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I did a boudoir photo shoot

*This is not a sponsored post. I was not asked to write this post. I received zero discounts or perks.*

I’ve wanted to do a boudoir photo shoot for a long time now. As an amateur photographer I’m fascinated by sexual photography–naked or nearly so bodies, fetish photography, the whole nine yards. I longed to be a model in one of those photos, but the voices in my head that said I’m not pretty enough or thin enough drowned that desire in a bog of self doubt. I generally hate how I look in photos, with the exception of my wedding photos (which the voices remind me was twenty-five pounds ago). But beneath all of that was a sense of inevitability.

Several months ago I was introduced to Groupon (remember, I just moved back to the US–I’d heard of it but it wasn’t as big a deal as it is now when we left in 2010). One day I was idly scrolling through offers in my area and stumbled across a discount for a boudoir photography shoot with two photos for a steep discount.

My partner turned forty last year and I turn forty next year. No matter what the voices in my head said, he has always found me beautiful.  decided to push my boundaries and do this shoot for him. Or at least I told myself it was for him.

I booked my date and because of childcare and travel issues had several months to dread and second/third/hundredth guess my decision. Initially I made up a bogus appointment to explain why he needed to take the kids one day while I went into San Francisco. I’m a terrible liar and my excuse fell apart, so I told him what was up. He was incredibly supportive and together we crafted the four looks I would shoot with.

The price of the shoot was just the beginning. I hadn’t thought about all the details.

In the months before the shoot…

I’ve had back surgery, and was told heels were off limits for me. But I wasn’t about to wear flats in a sexy shoot. I bought three pairs of heels and a pair of dominatrix boots.

I bought a new piece of lingerie.

I bought new lacy panties.

I bought a man’s white shirt as mine didn’t look so fresh, and I wanted a better fit.

Celebrate Your Sexy sent me an email to ask me questions, including how do I feel about photos of myself and what are my concerns. (Top concern–I’d hate the photos and it would wreck my fragile self esteem).

The week of the shoot….

I got my eyebrows, lower arms, under arms, and full legs waxed.

I got a pedicure and acrylic nails.

On the day of the photo shoot…

I couldn’t find one of my outfits and had to rethink an entire look. This totally freaked me out. (It was on top of my bureau so I wouldn’t lose it–which I discovered that night.)

I had my hair and makeup done.

When my stylist asked what I wanted done with my hair I said “make it look like I just had really good sex.” My straight hair was curled and teased. Since I was (mostly) going to keep my glasses on, we added fake lashes and just did some liner on my eyes. I did a blood red lip (fiery liquid lipstick from Stila–it is my go-to and the only red I’ve ever tried that didn’t look pink-y or orange-y).

All of this added up to way more than the photo shoot cost. A more secure/more cost conscious person could probably do without these extras, but this is my journey.

The experience…

I was ready about an hour before my shoot, and I sat in my car so as not to sweat my make-up off in the insane heat wave that gripped the Bay Area a few weeks ago. This gave me plenty of time to contemplate if I wanted to take anxiety medication.

I drove to the location of the photo shoot with a carry-on suitcase full of clothes/shoes/props and texted the photographer that I was downstairs.

The photographer immediately put me at ease. We talked through my outfits and shoes. She let me plug my phone in and put on a playlist (regret–should’ve had a better playlist as it wasn’t something I’d really thought about or planned for). We talked about my props and which outfit they went with, etc.

We set up my four outfits, and I changed into the first one–a sexy red dress with red heels with a matching black lace bra and panty under it. The photographer started me off on the bed, moving the lights and herself around me. She walked me through poses, and told me to tell her when something was just not okay for my back or any other reason. Some poses were indeed uncomfortable, and I gained a small appreciation for what it must take to create ads and layouts in magazines (apart from photoshop).

My second outfit was a turquoise bra and panty under a white men’s shirt and black heels. I posed with a copy of Capturing the Moment. I wished I’d brought my own laptop, but the photographer lent me hers. I’m hoping I like one of these photos so I can use it here on the site.

My third leaned hard into kink. A nightie with a vinyl/pleather breast bra top, black lacy panties, and dominatrix boots that on my five foot two/three inch frame went nearly into my vagina. I posed with a riding crop with a sparkly handle and one with a heart-shaped surface.

My fourth? Mesh with nothing under it and black heels. I should have felt self conscious or uncomfortable, but by that point I felt comfortable with the photographer, with my body, and most shockingly–with the camera.

The photos…

I’m seeing them on Friday. I wanted to write about the experience before I saw them, and then I’ll write another entry about that experience.

Final thoughts…

I had such a positive experience that I volunteered to model in a plus sized lingerie show next month. It was a safe space.

After the shoot they give you a pamphlet with next steps and it’s not until you reach that point that you learn the ridiculous per photo costs. However, this seems to be a standard thing in the world of boudoir photography. So the selection process will be brutal, or at least I hope I like enough of the photos for it to be a difficult decision.

I’d definitely recommend Celebrate Your Sexy if you go into it knowing the photos are really expensive. They shoot all over the US.

Here’s hoping that I’ll have an excellent Friday morning.

I write sex books

My older daughter, Athena (not her real name) in her first week in an American school made a new friend. The friend’s mom was volunteering for playground duty, and upon meeting Athena asked her what myself and my husband did for work. My husband’s job is innocuous–he’s a programmer.

“My mom writes sex books,” Athena tells her.

Fast forward to last week. I meet the mom for coffee–it’s my first time hanging out with her and I’m hoping to make a good impression. The story comes out after I said I write romance novels.

I am mortified.

That afternoon I shared what I’d learned with my daughter, and asked why she’d said that. I wasn’t angry with her, I just wanted to know why.

“That man is naked on your cover. He’s not wearing a shirt.”

She means RJ.

I asked her what she thought sex was.

“I don’t know.”

Cue my buying Sex is a Funny Word from Amazon, and asking her to say I write books, or I write romance books instead of sex books.

My friends have found this whole story hilarious. I am moving from mortification to amusement as well.

Exciting news

Capturing the Moment

Capturing the Moment

Exciting news #1–Capturing the Moment is now on sale as a paperback.  You can buy it here.

happy

Exciting news #2 is that I’ve had my first acceptance of 2107. I’m very excited to share more about this anthology when the editor gives the ok.

beta reader kitty

Finally, we have arrived back in the US after nearly seven years in Singapore. While I’m partially excited to be back, I wish it were in a different political climate. One of the things I’ll need to do is find a balance between writing and activism.

My next big project is to work on Plunder. I had some good feedback on the first draft, and although it means a total overhaul, I have faith that I can do it. When that is back in my beta’s hands, I have the idea for the start of a paranormal erotic romance series because apparently I can’t stay in my subgenre lane. I also have the plan for another contemporary, with the ambivalence of leaving and arriving in a home country that feels foreign (which is what I’m experiencing right now) with the added complication of a budding international romance.

 

2016–The Year in Review

2016
From the loss of Bowie, Prince, Alan Rickman, and Carrie Fisher (among so many others) to the political disasters of Brexit and Trump, I think we can all admit that 2016 kind of sucked on a macro level. I had two procedures (one major) on my spine and continue to have chronic pain, but at least I’m (mostly) out of a wheelchair now.

However, it’s wasn’t all bad.

Recommended Reads

I wanted to read more than I did in 2016, but I still have some year end recommended reads that I’ve reviewed this year. I’ve joined the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge. Follow my progress and add me as a friend here.

  • I loved Lez Talk: A Collection of Black Lesbian Short Fiction, edited by S. Andrea Allen and Lauren Cherelle. It includes two stories by one of my favorite authors, K.A. Smith. Read my rave review here.
  • Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins was so amazing, I ran out and read a ton more of her books. There aren’t a ton of authors of color in mainstream romance, and she’s possibly the best of the best. Not only are her stories well plotted, she does her homework on the history as well. My review here.
  • Basically anything by Kait Gamble (I reviewed five of her books here, but I read even more) but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Sins in the Sand. By the way, she just published a new book, Faking It, which I’ve bought and am looking forward to reading.
  • Basically anything by Alisha Rai (I three of reviewed of her books here, although I’ve read even more) but my favorite is Glutton for Pleasure.
  • Finally, one of my favorite reads of 2016 was Tamsin Flower’s serial novel, Alchemy XII. It opens on New Year’s Eve and continues month by month through December. (I was a beta reader for this series, and I loved every minute I spent with Harry and Olivia.)

Big Publication News

(Check out my Published Works page for a complete list of purchase links if Amazon Kindle isn’t available in your country)

 

Capturing the Moment

under-the-mistletoe

My first solo title, Capturing the Moment , and my first anthology, Coming Together: Under the Mistletoe were published and both have received great reviews!

 

Other Publication News

  • Intrepid Horizons, edited by Jessica Augustsson, included my story, Dumped. Blurb–A Unicorn’s (former) Virgin is left out as bait for a dragon, but things don’t go exactly as planned.
  • Rogues, edited by Delilah Devlin, included my story, Plunder.  Blurb–Sparks fly when the Caribbean’s most fearsome pirate falls under the spell of a sexy spitfire who’d rather send him to Davy Jones’s locker. I am working on a full-length novel version of this story, which will hopefully be published in 2018.
  • Coming Together Under the Mistletoe, edited by me, included two of my stories Kid Comet and an updated version of Baby it’s Hot Outside.
  • My essay An Expat Fourth of July was published by Long and Short Reviews.

 

Other Stuff I Wrote

  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Dream or Nightmare
  • Flash Fiction (A Wicked Wednesday Top 3 story) Off Limits
  • Flash Fiction (for Wicked Wednesday) Keep the Shoes On
  • What I did for Lust, will be included in the upcoming anthology, Prompted.
  • Kid Comet, the third in my North Pole Chronicles series, was in Under the Mistletoe.
  • I further updated Baby it’s Hot Outside, was in Under the Mistletoe
  • For Love of Snow White was submitted
  • I expanded my first published story, Renewal, and submitted it
  • Lab Rats, was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • Forbidden Territory was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  • I expanded Love is a Virus, and it was rejected (nbd, how publishing rolls)
  •  I wrote the first draft of the full length novel version of Plunder. (It sucks–all first drafts suck)

2017

My writing goals for 2017 are to finish Plunder and to write 5-10 short stories, including at least one more installment of the North Pole Chronicles.

Save

Misadventures in Marketing

Capturing the Moment has been on sales for just over two months now (three if you count the Totally Bound early downloads). Here are some of the promotional tools I’ve used and how they have/n’t worked. Opinions are purely based on my experiences, your mileage my vary.

 

capturingthemoment_bookmark

Bookmarks

Totally Bound provided me with the jpegs to make bookmarks and postcards. I thought (and still think) that the bookmark is the better promotional tool. It fits into my wallet, and I can hand it out like a business card. That said, ordering 500 was absurdly optimistic on my part.

Given that I live in Singapore, there aren’t romance conventions where I can pass them out as swag. I assume over time I’ll eventually pass them out, but I think next time I’d keep it to 100 bookmarks at most. Specific to Singapore as well is the problem that it is a conservative, uptight culture. People generally are uncomfortable/don’t know what to do with the idea of erotic romance.

Virtual Book Tour

Eight different friends/bloggers were kind enough to let me guest post about my book before health problems made me pause the tour. I think that touring can be very effective to connect with a new audience, and it presents the opportunity to give out some of the free copies that Totally Bound provides to its authors.

It can be difficult to come up with topics, so here are some of the ones I used

  • How my experiences in Siem Reap inspired my setting
  • What music influenced me when writing Capturing the Moment
  • I interviewed my main characters, one at a time
  • I talked about how my main characters resembled myself and my spouse
  • I talked about writing persons of color as a white author
  • I was interviewed by two friends

giveaway

Amazon Giveaways

I gave away fifteen copies of Capturing the Moment. There were several lessons I learned about giveaways

  • Pick a reasonable number of books to give away (I suggest five to ten)
  • If you’re picking a ratio 1:5 finished the giveaway in less than an hour. 1:50 meant that I only gave away a few over two weeks.   My suggestions is to give away at a rate of 1:15 or 1:20.
  • I thought that I was asking people to follow my author page, but it actually had them following my personal reviews. In the end I think it’s easier to give the books away without any condition.

I then tried the experiment of giving away 10 books, but with a 1:50 win rate. Over two weeks just under two hundred people had entered and only three books had been given away. I did a first-come, first-serve giveaway for the seven books that were left over.

I have not gotten even one review, positive or negative from these giveaways. I don’t have figures from Amazon that tell me how many people who didn’t win still bought my book.

 

fb

Facebook Ads

I tried no less than ten different times to buy a facebook ad. My ads were rejected because RJ’s chest violated nudity standards, that my amazon book page was for “adult” material, and that my blog was also objectionable. I’m told that some people have been able to get FB ads through, but that FB rejects ads from everywhere at a high rate. (A friend is an editor for a diabetes magazine and they’ve had roughly half of their ads rejected for reasons that include “needles are icky.”) I am of the opinion that after you get three or five rejections, just move on.

Self Promotion

  • I have brought up my book with links at the end of a lot of my blog posts
  • I have advertised it on my twitter feed (which friends then retweeted)
  • I have advertised it on my own posts on Facebook (which friends have reposted)

 

How successful was I? I don’t know yet, because I haven’t seen my first round of royalties. It’s also impossible for me to know how effective each tool was.

I hope that my suggestions are helpful if you’re new to the game (as I still am).

Experienced authors–what promotional tools have you used and found valuable?

Even More Cambodia Photos (and a giveaway)

On Saturday, I shared photos of monks in honor of Vesak Day, and yesterday I posted photos of places that were featured in Capturing the Moment. Today I’m going to share a few last photos from my 2014 trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia. These are photos of things and places and people that/who do not appear in the book. All photos that feature a person were taken with their consent. If you wish to use a photo, please ask.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I shared yesterday, while schools are free in Cambodia, many children do not attend because they can’t afford the uniforms or textbooks. Children whose parents make a living at the temples, such as Angkor Wat, are often to put to work at a young age, selling postcards and other trinkets. Some are able to go to school (as school is a half-day program) and work, while others never get the chance. If you’re interested in helping out these children, you can

  • donate to the Cambodian School Project
  • shop the online store of Artisans of Angkor--a non-governmental agency that trains and employs over 1300 Cambodians to learn the art forms that were nearly wiped out by decades of warfare. I can attest that these are beautifully made products–I have a number of them in my house. (And yes, if you read the book and are wondering–I own both a linga & yuni, and mango massage oil)

If you haven’t entered it, don’t forget my Amazon giveaway for Capturing the Moment.

More Cambodia Photos (and a giveaway)

On Saturday, Vesak Day, I posted my photos of monks taken around Siem Reap, Cambodia. Today I’m going to share a selection of other photos from that trip. I limited today’s photos to a few places that appear in the book. I have done my best to put them in the correct order. If you’re interested in getting or using a specific photo, just reach out and ask.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While schools are free in Cambodia, many children do not attend because they can’t afford the uniforms or textbooks. Children whose parents make a living at the temples, such as Angkor Wat, are often to put to work at a young age, selling postcards and other trinkets. Some are able to go to school (as school is a half-day program) and work, while others never get the chance. If you’re interested in helping out these children, you can

  • donate to the Cambodian School Project
  • shop the online store of Artisans of Angkor--a non-governmental agency that trains and employs over 1300 Cambodians to learn the art forms that were nearly wiped out by decades of warfare. I can attest that these are beautifully made products–I have a number of them in my house. (And yes, if you read the book and are wondering–I own both a linga & yuni, and mango massage oil)

If you haven’t entered it, don’t forget my Amazon giveaway for Capturing the Moment.