Sunday, 24 November 2013

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Cara Sutra

Cara Sutra  - winner of the Erotic Trade Organisation "Blog of the Year" 2013 - is a real fan of my writing! She loved Named and Shamed, and has asked me to take part in her Erotic Author Spotlight series on her blog.

So here it is, including an excerpt from Red Grow the Roses.

Thank you so much, Cara!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Eyecandy Monday


or Bum, folks?

Boobs -

... or Bum?

That's the perpetual dilemma I face when I come to post an Eyecandy Monday!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Beauty ...

... is in the eye of the Beholder.

I made this monster back in March, and it's been sitting at the foot of my bed ever since, waiting to be used. It went down rather well on Friday :-)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Mutually. Assured. Destruction.

One of the (many) reasons I have been running round like a headless chicken recently and not getting any work done, was last weekend's overnight lock-in at a nuclear war bunker.

It's Bigger On The Inside. And not in a good way.

This is Kelvedon Hatch. In the event of a nuclear strike, they were going to run the British government from a reinforced hole in the ground, just north of Greater London. It is three floors deep, with huge air-filtration devices, and has enough space for 600 people to live for 3 months, packed in like battery hens, before emerging into the radioactive devastation and anarchy above.

I'm old enough to remember the fear of nuclear annihilation. I was actually a member of CND so I'm probably still on an official file somewhere. I remember this:

Possibly the worst-received publication in history. Worse reviews than Fifty Shades.

This is a joke ... right? Right?

Kelvedon Hatch is open to the public most days, so I did the audio tour before the main event of the weekend. It brought it all back, in horrible creepy detail. I felt physically sick at points.

The entrance tunnel, down toward the interior blast doors.


Accommodation - an 8-hour shift in a bunk before giving way to the next person

Operations: there were desks for each government department, including the Post Office. Not sure they'd have a whole lot to do, given that pretty much everyone  in the country would be dead or dying, and second delivery could not be guaranteed.

If you're too young to recall the era, you've no idea what the pessimism was like. In fact, I don't even know the worst - I'm only old enough to remember the tail end of the Cold War. My parents were there for the Cuban Missile Crisis and say they went to bed each night literally not knowing whether they'd be alive in the morning.

Some things get better.
I'd rather live with the War on Terror.

What was I doing there? Well, we were taking part in a Cthulhu-themed horror LARP set in the 1950s.

Genuine army surplus uniform, concealed firearm, heart of a ruthless and batshit-crazy cultist.
It was tremendous fun.
And we all died.
But that's okay. It was only a game.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

... A book by its cover

Recent events have made me face up to the fact that I am very very opinionated about book covers. They strongly affect whether I bother to read the blurb or to risk buying the book, and that's a crying shame, because so often books are horribly let down by their covers. I've been there myself:

You can tell it's a swords-n-sandals epic of vast deserts, clashing armies, and the ancient temples of dark gods, can't you?
Book covers should tell the reader something about what lies within, and they should be enticing. That is their job. If they're not doing that, we might as well have plain covers with nice fonts.

To be honest, that works just fine.

So I thought I'd write about what I, as a reader, like and dislike about book covers ... though I'm mostly going to stick to heterosexual romance/crossover genres just to keep it focused. It's entirely about my personal taste. And I want to make it clear that none of the examples I'm going to cite in any way reflect on the text content of the story within!

So here's what I hate.
  • I hate anything that looks like it was photographed or painted back in the 1970s:

Would you believe this was published in 2012? Sorry Madelynne, but I think this is the worst cover I've seen in a decade.

  • I hate bloated guys with hairless chests.

"Gym Bunny ... standing naked in a tunnel. Huh?"

FFS, grown men have body-hair! Fact! Baby-bald chests look preened at best, and downright stupid at worst. Over-muscled cover models look similarly artificial - and I don't want to read about guys who spend all their life in the gym in order to maintain a narcissistic ideal. I like muscle, but it needs to look like it belongs on a human being, not a bullock.

"Oh god no. I actually feel embarrassed looking at this."

  • I hate (almost) anything with faces on.
"Oh god, he looks like Starsky."

I'm going to have to explain that. The problem with romance and erotic romance, in particular, is that people depicted on the cover are implicitly understood by the reader (though, Christ knows, not by the publisher) to REPRESENT THE CHARACTERS IN THE STORY. As a reader you're being told: "these are the people you will root for, and feel for, and fall in love with." Now, if I take one look at the cover models and think "Not my type," or "Ewwwww!" then no matter how likely I am to enjoy the written story, I have already been put off investing emotionally or financially in the book. End of.

"He might be okay in ten years time. Ugh: she won't..."
Since my primary romantic alignment is to men, I'm fussier about male faces than female. But what attacts me may not attract the next reader.
So if you are going to show faces - show partial faces. Leave room for the imagination!

So what do I like?

  • It turns out that I like arty, but not painted. Digitally manipulated is best.
  • I like books where it looks like the publisher and art editor gave a shit, and didn't just pull a stock photo out of a drawer.
  • I like symbolic covers that leave room for the reader's imagination.
  • I like eyes, and body-parts, but not whole faces.
  • Unless you're really good, less is more.

Enough complaining! Here are some (mostly) genre cover pics I love!

Seriously: great cover. Haven't read the books.

Text and marginal art, no central image. Terrific.
Simple, evocative.
Hopefully Madelynne will have forgiven me by now.

Again - no face!
Technically a YA zombie novel with romantic elements...

These two are examples of a genre-standard design type: the layered montage. Yet somehow - and almost uniquely - Tabitha Rayne has managed to get a look that's classy and expensive, and could pass for a mainstream historical novel. I can even forgive the faces.

And it's not actually romance, but ... I love this too:

Monday, 11 November 2013

Eyecandy Monday

I've had a frantic weekend. Now I'm catching my breath before ... the next one.

Seems like a good moment for staring thoughtfully out of the window in zen contemplation of the rainy world at a truly magnificent cleavage.

Everything's alright now, world.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Friday, 8 November 2013

Getting your Five-A-Day

I particularly love the papaya shot.

I'm not sure the hard statistics quoted above are accurate (especially from country to country), but this cute video does make a point I've tried to make before: sex in porn vids does not reflect reality, and it is an appalling shame that it's the nearest thing to instruction in sexual matters and manners that most young people come across.

Porn sex is entertainment - and entertainment aimed primarily at men, at that. It's wholly visual, whereas real sex is both visual and tactile. It's incredibly over-dramatised, and it's enacted by professional performers who are paid precisely because they neither look nor act like ordinary folks.

Written erotica suffers from the same thing of course. We authors are entertainers too. We can over-dramatise. We can heighten the emotions, and play down the common sense and the human frailties. In fact we play down the humour and the silly fun in sex a lot. Anyone who read my stories and thought they were an accurate depiction of what to expect in bed is going to be baffled, I think.

Especially by the lack of minotaurs.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

World Fantasy Convention 2013: a worm's-eye view

A burnt-out wreck on Brighton seafront ... and that's just me on the Sunday morning.
I'm not exactly a fraud when it comes to the World Fantasy Convention - I have had horror shorts published, and I do write fantasy, paranormal and mythological fiction within the erotica genre - but I'm not "really" a fantasy author by community standards. Erotica is the one genre that SF and horror geeks get to sneer at. We are pond-scum. We are worms. (That doesn't mean that proper authors don't write erotica - they certainly do, but they do it under pen-names and they NEVER ADMIT TO IT).

So here's my outsider's guide to what goes on at a Convention, from the eye-level of a worm.


As soon as you register at the front desk they give you LOTS of free books - there are literally stacks of books laid out by publishers for the taking thereof. Some of them haven't even been published yet and are Sekret Preview copies! So you fill up your bags (they also give you bags). And then you go to the Dealers' Room and buy more books from small presses and second-hand sellers - and they often give you free chocolates and mugs and postcards and stuff when you make a purchase. So by the end of the weekend you can have suitcases full of freebies ... which is the point at which you realise that you haven't got a car and you have to make it back on the train/tube/plane hauling the lot. A process of winnowing takes place. Free books are left in hotels all over the city, possibly distorting the economy for years to come.

(I was, btw, deeply interested to see that big-name fantasy authors - and I mean BIG names - print and reprint many many books via the small presses. It's clearly not all caviar and champagne at the top end, either).


This bit is awesome, if you have Fannish inclinations. I SAW SUSAN COOPER!!  IN THE FLESH! She is real! Susan Cooper, in case you don't know, wrote The Dark Is Rising series, five books that dominated my childhood. I lived and breathed those books. I liked to pretend I was an Old One in disguise. *sigh*

Now I'm just Old.

Best. Cover. Ever.

It turns out that SC studied English in JRR Tolkien's class at university, and her first boss when she went into journalism was Ian "James Bond" Fleming.

I bet she was a fan-girl too.

Susan Cooper and Neil Gaiman: double swoon from all women of a certain age

Terry Pratchett: friend and collaborator with Neil Gaiman

Tanith Lee: no known relationship to Neil Gaiman, so probably his mother or something.


This is a useful Buddhist exercise in teaching authors to swallow their egos.

The idea is, every single author at the convention goes in and finds a random place at a table. They put a name plate in front of them. They wait desperately for people to bring them pre-bought books to sign. They hope that that they haven't accidentally sat next to someone much more well-known who will just make them look like a huge loser. (Luckily, Neil Gaiman gets a room to himself, so nobody has to actually slit their wrists in humiliation.) NO, the authors are not allowed to actually sell or display their books. NO, the dealers' room isn't open at this point, so fans can't even nip out and buy one.

NO, I didn't take part.

A worm amidst dragons: Chaz  Brenchley, Michael Marshall Smith, me, Jane Johnson (fiction publishing director for HarperCollins), Heather Graham, Robin Hobb.


Publishers hand out free wine and nibbles to anyone who strolls in. This is a Good Thing. There might be a signing table somewhere at the back, but I have no clear memory ...

Megan Kerr and Kristina Lloyd and a ton of booze

 And this is the best bit of all :-)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Eyecandy Monday

I love my internet author friends! Vida Bailey sent me this picture!
I think I may love him too ... Or at least his hairy, naughty, peeking-out bits. And his perky nipples.

Friday, 1 November 2013


So I'm down in Brighton this weekend. I haven't been back since the World Horror Convention several years ago, but the World Fantasy Convention looks like it's going to be even bigger and more confusing. I anticipate a smaller proportion of bald guys with beards, but I may be wrong!

The Brighton Pavilion really is this fab.
I'm appearing on one panel:

SUN 11:00 am–Noon
By Any Other Name: What Makes an Author Change Their Byline?
These days even J.K. Rowling is doing it with a pseudonymous crime novel! Is it always a good idea when an author publishes their work under a different name? Is this solely a creative or marketing decision, or are there other reasons—and repercussions—when writers allow their work to appear under an alias?

But what I'm really looking forward to is meeting up with old friends and collaborators ... oh, and seeing Robert Lloyd Parry's MR James reading at long last!

Going to the WHC inspired a short story about Brighton Pier which I haven't published yet and am still nervous about: details may need to be changed to protect the innocent (and me). Let's see what this weekend inspires...