BDSM for Beginners

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by Tara Stevens, Carina Press acquisitions team

Contrary to popular belief, BDSM does not stand for Big Dumb Stupid Men. :) Up until recently, I was pretty much a BDSM virgin. I mean, I knew what it stood for (unlike some of my more innocent colleagues here at Sexy Central), but I’d never actually sat down and read a full-blown BDSM book in all its blindfolded, leather-bound glory.

It all started with a Carina Press submission I was assigned to read and a Spice Brief ebook that needed retitling. All in a day’s work, eh? Suddenly BDSM went from being some vague erotic niche I idly wondered about to something I had to get up to speed with – fast.

Although it sounds a bit dangerous and intimidating to sheltered vanilla types, I’ve discovered that BDSM books can actually be both fun and emotionally substantial, as well as super-sexy. It’s not all just whips and chains and paddles (although they can certainly play a prominent part in a character’s sexual expression).

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I would feel immersing myself in a world filled with bondage, domination and submission, but I happily discovered that similar to male/male books, I could understand the appeal and popularity of the niche once I gave it a try. The Carina submission was certainly an eye-opening introduction to BDSM erotic romance, but at the end of the day, it was just one element in a story that engaged me on several different levels.

I think the fantasy role-play and power exchange elements found in BDSM books may be key to their success, since they allow readers to live out their secret desires in a safe space without getting judged as “weird” or into so-called “deviant” things. For me, it also helped knowing I was reading a story about a couple who only performed sexual acts that were completely consensual and that they had a “safe word” they could say if they felt things were getting too out of control. I also enjoyed the twist that it was the heroine who was mostly the “dom” or “top” in the relationship instead of the hero, although they did enjoy taking turns and being “switches” as the book progressed.

Of course, there are different degrees when it comes to BDSM books, and some are definitely darker and more hardcore than others. I think in those cases, it’s really important to let readers know exactly what they’re getting by giving them niche-appropriate titles and covers. Setting the right tone in the cover copy is also essential, and this is no time to be subtle or shy. Including key words like claim, surrender, obey, possess, dominate, control and command will give readers a strong idea of what the book is going to be about.

Now that I’ve experienced my first BDSM book, I’m curious to read more. I’ve already pegged some of our Carina titles like Consent to the Cowboy and Intimate Exposure, but I’m interested in any other recommendations you may have for someone still relatively new to the niche. What are your favourite BDSM books? What do you like about them?

Curious? Explore Harlequin’s  “Curious Reader’s Guide to Erotic Romance”

Sci-fi is for women, too

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J. L. Hilton, circa 1978

I remember when the first episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” aired, and Patrick Stewart declared that the crew of the Enterprise would “boldly go where no ONE has gone before.” In the original Star Trek, they were only going where no MAN has gone before.

As a girl who grew up with Star Wars and Battlestar Gallactica toys instead of Barbies, that difference meant the universe to me. But guys didn’t get it. They would say, “When Captain Kirk said ‘man’ he meant the whole human race, OK?” OK. But with ST:TNG, I finally felt included in the ranks of sci-fi geekery.

Science fiction continues to be viewed by many as a man’s genre. Women, in their Federation-issue miniskirts and skinny cylon hotness, are just there as fanboy eye-candy. Did Han Solo ever end up in sexy slave garb? No, he did not.

It was important to me, when I wrote STELLARNET REBEL, that I created SF for everyone.

There’s technology, video games, lasers, aliens, fights and explosions. But the main character, Genevieve O’Riordan, is a woman. Not a man’s idea of a woman, like Robert Heinlein’s “Friday,” who felt just fine after being brutally raped and tortured. But an individual with realistic feelings, reactions and faults.

And Genny’s fellow heroes are not “typical” men—since they’re not men at all, they’re aliens. Duin and Belloc are Glin, a race in which the sexes are the same size and gender characteristics only appear after puberty. This not only shapes the dynamics of their culture, but affects how they relate to Genny throughout the novel.

My heroine is not just eye candy. Her genetic modifications might make her attractive by human standards. But that doesn’t mean much to aliens derisively called “frogs” because of their skin colors, large eyes and webbed fingers. It’s her personality, intelligence and loyalty that make her desirable. She’s no damsel in distress but saves her own butt and the butts of others—usually by some combination of wit, resourcefulness and courage, not just brute strength and a gun.

Who is your favorite SF heroine and why? Is SF still dominated by men, or is this changing? I’d love to hear your thoughts. One lucky commenter will receive promo items including your very own labradorite nagyx pendant on recycled sari silk cord—designed to look just like the “soul stone” necklace that plays an important role in STELLARNET REBEL—and a $10 gift certificate to ThinkGeek. Recipient will be announced in the comments on January 11.

***

Welcome to Asteria, a corporate-owned, deep-space colony populated with refugees, criminals and obsessive online gamers. Genny O’Riordan has shifted in from Earth determined to find a story that will break her blog into the Stellarnet Top 100, and even better—expose the degradation of the colony’s denizens.

Duin is an alien—a Glin—a hero of a past revolution against the Glin royal family, yet branded a terrorist. Duin speaks every day in the Asteria market, hoping to spur humans to aid his home world, which has been overtaken by the evil, buglike Tikati.

When Genny and Duin meet, what begins with a blog post becomes a dangerous web of passion and politics as they struggle to survive not only a war but the darker side of humanity…

Read an excerpt of STELLARNET REBEL or buy it now.

Follow Genny and Duin on Twitter. Belloc will join them at the appropriate point in their timeline.

Follow the author at JLHilton.com or Facebook, Twitter, deviantART, Goodreads and Google+.

Where is your Atlantis?

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David BridgerWhen you’re living through a tough time, do you go somewhere lovely in your mind?

I do. I experienced two periods of unhappiness in the navy. One was on my first ship, when the captain allowed his first lieutenant free rein to make everyone’s life hell, and I was too young and inexperienced to do anything but endure my two years on there. The other was later in my career, when I worked for three years in a small team doing dangerous work in bad conditions, only saw my wife and our little ones for a few weeks each year, and had no communications with them while I was away.

Five bad years out of twenty isn’t a bad ratio, but they were grim at the time. That’s when I developed the ability to be elsewhere in my mind when I didn’t have to focus hard on the immediate present. I lived in the happy past and the hopeful future, sometimes both at once, and always with my loved ones. It was their presence that made the place lovely.

In my urban fantasy Quarter Square, lovers Joe and Min do the comforting memories thing while living through a dark and dangerous time. Min is immortal. Joe is her reincarnated lover. War in the magical realm is spilling over into our world; everyone the lovers hold dear is in danger; and a crazed immortal werewolf is hunting them to murder Joe again. They’re on the run, and to jog Joe’s memory and help him recover the strengths he had in the past, Min tells him stories of his lives. The oldest story is of their time together in Atlantis, thousands of years ago.

Atlantis is the happy place Min and Joe go to when their world turns hellish.

Do you have an Atlantis? What’s yours like?

Tell us about it and enter the draw for a free copy of Quarter Square. Leave me a comment and I’ll draw a name at 8am GMT tomorrow and post the winner’s name in the comments!

Quarter Square


English carpenter Joe Walker thinks his life is over when he discovers his wife and best friend having an affair. Restoring an abandoned theatre offers little hope for a fresh start…until he follows a group of strangers through a hidden door into a world he never could have imagined.

In the haven known as Quarter Square, Joe encounters a community of supernatural street performers who straddle the mortal world and the magic realm known as the Wild. Here, Joe finds a sense of belonging he’s never known before—and a chance to uncover the truth behind the frightening visions that have haunted him since childhood. He also meets Min, an enchanting singer who quickly captures his heart.

But as Joe settles into Quarter Square, he learns their haven is under attack, while an ancient enemy threatens to tear him and Min apart. Now, Joe must learn to wield his own powers in order to save the life he’s come to love…



David Bridger settled with his family and their two monstrous hounds in England’s West Country after twenty years of ocean-based fun, during which he worked as a lifeguard, a sailor, an intelligence gatherer and an investigator. He writes urban fantasy and paranormal novels, and you can find him on his blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Nobody’s Hero

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Genes shape who we are when we’re created. The argument of NATURE vs. NURTURE rears its head every time a baby is born. He has his mother’s eyes, his father’s nose, his grandfather’s hands. As a child grows, Nature comes into play even more. He’s allergic to peanuts just like his uncle, is left-handed like great-grandma, etc. If Daddy is an artist, we watch for those seeds of creativity to bloom in that child. Music lives in his blood and we’re not surprised when the child of a musician takes up an instrument at an early age.

Then Nurture comes into play… and beats the living hell out of the kid.

John Murphy was never meant to be a hero. He has a poet’s soul, sees imaginary friends and has whole worlds in his head. But the abuse he suffered growing up forced him to become what nature never intended. Hands that were designed to create clenched into angry fists. An open heart that believed in magic was broken until it hardened and shut people out. Eyes that saw wonder in every cloud and possibility in every sunbeam pinched tight in hatred.

To defend himself and his sister, he honed his body into a weapon, a shield. Life kicked him in the teeth over and over again. Every time, he’d emerge standing. Bloody maybe, but on his feet. He became used to pain. He became a loner. He became a survivor. He wasn’t anyone’s hero.

But those voices, those whispers of things not seen and stories not told, never left him. They were his only comfort. He’d close his eyes and let his pain-riddled body rest while his mind soared to lands of beauty and color, of goodness and warmth. In his world, monsters were kind, loving and loyal. His dreams became his refuge and he shared those with no one but his sister. Then she grew up, got married and John was alone, just him and his monsters… and the demons of his childhood.

One woman, a bright-eyed angel, saw past the darkness. Livvy saw beyond the hard shell to the tender poet underneath, to the child who dreamed, to the man who wanted to believe in those dreams. Livvy could take care of herself. She didn’t need a hero. She needed John.

SWEET AS SIN isn’t always nice. It isn’t always pretty. It is a gritty, intense look at the most wounded heart being healed with a sweet love.

~~~~~~~~~~SWEET AS SIN excerpt~~~~~~~~~

He tried to pull away, but Livvy hugged him tighter, squeezing her faith into him. “Alan what, Murphy? What did Alan do?”

“He beat the shit out of me daily until I was almost sixteen, among other things.”

Tears dripped down Livvy’s cheeks. She’d known. Somewhere inside, she’d known. There was no other explanation.

“He never touched Gina. That made it okay. As long as she was safe, I could handle anything he wanted to dish out.”

When he hadn’t spoken for a long time, Livvy raised her head. John stared deep into nothing. Something tremored in his body and he tightened his hold on her waist. Ache filled her and she clutched his arms. “What happened?”

He shook his head and blew out an oath. “That’s enough, Livvy. Let it go.”

“I can’t. I hurt for you.”

“Don’t.” The word sounded like a bark. The strength in his grip when he tried to push her away stunned her but she didn’t let go. For one brief second, he looked in her eyes, then shifted away. “You don’t understand. I—it’s ugly, Liv.”

“Whatever it was, you survived it.”

“Did I?” John closed his eyes and pulled her close.

~~~~~~~~~~

She was made for sin. Sin was something he knew intimately.

John Murphy is tormented by nightmares. A bestselling young-adult author, he writes the ultimate fantasy: stories where good always triumphs. He knows better. His past has shown him the worst in people—and in himself. When he moves next door to the sexy, vibrant Livvy—a woman completely unlike his usual one-night stands—he’s driven to explore every curve of her delicious body.

Pastry chef Livvy knows that giving in to the temptation that is John Murphy won’t lead to anything permanent, but she deserves a passionate summer fling. John discovers she’s as sweet as the confections she bakes while Livvy slowly unravels his secrets. But what will happen when she uncovers them all?

Inez Kelley is a multi-published author of various romance genres. You can visit her at her website http://inezkelley.com/ Follow Inez on twitter at @Inez_Kelley or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/inez.kelley

Buy SWEET AS SIN now from Carina Press.

Cover Copy Uncovered

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by Tara Stevens, Harlequin’s Assistant Manager, Digital Commerce & Carina Press Acquisition Team

One of the things that lured me into my current role here at Harlequin/Carina Press (besides the free books) was the chance to be part of the acquisition team and try new things. I love reading the manuscripts our editors put forward and thinking of creative ways to market our stories. Writing cover copy? Well, let’s just say I still feel like a bit of a newbie at it… I know it will have to get done at some point in the hazy, distant future, but until then I go blissfully along…until I get The Reminder email from Jenny Bullough, our Carina Queen of Schedules & Organization. :)

The good news is that the acquisition team is so supportive and helpful providing constructive feedback that it really does feel like a team effort when it’s finally finished.

But I’ve skipped ahead, so let’s go back to the beginning. What is cover copy, exactly? A preview? A piece of promotion? Both, actually. I see it as an invitation of sorts, something that should tempt readers inside the book. How important is it to get it right? Well, along with the cover, it can make a huge difference between a potential reader pressing the buy button or passing it over for something else entirely.

The first thing I think of when I sit down to write cover copy is what makes the story interesting, unique and marketable. The hooks or tasty tidbits that will appeal to other readers and make them want to inhale the book in one sitting. This can be anything from a character’s connection to a historical figure to an unexpected setting to a fun and vivacious style of writing. Word count is also an issue since we have strict rules and must confine our creative masterpieces to 1000 characters or less (grrr…coding). So, not the place for book report-style ramblings then!

I also try to use active language and write in the present tense. Looking at other examples of cover copy I admire can also help because it makes me think about what I like about it. Sometimes I use shout lines or taglines when I really want to stop the reader in her tracks and make her take notice of the book.

Since real estate is so tight, I try to use language that’s strong, engaging and essential. Loquaciousness is good cover copy’s enemy. Sometimes I find myself slipping into a synopsis-style of writing, but that’s not what cover copy is all about .The point isn’t to tell the reader the whole story from start to finish, but to draw her in and let her discover it for herself. Ending on a zinger note is also important because it leaves the reader with no possible choice but to buy the book!

At the end of the day, crafting compelling cover copy is a real skill – one I freely admit to coveting (I’m looking at you Amy Wilkins :)). It can be a lot of pressure to sell the book through your words, and condensing an entire’s story’s worth of characters and complexity into a couple paragraphs is tricky. What makes it worth it is when it clicks, you get it right and you’ve managed to pull the best elements of the book into one kick-ass blurb. But that’s just my take. What do you think makes the most persuasive cover copy?

I AM THE CHEESE!

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The cheese stands alone

The cheese stands alone

Hi-Ho, the derry-o

The cheese stands alone

Every schoolchild in America has sung those words but I can honestly say that I am the cheese. I stand alone. Or rather, SALOME AT SUNRISE does. Last year, I wrote and sold a fantasy romance titled Myla by Moonlight. Readers loved the world I created, the characters that lived there and asked for more. I resisted. I was not a series writer, had no intentions of becoming a series writer.

Ate those words with a fork, yes I did. Apparently Bryton, a secondary in that story, heard these requests and ‘lo and behold started whispering in my ear. “No,” I said. “No way. The story is finished.”

“Oh yeah?” he replied (because he is a smart ass who has to have the last word ALWAYS) “Then why did you leave that big open minefield waiting to explode?”

Say what? I went back to the story and damned if that little turd wasn’t right. Everything I needed for a second story was right there! Ground work, plot beginnings, set up, the whole kit and caboodle. Fine, so I wrote his story, Salome’s story. But I wanted to be very sure that ANYONE who read it didn’t feel cheated or lost if they hadn’t read the first story.

Salome at Sunrise is a completely stand alone book. It doesn’t need to stand on the shoulders of a previous story. The world is completely contained in that one book. I even made sure I closed it out with no hidden landmines, no dangling threads. This was it.

I am not a series writer.

I am the CHEESE!Image and video  hosting by TinyPic

I stand alone!

I mean, Salome at Sunrise does.

And uhm *looks around sheepishly* I may or may not be writing the third book now. But that is it, I swear! A trilogy is not a series. I am NOT a series writer.

*hanging my head* I am sooooooo screwed.

~~~~

Bryton Haruk sets out on a suicide mission to stop the bloodthirsty Skullmen from terrorizing the war-weary Land of Eldwyn. Consumed by guilt over the death of his wife, Bryton seeks revenge and reunion in the afterlife with his lost love. His purpose is determined, his bravery unmatched, until the queen casts a spell to save Bryton from himself.

Salome is that spell. A bird-shifter, she can harness the earth’s breeze and take the form of a beautiful, innocent woman. Her challenge is to harness Bryton’s pain and guide him to peace. She entrances and irritates him, tempting Bryton from his mission. Even as he gives in to the passion between them, Bryton insists on mounting a solo attack on the brigands’ compound, and Salome fears her love won’t be enough to save him…

**reminder: Commenting on an author’s blog entry/entries for the day will enter you to win a digital copy of their Carina Press title. One winner daily. Commenting on any of the Countdown entries will enter you into the big giveaway for a Carina Press promo prize pack. One winner at end of Countdown.**

Amethyst Bound

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Amethyst BoundUnder a dragon filled sky…

There is something about dragons, so powerful and majestic.  I’ve been enamored with the fantastic serpents ever since reading my first Anne McCaffrey story. (Yep I have the whole series and reread it every now and then.)  After I started writing paranormal romance I knewmy chance to write about dragons would come. Since all my stories exist in the same “world” there have been glimpses of scales in other works, but Amethyst Bound is the first story with a scaly romantic lead. Let me tell you a little more about it…

Toni Giovanni is a thief although prefers to call it the high-risk recovery business. Her current job feels suspiciously easy until a mysterious artifact draws her into an ancient prophecy and binds her soul to a spirited dragon named Amethyst.

But Toni isn’t quite ready to be taken over by a dragon, even if Amethyst’s appetite for sexy archaeologist Dr. Ben Davis mirrors Toni’s own. And she’s got a big problem on her hands: turns out the prophecy predicts that dragons will end the world and there are many more dragons out there.

Toni’s going to need all the help she can get.

Want to know more? Here’s an excerpt.

He carefully turned the box to one side, then to the other, studying the glyphs. “Let’s see. I think there might be some relevance here but…” He pulled out a pair of glasses and a small brush from his shirt pocket. “These are power symbols…and chaos, destruction, birth, fire.” Davis mumbled more to himself than to me, so I sank down out of sight while the guards made their first pass through the room. They called out hello but didn’t seem surprised when Davis didn’t answer them.

“Not Incan…not Tiahuanaco, either.” His fingers caressed the carvings almost lovingly. Mmm, very nice fingers, long, tanned and strong. How would they feel on my body? Would they be gentle or commanding? They petted the box carefully, almost reverently. Would they touch me like that? As if I were precious to him?

“I think it’s a prophecy of the apocalypse. These symbols empower the wearer to become something…a being that will destroy the world in fire.” He pulled out some fine paper and used his pencil to copy the etchings.

That caught my attention. “Do you mean to tell me that the people who wear these pretty charms will somehow turn evil and destroy the world?” Sounded like a pretty wild myth to me, but Davis spoke as though he believed every word. I pulled at the pendant again and still couldn’t budge it from my chest. And then there was the strange dream about burning the land with dragon fire…

“I mean to say that you put the thing on and are now part of this prophecy. You are going to destroy the world.”

I jumped to my feet. “I will not! I didn’t even know about the stupid prophecy.”

“Let me see…yeah. Right, look where I’m pointing.”

I bent over, squinting at the etched symbols, and instead noticed how his warm breath blew against my cheek. Focus! The markings were in the same glyphs as everything else, and I didn’t have any clue what they meant. “What’s it say?”

“‘Too bad.’ It says ‘too damn bad. You put it on. Now it’s too late.’”

I had to pick up my jaw at his irreverent tone. I didn’t expect him to be respectful of me, but I thought he would at least be serious about the box. “It does not. You are so full of shit.”

“Maybe it doesn’t, but it should.”

I studied his expression. He was serious—seriously pissed. Yeah, okay, I’d stolen one of his toys, but jeez. “I don’t believe in the prophecy, so I can’t be forced to be part of it.”

“So take the pendant off.”

“Don’t be an ass. You know I can’t.” I glared at him. I didn’t need his attitude.

His hand caught my shoulder. The grip was a shade harder than firm. “So what else will you have no choice in? You have no idea what you’re now involved in. I bet you haven’t even noticed that you’re glowing.”

Want to see more or read a longer excerpt? Check out http://www.lshannon.net/AMETHYST.html.  Amethyst Bound will be available June 7, 2010. Join my newletter list for a chance to win a free copy on release day. Join here: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/LShannon/

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Shannon

L. Shannon writes a variety of paranormal fiction, most but not all romantic. You can find more information about her at http://lshannon.net. Or connect with her through social media using; twitter,  facebook,  myspace, linkedin and goodreads.

The Bloodgate Guardian by Joely Sue Burkhart

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How would you like to see a combination of cover art and cover copy to end the work week? This is pre-copy editor cover copy, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek!

Photobucket The Bloodgate Guardian
By Joely Sue Burkhart
Fantasy w/strong romantic elements

Worlds within worlds await through the Maya Bloodgate….

Dr. Jaid Merritt doesn’t do digs. The last time she ventured into the jungle, someone died. Now she’s content to decipher Maya glyphs from pictures sent to her by her famous archaeologist father. But when he goes missing while trying to perform a ritual based on her translations of an ancient codex, Jaid must put aside her fears and travel to Guatemala to find him.

After misusing the Bloodgates to bring his twin brother back from the afterlife, the Maya priest known as Ruin was cursed by the gods to stand as the guardian for all time. He was unable to stop Dr. Charles Merritt from opening the gates, and now demons roam this world. The last thing he wants to do is hurt the beautiful woman who is somehow infused with his magic, but if she uses the codex to retrieve her father, Ruin must do his duty. And this time, he won’t fail. Even if it kills him. Again.