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Heat Ratings Bug Me

September 5, 2014

I want to talk about heat ratings.

This is something else that was brought up mainly due to an email I received from All Romance eBooks about the heat rating of Human Rights. When Kris uploaded it everywhere, she chose a heat rating a four. Four flames. I didn’t know this because I just let Kris do her job.

So, I got an email from ARe saying customer feedback made them think the flame rating was actually three flames. Now, I’ve been publishing on ARe for a number of years, and I’d never before received that sort of email. Several other titles have had heat ratings that differed quite a bit from the ‘Senusality Rating’ that customers can offer. To me, the heat rating and sensuality rating have always been different ratings in my mind, so I was surprised to see that ARe was using them interchangeably.

My issue with heat ratings—and why I absolutely hate them—is that they are utterly subjective. Why did Kris choose a four heating rating? A few reasons.

1. There are three full explicit sex scenes and one fade to black sex scene in 34,000 words.

2. There was a mix of gay sex and straight sex.

3. Most of those explicit sex scenes were between a human and a full-out anthro cat who was as anatomically correct as I could make him while keeping the scenes sexy.

4. There was a power inequality inherent in Jiat and Ewan’s relationship, and to me, that meant it had an air of dubious consent (though Ewan does consent, does want it, and understood fully what it meant, but the society presented a power inequality that might have rubbed some readers wrong).

In the end, we subjectively chose to rate it four flames based on our thoughts about the material. Now, readers vary in their reaction to books, and for some, four flames means some heavy duty, every other page sex scenes while for others, our rating was spot on. In the end, it’s subjective to every reader, and since I don’t even know how many readers contributed to that Sensuality Rating they disply, I can’t even say how big this pool is to draw from.

I replied telling them the four flame rating is what we feel is correct, and I gave some of my reasons. I just think this flame rating crap needs to be phased out. It’s not very helpful—and I’ve never been able to reliably count on the displayed heat rating at any retailer—and it can cause confusion.

If ARe wants publishers and authors to display accurate heat ratings, then they need to fully define what each one means rather than vaguely word it so everyone takes something different away from it. Because, seriously, trying to decipher the actual difference between three flames and four is like asking me to describe the difference between cobalt blue and sapphire blue.

A Bit of a Ranting, I Admit

September 3, 2014

Recently, we sent out a book review request to a bunch of sites… like we do. Most people either don’t respond or they politely accept/decline. I’ve no problem with that. We don’t even ask why a site might decline our review request. It’s just the way things roll.

However, one site did respond with more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and the way this site owner—who is male—responded really rubbed at me wrong. There are three areas he touched on with his response that I wanted to address just in general. As a female author and publisher of erotica and erotic romance.

One of the things that really bothered me was the dismissal of erotica by this site owner. Erotica, as he defined it, was plotless sex. The vibe there was they only read real books, not just sex crap. Which, whether they realize it or not, speaks down at those who do read and enjoy erotica. Erotica is a legitimate form of fiction, and it is no less than any other form of fiction simply because its focus is sex. As if sex is shameful. It’s not, and writing about it… reading about it… loving it… it isn’t shameful, either. Erotica does have plot, but it’s a sex-driven plot, and there is nothing wrong with that. Dismissing it as less does the genre and its authors a disservice, and it makes you look elitist.

The second accusation was that erotica written by women about gay or bisexual men was flat-out fetishization. Wow, really? Simply writing about a marginalized group, according to this site owner, when you are not part of that marginalized group is fetishization. Oh, but only if it’s erotica. Otherwise, I guess it’s not? (Let’s leave aside for the moment the breathtakingly naive assumption that every woman who writes about gay and bisexual men is necessarily straight. There are staggering numbers of authors in this genre who identify all along the sexuality and sexual identity scales, who are dealing with marginalizations of their own.)

‘Fetishization’ is a word men who don’t like women playing in their fiction sandbox like to throw around. Let’s just take a look at that word, because I don’t think it means what you think it means.

A fetish is a very specific thing. As defined by Mirriam-Webster, a fetish is ‘a strong and unusual need or desire for something; a need or desire for an object, body part, or activity for sexual excitement’. By saying women who dare to write men in sexual situations with other men (the ONLY time that the word is pulled out in this genre) are doing it solely and completely due to a strong and unusual need that is necessary to become aroused is ludicrous. It is arousing? For many people, yes. But by calling it fetishization, you’re making the statement that we are incapable of becoming aroused any other way. The same accusation is rarely, if ever, leveled at straight men who enjoy lesbian erotica or pornography, though it is functionally identical.

The word these people are reaching for is, perhaps, ‘exploitation’, but even that is an unfair accusation. By writing about marginalized groups they aren’t members of, these detractors say, women authors are profiting off of the life experiences of gay and bisexual men, and somehow, to them, that’s not right. Never mind all of the men in gay pornography who actually identify as straight when the cameras are off. For some reason, even the fact that the practice is called Gay-For-Pay doesn’t seem to trigger the same ire despite the fact that straight men are even less marginalized than women, and in even more of a position to make a profit from their work. No, these slurs are only ever aimed at women, which makes the whole thing feel less like an actual concern over a possible loss of identity and more like indignation over having the Boys Only clubhouse overrun by stinky girls with their cooties and yucky emotions.

This site owner’s email boiled down to one requirement: for them to review gay or bisexual male fiction, the authors of those stories had to be gay or bisexual men. Which, quite frankly, is ridiculous. The sexism that runs rampant is stunning sometimes. Men can write lesbian fiction, but women can’t write gay fiction. There is only one way to write a marginalized people, and that is by being a part of that marginalized people. Let’s not forget, though, that we’re discussing fiction. You know, stories that aren’t real? Fiction. Made up worlds with made up people doing made up things. And everyone has the right to tell the stories they want to tell, and everyone has the right to read the stories they want to read.

And that includes this site. I just think they stepped in a big pile of shit when they tried to gives reasons for rejecting our book for review. Nowhere in their policy do they state this. Nowhere on their site do they give this impression.

Then, to top of their email, the site owner informed us that there is absolutely no reason to be given that would make non-con/dub-con acceptable. Ever. So, if you have rape fantasies—like a lot of people—you should be ashamed. Ashamed!

Needless to say, we have removed that site from our review roster. I don’t like giving people free books when all they do is sneer down their noses at the contents from their moral high horse (though, the site does review Laurell K. Hamilton’s stuff, so I don’t think that high horse is as high as they think it is).

“Human Rights” and Kobo

August 30, 2014

I have been informed that Kobo has rejected Human Rights.

Why?

Because Jiat is a cat. They consider it bestiality. Which is bullshit. Bestiality is sex between a human and a non-sentient animal. Jiat is a humanoid feline who is as intelligent and self-aware as a human being. He is anthropomorphized. He’s a furry. To me, he is no different than the myriad books littering Kobo’s virtual shelves of shifters in some shifted form having sex with their human companion. It really angers me to be censored in an area that fantasy and sci-fi have long been treading. But, someone over at Kobo has a bee in their bonnet about it, so it’s not available there. We have an email in to them asking that it be published as there is nothing wrong with the story and it does not meet their content restriction guidelines (I don’t write bestiality, it’s something that makes me incredibly uncomfortable).

But, it you want it, please buy it from Storm Moon Press. They have ePub, LIT, MOBI, and PDF, so it can be bought there and loaded on your reader. :)

Release Day! “Human Rights”

August 29, 2014

It’s finally here! Human Rights came out today! I am so… happy… to have it out. It was a two year struggle for me, mainly because the last year included a major move, a conference, illness, a sick parent, and two pet deaths. It’s been a long time coming. I hope everyone enjoys it!

500

After landing in the pound after being abandoned by yet another family, Ewan is convinced he’s too old to be adopted out again. For a pet like him, the only fate left is to be put down. But when Sir Jiat—of the City Guard, no less—visits the pound, he goes straight to Ewan. Jiat prefers the more mature pets and treats Ewan better than he’s ever been treated by any previous owner. Ewan sleeps at the foot of his master’s bed, not on the floor or outside; he is given toys and other pets to play with and plenty of room to run; and he’s fed on a schedule and eats very well. But Ewan’s love for his master begins to change, to become something else, something more.

Plenty of pets have been killed over the years for acting on the feelings that Sir Jiat inspires, so he dares not express the desire building inside him. And yet, Ewan can’t help but notice that Sir Jiat has begun to act differently as well, more doting, treating Ewan almost as an equal. So even though the thing he wants more than anything is also their society’s greatest taboo, Ewan resolves that if he must die, he will die having felt, just once, the warmth of Sir Jiat’s soft fur pressed against his bare naked skin.

Now available for $3.99! Buy it at Storm Moon Press or from your favorite retailer.

I Feel Accomplished

June 11, 2014

I did finish Of the Flesh, and it’s in my editor’s hands at the moment. I’d been shooting for 8,000 words, but the short finished at just over 7,000. I didn’t want to pad it for the sake of word count. I think it’s a tight, good short that fits perfectly with the theme.

So! If you’d like to read something of mine before Human Rights comes out, be sure to buy Blood Embrace, since I’m in very good company with that anthology. :D

Now! I’m back to poking at Lessons in Cowboy (novel) and Fever Dream (short story for the Devout anthology SMP is putting out in August). I feel so accomplished! I’d thought I’d lost the writing mojo, and maybe I did for a while, but it’s back! *does a happy dance*

New Short Story WIP: “Of the Flesh”

June 9, 2014

So! This Friday, K. Piet and I have a short story coming out in the Storm Moon Press anthology Blood Embrace. It’s a gay vampire anthology, and it has us, D.K. Jernigan, Kelly Wyre, and Katya Harris, and it’s a great little romp of vampy goodness.

It’s available now for pre-order, though the current blurb isn’t the final one. Sorry! Still waiting on that to go up! I think it should be up sometime today or tomorrow. But, I wanted to give you a brief taste of our offering in the anthology, Of the Flesh, which is about a priest who has captured the vampire who turned his twin brother some years before.

The vampire grinned at him. “Are you actually trying to exorcise me?”

Hyde ignored it, focusing on the ritual, on the words. “They shall lay their hands upon the sick and all will be well with them. May Jesus, Son of Mary, Lord and Savior of the w—”

“You’re really going to say the whole thing, aren’t you?” The vampire tilted his head. “Aww. That’s so adorable.”

This time, Hyde faltered. The words. He had to continue with the words. “May Jesus, Son of Mary, Lord and Savior of the world, through the merits and intercession of His holy apostles Peter and Paul and all His saints, show you favor and mercy.”

“No demon controls me, boy.” The vampire growled, half-animal, half-human. “I am as I choose to be. I am what all men could be without your pitiful, choking morality. You are the one allowing your actions to be dictated by an invisible, supernatural force. I, on the other hand, am merely free.”

Hyde stopped and looked up from the book, frowning. “Free?” He scoffed and motioned with the cross to the room. “You may want to re-examine your surroundings. You don’t look very free to me. In fact, you look like you’re strapped to a fucking chair that’s bolted to a floor.”

“Do I?” The vampire planted its feet and leaned forward in the chair, ripping the bolts out of the ground. The strain and the additional contact with the blessed wood sets bits of its clothing on fire. Another flex of muscles and the shackles Hyde had put around the vampire’s wrists snapped, leaving the vampire standing, unencumbered, an amused light to its eyes. “How do I look now?” The beast sat back down, motioning indulgently with a hand. “Please, pray continue. I believe you were up to the first chapter of John’s gospel. Let me get you started.” He tilted his head for a moment, thinking, and then recited, “When time began, the Word was there, and the Word was face to face with God, and the Word was God. This Word, when time began, was face to face with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him there came to be—”

“Stop!” Hyde slammed the book shut. “You taint God’s word with your tongue.”

The vampire gave him a toothy grin. “It’s not the only thing I could taint with my tongue.”

“Lessons in Cowboy” Playlist (1 of 3)

June 6, 2014

I have 30 songs currently in this playlist, but I’m going to share them over the course of three posts. This is the music I listen to on repeat as I work on Lessons in Cowboy. :) The first 10 today are what randomly played while I worked today on the manuscript.

Dwight Yoakam – Ain’t That Lonely Yet
Travis Tritt – I’m Gonna Be Somebody
Clint Black – A Bad Goodbye
Shontelle – Hello to Goodbye
Steve Grand – All-American Boy
Waylon Jennings – Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys
Patty Smyth and Don Henley – Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough
Toby Keith – Should’ve Been a Cowboy
Garth Brooks – The Red Strokes
Collin Raye – Someone You Used to Know

So, the last two don’t have YouTube videos I can link to. I don’t know about Collin Raye, but I do know Garth Brooks is an ass about his music being available for digital download and on services like YouTube. The other note I have is about Toby Keith. Now, personally, I think he’s an asshole and I dislike him as a person, but I do like… two… of his songs. XD This just happens to be one of them. So… yeah! Here is the first third of my Lessons in Cowboy playlist!

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