Hop Against Homophobia

HAHABT 2015

Hello and welcome to my little corner of the Hop Against Homophobia, Bi-and Transphobia.  Today (May 17th) is International Day Against Homophobia, Bi-Phobia and Transphobia.  Check out the website and read about the movement here.

WordPress is quirky about linky lists, but you can click here to go to the main hop page and view the links of all the other participants (117 at last look. Woohoo!)  And everyone one of them is giving away prizes- double woohoo!  My prize info and instructions are at the end of this post.

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Can’t believe it’s been one year since I last participated in the Hop against Homophobia, which happened to coincide pretty closely with the release of my first m/m erotic fantasy, Touch of Salar.  What an eye-opening, awareness-raising year it has been. I didn’t charge into the realm of gay romance with idea of being a crusader- I just wanted to write about the stories of love between men that came unbidden (and sometimes unwanted) into my head.  I realized pretty quickly that my right to write whatever I wanted was intimately tied to the gay rights movement and that if I wanted to create literary worlds where everyone was free to love whomever they wanted, I’d best get on board with the fight to make this world safe for the exact same thing.  No more waving from the sidelines but jumping in and adding my voice to the growing symphony of writers, readers and everyone else demanding fairness and equality.

Easier said than done, as many of you have probably experienced in different ways  and on many different levels of difficulty.  My personal road to being “out” pales in comparison to the gay men and women who’ve struggled against rejection for the most of their lives.  I’m straight, but I’ve got this dirty little secret.  I get turned on by two men having sex. Gasp!  For a good chunk of my life I really believed I was the only straight woman on the planet with this “problem”.  I thought something was wrong with me and went through periods of trying to repress or deny the stories, but they just kept coming.  I even felt guilty about wanting to write male protagonists. I’m a liberated woman, right? I should want to write about strong heroines and champion womens’ causes, so I stuffed the erotic images away and focused on writing women in a series of bland, SEXLESS novels.

No surprise my stories lacked passion, right?  No surprise my life lacked passion. No surprise my stories didn’t sell.

Then one fine day I discovered that women writing gay romance was a thing.  Like, a really big thing.  I was not alone! And very quickly, I was envious!  Realization to publication took about six months.  I’ve got twenty years of stories back-uped and ready to see the light of day, people. This has been the most productive and satisfying year of my writing my life.

But, and here’s the catch, I’m now writing not only erotica, but gay erotica. At first I explained it to my friends as a sort of experiment, a way to shrug off the yoke of traditional white old men in suits New York publishing and get something out there.  Kind of a joke, you know?  Bu the joke was on me. I was so excited about finally getting to write what I wanted I didn’t see the irony of going from deep-dark-secret to Published Novel That Anyone Can Read, Including My Mother, in such a short space of time.

And so here’s my confession; I didn’t tell my family what I was doing until recently.  I fear rejection, you see, and still do. I know there are people in my extended family who will shun me as word trickles out.  And the pain, and the fear, in a small  but intense way, becomes real.  When I look at the courage of all the homosexual, bisexual, transexual, gender fluid people standing up and being counted, and being oh-so-vulnerable, I am amazed, awestruck and more than a little befuddled by my own reticence.

Freedom turns out to be intoxicating.  It is worth fighting for and taking risks, and I commend everyone who has ever faced their fear, large or small, and let their true voice be heard.

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Prize time!  I’ll be giving away a copy of my first novel, Touch of Salar, an erotic m/m fantasy, to celebrate it’s one year anniversary and this hop!  To enter, just leave a comment with your email.  I’ll draw a random winner on the day after the hop (May 25th) and notify them via email. And as an added incentive, I’ll donate a dollar for every comment I get to Old Growth Northwest, a Seattle-based group supporting  a diverse literary ecosystem.

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USA Today Interview

Today I’m interviewed by Veronica Scott for her Happily Ever After column on USA Today.  It was a great interview with some thought provoking questions about inspiration and the story behind the characters. Thank you, Veronica!

http://www.usatoday.com/story/happyeverafter/2015/01/14/sci-fi-encounters-veronica-scott-alexis-duran/21760129/

New Year’s Resolution Hop

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Once again I’m joining the writers at House of Manlove for a hop. This time we’re sharing our New Year’s Resolutions.

I try to remember to keep my resolutions to things I actually have control over. For instance, I’d really like to resolve to hit the NY Times bestseller list, but alas, that is the hands of forces way out of my control. So every year I renew my resolve to be as productive as I can be in regards to my writing. This is sort of a cheat, because I think I might be a workaholic when it comes to writing. No boundaries! I’d also like to resolve to have more time, but again, economic forces have more to say about that than I do.

I love that I’m now with a great publisher and my books are finally reaching appreciative readers. This is awesome. But in terms of being a workaholic, I need to remember to sit back and enjoy the journey instead of always focusing on the end point (the mystical bestseller list, or big royalty check that allows me to quit the day job, or the breakout novel that steams up everyone’s eReaders).

I love to write, always have, always will, but when the artistic endeavor gets all tangled up with marketing, selling, promoting, it can dim the joy of the creative process. I therefore resolve to forget all about the end points when crafting my story and simply revel in the knowledge I have a very good chance of getting this one published. Those times at the keyboard are all about the characters and their journey, not mine. That comes later, outside of the creative process. Yes, one must keep readers in mind, but not as consumers. Readers are along for the joyride just as much as I am and I have to keep my reader self close by as my writer self frolics in the realm of the imagination.

I also have to remember I have a life beyond the keyboard and I need to get out more and be with the 3-D people in my life.

To sum up, I hereby resolve to enjoy life more, to treasure every opportunity to practice my craft, to fiercely protect the small happinesses and to let go of the judgmental voices in my head saying I should be further down the road of success. Success is doing what you love, right?

Here’s to gobs of success for all of us in 2015.

Don’t forget to continue the hop and check out everyone’s resolutions!

Weekend Writing Warriors #18

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Greetings everyone.  It’s good to be back. I was in the San Juan Islands last week and missed a Sunday. Can’t wait to catch up on all the fabulous stories unfolding over at the WWW Hop.  Due to awesome timing on my part, I was out of town when my book launch occurred, so my self-promotion has been spotty.  So, did you hear? Touch of Salar is now available at a fine ebook vendor near you!

On to the snippet!  I’m now posting from my recently finished erotic fantasy, To Catch a Threeve, which is sitting in my editor’s submission pile, so I get to chew my nails over this one for several more weeks.

To Catch a Threeve  (We last left Constable Axel Blackwood in the forest, aware that he is being stalked by an unknown presence)

Mint and meadow larkspur, a combination often used by hunters to disguise their presence from animals, stood out against the usual smells of the deep forest, alerting Axel to the nearness of the interloper.

Whoever tracked Axel was good.  The only reason the constable had noticed he was being followed was thanks to a protective spell he’d learned from the old witch Talesin. A web of magical energy alerted him when the same presence passed through it more than once. This particular, non-animal presence had crossed the web five times since last night. Tonight was the first time Axel had detected him with his ordinary human senses. He suspected his stalker was getting desperate. Tomorrow, Axel and Drummond would reach the fortress of Lord Thorburn and the opportunity for mischief would be lost.

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This post is part of an ongoing blog hop hosted by Weekend Writing Warriors. Every Sunday, participating authors post eight sentences from their current work in progress. Then we hop to our fellow warriors’ blogs and check out all the fabulous fiction that’s happening! I heartily invite you to participate as a reader, writer, or both. It’s a great way to discover your next favorite book. Click here or copy & paste this address: http://www.wewriwa.com

I Know It When I Read It: Erotica vs. Porn

I was recently having a discussion with a writer friend about my efforts to write an erotic novella.  I noticed very quickly that whereas I always used the term “erotica”, she always said “porn”.  It rankled me.  Eventually I expressed my enranklement and she explained that erotica is just porn dressed up in a more marketable guise.

I beg to disagree.  I believe that there is a significant difference between the two genres, though there is a point at the extremes of both where they overlap.  This is not a judgment call or anything to do with morality, but simply that, as a writer, I have no interest in crafting porn, just as readers of erotica and readers of porn have different tastes and come to the page looking for different experiences.

Pornographic fiction and erotic fiction share one major thing in common: hot, graphic sex.  It’s my opinion that while in porn the sex is the reason d’etre, in erotica it is the icing on the cake, sometimes the filling as well, but never the whole cake.

In porn, there is a setting; a roadside bar, an office, a castle on the hill. There are characters defined by easily identifiable labels; bored housewife, rebellious biker, lonely traffic cop.  There is a very brief set-up; bored housewife stops at seedy bar and meets rebellious biker.  There is action; hot, graphic sex on a pool table.  That’s it.  Erotica has these things as well, of course, and depending on the style of the writer and the subgenre, these elements are developed and complicated to varying degrees.  In erotica, the setting becomes a more richly detailed world designed to heighten the senses and provide both opportunity and challenges.  The characters become actual people that transcend labels. They have lives beyond looking for sex. They have complications and maybe as many reasons to avoid their destined mate as to jump their bones.  There’s not only action, but plot.  Here things really diverge. In porn, there is very little resistance between contact and coitus.  Readers of porn aren’t interested in watching characters overcome obstacles to be together. As a matter of fact, I’d guess the reason they prefer porn is that they are tired of obstacles and just want to have fun. Porn is lust at first sight. Complications, if they exist, involve questions like “how many bikers will this pool table support?” not “if I have sex with this stranger, will it be the end of my marriage?”

Essentially, erotica offers two major elements that porn does not: Romance and suspense.  By romance I mean a developing relationship at the core of the story.  By suspense I mean obstacles, doubts and delays that get in the way of the romance, or in other words, the grand human mess that is human intimacy.  Erotic fiction ranges from pure fantasy to gritty reality, but always, there is some element of that most delightful state of being: anticipation.  You might scoff and say there’s no suspense in romance because we know damn well who’s going to boff who.  Well, that’s just like saying there’s no suspense in your average mystery because we know the detective will solve the crime.  The suspense lies in the journey. What twists and turns shall we endure? What challenges will the lovers face? How often will their fatal flaws get in the way? Will X panic when he falls in love with Y? Will Y go back to her old boyfriend, or run away with Z?  It’s all deliciously complicated, frustrating, and if done well, arousing.

And speaking of sex.  Porn goes straight for the hot sex with a sprinkling of story on the side. In erotica, it is the story that makes the sex hot.  It hardly matters who does what with which parts, or how large or slippery those parts are. The reader has already slid beneath skin of the characters and ridden out the storm with them. The sex will be hot!

I believe that we all dream of that perfect mate, that awesome, mind-blowing connection with another human being. That’s what erotica offers that porn doesn’t.  The purely realized fantasy of love achieved, love expressed in its rawest form; hot, graphic sex. Dirty sex. Kinky sex. Sad sex. Angry sex.  There is physical bliss but there is also emotion. Doubt. Fear. Longing. Rejection. Joy. Erotica removes sex from the realm of simple fantasy to that of complicated fantasy. Characters in erotica earn their orgasms, by golly.

Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but in this world we market and shop in, labels are important. While I might click on a book labeled erotica, I’d never click on one labeled pornography.  So maybe my friend is right? Maybe it’s all just lipstick and fishnet stockings and fooling the search engines?

Call me a romantic, but I don’t think so.