Small Towns Can Prove Hazardous to a Witch’s Health

guestblog

by Linda Wisdom, guest blogger

I love the idea of small towns because there’s so much you can do with them. A small mountain town for witchy Stasi Romanov and fellow witch Blair Fitzpatrick seemed right since they had lived there on and off for about 150 years by reinventing themselves over the decades.

You can also have quirky characters although there’s nothing more quirky than Horace, Stasi’s gargoyle, who hangs out in her lingerie boutique, because he enjoys hanging out in the dressing rooms with the customers who have no idea he’s real. It sure makes me think twice of trying on clothes at the store! And Stasi’s dog, Bogie, who floats instead of walks and disappears at will.

lwisdomBut a small town means everyone knows what’s going on and now that Stasi and Blair have outed themselves as witches, the town’s okay with that. At least, they were until Stasi’s accused of using a hexed sachet and being sued in Wizards Court and the human woman suing her is making sure everyone knows what an evil person Stasi is.

Even wizard lawyer Trev Barnes working for the plaintiff soon sees that all is not what it should be, not to mention he’s attracted to the sweet-natured witch.

witchanyothernameBut there’s still something going on in the town that can’t be explained. A lake that’s been harmed by magick. People Stasi considered as close friends now suddenly afraid of her and they’re using the word “witch” as if she’s suddenly turned evil.

All it takes is a snowstorm closing the town off to the outside world and a massive power outage to bring that fear to a high level and it’s up to Stasi, Trev and her friends to find out just what’s going on there and hopefully do it before it’s too late.

I always saw Stasi as the witch with soul of romance and her need to see women empowered by their sensuality. For her to be treated this way is hurtful and she sees the need to fight back.

When I came up with the idea for Wicked By Any Other Name I knew there would be darkness there. A town that couldn’t call out for help and with a fear that slipped through it like a disease and what they saw as an obvious villain and why not a witch? Shades of Olde Salem and I brought that up too because there was no reason why a 700+ year young witch couldn’t have lived there during that dark time.

And romance with a yummy wizard, humor with a pervert of a gargoyle along with some old friends such as Jazz, Nick and Irma. Yes, Fluff and Puff too. And some new characters that I hope will make you smile.

I love writing my witches. They make me smile. They make me laugh and yes, sometimes I have a sniffle or two. I hope you see them the same way and also enjoy the epilogue in Wicked by Any Other Name, which stars Fluff and Puff going up against Cupid.

Linda

Erotic Romance, Not Just Erotica and Romance

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by Cecilia Tan, guest blogger

Our tale begins in 1970, which is the year some point to as the beginning of the modern romance genre, with the arrival of the manuscript The Flame and the Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss on the desk of editor Nancy Coffey at Avon. The book would be a huge bestseller, kicking off a new era of romance publishing, and Woodiwiss was the first of the “Avon Ladies.” In that year, the average age at which American women married was 20.6 years old.

But 1987 that average was up to 23.3 years old, and according to the US Census Bureau, by 2003 it was 25.1 years, where it remains today.

Meanwhile, the percentage of female teenagers becoming sexually active rose from 30% to 40% between 1982 and 1988, and now, 20 years later, the rate of high school students who have had intercourse is close to 50%. (They don’t count it as “sex” unless you have intercourse, you know.) In short, that means a lot of young American women, who used to go into their marriages with no sexual experience, now tend to have a significant amount of time as sexually active people before they marry–most as much as a decade.

Not only that, but as the generations have progressed from the swingin’ seventies to today, the kinds of sex that women are having has proliferated. The likelihood that they have experience with spanking, bondage, multiple partners, bisexuality, and other things that would have once been considered outre is now quite high as well, with 48% of people currently in their 20s reporting they have at least “experimented” with these activities.

bondage

Is it any wonder, then, that romance novels have changed, too?

This doesn’t mean that every romance reader wants in her life–or in her fiction–non-stop sex, kinky sex, or partner swapping. But the “bodice rippers” that were a staple of past generations are now often seen as either laughable or even anti-woman by modern readers, and the breathless euphemisms that used to be standard in the genre come off as quaint or unintentionally funny. The back cover copy on Woodiwiss’s “Flame…” speaks of “…the Carolina plantation where Brandon finally probes the depths of Heather’s full womanhood!”

We might make fun of the old style of marketing, but there is no denying that whatever language is used, romances have always been about passion as well as love. And just as fewer and fewer women would find a chaste kiss to be satisfying after a romantic dinner out, and now they want the same desires reflected in their favorite fiction.

But what distinguishes erotic romance from “erotica”(a broad term in itself)? Is erotic romance just a hybrid between romance and erotic fiction? In actuality, it’s the strength of the romance genre that allows so much flexibility in what we can call “romance” these days. The two unchanging aspects are the focus on love and the core relationship, and the happy/emotionally satisfying ending. That leaves a lot of room to have different historical settings, mystery subplots, fantastical aspects. As Beatrice Small wrote in a 2007 essay on the history of the genre, “[In the 1970s] romance [grew into] a billion dollar baby for publishing. It was a two-headed baby to begin with: Historicals and Category. But then as women’s palates grew more sophisticated, baby grew more heads. Historical and Category were joined by Western, Thriller, Paranormal, Glitz, Chick-Lit, Christian, Contemporary, and OHMYSTARS! Erotic, just to name a few. And the Historical sub-genre had sub-sub-genres. Regency. Georgian. Medieval. [and so on.]”

In other words, romance is a great-looking model on which you can put any kind of outfit, whether a medieval ball gown or six-inch spike heels and a leather corset.

For me, it isn’t the amount of sex in a book, nor how graphic it is, that makes a book “erotica” and not romance. I am one of those women for whom love and sex go hand in hand in my real life. I wouldn’t dream of spending my life with someone if I didn’t know we were compatible in bed. In a love story, especially a contemporary one, I feel like I need to see some erotic interaction between the characters in order to believe that their love is real and can work. In historicals I find Unresolved Sexual Tension more believable than in stories set in the modern day, but what I am still seeking is the ultimate release of that tension. I love writers who can wind the ratchet tighter and tighter, but just like someone who is great at teasing in bed, I want them to eventually deliver me that mind-shattering release.

legs

More sex scenes do not necessarily make a “hotter” book, the way more salt and pepper doesn’t automatically make a meal taste better. What is most arousing is when the sex is convincing, when it makes sense with the characters and when it follows a logical progression through their emotional lives.

There are plenty of books of erotica out there. I know, because I’ve written them. Many of them are collections of short stories, because erotica can so often be about the fling, the one-night stand, the exploration of a character’s sexual growth, but doesn’t necessarily have to be about love. Short stories are flings, but novels are relationships. And just as I found I need to see some sexual interaction between characters for me to believe they are falling in love, I also have to see them falling in love in order to believe that they are going to keep having sex for the space of an entire novel! If they aren’t, if the plot is not a love story but just an vehicle to get us from one sex scene to another, inventive and arousing as the scenes may be, I’d classify a book as erotica, and not erotic romance.

When I sat down to write my book MIND GAMES, which I’d classify as an erotic paranormal suspense romance, I had already come up with the characters many years before. I’d originally envisioned Wren and Derek as an established couple, and I was trying to write them in a kind of detective/spy scenario where their partnership and relationship were already long since established. But that idea never really firmed up. I kept asking myself how they had come to be a couple, and how did they find out that sex enhanced her psychic abilities? Ultimately I realized I couldn’t write what happens in their future until I wrote their love story and answered those questions.

It was an incredible experience writing them falling in love. After over a decade of writing and publishing dozens of erotic short stories, in places like Ms. Magazine, Best American Erotica, and Nerve, having the room to follow the characters from their initial meeting and spark of attraction, right through to their eventual emotional break-throughs, felt like a decadent luxury to me. I really was able to focus on the emotions, not just on Wren’s attraction and feelings of arousal, but also her conflicted feelings, her fears, her past wounds, and her determination to make this time different from the failed relationships of the past.

Now that I think about it, I did the exact same thing in my second romance novel, THE HOT STREAK. If anything, THE HOT STREAK concentrates even more on the relationship because there is no mystery sub-plot. All the “action” revolves around our heroine falling in love with a baseball player and learning to negotiate the ups and downs of being a “major league girlfriend.” It’s a much more light-hearted book than MIND GAMES, but again there’s that theme of her not yet having found Mr. Right, and then all the doors it opens in her heart and her life when she finally meets him.

Ultimately, this is why erotic romance is still romance, because although we want him in bed, we still want Mr. Right. It’s just romance created to satisfy the women like me who aren’t satisfied by a story that doesn’t meet their own sexual reality, and those are the women I set out to please, too. And I’m sure as the needs and lives of women continue to change in the 21st century, the heroines and stories we find in romances will change to meet them.

Cecilia Tan is the author of the erotic romances MIND GAMES, THE HOT STREAK, and the forthcoming MAGIC UNIVERSITY series, as well as numerous books of erotica and baseball nonfiction. Read sample chapters more at http://www.ceciliatan.com/.

References:
“More Girls Are Sexually Active, Study Finds,” by Felicity Barrington, New York Times, November 10, 1990 (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/11/10/us/more-girls-are-sexually-active-study-finds.html)

“Facts on American Teens’ Sexual and Reproductive Health,” Alan Guttmacher Institute, September 2006 (http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_ATSRH.html)

“Most Americans Have Had Premarital Sex,” By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY, December 19, 2006, (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2006-12-19-premarital-sex_x.htm)

America transformed: sixty years of revolutionary change, 1941-2001, by Richard M. Abrams, Cambridge University Press, 2001

“A Brief History of the Romance Genre,” by Beatrice Small, Shorelines newsletter, August 19, 2007 (http://www.authorscene.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=60)

Photo Credits: Wiros, Oneras [what about peace?]

Get into Bed with Erica Ridley (Author Interview)

I’d like us to extend a warm welcome to a Kensington Zebra debut author. Her name is Erica Ridley. Welcome Erica, to Love Romance Passion! We respect every author’s privacy and try our best not to intrude in their private lives. That being said, when did you have your first romantic kiss? I’m kidding, of course! Actually, here’s what I’d really like to know:

Susan: You became a reader at a fairly early age, age three to be exact; what do you like to read?

Erica: In those days, fairy tales. These days, romance! (The more things change, the more they stay the same… LOL.) Actually, I’m a huge fan of genre fiction in general, including mysteries and thrillers and just about anything that packs a punch. But my very favorite is definitely romance, primarily historicals, paranormal, romantic suspense, and contemporary romantic comedies.

Susan: What is it about Regency-set historical romances that appeals to you?

Erica: Oooh, everything! I love the clearly defined roles, the equally defined rules, and the characters who do their best to bend and break them. I love the fashion, the witty banter, the glamorous lives of the ton, and the not-so-glamorous lives of everyone else. In fact, some of my favorite stories involve just such class differences. I also really like the complete lack of modern technology–it opens up the door to so many plot twists that simply wouldn’t work in a contemporary story!

Susan: What states and countries have you visited?

Erica: So far (because it’s my goal to explore as many as possible!) I’ve been lucky enough to visit Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands (Holland), Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. I’ve visited exactly half of the continental US (namely: AZ, CA, DE, DC, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MD, MA, MI, NV, NJ, NM, NY, NC, OH, OR, PA, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI) and I hope to some day have visited all 50 of our states!

Susan: Do your travels inspire you to write?

Erica: Well… on the one hand, my travels inspire me to procrastinate. I absolutely adore exploring new places, particularly when if the language and/or culture is different from my own. On the other hand, I’ve stumbled across the best surprises while traveling. Tours of historical houses, museums with period furniture or costumes, libraries of old texts. And every time I do, my head overflows with story ideas, and I definitely long to sit down and write!

Susan: In your novel Too Wicked To Kiss, you introduce us to one H-O-T hero named Gavin Lioncroft. Does Gavin know the effect he has on women?

Erica: Mmmm, Gavin Lioncroft…! When he was younger, it’s safe to say he was pretty arrogant about his effect on women. But after being away from Society for so long, he no longer takes that for granted. If anything, he’s now suspicious that those who try to engage him are concealing ulterior motives… and he’s almost always right.

Susan: (Blushing) Does he know the effect he had on me?

Erica: He may not, but Evangeline sure does, and she’s giving you the hairy eyeball right now… ;-)

Susan: The sequel for Too Wicked To Kiss is Too Sinful To Deny. Will it be another whodunit mystery romance?

Erica: There’s definitely a murder to be solved (the hero’s primary goal is avenging his brother’s death) but it’s less of a whodunit-style mystery. It is definitely full of Gothic romance goodness, however!

Susan: Shameless self-promotion here. What would you like to say to readers who haven’t read your novels?

Erica: I would like to say… it’s release week! What are you waiting for? LOL. Actually, I’d like to say that I try to write sensual, suspenseful, atmospheric love stories, and I hope you enjoy Too Wicked To Kiss!

Thank you Erica, for spending the day with us here at Love Romance Passion. Please feel free to visit us anytime!

Buy: Too Wicked To Kiss