Beta Readers

I’m in the process of wrapping up my third story submission for the year. 

When I write a story for submission, I try to get a full first draft together. I’ll let it sit for a day or two. Then I try to edit for my common sins-run on sentences, irrelevant tangents, and working on being more concise. I read my story aloud to look for awkward phrasing, or a missed word (you’d be surprised how you can forget to type the word and or what have you, and when reading it, your brain often adds it in).

Next comes the beta reading and response stage.

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I am a good writer, but what takes my stories from “okay” to “publishable” is taking advice from beta readers.

Some of my beta readers give me grammatical feedback. However, this has more to do with the fact that I know a few serious grammar nerds than with what beta readers most frequently do.

The majority of beta reader feedback is content specific. Their feedback helps me understand when I’m giving too much set-up (or not enough), what darlings I need to kill (those details in the story that you love, but may be irrelevant to the actual plot), and what improvements I need to make.

I’ll listen to their advice and edit.

I try to get multiple perspectives. Every reader has a different world view and different experiences they bring to the reading experience. Those various perspectives help you get a wider view of your story and the strengths and weaknesses.

The story I’m currently working on takes place at the Boston Tea Party Ship and Museum (a former workplace of mine). My beta readers who are also from the Boston area all picked up on the Tea Party references (which were minimal in the first version). It’s a huge part of our social studies curriculum growing up, so they didn’t have a lot of feedback on that. My friend in Seattle was able to figure out the reference because she knew I’d worked there. Otherwise she wouldn’t have picked up on those same references because the Tea Party isn’t emphasized as much outside our part of the US. I realized that I needed to go back and do some edits to be more specific/show my setting in a different way because of her feedback.

I’ll repeat these steps as necessary until I think I have the best version of the story possible.

Do I give my beta readers every single fix they ask for? No, I don’t. At the end of the day, I’m the one with the vision of the story, and I have to listen to my own instincts about the story. Sometimes I disagree with my reader about a character’s personality or motivation, or what have you.

When you submit a story to an editor, you have to send your absolute best work. In my experience with anthologies, you are submitting the story you want published. The editors are not beta readers-they don’t ask you to make a change, or fix something-they accept or reject the story.  I’ve gotten feedback about liking a detail in an acceptance, but I know that when I send in the story, that’s the final draft.

Thanks to my beta readers, I’m far more confident about the quality of the stories I submit.

Shhh! Don’t Tell Anyone… Erotic Fantasies about Sexy Occupations.

So you guys may remember that back in January, I mentioned that I’d gotten an acceptance, but couldn’t tell you anything else?  Well, the time has come for the curtain to lift…

I have a secret. Oh, well. I guess it’s not a secret anymore, because I’m about to hit the “publish” button and send the information out to anyone who cares to peek. Yes, after months of hard work, and a bit of back and forth with my publisher, Cleis Press, I have the table of contents for Shhh! Don’t Tell Anyone… Erotic Fantasies about Sexy Occupations.

This idea lingered on my hard drive for nearly seven years. Some books take longer than others. I’m so pleased to share the TOC with you all.

Introduction: The “Want” Ads
Construction Worker: Grimy by Sommer Marsden
Cowboy: Bonanzed by Kate Pearce
Professor: O for Effort by Delilah Night
Chauffeur: Driver’s Seat by Sophia Valenti
Meteorologist: Warm Front by Heidi Champa
Physician: Doctors Orders by Sasha White
Delivery Boy: Just A Little Tenderness by A.M. Hartnett
Pool Girl: California Dreamin’ by Andrea Dale
Book Binder: Rule of Thumb by Laila Blake
Baker: Kneading Lessons by Tilly Hunter
Personal Trainer: Work It Out by Elisa Sharone
Stage Manager:  SM Or How I Met My Girlfriend by Giselle Renarde
IT guy: Talk Nerdy to Me by Crystal Jordan
Porn Star: Current Photo, Please by Devin Phillips
Mechanic: Body Work by Cora Zane
Museum Curator: Under Her Auspices by Jeremy Edwards
Treat Vendor: Ice Cream Boy and Sprinkle Girl by Kathryn O’Halloran
Barber: Close Shave by Alison Tyler
Alison is an author and editor whose work I love (in case you haven’t noticed) so I’m thrilled to be included in this anthology.
A small excerpt from “O for Effort”

Professor Kumar leaned back in his chair, fingers steepled.  “This is your third class with me.  You’re aware of my no extensions policy.  You’ve been an exemplary student.  So what could keep diligent young woman such as yourself so busy that you skived off on the assignment?”

“The sex,” I confessed, and immediately blushed.

“The sex, Ms. Cohen? You have my attention.  Please, continue.”  His eyes took a slow inventory of my body as if he’d never noticed that I was a woman before.  His gaze lingered at my breasts.  I had skipped a bra today, when it became clear that laundry had also taken a backseat to Paul’s touch.  My nipples hardened, impudently thrusting against the all-too-thin fabric of my t-shirt.  I shifted in my seat, clenching my thighs together under my skirt as my clit swelled.  I felt myself slicken between his unrelenting inspection of my body and my memories of the sex.

“It’s been really intense,” I whispered.  “I’ve never had such powerful orgasms in my life—“

“Let’s see how many times you can come in an hour,” Paul had raised an eyebrow at me in challenge two nights ago.  “In two?  In four?” 

First I’d moaned for more.  Then I’d begged to be fucked.  I hadn’t expected that he’d hold a vibrator to my clit as he did so.  He would let me rest, to allow my system to start to calm.  Then his hands, his mouth, or a toy would find me again.  It was something of a miracle I was capable of walking yesterday, much less finishing a term paper.

“Your excuse for not writing your paper in a timely fashion is that you were busy having too many orgasms?”

Ass Tour: Executive Training by Sophia Valenti

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Smart Ass, Bad Ass, Kiss My Ass: The Trilogy edited by Alison Tyler is a compilation of three years worth of anal themed erotica repackaged into a single volume.

Alison tells the following story about the inception of the series

When we first decided to compile a collection of stories about anal sex, I was not sure how readers would respond. Five of us got together and decided to write tight, taut, literary, smutty stories that revolved around backdoor banging. What made the endeavor unique is that we were being bold, not coy and quiet, about our theme. There was no beating around this bush, we stood up tall and proud and called our first collection “Kiss My Ass.”

Within a few months, our sales were soaring and we were receiving reviews like this one from Aisling Weaver: “Each one held me on the edge of my seat, breathless and flushed, eager for every word.”

We knew we wanted to tackle a sequel, but spent some time debating the title. We asked ourselves questions: Do we like writing about anal? Fuck yeah. Do we hide our feelings? No fucking way? Why? Because we are bad asses, which is why we ultimately named our second collection “Bad Ass.”

“Bad Ass” won instant five-star reviews, such as the one that called it “Asstacular” and this one: “So good. It surpasses its predecessor. I read it one quick swallow, but at the end of each story I almost didn’t want to keep reading, because each one is its own little gem, even though they all fit so well together.”

What had begun as a one-off endeavor transformed into an “annual anal” series. Our third installment was “Smart Ass,” which readers were anxiously awaiting.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the trilogy. Today I’ll be reviewing the first story in the book, Executive Training by Sophia Valenti.

Sophia’s story is written in the first person, and we never learn the name of her protagonist. For me, this worked exceedingly well as I related, strongly to her. The following is a description of the protagonist, but it could just as easily describe me.

I was tired of being the responsible one who planned out her days with clinical precision, weighing the pros and cons of every move. I didn’t want to think anymore; I simply wanted to feel.

Valenti blends submission, (potential) exhibitionism, spankings and anal into a well-crafted story. The juxtaposition of the character-a well put together executive exterior-and the woman behind the exterior works well to open the story. The paddle that the protagonist “craved and despised” is one of the most accurate descriptions of a submissive’s relationship with a toy that pushes her limits I’ve seen, and the spanking scene had me squirming-in all the right ways.  I also love that her protagonist had a moment of doubt before going through with her first anal experience. Due to the taboo nature of anal, most people with whom I’ve talked to about anal (which, granted, skewed data sample) confessed to either needing a few tries to go through with it, or at least a second thought before going through with it. That doubt creates a nice element of realism and relatability to the story.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the book, and I highly encourage you to go out and pick up The Trilogy.