Friday, March 29, 2013

Fantasy preview: Charity Parkerson's Sinners of Water & Fire

If there ever was a writer who knew how to cross genres, it has to be Charity Parkerson.

She has won awards for her paranormal fantasy Sinners series, especially The Danger with Sinners and hit the Amazon bestseller list with her military romances, sports romances and erotic stories.

Her latest book, Sinners of Water & Fire, launches May 2, and I'm happy to post an excerpt on Written Words.

What's it about?

Their love was legendary, cursed, and forbidden. 
The fates conspired to keep them apart, but destiny will bring them together again…
When one of their own becomes the target of a demon bent on revenge, the Society will do anything to keep her safe, including stealing a God from the Heavens.
Heru, son of Geb, once sold his soul to forget her, and now he’ll give anything to keep her safe. 
Gods and Demons collide in the final installment of Charity Parkerson’s award-winning “Sinners” series.


“I dreamed about you last night.” Heat flooded her face at the confession. She knew it must be the shade of a strawberry, but she lifted her eyes to his, holding his stare steadily, as if daring him to mock her words. For a moment, she could have sworn a look of triumph passed over his face, but it was gone as quickly as it appeared.

“What was the dream about?”

Marissa had thought that it was impossible to be any more embarrassed than she already was, but at his question, she discovered a whole new level of humiliation.

“Um,” she stuttered before admitting, “I don’t want to tell you.”

“Oh,” he crowed. “It was that kind of dream, was it?” While his eyes were shining with mirth, her face was on fire, and she really wanted kick him.

“Shut up,” she hissed.

“Ever as you command,” he said, but she could still hear the laughter in his voice.

Fanning her face, Marissa practically danced in place in her discomfort.
“Are you having some sort of fit?” Adriana, Marissa’s mom, asked, slicing through her mortification.

Marissa had not heard her approach and she shot a nervous glimpse at the tree line to find Harold gone.

“I was attempting a spell.” Marissa answered Adriana’s question absently while searching for any sign that Harold was still hanging around. When her mom remained silent, Marissa glanced over to find her watching her closely, and she pasted a fake smile on her face in order to ease her mother’s obvious concern.

“Okay,” Adriana said, drawing out the word and sounding as if she didn’t believe her, which was a spot-on observation, since Marissa was lying.

Starting May 2, you can buy Sinners of Water & Fire on:

Amazon US
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble
All Romance Ebooks

About the Author:

Charity Parkerson was born in Tennessee, where she still lives with her husband and two sons.  She is the author of several books including thirteen Amazon bestsellers. 

You can like her at

Be sure to visit her website and her blog.

Her “Sinners series” was voted one of the top ten best books by an Indie author in 2011 in Paranormal Romance Reads.

The Danger with Sinners
was named “Best Book of 2012” by Paranormal Reads Reviews and is a finalist for Favorite Paranormal Romance in the 2012 Australian Romance Readers Association Awards.

She was named as one of the top three Indie authors of 2012 by EbookBuilders.
She is a member of The Paranormal Romance Guild, is a Goodreads moderator, a member of Coffee Time Romance, and co-host of The Melissa Craig and Charity Parkerson show.

She won author of the week in August of 2011, and is a four-time winner of The Mistress of the Darkpath.

You can follow her on Twitter @

Additional links:

Barnes & Noble
Punk & Sissy Publications

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Get on board

The One Shade of Red Launch Blog Tour

One Shade of Red launches on April 2, and 12 great bloggers — all professional, top-notch independent authors — have generously donated their blog space to helping the book’s profile rise.

Each day over the next two weeks, you can visit the blog for a different excerpt from the book, my second novel. And starting on April 2, you can link to buy the book (if you want to) on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes and other major e-tailers.

March 26: Alan McDermott, Jambalian blog — excerpt from Chapter 1: Falling Down
March 27: Siggy Buckley, Writers Get Together — excerpt from Chapter 2: The Re-Do

March 28: Charity Parkerson, TheSinner Author — excerpt from Chapter 8: Cleaning Pools

March 29: CR Hiatt, McSwain and Beck — excerpt from Chapter 5: Shopping

March 30: Dawn Torrens, My Books & I blog — excerpt from Chapter 7: Argument with Kristen

March 31: Bruce R. Blake, The Thoughts and Opinions of a Writer on the Rise — excerpt from Chapter 6: Building the Client Base

April 1: David C. Cassidy, Because Life is a Really Good Story — excerpt from Chapter 11: Dom and Sub

LAUNCH DAY, April 2: Cinta Garcia de la Rosa’s Indie Authors You Want to Read — excerpt from Chapter 10: Dinner Date

ALSO: Guest post about writing a different kind of fiction on Joyce Strand’s Simply Tips

April 3: Doug Dorow, Thriller Author — excerpt from Chapter 9: Mrs. Casales

April 4: Valjeanne Jeffers, Collision of Worlds — excerpt from Chapter 4: What a Morning After

April 5: Frederick Lee Brooke, AuthorUnplugged — Excerpt from Chapter 12, Hell and Heaven and Hell Again

April 6: Best-selling author's Shannon Mayer's blog — Excerpt from Chapter 15: Mom’s Advice

Thank you, all!

Take a look at each one on their day, read the excerpt and leave a comment. Show them all some blogger love!

I hope you enjoy the excerpts. If you don’t, let me know in a comment below.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

A sexy excerpt from ONE SHADE OF RED

My second novel, One Shade of Red, launches April 2. What's it about?

With this novel, I turned Fifty Shades of Grey   currently the fastest-selling book ever   on its head. And then, I added more sex.

To give you a little taste, here's an encounter between the two main characters: Damian, the naive twenty-year-old virgin, and the only client of his pool-cleaning business, the slightly older Alexis Rosse. This starts in a slightly run-down tavern on the Danforth in Toronto. 

Chapter 3: Emergency pick-up

Tyler stabbed a button and held the phone to his ear. I realized he had pressed “Call.”

“Who are you calling?” I asked, alarmed.

“Your girlfrien’,” he answered, grinning. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the phone out of his grasp. Kristen answered on what I figured must have been the third ring. “Hey, baby, it’s me, Damian,” Tyler said, trying to impersonate me. It didn’t convince me, but it seemed to convince Kristen. “Listen, you and me been wasting enough time, already. It’s time to get naked and get it together! I’m comin’ over for some booty, right now.”

“Are you crazy?” I yelled, hoping my voice could overcome the noise in the bar and make it through the cell phone, somehow, to tell Kristen it wasn’t me. She was going to be so mad.

I grabbed at my phone again, but Tyler twisted away. Patrick came around the table and grabbed my hands as Tyler said “I’m at the bar with my best buds, Tyler and Patrick. Don’t pretend you don’t know who we — they are.

“At the bar,” he continued. “The Red Fox. Yah, that’s the one.” Another pause. “No, no, I’ll ... awright, awright, come on over! Yah, it’s on the Danforth. You been there! Okay, see ya.” He handed me the phone. “Good news, buddy: she’s comin’ to get you.”

“What?” Patrick and I said simultaneously. “Kristen is coming to pick you up for a booty call? Oh man, I never even had that much luck!” Patrick added.

Luck had nothing to do with it, I thought. At least not good luck. “Shit, shit, shit,” I said. “Kristen hates it when I’m drinking.”

“How many beers you had?” Patrick asked.

I had to think about it. “Three. Maybe four,” I answered. “Shit.”

“Like I said, more of a wife than a girlfriend,” Tyler said and drank more beer.

I stood to brush peanut crumbs off my clothes and headed for the door. It would be better, a little, to meet Kristen outside than in the bar.

It wasn’t such a bad place. The Red Fox was also a restaurant that catered to families at suppertime. But Kristen felt — I knew this because she told me several times — that sitting in a bar drinking beer with my “dumb buddies” was a waste of time and money, something done by low-lives only. Not by respectable university students who hoped one day to be respectable professional members of the community.

I could hear her voice telling me this as I stood on the curb, looking eastward for her car. Or actually, her father’s car. One part of my brain could not believe she would actually agree to come and get me at — I felt shocked when I looked at my watch — quarter past midnight. Her father let her come out this late?

Another part of my brain kept predicting what she would say. I could hear her clipped voice in my head: the way she bit off her words when she was pissed, the way she would emphasize every sentence with a “Hmmm?” that was more of an accusation than a question.

And there was yet another part of my brain that kept asking pesky questions. “Why does she need her father’s permission to go out late at night when she’s over 18?” “Why does she get to dictate when and how often I go out with my friends?”

“Just why does she get to decide what ‘respectable’ professionals do in their own time? Or what constitutes ‘respectability’?”

And “Why is it taking her so long to get down to the Danforth from her house? She should have been here a long time ago.”

“Dude, you owe me thirty bucks,” said someone beside me. I jumped, literally jumped, before I saw it was just Patrick. Tyler was behind him. “You left without paying for your beer. The waitress was pissed — she thought you had burned her. So I hadda pay her.”

“Can I get you tomorrow?” I asked. I really didn’t want Kristen to see me giving Patrick money. She’d have something else to lecture me about: “Given how little money you make, should you be paying your dumb buddy for beer from a bar? And what if someone had seen you handing over money on the street like that? They’d think you were buying drugs! Yes, Patrick does look like a drug dealer.”

I looked down the street, expecting to see Kristen’s father’s car any minute, but even though traffic was light, I couldn’t see the familiar shape of the minivan anywhere. When headlights lit up the asphalt at my feet from behind me, I was confused.

A grey Jaguar pulled up the curb, pointing the wrong way. The driver’s window slid down silently and a musical voice said “Well, do you want booty, or not?”

I bent down to see the long wavy hair and deep brown eyes of my employer. My only customer. I looked at my friends, and they were staring at me and the car with their jaws hanging loose. “Mrs. Rosse? What are you doing here?”

“You called me, remember? You wanted to get naked. What’s a girl supposed to do when she gets a call like that? Now get in.”

I flashed my friends a grin as I walked around the car to get into the passenger seat. They still had their mouths open. Mrs. Rosse gunned the engine, cutting off a hatchback coming the other way — the right way down the Danforth. Before I could say anything, she said “Boy, you have dumb friends.”

“I was just going to say, that wasn’t me. That was Tyler,” I stammered. “He thinks he’s funny.”

“I know what your voice sounds like, Damian. We have spoken on the phone.”

“Sorry if he offended you.”

Mrs. Rosse laughed. “Offended me? Maybe disappointed me!”


“That it wasn’t actually you making that phone call.” She looked at me and I swear I saw her eye sparkle.

“Where are we going?”

“My place. You said you wanted to get naked with me. Or your friend said it, but anyway, I’m turned on now.”

I decided not to bother trying to explain that both Tyler and I thought he had dialled Kristen’s number. I was so glad he had made a mistake.

My mouth suddenly was very dry. Did she really say she was turned on? “So, uh, sorry to drag you out this late.”

She laughed again. I was really starting to love that laugh. I squirmed in my seat, hoping to hide my sudden erection. “I wasn’t doing anything, just reading a really bad book and feeling horny. Your friend’s call was the excuse I needed to get out and scare up some action.”

I was sure she could hear my heart pounding, because that’s all I could hear at that point. I hadn’t noticed what she was wearing when I got in the car. As we passed under streetlamps, I could see that she was wearing a pink jogging jacket, but her legs were bare.

She noticed me looking at her. “That’s right, Damian. This jacket is all I have on.”

With that, she swung the car into her driveway. I sat there, staring as she walked, bare-assed, to her front door, the flip-flops of her sandals echoing down the street. She turned to me from the step, smiled and pulled off the jacket. She posed for a second, nude, and tossed the jacket into the house, then stepped inside.

Like that? You can find out what happened to Damian on April 2, when One Shade of Red goes on sale on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes iBookstore and other quality e-book retailers!

Come back to this blog for links. And leave a comment — tell me whether you loved this, hated it, or said “meh.”

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Launch date: April 2, 2013

One Shade of Red

It’s nearly done! My spoof of Fifty Shades of Grey is nearly out.

What began as a lark for National Novel Writing Month in November is nearing the final stages of publishing. I’ve written, re-written and edited it myself, shown portions to established authors in the field, and had it edited by a very skilled writer, Gary Henry (author of American Goddesses and some excellent short stories and poems).

After taking Gary’s advice, I asked another gifted author and editor, Cinta Garcia de la Rosa (The Funny Adventures of Little Nani) to copy-edit it. After making the corrections she pointed out, I turned the manuscript over to my wife, Roxanne, a skilled editor in her own right. Then I asked one more colleague to act as the last set of eyes on the result.

Gary, Cinta, and cover designer David C. Cassidy are all members of Independent Authors International, a cooperative publishing group who share services like reading, editing, design and promotion. In short, all the functions that a traditional publisher performs, while leaving control and revenue in the author's hands. This process is a great example of the vision behind iAi.

Improving quality

I have to admit, One Shade of Red grown in the writing. I thought I would do a straight spoof by taking the concept (if you can call it that) of Fifty Shades and turning it upside-down: instead of an innocent girl being seduced by a slightly older and irresistible man, I have a naive young man being initiated into adulthood by an older, irresistible and sexually voracious woman.

But the characters grew deeper and more complex as I told the story. They took on some life of their own. And then some complications entered the story. So it's a little more than what I started with.

Now, as I try to get some advance publicity and marketing going, I have to pause to say “thank you” to a lot of people who have helped along the way.

First, my wife, Roxanne, and the rest of my family, too, for support and for putting up with distraction, bad moods, anxiety and self-doubt as I worked on the manuscript.

Charity Parkerson, for insight, advice and encouragement at the early stages of the writing process.

Gary Henry, the first author colleague to review the manuscript for pointing out all the little errors not just in grammar or punctuation, but for forcing me to write better.

Cinta Garcia and again my wife, Roxanne, for eagle-eyed copy editing.

David C. Cassidy for an absolutely fantastic cover.

Bruce A. Blake for a final proofread.

Everyone who agreed to participate in the cover reveal over the next two weeks:

CR Hiatt
Rachel Thompson

Cinta Garcia Rosa
Christine Nolfi
Bruce A. Blake
Wodke Hawkinson
Doug Dorow
Linze Brandon

Lisa Jey Davis
David C. Cassidy
Jesi Lea Ryan

I’ll be tweeting and blogging all the links to their blogs over the next couple of weeks, but in the meantime, check them all out today — you’ll be glad you did!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Doing Max Vinyl: An independent book review

A fun thriller

Some books are just plain fun to read — like Frederick Lee Brooke’s Doing Max Vinyl.

This is a book that succeeds on several levels. First, it’s a perfectly crafted crime-thriller with a believable, sympathetic protagonist in Annie Ogden and a watertight plot. Second, all the characters are drawn from real life. Third, the writing is flawless, the style smooth and professional. And it’s full of observational humour. The laughs come from recognition — you know people like this, you’ve heard people say these things and you can easily picture them in the situations that Fred Brooke creates.

The plot

Max Vinyl is the owner of Tri-State Recylcing (TSR) in Chicago; on the day that he sells 20 percent of his company to Korean investors, his general manager fires the receptionist for spying on the company. The trouble is, the receptionist, Tris, is also Max’s girlfriend.

Tris, it turns out, is a “tree-hugger” according to the general manager, Manny Rodriguez. Manny had caught Tris snooping through some sensitive files and suspected she was going to blow the whistle on TSR’s less-than-environmentally friendly activities.

Those questionable practices? TSR recycles computers and other electronics. The law requires that companies dispose of their obsolete electronic equipment in such a way that harmful chemicals do not leak into soil, water or air. As a result, businesses pay recycling companies to dispose of their old computers, monitors, printers and other equipment properly. TSR charges to haul away the old equipment, then makes more money by reselling the best items. Any that it cannot sell, it disassembles, recycles, reuses or disposes of in an environmentally responsible manner.

Waste electronics represent two percent of the USA’s trash in landfills,
but 70 percent of overall toxic waste, according to e-waste workshop.
Image: Creative Commons.
 That’s what it tells the world on its website. What it really does, though, is pick the best, most sellable items from its incoming stream of used equipment — truckloads every day — and sell them through its website. TSR then dups eight to ten dumpsters into Lake Michigan every night.

Max has hired a number of ex-cons for the heavy work. Two in particular pilot the barge and dump the trash: Ike and Tranny. These two have the funniest antics in the book, especially the way that Tranny will say the opposite of what he means, then insist that’s not what he said.

“I get tired of always having to come up with the ideas, and you just say no to everything. How about you try saying no for a change and I get to have some ideas?”

“You mean I should come up with the ideas, and you can get to say no?”

“That’s what I said, stupid. Don’t try and turn things around that I say. I don’t go correcting you all the time.”

Every plot has to have a coincidence, or there’s no story. The skilled writer makes the coincidence seem unavoidable.

In Doing Max Vinyl, four very believable events occur on the same day:

• Max and the Korean investors agree to the $3 million sale

• Manny fires Max’s snoopy, tree-hugging ex-girlfriend

• a new laptop with very sensitive personal information accidentally enters TSR’s stream of trash

• and Ike and Tranny lose a global positioning system (GPS) device that shows them where to steer the barge and dump the garbage.

A waitress, Alison Ogden, find the GPS and takes it home because she thinks it’s a phone and her boyfriend collects old cell phones. When the boyfriend, Todd, tells her it’s not a phone, Alison gives it to her sister, Annie, who has just finished three combat tours in Iraq. Ike and Tranny track down Alison, break into her apartment and when they cannot find the GPS, take all of Todd’s 100-plus cell phones instead.

At this point, combat-trained Annie takes the fight to the bad guys to protect her sister. She infiltrates TSR and discovers its rotten foundation.

The characters

I could immediately picture Max Vinyl, the kind of sleazeball who convinces himself he’s a good guy while he’s cheating you, his wife, his employees, his business partners, the government and society at large. He overcharges his customers with rigged weigh-scales on his trucks, then dumps tonnes of garbage into the lake. He proudly proclaims he pays 25 percent above minimum wage. He’s chronically late on alimony payments and then pays his arrears with a cheque that bounces. Customers who have problems with items purchased off the website have to pay 90 cents a minute for telephone support. No wonder I laughed aloud when he falls face-first into a 10-dozen bouquet of roses after his ex-girlfriend pepper-sprays him.

Ike and Tranny kept me laughing, too, especially when Ike has to walk around with a table leg dangling from his forehead. The funniest part: he likes it!

Probably the most sensitively drawn character is Bob Olson, a square but straightforward good guy forced to bend his own moral code.

Brooke personifies the environment and Lake Michigan, too, in an original way that also evokes his humour. Bravo!

And Annie Ogden is precisely what I had hoped for in a female action hero. A former schoolteacher, she enlists in the Army and serves three tours in Iraq. She comes home with a new, confident attitude, a disdain for conventionality and a lot of fighting and survival skills. She’s small and fit, but not as young as she used to be. Brooke portrays her as very attractive, even beautiful in a diminutive way, but doesn’t take the beauty over the top like too many authors of female action heros. Conscious that she’s older than she used to be, she’s worried about the size of her butt — like every woman in the western world. When she takes on the bad guys, it’s absolutely believable.

The writing

Brooke is a pro. His skill with writing bears out his experience as an English teacher. The plot is airtight, the characters are likeable or hateable and recognizable. The style is spare and easy to read. I caught a few typos, but no more than I typically find in a commercially published book).

I found only two structural flaws:

• Two of the main characters, the catalysts of the action, Annie and Tris, never meet. While this makes sense in the context of this novel, I am sure that some putative expert will shake a figurative finger over this, calling it a major plot hole. It’s not.

• Somehow, the banner hanging over the work area at TSR that reads “MINIMUM WAGE PLUS 25% — TSR POLICY” gets replaced with the wording “Tris. TRS. Without.I.” Brooke never explains who did this (Tris, presumably), nor how. (Unless I missed it. If so, my apologies, Fred!)

The verdict

Doing Max Vinyl is a hoot, as well as a finely crafted thriller and a portrait of some real characters. I fully recommend this book!


Visit Frederick Lee Brooke's website.

Check out Doing Max Vinyl on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cleaning off winter’s dust

Spring is coming to Ottawa — I can tell because the snow is getting dirty and the birds are starting to chirp (“Hey! We’re freezing out here!”)

Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson, licensed under Wikipedia Creative Commons.
A change of season always inspires me to take on new projects, and to resolve to complete those half-done tasks like organizing the basement and cleaning the garage. Time to take the skis and skates, shovels and snowblower, and stack them away neatly until next November (if we’re lucky; January if we’re not); time to pull out garden hoses, rakes, gardening tools and rubber boots. Time to take out the bikes, re-inflate the tires, tighten the seat, oil the chain and adjust the brakes. Time to gather up all those little things that I just put down wherever was handy through the winter and put them in their proper places.

Whenever I do things like this, I find so many things that I had thought were lost or that I had forgotten completely. The same is true of my writing: whenever I straighten up the papers scattered around my study (“Not often enough,” my long-suffering, lovely wife adds from offstage.” I’m doing it now!) I find little notes, longer notes, outlines and partial drafts from months or years ago — ideas for stories or novels that I wrote down and forgot about since.

The messy office. Photo by allysa/Creative Commons.
Now that spring is here and my second novel is (mostly) wrapped — at least, the creative part —I feel energized again to move forward and finish my third novel, tentatively titled Walking from the Soviet Union. And the next one, where I’ll be completing Dark Clouds, the first book in an imagined series about the Witch Queen’s Son.

The advantage of finding notes after I’ve forgotten about them is that they lose their baggage in the process. My notes are short forms for my ideas, a few words or phrases to trigger the thoughts I had. But after a number of months, a lot of those ideas are forgotten, lost under the dark waves of what passes for my mind.

But that frees me. Unlike my bicycle or the kids’ basketball net, the passage of time does not leave a thick layer of dust and grime and god-knows-what-its-source-is goo on ideas. They’re more like driftwood, cleansed of clinging assumptions, associations, emotions, stripped down to the true essence of an idea.

I'm expanding Dark Clouds
from a short story to
a novel eventually.
Like this one for Dark Clouds, the novel I seem to be writing in installments timed with special events. I had almost forgotten this little nuance to the back-story: “Matt is immune to magic; he can break or absorb the Witch Queen’s spells, but every time he does so, he must give her a piece of his life-string.”

See? I had thought of a deeper dimension to the story, the idea of a price that the hero has to pay for every favour; every victory he earns furthers his ultimate defeat.

Wow. That sounds great, and looks better on the page. Now, it’s time to buckle down and write!

Your turn: does springtime inspire you to start something new? Or to finish an incomplete project, artistic or otherwise? Tell us all in the comments block below.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Writing about sex is not easy

Creative Commons licence
It should be. It should be the easiest thing in the world to write about. But it's not. Last month in the New Republic magazine, commercially published author Sam Lipsyte wrote about the challenges he faces when confronting a sex scene in a novel:
We might have the tendency to quickly cover up from the embarrassment of seeing our characters in the buff or else take on the role of salacious puppeteer. The prose can suffer from these reactions, as well as from overly clinical description, or, in some notorious cases, overcooked metaphor. Being caught with your aesthetic pants down can be a writer's worst fear.

Maybe the headline should be: “Writing well about sex is not easy.” If you’re not careful, it’s easy to slip into pornographic depictions of sexual positions, moans and gasps and twitching body parts.

I try to write truthfully, to show readers what I and my characters think and feel in every situation. I try to be original by examining the naked basis of every movement, sensation and intention. Then I have to edit to make sure I’m not over-writing it. Readers are smart; they can figure things out.

Getting into the swing

To prepare for writing my erotic satire, One Shade of Red, I thought I should see how other writers wrote about sex. Not just writers of erotica, because I wanted OSOR to be about sex and other things, too. I turned to an anthology, a compendium of excerpts of the “best erotic writing in modern fiction” called The Good Parts, edited by J.H. Blair.

Among the writers sampled in this anthology are Don DeLillo, described as “a stylist without peer”; Amanda Filipacchi: “uniquely original”; and the “unique voice” of EL Doctorow.

All well known, all excellent writers. But their work all reads as if … as if it were edited by the same person.

Part of the genius of writers like Joyce Carol Oates and John Updike and William Styron, part of Philip Roth’s breakthrough was their ability to depict the most intimate, sensual and human activity honestly, recognizably and enjoyably. Their ability to write descriptions that we can all agree with. Yes, exactly.

Licensed by Creative Commons
 And yet, all these serious writers, the cream of the literati, take a similar approach to writing about sex. They often employ a breathless stream of linked, long sentences, and somehow avoid naming the most important body parts involved. Here’s a typical example from Steven Erickson’s “ARC d’X”:

For a moment he was confused, wondering where she was in the dark, until he realized she was on the bed that he stood alongside. Lying at its edge, she unbuttoned his pants and freed him and put him in her mouth. …
Erickson’s stringing of clauses echoes EL Doctorow’s sex scene in Billy Bathgate:

We lay in the dark cellar of dust and ash, and I was passive and on my back and Rebecca lay on top of me and cleaved herself on me letting herself down with a long intake of her breath which I felt as a cool flute of air on my neck, and slowly awkwardly she learned her rhythm upon me as I was patient to allow her to do so.
It seems that the accepted way to describe sexual act in “serious” fiction (as opposed to porn) is either to link those breathless clauses like Doctorow, or just to hint at it, like Joyce Carol Oates in Last Days:

Now she felt the kiss deepen, and a feathery-light sensation ran through her body, her belly, her loins, a sensation familiar enough but always in a way new, and reassuring, and impersonal; and in another second or two the tenor of the kiss would change and become more serious: the man would part her lips, his tongue would prod at hers, his teeth grind lightly against hers, they would still be smiling but the kiss would have become serious, and Marianne’s plans for the rest of day — was this Saturday? — might have to be substantially altered.
Or like Joan Mellen in Natural Tendencies: “she opened herself to him” and Susanna Moore in The Whiteness of Bones: “He opened her gently.”

Using frank language tends to get one relegated to the “erotica” or “porn” categories. But aside from any prurient interest (none of us have that, right?), just from the style, I prefer a writer who can deal honestly with the one subject that unites all of humanity.

Charity Parkerson is an independent author who has written erotica as well as paranormal fiction and stories that are just plain about people. Here’s an example of her writing about sex honestly and openly in The Society of Sinner — I’m just putting a small sample here to preserve this blog’s PG rating:

He moved a step closer, and she allowed her knees to fall open. Running a hand over the smooth planes of her belly, she made a downward descent. She kept her eyes locked on his as she brushed her finger over her own core. Her eyes fell closed on a moan. She never heard him move, but her hand was pushed away as he licked a path through her curls. Taylor’s mind froze at the feel of his strong tongue. By the time her mind thawed enough to recognize that he was no fantasy, his tongue was being replaced by a much larger organ, and she felt herself being stretched wide. She let out a small squeak as she realized this was indeed a real man [not a fantasy-ed] but he covered her mouth with his own, swallowing the sound.
To me, calling a vagina “herself” seems childish, prudish, embarrassed — as if the writer wanted to be explicit but just didn’t have the guts.

That’s why I will write honestly about sex, and try to put the intentions, sensations and movements into as clear terms as I can.

Leave a comment below — how do you feel about depicting sex in a book that's not solely concerned with sex?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Christine Nolfi: a professional writer confident about her style

In my pursuit of the meaning and importance of writing style, this week I am turning to veteran Christine Nolfi, best-selling author of Second-Chance Grill, The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge and Treasure Me. Christine is also a founder of BestSelling Reads, a cooperative promotional group of writers of "new fiction."

Christine has definite views on the writer's style.

How would you describe your own writing style?

A combination of short, staccato sentences blended with longer, closer-to-literary passages. The combination is wholly intentional, a surefire way to evoke emotion in the reader.

Are there any authors whose style you admire? Do you try to emulate them?

I’m particularly fond of Ann Patchett’s style, but I don’t emulate her or other authors. I’ve been writing for many years. My literary voice is well established.

Are there authors whose writing style you dislike?

I dislike any prose that’s choppy, disjointed or poorly edited.

How important is your writing style to you? Are you happy with your style, or are there aspects of it you try to change during rewriting or editing?

After years of study, trial and error, critique groups, literary agents and much revision, I’m very happy with my writing style. Now when I sit down to begin a story, the entire process feels organic.

What are the important elements of your style? What are you trying to achieve?

An author receives the incalculable gift of the reader’s attention. Add in the modern world, with all the distractions and thrills of mass media, television, film — even the texting feature on your cell phone. Given all of that, I strive to create visual images on every page. Conflict rises, chapter by chapter. And I never forget to pack emotion into every sentence, and the novel’s essential structure.

Your style uses a lot of dialogue. What do you do to ensure your writing is authentic and believable?

I rehearse each scene out loud, becoming the different characters at different turns. This used to frighten my children. They’d arrive home from school to find Mom staring at the Mac and babbling dialogue. Now they’re grown and take my eccentricities in stride.

How can readers identify your writing style? Are there particular words or kinds of words that you tend to favor? Sentence structures? Or is it more in the story, the pacing or the characters?

I suspect readers first recognize my characters as something arising from Nolfi novel. Then the dialogue, which can veer from comedic to poignant in the blink of an eye. Writing style? The combination of short sentences and long passages are a dead giveaway.

Do you think your genre imposes certain restrictions on writing style?

Not at all. I write contemporary fiction, which covers the gamut of human experience. No, you’ll never find horror or erotica in my books. But you will find elements from many other genres — romance, mystery and suspense especially.

Do you think your audience responds to your writing style, consciously or unconsciously?

If fan mail carries proof, I’m sure of it. No doubt the response is both conscious and subconscious.

Why did you add discussion questions to the end of Second Chance Grill? Is this something you do with other books?

Book clubs welcome ready-made questions and I’ll probably supply them in each new release. The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge also has a discussion section. I’ll tell you, devising the right mix of questions for each book was arduous. I worried about missing important issues, or placing too much emphasis on others.

How important do you think writing style is to an author's commercial success?

I think readers in every genre have certain expectations. As an author, you must meet those expectations for any hope of success. In the case of contemporary fiction, readers demand a writing style rich in emotion, with striking visuals and deep symbolism. They don’t want a surface read. If they aren’t quickly immersed in the story and the conflict, they’ll move on to another novel.

Do you think your style will change in the future? Is there something different you would like to do in terms of style in a future book?

With each new book written, I sense my style veering closer to literary. Readers will decide if I’m making a wise decision. Someday I would like to try my hand at something different — a fantasy, perhaps, or science fiction. Or something gritty. Presently I’m editing my next two contemporary fiction releases, and will write the third installment of the Liberty Series over the summer. Perhaps I’ll find time in 2014 to try something new.

Christine Nolfi owned a small public relations firm in Cleveland, Ohio. She closed the firm after traveling to the Philippines to adopt a sibling group of four children. She has been writing novels full-time since 2004. Her debut Treasure Me is a 2012 Next Generation Indie Awards finalist. Her most recent book, Second Chance Grill was released in October 2012. Her works continue to earn high marks on GoodReads and Amazon.

You can find out more about Christine, her books and her blog at

Follow Christine on Twitter @christinenolfi

Check out her GoodReads Author Pageher FaceBook Author page, and her Amazon Author page.

And don't forget to check out her books!

Second Chance Grill:
at Barnes & Noble

Treasure Me — 2012 Next Generation Indie Awards Finalist
on Amazon 
at Barnes & Noble

The Tree of Everlasting Knowledge
on Amazon UK
on Barnes & Noble

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Sample Sunday: One Shade, Chapter 2

One Shade of Red is nearly ready for the world, thanks to the awe-inspiring assistance of three great people: first, my wife, Roxanne Bury, who's doing a careful, word-by-word edit; next, fellow author and iAi member Gary Henry (@LiteraryGary), who has done a story edit; and David Cassidy (@DavidCCassidy), who has designed a knock-out cover.

I'll do a big cover reveal in a week or so; for now, just to tease you, here's a sample from Chapter 2. Warning: the content below is not x-rated, but it definitely contains "adult" situations and language. Remember, it is a spoof of a book about kinky sex.

Image licensed under Creative Commons

Chapter 2: The Re-Do

I actually had my hand on the door to the beer store when my cell phone chirped. The screen showed “Private number.” I took a couple of steps away from the store as I put the phone to my ear. “Hello?” I fully expected it to be Kristen; she was paranoid about cell phone stalkers.

“Damian, it’s Mrs. Rosse.” I nearly dropped the phone—a customer calling you out of the blue probably wouldn’t be good news.

It wasn’t.

“I want you to come over here right away and finish what you started,” she said.

So many ideas went through my head all at the same time, but none of them were right. “I’m sorry?” were the only words that made it out of my mouth, however.

“You left yesterday before I came back, and I know that we had agreed to that, but on the understanding that you would do a complete job of cleaning the pool, first.” Did her voice have a really bitchy edge to it, or was that just the way the cell phone made her sound?

“But I thought I had finished. I cleaned out all the leaves and grass and finished up with the pool vacuum.”

“Well, if it had been the very first time that you had ever cleaned a swimming pool, I could understand it,” she said. Yep, that’s definitely a bitchy, pissed-off edge. “You cleaned out the easy debris, but you didn’t clean off the green slime around the side.”

“Yes I did!” Don’t get mad, some small, wise part of my brain warned. And don’t tell her it was the first pool you’ve ever cleaned. She’s your only customer.

When did I start caring about this stupid job?

“Well, it’s not as bad as it was, but there’s still a lot of slime there. Now I’ve already paid you in full for the job, and it has not been done to my satisfaction. Quite frankly, it’s not to anyone’s satisfaction. I would have been mortified for any of my friends to see it.”

“I’m sorry,” I repeated. God, I sounded so lame.

“Well, it’s fine to be sorry, but that doesn’t do me much good, now, does it? No, I want you to get down here and finish the job properly.”

“Ooo-kay,” I said, holding back a lot of swear words. “When would you like me to come?”

“Right now!” She sounded genuinely surprised at my question.

“Uhh, well, it will take me some time,” I started to say. “I’m at the other end of town, and with traffic ...”

“Fine. I’ll leave the side gate unlocked for you. Just make sure you’re finished before two o’clock.”

“Two?” I would have to scramble to get my cleaning stuff together and drive over there and get the job done — if my crappy car didn’t break down. “I’ll try my best, Mrs. Rosse, but is there a reason it has to be done by two? Mrs. Rosse?”

Cell phones don’t click or anything when you hang up, I realized.

So there I was, back at the pool under the mid-afternoon sun, scraping and scrubbing disgusting, smelly slime off the tiles. I had taken my shirt off and put it back on again when I felt my skin begin to burn, and now the cotton was saturated with sweat. Every so often, I reached into the pool and splashed my face. I thought about getting into the pool and staying cool while I cleaned, but I didn’t dare the risk of making Mrs. Rosse any bitchier.

“Now even the fussiest bitch has to be happy with this,” I muttered as I wiped off the very last of the gunk.

“That’s much better,” made me jump and I dropped the debris net into the pool.

Creative Commons
I turned to see Mrs. Rosse in her jogging suit: tight blue-and-white top stretched across her breasts, matching tight shorts, expensive Nike running shoes with the top edge of pink half-socks just peaking above the ankles. I made an effort to raise my eyes to hers, away from the outline of her nipples pushing against her top. I dropped the bucket and slimy water slopped onto my feet.

Creative Commons
“Sorry to scare you,” she laughed and stepped to the edge of the pool. “I just wanted to say that the edge looks great. Nice and clean, now. I guess it’s my fault, really, letting it get as dirty as I did before having someone in to clean it.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” was all I could think to say. I wondered if she had heard my out-loud thought about fussy bitches.

She laughed, but carefully inspected all around the edge of the pool. I got down on my knees, face burning, to try to fish the net out without getting all wet. When I straight-ened up again, she was standing right in front of me.

“You’re awfully cute,” she said. My mouth opened, but nothing came out. What do you say? I tried to smile and tried even harder not to look at her nipples. “I think you deserve a tip for your hard work,” she added.

She sank to her knees and two thoughts went through my mind at the same time: This is going to be great, and No, I’m mistaken. This kind of thing never happens.

Of course, there's lots more in the full book. Watch this space for more announcements!

Friday, March 01, 2013

Independent book launch: Immune by Shannon Mayer

It’s hard to resist a book launch by another independent author, especially when she’s a fellow Canadian who’s also into fantasy for grown-ups.

Shannon Mayer, author of A Zombie-ish Apocalypse and Priceless, will release the sequel to Priceless on March 6: Immune.

What’s it about?

When children go missing without a trace, there is only one person who can find them.

Welcome to the world of Rylee Adamson, a woman with unique abilities, some wild friends and a unstoppable drive to save those who can't save themselves.

But when the details of a missing child duplicate that of her worst case, things start to get freaky. And not in a good way.
I’ll extend the author’s warning to her Mom, and anyone else who shares her sensibilities:
“I’m so sorry Mom, this one will be no good for you to read, either. There is a full on sex scene (nipples and everything), violence and well, lots of bad words. You know — the ones you used to wash my mouth out with soap for? Consider yourself warned.
To celebrate the launch, Shannon’s giving away three signed copies of Priceless. Follow the Rafflecopter below before March 13 for your chance to win an autographed paperback book AND a $5 Amazon gift card.

Reader and Fan Appreciation giveaway

And reviewers have until March 27 to enter an even better contest:

The Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

  • • one Grand Prize Winner receives
    • an iPAD Mini or $250 Amazon gift card
    • a signed copy of Priceless
    • and their name will appear in the third book
  • two winners will receive
    • signed copies of Priceless
    • and their names will appear in the third book
  • two more will win signed copies of Priceless 
  • one will win a Skype chat with Shannon Mayer.
Reviewer Appreciation Giveaway

Can’t wait till March 6 to find out more? You can get the first book in the series, Priceless, at Amazon right now.  

Shannon Mayer lives in the southwestern tip of Canada with her husband, dog, cats, horse, and cows. When not writing she spends her time staring at immense amounts of rain, herding old people (similar to herding cats) and attempting to stay out of trouble. Especially that last is difficult for her.

Get to know Shannon:

Her blog, Wringing out Words 

Her Facebook page  

Her GoodReads presence 

Follow her on Twitter @TheShannonMayer

And don't neglect her Amazon author page :