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Archive for October 2011

Picky, Picky, Picky: Where I Write (and How)

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , ,


When it comes to the writing environment, I am fussy. Almost as much as I am with the writing. In order to write, I need:

Lucy's very professional setup
1) To be in my "office"--which since I hate nothing more than being cramped at a desk, looks like this, left--and I need silence. I might break for a bit of inspirational music (and dancing. Ahem) but in order to hear myself think, it needs to be quiet. Road noise/seagulls/weather racket is okay. Told you I was picky.

Can you smell it? Ooh la la.
2) I need a candle burning. Scented. Jo Malone is okay, but frankly, Yankee is best. Doesn't matter what time of day it is; doesn't matter if it's hot or cold. I currently have a black cherry one on the go (thank you, sister dear) and it's gorgeous.

Apparently, these rules only apply for fiction. I can write emails, blog posts and whatever else with Korean bubblegum pop blaring at a thousand decibels (not that I'd ever listen to that crap. Oh no). We're strange creatures, writers, aren't we...?

Cover Art Reveal: BEAUTIFUL MESS

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , ,


Ooh, I have been excited about this. BEAUTIFUL MESS is my upcoming erotic romance novella, due for launch on November 25th. Thanks to my awesome designer friend, Kenny Wright, I can show you the finalised cover art...

Working in a wedding cake shop sucks when you've just been dumped.

Bailey Frost has a recipe for disaster: one cheating ex, one big glass of liquor, and three well-meaning male friends who think her lack of a sex life is funny. Before she knows it, she's confessed that she's never had an orgasm with a man.

Now Bailey has to navigate sappy couples at work, while her friends are hell-bent on helping her get revenge on evil Craig...by dressing up as werewolves, on YouTube.

And one of those friends-- the tall, shy-but-gorgeous Linc--might just want to help Bailey with that other little problem...
BEAUTIFUL MESS (which you can add on Goodreads here) is my first foray into self-publishing. Years of building writing contacts online have most certainly helped me in this endeavor; as well as the lush cover, I've benefited from the talents of editor (and writer) Christa, and the formatting genius of her husband, Julio. Not to mention all the lovely readers who took the time to vote and comment on the novella when it won a contest earlier this year (if you'd like to see what they said, pop up to the BEAUTIFUL MESS tab. Go on, you know you want to). These people have put up with a lot from me, and I am most grateful. Let's see if I can manage to load it on to the vendors correctly, shall we...? [Facepalm in advance]
I hope to see some of you on my planned November/December blog tour, and if anyone would like an ARC, please give me a shout. 

Now, I should probably go write something...

Informed Consent: Writing BDSM, the Abuse Clause, and the Rape "Fantasy"

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , , ,


Here's a subject close to the bone (ahem) for this erotica writer. BDSM is a minefield of a topic, and something my WHORED series deals with on several fronts. I feel like BDSM gets a bad rap, and is considered as some kind of blanket Freudian expression of "darkness." I'd like to tell you that a lot of this is a huge misconception.

But let's clear a few things up before I get going:

BDSM Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission, Sadism and Masochism (compound anachronym). Participants find pleasure in taking or receding control, and/or and giving or receiving pain. It's not all gags and collars; sometimes it's just having a partner getting rather bossy, or submissive. The power dynamic is key.
Informed Consent In this context, one partakes in BDSM in full knowledge of its implications and consequences, usually within a framework of safeguarding rules.
The Abuse Clause The assumption that in order to take pleasure in BDSM, one must be mentally troubled in some fashion--usually due to abuse of the physical or mental variety.
Rape "fantasy" A scenario where a woman is "forced" into sex but soon enjoys it, and suffers no traumatising after-effects, under the pleasing insinuation that our "hero" wants the heroine so much, he can't take "no" for an answer. Intended to be erotic, but often miswritten as a vicious act that mentally scars our heroine for the purpose of pleasure through self-pity and flagellation.

Phew. Where to start?

I know, as a writer, that the easiest (often laziest) way to "explain" a character with a fault is to put abuse in their past (I ranted about that one here). I also know that a lot of BDSM writers feel the need to explain, or justify, their character's kink. (You really don't).

It may well be true that some BDSM participants find it calming, find personal absolution, and find peace through the pain or relinquishing control. They feel the need to be punished, or that they "deserve" to be hurt. Indeed, some of the practises are bound to attract unstable and unpleasant personalities who seek to exploit these factors. But here's the thing: sometimes, you just like it. Chemically. Sure, you might have had some bad experiences in your life--rejection, failure, wobbly self esteem--but let's not give Freud more credit than he deserves. Sex is intense and intimate and often revealing, but just because you're doing something "dark," it doesn't mean you don't see the "light."

BDSM speaks to the bedroom dichotomy so many of us find fascinating: this idea that you're a different person during sex, that this is the "real" you, that sex--and perhaps orgasm--are the only times you're truly fulfilled. In BDSM, for example, it's "acceptable" for a woman (or man) to be submissive; in real life, it's not considered so politically correct. But just because it might make some things more "acceptable" does not mean it makes  everything acceptable. Like rape.

The tenet of the BDSM world is safe, sane and consensual. Now I take issue with this, mainly because I think you can actually refer to few sexual practises as safe and sane on all levels (the adrenaline and fear are part of the fun, ahem), but the fact remains: consent is key. If you're abusing a character's consent, if the trust is dubious, if there is no underlying concern for the participants' personal safety; you're probably not  writing BDSM. You're writing about a questionable situation which may or may not be erotic, for hundreds of reasons. And I've written these scenarios myself, but hopefully, portrayed them for what they are--not exactly safe or sane, but still sexy to the rather fortunately undamaged participants. (We also now have the "dubious consent" subgenre, which is an accurate and valid enough description).

The protagonist of my WHORED series, Leila, wants a reason for her kink. She thinks she needs one, and she associates it with being a "bad" person...but it's not. And it's not going to "fix" her insecurities; it's just a blissful escape, like any other fabulous kind of sex. I wanted to write about a woman who came from, all things considered, a comfortable and kind home, but still ended up with buckets of kink. You know why? Because that's normal. Likewise, the partner-in-crime she finds is a loose cannon, but he's hardly abused and tortured. He's got his own issues, but they're perfectly separate from what his particular blend of hormones wants in the bedroom...because that's normal, too. Together, they learn that the pleasure they find in BDSM has less to do with their blotchy pasts, and everything to do with the cocktail of their personal power dynamics.

So you want to write about troubled characters? Great--but don't expect that to justify their BDSM preferences. You want to write rape fantasy? Fine--but please don't attempt this by disguising real, traumatic rape as dominance and submission. You want to justify your aggressive, psychotic alpha's behaviour as his "kink"? Er, no. That's not how BDSM works. That's not a romance (even if he's a vampire/werewolf/flamingo shifter); that's American Psycho. Hell, your characters can get up to whatever they want in the bedroom, but don't go calling it BDSM as if it somehow makes it okay. Sometimes, it's just not okay, and you're writing a very different story to the one you thought you were.

BDSM might involve cages, but please: it is not a get out of jail free card.

"Get a Grip" Moments

posted by Lucy V Morgan on ,


I think everyone has their "get a grip" moments, but mine have been particularly pretentious and smug of late, and thus may function as entertainment. Prepare for much mocking of class stereotypes/general snobbery.

1) "Oh no! No room in the spa after I've finished swimming! I'm going to ache all evening, grump, grump."

That's right, dear readers. I had to endure going straight from the pool to the shower one day last week with no steam room, sauna or jacuzzi to soothe my you-shouldn't-swim-for-a-whole-hour-then-should-you? aches and pains. It was absolutely murderous, I tell thee. (But I have learned not to bother with the gym in the evenings since it's full of people hotter than me. And faster than me, apparently).

2) "I have no idea what to do with this venison. Casserole? Pie? Stew, stew. Will it work? Wait...that's actually quite nice. Tragedy averted!"

I encountered a serious speciality meat-related problem earlier. I really did panic that it'd end up wasted for a moment or two. Then it occurred to me that if venison is my biggest problem, life probably isn't that bad.

3) "There are people who don't know who Patrick Bateman is? Really? This happens? The world is not aware of American Psycho? I am a tortured and misunderstood artist..." [Adjusts beret]

This occurred when I referenced dear Patrick in a manuscript and my editor wasn't sure who he was. After I'd stroked my chin for a few minutes and possibly furrowed my brow, I realised that that it was possible some people hadn't encountered the works of Brett Easton Ellis, and to be surprised at such might make me worryingly like that postmodernism lecturer I hated with a passion at uni. You'll be pleased to hear that I have now revoked the policy of not talking to people if they haven't read The Intentional Fallacy.

What are your "get a grip" moments?

Guest Post: Collaboration, Exploiting Social Media and Excuses to Use the Word "Smorgasbord"

posted by Lucy V Morgan on , , ,


Colin wished that saucy Sadie would leave the curtains open again...
British writer Mr. Colin Barnes has been shoehorned out of his cave to chat about using social media to collaborate with fellow authors. In an industry where it's as much who you know as what you know, networking--and collaboration--have never been more important. Prepare yourself for a borgasmord (I can never pronounce that) of Twitter-tastic advice...

    "In the dark days before the internet--you know, those times when people hunkered around fires in oil drums, grilling rats just to get by--writers were lonely creatures scribing away in their filthy unkempt hovels, perfecting their pasty Golem-like complexion. Some in the more posh areas of town might be lucky enough to smell one of their brethren and occasionally share a few words of woe over their latest 'great novel.' Some even luckier ones who had access to a library might find a dusty tome that promised how to make you a bestseller. Writing help was like 70s fashion: grim. 

     Nowadays however, there is a plethora of advice for the budding writer, a smorgasbord of social opportunities from forums to online writing groups to social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and that thing from Google full of cat pictures.  (Ceiling Cat is watching--Lucy).
     The writer no longer needs to be that lonely near-suicidal, opium-smoking fiend. He or she can be an outgoing, gregarious individual of sparkling wit and friendship whilst still slobbing about in three-day-old underpants. This new revolution in connecting with like-minded individuals has bought desperate freaks together in a way that the establishment secretly wishes never happened.
     Indie authors are organizing themselves! No good can come of this! But joking aside, it's a great thing. With the advent of ebooks and affordable means to publish and distribute one's stories, writers are no longer at the mercy of the gatekeepers. I don't want to get into the arguments of whether this is a good thing for quality or not, but instead I'm going to focus on how writers can leverage this new movement for their own benefit.

     This for me is one of the greatest things that have come from the ebook and social media revolution. I no longer have to write in a vacuum and hope for someone to like it. I can actively work with other authors. I can get my work critiqued by fellow writers and interested readers, which means my work improves at a rapid rate. I can fail faster. Online writing groups are worth their bits in gold (if you find a good one).  
     So, other than writing groups, what else can collaboration achieve for the lowly scribe? Exposure is one. By connected with other writers you can form little collectives of talent. You can put out anthologies of your stories so that each of you exposes your work to a potential new audience. As you connect with more writers, and you work together, each of your networks intermingle and you can leverage the readership of your combined audiences.
     Readers don't read just one author. If reader A, we'll call her Stephanie, enjoyed reading the work of Barry Blogs, it's a high chance she'll be interested in the work of Sally Scribbles who works closely with Barry on other projects. If you multiply this effect over a wide range of writers and authors, your readership can grow exponentially, and you network can do the same for others. It's a great big melting pot of incestuous loveliness. I'm doing this very thing with my upcoming horror anthology 'City of Hell Chronicles.' Over time I've got to know some fantastic writers and developed good friendships with them, so, together we have formed this story setting and are going to publish a number of volumes of material.
     Having multiple authors involved with a project means you have multiple promotional outlets, the daunting task of finding readers isn't down solely to you, it's a team effort. You all feed of each other's ideas and you'll be surprised at how effective this can be.  
     Other than exposure, one of the greatest things with collaborating is the support. I have a number of collectives that I belong to, and each one is filled with artists, writers, editors, publishing professionals and various criminals. Not only does this mean that I have a team of people whom I can rely on for help, but also I have a virtual family to keep me sane when things are looking grim. Never discount the emotional benefit of having a virtual family.  
So, how do you find people to collaborate with, and how do you manage collaborative projects? 

     The answer to the first is kind of easy these days. You talk to them. Google search for online writing groups and join a few. Not every one will be a fit for you, so the only way to deal with it is to get stuck and find which ones you gel with. Either way, you'll begin to make friends with people. Once you have started to connect with a few people, talk to them outside of the writing group. That means add them to twitter, add them to your email contacts list, and just talk. Chat about your projects, their projects and every day life.  (But please do not send them pictures of your penis--Lucy).
     The best way I've found to make lasting connections with fellow writers is to offer them help. A few connections that I've made, and ones I now consider close friends, came about because I saw them on twitter having problems with their project and offered to beta-read their work. Always give something of yourself out first before expecting something in return. Help promote someone's book, give them a review (if you like it), just be a good citizen, and you'll make some good friends. I personally find Twitter the easiest way for this, as it's like a persistent chat-room that you can dip in and out of and have some wonderful conversations and get to know others through your current network. It's always growing, organically.

Ok, so you have snared--I mean made--good friends with, some writers and you have an idea of a shared world project, or an anthology or a co-written book, how do you manage it? 
I use three tools:
    www.freeforums.org.  I setup a free forum and make it private so that only the collaborators can use it. This is a great way of communicating details about your project. You can upload work, beta read each other, co-ordinate promotional efforts and generally keep everything together in a tight-nit place. This is the method I use to manage the progress of my City of Hell Chronicles project. There are 7 of us, and anytime I want to communicate something with the group I simple post there and we can discuss it.
    Google Contact List I create a new group specifically for my new tribe/project. I also start a folder/label to keep all the emails together. This means things like sourcing artwork, soliciting outsides services can all be kept together to make managing it easier. It also means that if I want to send an email to the whole group, it's easy. Once all the email addresses in the 'to' box, it makes it easy for each person to 'reply to all' to keep the conversation manageable.
    Twitter For me this is a real lifesaver. Not only is the quickest way to reach some people but it's also a great way of meeting new ones and promoting your project. There are plenty of other articles that can do a better job than I in explaining the best way to use it, but I personally add anyone I'm interested in, and place them into organized lists. This makes managing the timeline and stream of tweets easy to deal with.  Everyday I meet someone new, and its just a great immediate way to talk to people. If I have something to discuss about a project, and one of my contributors is on twitter, I'll often discuss it quickly and easily there rather than email.  
     So there were have it: a brief discussion on how to use social media to create a crapadipoo (© Anne Michaud) amount of collaborative projects and contacts. I hope you found it useful. The main thing to remember with any of this stuff is just be friendly. Douches aren't welcome anywhere. Put out more than you receive (which is great advice for in the bedroom as well as writing), (evidently Colin takes it like a man--Lucy) and actively look to help and promote others, you'll get the karma back in the future. Build up that bank of trust and friendship first, as that is more important than a few sales. Good luck...and put some clean pants on."

Colin Barnes is currently excelling in anthologies. After co-authoring the crime-tastic Killing My Boss with the best-selling  Mark Yoshimoto Nemcoff, he is now working on horror stories for City of Hell Chronicles, his new collaborative project. You can stalk him on Twitter as @Colin_Barnes, where he brags about narrowboat holidays and says bitter things about his degree. (It's also his birthday, so go say hi!)