Guest Author Augusta Li – UK GLBT Fiction Meet: An American Author’s Perspective

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I recently had the great pleasure of spending eleven beautiful days in the United Kingdom and attending the UK GLBT Fiction Meet. I explored a lot of the country and visited some beautiful places, but this post will be about the meet itself. If you’re interested in reading more about my adventures in Cardiff, Leeds, and London, you can do so at my blog: http://www.booksbyeonandgus.com/  I’ll be posting some pictures and hopefully some useful information for potential visitors shortly.

But on to the meet! It was a wonderful experience, and I can’t express how welcome I, and I believe everyone, was made to feel. The entire conference was drama and diva-free. The venue, the MacDonald Hotel in Manchester, was a lovely hotel with big, comfortable rooms and a very friendly and helpful staff. I have to say I enjoyed the HUGE bathtub in my room. Breakfast and lunch were served at the hotel’s restaurant, and the food was very good. I took advantage of a full English breakfast my first day there, but afterwards restricted myself to lighter fare, as eating that much tends to make me tired. Luckily, the hotel staff provided coffee and tea at regular intervals in the very lovely meeting rooms.

002The organizers did an excellent job and managed to pack a lot of information, discussion, fun activities, and opportunities to relax into the convention’s two official days. Guest speakers Elisa Rolle and Marie Sexton both gave excellent presentations. Some panels provided valuable information, such as those on cover art or self-publishing. Others were more conversational in nature, and they were lively with everyone encouraged to participate. I feel I shouldn’t shy away from talking about the “Leave my ‘ou’ Alone” panel, in which I may have gained a bit of infamy. The object of the panel was for British and European authors to discuss how to retain their voices in a world of American publishers and with American readers being a large percentage of customers.

I intended to just sit quietly and listen—I really did. But at one point I felt my experiences, both as an American and an editor for a major American publisher of M/M romance might be valuable. I attempted to explain some of the reasoning behind why the publisher I work for changes certain things during the editorial process. I want to be clear in that it was never my intention to condemn or endorse, only explain. Well, my contribution to the panel initially sparked a bit of animosity and passion. But before long it evolved into an intelligent debate and discussion, one of the best I’ve had the privilege to attend. Lots of important points and ideas were discussed, and I, at least, took a lot away from the panel. It made me think about my approach to editing, and I think I’ll be a better editor for it. I think it’s a wonderful commentary on the convention and the attendees that what started out as semi-strong disagreement quickly turned into a valuable and enlightening discussion on several significant issues. An intelligent and respectful exchange of ideas—which the panel truly was after the initial, brief misunderstandings had been cleared up—can only ever benefit those working in the industry.

The panel was a good experience for me, and I truly learned a lot and enjoyed hearing different perspectives and the reasoning behind them. This was a discussion that could have gone on a lot longer, and one I suspect will be revisited at future meets. With the blossoming of the ebook industry and publishing becoming increasingly international, it’s an important and vital topic, and there’s no better way to help the industry evolve to reflect the diverse cultures of authors and readers than for people involved in this business to sit down and engage in an intelligent discussion like this one. Maybe I’m crazy, but although the panel had a rocky start, for me this was a high point, because there’s nothing I enjoy more than a thoughtful discussion with intelligent people and the free exchange of ideas.

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The exchange of ideas and wonderful conversations continued long after panels had ended for the day. The event organizers chose some stellar locations for dinners in Manchester’s gay village along the famous Canal Street, including Taurus (http://www.taurus-bar.co.uk/index.php), The Richmond Tea Rooms (http://www.richmondtearooms.com/About-us.aspx), and The Molly House (http://www.themollyhouse.com/). All of them are worth checking out if you ever make your way to the wonderful city of Manchester. Many of us spent the hours afterwards in the hotel’s bar, where conversation often continued until very late. I so enjoyed talking with the many interesting and wonderful people that I often sacrificed sleep to do so, and for me, this was the best part of the meet: connecting with authors, readers, and people in the industry and having meaningful discussions. I made some lifelong friends that I can’t wait to see again.

I am proud to have been a small part of raising a good amount of money for the Albert Kennedy Trust, an organization that finds loving homes for GLBT youth. For me, supporting the community and being a voice for equality goes hand in hand with my writing. I am delighted that the UK Meet agrees and is helping to support this important organization. If you’d like to learn more about the Albert Kennedy Trust or donate to this worthy cause, please use this link: http://www.akt.org.uk/

I sold some books at the UK Meet. It was a bit surreal to put my books on a table next to Clare London’s and be treated as an equal. Absolutely an ego boost for me when people came to have me and Beau sign books alongside Clare London. So yeah, I made myself a few pounds, and hopefully got my work out to a few new readers who will enjoy it, but in the end, I took something much more valuable than money away from the UK Meet. I took ideas, inspiration, and many things to think about and consider. I took away the words of knowledgeable and insightful people. These words and ideas will stay with me and influence my work and my thinking. Most importantly, I made friends, many of whom I miss fiercely already even as I write this.

I’ve rambled on long enough, but I would like to add a few quick notes for other American authors considering attending the UK Meet. First—do it! You won’t be disappointed. You can be assured of receiving a very warm welcome and meeting some wonderful people. And I think the discourse between American and British authors is invaluable. We can learn a lot from each other. As for the cost of traveling to the UK—I was pleasantly surprised. The price of food and lodging was actually less than what I would expect to pay in New York City. It can be affordable, and in my experience, the British authors I speak with online were very willing to help me plan. For me, it was worth every penny (pence). Overall, this conference felt more like a meeting of friends discussing ideas than authors competing for sales. If you are an author who has never attended a convention and are nervous about it, this is the one for you. And for readers, the UK Meet is a place where you can meet both “big” name authors and up and coming authors without the threat of ego. There were no divas in Manchester; even authors I feel have the right to diva status weren’t. Quite refreshing. Really, whoever you are, you can go to the UK Meet and be embraced.

For more information on the UK Meet, go here: http://ukglbtfictionmeet.co.uk/

I hope to see you in Bristol!

Much love,

Gus

Guest Author Kayelle Allen – Writing a Hot Shower Scene

Writing a Shower Love Scene
By Kayelle Allen

Kayelle_Allen_SurrenderLove130x195The key to any good love scene is to incorporate the five senses: sight, smell, taste, hearing, and touch. In addition, you want to provide an emotional response within the characters, so the reader can identify with them. For a love scene, that can be anything from downright innocence to absolute lust. In my new book, Forbid My Heart: A Luc and Rah Story I worked to include all the senses, and for Izzorah, who was inexperienced before meeting Luc, innocence. Luc is immortal and as jaded and worldly as they come. His delight in Izzorah’s innocence is a surprise to him. For centuries, he’d thought having an inexperienced lover was too much work and not worth the trouble, but when he met Izzorah (in Surrender Love) he decided no amount of time spent would be too much. In this sequel, they are getting to know one another even better.

I’m going to share a short excerpt, and then show you some tips about how to incorporate the use of senses into your work.

Forbid My Heart is Science Fiction Romance, and Izzorah (Rah) is a Kin, a feline humanoid with catlike ears, eyes, claws hidden beneath human nails, and the ability to smell emotions. He and Luc are in the shower, which has a voice-controlled water system. The word “t’hahr” means “my heart” and “kosset” means “treasured” or “precious one.” The scene is from Rah’s point of view.

 

The water bounced off Luc, sending up rainbows in the mist. At the sight of him all wet and gleaming, Izzorah chewed on his lower lip until his fangs almost broke the skin. Luc’s wide chest had a sprinkle of curly hair that trailed down the middle of his abs and led to a nest of black curls surrounding the most perfect cock Izzorah had ever seen. Thick, long, with a rosy head.

Izzorah tore his gaze away and stopped gawking like a child on his first visit to the city. “Is it okay if we use scented soap?”

Luc spoke a command, and the water aimed at and below his shoulders. He wiped a hand across his face and blinked past the water dripping in his eyes. “Whatever you want, kosset, but I thought Kin didn’t use artificial scents.”

“It’s real. It was handmade back home. I bought it when I went shopping.”

“I’d like that. There are sponges, cloths, and brushes next to the soap. Use whatever you want.”

Izzorah picked up the soap. “I want to use my hands to bathe you. Is that okay?”

“Bathe me?” Luc smiled. “You want to bathe me?”

“Yes.” He rose on tiptoe and brushed his lips against Luc’s mouth, then wrapped his arms around Luc’s neck. “I like touching you, t’hahr.”

Arousal deepened his lover’s scent. Luc’s lashes were wet and dark. He rested a hand on Izzorah’s neck, then squeezed and massaged the muscles.

“That feels good.” Izzorah leaned into the sensual touch.

Luc lowered his head to kiss him.

Sliding soapy hands up and over Luc’s back to his shoulders, Izzorah clung to him, mouth pressed against his lover’s. When Luc parted his lips, Izzorah darted his tongue inside, flicking the tip. Izzorah molded his body to his lover’s.

“Mmm. You taste so good, t’hahr.” His rising cock stirred against Luc’s. Kissing his way down the man’s chin and up along his jaw, Izzorah stopped next to his ear. “Te shree tu,” he whispered. “I love you.” Izzorah took Luc’s mouth once more and then withdrew, gazing up at Luc, trying to show with his face and ears all the adoration he felt.

“Touch me more, Rah. I love your hands on me.”

Sliding both hands up Luc’s chest, Izzorah spread his fingers in the man’s curly hair and met Luc’s gaze.

To provide a feast for the senses, the reader should find words and phrases that appeal to each of the senses. I’ll list a few of the ones in this passage for you and we’ll talk about how you can use a similar idea.

The scene above consists of 394 words, but about half of them relate to one of the senses. I chose this scene as an example because it was rich in this type of material. Your scene might not have as many; it might have more. The point is to make it as full of words that fit your description and mood as possible.

Sight
Think about what in your scene is a visual item. What do the characters see? Remember; don’t tell us the character saw these things: show us what they see. Which lines are more powerful?

  • Izzorah saw the water bouncing off Luc, sending up rainbows in the mist.
  • The water bounced off Luc, sending up rainbows in the mist.
  • Izzorah took in Luc’s wide chest. It had a sprinkle of curly hair that trailed down the middle of his abs…
  • Luc’s wide chest had a sprinkle of curly hair that trailed down the middle of his abs…

In both cases, it’s the second line. Whenever you tell the reader what the character is looking at, you are stepping between the reader and the character. Get out of your readers’ way. Let them see what the character sees on their own. If your love scene has any instances of you telling the character what one of them is looking at, edit it to remove those mentions. Your scene will be much more powerful — and hot.

Smell
In this scene, Izzorah uses a scented soap. It didn’t matter what the scent was, it was the fact that it had a scent at all. For Izzorah, who’s a Kin, smell is extremely important. He can smell emotions, so the fact that he offers to use a scented soap is actually rather telling. He trusts Luc enough to be willing to mask his odor, even a little bit. Toward the end of the scene, the phrase “arousal deepened his lover’s scent” gives us a little sample of what he’s experiencing. When you create a world of scent, it can give your readers an entirely new level of enjoyment for your story. If a character smells smoke, you know there’s fire. When writing an item into a scene, stop and think whether it has a smell, and whether that smell holds any significance for the characters.

Taste
In this scene, there was little mention of taste, other than Izzorah saying “You taste so good” to Luc. But in your love scene, you can have one character lick another, think about, or describe what they taste like during a kiss, or oral sex. Are they sharing food? It can be sensual dynamite to have lovers using food during their sexual play. Chocolate body paint, anyone?

Hearing
There is water dripping in this scene, and the shower is running. In your scene, what are the sounds in the background? Are your characters in the city? Country? Outer space? Are there engine sounds? Is music playing? Is there gunfire? Make the most of whatever sounds are in the characters’ proximity.

Touch
List the items your characters pick up, handle, touch, use, or fondle. Don’t forget to include the other character(s) in your scene. 😉 For Luc and Rah, there are sponges, cloths, and brushes, but Izzorah prefers his hands. Luc massages Izzorah’s neck, and he leans into the sensual touch. He slides his hands up and over Luc’s body, into the curly hair on his chest, and molds his body to his lover’s. He kisses his way down Luc’s chin and up along his jaw. Most love scenes lend themselves to touch.

Showing Izzorah’s Innocence
This is a very short scene, but at this stage of his experience with Luc, he is still quite innocent. Luc is over twelve thousand years old. Rah is in his early twenties. I used the phrase “…stopped gawking like a child on his first visit to the city” to show that he’s aware of his naiveté. Twice in this scene, he asks if something is “okay.” Near the end, the young Kin tries to “…show with his face and ears all the adoration he felt.”

If you have a less experienced character, you might have them fumble items, not know which words to use, blush or stammer, or as Izzorah does in a scene in a previous book, get so carried away by pleasure that he stops giving and simply accepts, too lost to realize he’s done so. The other character can either continue giving (perhaps with a smile) or if he/she is as innocent as the one receiving, perhaps things fall apart and don’t go as well as planned. Either way, it can be a lovely way of showing the differences between the characters, and make for an endearing scene.

Luc’s Experience
The world-weary Luc is savoring every moment with Izzorah, enjoying seeing him react to pleasure. To show Luc is in control, there are subtle differences in the way each character reacts to the environment. Izzorah asks; Luc answers. Luc speaks a command for the shower to spray in a certain area. He says “whatever you want” — giving control (since he already has it). He directs Izzorah to “touch me more” and tells him, “I love your hands on me.” Izzorah asks permission. Luc says openly what he wants.

When you write using the senses as well as the emotional capacity of your characters you offer a richer experience to your readers. Stay out of the way and let them experience it without you explaining what they read. If you use powerful imagery, they will figure it out for themselves. Let readers see, hear, taste, smell, and touch right along with your characters and they will come back for more.

 

KA_forbidMyHeart_coverlgForbid My Heart: A Luc and Rah Story

These characters were introduced in the book Surrender Love, which won the 2010 EPIC eBook Award for Science Fiction Erotic Romance.

Waking in the middle of the night, Izzorah begins to worry. His lover has pledged to take him back to visit his homeworld, but Izzorah knows the fact that they’re gay could cause their death if the Kin Pride Council hears about it. His heart tells him to trust Luc, but Izzorah’s fear is real. He snuggles up to Luc, seeking comfort.

Luc is immortal. He has the perspective to understand his lover’s concerns and not worry about them. To distract Izzorah, Luc tries a sexy game of dominance and submission played during their shared shower. Izzorah’s unreserved trust and respect make Luc long to wipe out any shadow of trouble or sorrow. He would turn the Kin homeworld upside down to protect him, but convincing Izzorah he can do it will mean confessing a truth Luc is not yet ready to share.

Luc and Rah must learn: where the heart leads — follow.

Buy link: http://www.loose-id.com/forbid-my-heart-a-luc-and-rah-story.html

Available only on the Loose Id website.

Kayelle Allen is a multi-published, EPIC Award winning author. She writes Contemporary Romance, Gay Romance, Erotic Science Fiction Romance, Mainstream Fantasy, BDSM, and non-fiction. Her website has over 100 pages of places to explore within the Tarthian Empire, where many of her stories unfold.
Homeworld http://kayelleallen.com
Blog http://kayelleallen.blogspot.com
Twitter http://twitter.com/kayelleallen
Facebook http://facebook.com/kayelle.allen
Pinterest http://pinterest.com/kayelleallen/
Goodreads http://goodreads.com/KayelleAllen

Marketing for Romance Writers http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MarketingForRomanceWriters/

 

Guest Author: Grace R Duncan – Chatting Choices and Reviews

ChoicesLGWhen I originally set out to write Choices, I honestly had no idea the monster it would become.  The idea started out as an AU fanfiction of the Naruto world.  It was to be the first alternate world (as opposed to alternate reality of Naruto) of my own making.

But as I was talking to the wonderful A.F. Henley about the concept behind Choices, he told me that it sounded like an amazing world and then he challenged me to write an original story, instead.  I don’t think he had any idea just what he unleashed.

Choices grew quickly.  From a short AU fanfic to a short story to a novel.  Then, as the novel progressed, I found myself fascinated not only with the main characters, but also with a number of the secondary characters.  They began to worm their way into my head and heart and demand their own stories.  I pushed it off, convinced for the longest time that this was going to be a single, standalone novel and that was that.

Well, Cyrus and Nadir wouldn’t stand for that.  Neither, apparently, would Darius and Salehi.  And before I knew what hit me, I was making notes on not one, but two more novels in this world.

I managed to make that be enough for the time being and put my effort into finishing Choices.  That novel took me a long time to write.  I started it before NaNoWriMo of 2011.  During NaNo, I managed another 55,000 words and then sometime between January and April, I finished it.  It ate up some 182,000 words, initially.  I stared at that number for a long time, shocked that I’d written so much in one story.

Mind you, novel-length stories aren’t anything new for me. I’ve been writing novel-length fanfiction for quite a long time.  The first story was put up on Fanfiction.net sometime in late 2008/early 2009.  Okay, four-ish years might not seem like a lot for most folks, but it is for me.  Before that, the most I’d written was bits and pieces of original fiction, short stories, poetry and the like, but not in a very long time— like, more than a decade, long.

But seeing myself finish a novel-length original story was an amazing accomplishment for me.  I owe a lot to my husband and my beta, who were both amazing cheerleaders for me and helped encourage me to finish.

Because I was terrified.  Of putting myself out there, of the rejection I was sure I’d get from the publishers I’d submit to.  I’d decided that even if it got turned down, I’d still put it out there on the web as original fiction, at least, for my friends to read.  And I was even scared to death of that – of the reviews I knew I’d get.

Reviews are both a bane and a balm to authors.  There isn’t a book out there that is unilaterally liked.  Every book ever published gets critical reviews as much as they get good ones.  The good ones help motivate us, keep us going, help us to get through that next book.

The bad ones… can stop us in our writing tracks.  Sometimes for days… weeks.  Even months.

I am not new to bad reviews.  I’ve had my share of them over the fanfiction I’ve written.  Something about the anonymity of the internet give a lot of folks insulation and the feeling that since it is the internet, they can say whatever they want.  But there are still real people on the other end of that screen, real people who put their hearts and souls into that story and when bad reviews come back, it is heartbreaking. I should be clear, here.  I’m not talking about reviews with good, constructive criticism here, ones that talk about character problems or plot holes.  I’m talking about reviews that shred the author for the sake of being nasty.  And we’ve all received them.

Despite the fact that I have received my share of bad reviews for fanfiction – and one such review once had me unable to write for over two months – despite having received them, I have found that reviews of my original work are even harder to take.  I can’t explain it; it doesn’t make sense.  But they hurt, much more than any of the mean-spirited reviews I’ve taken over my fanfiction.

As I sat down to work on Deception — my next book— I have found myself blocked on more than one occasion.  I’ve been told over and over again to not even read the reviews, much less let them bother me.  But it is easier said than done.

The most common thing I’ve heard so far is that Choices has too much sex.  It was intended to be a sexy erotica novel.  The sex is integral to the story and the plot is woven through it.  You can’t separate them.  And I was (and still am, if I let myself be) proud of that book.  In a lot of ways – not just because it was my first novel and the first original story like that that I finished.

See… I like sex. I like to read about it and I like to write about it.  I love BDSM and I love good stories about BDSM that handle it right.  So when I set out to write Choices, I wrote something that I would have wanted to read.

Well, I got warned that it might be too much, but I sent it off and Dreamspinner liked it.  They wanted to publish it.  The edits came back and my wonderfully patient content reviewer warned me about the sexual content (not the type of sex, the amount).  We cut and moved. We revised and rewrote and we both were happy with what was left. It was still a lot, but a lot less.

And still, the most common comment I hear is… too much sex.

The problem that comes with that is that Deception is the same type of book.  It, too, is erotica.  It follows Cyrus and Nadir of Choices, two other pleasure slaves.  This is, in fact, what they are.  And when I let those reviews get to me, I start to realize how hard it is to keep writing what Deception should be – and erotica novel with sex that is inseparable from the plot.

But thanks to some very wise words from a couple of close friends of mine, I realize that I still like Deception. I still like the type of book it is and others will, too.  There are quite a few people already looking forward to it.  And it is on these readers that I should be focusing – the ones that I know like Choices and want more.

Well, they’ll get more.  After I finish Deception, I have plans for not one, but possibly up to three more stories.   I mentioned before that this world didn’t want to let go of me.  The characters have become such a part of me, so many of them want my attention.  Two of Teman’s clansmen – Hamid and Isam – have insisted that they want their story told.  And then there is an even more minor character, a serving boy in Bathasar’s chambers by the name of Ghalib who may even get his own.

Will they all be the same level of erotica? I don’t know. That remains to be seen.  Those stories will tell themselves, like Deception is doing now.

It’s not up to me to fight it.  It’s not for me to question it, despite what the reviews say.

It’s just up to me to tell the story that needs to be told.

 

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Thank you so much to Charlie for hosting me today! It is an honor to spend time in the Teahouse!

Please be sure to leave a comment below! Do you write? Have you ever received reviews? How did they affect you?  Do you leave reviews? What is your philosophy on them?  Leave your opinion for a chance to win a bag of swag and be entered to win a signed paperback copy of Choices! Thanks for reading!

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Choices Blurb:

Born and raised a gypsy in the late eleventh century, Teman values freedom over everything. He and his best friend, Jasim, are thieves for hire—until one night they’re caught and their precious freedom is revoked. Given the choice between the dungeons or palace pleasure slavery, they become slaves, but Teman vows to escape someday.

Bathasar doesn’t want the throne. He supports his brother instead, which suits their sadistic father, Mukesh. When Teman, the handsome slave Bathasar has secretly been watching, saves his life, Bathasar requests a slave for the first time. Before long, Bathasar and Teman fall in love. But all is not well. One day Mukesh brutalizes Teman before the court, angering the empress of a neighboring nation. To appease her, he then offers her Jasim as a gift, and Teman decides to stay with Bathasar for now—despite the abuse he may suffer.

The peace doesn’t last. Mukesh plans to invade Jasim’s new country, and Bathasar must find a way to stop the destruction. But if he succeeds, he’ll ascend to the throne and have the power to grant Teman his liberty. Then Teman will surely leave him. What other choice could a gypsy make?

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Where to find Grace:

Website: http://www.grace-duncan.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorgracerduncan
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6606362.Grace_R_Duncan
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GraceRDuncan