Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How Do You Balance WORK AND PLAY?

With our busy lifestyles: families, friends, children, jobs (inside and out of the home), social networking, and for those of us who write, how do we fit in writing time and at the same time try to balance work and play?

If you're in constant work mode like workaholics, your work will suffer and so will your health. You will burn out. You may suffer from headaches, migraines, and other illnesses. If you're a writer, you writing may lose that spark.

If you have too much playtime, you'll never accomplish anything, you'll have little motivation because you have difficulty reaching a goal. Stop wasting time, set smaller, short term goals to start and set a schedule, make it a habit. Work on one goal at the same time everyday and you will accomplish it. Then you'll be motivated to set larger goals.

We need down time, fun time to re-energize. Here are a couple tips. Please share your own.

Balance Work and Play Tips:
  1. Make a schedule or write on a calender work related items, have-to-dos, and fun times. Yes, schedule fun times in.
  2. Set short term and long term goals. Write them down and the steps you will do to achieve them. Read your goal list every day.
  3. Keep open to new opportunities. People, places or things to help you with your goals. If you're in a goal frame of mind, these synchronistic incidents occur. Really.
  4. Set priorities so you're not overwhelmed with the little stuff. Family, friends should be priority. They're your support system and also need your support. But take care of you too. Everyone needs downtime especially primary caretakers who can end up ill themselves when taking care of ill parents and spouses.
  5. Plan your downtime to make the best use of the limited time. Meditate, read, watch a favorite TV show/movie, start a craft, take a class at a local college or on-line, learn a new skill (can be a great motivator and boost to your self-esteem), meet with a friend.

The idea for the blog post came to mind because I have a new anthology coming out today along with two amazing writers: Ruby Storm and Virginia Cavanaugh.
WORK AND PLAY releases today 10/30/12 at Ellora's Cave in print only and will soon be available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. The stories included in this anthology:

"His Toys" by Ruby Storm
"Spring Break" by Kathy Kulig
"Mixing Business with Pleasure" by Virginia Cavanaugh

Hope you'll check it out.

This book was pre-released at the recent RomantiCon convention in Canton, Ohio and all three authors sold out of their copies!!! So it's going to be a big seller.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Ellora's Cave #RomaniCon12 Conference Blast

Ellora’s Cave sure knows how to throw a conference, I mean party to celebrate their authors and readers. Whatever you want to call the 4-day event in Canton, Ohio from October 11-14 RomantiCon was a huge, HUGE hit.

The entire McKinley Grand Hotel was taken over by erotic romance authors, readers, reviewers, some media, EC staff and the hunky Cavemen.
Nick & Ace (never see Ace w/o a smile)

Canton is a nice little town with historic architecture, a First Ladies Museum across the street, an Antique Car museum a few blocks away and the Football Hall of Fame. The hotel provided shuttle service to the Football Hall of Fame and dh loved it.
Cavemen did a number of amazing shows
Thursday started with a Meet 'n Greet which felt like a family reunion of old friends and a chance to meet new ones. During the day on Friday and Saturday many of the workshops were standing room only. I participated in three: BDSM, Why We Love it; BDSM Hurt So Good; and Paranormal Creatures: The Good, The Bad and the Undead.

I got some great feedback from the workshops and hope to do similar ones next year and maybe some new ones. Besides the workshops, there were pitch sessions with the editors and fun demo/participating events like a class on Zumba with Caveman Nick, a hulla hoop class and one on lap dancing with a very interesting demo. Congratulations on Caveman Nick for winning Mr. RomantiCon 2012.
Cole,  David Cavemen
Christine d'Abo dancing away

PARTY!!!! Friday night was the Party Like It’s the End of the World (aka Mayan Apocalypse). Lots of bling and an awesome show by the Cavemen. The second night was the party of the survivors and biters (zombies). After the apocalypse. Amazing costumes and EC did a wonderful job with the creepy table settings and backdrops.
That's me w/Mr. Kathy

Cris Anson & ???

 I was dressed as a zombie killer who looked more like Trinity in the movie Matrix one attendee said and dh was dressed as a zombie. White business shirt and tie, coated in blood with yucky zombie makeup. He looked like the office worker who got out of work and got bit.
Kaenar Langford & Isabelle Drake
Nick & Tara Nina
By the second night, even the two cops who were hired to keep things in order got into the party mode. They must’ve realized they had nothing to worry about after the first night. We know how to party but no one was getting out of hand. So on Saturday night, they wore EC’s “Got Sex” black tee-shirts, sunglasses and had cameras with them. Gotta love it.
Joey Hill & Desiree Holt
Awards were given that night for Rising Stars: new EC authors who had their first book published and special awards nominated by the editors. I received a Super Star award for Damned and Defiant for the Best Reason for Getting a Sunburn. LOL.
Lynn LaFleur
The book signing on Sunday was a huge success. My new anthology WORK AND PLAY with fellow authors Ruby Storm and Virginia Cavanaugh SOLD OUT!!! I’m so excited to be included in this anthology with these two talented authors. What a great trilogy of stories. Check it out on October 30th. The official release date.
Virginia Cavanaugh

I also sold a number of Something Wicked this Way Comes anthologies and several eBook coverflats of Damned and Defiant, Emerald Dungeon and Spring Break.
PJ party w Taylor

The last fun event: The Bingo PJ party. That will have to be a yearly tradition. Everyone had so much fun. We all win when you get to watch the Cavemen walk around in their PJ’s and furry slippers. Can’t wait until next year. I miss everyone already. Many thanks to the Ellora's Cave staff, the hotel staff,  the Cavemen and everyone who helped to make this conference a HUGE success.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fifty Shades Wicked Impressions

Fifty Shades Impressed

When I came across this article about the blockbuster novel Fifty Shades of Grey I was very impressed with Romkey's interpretation and had to repost this. I agree with her comments especially about the story being about an unhealthy relationship, not a true BDSM relationship. In E.L. James defense though, as far as I know, she never said this story was about a typical BDSM relationship. She wrote a story and struck a nerve, a huge nerve, to the tune of $30 Million so far. And as an author, however, I have to congratulate James for her awesome success. Authors know how difficult it is to write, get our work published and build a career. I think authors, readers and editors should look at her series and, after congratulating her success, see what it was that she did right instead of being so quick to pick apart what she did wrong. Was it the characters that readers fell in love with? Their flaws? Curiousity of what might (but never does) happen? A compelling story? If you read the books, what kept you turning the pages? I recently attended a BDSM workshop and I know those in the BDSM lifestyle aren't happy with the book because they feel the general public will believe their lifestyle is similiar to the abusive/controlling one James portrayed in her books. But the story is fiction, not real. Read it for enjoyment, entertainment, escape, not as a How-to manual.

This article first appeared in the Summer issue of Lovelights, the newsletter of Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. Permission to forward with proper credit given.

First of all let me preface this by saying I’m extremely jealous of the success and the buckets of money E.L. James, the author of Fifty Shades of Grey has brought in, so anything I say could be based on that alone. I’m amazed at the success of this book. The last I heard it was outselling all other books 300,000 to 1. That’s an insane statistic. So with all of the hype surrounding this book, I figured as a writer it was my job to try to see what the fuss was all about, and I bought my copies.

I’ve read a few articles about the books, talked with a sex therapist, and watched some fan reviews on YouTube. From what I’ve read, clearly I’m going to be in the minority here, but I have to comment on at least two things: the quality of the writing and the message of the book. Warning: this article contains spoiler alerts.

 I won’t go on too much about the quality of the writing as I don’t think many people who have read it said they have done so because of the beautiful or stellar writing. I’m halfway through the third book and am thinking of finishing it as a drinking game, drinking any time I see: Holy shit, holy crap, oh my, he touched me there, his mouth formed a hard line, holy hell, and all of the annoying multiple personality talk she has with her inner goddess and inner subconscious. Of course I’d never finish the book because I’d be unconscious or die of alcohol poisoning.

I think people are drawn into the books because of the promise of naughty BDSM and a darkness that makes them almost have to dare to read the books. The promise of the premise is delivered in the first one, but the second book, though titled Fifty Shades Darker, well, isn’t at all. With the mask on the front and the title, I had all sorts of ideas about where we were going with that and how that masquerade party would turn out. But that wasn’t delivered on, and the tone of the second books is actually much lighter and pulls back almost entirely on the BDSM.

The books started out as Twilight fan fic, which I think, is the initial draw to them. The Twilight series is over and those avid readers need some place to go. Ana is very much weak, annoying and clutzy like Bella. Christian is very much haunted with tussled bronze hair as Edward was. And like Edward to Bella, Christian’s drawn to Ana for reasons he can’t quite explain nor can the reader. There’s just something about her.

I saw on Pinterest today a graphic of the cover of Fifty Shades of Grey that had been captioned, “For men who are saying women don’t come with an instruction manual, I’ve found one!” And to that I say, “No, no, no, God no!”

Fifty Shades of Grey is a nice, fun read if you aren’t expecting great literature. There’s a lot of good sex scenes, but frankly by the third book I skim over most of them just to get done with the books which, still a month later I’m forcing myself to finish. Really, there are hundreds of thousands of other erotica books out there. But please for the love of all things holy, if the teenage girls who read Twilight are now reading this and are taking both of those books as a how-to-guide to find romance, just stop. And if any man or woman thinks that this book is a manual on how to treat a woman, they need to see Dr. Flynn.

I think most romances have a core premise that the woman has a need to be saved and the man has a need to be the protector. We could argue the validity of that, but let’s accept that and move on. Yes, Fifty Shades has that element.

But if you’re saying that this book is an instruction manual, you’re saying women desire filthy rich bazillionaire men who make $100,000/day and that the men have to be smoking hot. Doesn’t that make us a bit shallow? It also means that women should come to a relationship pure and virginal only to be played with and corrupted by a man. While this makes for great mommy porn and fantasy, I hope the creator and re-pinners of the graphic don’t believe this to be true.

I even go far as to argue, as do some other articles I’ve read, that this relationship is abusive. I’m not talking about the spankings as those are part of a drawn out agreed upon contractual relationship. I’m talking about the emotional abuse. He tells her when to eat, how much to eat, what to eat, when to pee, if she can drink, if she can drive her own car, how to wear her hair, what to wear and even states that in the BDSM relationship, she will experience a freedom in not having to think about any of those things. So women secretly don’t want to have to think?

He also wants her and pressures her to give up her entire life for him. This is something I have a major problem with in romance fiction. Bella? To be with Edward, you have to give up your mortal life. Ok, let me at it, chomping at the bit to give everything up. In this one, Christian discourages her relationships with her friends, discourages her working for anyone other than him, discourages her living on her own. His control over her life is almost cult-like in it’s totality. Almost like one of his hostile takeovers.

Any time she actually chooses to think for herself, he doesn’t approve and sulks and pouts and stomps his feet to make her regret doing so. She has to defend any of her choices to go out with friends and then is twisted to feel guilty about it after she acquiesces to his demands, regretting she ever asked. She doesn’t choose her own clothes as he has a buyer purchase everything, but when she does buy and wear something, he gets upset that it’s too skimpy. He basically trains her not to ask in the first place. After their first fight which occurred when the spanking got out of hand, he even turns it around on her, blaming her for not using the safe word even though not only is she new to the BDSM lifestyle, but to sex in general, again so that she feels guilty. Isn’t that what domestic abusers do? Make it the victim’s fault?

Not only that, but (spoiler alert) when she gets her first job out of university, he buys the friggin’ company, so that he can control who she works with, whether she gets promoted or not, and can throw a hissy when she decides she wants to keep her maiden name. He’s very concerned about her male boss, so that she has to get his permission to go to work for him. Her decision. Eventually the boss turns out to be a scum bag so she can crawl to him, almost literally, and apologize because Christian was right, and he knows what’s best for her.

There are some other definite deal breakers that I’d kick him to the curb for. He invites his ex to charity parties at his parents’ house because they are on good terms now, and he pays to take care of other ex-submissives, not to mention giving one a bath after she has a breakdown. Ana is forced to endure things like this on a regular basis, but is given grief if she wants to go for a drink with her friends.

The most damning of the abuse evidence I’ve come across so far is when Christian gets mad at her for saying she won’t go out for a drink with her friends, but then she changes her mind and doesn’t tell him.

His response to her is, “I want to punish you. Really beat the shit out of you.” If anyone I was with ever said that, we’d be fifty shades of finished.

Throughout the book she’s wondering which personality, which shade of him is going to appear. He’s moody and goes back and forth in a bi-polar fashion so often, she doesn’t know what to expect. She’s often anxious about how angry he is going to be and continually walks on eggshells. That’s not a healthy, loving relationship.

Some people partake in BDSM relationships and have a healthy sex life. Christian’s need for this comes from an abusive past (more spoiler alerts) where he chooses to do this to punish women and act out some sort of sadistic revenge on those who resemble his crack whore mother. So his sex play is coming from a psychologically messed up place and whether consensual or not comes off as abusive to me. Not to mention, that two past women he’s had relationships with who appear in the books (spoiler) are bat crap crazy. He either draws cray cray to him or he turns women cray cray. Neither of which showcases functional healthy, loving relationships.

 Yes, it’s a fantasy, and yes some of the fan reviews I’ve seen say that people should get over the controversy because “It’s just a book!” And while I’m nearly 100% certain E.L. James had no idea that this book would be this insanely successful, I think there is a responsibility in writing books. The Bible is also just a book. The Quran. Huckleberry Finn. Catcher in the Rye. Other books have been controversial, banned and burned before. Not to put this one in the same category, but to say, “It’s just a book. If you don’t like it, don’t read it,” isn’t a valid argument, because millions of others are reading it and are having their ideas shaped by it. Young impressionable girls are reading it and coming to the conclusion that this is a life they’d want for themselves. That thinking for themselves is problematic. That concerns me, for their sakes.

There are some truly romantic parts in the books that all women would swoon over and some great sex scenes, but they get to be tedious in the end. And it’s not enough for me to counter the abuse this man hurls on women. I think there is a dangerous commentary throughout that says women want to be controlled, don’t want to think for themselves, and can’t handle living on their own.

There is a power in the written word that some people take to heart. And the Pinterest graphic intimating that this is a healthy relationship that all women strive to have is not only dangerous, but insulting to women. Sure it’d be great to find a super hot, super rich guy who takes you on romantic fights over Seattle. But if you have to change who you are, what you think and what you want in life to be with him, is it worth it? If you want to read this for a mindless erotica romp, then fine, but please don’t take this as what a perfect romance should really be like and start biting your lip in public hoping some hot billionaire will want to drag you into his playroom and show you what true love is.

Shawna Romkey is the author of Speak of the Devil, coming this fall from Crescent Moon Press. You can find her at www.shawnaromkey.com.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Romanticon Road Trip!

Romanticon 2011

Almost packed and ready to go!! Just a few more days and I'll be heading out to Canton, Ohio for Romanticon 2012. This will be my fourth and I can't wait. I've been going since they started having this conference and I think it's the most fun, friendly and relaxing conference I've ever been to. Dh will be driving and Cris Anson will be riding along.The trunk will be packed full with costumes, lots of goodies and gift baskets.

Romanticon Welcoming committee:
Here are a couple photos from last year. Is this your first time? Feeling like you won't know anyone? You've gotten to know some names on the Romanticon loop. Check out a few photos below and you'll know at least a few of the many authors's faces who'd be happy to welcome you, answer questions, etc. Authors, feel free to post your name and website address for newbie 'Virgins' to know what you look like. Or just your name if you don't have a photo. All the authors are friendly and helpful so you'll feel welcome no matter what.

The conference is always a blast. I love seeing old friends and visiting with fans and readers. The Cavemen are always fun and great sports hanging out with us. The costumes can get quite creative but don't feel bad if you don't have one. Not everyone dresses in costume.

Kaenar Langford can certainly create an entertaining costume. It was a little tricky giving her hugs that night but she had a great place to hold martini olives.

CJ and Cris Anson


CJ and Cris Anson have been with Ellora's Cave for quite some time. CJ is quiet but super friendly. Is Cris shy? Umm, no. Just go up and say hello and you've made your first friend at Romanticon.

Tara Nina, Samantha Kane, Kathy Kulig
Cris Anson, Ciana Stone, Kaenar Langford
All these ladies in the above photos are fabulous and friendly.

Cavemen with Jaid Black


At Romanticon this year I'll be participating in three workshops. Here is a listing for the workshops, the times, who'll be on the panels with me and a little about them.

3 – 4: BDSM Romance: Why Do We Love It? (Hosted by Joey Hill; Kathy Kulig, also Ann Mayburn) Readers of BDSM erotic romance come from all points on the sexual spectrum, from those who read purely for the fantasy, to those who actively participate in real life. Good BDSM romance therefore brings together elements of both the reality and the fantasy. Join author Joey W. Hill and others for a discussion of this intersect - fun tales of "research", decisions about psychology, positions, setting, etc., that will be of interest from the reader point of view. There will also be time for a comprehensive; Q and A with the authors to satisfy any other questions about how they write the BDSM books you enjoy reading!

2 – 3: BDSM ~ Hurts So Good! (Hosted by Kathy Kulig, Desiree Holt; Francesca Hawley) How can pain be pleasurable during sex? Think Domination/submission is too extreme for you in real life, yet fascinated by the dynamics in those relationships and enjoy reading stories about BDSM? Reader and writer participants will learn about the often misunderstood lifestyles within the world of BDSM in a fun, relaxed and non-threatening environment. Authors from the 1-800-DOM-help series offer terminology, demonstrations -- and an audience participation game! 

3 – 4: Paranormal Creatures: The Good, The Bad, & The Undead! (Hosted by authors Regina Carlysle, Desire Holt, Kathy Kulig; Francesca Hawley) Join this panel of prolific authors for advice on the technical aspects of writing for EC's Twilight Line (dynamic hooks, compelling characters, sizzling sexual tension), some paranormal creatures trivia (with prizes!), and a Q and A segment featuring wacky questions for all fun-loving attendees!

I'll be arriving Thursday afternoon. See you all soon!!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

BDSM: Part IV - “Master and Servant”

BDSM: Part IV - "Master and Servant"
This is the last of my 4-Part In a BDSM Dungeon.
“Master and Servant” another 80s group by Depeche Mode. Obviously by the title you can tell it's a BDSM themed song, the lyrics too. One line says it all: “Domination is the name of the game, in bed or life!” While I searched for BDSM themed songs, I found this group had a number of them. Thank you all who read and commented and shared thoughts and views in this blog series. Please keep the comments coming since many of us (including myself) are continuing to learn about this often misunderstood lifestyle for our own curiosity and for writers who wish to write more accurate and deeply emotional erotic romance stories within this subgenre.

Frogs – Fortunately I didn’t meet any frogs at Paddles. Everyone was very nice and respectable. Frogs are inappropriate people that enter the BDSM lifestyle. They can either be rude and interrupt a scene (which will get you thrown out of a club by the way), or mean with a I-can-hit-you-attitude because I’m a Dom. Those are abusers, not Dominants. Those who leave their subs after a scene without aftercare—attending to their physical/emotional needs, would come under the definition of a frog. For writers, these could be the villains of a story.

Subspace – As much as I read about subspace in fiction and non-fiction books, I was completely amazed when I saw this for myself at Paddles a number of times. Saw it, not experienced. Whether it was from a scene of flogging, electrical play, bondage, needle play, etc., I saw several incidences of subspace. From the masochist who was clinging to her sadist boyfriend, to others who could barely walk, in most instances, it was not hard to point out a person experiencing subspace. This was my take on it: A person in subspace seems to be overloaded in physical and/or emotional sensations and perhaps is pushed into a different level of consciousness, or perhaps they have an overload of endorphins. I’m not sure. But a person in subspace can get weepy, have glazed eyes, slurred speech and walks like a drunk. They can be very disoriented. They definitely should not drive. Treat them as if you have a drunk friend. The effect can last a day or more. No, the flogging session didn’t send me into subspace but I did get a couple bruises. J
Cellophane and creative bondage- In part II, I mentioned about the blue cellophane bondage scene I watched. That was quite a scene and took a lot of time and planning. The Dom had a special wide collar on his sub that covered her mouth and all of her neck. She started out naked and he wrapped most of her body. Her arms were crossed, hands partially covering her breasts. Somehow with straps and a pulley system he suspended her off the ground. Pieces of blue cellophane stretched out like rays. I’m sure he had to be extra careful that the cellophane wasn’t cutting off circulation or that she wasn't getting overheated. When he was done, she looked like an erotic blue creature caught in a blue spider’s web.

Another jail in the dungeon
Is Paddles Haunted? An interesting observation was made during my visit at Paddles. Another member of our group also had a similar experience. I believe the club might be haunted. No kidding. Before many people arrived at the club, I was standing in the main area by the bar taking in the sights. I was by myself. I felt someone grab my butt. I spun around expecting to see someone from our group teasing me, but there was no one there and no one had passed by. I wasn’t near anyone and was standing in the middle of the room. Can’t blame it on alcohol, because they don’t allow alcohol. This also happened to someone else in our group. So what do you think?

This workshop and the visit to Paddles was a wonderful learning experience. I met some great people and learned a lot. I also got tons of new ideas for future stories, including the ones I’m working on.

If you’re a writer and interested in learning about the BDSM lifestyle I have to plug Dr. Charley Ferrer’s workshop BDSM for Writers  http://www.bdsmforwriters.com/  And also her book of the same name: BDSM for Writers. She has other books on the topic too if you’re just interested in the topic.

Thank you to those at the workshop and Paddles for your kindness and openness to share in your experiences or allowing me to watch.  And it was wonderful meeting those of you at the workshop. Please stay in touch. Don’t forget to checkout Cris Anson’s blog or Francesca Hawley’s blog http://www.francescahawley.com for upcoming posts. And thanks for visiting my blog and sharing your thoughts. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Work & Play Was Never Like This

RELEASE DATE!!! For the new anthology: October 30th!!

Work and Play by Ruby Storm, Kathy Kulig and Virginia Cavanaugh

This PRINT anthology will be pre-released at Romanticon And then its official release date to the public will be on October 30th.

Here are blurbs for the three HOT stories within this collection. Each of these stories are available separately by eBook.

His Toys by Ruby Storm
Spring Break by Kathy Kulig
Mixing Business w/ Pleasure by Virginia Cavanaugh

His Toys by Ruby Storm
Sanford Willard is a crafter of toys. Not your standard run-of-the-mill playthings created for the general public, mind you, but items designed for the woman who basks in her sexuality on all levels. He has one more step to complete before taking the adult market by storm and that's to ensure his prototypes are the perfect complement to a woman's body.

One weekend. One thousand dollars on the table for payment to co-worker Melodee Dayton. Forty-eight hours of extreme pleasure in exchange for her honest opinion.

Two consenting adults. A fantasy come true. Get ready to roll the dice of fate.
Spring Break by Kathy Kulig
Spring break beyond your wildest fantasies? If Justin Watkins can stop watching over his college students like Big Brother, he might convince the prim-and-proper Mariko Maguire to be his sex partner at the invitation-only adult club called TropiX.
Mariko is in Fort Lauderdale on business, trying to secure new clients for her PR firm. Abandoning prior commitments for one wickedly lustful evening—a one-night stand of kinky sex—was not on her agenda.
Carter Bosworth is looking for an evening of sex games during his layover in the tropical playground. He’s a regular at TropiX and always open for a new thrill. His plans are sidetracked, but it may be to his benefit after all when he meets the beautiful Mariko.
The potent heat developing between Justin and Mariko tempts her into shedding her inhibitions, and an exploration in eroticism beyond her imagination develops at the fetish club.
Mixing Business with Pleasure by Virginia Cavanaugh
Sonia Brooks has been nursing a crush on co-worker Evan Fitz for the last few months. So when their boss pairs them together to create a blowout advertisement package for X-stasy Condoms, Sonia realizes she’s been handed the chance of a lifetime. All she has to do is convince Evan that sampling the product would further their goals—both in the office and out.

Still time to WIN PRIZES! If you're following my month-long blog tour for my Ellora's Cave release Damned and Defiant, here's the list of places and dates below. $20 Gift Card and tote bag of books will be given to two commentors at the end of the tour. And a drawing for a FREE eBook will be given at each stop.