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Saturday, 27 July 2013

An interview with Sarah Louise Smith from Crooked Cat Publishing

Let's get to know Sarah Louise Smith, a British author of women's contemporary romance.

How did you find your publisher?
I found Crooked Cat Publishing through a simple Google search and then did a bit of research on their authors. I was impressed and decided to submit my ms to them... I was thrilled when they offered me a contract and they’ve been brilliant to work with – hence going back to them again with my second novel!
How do your juggle a writing schedule?
It can be really tricky to balance life/work/writing. I try to write early in the mornings and at weekends, in and around my social life. It isn’t easy but I love it so I do it! :) 

What's the best/worst part of being a writer?
The best thing is the lovely comments I’ve received from readers, it’s so nice to hear that someone has enjoyed my stories and makes all the work feel worth-while! The worst part is just the lack of time I have to dedicate to it; I never have enough time to do all the writing I want to do! 

What/who do you draw inspiration from?
All sorts of places – songs, books, films spark little ideas. Quite often my storylines are daydreams that got carried away! 

Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?
No... I have to be in the right frame of mind to write, so there’s no point in trying to reach a set word count if I’ve lost the inspiration... I tend to set a goal though, as in, I will finish this novel by a set date. So far though, I’m always late! 

Do you have a critique/editor partner?
My husband always reads my work and it quite honest if he feels it’s good/bad or if a character seems to be doing something unrealistic, etc. Crooked Cat provide an editor, and in both instances this has been invaluable to me. 

Promoting is something most authors struggle with. How are you managing yours?
I have worked in marketing communications for over eight years so before I became published I was already experienced in writing marketing campaigns, building websites, using social media, etc. So I’m quite lucky in that regard. Mostly, I just try to put myself in the reader’s place (I read a lot of chick-lit myself so this isn’t hard) and think about what would make them want to take an interest in my books/me as an author and go from there. I think it’s mostly about building a brand for yourself. 

What is your book about? Genre, theme, essence etc.
My new novel, Izzy’s Cold Feet, is about a girl who’s about to get married. However, she’s not sure about her groom. Does she really love him? She starts to compare him with her ex-boyfriends and takes the reader through her past relationships one by one. To complicate matters and confuse her further, each boyfriend turns up in the week leading up to her wedding and Izzy has to question which of them she’d be happiest with. As a subplot, Izzy’s sister Helen has been missing since Izzy was twelve, so she’s got quite a few issues and problems due to that, too. 

Was there a character you struggled with?
Yes... I can’t reveal too much but the ending didn’t go the way I had originally planned. The characters kind of took over and I had to change the ending to make Izzy happy! 

If your main character were a real person, how’d they perceive you?
What a great question! I think Izzy and I would be friends; we’re similar in some ways as I am a bit of an over-thinker and so is she. We also both love to cook!

Thanks so much for having me visit today :)

Sarah Louise Smith

Sarah Louise Smith lives in Milton Keynes, UK, with her husband, two cute cats and a loopy golden retriever. She has an extremely lovely step-daughter and spends most of her free time writing, reading, cooking, and taking long walks.

She’s the author of two chick-lit novels: Amy and Zach and Izzy’s Cold Feet, both published by Crooked Cat.

Izzy's Cold Feet
One bride to be. Three ex-boyfriends

Izzy is engaged to Greg, who is everything a girl could want. The trouble is – all she can think about is the men she loved before she met him: sexy Ewan, the first love of her life; dependable Jason, who loved her more than she deserved; and irresistible Dexter, who broke her heart…

Then there’s the fact that her sister has been missing since Izzy was twelve. After such a traumatic childhood all Izzy wants is a normal, happy, settled life, but love is never simple.

In the week leading up to her wedding day, Izzy is forced to ask herself who she loves the most. And, given the choice, who would she want to spend her life with?

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Censored Books—You Betcha!

Cindy McDonald

Ahhh, the infamous “I told you so!” How we spouses love to hear those words spew from our better half’s mouth. Most recently I was on the receiving end of such a scolding when my husband and I attended a luncheon at the nursing home where my mother resides. Let me back-up…

A short time ago I wrote a blog entitled, Crossing the Line. The blog discussed how much sexual content should we authors place in our books. Essentially, how much is too much? I also mentioned in the blog that I am a former dance teacher who now writes books with quite a bit of suggestive material. My very conservative husband is uncomfortable with said content because he feels that my previous position in the community holds me to certain standards that I should be very conscious of.

So, there we were at the luncheon taking our seats along with the other families, when I spotted two of my former students and their parents seated at a table nearby. The two girls were thrilled to see their former dance teacher, and with ear-to-ear smiles, they waved. For the sake of this blog we’ll call the older girl, Susan, who is twelve. The younger sister is ten. Anyway, the luncheon was lovely and when we decided to leave I made my way to their table to say hello. And that’s when it happened. While giving me a hug Susan (12) said to me, “Oh Miss Cindy, I miss you so much. I want you to know that I’ve read all of your books.”


I was very taken aback. I turned to her mother with wide eyes and if I hadn't quickly slammed it shut, I swear my jaw would've bounced off the floor. I said, “Y--You let her read my books?” Smiling, the woman waved a carefree hand at me and replied, “Oh, don't worry, she's an advanced reader.”


Has the woman not reviewed my books before her twelve year old daughter reads them? I couldn't believe it! Susan then added, “Oh yes, and I understand everything in them, Miss Cindy.”


At this point I simply gave the girl another hug, wished them well, and caught up with my family. That's when my husband said, “See I told you! I told you that those young girls from your dance school would be reading your books. That's why you should keep those suggestive scenes in check!”


I don't think so. I truly feel it is their parent's responsibility to read the book first before passing it on to their pre-teen daughters. I believe that parents need to censor what their young children read just as much as they need to pay attention to what they are looking at on the internet. Having a school district pronounce your child as an “advanced reader” simply means they can read “big words”—big deal! That does not necessarily mean they are mature enough for certain content. Call me old fashioned. Call me naïve. Call me an idiot, if you like, but young people need guidance and mature reading material simply is not appropriate for a twelve year old girl. For that matter my daughter does not permit my grandson (14) to read my books, and the last one, Dangerous Deception, was dedicated to him! I’m not upset—I totally agree with my daughter, and I wish all parents would exercise a little more common sense when it comes to mature reads and the internet, and cell phones for that matter.

Hey, I don’t feel responsible at all for what happened. The titles of the books alone should have been a red flag for the parent: DEADLY.COM, HOT COCO, DANGEROUS DECEPTION, and AGAINST THE ROPES. Lord have mercy, the name of the series is UNBRIDLED! I do not write books with titles like: PATTY’S PRETTY PIROUETTE, or A NEW TUTU FOR TANYA.

Yes, I write suggestive scenes. I like writing suggestive scenes, and I have taken those scenes up several notches in my new series FIRST FORCE that will release in November—Shhh! Don’t tell my husband.

It is up to Susan’s mother and parents just like her to censor their children’s reading material. I’m no longer “Miss Cindy” the small town dance teacher. I am now Cindy McDonald, an author—reader beware.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Coitus, Lovemaking, Intercourse, Sex!

Shelly Hickman

I had to lead with the word “coitus” in honor of one of my favorite TV characters, Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory. The topic is writing juicy sex. I can’t see myself doing it for one obvious reason, and that is I’m a teacher who doesn’t use a pen name. But even if I weren’t a teacher, I probably wouldn’t go there. Not that I have anything against sex scenes, but I’m pretty critical when they’re not done well. Writing is difficult enough without trying to incorporate sex that’s original, sensual, and believable.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t read romance very often. I’ve come across scenes that actually turned me off because the sex was presented in such a way that either made me roll my eyes or snort with laughter. Certain word choices have made me wince, not because I’m a prude, but because I don’t find them the least bit sexy. Puckered nodule? Ewww! Just say hardened nipple. I realize it’s challenging to come up with new ways to say things, but I don’t want to hear a nipple referred to as a puckered nodule. Sex is such an intimate expression between two people, whether it’s the down and dirty kind or so sweet it makes you cry. When it’s written poorly, it can easily dampen my engagement with the characters.

Though I was one of the few who didn’t sing praise for Fifty Shades, I admire E.L. James’s guts for her trek into a la kinky. However, when I think of the grief she received in many of her reviews about the sex scenes, I believe I’ll beg off. Writing sex is no easy task, so my hat goes off to those who do it successfully.

Another reason I’m not comfortable writing explicit sex is that readers inevitably wonder how much of a story is invented and how much is from the author’s experience. I suppose that’s not such a big deal if you’re writing vanilla sex; you could be talking about anyone. But what if you decide to delve into the really naughty? The thought of my friends, family, or co-workers speculating on the authenticity of raunchiness is something that makes me a little queasy.

Romantic scenes that don’t necessarily include sex can be just as tricky. Yes, we read novels for the escape, the passion and enchantment we probably don’t experience very much in everyday life, but I also want my heroes and heroines believable. Let’s face it, most of the time, men are not very romantic. And to be fair, neither are women. I have a hard time expressing romantic feelings toward my husband, not because I don’t have them, but because . . . Well, I don’t know. Just because, okay?

Monday, 15 July 2013

My Dad writes Porn

E. H. Howard

After squealing louder than an air raid siren, this was how my daughter described my writing aspirations to anybody who would listen. Although she’s a grown woman with a family, the thought of her father even knowing about sex made her feel queasy (I guess we all feel that way about our parents). Whilst less vocal, my other two children were equally perturbed by my behaviour.

It all started when I won a competition with a short erotica story and decided that it was a good format for me. With the 2011 nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) coming up, I decided to try not only to write erotica, but to do it in a month. I had a plan. The year before, I’d drafted 25 chapter headings, each to be 2k words to hit the target. I did the same for my planned erotica, but just like reality sex, each chapter was over too quickly. I couldn’t pace myself at all.

My own definitions are that Porn is gratuitous sex, for the sake of depicting sex. It has nothing to do with relationships. Erotica is creating sexual scenarios the reader can fantasise about being in. All writers want the reader to live through their character’s eyes and erotica is creating a whole-body experience.

My attempt at full-blown erotica became a serial bonk fest in various positions. It wasn’t satisfying for me to write. Therefore, regardless of how much I tried, I knew I was failing. I shifted more towards incorporating stimulating encounters within a story. Sex provided another dimension to engage the reader. It heightened tension just as much as the creaking stair, or darkened passage.

One of the difficulties of writing sex is the vocabulary of the mechanics. Certain “real” words work, others don’t. Clitoris seems OK, shortened to clit, it’s possibly even better. Penis is awful, shortened to pen, I think that’s going places we shouldn’t. Therefore, I had to settle on my own words I felt comfortable with. I also believe there’s a US and a British syntax, but most English speakers get the gist of most euphemisms. Wang, Dang and Dong all work in their place.

An extra challenge is that I often write from a female point of view. Even though I have a lot of female friends, I swear I’ll never understand what goes on inside their heads. Of course it might just be the women I know, but their urges, hungers and impulses really don’t appear different to a man’s.

Like most men, I’ve smirked at Jack Nicholson’s advice in the film, As Good as it Gets, ‘Write it like a man, but then remove reason and accountability.’
Isn’t the truth that regardless of gender, we all want to give and receive pleasure? I try to show my characters taking this to the point of ecstatic oblivion.

Of course I’m aroused by what I write. I think if it doesn’t work for me, then I’m not hitting the spot. Of course on the tenth edit, the moves are becoming known, but it still works at some level.

A key theme for Amara’s Daughter was that sexual orientation or gender has nothing to do with being good or bad. To do this, I had to depict both predatory and consensual sex. Doing so pushed the book way out of the Disney-clean, wholesome YA category, but then who decided young adult is 13 year olds? Show me a group of over 16’s where sex isn’t an overriding part of their behaviour and thinking. As most young people now get their first impressions of sex from internet porn, I’m in agreement with a recent report suggesting YA authors should consider putting more authentic sex scenes into their literature.

Surely, it’s naïve to think that by keeping adult themes to specifically adult books we’re protecting anybody. I deliberately made the decision to make each sexual encounter more intense as the book progressed on the basis that if the attempted rape in the first chapter offended the reader, they really didn’t want to get to chapter 13 …

Swords, Sandals and Sex – High fantasy on speed
Carved from ice with blades of fire, the rigidly feminist state of Serenia breeds heroes

Unimaginably perfect, Amara the Magnificent, the legendary Ultimate Warrior is their greatest.

Five years since Amara’s mysterious disappearance, her daughter, Maryan, struggles to escape her mother’s formidable shadow. Shunned by most, her only friends are oddball characters from the edge of society.

The Queen sees Maryan as an asset to the nation, a pawn to play with and a pretty bauble to appease the neighbouring king, but lurking beneath the surface, an ancient terror plots to wipe out Maryan’s bloodline.

Friend, lover, and more, Amara’s Daughter is a turbulent, rite of passage story tracing Maryan’s growth from naive schoolgirl to the woman destiny needs her to be.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sex sells, but how to sell sex?

Mona Darling
 aka Dead Cow Girl

Throbbing cocks, wet pussies, and hungry mouths. These are the words most of us skim for when reading books about sex.

Every time I tell someone that I just published a book about the female sexual experience, these are the words they think of, and they are certain I have an instant best seller on my hands. After all, sex sells.

But the reality of marketing a book in a marginalized niche like sex and erotica, that doesn't yet have its own virtual shelf, is proving quite difficult. There are limits as to where you can market sex and erotica. Even now that it's finding more common ground, erotica is still often banished to the area behind the virtual counter. I've been turned away from book reviewers because "They don't do erotica."

Glitter is not romance and it's not erotica, although it has aspects of both. It also has stories of sexual trauma and stories from gay as well as straight women, so those barriers are crossed as well.  In the Internet age, where everything needs to fall into a drop down box category, Glitter doesn't.

Every time I list it somewhere, I have to select a topic from those boxes, and because the topic is sexual, I often have to choose erotica, even though it is not. The people who are looking to read erotica are looking to escape. They are not looking to be reminded that for many women, sexual desire is shaped by trauma and shame. Yet, because there is a some erotica in it, I'm often steered away from posting it under self help, where I feel it would more truly fit.

I know there is a market for Glitter. I know women want to read it. I know there are women who NEED to read it. These stories are not polished and sensationalized. They are not escapism. They are relatable and eye opening. They were compiled to show women that they are not alone in their desires. But how to reach those women?

I spent twenty years in the sex industry, and I know there is someone for everything, even those things that make you scratch your head and wonder. It is hard not to get frustrated with marketing any book, let alone a book that falls outside of those drop down boxes. Yet every time I do, I have a wonderfully supportive circle of friends who remind me that Glitter was brought together to help women feel less alone in their desires. They remind me that I am bucking the status quo, and that is never easy, and that real change takes time. I pick myself up, dust myself off, and once again say, 'No. Actually, it's not erotica. Glitter is real stories of sexual desire from real women. Some of them are erotic, but many are not. They are the real stories that define us as women."

Bye, bye KDP Select it's been fun but . . .

there's someone else. 

And no, you don't know him. It's not Smashwords. I know, he and I have had our little flings in the past but he was too OCD, you know the type, not validated this, copyright page that, no indents, lots of indents... I couldn't keep up.

My author introduced me to D2D and he isn't the poor man's little robot brother from Star Wars, before you ask. He's laid-back and easy to approach. Our eyes met and that, as they say, was that. 

He was also quick. You took forever! There is only so much foreplay a girl can take before her mind starts to wander.

What do you mean, I'm shallow?

You wouldn't let me see my friends or even my family! I had to be exclusive to you and it was hard when I saw other books proudly showing off their other formats. You do realise that 'different format' is what shoes are to most female humans. One can never have too many.

We'll still be friends, KDP Select, and I'm not leaving you completely because I adore your big brother. But before we part company, I'd like to leave you with a present. Me.

I'm free for the last time.

Foreplay allowed.

The Fall of the Misanthrope: I bitch, therefore I am 
is the modern equivalent of Cinderella. 

Valerie Anthrope is 'Cinderella' but her emotions are playing the ugly sisters. A well-meaning friend is the fairy godmother, and a sexy "bed 'em and leave 'em" playboy is Prince Charming. The glass slipper is a kitten and the pumpkin is Tim the boring accountant.

Can the playboy change his ways to save Valerie from herself? Will the fairy godmother's matchmaking end in tears or become a happy ever after?
And will Tim ever stop being boring?
I doubt it.

A dark chick lit for ladies who like heart-warming tales with lots of giggles.
9th/10th July
(check that Amazon has made it free before purchase)

Aw, sorry you missed the freebie. But I'm still cheap. Only a couple of dollars (or pounds). Hey, that's cheaper than the energy pills my character likes to pop and the hourly rate she'd like to pay her staff if she could get away with it. Well, it is I bitch, therefore I am!

Friday, 5 July 2013

Joy Givens is my NFA!

Or New Favourite Author, for those not in the know. Let me explain...

On my review blog I rates books from a no rating up to NFA, and those I reward with a 4*, 5* or a NFA rating I want to share here. I've enjoyed them and I want you to, as well, and how better than a book spotlight on WWBB? Ugly Stick was rewarded with a NFA rating because I found the writing smooth, engaging, the premise original and I couldn't put the book down. It's that simple. Check out the review on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Reviews. 

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to Joy Givens the author of the excellent YA fiction novel in question ... 

Ugly Stick

Fifteen-year-old April Somerfield is a shy, self-loathing misfit who would blend in with the wallpaper, if only the wallpaper were a little less attractive. In a family line of gorgeous, successful women, April’s a fluke. At Prescott High School, she’s a walking punch line.

A school project sends April on the hunt for her mother’s mysteriously missing yearbooks, and upon finding them she uncovers a big secret. It turns out that being “hit with an ugly stick” is a surprisingly literal occurrence in April’s family tree—a curse has been passed down from mother to daughter for centuries. But when April sees a chance to finally ditch the family curse, she must decide if becoming beautiful on the outside is worth giving up the person she is meant to be.

Joy Givens
Joy Givens is the author of Ugly Stick and a co-founder of Tributaries Press, a publishing company dedicated to "books that edify, educate, and encourage young readers."  

Joy’s childhood nickname was “Belle,” due to her penchant for walking around “with a dreamy far-off look, and her nose stuck in a book.”  

Joy’s favorite authors include Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, L.M. Montgomery, Mark Dunn, Markus Zusak, and J.K. Rowling (and, of course, her delightful publishing partner Samantha Bennett), and her preferred genre of writing is middle grade and YA fantasy, leaning towards the fantastical and the fabulous.

Joy and a young reader, Joshua.
Born and raised with four siblings in Columbus, Ohio (GO BUCKEYES!), Joy now resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her fantastic husband David, their remarkable son Joshua, and their impossibly lovable dog Riley. 

Joy tutors high school students and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in higher education. She is also a grammar ninja, Dickens fan-girl, a cappella enthusiast, and veritable Starbucks addict. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

What's Pinterest all about?

In short it's a scrapbook for your favourite things. My favourite things are BOOKS!

Just share your purchase link and genre in the comment section and I’ll do the rest!

If you have a WEBSITE that offers promotion for independent authors also let me know so I can add it to the board.