On never growing up, or why you should do GISHWHES

I always assumed there would be some point in my life where I finally felt grown up. When I reached that age, I would no longer feel the need to jump in puddles, or giggle at fart jokes, or build pillow forts. I would read nothing but Serious Literature and I would know what kind of wine to drink with what kind of meat and I would dust my house on a regular basis.

Well, I’m 33 years old now, and I don’t think that point is ever going to come.

Frankly? I’m thrilled.

Oh, I’ve learned to manage my life now in a way that would have stymied 17-year-old me. I can get almost any stain out of clothes, I can manage a budget, and I can kill the spiders in the shower. (Seriously, spiders? I’ll rescue you if you’re in the house, but if you’re in the shower, I’m going to drown you without mercy. You cannot live in places where I am naked.) Nevertheless, I haven’t lost the childlike joy in simple pleasures, and I’m not above making a fool out of myself in the name of fun.

Enter GISHWHES.

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GISHWHES, which stands for “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen,” is a world-record-breaking scavenger hunt hosted by Misha Collins. Teams “scavenge” items by photographing or videotaping scenarios on the 150+ item list, which is posted on the first day of the week-long hunt. Past items include the artistic (A portrait of Chris Hardwick from the Nerdist made entirely of dried fruit), the kind (You and a friend seated side-by-side, donating blood or platelets), the difficult (You, dressed as the Flash, in any actual, operational particle accelerator), and the absurd (Attend a ballet or “spinning” class in full SCUBA gear). The winning team of 15 is taken on some amazing trip – this year’s winners will fly to King’s Landing in Croatia for a pirate sailing adventure.

When I participated in GISHWHES last year, I wasn’t sure what the week would be like, but from the moment I heard about it, I knew I wanted in. I had the week off from work and went absolutely crazy – I put a tank top on a rooster, dressed up as a nun on a rope swing, made an American Flag out of Redvines, folded a paper crane in a rainstorm, and, yes, visited an actual particle accelerator dressed as The Flash, among several dozen other items. My team didn’t win, but I had more fun that week than I’ve ever had in any week, ever. (It narrowly beats out my honeymoon because I spent two days of that seasick. Sorry, husband.)

A rooster wearing a Gishwhes tank top. Snazzy.

A friend’s rooster wearing a Gishwhes tank top. Snazzy.

What really resonated with me was the childlike exuberance of GISHWHES. Here was an event that said it was okay to break the rules of normal, to try crazy things and make the world a better place. I asked ridiculous favors of friends – and complete strangers – and they obliged me! Better yet, they had fun doing it, and they thanked me for including them. It was truly a life-changing experience.

There are hundreds of testimonials on the GISHWHES website about how it helped participants overcome social anxiety and have an impact on their families and communities. For me, GISHWHES was a reminder that growing older doesn’t have to mean growing up. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, to forget that life is full of joyous possibilities. If you’ve lost your childlike exuberance and you want to get it back, then you should consider breaking out of that rut with GISHWHES.

At the time I post this, GISHWHES registration ends in less than 2 days. Go visit the website, watch the videos, read the details, and maybe – maybe - sign up for what could be the greatest week of your life. In the words of a tweet from last year’s GISHWHES Twitter feed, “You are not who you think you are. Act accordingly.”


 

Update: since this post was linked by Misha Collins, a ton of you have visited. Thanks for coming, and please leave comments! I love hearing from you. Tell me about your hopes for Gishwhes or why you also never want to grow up.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy “Why I’ll Always Get My Hopes Up” and “Why I Stopped Writing Bitches.” I also write saucy books if you like that sort of thing.

Categories: GISHWHES, Reflections | Tags: , | 14 Comments

I’m Writing This Post Instead of a Book Right Now

Sometimes writing is easy. On those days, even when you’re not writing, your mind is awash with book possibilities, and when you actually sit down to the keyboard, the words just flow like someone is dictating the story and you’re just writing it down. Days like that are amazing. It’s like being in a movie montage with a power anthem playing in the background.

Other days, though, the opposite is true. Everything that you type is atrocious. The descriptions are cliché, the dialogue sounds stilted, and (in the case of erotic romance) the sex arouses… no one. I have it on good authority that everyone goes through these horrible writing days, and even the best and most prolific writers sit down at their keyboards convinced they are never going to write anything ever again.

Octopus at a desk

We have all felt like this.

Since I started getting book contracts and, you know, started actively trying to make a living out of this, I’ve had to learn to push through these terrible days by just writing anyway. Yes, sometimes I need to rewrite everything from those bad days, but more often than not, it’s not nearly as bad as I remembered. I’m learning to write even when I don’t feel like writing. It isn’t always fun, but I keep telling myself it’s what separates amateurs from professionals, and I buckle back down again.

And then, thankfully, it eventually gets easy again.

There are parts of writing that I just love. Sometimes I start a scene without a clear idea of where it’s going to go, and I find myself wandering down some little path of description that suddenly reveals all this information about a character that I never thought of before. The scene might not make it through editing, but the information does. I love those moments! And sometimes I have no idea how it’s all going to wrap up, creating this generalized low-grade anxiety thrumming below my skin as I keep barrelling toward an uncertain conclusion, but then suddenly I’ll be typing a scene and bam! The resolution just hits me, and the anxiety dissipates. Well, until the next book.

I’m working on the sequel to Purely Professional right now. I’ve been away from Bridget and Max for a while, and I’m enjoying getting to know them again. I love them and want to do their story justice, but there are challenges for them to face on the way to their happy ending.

Speaking of which, I’ve been away from them long enough just typing this post. Cue the 80s power anthem.

Categories: Erotic Romance, Purely Professional, Reflections, Uncategorized, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Sex, Abs, and Beignets: My RT 2014 Wrap-Up

A week ago, I got back from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana. Someone (anyone know who?) described RT as “Comic Con for Romance Novelists,” and that’s the most accurate description I’ve ever heard. Like Comic-Con, RT was filled with people in costume, stuff to buy, tons of swag, a convivial atmosphere, and seemingly endless lines. This was my first RT, but I’m no stranger to conventions, so I was better prepared than other RT virgins. Nonetheless, the experience was overwhelming… and glorious. It also contained several very surreal moments. In this post I cover the following:

  • The Events: Workshops, Panels, Parties… and Elevators?
  • The People: New Friends and Old Friends
  • The Giant Book Fair: My Experience
  • The Food, The Glorious Food

So let’s recap, shall we?

Read more »

Categories: Appearances, Conventions, Purely Professional, RT | 1 Comment

Find me at RT!

In just a few short days, I’ll be heading down to New Orleans for the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention. It’s my first book convention and I’m in a perpetual state of happy-flapping excitement.

happyminions

If you’re going too, you should find me. I’ve got some seriously awesome swag to give out. Here’s where you can find me:

Thursday 5/15

The Cajun Queen Riverboat Casino Morning Mixer

Come one, come all, down the Mississippi to New Orleans… Join some of your favorite authors aboard The Cajun Queen where we’ll deal out the cards & you’ll rake in the booty! Enjoy N’awlins eats, southern concoctions and get your dance on to the live zydeko beat.

Time: 8:30 – 9:45 am

Clockwork Carnivale Tea

Ladies and gentlemen, gather your goggles, cinch your corsets and join us for an afternoon of revelry and delight at Clockwork Carnivale. Enjoy tea and sweets while steampunk authors entertain you with mayhem, giveaways, a steampunk costume contest and more. There will be swag bags for the first 100.

I’ll be there in costume, of course, because steampunk is my jam.

Time: 1:30 – 2:30 pm

RT Pub Crawl

What would give our attendees the perfect New Orleans experience? The answer, of course, is a trip up Bourbon Street — but, in true RT style, arriving as one gigantic group! Imagine 2,000 book lovers descending on the notorious street with drinks in hand (both alcoholic and nonalcoholic) and a plethora of local music spilling out onto the colorful streets of the French Quarter. Also, imagine sampling local foods as you stroll along the strip — like treats from Cafe Beignet, located at Musical Legends Park.

Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Samhain Saints and Sinners Party

Calling all angels and devils! Samhain Publishing invites you to join us Thursday evening for a wicked good time. Sweet and sinful eats. Delightfully dangerous beats. Amazing author treats! Come dance the night away with our Samhain Authors — whether you wear halos or horns, you’ll be sure to find some kindred spirits! 

My costume for this event is firmly “in progress,” but if the wings work, you’ll be able to spot me easily. I’m currently planning on a black and white corset with a red skirt and some red demon wings.

Time: 9:00 – 11:55 pm

Friday 5/16

How Sweet It Is!

We know you like a pinch of spice, a dash of salt, and maybe a little heat. But there’s nothing wrong with pouring on the sugar for breakfast in NOLA! Let popular romance authors like Colleen Coble and Tamera Alexander indulge you with a fun morning of beignets and books. After last year’s popular event, we’ll be back with even MORE great prizes and sweet treats! Goodie bags and books for the first 300 attendees, and chances to win e-reader devices, book clubs with the authors, and more!

Time: 8:30 – 9:45 am

Romance Pride: Wheel of Fortune

Come spin the wheel and test your knowledge of romance past and present with a gaggle of authors and Sarah Wendell doing her best Vanna White. Solve subgenre puzzles about legendary love stories, characters, and tropes to receive one of our prize baskets bursting at the seams with books, swag, and more.  The first hundred attendees to arrive will receive a gift bag and a lottery ticket for one of the grand prizes given away in the bonus round.

I’ve donated a basket with some naughty goodies to this prize table.

Time: 10:00 – 11:00 am

Heather Graham’s Mardi Gras Magic & Mayhem, Dinner & Dance Party

Calling all vampires, vixens, queens and kings … royal courts of light . . . and darkness! Join us for dinner theater and dancing in the tradition of Nola’s wildest party — Mardi Gras! Come beautiful, come beautifully wicked . . . or just wicked. All creatures of the day and night are welcome.

I’m still working on my costume for this event, too. If it all works out, I’ll be in a magenta brocade corset with a ruffly purple skirt. That ruffly skirt is currently being the death of me.

Time: 8:45 pm – 12:00 am

Saturday 5/17

Giant Book Fair

Meet more than 700 authors who will autograph books, posters and bookmarks. Bring your “keepers” and have them signed!

This year we have combined our Giant Book Fair with our E-Book/Indie Expo to provide a great, new, merged experience. Find all of your favorite authors in one place!

The Saturday Giant Book Fair ticket is included in the full general convention registration fee.

This event is also open to the public and tickets can be purchased for just the Giant Book Fair. You can purchase a ticket at the door the day of the event. Pre-ordered tickets will be picked up at the hotel on the day of the Giant Book Fair.

You may bring in your books from home to get them autographed. However, they must be checked in and stamped (with invisible ink, so there’s no damage to your books) before you enter the book fair. Also only two books from home per author are allowed.

I’ll be selling and signing digital books through Autography and giving away some sweet, sweet swag.

Time: 11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Harlequin’s Dance Party

Harlequin Enterprises hosts a spectacular dance party and an evening of glamour where you will meet the stars of romance.

Time: 9:00 pm – 12:00 am

 

Look for my name badge and say hello! If I’m not at one of these events or in a workshop, I’ll probably be eating something in New Orleans.

I can’t wait to meet people!!

Categories: Appearances | 1 Comment

Why I stopped writing bitches

Some women are just catty, right? They’re manipulative back-stabbing bitches, and we want them to face their comeuppance. When they appear in movies or books, we cheer for them to be taken down, for our heroine to triumph over these mean girls. They’re the women we love to hate.

Maybe all those things are true. Maybe they’re not. But either way, I’m not writing them anymore.

The Problem With Bitches

The trope of the bitch, the woman who exists just to make life miserable for the heroine, perpetuates a pretty nasty belief about women. It puts women in direct competition with each other. It implies that our greatest enemies are other women: they’re going to steal our jobs and our men unless we “defeat” them. It implies that one type of woman is good, and another type is bad. And that’s a pretty damaging belief system.

I hate even using the term “bitches,” honestly, because it’s a sexist term. It implies that this person is a certain kind of woman, an unacceptable woman. I use it so freely in this post because it’s all harmful: the name and the archetype.

I love the movie Legally Blonde. (How can you not?) Part of what makes this movie amazing is the friendship that develops between Elle Woods and Vivian Kensington. The movie sets them up to be rivals, but once they get to know each other, they bond and become allies, realizing that their assumptions about the other were wrong.

Just look how great they are together.  (picture credit IMDB)

Just look at them overcoming their preconceived notions.
(picture credit IMDB)

We need more of that in our media and less manipulation and gossip. Not that we can ever get rid of manipulation and gossip, but can we stop treating it like the norm? Can we stop assuming that every pairing of women is a catfight waiting to happen?

Nico Lang of The Daily Dot wrote an interesting article on this phenomenon a few months ago when Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita Nyong’o were both nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. Lang closes the article by reminding us that “if we destroy women in order to celebrate others, no one comes out on top.”

Bitches vs. Villains

This doesn’t mean that women can’t be villains. Villains have agency and motive; they have goals! Maleficent wanted to be invited to that baby shower, dammit. Ursula wanted to rule the whole freaking ocean. A villain doesn’t exist solely to make life miserable for the heroine; that just happens as a side effect of the villain’s ultimate goals.

Ursula

Not a “bitch.” A villain. (image credit Disney)

So I’m done with ‘em. I’m done with writing women who have no agency of their own. I’m not going to write a woman who only appears in the story to pick on my heroine. I don’t like what their presence implies about how women are with each other. So maybe I’ll give you villains… but I’m not giving you bitches.

Categories: Feminism, Reflections, Writing | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The details are all tied up… like the characters

Almost exactly one month after sharing my great news about Combustion, I have… more great news!

I’ve just signed a contract with Simon & Schuster for Playing Knotty, my next novel!

And now, the blurb for Playing Knotty:

Emma Green isn’t used to fitting in with the popular crowd: back in school, she was always a little too geeky, too chubby, too unfashionable, and now as an adult, she still feels inadequate next to her beautiful friends. When Ian Cooper, an old friend from high school, asks to rent the back room of her bookshop for a bondage workshop, she says yes because she needs the money.

Ian isn’t expecting Emma to participate in the workshop, but when his model comes down with the flu at the last minute, she’s willing to step in. They’re both surprised when she turns out to be a natural. Soon, Ian finds himself with a new bondage model… and a frequent partner in bed. Emma’s success as a bondage model means she must confront her own insecurities and her feelings for Ian, and Ian must decide if he’s willing to risk what he has for what he really wants.

As always, I’ll post any updates here first, so subscribe and stay tuned. And thanks for your support!

Categories: Erotic Romance, Kink, Playing Knotty | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Combustion is going full “steam” ahead…

Hello, folks!

I’m please to announce that I’ve signed a contract with Samhain Publishing for Combustionmy Steampunk erotic romance!

Samhain is a wonderful publishing company with an open-minded attitude toward a wide range of romance and erotica, and I’m really looking forward to working with them.

Stay tuned for more information, which will always be posted here first.

Categories: Combustion, Erotic Romance, Steampunk, Writing | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Putting the Steam in “Steampunk”

Howdy, blog!

Purely Professional is out in the world, making people happy and horny and curious about their next door neighbors and the potential of remote-control vibrators. What’s been happening in the meantime?

Well, for one, my agent has been shopping around Combustion, which is a Steampunk erotic romance. We’ve been getting some offers, which is very exciting, and I can’t wait to tell you more. In the meantime, though, I thought I’d answer a very important question: what the hell is Steampunk?

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This skirt is gorgeous. SO MANY RUFFLES.

I like to describe Steampunk as Victorian Futurism. It’s in the family of speculative fiction, meaning it’s based in a world that differs from ours by a few key factors. As you might guess, the world runs on steam power, so machinery is fundamentally different from how it occurs today. There’s also an anti-establishment core to Steampunk, the “punk” aspect, if you will: many Steampunk stories have a dystopian element to them, a corrupt government that should be subverted or overthrown. The aesthetic is usually Victorian in nature: corsets and top hats, but with a mechanical bent: goggles, brass, lots of gears. Sometimes, though, it’s more of a “Wild West” backdrop; the Joss Whedon classic series Firefly has many Steampunk elements. The fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells is very Steampunk in nature. If you imagine the future through the eyes of an 18th Century inventor, you get Steampunk. Pop on over to The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences for more.

The appeal, of course, is multifaceted. The aesthetic of Steampunk is simply gorgeous. Every year, I attend Templecon in Warwick, RI, which is a Steampunk-themed gaming convention, and every year I dress up and spend most of my time flailing in awe at other people’s costumes. Beyond that, I love the way the genre plays with the complex morality of the Victorian era. The Victorian era was a time of great contradiction: on one hand, propriety was highly valued, sexuality repressed. On the other hand, though, prostitution was widespread and unregulated, even tacitly accepted as part of the culture.

Personally, I love the opportunity to explore female sexuality through Steampunk. In Combustion, my main character Astrid Bailey invents “felicitation devices,” aka sex toys, and teaches her naïve clients how to find pleasure in their own bodies. In her attempts to legitimize her business, she faces prejudice as both a woman inventor and a proponent of female sexual empowerment. In partnering with Eli Rutledge, an established business owner, she encounters a new problem: falling in love.

Goggles

Steampunk is more than just goggles, of course… but aren’t these beautiful? Click for source.

I love Astrid’s sexual confidence. She loves (and sleeps with) both men and women. Astrid’s bisexuality is, for me, a deliberate pushback against sexual repression, but ultimately, the story isn’t about her sexuality as much as it’s about her learning to give and accept love.

And, of course, it all happens in a Steampunk world. Zeppelins, goggles, hot men in waistcoats? Sign me up.

Categories: Combustion, Erotic Romance, Sex, Steampunk, Writing | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Welcome to guest author Elodie Parkes!

A special welcome today to guest author Elodie Parkes, whose erotic contemporary paranormal romance Forever Blue is now available from Hot Ink Press. She’s here today to tell us what inspired the novel and share an excerpt.

Forever Blue Cover‘Forever Blue,’ my December 20 release with Hot Ink Press, was inspired by the woodland near where I live. There’s a mysterious feel about the woods in autumn. It often feels as if something is watching. From the window of the room where I write, I can see across to nearby woods. I hear owls hoot at night. At dusk and dawn, there are strange mists that rise from the trees. It’s very lovely.

About the Book

Claudie loves living in the countryside and close to the forests. She’s a film maker and works for the wildlife trust. One night she steps onto her patio and sees a man sheltering there. She confronts him and he runs away.

Jasper has watched Claudie for a year. He fell in love with her, but he has a secret, one that might mean he can never approach her.

Will love and fate find a way?

What secret must Jasper hide?

What’s the strange blue dust that turns up on Claudie’s patio?

Excerpt

When she arrived home, he was in his usual place on the patio. It was an exceptionally dark night. The moon was covered with dense cloud. Rain fell in huge drops. He heard the Land Rover long before she pulled into her path and parked. Jasper heard her humming. She went through her front door. If she had been to a hide somewhere other than in the local area she was home early, he decided. He listened to the sound of her making a hot drink in her kitchen. He smiled. He couldn’t stop smiling. The sound of her voice flowed over him. It trickled into his mind and heart, lifting his spirits, and giving him hope.

Jasper stood silently by the holly tree and close to the biggest potted trees. One of them was shaped into a ball. He liked that. When the conservatory door opened and Claudie stepped out, he froze in the darkness and the shadow of the holly.

 About the Author

Elodie Parkes is a British author writing romance, erotic, contemporary, and often with a twist of mystery, paranormal or suspense. Her books are always steamy, cool stories and hot love scenes.

Elodie lives in Canterbury with her two dogs. She works in an antique shop by day and writes at night, loving the cloak of silent darkness that descends on the rural countryside around her home.

Elodie writes for Hot Ink Press, Moon Rose Publishing, Eternal Press, and Evernight.

She has also released titles as an individual indie author.

Find Elodie online: Blog  Tumblr  Facebook  Twitter  Google +  Pinterest  YouTube  Amazon USA  Amazon UK  Smashwords  Barnes and Noble  ARe  Bookstrand  Evernight

Thanks again to Elodie for joining us, and don’t forget to pick up your copy of Forever Blue.

Categories: Guests | 1 Comment

Purely Professional Release Day!

jeremyclarksonWow, folks, I can’t believe it’s release day. It seems like a lifetime since I began this endeavor, so many steps leading to today. It’s easy to forget that this isn’t the end; it’s only the beginning! I’m thrilled to see Purely Professional out on the market. As cheesy as it sounds, I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it… and far more than I enjoyed editing it.

I’ll be popping up on some blogs in the next few weeks, and as it happens, I’ll be posting links over on the right in the “On the Blogosphere” sidebar. Swing by and comment; I’d love to hear from you.

And, of course, if you haven’t gotten your copy yet of Purely Professional, pick one up. It’s cheaper than a cup of Starbucks and will wake you up just as effectively. You can order on Carina Press, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble. Don’t have an ereader? Read on your smartphone, tablet, or computer with a Nook or Kindle app.

Thanks for your support, internet friends. I feel like we’re all on this journey together.

Categories: Purely Professional, Writing | 5 Comments