Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Oh The Places You'll Go....

When I graduated high school my grandmother followed tradition and gave me a copy of Dr. Seuss' "Oh the Places You'll Go." This book meant a lot to me because it showed that she believed in me and Dr. Seuss is one of my idols. What's the point of me telling you this? There's a few lines in there that really speak to me as an author:

“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains.” 

Let's break this down and why I bring up these particular lines for the day. "So be sure when you step, step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act." As authors, artists, and just people we often tend to post negative things, some times out of frustration and sometimes out of jealousy. Now, we all have our moments where frustration comes out, but the problem is when that frustration is aimed towards attacking people. Spit. Jealousy. Sour Grapes. Whatever you want to call it, you don't bash others in your fields (Or other fields) publicly. It's bad JuJu and my friends that is not the type of attention you want. You will lose a lot of respect that way, you will be blacklisted by readers, and honestly you're just inviting trouble to yourself. (Think of the trolls on Goodreads and other websites, do you really want to show yourself as an easy target for them?)

There is a fine balance that you have to find. Yes it's frustrating when someone seems to become a big name over night, but they too had their troubles when they started. Ask any author, they won't tell you it was easy to get where they are. I'm always telling Mia that we have to remember that and not get discouraged.

"And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains."

And most of us will get that success, but it'll be those of us who actually put the effort in. How does one move a mountain? A stone at a time. Small steps. You climb one the same way. There are steps to be taken and stumbling stones along the way.

Again, why am I bringing this up? Because I read an article the other day where an author stated that a big name author should stop writing (adult) fiction to allow room for new authors. (she made it clear that said author could continue to write for children or for his/her own pleasure, because she would NEVER deny that to someone...) So instead of going on a rant about it, I wanted to remind people that no matter how successful you are or are not everyone started at the bottom. There are no magic words, spells or tricks to 'hitting it big' you have to work for it. And if you're not willing to do that, then you will fail.

Now, get over your sour grapes, you have work to do.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Review: Summer Earns Her Collar By Dominic Freeman

Summer Earns Her Collar
By Dominic Freeman


A story of submission as Summer finds out what it means to be a sub. Her Dom has a surprise for her and as long as she can take it, a reward as well.
(Yes that is literally all the synopsis you get from the author)

I was looking for a quick steamy read when I downloaded this book. While the story is only 2,500 words long I found nothing steamy about it. In a short story things need to be made clear. I'm still not sure if this is just one part of a larger story since every other book I found by Dominic Freeman had the same exact cover (P.S. There was nothing about duct tape roses in the book so I'm not sure what the cover was trying to get at).

From the beginning paragraph I had a bad feeling about this story and my fears were confirmed when the male character started biting the woman over and over again. I have no issue with biting, but I couldn't figure out why he was doing that. It was never made clear to the reader if he was some sort of supernatural character, or if he was just a jerk who was hungry. Yes this was a BDSM book but I've read BDSM stories before where there was character development that explained who, and more importantly, what the people were.

Summer's Dom oozes the creep factors. Doms can be sexy, they can be enticing, Summer's Dom however was neither of those things he was simply a creepy bully with no finesse.

Here's the breakdown: They've been Dom and sub for some extended period of time, they have been planning this “big night” for weeks. And yet when she goes to the cafe to meet him he never shows up, she waits a half an hour and finally he calls her to tell her he's been watching her. Creepy. Then he tells her to walk down a dark alley, where he then basically attacks her. Creepy. He then reminds her that it is his job to be a sadistic asshole. I'm paraphrasing her, but that is it in a nutshell. Still creepy. So they've been together all this time and she is getting the “honor” of seeing where he lives for the first time. Super creepy. I half expect there to be a musty smell of decaying flesh and blood splatters on the floor of his hovel, which by the way is a loft apartment with a door right in the same dark alleyway.

They laugh and frolic, as he flip flops between a dick and uber creepy uncle-type. And Summer just thinks he's swell and laps up his attention like a puppy at the water bowl. He restrains her, bites her all over and then they have sex.

Afterward is full of cuddles and falling asleep. You know what, he still hadn't given her the collar, only in the morning when he tells her he has something for her and she assumes that means he wants a blowjob does he give her the collar... Making her the most gosh-darn happiest girl in the world. Then of course she sucks him off as a sign of appreciation and the story ends with her acknowledging the fact that tomorrow things would go back to normal. Which I can only assume means her Dom will continue to be a douche bag who doesn't allow her access to him in his normal life, which really leads me to believe that Mister "I like to sink my teeth into your flesh" Dom is probably some bored banker with poor self-esteem, a wife and 5 kids at home and this alleyway loft of his is where he takes all the whimpering little Mary Sue's he cons into spreading their legs for him.

Would I recommend this free read to anyone? No. I'm not going to get into the formatting, editing, grammar, and book cover. The story was enough for me to decide on a rating. I love BDSM books, but I like strong female characters, you can be strong and still submit. There is strength in choosing to submit and hand over control to someone else whom you can trust and is worthy of taking control, but Mary Sue characters like Summer aren't strong, they are gullible and needy. That doesn't make for a good read.

1 out of 5 Stars
Heat Rating: Mild/Spicy
(The descriptions of sex are graphic and use words normally seen in a spicy rating but the lack of emotion and flavor left the sex scenes bland and stagnant. Be warned, due to the language used this is not a read for anyone under 18 years old or who is looking for a sweet romance)
(mild, medium, hot, spicy, scorching)

I downloaded a free copy of this book from Smashwords.

Download this short story:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Genre Territory

Keeping your brand clean is important. Not clean as in "squeaky clean, nothing dirty" but clean as in "clearly defined" Authors with successful brands stick to their genre and don't confuse their readers by venturing too far out in a different direction. If I had a huge following of fans for my paranormal romance switching my next book to a western suspense novel might throw some of them for a loop. Yet when some genres fall closely together, yet are totally different what do you do?

A)    Hope your fan base follows you along on this new adventure.
B)    Create a new brand for this new side project.

 There really is no C option. Those are your choices, take it or leave it. So I guess in a way there is a C option, it's called just don't do it. I am considering publishing some stories under a totally different genre and because of that, if I do it, I will do so under a pen name. But I have another dilemma, even though I am an indie author I also have been picked up with Ellora's Cave, and I do enjoy writing submissions for smaller anthologies. But those anthology submissions don't always fall into the paranormal romance/paranormal erotic genre. So the question becomes, what do I do? Do I still write outside my genre if it is only for smaller anthologies? Do I just say screw it and write what I want without worrying about my brand I am trying to build?

Right now I have no answers for myself. I do know if I go too far off my path it would require reconfiguring my brand, I think for now dabbling in the shallow end with small submissions might be okay. It's a question of branding vs. getting my name out there for people to take notice. And this early in the game, getting my name out there might be the more important piece of the puzzle.

How do you feel about authors jumping from different genres under the same name? Would you prefer they stuck to one genre and used a separate name to write something completely different? Let us know.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The next SPE project

So as we all know, my SPE project got derailed because of a contract, but today I'm here to announce that Mia and I have been working on another SPE project. The twist? It's co-written by the two of us. Let me tell you that this was an amazing adventure and though we still have a bit of finishing up to do and a lot of editing. I'm super excited to get this project out to our readers. So you may be asking yourself, Co-writing? Really? Why?

Well, other than the fact that Mia and I enjoy each other's company and work great as a team, cross promotion is the why. We both have something to gain from this. Mia already has her first book out (Waking up in Bedlam) and her second book (her first book published with Ellora's Cave: Twisted Revenge) will be out Feb 26. Releasing a third book will help her sales on all points. It's a number game, really. I stand to gain from it because it'll help get my Alexandra name started, since I'm waiting on my two books with EC to release.

Cross promotion is something that was spoken highly of at IRC and Mia and I have since been trying to use it to our advantage. Under my other personality, I have a sample of Waking up In Bedlam in In the Light of the Moon to help Mia, and she has one in Waking up In Bedlam for me. Has it worked? I don't know, I haven't sat down to crunch the numbers, but more exposure is good.

Okay, so you're co-writing a book. So which one of you actually wrote it?

We both did. We divided the work up in a way that worked for us and our writing schedules. There are scenes we wrote together that will be edited to smoothly fit into the flow, there are scenes we wrote on our own. We will both be editing so that everything flows and our writing styles mesh a bit more. We work as a team, there is communication, discussion, planning, plotting and fun.

So there you have it, the next step in the SPE project! Can't wait for you guys to read this book.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Review: Devil's Playground By Laura Oliva

Devil's Playground, Book 1 in Devil's Playthings
By Laura Oliva

Synopsis: Professional burlesque dancer Francesca "Frankie" Strong has learned the hard way: on San Francisco's cutthroat party circuit, crime has a way of going unnoticed. When her best friend is brutally attacked, she's determined not to let the case fall through the cracks, even if that means crawling through every alley and back room in San Francisco to find the truth.

Undercover cop Johnny Marsden is in desperate need of a win. His career on the rocks, he's infiltrated the
infamous nightclub Cafe Outré, rumored front for San Francisco's Chinatown mafia. Johnny has never seen anything like the glitter-and-sin-encrusted world he's now a part of. He's certainly never met anyone like Frankie Strong.

Realizing they'll get farther together than on their own, Frankie and Johnny forge an uneasy partnership. Neither expects the heat that flares between them. Neither is ready for what it could mean. Together, they run down a trail that leads directly to Chinatown, and a faceless terror its residents refuse to name.

Frankie's only interest is in protecting her friend, and she's willing to make a deal with the devil to do it. But Johnny suspects the attack was part of something larger, something darker... and he's right

Review: I have to say that this book kind of hit my funny bone a bit. It felt a little like Janet Evanovich mixed with something a little more erotic...that I can't put my finger on. This isn't a bad thing at all. What we have here is an amateur sleuth in the way of Frankie Strong and a down on his luck detective. The storyline caught my interest in a way that I hadn't expected, but it really picked up about half way through. The only gripe I have is with one scene that I could barely suspend my disbelief with, though the reader in me thinks that there was a reason for the out of character (for the villain) move. I'm hoping that I will see it addressed in the next book as it is a series. Ms. Oliva does a wonderful job spinning her characters and their backgrounds and give us just enough to be hooked. I can't wait to find out more about Frankie's past an who this 'her' is that Johnny keeps referring to. 

As for the sex in this it's hot, but, even though there is a lot of sexual tension there is no actual sex between the two main characters. It read more as a suspense, or mystery, vs a romance because of that. I understand not wanting to give characters a HEA in the first book, but I do feel like I was cheated with that. Do I think I'll read the next book in the series? The answer is simple, yes! Ms. Oliva takes us to the heart of San Fran and her writing is fantastic when it comes to giving those ground details that are a most for readers. You can see the club in your head, the city, The Pass, and many other places the characters take you on. If you like some amateur sleuthing, a bit of suspense, some hot sex this book is for you!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

4 out of 5 Stars

Heat Rating: Spicy
(mild, medium, hot, spicy, scorching) 

Buy the Book:

On Amazon

Meet The Author:
- Blog

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sex: Porn or Creative Expression?

Well this post was kind of a given, surprising that it took this long for it to be discussed. This blog isn't about sex, but seeing as how both +Alexandra Webb and I write Paranormal Romance and Erotic Romance I figure it is worth discussing. There is many different "heat levels" and for everyone the definition of what is acceptable and what is considered depraved is different. Like most things in life, sex is subjective. No two people view it in exactly the same light. Some people view it as "porn in written form", but for others it is simply "creative expression". So let's roll up our sleeves and dive right into all the juicy details.

When reviewing books here at SPE we use our own heat rating system:
Mild- Sex is eluded to or given a very sweet touch with pretty words, nothing graphic
Medium- Getting a little heavier but still nothing that couldn't be shown in primetime TV
Hot- This is the kind of scenes that if it were on TV would have to be shown after 10pm
Spicy- Graphic with just a touch of restraint. It makes you blush and gets your heart racing
Scorching- Graphic and abundant. Words you wouldn't use in proper company are usually used regularly. Not only do you blush and a racing pulse, your body throbs, and you might need to take a break from reading and find some release. (yes, there are those types of books out there)

What do I feel most comfortable writing? Glad you asked. I enjoy writing Spicy. Although I am getting very fluent in Scorching. I do stumble on the use of some words and descriptions, but slowly I am getting over that bump in the road. Sweet sex scenes gives me hives, seriously. Not that I don't like reading them, but writing them gives me so much anxiety that I actually feel like I might pass out from the stress of it. Why? Because I am so used to writing graphic scenes (be it sex or violence) that writing something without such an intense level of description stresses me out. I worry, did I put too much touch, taste, and texture in that? What if it offends someone? But then again I am a worrier. And that is also why I don't tend to write the sweet-stuff.

But I know that not everyone is like me. For some people reading something with even a "hot" heat rating would be too much for them. And that is fine, as I am reminded time and time again: You can't please everyone and not everyone is going to like your book. Which is cool. That is okay with me. But for the people who like to have that blush to their cheeks when they read something I hope that I can deliver. Every once in awhile I'll get an email from someone that says "That chapter was hot." That gives me the best feeling in the world.

I've been seeing a surge of posts on the internet asking what the point of writing graphic sex scenes., accusing authors of only writing them to titillate the reader and themselves, fodder for the depraved, material to masturbate to, and comparing it to porn. I guess for me, my counter question would be: So what? If you don't like it, don't read it. Really. I don't mean to sound like a snob, but if you don't like something stay away from it. I don't like animal cruelty so I stay away from cock-fights. I've seen posts saying that having this kind of literature available is poison to readers. I'm allergic to coconut, to me it is poison, you know what I do? I don't eat it. If someone thinks that erotic romance is poison then they shouldn't be picking it up and reading it, just like I stay away from coconut. It's really as simple as that. Now when it comes to reading sex scenes I enjoy it in all forms, from sweet to sizzling. Just because I enjoy writing the latter, doesn't mean I condemn those who write the former and it doesn't mean I don't enjoy it myself.

I don't think of myself a perv, but I am definitely not a prude. Yet when some people find out what I write I am treated like the town pariah. Although, check most of those peoples book shelves or kindles and you will find 50 Shades of Grey. You see, that book is acceptable, because it is a international best seller. And therein lies the difference. If you peddle smut and sell enough to hit the NYT best seller list then you are a maverick, but if you peddle smut on a small scale you are a depraved-porn pushing, hell bound, sinner. Hypocritical? Yep, you bet ya. But that is how society works, sell enough and you are praised for "breaking the mold"; sell a little bit and you might as well line up next to Larry Flint and wait your turn on the tour bus headed for the second circle of hell. Oh hypocrisy, so much fun.

So what do erotic romance writers to do? Hold the line, keep writing, up your heat level if you like, lower if you want. But never-ever give in to what a select few toting a higher moral ground demand of you. You don't have to explain yourself, I sure as hell am not going to explain myself or defend myself about what I write. I've done that for over a year now and it's gotten me absolutely no where. No more. And, so what if it titillates the reader? So what if the author gets excited writing it? Who said our lives had to be restrained, boring, and bland? It may be cliché, but it's true: Life is short. Live it. Enjoy it. And do what makes you happy. And yes, read and/or write what makes you happy and if that is erotic romance, porn without plot, or smut then curl up, draw the blinds, bite your lip and let that blush happen. Enjoy the fact that you can do it.

Now, it's your turn: What is your preferred "heat rating"? Do you like it sweet and mild or hot and heavy?

We'd love to hear from you! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Valentine's Day Blog Hop Sign up!

Update: Feb 14th

Welcome to the first blog hop hosted by SPE! Below you will find the list of authors and bloggers participating. To be entered into the contest, please comment on the blogs participating in the blog hop. You get one point for each comment (one comment per a blog) You will be entered into a drawing to win: an Amazon gift card, Valentine's Day candies, swag, a free download of Waking up In Bedlam by Mia Bishop, a free download of In the Light of the Moon by A.L. Kessler and ARC of Dance in the Moonlight, also by A.L. Kessler. Enjoy!

Love Is In The Air- Flash Fiction Blog Hop Here at the Self-Publishing Experiment we are hosting our first ever blog hop this Valentine's Day. Here's the details: The theme is "Love is in the air", each blogger/author/participant will post a flash fiction that follows that theme. Any genre is welcome, from sweet romance, to dark tales. Flash Fiction is anything between 500-1000 words. The event will run from February 14th- February 18th. You may choose to offer a small prize (a book download, swag, a gift card) but it isn't required. The Self-Publishing Experiment will be offering a Valentine's Day giveaway that includes an Amazon gift card, Valentine's candies, some book swag, and a free download of Waking Up In Bedlam by Mia Bishop along with a free download of In The Light Of The Moon and an ARC of Dance In The Moonlight by A.L. Kessler. Registration will be open from February 3rd- February 6th, if you are interested please add your links below! After registration closes you will get an e-mail from us with further instructions, the graphic, and the linky list. Feel free to share this post, the more the merrier. Mia & Alexandra