Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Book Video for You're the One That I Haunt!

Okay, so I broke down and did my first video trailer! You're the One That I Haunt will be released in less than one month, but you can get the very first "video sneak peek" right here! Watch it and tell me what you think, purty please? :-)

Some Like It Hot, Some Like It "Not"

In the paraphrased words of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, “Pornography itself is hard to define, but I know it when I see it.”

Which leads to an interesting question: What if what one person sees as “pornography”, another person sees as “erotica”? Who’s right? What defines the difference?

Having just read one of the hottest historical romances I’ve picked up in a long time (Anna Campbell’s TEMPT THE DEVIL), I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. This book was a non-stop lesson in how to keep the sexual tension level high throughout an entire book, filled with fantastic love scenes that might make your mom blush, without ever dipping into the realm of what might be deemed “pornography”. How does a writer do that?

For me, it’s three things: tone, language, and emotion.

Tone is where the author decides, beforehand, exactly how explicit they want to be. Are they going to take the reader to the bedroom door and then close it gently in their face, or are they going to set up a camera so the reader can watch the action? :-D You can still write extremely sexy scenes without describing the act itself, after all, but is that what works for the book? Is that what works for the reader of the book?

The second, and most obvious, way to determine whether a book is truly naughty or not is language. What words does the author use to describe those body parts?

I had a fun and interesting discussion with some of my writing buds the other day, regarding what naughty words were okay to use in which situation. And right now I’m going to use a bunch of them to make my point, so cover your eyes if you’re shy. ;-) All the same body part, each a different way of describing it. In fact, I’m going to ask you to rate them and see if your opinion agrees with mine:

1) Penis
2) D*ck (okay, okay, so I couldn’t quite bring myself to trigger the spam filter!)
3) C*ck
4) Purple-helmeted warrior of love (hey, people have written it!)
5) Male member
6) Hardness

Each of these words sets a “tone”, doesn’t it? Some of these words are perfect for pornography, but they’re also perfect for erotica, so I’m back to asking, what’s the difference?

Personally, I think is the answer is emotion. If I’m reading a sex scene, using the naughtier of these words, and I don’t feel an emotional connection to the characters, it’s pornography. If I’m reading a sex scene, using even stronger words than these, but I feel emotionally invested in the characters, it’s erotica. If I’m reading a sex scene that uses very little explicit language and no mental “camera-view”, it’s erotic (without the “a”).

What about you? Does the use of certain words turn you off, regardless, or is it all about the emotion? Which of those words above do you find “pornographic”, and which would you find erotic? (You can use the number instead of the words, if you like!)

Oh, and if you’ve read a book with a more ridicular turn of phrase than “purple-helmeted warrior of love”, I’d love to hear about it! :-)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Read Me Again, Sam

Amid reports of ongoing doom and gloom about the economy, the recession, and the worrisome state of the publishing industry (along with most other industries), it was nice to finally read an upbeat article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend about the state of fiction, how the number of people actually reading these days is on the rise.

It seems the National Endowment for the Arts has released a recent report showing that the percentage of Americans who read fiction has risen about 5% since 2002, and that the fastest growing group is, by far, the 18-24 year olds.

Yay! This means that despite the lure of the Internet, video games, movies, Ipods, text messaging and instant electronic gratification, our nation's young people are taking the time to actually sit down and read a book. It also means that despite rumblings of trouble in the publishing industry, the market for good literature is actually increasing. Happy news for a storyteller who also loves to read. :-)

Many people credit J.K. Rowling for getting kids reading again, and I'd have to agree. The kids who grew up with Harry Potter are clamoring for more, and young adult authors like Stephanie Meyer (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse) are there to feed their teenage hunger. And, as most readers know, once you START reading, it's hard to quit, so these lucky 18-24 year olds have a lifetime of reading ahead of them.

E-book, paperback or hardcover - the delivery method is irrelevant. I'm just glad to know that fiction isn't dead, and the outlook for publishing not as bleak as it seems. According to the author of the article in the WSJ, the best way we, the reader, can help keep this trend going is simple:

Read. Read in public. Read on the subway, read at the coffee shop, read on the bus, in your doctor's waiting room. And when you're done reading, tell somebody about the book you just read, loan it to them, buy them a copy as a gift. Pass on the good news that reading is both cheap and fun. Join a book club or heck, start one! Pay it forward, dear reader, and keep the reading trend going.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Close Call

I live in an 85 year old bungalow in an older part of town. It's a great old neighborhood - the oak trees planted back in 1925 form an arched canopy over the streets, the houses are well-kept, most of them sporting big front porches, and the neighbors are friendly. I absolutely adore my house, with its creaky hardwood floors and oddly shaped rooms, except for one thing: those old oak trees swarm with squirrels, birds and other assorted critters like the occasional 'possum, raccoon, and unfortunately, mice. Well, occasionally one of those critters will find its way into my attic (we've never found out where), despite our best efforts to keep them out. There's nothing more aggravating to hear one of those little boogers scratching away in the ceiling over your head at about 3 in the morning, let me tell ya.

Anyway, over the years, I've found the only way to keep them under control is to put bars of rat poison at strategic spots in the attic. (Yes, I feel guilty about it, but again - having your house eaten from the inside out and having to worry about a critter falling through the ceiling makes guilt a fact of life.) So last Friday, I heard the tell-tale scratching, and with a sigh, broke out the rat poison, and put two bars in the attic.

Yesterday afternoon, in keeping with my regular routine, I fed my dog, Echo (my best bud, my compadre, my constant companion - here she is with HER constant companion, the cat). When she was through eating, I put her outside, as always. Ten minutes later I walked out the back door and saw her lying in the grass, eating something. I almost did nothing, because what she was eating was green, and for a moment I assumed she was just being a dog and eating the grass.

It was RAT POISON. A chunky green bar of rat poison, obviously one of the ones I'd put in the attic two days earlier. Whatever critter had been in had obviously decided to take the bait, but then took it OUTSIDE to eat it. I have a two story house, so I'm thinking it fell from the roof into the yard, where my dog found it.

Needless to say, I freaked. I called the vet, who immediately wanted to know if I still had the box (which, luckily, I did). When I read her the "instructions to veterinarians" she interrupted me and said, "Get her in here, NOW." My son and I rushed her to the vet, where her stomach was emptied and then filled with charcoal. She was given an antidote, and has to take it twice a day for the next two weeks, as there's still a slight chance of kidney failure. Over $300.00 and two hours later, I brought her home, very grateful that I'd seen her eating that green chunk.

If I hadn't, she would've started vomiting, gone into kidney failure, and died before we ever had a clue what was wrong. I mean, what are the odds of her eating rat poison that was left in the attic, of all places?

Anyway, all's well that ends well, as they say. But if there's one thing I learned yesterday, it's to expect the unexpected, and never take those you love for granted - including your dog.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A New Winner, A New Excerpt, A New Year

Congratulations to January Brown, who just won an autographed Advance Reader Copy of You're the One That I Haunt! (My random number generator just happened to pick a girl named January on January 1st - what are the odds of that? :-) I just love it when serendipity rears its head!) As I told January, her win was obviously meant to be. :-) I still have one more ARC to give away, so if you haven't popped over and Entered the contest yet, there's still time. My next drawing will be January 31, 2009.

To kick off the new year, I've just posted a brand-new EXCERPT from the book I'm working on now - Silent Night, Haunted Night - on my website. Stop by and see what kind of trouble Nicki Styx will be getting into in November of 2009. :-)

Happy New Year!!