Pow! It’s Shibari Girl!

A few days ago, I saw on Facebook that the wonderful Rose Caraway was going to be doing a reading at Writers with Drinks in San Francisco on Valentine’s night – and as always when there’s an event involving any of my erotica writing friends, I wished fervently that I could have been there too. What I didn’t realise at the time was that Rose was going to be reading from my story “Pow! It’s Shibari Girl!”, which appears in her anthology, The Sexy Librarian’s Big Book of Erotica.

After the event, I was delighted to see that Rose’s husband, Big Daddy, had videoed her reading and had posted it on You Tube. Hooray! I would get my chance to see Rose read, even if I couldn’t be there in person. So just imagine my absolute delight when I clicked play and discovered that it was actually my story Rose had chosen to read.

Have a listen – she reads it brilliantly! Absolutely slays it!

I don’t do readings myself – or at least I haven’t done one yet. So this was the first time I’d heard anyone reading one of my stories out loud in front of an audience. Of course, this means that I haven’t heard an audience reacting to one of my stories before – and I now know what a very special experience that is. “Pow! It’s Shibari Girl!” is a comic piece about a female superhero who captures villains and ties them up shibari-style. Rose read it amazingly and the audience laughed, sometimes uproariously, in all the right places.

It’s often pointed out that writing is a solitary business. I sit alone and agonise over my words – and then eventually I send them out into the world. I don’t get to see people reading them, so I never have any idea how they might be reacting, sentence by sentence. But this time, for the first time, I was privy to the audience’s response. And it was a great response – all that I could have wished for.

For me, that was pretty damn cool. So thanks, Rose. You rocked it!

 

 

Cliffhangers and romance

Earlier this month Tamsin wrote about serials with cliffhangers: TV serials often end an episode on a cliffhanger, but when it comes to books many readers dislike them. The commonest reason seems to be that the cliffhanger wasn’t expected, and you get to the “end” only to realize you might have several months or longer to wait until you can resume the story.

But as one commenter pointed out, if it’s clear you’re reading a serial from the outset, then perhaps things are different. I recently joined a Facebook group dedicated to fans of cliffhanger fiction, at least partly because I was about to publish a four-part serial, the first three installments of which end on cliffhangers.

My approach was to be clear from the outset: this is serial fiction, aimed at Kindle Unlimited (so readers signed up to KU can get each part for free), and while each part is a complete episode (just like those TV series), it’s part of a bigger story and may end on a cliffhanger.

It’s a difficult balance to strike. I don’t want to get too defensive about using a long-established storytelling technique, but at the same time I don’t want readers to be surprised by the approach.

Anyway… all four parts of the serial are out now, and the first one is picking up some great reviews, so I’m hoping I’ve got it right! It’s certainly been fun to work with a structure that is a bit different to my normal stories.


Published under my paranormal romance pen-name:

Dreamcaster by Ruby Fielding

Dreamcaster (A Fantasy Romance), Part one by Ruby FieldingI live in the ruins, my home city occupied by invaders from the north and my memory full of gaps.

I had thought I could survive out here beyond the city walls, but now the soldiers are hunting me down. My only escape is the man who comes to me in my dreams, Malachi. He seems to be looking out for me, protecting me. When I’m with him my heart lifts and I know that I am his.

But he’s not real… is he?

With his help, I’m starting to remember my past… but the secrets locked away there could get us both killed. Malachi tells me I’m special, that I have powers. But will that be enough to save us?

Dreamcaster: A story of romance, magic and brutality in a war-torn world where love lies in tatters and one woman may hold the key.

**Dreamcaster is published in the short serial format, with each of the four instalments available free via Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Select**

Available from:

Cliffhangers – are they…

Cliffhangers – are they…

Did you click through to here to find out how that sentence ended? It is a bit of a cliffhanger… The full title of this post should read Cliffhangers – are they acceptable in book serials? As I’m in the throes of writing a 13-part serial, they’re something I’ve been giving a bit of thought to in recent weeks. Should I end each episode with a cliffhanger to tempt my readers back or should each month end with a degree of resolution?

18838131_sWhat exactly is a cliffhanger? According to Merriam-Webster Online, a cliff-hanger (they hyphenate it, while Wikipedia doesn’t!) is: a story, contest, or situation that is very exciting because what is going to happen next is not known. Wikipedia, meanwhile, identifies a cliffhanger as a plot device which leaves the protagonist in danger or confronted with a shocking revelation at the end of an episode. The purpose of the cliffhanger is, of course, to draw the reader or viewer (they’re richly utilised by television series) back for the next chunk of the story.

As far as I’m concerned, cliffhangers frustrate and delight in equal measure. Shock revelations and impending danger certainly excite. But then just as the hairs are rising on the back of one’s neck, the closing credits flash up on the screen or the reader’s confronted by the hideous little legend

To be continued…

What? I need to know what happens. I need to know now! Will she survive? Is he really going to confront his wife/mother/boss? WTF – she can’t be their lovechild!!!! And then the faithful reader/viewer is left high and dry for a week or a month or two with questions swirling through their mind and, if they really care about the character, a desperate need to find out…What. Happens. Next.

Personally, I think they’re harmless fun. But over the course of my not particularly long writing career, I’ve come to notice that the readers of serials seem to hate them. Passionately. Yes, they feel that strongly – I’ve even seen reviews in which readers vow not to read any more of a series simply because the writer’s had the audacity to wind up Book 1 or Book 2 on a cliffhanger. How very dare they?

But I have a little sympathy here, more so in the case of books than for TV serials. After all, with a TV series, you only have to wait a week. But with a book? You could left in limbo for six months or more. And that’s a hell of a time for some poor woman to teetering at the edge of the abyss. (Oh, but she’s the main character – we know she’s not going to die or the series couldn’t continue.) However, reading a full-length book or a novella that doesn’t end with some sort of satisfactory resolution – well, no one likes that.

subscription pack-page0001So what have I done with Alchemy xii? I’ve decided not to employ shameless cliffhangers at the end of each episode. I can’t see the point in frustrating and infuriating my readers, so most episodes finish whatever the episode has started in terms of current action. Of course, there’s an over-reaching arc – the relationship between Harry and Olivia and the question of will-she/won’t-she submit to him, will-she/won’t-she make it through training – but I don’t tend to leave her jeopardy. My hope is that the characters and the main story are compelling enough in themselves to bring readers back, month after month, for more – and I’m assuming that this will be a much more successful strategy than resorting to cheap tricks and leaving my heroine tied up and vulnerable at the end of each chapter.

What do you think? And if, as a writer, you have finished a book on a cliffhanger, how did your readers react?

 

 

 

Without a “Fantasy” Category, Erotic Ebooks Go All Over the Place

Categorization is a tricky business. It’s one of the reasons library science degrees exist. Anyone want to take bets on how many library science graduates Amazon employs right now?

There are probably a few tucked away in the corporate structure somewhere, actually, but they sure as heck aren’t working on the ebook erotica neck of the woods.

It’s not something I see as a huge obstacle to my sales, although ease of browsing certainly helps customers and sellers alike. But it’s a phenomenon I watch with no small amount of amusement as, for lack of an a dedicated “Fantasy” category, erotica ebooks with any trace of fantasy or supernatural themes go everywhere.

Pick a category and you’ll see some werewolves or dragons or vampires in there somewhere. “Action & Adventure” category? Alpha-shifters on the front page. BDSM? Several fantasy creatures in the Top 10, on both sides of the controlling/controlled coin. “Historical,” check (shifters again). “Humorous,” check (Werewolves, dinosaurs, tentacles, you name it.).

Interracial, heh, of course — probably not what the closet fans of “Made it with Mandingo” and “Ghetto Booty IV” were looking for, but you can’t deny that dragon-on-elf action fits the bill. Even the separate “African American” erotica category has its share of swashbuckling black swordsmen in fantasy worlds, the made-up geographies of which really call both the “African” and “American” descriptors into question.

This is not so much a cri de cooter for a dedicated Fantasy category in Amazon’s ebook erotica section as it is an amused observation — and a reason to bookmark your favorite authors’ webpages, subscribe to their newsletters, and otherwise stay up on what they’re publishing, rather than hoping to stumble across it as you browse your favorite genres, because you never know where stuff is going to end up. Often we don’t even know.

So yeah, I went there. Get on some mailing lists! We gotta make it easy for you, because Amazon won’t, and we all know how much you like those easy boys and girls.

How to Get Goodreads Reviews

Hey everyone,

So I was going to write today about the cost of sleep deprivation and how it hinders your ability to think or do anything creative, and further complain about the fact that I haven’t had a decent night sleep in months due to some coke addicts living above us, but then I read Tamsin’s great blog post on how to write a book review, and figured I’d do it from the other side as well.

How to get goodreads / amazon reviews.

This works best for Goodreads, as Goodreads gives you more avenues to reach the type of reviewers you want.

I started up a spreadsheet with the following info along the top:

  • Book
  • Goodreads Link
  • Reviews #

I was looking for books that had a lot of reviews, similar to mine.

After that, I gathered 10 book names that I thought were similar to mine.

You want to have an idea of what type of people you want to contact. Generally you want people who give good, interesting and thoughtful reviews, especially if they loved the book similar to yours.

Remember, you’re asking for honest reviews from strangers, so you want to try to ensure the best match for your book and not simply contact everyone who has reviewed the books you’ve chosen.

I then copy / paste the user’s URL to my spreadsheet.

You can only send a limited amount of new PMs in a 24 hour period, so using urlopener.com, I opened up the first 20 (I’m only able to send to 15, I don’t know if you get more for more established accounts).

Here’s a script you can use.

Subject: Free ARC: *Brief Description / Genre*

Body:

Hi there!

I’m Name, the author of a book I think you might like. I’m hoping you’d live to review with a free advanced review copy.

Elevator pitch of book.

I’m offering the book to you for free in exchange for an honest review on Goodreads and Amazon.

You can read more about the book here:

Cover Link

If you’re interested, please let me know your email address and what format you need (Formats)

Thank you so much,

Author Name

I then tracked it on another spreadsheet with:

  • Goodreads URL [With the URL I copied earlier]
  • Email [They provide]
  • Format [They provide]
  • Sent [Yes/No]
  • Reviewed [Yes/No]
  • Rating [Star Rating]

I colour coded the lines. Red means I sent the initial goodreads PM, yellow means they responded and wanted a review copy, black means they declined, and green means their review is posted.

I’d then send out the book to everyone that requested it via email.

Subject: Review Copy: Book Name [format (i.e. mobi)]

Hi there,

Thank you for offering to review a copy of Book. I will give you a quick email upon its release so you can post your review on Amazon if you like.

You can leave your review on Goodreads whenever you are finished.

Link to book on Goodreads.

Thank you for taking the time to read and review the copy of this book.

Author Name

I then follow that up with another PM to make sure they have received it and basically tried to be friendly and open up a more information and friendly dialogue. Just something personalize like:

“Hi Name!

Just wanted to make sure you received the book okay :)

Author Name.”

Using this process, I got about a 50% response rate! I’ve started this 2 weeks ago, and already 20% of the people I’ve contacted (42% of the people who responded) have left their review!

I also did posts in a couple groups (in the appropriate section for authors promotions, or ARCS), but only received 2 responses total which isn’t great considering I posted in 4 groups.

How about you guys? Readers, would you be flattered to be chosen? Authors, have you had success in this way?

Also! A bunch of friends have a new boxed set out this week if you want to check it out! Candy Quinn is one of the illustrious fifty authors, in the boxed set coming out in March :)

Shades of Domination

fiftybyfifty2

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How to write a book review

Have you ever wondered how to write a book review? Is there a right way and a wrong way—or is it simply up to you to splurge your feelings for the book onto the page? Personally, I hate writing book reviews. I’m always short of time and I never think I manage to do a book justice—in terms of time spent reading and rereading, analyzing and then composing my thoughts. A good book review will be able to convey to its reader something of the essence of the book, the intent of the writer, whether they have succeeded or failed in that intent and—ultimately—whether it’s going to be a book the reader will enjoy reading.

And I’ll be the first to put my hand up and admit that I pretty much fail at this. It’s one of the reasons I don’t do too many reviews. Reviewing books is its own genre of writing and professional book reviewers possess a certain skill for it. That’s not to in any way invalidate all of the reader reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. As a writer, there’s nothing I appreciate more than when someone who has read one of my books takes the time to leave their response to it—and I and most other writers have had some wonderful reviews that leave us smiling for days after we receive them.

The flip side of that coin is the not so wonderful reviews that one occasionally stumbles across. Not because they say something bad about the book, or that the reviewer doesn’t like the book. As writers, we’re all fair game for that—no book is universally loved and everyone’s all entitled to their own opinions. No, what I’m referring to here are the sorts of reviews that don’t really tell us much, or anything, about the book. Or which fixate on one small aspect that seems to have completely colored the reading experience for a particular reader.

Man lighting upIf you remember my last column here, I was talking about a reader whose enjoyment of Alchemy xii had been marred by the fact that the characters didn’t practice safe sex. This week, another reviewer has expressed disgust that the main character smokes—a vile, suicidal habit. Fair enough, I understand people’s concerns in life about safe sex and smoking—but this is fiction. You can’t smell fictional cigarette smoke, so how much can it bother you? Would the reviewer have been happier if Harry had been smoking an electronic cigarette? As I’m writing a serial, I could have Harry give up smoking in the episode I’m working on, but I rather fear that by this point I’ve already lost the anti-smoking brigade. However, when it comes to the review I’d rather have known what she thought about the story or whether she found the sex hot…

But at least that reviewer had an opinion! A reader recently gave an anthology I’m in a three star review with the comment, ‘haven’t read much yet.‘ That’s not really a book review, is it? To be fair, I know exactly why this happened. Every time I buy something from Amazon, within a few days I receive an email asking me for a review. And usually, I haven’t read much yet, so I don’t bother. This reviewer was obviously just telling them the truth—but why didn’t he wait until he had read much and was in a position to give a genuine opinion?

Like I said, I’m pretty crap at reviews myself. So how should one go about writing a book review? With a bit of research, I’ve been able to pull together some useful tips.

  • Read the book. This obviously is essential and should go without saying. But I felt the need to say it anyway. Because I sometimes wonder if reviewers have actually read the book from the comments they make.
  • If you know you’re going to review it, take notes as you go along and highlight good and/or bad passages. That way you’ll be able to back up the comments you’re going to make.
  • Keep it honest—one reason why it’s not always a good idea to review books written by your friends or lovers or editors. There’s nothing more awkward than posting an honest review of a really bad book written by your partner.
  • Start by setting the scene. What genre is the book? What’s the basic premise of the story? Who are the protagonists? But don’t go in to too much detail. Don’t be mistaken by thinking a book review is simply a summary of the plot. And that’s all. Those reviews are less helpful than actually reading the book itself.
  • Don’t reveal spoilers. Unless you’re waging a vendetta against the author whose book you’re reviewing. (No, don’t even do it then!)
  • And saying ‘SPOILER ALERT’ won’t work. That makes everyone read it to find out what’s going to happen. And then they’re annoyed with themselves and even more annoyed with you.
  • But do say ‘SPOILER ALERT’ if you simply want to tempt more people to read your review. And you don’t care that they’ll hate you for it.
  • Discuss the things that worked for you—the plot, the writing, the characters, the humor… Are the settings well drawn? The people realistic? Is it believable? Does the narrative flow? Does a clear theme emerge over the course of the story? Does the hero make your panties wet/give you a hard on? Give reasons as to why you thought particular elements were strong. Site examples to support your opinions. Do your own life experiences give you any special insight into what the writer is talking about?
  • Mention any problem areas you identified. Were there holes in the plot? Did the characters behave inconsistently? Did you stumble across poor grammar or typos? Do you take issue with any particular scenes? For example, this is from a real one-star review of one my books: The book is mainly sex scenes. And who has anal sex for the first time in public on a hood of a car?!? Ridiculous!
    Monkies

    Okay – it’s not a sports car but I think they’re having anal!

    So, this reviewer could have gone into a little more detail. I’d like to know, is ‘mainly sex scenes’ a bad thing? In erotica? And what’s the problem with the anal sex on the hood of the car? Would it be better if it had been vaginal? Or is it that anal sex for the first time should be in a more appropriate setting? The car was a famous German sports car but perhaps another model would have made it more acceptable. We writers need detail, so we know where we’re going wrong!

  • Try to make your criticisms helpful to other readers. Not like this one: “bla bla bla off list.” It accompanied one star for an anthology—but what does it even mean?
  • Avoid making any criticisms into a personal attack on the writer—remember, they will probably have poured their heart into the work, not to mention many hours of work. And be aware of how relevant your criticisms will be to other readers—the fact that you hate cigarette smoking doesn’t make it a bad book.
  • Don’t be afraid to venture an opinion on the work, even if it’s not the same as the opinion of most other reviewers. It will make your review more interesting reading—but make sure you can justify your view.
  • Finish your review with a recommendation to read or not, or an indication of who might enjoy the book.
  • Review your review! Do you think it will be helpful to someone trying to decide whether to read the book or not?

237 readers found this review article helpful!

 

 

New Adult month

January has been something of a New Adult month, with new books from several fabulous NA authors, and a big prize draw to help promote them! (Scroll down for links to the draw.)

Titles include these:

Damage by PJ Adams

What happens when a girl who’s scared of being discarded meets a man scared that he won’t be able to discard her?

Holly’s family has lost almost everything and now she’s left holding what remains together: a rebellious sister, a grieving father who won’t admit anything is wrong, bills and debts Holly can barely keep on top of with her assorted part-time jobs… Juggling her responsibilities with college and an ex-boyfriend who wants to be more, life for Holly is anything but easy.

The mysterious new owner of the Hall would appear to have everything, but his dark, brooding presence suggests otherwise and rumors abound. Why would a man so wealthy shut himself away like that? How can a man who has everything already have lost even more?

And can love ever emerge from such damaged beginnings?

A passionate and intensely moving New Adult romance full of the twists and turns familiar to readers of PJ Adams’ work, including the bestsellers Winner Takes All and Black Widow.

PUBLISHED 20TH JANUARY: Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

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Trouble Makers by Emme RollinsTrouble Makers by Emme Rollins
When your best friend falls in love with a rock star, you either join her in her fixation, or you spend a lot of nights eating ice cream and watching Netflix by yourself. If you can’t beat them, join them, isn’t that what they say?

While Bree—my best friend since forever—couldn’t get enough of “Trouble” and their lead singer, Rob Burns, I set my sights a little lower – and to the left. Rob’s immediate left, that is, at least on stage. Tyler Cook was Trouble’s lead guitarist, a tall, glorious, dark blonde, beautiful specimen of a man who could make ovaries explode and panties drop with just one twist of that smirky smile of his.

Of course, it was all just in good fun, two girls going to Trouble concerts and screaming ourselves hoarse along with the rest of the fans. Bree’s fascination with Rob, and mine with Tyler, was a fun little fantasy, a distraction from our boring everyday lives, mine as a dental hygienist and Bree’s as an elementary school music teacher, until one day the “what-if” game Bree liked to play—and in, “what if we met Trouble some day?” and “What if they asked us to go on tour with them?”—actually happened.

Actually. Happened.

One minute we were going to see Trouble in concert, and the next, we were backstage, face-to-face with the real-live, sexy thing. I never expected to meet rock god Tyler Cook. I never expected to end up on a tour bus with sex god Tyler Cook. I certainly never expected to fall in love with the man, that beautiful, broken, wild man, or become so hooked I simply couldn’t give him up—no matter what it cost, or who I hurt, even myself.

Because sometimes you have to stop asking yourself, “What if?” Sometimes you have to find out what happens next.

OUT NOW: Amazon USAmazon UKBNApple

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Temptation Returns by Lisa CarlisleTemptation Returns by Lisa Carlisle
Antonio returns from the Marine Corps to begin a new life as a civilian. While visiting Cape Cod, he meets a strange woman who reads his Tarot cards. He doesn’t believe in such nonsense; after all, he’s a Marine. When he returns to Boston, he receives a ticket to a rock club where he runs into the one woman he never forgot.

Lina can’t believe Antonio is back in town, right before her wedding. Being around him again resurrects long-buried feelings. Will she be able to resist temptation in the form of a dark-haired Italian Marine, the same man who once broke her heart?

OUT NOW: Amazon USAmazon UK

 

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Acting Brave by Helena NewburyActing Brave by Helena Newbury
She’s spent her whole life acting. But can she make him believe she doesn’t love him?

Three years ago, a terrified girl named Emma fled a world of crime and abuse in Chicago and bought a one-way ticket to New York. She reinvented herself as an actress, enrolled at the prestigious Fenbrook Academy and buried her pain beneath a vivacious new persona. Her new name was Jasmine.

Now she has to pull off the performance of her career.

Landing her dream part in a police show, she finds herself falling for her co-star, Ryan, a real-life cop. If she lets him get too close, he’ll awaken memories she doesn’t want to face and uncover secrets that could endanger them both. But how can she keep a guy at arm’s length when she has to kiss him on camera?

The last place Ryan imagined himself was on a TV show. Blaming himself for the death of his partner, he’s on a downward spiral of rage and guilt. The show is his last chance…but how can he keep it professional when his co-star is a woman he’s crazy about?

As their on-screen and off-screen relationships merge, things go from hot to blistering. But when Jasmine’s old life catches up with her, will a cop be the one person she can’t be around…or the only person who can save her?

PUBLISHED 16TH JANUARY: Amazon USAmazon UK

 

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Prize draw

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Stop Spitting on That Dick! (Hardcore, NSFW Images)

Drooling fetishists (and I know there are some of you out there, because I get the occasional commission request), let me be clear — I’m not talking to you on this one.

But for the rest of us, I can’t be alone in pleading with porn stars: please, please, for the love of all that’s unholy and prohibited by nearly every major world religion, stop spitting on those cocks!

This plea may not make a lot of sense if your erotica consumption is entirely text-based. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have thought to bring it up myself, if I didn’t follow a handful of porn stars on Twitter because they often have entertaining things to say in between the naked promo pictures.

(I mean, I like the naked promo pictures, too. I’m only human!)

And seriously, folks, having followed one of those star’s links to a trailer video and seen what the state of BJ porn looks like today, I can safely say, this is not what a good blow job looks like:

spit-bj-screenshot

Nor is this:

spit-bubble-blow-job

 

That is what rabies looks like. Dick-rabies. Which I guess might have some crossover appeal with the shifter crowd.

No offense intended to the talented Ms. Starfall. I can only assume she’s following detailed stage directions here, and those directions apparently call for spit bubbles.

Will it sound too self-centered; too cynically promotional if I suggest that this is the natural result of film trying to keep up with the kinds of exaggerated fantasy that are only really possible in text? That the notion of a hot, willing mouth, sick and wet and tight around your balls, your cock, your anything — starts with us, the humble writers? (To say nothing of the thick, mouth-filling loads of jizz which that free-flowing spittle is clearly intended as a stand-in for, and which may even convince people who have never encountered A) jizz or B) spittle in their lives.)

Or to suggest that perhaps, sometimes, the exaggeration is better left in the realm of the imagination, leaving chins like the lovely Ms. Starfall’s free of spit bubbles while they perform their talented work?

Maybe I’m reaching for that one. But I really do wish they’d stop spitting on dicks in porn. I can’t imagine that feeling good, or at least not as good as an actual blowjob would. Hot splatter on the underside of your sac, or tight, wet ring bobbing up and down the shaft? Gentlemen, you tell me.

Communication

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while. I truly didn’t intend to take a break, but I’ve been so busy with so many things that blogging has, unfortunately, had to take a back seat to everything else.

I was anticipating when I went full time, that I would have more time to do the things I need to do, which is in part true, but in reality untrue as there comes a point where you can only think about and do the same thing for so long. I’ve done so little other than think about writing and it just got to the point where I couldn’t handle it anymore and something had to give.

December was our busiest and, hopefully, most productive month yet. We published so much, wrote so much, and just worked our asses off.

Luckily we saw the reward this time in regards to sale, but it certainly wasn’t easy, but it was needed. I feel good about my decision to quit my job now and truly have faith that we can do it or handle what comes up.

But unfortunately that also means I’m still rather drained when it comes to talking about it, talking about what we did, what we didn’t. Perhaps another time, I’ll be able to divulge, but for now, I’m writing another story, and getting others ready for review and publishing and all those other things that consume so much of my day.

So be well, OneHandedWriters, and in two weeks time, I promise I will give you something substantial. Anything you’re most curious about? Leave it in the comments!

Must I use a condom?

Must I use a condom? Of course, we all know the answer to that, don’t we? I’m not even going to go there, it’s such a no brainer. But that’s in real life. When it comes to fiction, it’s a whole other ball game (yes, pun intended!) As an erotica writer, this is a question that vexes me more often than it should. Possibly with every fuck I write! Possibly not…

6743516_sA couple of weeks back I had an interesting exchange with a reader who was reviewing one of my stories. She commented that the fact the protagonists hadn’t used protection hadn’t quite ruined the story for her. But it nearly had. And she commented again on another piece of my work in which the couple in question had had ‘skin on skin’ sex. It was definitely her view that protection should always be written in to a story, particularly when two strangers indulged in sex—and she told me that pretty much all the readers she interacted with on Goodreads felt the same way.

Now, I’m not wholly against including protection in my stories—indeed, many of them do feature couples who use condoms—but I think that most writers would prefer not to have include them in every sex scene. It can interrupt the rhythm of the story, not to mention the flow of the passion, and in a longer work, it can become incredibly repetitive. The constant ripping open of the condom wrapper can certainly spoil the mood!

9781783751853_FCSo when should a writer include protection and when can they get away with bareback sex? This is very much up to the writer, in my view. What works for me, may or may not be the right thing for you. But as a general rule, if the piece I’m writing is grounded in reality and if I want my portrayal of sex to be wholly realistic, then I consider the question of what protection my protagonists might use and how they’ll go about negotiating it. In my erotic romance The Christmas Tattoo, my falling in love couple use a condom every time they have sex. If, however, the scene or story I’m writing is pure sexual fantasy, then I let my characters get down and dirty without pausing to ask each other important questions about contraception and disease. In my new club-based BDSM series, Alchemy xii, condoms are pretty thin on the ground—it’s very much a fantasy setting. That’s my shout, as the writer—but, like I say, every writer will handle it differently.

Now, however, I have to ask, why do some readers find it so important? I write fiction. I’m not writing sex scenes to educate or to set an example of the ‘right’ way to have sex. The purpose of my writing is to entertain and turn on my readers, or to move them, or to intrigue them… If you’re reading my books as ‘how to’ manuals, please, go on Amazon and find a non-fiction sex manual—there are hundreds of them and they’ll tell you all the whys and wherefores you might want to know. Don’t come to my door looking for sex education.

Alchemy xii - New Year's EveI, on the other hand, would like to credit my readers with understanding that what they are hopefully enjoying is a work of fiction. After all, when we read a fictional scene that involves getting into a car and driving, we don’t expect to be told about the seat belts, the hand brake, the indicators, the lights, checking the rear mirror and all the other mundane details of safe driving. It’s pretty much taken as a given and generally these things are only alluded to if they are going to have some bearing on the scene, such as a road accident coming up. If you want to learn to drive, you find a non-fiction how-to-drive book (or have a driving lesson!) So why do some readers think that fictional portrayals of sex must be exemplary of how we all should behave in real life? It’s a story, not a how-to manual! Do people who read serial killer thrillers go out and butcher their neighbors? Not in my street!

Furthermore, in erotic and other works of fiction, we don’t expect to read about the characters using the bathroom, when our heroine has her period, if the hero has an itchy rash or feels the urge to break wind. It’s the convention to gloss over these less than glamorous every-day bodily occurrences. And for me, safe sex considerations in a fantasy setting are added to that list.

Am I being irresponsible? Am I encouraging my readers to take unnecessary risks? Am I the unwitting cause of a pandemic of STDs among people who’ve used my characters as role models? I doubt it. I really don’t think my readers are taking it all so literally and using it as guidance for their own lives.

But if you are, stop now! Go and buy some condoms and make sure you use them!