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An Interview with Avylinn Winters

avylinn

Hi Avy! Tell us a little about you.

Hi there! Well, for starters, I’m a Swedish blonde, happy to prove the prejudices incorrect but also just as pleased with saying that I’m all for having fun. I write M/M novels in my free time, and spend the rest of my time either at the office, cuddling with my cat (who can impersonate a ghost), or hanging out with my partner. I’m not yet 30, but if you happen to stumble upon this post sometime in 2017, then that’s a lie.

I also spend a lot of time as a hobby psychologist and give myself various diagnosis. It’s all in good fun though, but my novels tend to include a little bit of psychology. I enjoy the occasional glass of wine, I have a sweet tooth, and a bad memory which is a nuisance.

What was your journey from aspiring writer to published author?

I began as a reader. My partner bought me an e-reader for Christmas, and that’s the moment when this wheel started spinning. I read a lot. A lot. So, slowly I began to explore what the internet had to offer in terms of content. I stumbled upon a site called Booksie, where writers shared their works for free, and still do. I began reading there (now this makes me sound like a cheap, which is true as I was a student at the time with next to no funds), but all of a sudden the threshold to start writing my own stuff wasn’t that daunting. I could simply write something and press publish. No fuss. So, that’s what I did. I began to write online, and when Booksie felt cramped, I moved on to Wattpad.

Wattpad opened up a world of possibilities, and two years after starting on the site, I felt that I had achieved something that I wanted to introduce to the rest of the world. For the first time ever, I felt confident. So, I sent out the manuscript to an agent. Right, because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I aimed high. Very high. When this agent finally got back to me (note that I only sent to one agent which is weird in itself), she was super nice and positive although she wished to see another story rather than this one. So, rejected, but with grace. I moved on to contact a publisher directly, one that a friend of mine had told me about a while back. This was Pride Publishing, and lo and behold, I sent them the manuscript, they gobbled it up, and here I am. What happens from now on is not set in stone, but that’s the fun of it all.

Who has influenced you?

I might go a bit off road here, but I feel like sharing this for some unknown reason. Influences come from everywhere and everyone, but a few individuals have left more of a mark. My sister is my hero, definitely, and so is my partner. But then, I’ve also been influenced by a selected few who have left me in one way or another. One was a young gay M/M writer who had to give up on the world he’d created online because of his family. They gave him an ultimatum, and he chose them. His entire story made a huge impact. He was a part of a closed religious society, quite an unwilling member actually, but he ended up showing me how strong the urge to fit in can be, and how difficult it is to sacrifice the world you know and the people you love. He also inspired me to continue since some members of the LGBT youth need us to speak up for them when they aren’t free to do so.

I also lost one of my best friends last summer to cancer. I was too young to remember much of my grandparents, and in general, we’ve been spared a lot of heartache in our family. So, when Jay died, it struck me hard. I wrote stories for him, with him and to him. Now when he’s gone, he’s still with me, pushing me forward and not allowing me to give up, just as he did then.

Leia

Where do you usually write, and what’s your ideal writing space?

I write at home in my sofa, preferably with the cat in my lap (as long as she doesn’t get in the way). I do like sitting in a large room with lots of people around me, but only if they’re reasonably quiet. I’m easily distracted so quiet is the best. I don’t even listen to music most of the time unless I need it to reach a certain emotional state.

Tell us about your book (On sale today!)

My first published novel is called Volatile and tells the story of a young, slightly depressed, very lost guy who gets a rather remarkable opportunity to travel around Europe. The tale focuses on his rocky relationship with a volatile violinist. It’s angsty, it’s cheesy, and it’s meant to tug at your heart a bit. Without giving too much away, I give you the blurb:

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Like a depressed moth drawn to a wild flame, Chris hoped that flame would brighten his life, not burn him alive.

Chris Sinclair fades into a gray world after losing his mother to cancer. When forced to attend a concert, as a last attempt to coax him out of his shell, he discovers that life might not be as bleak as he first thought.

Dante Heron holds the audience between the tips of his fingers and the delicate bow, playing the violin as if every heart is his to command. However, something darker brews behind the façade, and Chris is determined to solve the enigma.

When Chris is offered the job of traveling around Europe with the famous violinist, he surprises himself by accepting. With no idea of what awaits him, he’s thrown into a world where emotions rule and rules are bent.

They’re a perfectly dysfunctional match, but then there’s always calm at the heart of the storm.

One, two, three, four.

I wasn’t prepared when the first note struck. Not at all. Waves of sound rolled against the walls, flowing into every crevice then surging back. The tiny hairs on my arms stood in a silent salute, reaching for the hum in the air. I gripped the armrests on both sides of me, but it didn’t help. I was floating in a restless sea, weightless and lost.

Closing my eyes, I fought the current of emotions that tried to break free, but it was a hopeless battle. I shivered as the tones from the string orchestra reached for my core and swept me away. Ten seconds, and I was struggling to breathe. It was too much.

In the late afternoon sun, one full year ago, my last words to Mom’s coffin hadn’t brought out a single tear, but here beneath the glow of a solitary light, my eyes burned.

I wanted to leave. All the pent-up sorrow after Mom’s last months alive seemed to pour out of my heart, latching on to the beautiful lament produced by the violins and cellos. It felt as if I were fighting against a tidal wave of sounds and emotions. It was powerful and haunting, like ghosts whispering past the veil between life and death. No wonder my skin flared alive with apprehension.

As the concert continued, I was torn between the urge to leave and the wish to stay and lose myself in the storm of sounds. It was a useless, exhausting battle, and it didn’t cease until the music faded into a quiet breeze. The lights focused on one individual among all the tuxedos. Someone who stood out in the crowd. I saw it as his fingers danced across the slender neck of the violin—I saw it in his wild eyes and unruly hair. The tresses were black as ink, slightly too long and drenched with sweat. He didn’t belong. He wasn’t one of them.

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from him no matter how hard I tried. He had me under his spell as his solo caught my soul and kept it hostage. I felt ridiculous, more so than the conductor who waved his arms in the air as if he was fighting an invisible monster. Perhaps this concert was a monster. It seemed cunning and brutal, masking itself behind treacherous melodies and rhythms.

It was time to go before I lost control.

Buy links

Amazon

Pride Publishing

Apple iBooks

Kobo

 

What’s your next writing project(s)?

I’m currently working on the sequel to Volatile. It’s a very different story, both in tone and content, but with characters that are introduced in Volatile. Where Volatile is sweet, Toxic is vile. It’s intended to unsettle. Toxic centers around domestic violence, and it’s meant to highlight that same-sex couples aren’t spared from this plague. It’s a serious theme, and it has been very difficult to both write and edit. The only thing that drives me forward at this point is the knowledge that stories like this, although unpleasant, are important.

 

Social media links

Facebook

Twitter

Guest Post: The Challenge I Didn’t Expect by Annabeth Leong

Annabeth Leong and I have shared pages, but we’ve only just become friends. Annabeth came up with the brilliant idea that we exchange guest posts–I share my thoughts and  feelings about being a first time editor and share my current submissions call, and Annabeth write a post about her anthology and her evolution as an editor. After reading her post, I’m so thrilled to have Annabeth guest posting here today.

***

Delilah, thanks so much for hosting me here!

At the start of this year, to be honest, I was feeling burned out. After eight years of writing erotica, I wasn’t sure anymore if I had stories to tell that mattered in the world. So I took a step back, sat down with a notebook, and thought about things I’d done that did seem to matter.

 

MakerSex

 

Immediately, the forays I’d taken into editing stood out. The first anthology I edited, MakerSex: Erotic Stories of Hackers, Geeks, and DIY Projects, came out in March, but even though the book wasn’t yet available I already knew how important it felt to have discovered great stories I wanted everyone to read, to have helped the authors polish and improve them, and to have put together a book that was sexy, diverse, and well-written.

 

Between the Shores

 

I also spent a lot of time in late 2014 and early 2015 copy editing for The New Smut Project. Both of the books that project produced—Between the Shores: Erotica with Consent and Heart, Body, Soul: Erotica with Character—are filled with stories that humbled me, stories I felt honored to have touched in any way, stories that changed how I think about erotic connection to this day.

Next, I thought about how proud I’ve been to have contributed to the Coming Together series of charity anthologies. I’ve been in nine of them, including Among the Stars, Arm in Arm in Arm, and Keeping Warm. I don’t make much as an erotica writer, so it means a lot to me to be able to give to charity this way, when I might not be able to otherwise.

Finally, I thought about this question of stories that matter in the world. The stories I’ve written that I’ve loved best came from my own unique voice. They spoke to experiences I hadn’t read described in quite that way before, and when they resonated with readers, they seemed to do so because they addressed a void, made people feel they weren’t alone in something.

So if I wanted to do a project that I could feel excited about amidst my burnout, it felt like it ought to combine these elements—it should give me a chance to help other writers, it should be for a cause I believed in, and it should speak to an experience in which people too often feel alone.

Some time ago, I realized that I’ve never read a piece of erotica that includes a person who has an STI. If erotica acknowledges that STIs exist at all, it’s only in terms of their prevention. (Whenever I write this, I add that I would love to hear about positive counterexamples. Please feel free to email me!) That was what I learned in school, too—only prevention and warnings. But the truth is that’s not the world. People get STIs all the time, and getting an STI doesn’t forfeit a person’s right to a fun, fulfilling sex life.

I remember being diagnosed with HPV and genital warts—both of which are incredibly common in the U.S.—in my twenties and honestly thinking I could never have sex with anyone again. The shame was overwhelming. I’ve since had lovers who had other STIs, and I’ve seen them in various stages of overcoming shame, too.

 

csph-logo

 

I got into erotica wanting to talk about subjects that had always been taboo, wanting to shine a light into places I’d felt shame, and where I thought others might, too. I came up with the idea for Coming Together: Positively Sexy, an anthology of stories including positive portrayals of characters with STIs, in this spirit. My hope is that the book will do good just by existing—that writing for it and reading it will heal shame. Beyond that, its proceeds will benefit the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health, an organization that has helped to free me from so much of my own sexual shame, and that, among other work, educates people about STIs, including prevention, but also including enjoying sex responsibly after a diagnosis.

And since I put out the call for submissions, I’ve heard very, very often from people who want to read this book, who say they need to read it. I haven’t, however, gotten many story submissions.

I got into this project knowing this book would test my editing skills. I want to choose stories representing a wide variety of people and experiences, and to work with writers to help them realize their vision. I have an image of a book that includes a range from stories of people dealing with disclosing an STI to a new lover to people for whom it’s a quick, no-big-deal conversation before the sexy fun begins. I have experts at the CSPH available to consult with if needed, so I can be sure the book treats STIs in a medically accurate, non-shaming way.

What I didn’t realize was that this book is demanding a different kind of editing skill: convincing and encouraging nervous writers to try their hands at stories that feel risky to them. I have had many conversations with writers who say they don’t know anything about STIs and can’t write about them, only to tell me in the next breath that they’ve had or currently have an STI. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they can’t picture how a story could include mention of an STI and still be sexy. I’ve had conversations with writers who say they are far too worried about the possibility of getting something wrong. I’ve talked to writers who say they mostly submit stories they’ve already written, and they’ve never written a story that includes a character with an STI.

To me, this all speaks to the stigma around STIs, the very stigma that I’m hoping this book can question. I want to make a book that opens up a little space inside a dominant culture that often seems intent on shaming people, a book that offers up a vision that an STI doesn’t have to be the end of a person’s sex life, that it doesn’t have to be a big deal at all. I’m hoping to get some stories from writers who already know that because they’ve lived that experience, and I’m also hoping to get some stories from writers who are learning it through the writing they’re doing now.

I will confess that I’m not the greatest at promotion. I worry that I’m not up for the task ahead of me, and that I can’t edit the book I see a need for because I won’t get enough stories. I do want to say, though, that I am doing my best—that’s all a writer or editor can ever do. If you’re reading this, and you’re interested in writing a story, please give it a try. If you have questions, send me an email (positivelybook at outlook dot com). You can see the full call for submissions here, with all the information.

Thanks so much again to Delilah for hosting me, and thanks so much to you for reading.

Writing and Monkeys

Today I’m over at Lynn Townsend’s blog, talking about writing, Among the Stars, and monkeys.  Head over to Paid by the Weird to read my interview.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.49.16 pmPhoto credit: me

An Interview with Alison Tyler

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Best. Birthday. Present. Ever.

As part of her blog tour for Dark Secret Love (review below), I have author and editor extraordinare Alison Tyler visiting here today.

Readers know that I’ve been struggling with balance and writing process of late.  So when I had the chance to metaphorically sit down with Alison I needed to know how she does it.

You are ridiculously prolific.  Are you a robot?  How do you do it?  Do you ever blow off writing to binge watch a tv series on Netflix?

Ha! How did you know that I am a robot? I try to keep my wires all tucked in nice and neat. And I wear this fine dusting of pale powder over my chrome-colored skin.

Truth is, I write all the time. Even when I’m not writing, I’m writing. (Yes, that made oodles of sense.) Basically, I can’t turn off the part in my brain that tells stories. I entertain myself 24/7 (or 23/6) with scenarios about strangers I see only for a sliver of time. Not sure what life would be like without the constant whirring of words, but that’s my world.

That said, yes, yes, yes, I am addicted to a few different series. Late to the game, I found West Wing and became instantly obsessed. I lost a few weeks to House of Cards. If I love a series, I will start re-watching from the beginning as soon as I hit the end.

The strangest place I’ve found myself writing erotica was on my laptop in the parent cafe of an indoor kid’s playground.  I was huddled off in a corner, trying to finish a story while my (then) 4 year old ran around with the other kids.  What’s the oddest place or situation you’ve found yourself writing?

The bathtub. The shower. The car. Anywhere I can’t easily get to a piece of paper and pen. That’s often when I come up with my best ideas. Then I simply have to repeat the words to myself, like a mantra, until I can get dry or pull over. (Or both.) You don’t know how many times I’ve been wrapped in a towel at the computer, typing as fast as I can to make sure the words don’t escape. That wet spot on my seat is proof.

Obviously Dark Secret Love is a bit different than other books of yours with regards to how long you’ve been working on it/the highly autobiographical aspects.  Can you talk about how the process of putting it on (metaphorical) paper was different from the way you’ve written other stories?

Dark Secret Love began as a solitary blog post. An answer to a reader’s query: How did you get your start? Many writers would be able to respond in a neat, orderly fashion. My answer has taken 500,000 words—so far. My guess (or hope?) is that I’ll never reach the end. For a year and a half, give or take, I wrote approximately 1,000 words a day on the story. Gathered all together, the “book” would be over 2,000 pages long.

This is the most unique project I’ve ever worked on. There are scenes (coming up in future installments) written from the point of view of different characters. I’ve switched tenses. I’ve played with time. I’ve broken every rule taught by English comp instructors. If you can’t entertain yourself, why bother? I wanted this series to be different.

About Alison

Alison Tyler is nothing if not busy. She’s the editor of 50 anthologies (for Cleis Press), as well as collections for Harlequin, Plume, and Pretty Things Press. Her novellas include Giving In (Harlequin), Those Girls (Go Deeper), and Banging Rebecca (Pretty Things Press). Visit alisontyler.blogspot.com for impromptu makeup reviews, lingering musical longings, and the occasional 80s flashback.

Review of Dark Secret Love

Dark Secret Love is a fictionalized semi-autobiographical story of a woman’s entrance into and acceptance of her own submissive nature.

While I enjoy erotica, I don’t often connect with characters the way I did with Samantha.  Perhaps it’s because Sam’s experiences are based on some of Alison Tyler’s experiences, and thus ring more true?  Or perhaps because I understand all too well the experience of being offered what you want and running away in fear.

While there is plenty of hot sex, Dark Secret Love is more than that.  It is a deeply personal exploration of submission.  If you’re not a member of the scene and want to understand how we got this way, this book may be enlightening for you.  If you are a member of the scene, the book will ring more true than most.

My only complaint?  That the second book isn’t out yet.

I can’t recommend it enough-run, don’t walk to get your copy today.

Disclosure-I did not receive compensation for this review or the opportunity to interview Alison.  I am, however, included in an upcoming anthology of hers.

An Interview with Mona Darling

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Today I bring you an interview with the fabulous woman behind “Glitter: Real Stories from Real Women about Sexual Desire,” Mona Darling!

1-What gave you the idea for Glitter?
I got the idea at BlogHer’s Pathfinder day last year. We were to draw a map of our life, both talents and experiences to try to see what the lay of land looked like. It was to help us figure out where our strong points lay. This is usually the sort of hippie thing that gives me flash backs to my childhood, but this time, I stuck it out. My map had a ton of little rivers and and mountains and lakes and such representing the many talents I half exceed at. Over the top of everything, was the sex worker sky. The fact that I had been a sex worker for twenty years ment that it touched every part of my life and if I chose to do something non-sex related, it would mean walking away from my knowledge base and all of my contacts. Then I started thinking about all of the stories that friends on twitter had told me about their sex lives and about how much Fifty Shades of Grey was wrongly credited with a female sexual awakening and… suddenly gathering those stories and de-stygmatizing women’s sexuality became a bit of an obsession.
2-Describe the range of experiences in the book and the contributors.
The stories range from basic histories, to stories about specific relationships and encounters. Some of the stories are sexy. Some are just a fascinating look at roads traveled. Many involve shame, or a feeling of not fitting in. Many women have guilt about having sexual curiosities as young girls. Attraction to other women was also a common theme. BDSM, threesomes and and a wide variety of fetishes are discussed. Two women talk about being virgins well past when they expected to have given up that status. I was really impressed and amazed at the diversity of the stories I received. It more then confirmed my suspicions that women are not, in the least, following societies expectations of them, they’ve just been doing in the shame filled dark. And Fifty Shades of Grey had not awakened anything that wasn’t already smiling seductively from the back corners of our psyche. If anything, Fifty Shades of Grey has started to pull back the veil. I would like to rip that veil off.

3-What’s your vision for Glitter?

I see Glitter more as a movement then a simple book. I put together a web site that I hope will grow to be a community site for women to support and understand each others interests and experiences. I in no way think women need to stand on street corners shouting about their interest in kinky sex, polyamory, bisexuality etc, but I DO think they should feel ok owning those feelings privately and not feeling the guilt that so many women feel for not being “normal.” I also want women to be able to discuss rape and assault rather then feeling like they brought it on themselves. Finally, I want everyone to understand that there is no RIGHT way. You are not more enlightened if you are poly or kinky. You are not more virtuous if you are monogamous. The only correct way, is the way that you are most comfortable with.

Hense the motto of the Sisterhood of the Glitter, or, The Glitterhood.
EXPLORE: your interests
RESPECT: others sexuality
DETERMINE: your limits
4-Why did you choose to self-publish?
I decided to self-publish for a couple of reasons. It is such an exciting time in publishing. The barrier to entry is very low and anyone can jump in the fray. There are no rules except the ones you make yourself and the learning curve is unbelievably steep. That’s the kind of world I like. So, even though I was approached by a couple of publishers, the idea of doing it on my own was just too tempting. Also? Traditional publishing is slow and I’m impatient. And of course, there was also the worry that a traditional publisher would want to polish the stories too much or sensationalize certain aspects. I’m in this to make a difference. Not to make a dollar.
5-Where can I get a copy?
Glitter is available on Amazon or through your local book store. Simply walk in proudly and ask them to order it for you if they don’t have it in stock.  It is also available for kindle.
International readers can find it on Book Depository (free shipping worldwide).

6-What else would you like to share?

Join the Glitter Movement at Glitterhood.com. Share your story and offer support to others. Lets end the era of women tearing other women down and start a new era of women supporting each other unconditionally.

Mona Darling spent close to twenty years as an A-list professional dominatrix before becoming a D-list mommy blogger. After spending many years traveling the world being told that she is fabulous, she now spends her days being told she doesn’t drive fast enough by her three-year-old son.

She writes, sporadically, about food, sex and toddler-related mayhem at DeadCowGirl.com.