Saturday, October 28, 2017

#Featured #Author Nora Phoenix - No Filter #MM #Romance

I distinctly remember reading my first MM romance. I’d been reading romances since I was maybe thirteen, started out with ‘borrowing’ my mom’s Harlequins without her noticing. I never stopped reading them after that, but after almost thirty years, the MF genre was getting a bit on my nerves. I started reading in different subgenres: paranormal, extra kink, you name it. It was good, but still… I even wrote MF myself, but it never completely satisfied, somehow. Something was missing.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Featured Author: My Zombie Boyfriend - T. Strange

Genre: paranormal romance, M/M, contemporary romance Length: 71,000 words (novel)

Blurb: Any city is bound to collect restless dead. Armed with the notebook of Icelandic magic his ex boyfriend, Bone, gave him, Edward Grey has been tasked with removing troubled spirits or finding ways for the living and the dead to coexist in harmony. Between planning his wedding with his undead Canadian fiancé, Kit Ward, and his continued studies as a medical student, Edward didn’t need another commitment, but he can’t turn away people who are frightened or in danger. 

A particularly vicious ghost gives Edward an ominous warning—they’re coming—and a few days later Edward’s notebook is stolen from him. While he’s attempting to find it, he and his mentor, Mariel, are confronted by a very powerful necromancer and barely escape with their lives. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

An Opinion: What is Romance?

This isn’t going to be an erotica versus romance post. I will touch on elements, highlight my points with examples of both, but this is a post about what romance is to me as a writer of the genre. In essence, I’m an author of LGBTQ+ Diverse and Body Positive Romance/Fiction, but I’m also a huge reader, so I know what works for me. I don’t claim to speak for others.

We delve into the lives and innermost thoughts of a character, create these people who are supposed to earn our readers emotions and time. That is the highest compliment that a writer/author can receive is a person’s time. We draw out emotions of every kind. Our readers laugh, cry, cheer on the couple or trio and enjoy the satisfaction of a happily ever after.

What makes a romance a romance, well, that’s easy: fantasy. People falling in love. Sometimes in literature, those journeys can be comfortable and instant others are more painful and hard earned.
What should a romance character be? Should they only be billionaires with perfect lives in their ivory tower penthouses? Can it be a grease-smeared mechanic and the struggling cashier at the local mom-and-pop grocery? Is one better than the other: NO.

In our struggle for diverse fiction characters, they should be rich and poor, people of color, all religions and shapes and sizes. Romance isn’t and shouldn’t be a color by numbers endeavor. Yes, there’s a formulaic sequence to romance, an almost tried and true method, but just because they work should that be the level that all romance be held to?

Does the standard romance exclude menage, poly, or open romances? Who says what romance is? Are we so stuck in the so-called dark ages of romance that there’s no room for growth? If that were the case, then we’d still be focusing only on straight-virgin-heroine-alpha-male romances. Bodice rippers if you will.

Romance has made a massive turn in the last few decades, no longer are sex scenes off the page (behind closed doors). We’re allowed to delve into the more physical aspects of a romantic couple’s relationship. There’s a fine line between romance and erotica, heat and sexual content working on a sliding scale.

Erotica is classified as such for explicitness of sex scenes and the frequency of said sex scenes. Romance is more judged on the content, does the book adhere to and depend on a happily ever after. Erotica delves into romance, the people involved even end up with the HEA. Romance slips into erotica when it comes to the sex scenes. It’s sex, sex is explicit and dirty, yes, it can be sweet and slow, but does romance or erotica cancel out the other for no reasons other than a sometimes unspoken rule?

I will use my stories for example, I have a substantial romantic element in my stories. In the end, there will be an HEA, but when it comes to the sex scenes they are highly erotic and detailed in nature. Does that make my stories sensual or romantic? I say both and neither.
Let me explain that, portions of my books are nasty from action to talk, then others are more sweet and loving. Oh, that word, loving, if you must know, I hate that word, what some would consider loving isn’t the same as others.

That’s where erotic romance comes into play, the explanation is in the name. I hate classification, example, I wrote a bisexual male who fell in love with a transgender woman, in essence, the book was a straight romance, but I felt that also erased his identity has bisexual even though I didn’t gloss over his bisexuality. That’s where I find things become complicated. Erasure of any kind is bigoted in nature.

If we’re genuinely inclusive as we all spout, then why do we take one type of character and raise them up to God(dess)-like levels? The ripped blond(e), blue-eyed, perfectly proportioned hero/heroine, some weirdly master race bullshit. Do we do this because it seems more sexually and socially acceptable, more marketable?

As with anything marketable, they must appeal to the masses, romance covers are graced with ripped, male perfection to draw the potential customers eye. Would a cover model with a belly attract as much attention. Honestly, I will say no. We’re drawn to what pleases the eyes or what we’re conditioned to believe is pleasing.

This goes for the inside content as well, would you instead read about two perfect beings going at it and everything is perfectly laid out, orgasms reached in tandem and angel sing and weep at the sight? Of course, perfection is everything, we’ve been programmed since birth that we must fit. But I won’t go into the sociological explanations of any of it. Perfection sells.

Now, on the other hand, a less than perfect sex scene where body parts jiggle, there’s profuse sweating and the people involved are red from exertion, not so sexy. So, we can say that we write what appeals, but who’s to say that doesn’t demean readers? The scene I described could contain comedic elements, sex is and sometimes should be fun. Outtakes if you would, can make a reader smile, maybe cause them to remember a not-so-typical experience that brings them back to a different time. Memories while not perfect were still fun.

My next point, what makes a romance couple a romantic couple and why should it only be a couple?
In a traditional romance, it contains a couple, two people who go through the process of the meet, dating, falling in love, and so forth. In what would be considered not so traditional is the menage and poly relationships, the BDSM couples/throuples. Now, are we saying that the mentioned groups can’t have a romantic and loving relationship, do they not belong in the romance genre? No, they belong entirely, because in society there are plenty of people in non-traditional relationships that are just as loving and sometimes more so than the typical players. Because in some cases, I’m not insinuating all, there’s a deep level of trust, especially in the BDSM relationships. I’m not talking about the aspect of Dom(s) and sub(s) who meet for scenes/play.

It's commitment and isn’t that what we strive for in a romance? Who says that loving two or more people is less than what some would label normal, because nothing is ordinary, normal is an aberration—an unattainable. What some would consider a perfectly standard romance is different from what people in a D/s relationship would. Their relationship shouldn’t be demeaned and devalued for the simple fact it isn’t what someone else likes. It is discriminatory to push personal relationship values on others in a consensual partnership.

What about open relationships, could they not be considered romantic to the person in one?
We’re taught from an early age lessons that say love is between one man and one woman, but can it not be just as easy to fall in love with two people, three, four, or whatever?

We write Rent Boys and Pornstars in our books but value them less than, maybe because subconsciously we in some way consider them emotionally and mentally stunted. They’re people just like everyone else. They could’ve grown and been nurtured in loving homes with the nuclear family model.

We’re a society that makes sex dirty when it’s the most natural thing, but, and this is a huge but, what about individuals on the asexual spectrum? Do we devalue their pursuit of romance because there’s sometimes not a sexual element? Some do and they shouldn’t.

Love is love. We write these fanciful stories of fairy tales and some of us write the more difficult and darker elements of romance. Characters broken or seemingly broken by past abuse whether in childhood or adulthood.

We’re told what we should write and what we shouldn’t write. Kink is automatically considered erotica when honestly it’s just sex—different, but sex. Wars are raging for us to find one right and the other wrong, certain characters above reproach while others are open to ridicule.

Would you do this to a person in real life? Would you demean a person to their face because you value their relationships or job as something less than? Would you tell a person of color or an LGBTQ+ person that they are less than because of who they are or choose to love?

If you’re an asshole, yes, yes you would, but inclusiveness demands we look at characters and people in our books and real life as examples. Not as a rule of what we should or shouldn’t be, but as what people hide behind closed doors. We don’t look past the façade, we take first impressions and run with them. We tell people they don’t belong because they don’t align with a bullet list of what our archaic belief systems consider acceptable.

Romance is romance, one thing for me and another for you. Does this mean I’m wrong and you’re right, no, it doesn’t, and you know why, but because we’re all different and diverse. We’re made of past experiences, personal beliefs formed and constantly changed over time.

Will I change that I write big handsome men or big beautiful women, or persons of color, or bisexual, transgender, gay and lesbian characters? No, because romance and its readers deserve to be treated as adults. To be given examples of something different from themselves, but relatable. It’s how we grow as humans. How we nurture understanding and respect.

Storytellers have been around since the beginning of time since people drew scenes on cave walls. We share our tales and the stories of others to hopefully allow someone to grow. We also tell stories of people who look different to enable others to see themselves. Romance is there to give people hope, a belief that yes they can have that.

Fanciful as it sounds, what it romance, it is hope and dreams, and in some cases, it’s a lifeline for the ones who feel they don’t belong or deserve love. We in all our caffeine-fueled typing are weavers of dreams and fantasies that let people of all body types, shades, and socioeconomic backgrounds know that for a few hours or more they lived a romance or a sweaty sex-fueled affair.

In the end, isn’t that what romance or any genre is about…escape.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Deteriorating Mental Health and the Failure of Self-Care in 2017

In the collapse of modern civilization, we with invisible illnesses are overstimulated with the decline into a future dystopian reality that we've only read about in books and seen in movies. No gender, race, ethnicity, religion (Non-Religious), gender identity, sexual identity, we were in essence not safe before 2016, but in the landscape that is our current political and social environment we’re even less safe. We’re targets.

We have a man-child in the highest office of the United States. We’re having our rights dissolved by white, upper-class Republicans. Walking down the street is an exercise is strength and hopes that our fear doesn’t override our hope of something brighter. The United States is no longer considered a place people can come to escape oppression.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

#Featured #Author Annabella Michaels - Uniting the Souls

New Release

Uniting the Souls
A Souls of Chicago Story

Annabella Michaels 


As the owner of Agape House, a center for Chicago’s LGBTQ youth, Matt worked tirelessly to provide a safe and loving atmosphere for the kids who called the center home. He put his heart and soul into helping the teens in his care, pushing aside his own pain. A pain that no one knew about, not even his closest friend, Isaac.

When Isaac first arrived at Agape House in need of shelter, the first person he saw was Matt. Isaac could tell that Matt was a good man and as he got to know him better, he began to trust him and the two became close friends. As an adult, Isaac began working at the center, wanting to give back to the place and the man who had saved his life. Over time, his feelings for Matt grew, but he wasn’t sure if Matt would ever see him as more than just a friend.

Dr. Hudson Westley was impressed when he heard from his friends about the work being done at Agape House so he decided to check it out for himself in the hopes of volunteering his counseling services. He was excited to help the LGBTQ youth from his home city. However, he wasn’t expecting the visceral reaction he had to both Isaac and Matt when they met.

The attraction between the three men was immediate and powerful, taking them all by surprise, especially Matt who not only found himself drawn to Hudson, but began to see Isaac through new eyes as well. There was obviously something special between them, but would Matt be able to let go of his past in order to create a future? Would Isaac finally open up about what happened that led him to Agape House all those years ago, and could Hudson be strong enough to hold them all together, creating a love like they’ve never known and uniting their souls?