repent, you could check out right the hell now). The party is scheduled for Monday, June 16 from 7pm - 9pm CDT. I'll be posting excerpts, behind-the-scenes glimpses, fun stuff, and giving away a ton. Aside from e-book and print copies of Lost Wages of Sin, the prize room is currently stocked with the following:

Fashion White Gold Plated Heart White Diamond Angel Wings Pendant With 18" Necklace Chain 2 Pieces of Silver Snake Adjustable Finger Ring and Slave Hand Chain Bracelet - One Size Fits All Fallen Dark Angel Wings & Heart Necklace Gothic Red Stone

Floating Head Not Included

There will also be two gift certificates to Totally Bound given away.

This kicks off the month for me. I'm scheduled for a month-long blog tour, amid other blogs and guest spots. Overkill? Maybe, but it's worth it to me. I really want this series to have the best chance possible to reach its audience, and I know that's a rough sell since it is a re-release. But there is a ton of new material (since the original book was only 54k and the new version is 90k, plenty of it) and a new chance for me to do it justice.

I'm picky and likely too much of a perfectionist when it comes to my work, which is a good and bad thing. If I see or think of something I could have handled better, even after publication, I am prone to take it the first chance I get. Lost Wages of Sin was that for me. The response it received the first time around was definitely good, and I've had people ask me about the next installments in the series for a while. But the series was also something different for me: a series. I'd never written one before, never intended to, and I didn't take as much time as I should have to discover the world the first time around. I am and will always be grateful to those who picked it up, read, and (especially) enjoyed it in its original form. I hope those readers stay with me, but I totally understand if they don't. I write for the love the series, and for the love of writing, and this time I feel good about the job done. I also feel like I need to face the book launch with a bang, not a whimper, especially since it is a re-release.

So join me for the party. I hope to see you there. No page liking or post sharing will be necessary to win one of the evening's prizes (though if you end up Liking me just because, I'll be okay with that *halo*). If you want to win, just attend and interact. There will be even more giveaways in my blog tour. If you're interested in following me, this is where I'll be:

Lost Wages of Sin June 16 Spotlight All I Want and More

June 17 Spotlight Sapphyria’s Steamy Book Reviews

June 18 Interview Pembroke Sinclair

June 19 Spotlight Houston Havens

June 20 Spotlight Lisa’s World of Books

June 23 Spotlight Share My Destiny

June 24 Guest blog Roxanne’s Realm

June 25 Guest blog Erotica For All

June 26 Spotlight Corazones Literarios

June 27 Guest blog Sarah Ballance

June 30 Spotlight Fang-tastic Books

July 1 Interview Butterfly-o-Meter Books

July 2 Interview The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom

July 3 Top Ten List Darkest Cravings

July 4 Spotlight Melissa Stevens

July 7 Guest blog Booklover Sue

July 8 Character Interview Eclipse Reviews

July 9 Guest blog Angel’s Guilty Pleasures

July 10 Spotlight Deal Sharing Aunt

July 11 Spotlight Ramblings of a Book Lunatic

July 14 Interview Author Karen Swart

Oh boy. Look at all those interviews and guest blogs. You all are going to know way too much about me by the time we get to August. Thanks to the wonderful Roxanne from Bewitching Book Tours. Bewitching Book Tours I do want my guest posts to be of interest to readers, so I'm asking readers what they most like authors to discuss. I can talk about myself until I'm blue in the face, but not everyone is going to find me personally all that interesting. I also assume the perception of what some authors think readers want to see and what readers actually want to see doesn't always run parallel. So please, feel free to leave a note or email me if you'd like a topic addressed. I sincerely want to know what you like to hear, so this tour is valuable to you (and others) beyond just marketing for me. I'll link and mention you by name in the guest post as well (optional, of course -- if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I understand!)

On feminism, abuse, everyday sexism, and romance.

WARNING: Contains potentially triggery material. 

A week ago, I was fired up with a lengthy diatribe against a holier-than-thou author of literary fiction, one who took to the interwebs to criticize women who read, in particular, Fifty Shades of Grey, and broadly, erotic romance or romance as a whole. My post was rambly and around the 3000 word mark. I opted to let it rest for a day or so before I could go back and piece together the random tangents into something coherent and perhaps relevant, rather than toxic and bitter because some presumptuous blowhole happened to piss me off.

The blog never went up, because over the weekend, Santa Barbara happened.

Now, there have already been a slew of incredibly eloquent and insightful blog posts about the Santa Barbara killings and the larger implication on society. As you might guess, I come down on the side of ‘this was a tragedy fueled by misogyny, and speaks broadly about our cultural attitude toward women’. Some others (mostly men, from what I’ve heard and read) disagree. I’ve spent the past few days ruminating, stirring in my anger, reading blogs and articles by women and men much smarter than me, and trying to sort through my thoughts on the subject.

I posted rather recently about my journey from passive to active feminist, so I won’t go into all of that again. Most of the blog topics I’ve wanted to write recently have involved feminist issues, with one or two writing-process topics thrown in. The discussion being had now regarding Santa Barbara, mostly online if I understand correctly, has been personal and heartbreaking, while at the same time outrageous and infuriating. I’m pissed that women have endured any of the things mentioned in the #YesAllWomen conversation. Words cannot adequately express the level of my fury that many people (again, mostly men) disregard the experiences and downplay the effects of sexism and misogyny in the everyday world. That instead of compassion, we should be told something we already know in response to our stories, that it’s not all men who do these things.

Again, there are so many more eloquent pieces written on this topic, so I don’t feel like I could add to the conversation without borrowing heavily from other authors. But I was thinking about my original topic post from last week, about the aforementioned male author who decided to become the police of things women read, and the belief among many, not to mention the subtle cultural cues, that women owe men sex. That women should service out their bodies as a reward for a job well done. That women are something to be won by the hero, or wooed until no become yes. Because women in the movies and television shows rarely say no and mean it, unless the person they’re turning down is obviously a Very Bad Man. Not the subtle Not So Good Guy most of us are more accustomed to seeing. This results in the perception, at least in much of the media, that women serve to satisfy men’s sexual hunger. At the same time, though, women are given the message that any sexuality displayed by a woman independent of the man who thinks he has a right to it is labeled dangerous, trashy, or otherwise demeaned.

Not every woman is going to meet the obvious Very Bad Man, though tragically, many will. However, the rest of us will encounter the Not So Good Guy, the one whose entitlement bleeds through subtly, perhaps (even more dangerously) without his awareness.

There are things that happened to me that shaped or informed who I’ve become, someone who hid in romance novels for years because I genuinely didn’t believe anyone really good out there existed who would be everything I wanted and also love me as I was. I believed there were good men, but didn’t think I would meet one who would be attracted to me. Granted, this wasn’t a product of sexual abuse, rather a combination of low self-esteem, my dealing with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, body-issues, and a healthy awareness that Life Ain’t The Movies. But there are things that happened that could have been much worse, things I’ve never shared publicly, and things I fear happen every day to girls everywhere.

When I was a child (under the age of 7), our babysitter’s son took me into a closet. I don’t know how old he was, only he seemed quite old. I’ll bet safely and say between 12-14. Therefore, old enough to know his actions were wrong. He exposed himself and made me touch him, and vice versa. Thankfully, it didn’t go any further.

When I wasn’t too much older, I was bullied by my male step-cousins into showing them intimate parts of my body. I doubt they even remember this. It didn’t go any further.

When I was in the eighth grade, I was pursued by a boy who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. He called the house repeatedly, to the point where we had to leave the phone off the hook. I was intensely aware of him everywhere at school, and afraid to be near him in the classes we shared.

I ended up leaving my first job because a male employee pursued me, made sexually explicit remarks, and made me uncomfortable.

I stopped going to a Subway restaurant for a while after I went on a date with an employee, who immediately became overly attached and couldn’t take no for an answer.

Each of these encounters came with a sense of intense shame and guilt on my part.

These aren’t things I share lightly. And despite how severe the first one might sound, I don’t consider it particularly scarring. I am lucky. I don’t remember too much of my childhood for any number of reasons, so the incidents with the boy in the closet and my step-cousins are really hazy, but I know they happened. My mother has asked me many times over the years what happened with “Nina’s son”, so she was aware something was happening, though I’m not sure where she was (I assume at work) or how she knew something was wrong. A mother’s intuition, I suppose.

I am lucky. Other girls, way too many other girls, weren’t as fortunate.

What I find particularly frightening about all of these, with the exception of the Subway employee, was they involved male kids. Kids who were at least my age. Boys who pressured a girl into showing them her body or refused to take no for an answer even before the importance of that word was really defined. As children, we were all presumably taught about the dangers of letting adults touch us inappropriately. Who’s teaching the boys not to do this? That these actions are not okay?

These things happen. Often. And others aren’t as lucky as I am. Others don’t get to not think about it every day, or not consider themselves abuse survivors/victims. But as I thought about this tonight, remembering these things, I wondered if my experiences had shaped me more than I had realized.

I didn’t really date until I was in my early twenties. I was too terrified about getting hurt, in the emotional/doesn’t-leave-scars-where-you-can-see sense, rather than the physical sense. But I lived through romances. The men in these books were safe. Gradually, I began to shed the weight of my former shame and embrace my sexuality, but it’s taken me years to get to a point where I can discuss things like this openly without fearing some sort of colossally huge, apocalyptic…something. Because when women want to explore their sexuality, it can be scary for them. For me, it was safer to explore my sexuality through the eye of the heroine of whatever I was reading. I never deluded myself into thinking the romance stories I read could be real, but it was a way for me to explore without putting myself in danger.

Women in society are just now coming to a place where it is socially acceptable to be in charge of their own sexuality in a real way. With books like Fifty Shades—love it or hate it—achieving mainstream success, the cultural norm has taken a different track, though we still have a long, long way to go. And since romance itself is a female-led industry, filled with female-written novels intended for female audiences, that alone makes it a necessity beyond whatever might be considered high-brow literature. Women need outlets to express themselves, explore creativity, love, and relationships in a place they feel safe. That might not be why everyone reads, or why most people read, but it’s why I initially read romance, and one of the reasons I still read it. One of the reasons I feel proud to be in the romance community. I know the men in my books wouldn’t do the things some men in the real world might.

I’m not ashamed of my past or my failures any longer, or of my body or my OCD, or my sexuality, or anything. I was fortunate to find, fall in love with, and marry my own Prince Charming. It took Aaron a long time to break down the walls I had erected around myself. I had no faith he existed until he set out to prove it to me.

Other women haven’t been as lucky as I have. Their stories are those of true abuse, horrific and ugly. They don’t get to not think about it. They don’t get to move on, accept, and have a happy ending. The world out there isn’t kind to women. We’ve made progress, yes, but we have a long way to go.

So I’ll keep writing. And reading. Maybe someone else will feel safe when they read my men. Maybe through writing, some will learn the path to acceptance and empowerment.

As for what happened in Santa Barbara…I highly recommend the following blogs and articles. They really touched me.

Masculinity, Violence, and Bandaid Solutions

By The Numbers: How The Santa Barbara Shooting Reflects A Culture Of Violence Against Women

Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds

Not All Men, But Still Too Many Men

When Women Refuse

Getting close to release day!

Lost Wages of Sin debuts in just a few short weeks. Aching for a preview? Head over to author Lisa Medley's blog, where I discuss the book, the characters, the madness that is my process, and hint at what comes net. And do check out her amazing Reap and Repent, while you're at it.

Don’t believe everything you read.

In the beginning, there was a garden, two deities, and a woman. Now, there is a world, a woman scorned, and an age-old dispute between two friends that desperately needs to be settled, preferably before the apocalypse.

The Seven Deadly Sins are Lucifer’s creation, and he considers them his children. Yet when one of his Sins decides to resign her post, she triggers a series of events that catch the attention of the last person in three worlds the devil wants to see—his vindictive, and frustratingly powerful, ex-wife.

Big J and Lucifer were once close, but a disagreement over the management of Hell, as well as the devil’s very bad marriage, created a rift that seemed impossible to reconcile. Yet with Lilith back in the picture, the two deities—aided by Sins, Virtues, demons and angels—are forced to reconsider their relationship. For them, for Heaven and Hell, and the fate of the universe.

© Rosalie Stanton 2016