Wednesday, February 19, 2014

On cats, clockwork and otherwise...

Clockwork kitten. You know you want one.

When I write, like most writers, I hold an image in my mind of the story as it unfolds. When I was writing Dangerous Science the images were very specific. The study in Dr. Cromwell's home had high ceilings and opened to a library that was a rather narrow, deep room. The streets of London were gray and gritty and steamy. Gladys was petite, pretty and prim. Dr. Cromwell was tall, brooding and solid.

And then there was Claudette.

Steampunk is wonderful because you can throw fantastical creatures or creations into the story and it somehow works. In most Victorian stories you don't run across cats, let alone clockwork ones. When I considered all my herione, Gladys DeWalt, had been through, I felt the story needed something that would make her smile. So I came up with Claudette, the clockwork kitten she's given by the eccentric scientist who saved Sebastian Cromwell's life.

Who can't smile when they think of a clockwork cat? Well, except for cat haters. And if you're a cat hater, you are excused.

I love cats. I think most writers love cats because they are such wonderful companions for those of us in the profession. They are quiet and - being independent - don't generally make a lot of demands of their human companions. That's good if you're up against a deadline.

My kitten, Dorian Gray. It's "Dori" for short.
They're not at all slavish. I have two corgis; they think I'm wonderful no matter what I do. The cat makes me work for her affection. This is good practice for writers; with cats you learn the value of working to please one's audience.

Some of my favorite writers have cats. Ernest Hemingway was famous for his polydactyl cats, so much so that even now six-toed cats are called "Hemingway Cats. There's a fantastic book on Hemingway's cats here if you're interested.

My favorite author, Neil Gaiman, often references or includes cats in his books and other writings. There was a cat in Ocean at the End of the Lane, and his short story, The Price was adapted to a fantastic video that I find frightening, uplifting and strangely touching.  Sir Terry Pratchett, whom I adore, mentioned cats frequently in his Discworld series. I think my favorite of his quotes was about Death's reaction to someone less than enthused with felines:

“I hate cats."
Death's face became a little stiffer, if that were possible. The blue glow in his eye sockets flickered red for an instant.
"I SEE," he said. The tone suggested that death was too good for cat haters.”

 I was pleased to see that a reviewer actually mentioned Claudette in her flattering assessment (thank you!) of Dangerous Science. Friends who've read the book have asked me if Claudette will come back in the next one? My answer is, "Of course." Cats are not only excellent companions for writers, but for characters as well.

Friday, February 14, 2014

#SatSpanks - When a successful book debut is the second best thing about being published....


She deserved to be punished so severely that she’d return to her room with no question as to his commitment to professionalism. Sebastian stepped over to her. Gladys did not flinch, but closed her eyes, clearly willing to accept whatever he decided.

With a cry of frustration he flung the cane across the room and into the fireplace and pulled Gladys up from the bed. Spinning her to face him, he reached behind her and pulled at the top of her dress, snapping the buttons as he ripped it free and off her. The move required a great deal of strength, and she gasped, wide-eyed and suddenly afraid.

“No,” he said quietly, tipping her chin up so that she was looking directly at him. “Do not fear me. I won’t hurt you, Dr. DeWalt.”

“Gladys,” she said. “Call me Gladys.”
                                                                                       from Dangerous Science

This marks my third time on the Saturday Spankings blog hop. Last week I managed to visit every single blog on the list; it was an enjoyable way to spend my Saturday morning. It was the last blog hop before my Wednesday release of my erotic Steampunk adventure Dangerous Science, my last blog hop before joining the ranks of published authors on the blog roll.

It's been a crazy week. I'd hoped Dangerous Science would do well. I wasn't prepared for it to do was well as it did. In less than 24 hours, it had hit #1 on Amazon in Steampunk Fiction, and climbed to #47 in the Sci Fi romance categories.

I was humbled by the fantastic reviews. Emily Tilton, author of Caroline's Rocking Horse and A Highlander Tamed, had an advanced read, and humbled me with these words, and coming from someone as fantastic as her this is an amazing endorsement.
"The little novel roars along from start to finish, and when the spanking and sex arrives, it's extremely hot...anyone who enjoys Victorian fiction and science fiction, in addition to spanking and erotic elements will adore this book simply because the quality of the writing is so very high."
 Up-and-coming writer Felicity Nichols included this in her kind review:

I am very impressed because usually I don’t read a lot of action stories. Dangerous Science is the perfect blend of action, adventure, erotica, and spankings. I am completely wrapped up in the characters from Dangerous Science and look forward to more from Sidney Swann."

I can't thank the readers enough, both in the erotic and Steampunk communities. The success of this book has left me stunned, surprised and happy. But the success is the second best thing about writing "Dangerous Science." The best thing? The friendships and sense of community that began to form even before I became a published author. I have felt embraced and encouraged by so many wonderful writers and I'm as inspired as much by the sense of camaraderie as I am by the unexpected success of my debut novel. It makes me look forward to penning its sequel all the more.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Dangerous Science" steams to Top Ten in Steampunk!

Top Ten in Steampunk on
Thank you all so much!

Today is the day I've been waiting for - the release day for Dangerous Science. Well, technically yesterday was the day. But along came an ice storm and the time I'd set aside to promote my book release on social media coincided with the horrific crash and pop of ice-laden branches descending on area power lines.

It was a long, frustrating night.

Today, the roads cleared and I made my way to the cottage on my parent's property which still has power. It's warm and comfortable here, and I've been able to use the WiFi to get back online and do a little networking. That makes me happy, but not as happy as the news I got from my publisher who just called to tell me that Dangerous Science is now #8 in Steampunk on Amazon and in the top 100 for SciFi Romance!

I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. Steampunk is a genre that I simply adore. It is so rich in possibilities, and the writers of Steampunk, I've found, are such a fun, clever lot. So are the writers erotica, and the friends I've made in Steampunk circles and via Blushing Books have been so helpful and encouraging and supportive.

I could not have asked for a better partner than Blushing Books.  Putting a book out there for public consumption is big, scary step. One never knows how it will be received, and I'm just so pleased that my debut novel is doing quite so well as it is.  I honestly could not be more grateful.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The pleasures of tea

It's snowing today. It started early this morning, with two interruptions for sleet. Now everything out is white or cocooned in ice. If I got mail today, I'll have to wait until it warms up to find out what it is. My mailbox is frozen shut.

This afternoon I filled my birdfeeders and then put the kettle on for a pot of tea. I had tea whilst watching my cats watching the birds. It is a good day for bird watching, cat watching and tea. But really, every day is good for tea.

Tea has become something of a ritualized addiction for me. If it were not for tea, I may not get out of my pajamas on some days. Over the years I've acquired beautiful tea sets. Some are very fine and very old. I feel it is wrong to take tea from a beautiful tea set while wearing something that doesn't at least honor the ritual. So I get dressed daily, for teatime.

Tea is relaxing. It's a good time to mull things over when you're alone, or a good time to socialize if you're lucky enough to have friends who appreciate taking tea.

"I'll put the kettle on," is my response to bad news, or good news, or when visitors stop by. I used to have a whistling teapot but I forsook it for an electric kettle that's faster and more efficient. What blend I use depends on my mood. My favorite specialty tea vendor is Teavana. They sell exotic blends. I also keep the old standards on hand - Lipton and PG Tips. The latter is favored by the British gentleman renovating my house. I sometimes think he'd work for tea; he says no one here makes it properly, so he was thrilled to find out that we take tea. It's nice to give him a little taste of home.

The Victorians were big on tea time, and tea is quite popular in Steampunk culture. There are Steampunk tea societies and Steampunk tea parties. It's hardly surprising. Tea, like Steampunk, allows us to combine the traditional with the exotic. It's another reason to love both.

I've been toying with the idea of having a virtual tea time with other Steampunk enthusiasts. I've not yet figured out how to go about it. It's something I shall have to ponder over - of course, - a cup of tea.

Monday, February 10, 2014

On Steampunk, smart girls and spankings....

Dr. Gladys DeWalt: The sexiest thing about her is her mind.

Sapiosexual: (noun) One who finds intelligence the most sexually attractive feature; behaviour of becoming attracted to or aroused by intelligence and its use.

When I sat down to write Dangerous Science, I didn't start with a plot or a plan or even a concept. I only had three things in mind as I typed "Chapter One" on the blank white space staring back at me from my MacBook. 1.) The book would be Steampunk. 2.) The main character would be a smart woman. 3.) The book would have a male authority figure, and feature some spanking.

I do a lot of reading across a lot of different genres. Erotica is my guilty pleasure, and books that feature spankings give me an extra naughty thrill. But I've read enough spanking erotica to know what turns me on, and what turns me off. Turn ons: A strong male disciplinarian who corrects for good and just reasons, or spanks a woman for her and his mutual pleasure. Turn offs: A woman portrayed as so stupid, flawed or mean that she needs to be spanked if she is to make proper decisions.

Another turn on: Intelligence. I don't care how muscle-bound the character, how white his teeth or how handsome he is. If he's monosyllabic or a bully with one set of rules for himself and one set of rules for the woman, then he won't even register on my heat index. Perhaps this is why I fantasize about being spanked by Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer but not Stephen Segal. Brute force usually means brute intelligence, and brutes do nothing for me.

As a genre, Steampunk lends itself perfectly for the formation of clever characters. Women can be anything in the world of Victorian futurism; they can be airship pilots or scientists or explorers or spies. They can go toe to toe with brilliant men, whether it's in drawing rooms of London or on African expeditions. With Steampunk, we can enjoy the romantic structure and customs of Victorian times, but without all that icky suppression of women.

In Dangerous Science, part of what eventually endears Dr. Gladys DeWalt to Professor Sebastian Cromwell is that he deserves her. She's brilliant, and he respects that.  He's brilliant, so she respects him. She is not incapable of caring for herself or making her own decisions or being a full intellectual partner to him as they face the challenge that will decide her - and ultimately his - fate. Any submission Gladys gives Sebastian is earned, even if she doesn't quite realize that when he is forced to discipline her.

Now, I'm not judging those who prefer the Kitten-Up-A-Tree kind of girl. It's not for me to invalidate the preference for the White Knight coming to save the Helpless Maiden. I'm just saying it's not for me. The geek in me revels in crafting a character who wins the man almost by accident, and often when she's on the way to doing something more interesting that looking for romance.

The geek in me, the sapiosexual in me, the reader and nerd and science buff in me wants to write women who represent the Smart Girl. Because Smart is Sexy.

Dangerous Science will be released on February 12 by Blushing Books. Look for it then in the Blushing Books Web store, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other online booksellers.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

#SatSpanks - - In praise of the perfect villain

I wonder if what I'm doing right now is normal.

Here I am,  a few days from the February 12th release of my erotic Steampunk adventure, Dangerous Science ,and I'm already thinking ahead to what I want to do differently in the next book. Don't get me wrong - I'm pleased with Dangerous Science, and I hope you will be, too.  The main characters, Dr. Gladys DeWalt and the enigmatic Professor Sebastian Cromwell are brilliant and sexy. There's a villain in this story, but he's neither brilliant nor sexy. He just thinks he is.

I'm not saying that the villain in Dangerous Science doesn't cause his fair share of trouble. He's sneaky, spiteful and a a total bastard and I can guarantee you will hate him. But I think in my next novel Gladys and Sebastian will be up against someone who is just as brilliant. In fact, he may be so brilliant that he'll be harder to hate. And maybe that's OK.

Some readers prefer an unlikeable villain. But I have to say I'm not one of them. I like those lines to be a little blurred. I like it when you feel such begrudging admiration for the bad guy that you fear his demise.

I can't write the perfect villain. As far as I'm concerned, he's already been written. If any of you happen to be fans of Sherlock Holmes, then you'll know just what I'm talking about when I tell you there's a name, a name no one says. Jim Moriarty. In the books he wasn't sexy, but in the BBC production of Sherlock, Moriarty has a certain sex appeal that was enhanced by intelligence.

But enough about other villains. For now we have the nemesis in Dangerous Science, Dr. John Reubens, who if not brilliant still deserves respect as a Bad Guy. After all, only a villain would scheme to land an accomplished colleague like Gladys DeWalt in such a humiliating situation at the hands of the uncompromising Cromwell, which I now tease for you here.

“You’re scared.” His voice was calm. “I know you’re scared and well you should be. I don’t relish what I’m about to do, Gladys, but given the outcome for you should you slip my authority, I’m convinced beyond a doubt that it’s for the best.”

There was no further preamble. Sebastian turned Gladys and pushed her over his knee. She was numb with shock at what was happening; by the time she recovered her senses there was no time to struggle, not that it would have done her any good. Her guardian had a firm grip around her small waist, and she was helpless to extricate herself no matter how hard she struggled. Gladys cried out as she felt her skirt being lifted, and launched into a stream of threats and profanities when she felt her undergarments being tugged down. But words were as useless as her struggles against such disciplinary resolve.

 - Dangerous Science

I know if I were to find myself living by the leave of an elegant yet stern Victorian professor, I'd be most aggrieved at the person responsible for my plight. On the other hand, when one thoroughly consider Gladys' situation, maybe John Reubens is the perfect villain after all. :-)

Friday, January 31, 2014

Gearing up for Saturday Spankings....

I am so pleased to be taking part in my first Saturday Spankings Blog Hop! Per the rules, I'm keeping it short - just a picture and a quote from my upcoming erotic Steampunk adventure novel, Dangerous Science, to be published February 12 by Blushing Books.

Dr. Sebastian Cromwell. Scientist. Automaton.

“But if I may be so bold, I’d argue that part of what has allowed Dr. DeWalt to hoodwink us all is her charm. She has a way of putting one at ease with her sweet manner. It’s easy to believe her. Is this by calculated design on her part? Perhaps she’s known all along that she was incapable of the mission she accepted, but we – being human – were too blind to see her flaws and deal with them ... Dr. Cromwell won’t have that problem. He’s not fully human.”  
--John Reubens, member of the Council of Scholars, upon recommending that Dr. Gladys DeWalt be placed in the custody of her former professor Sebastian Cromwell.