Friday, August 27, 2010

Dishing it up with Sharazade . . .

Sharazade, thank you for hanging with me here on my blog today.

I understand you write erotic shorts. Can you tell us a little about your stories and why reader’s should add them to their “must have” collection?

Shar: My first collection, as well as a second one in press, are short stories that all involve some aspect of traveling. In some cases, it’s an exotic setting; in others, it’s a location associated with travel, like an airport or a hotel; and then in others, it’s a mode of conveyance, like a plane or a train. One thing I like about short stories is the chance to focus on one small thing—one idea, one feeling, one problematic interaction. You don’t have to worry about subplots running away with you. Despite the travel wash, the stories are all about people and how they relate to each other, and how they learn to do that better.

JET: What enticed you to write erotic romance?

Shar: There’s a wonderful quote on writing from Molière, which compares writing to prostitution, and goes something like this: “First you do it because you love it, then you do it for just a few friends, and finally you do it for money.” My first stories I wrote when I was cooped up in a hotel. For security reasons, we weren’t allowed to leave in the evenings, and then the Internet went down, and I’d read all my own books… but I had my laptop. There’s also a slightly rebellious feeling that comes from writing erotica in a place where sexuality is repressed, even if (or especially if?) no one knows that you’re doing it. I sent a few of the stories to friends, who were very encouraging, and finally I sent one to a publisher, who expressed interest in a collection of similar stories.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Shar: I write non-fiction for a living, and that has to come first—because, of course, it’s providing me with that living. Story writing, even though it is certainly legitimate work, still feels like a bit of a luxury to me. I can’t get to it till my other tasks are at least mostly managed!

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Shar: Maybe it’s because I also work as an editor, but I love the moment when the manuscript comes back from the copy editor and it’s time for a final check. It’s been long enough since I’ve seen it that I can give it a fresh look, but there is still time to make changes if I spot anything awful. I have a very communicative editor, and she was willing to go back and forth with me quite a bit over email making sure that my word choice was really working, that that word was actually hyphenated, that I could still change the order of the stories, etc. She’s very patient!

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Shar: I read everything I could get my hands on. I’m glad I did, too, because I learned to love the “popular” books as well as “literature.” Sometimes one wants to shovel popcorn in at the movie theater (Nancy Drew), sometimes one wants to savor a meal (The Lord of the Rings). I read horse stories (all of them), adventure stories, mysteries, science fiction, humor, a little fantasy, histories, biographies… just about everything except romance, come to think of it. So perhaps this is now my rebellious stage!

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Shar: I slid, rather than plunged. My non-fiction writing grew out of my career in the same field, and then I suppose fiction must have come from non-fiction. I’ve always liked writing, though, even in school.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Shar: Nothing crazy, I don’t think, but I did recently treat myself to a hamam (Turkish bath). I was so sure it would be worth writing about. And it was! I don’t write, for example, historical novels that take detailed research. But since I do write erotica… well, my stories involve men and women, and I am only one of those genders. So to write realistically about the other, occasionally I need to ask for a male reader’s help or advice. It came as a total surprise to me that some men like to be bitten (and I don’t mean on the neck). I had always thought we had to be very gentle with that area! Mind, I don’t think all men want that. But before, I didn’t know any did.

JET: What advice would you give to the novices out there?

Shar: I’ll pass on some of the best writing advice given to me, in a class I took once on writing magazine articles. The instructor asked us, probably the first day, what we thought was the single most important quality to be a successful writer. We all gave some version of “Be good at writing.” No, she said, there are plenty of average writers who make a decent living out of it. The most important thing is to be persistent. Keep doing it. As one hand is mailing off the submission, the other should be working on the next piece. Of course, no one aims to be an average (or a poor) writer. But the very act of doing it makes you better, so both the chances of success and the issue of quality is addressed there.

JET: I see you travel a great deal, tell us a little about your favorite places to visit?

Shar: I like places that are unusual, or at least very different from where I live. I prefer developing countries to developed ones for that reason. I can’t entirely put my finger on why, but I like it when things are just a bit inconvenient. On the whole, I’d rather travel in the back of a pick-up truck than in an air-conditioned bus. A quirky pension beats a five-star international hotel. I love Asia and the Middle East, and would love to see more of Africa.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

Shar: Reusable cloth sack.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Shar: Tofu!

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Shar: Mountains, although I love water too.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Shar: Classical.

JET: Leather or Lace?

Shar: Lace.

JET: Paper or Digital?

Shar: Paper.

JET: Zombies or Demons?

Shar: Eh…. neither. Can I have a pony?

JET: Silent Film Classics or Cheesy B Rated Horror?

Shar: Silent film classes. Though if we could go forward into the 40’s and 50’s…

JET: Salty or Sweet?

Shar: Salty.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Shar: Coffee!

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Shar: I have another book of travel stories that I’m finishing; this one will have a wider variety of settings (international ones, I mean). The trick is to still have a strong plot that justifies the setting. I mean, there has to be some reason that the story happens in this particular place, other than that I happen to remember it. I’m working on another collection that I suppose could be summed up as “power play.” But still very much in the romance arena.

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Sharazade and her work at the following places:

blog on writing and erotica: (paperback and Kindle):

Smashwords (ebook):

Scribd (one story to download free):

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dishing it up with Mia Natasha

Hi folks, today I have the pleasure of having erotic romance author Mia Natasha on my blog. Her first book, Cinderella Club came out at the beginning of August.

JET: Your first book - Cinderella Club just came out at the beginning of August. Can you tell us a little about the book and why readers should add this to their “must have” collection?

Mia: Cinderella Club is a fairy-tale love story. With non-consent elements. My book has graphic sexual content but also plot, mystery, humor and strong characters.

I know what I like in an erotic story and I’m hoping readers will feel the same way. I’m not a BDSM person, but I find bondage very sexy, you know, without a lot of the spank, spank or whip, whip. As a fiercely independent woman, I long for the type of man who can handle me – who can dominate me in bed, and still love my feisty spirit. If that is you, too…then you’ll like Cinderella Club.

I think a lot of women fantasize about being kidnapped and held as a sex-slave. It’s a potent fantasy, especially with strong, independent women who long for a reduction of responsibilities.

In addition, there’s a twist on the Cinderella fairy-tale in Cinderella Club. I know so many women who reference Cinderella in daily conversation. They want to look like a princess on their wedding day, or they feel like they do so much for so little compliment, and they wish someone would appear and sweep them off of their feet, someone all other women find attractive. A charming prince. Miller Smytheson gets swept off her feet. The book opens with her bound and hanging from a chandelier.

JET: What enticed you to write erotic romance?

Mia: I’m a visual artist, a painter. My work has a child-like quality to it, and because of that, I guess I’m seen as a role model for children. But, you know, I’m not a nun. A journalist reviewing my art show asked me if I’d ever consider creating work that explored sexual themes and I said no. Why would I do that? A month later I was out shopping and I looked at a small spiral notebook on the shelf - and boom. I had this weird sense that I would write a story. I know; it was one of those out-of-the blue type things, like the universe works in mysterious ways mumbo-jumbo.

I wrote stories in notebooks when I was a tween. Privately. My stories then had characters kissing, nothing more than PG, of course. No one encouraged me because of it. I can’t really explain how I found my way back to it. I just did. I started writing. The whole plot of Cinderella Club hit me completely.

It’s like a waking dream. Like I was meant to be a writer all along - even though I never pursued it academically, even though I didn’t know it.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

Mia: I haven’t had one. Is that bad? I worked on Cinderella Club for two years. I had a draft and sent it off to e-publishers. The rejection letters were incredibly positive. I was told they liked my dialogue and I had a good story but…. And the ‘buts’ were very helpful. Show don’t tell, flush out the characters or whatever. One told me to find a critique partner.

I saw it as a one-door-closing-while-another-opened scenario. I began corresponding with another writer. I’d read his stuff on I was just a fan and did not expect more than that. His encouragement, I don’t know, it’s just been so amazing.

At Christmas, I sent the revised manuscript to Selena Kitt at eXcessica, and within days she said she’d publish it! Then came the edits. When my editor said, “You have something good here”…wow, I just got misty eyed remembering that.

So, no set-backs.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

Mia: Holding the actual book in my hand, certainly, is my favorite moment. I wrote a book. It’s the size of a real book, 439 pages, and the cover makes it look like it could be another chick-lit read in one’s bookshelf – very unassuming. I love it. I love touching it and opening it up to a random page and reading my words.

It’s a resurrected dream, an item on my life’s bucket list fulfilled.

There have been many positive moments on this ‘journey’. I won the Valentine’s Day contest at with a ghost story called Ghost of a Chance (as mia_erotica). Having other writers, real writers who do this for a living, compliment me and tell me I’m a great writer. Great? What? I can’t believe it. How can that be, you know? It’s just…really nice.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

Mia: I don’t know. If I was influenced by writers - well, it didn’t happen consciously. I was an avid reader growing up. If I liked an author I’d want to read everything they’d written. They were mostly books that allowed me to embody the characters. I didn’t worship writers. Artists, fashion designers - yes and yes.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

Mia: The minute I started writing Cinderella Club I knew it would be a published book. Because nothing else made sense. It felt right. I have a very strong work ethic and my belief in myself made this possible. I didn’t give up. I kept going back and reworking it, molding it as I would a painting or sculpture or dress design.

It might not amount to much. I don’t know what to except in sales. I don’t really know whether this plot-filled fantasy will appeal to anyone else. But based on the feedback and emails I’ve gotten for my short stories, I have to say that writing seems a lot more exciting to me than painting right now. I’ve corresponded with people all over the world. My book will be available all over the world - even India and the United Arab Emirates. It’s pretty incredible to think that people will have access to something I sat quietly alone in my room writing.

I’m writing a sequel, which means I want to stay ‘plunged’.

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

Mia: I hope you’re not suggesting that I reveal anything of a sexual nature here. Because if I have tried anything kinky to see if it was feasible, I’d keep that private.

I use Google a lot. For example, I look up artists to confirm that my art history knowledge is accurate. I looked up the spelling of Moët & Chandon. Google is so convenient.

I also keep a fat old dictionary on my lap. When I first started writing I thought my vocabulary was probably not good enough, you know? Even though most people tell me I use a lot of ‘big words” when I speak. I spent a couple days, actually, looking through the dictionary and writing down words and their meanings to help improve my vocab. Is that crazy? I’m embarrassed to admit it.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

Mia: I’m probably going to sound like a wishy-washy goof-aroni here, but speaking as a true Gemini, my answer to a lot of these is both. Or neither. This is like a mind-field because I might hurt someone’s feelings, or worse, not pass the personality test. Yikes!

Okay, so I use both paper and plastic.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

Mia: Chicken. Steak’s great on occasion. I’ve only had tofu like four times.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

Mia: Neither and both. I don’t go to either as I am a high-maintenance stiletto-wearing city girl. I’m very active and wouldn’t mind a jog along the beach or a mountain hike once in a while.

JET: Country or Rock-n-Roll?

Mia: Rock, definitely. I prefer alternative. I’m stuck in the early 90s musically. But classic rock from the late 60s & 70s – I like everything about the era, the hair, fashion…I’d time travel to hook up w/ young Mick Jagger in a NY minute.

JET: Classics or Modern?

Mia: Are you referring to literature here? Because in fashion, I love classics. In art, I love modern. Books? Pride and Predjudice. It might be set in the past, but it’s timeless.

JET: Vamps or Wolves?

Mia: As a cat lover of a cat who loves to bite, I’ll say vampires.

JET: Zombies or Demons?

Mia: Neither. I don’t get the attraction. Bring on the hate mail.

JET: Horror or Comedy?

Mia: Comedy.

My life is a comedy. I’m very lucky, but at the same time I just happen to see humor in everything. Sometimes I laugh at things that people think are inappropriate. For example - nope, I better not give you an example.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

Mia: Both. My favorite thing right now is honey on Saltines.

JET: Coffee or Tea?

Mia: Both. Coffee from the Keurig is very satisfying in the morning. Tea, Earl Gray, like Captain Jean-Luc Pickard. But only when I have a sore throat.

JET: Thank you for indulging me. Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

Mia: I’m 56,000 words into my sequel to Cinderella Club. It’s called Cinderella Thyme. It’s set in 1996 and the present. I just reworked chapter 5 and that took me an entire week!

JET: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog. Folks, you can find out more about Mia Natasha and her work at the following places:

Thanks for stopping by and checking out what Mia's all about.
Next week I’ll be talking about how much a pain it is to lose your hard drive and the importance of backing up your PC.

See you then,



Friday, August 13, 2010

Dishing it up with horror writer John Everson. . .

Hi folks, welcome to the Friday the Thirteenth edition of my blog. Today I have the pleasure of talking with horror writer John Everson about his books, his journey and a little trivia in the form of the quick ten. Enjoy the ride . . .

JET: Your new book - Siren just came out at the end of July. Can you tell us a little about the book and why readers should add this to their must have collection?

John: Siren is the story of Evan, a guy who lives on the California coast who’s really at the end of his rope – he is an aquaphobe who literally can’t go near the water – and a year before he watched his son drown in the ocean because that fear paralyzed him. He walks the beach every night wrestling with his grief when he hears the beautiful sound of music from the rocks ahead… and then sees a gorgeous naked woman dive into the water. He’s entranced by her and returns to the spot again and again until he finds her once more, and so begins a deadly affair; because when Evan realizes that he wants to break things off with his new lust…well… a woman scorned is one thing. A Siren scorned is mythologically bad.

JET: Was writing horror a conscious choice or was it just a natural affinity? Why do you think that is?

John: I grew up a voracious reader, and was always really skilled with words. My love of reading definitely set my course for life, I think. I loved the way my favorite writers could tell a story and absolutely suck you into it so deep that your own world disappeared. And I wanted to be able to do that to other people! In school, I could “essay test” my way out of anything. I knew that somehow my future career had to be in writing and I worked as soon as I could on my high school, college and community newspapers. I earned a journalism degree in college from the University of Illinois and did a lot of basic reporting for newspapers and magazines as well as feature interviews with stars like Jay Leno and Gwen Stefani. It was clear early on that enjoyed doing those “fun” pieces a lot more than the news stuff. I just wasn’t cut out to be an investigative reporter – I was more interested in creative writing. I started placing short fiction in various small magazines in my 20s, and ten years later, my first novel, Covenant, was released from Delirium Books. Four years after that, it was picked up and released in mass market paperback by Leisure Books, along with the sequel, Sacrifice. Along the way, I also had three short fiction collections published – Cage of Bones & Other Deadly Obsessions, Vigilantes of Love and Needles & Sins.

JET: Have you ever seen a dead body? How has that influenced your writing?

John: I have only seen dead bodies at wakes… but I have seen several, and still remember the first – my great-great uncle, back when I was about five years old. I think the first sight of a dead person remains with you all your life, because it’s such a horrible reality. That’s the first concrete evidence that you have to face that saying “someday, you too will be lying out cold on a slab, never to move, never again to eat a juicy cheeseburger, never to feel the sun warming your face again.” I don’t know that seeing dead people at wakes has had a direct influence on my writing, but it certainly informs that “morbid” side from which all horror springs.

JET: What’s been your most challenging hurdle on the road to publication?

John: Finding an editor who liked my work? Seriously, that’s what it’s all about… if you can find an editor or two that really like your style, then you can publish, and hopefully build a reputation with readers. But first you have to convince someone to publish you and give you the backing and the shot. And then you have to repeat that again to move to the next level… and the next. I was lucky to have Delirium Books and Necro Publications both champion my work in the small press, and that translated ultimately to a 5-book deal with Leisure Books for mass market distribution.

JET: What was your favorite moment in the journey?

John: There are two key moments. When Covenant won the Bram Stoker Award, I was there to receive it, though I honestly didn’t think I’d win when I made the trip to Los Angeles. I was going just to “make connections.” And I did get to meet my idol Richard Matheson that trip. I also got to chat again with Clive Barker, who I’d interviewed for my newspaper many years before. David Morrell and Chuck Palahniuk were also there. It was a surreal weekend.

The second moment was when Covenant was released by Leisure Books in paperback, and I walked into bookstore after bookstore around the country and found it in the front of stores, its little lighthouse beaming out of countless promotional racks. That was cool, to be able to walk into a store almost anywhere, point to a rack of books and say “yeah, that’s mine, I’m John.” The way book distribution and the economy have both spiraled into the toilet over the past two years… I may never get the chance to do that again, actually! But it was cool while the moment lasted.

JET: Which authors had the most influence over you growing up?

John: Richard Matheson was a huge influence on me. Which is why meeting him the weekend I won a Stoker award was such an amazing thing. I grew up reading a ton of science fiction, and he wrote a lot of crossover science fiction / dark twist horror stories. He wrote a lot for “The Twilight Zone” TV show; the creepy weird plots with good twist endings which were the trademark of that show really influenced me in my writing. I remember reading his story “Born of Man and Woman” in an anthology over and over again when I was a kid. It was sort of a sci-fi / alien / monster story, really brief, but really powerful. One of the first fiction stories I ever finished writing was a completely transparent homage to that tale.

JET: When did you know you wanted to take the plunge into the writing world?

John: Well… when I was in 3rd grade I was writing fan-fiction based on Isaac Asimov’s galactic empire series so… I guess I have always known, really!

JET: What’s the craziest thing you’ve done in the name of book research? Most interesting fact you uncovered?

John: When I was in Seattle a few years ago, I decided to go to a strip club and interview some of the dancers because I was thinking of writing a novel about a man who lost his wife to the lure of a weird dark sex club. I wanted to make sure I understood how strippers were paid – what the business model was for their craft behind the scenes and how they thought of their customers. So… there I was, with the strobe lights all over, a beer in hand, and this half nude girl sitting next to me, and instead of trying to slip her a $20 bill for a lapdance, I’m having a serious conversation and asking her “so now, you’re telling me that if you’re 15 minutes late to work, they dock you $100???” There was no sexual overtone at all to our talk about working in the sex trade!

JET: Of all the novels and stories you’ve written - which one is your favorite? Why?

John: I can’t list just one, because I like many of them for different reasons. Nothing stands hands-down above the others. In my short fiction, I love “Pumpkin Head” because I think it’s the best erotic horror piece I’ve done, and it’s been a fan favorite for years. But I think “Bloodroses” may be one of my most starkly powerful pieces. And I really feel strongly about “Letting Go,” because it’s a really personal story for me, and it was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award a couple years ago. As far as the novels, I like Covenant because it was my first novel, and in so many ways, made everything else in the past six years possible. At the same time, I don’t necessarily think it’s necessarily my best work. I like Sacrifice because in some ways, it takes what I learned with Covenant and does it so much better… and it has two of my favorite characters that I’ve written as antagonists – the sexy serial killer Ariana and the teenage “witch” Alex. I love my 3rd novel The 13th because it’s just ridiculously over-the-top… a complete homage to grindhouse and ‘70s Euro-horror, with the whole “rituals in the basement” thing taken to the extreme. And then there’s Siren, the latest… which to me in some ways is the most personal of my first four books, because part of the backstory deals with the fears that every parent has for their children. So I love the books all for very different reasons.

JET: Any advice for the novices out there?

John: Write. Write some more – you’ll improve your craft the more you do. But most of all, write for yourself. Publishers come and go. Fans come and go. If you tell the stories that YOU want to hear… in the end, all of the change around you becomes irrelevant. If you entertain yourself, it doesn’t really matter how broad or restrictive your audience becomes. You’ll have pleased the one audience member that really matters in the end. If you tell a story that you really in your heart are born to tell, and you tell it to the best of your ability… that’s the best reward there is, whether you have 1 reader, or 1 million.

JET: All right - now that I’ve hammered you with the big questions, let’s tackle my favorite (and geeky) quick ten. . . starting with Paper or Plastic?

John: Paper. It burns faster.

JET: Steak or Tofu?

John: Steak. It’s really good as long as you don’t burn it.

JET: Beach or Mountains?

John: Beach. It’s a great place to get burned. (do you sense a theme here?)

JET: LOL - yes I sensed a theme back on Steak and Tofu . . . Country or Rock-n-Roll?

John: Rock ‘n’ Roll. With a blisteringly hot guitar solo.

JET: Classics or Modern?

John: Modern. Antiques are for old people. And they burn up really quick.

JET: Vamps or Wolves?

John: Vamps. I’m allergic to dogs. And Vamps burn better.

JET: Zombies or Demons?

John: Demons. Please see my novels Covenant, Sacrifice, The 13th……… Plus… demons are always around fire, so they have the best barbeques.

JET: Horror or Comedy?

John: Horror. I like my adrenaline at fever pitch.

JET: Salty or Sweet?

John: Salty. Like the ocean. Where the sun is. Where you can burn………

JET: Coffee or Tea?

John: Coffee…. But I do switch to Peppermint Tea in the afternoons…

JET: Thank you for indulging me, that fire theme was quite fun! Before we wrap this up, can you tell us what you're working on now? What's next?

John: I just turned in my fifth novel to Leisure Books, The Pumpkin Man, a couple weeks ago. As for what’s next… well… I have to figure that out now! I have a novelette due to my translation publisher in Poland in a few weeks which I haven’t started on, and a handful of novel ideas that I need to dig in, look at, and decide on what to pitch for my next U.S. project. Whatever it is, I’m betting there will be skulls and creep factor.

JET: I can’t wait! John, thank you so much for taking the time to chat on my blog.

Folks, you can find out more about John Everson and his work at the following places:

Next week - swing by for my next installment of dishing it up with guest Mia Natasha talking about her debut novel Cinderella Club.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Blink and it's gone . . .

Can you believe it’s already August? Where’d the summer go? Before you know it we’ll be getting the kids ready for school and scrambling to PTA meetings and planning Halloween parties and preparing for Christmas.

Before I get to deep in my little summer rave, I’d like to give a shout out to Kristina Riggle - one of my Backspace brethren who has a release this month - THE LIFE YOU'VE IMAGINED - pick it up at a store near you! Other than that, it looks like August is a quiet month, either that or my Backspace crew is slipping on their notifications - you never know. It’s summer after all.

Well, my debut and second novel rollouts in July came and went. I blogged like a mad woman and it seems to have drummed up interest - not New York Times interest, but enough to know it wasn’t just family and friends that bought it. So all I can hope for is that word gets out. . . and maybe that Oprah picks one of them up. ;)

In the meantime, I’ve decided to publish my short stories out on Smashwords for a whopping $0.99. They’ll be available through a variety of venues and formats in a couple weeks. I’m plugging through those stories that just sat on my laptop while I polished my novels.

Creating the cover art is a fun side job as well. I’ve been picture mining over at 123RF and found some stellar covers to use that really capture the essence of my stories. It takes a while - but who doesn’t like to look at great photography and art.

Here are the covers I’ve put together for the short stories. I’m just learning how to enhance fonts and such - so they aren’t what I’d call fancy. Which one do YOU like best?

Now, this month I have a couple groovy guests. Next week I have the wonderful John Everson dishing about his novels Siren that came out in July and his book The 13th that came out earlier in the year. I thought it would be fun to have John on Friday the 13th - stop in and give him a warm welcome!

On the 20th, I have erotic romance writer Mia Natasha dishing about her new release Cinderella Club.

And on that note, I’m going to bid you all a great weekend and get back to polishing my craft.