Vive Les Femmes! The True Legend of The Coffin Girls.

The Coffin Girls really did exist! The fille à la cassette  were 18th century, French immigrés sent to the shores of Louisiana from France. These virtuous brides arrived under the strict supervision of the Ursuline nuns with nothing but little wooden boxes containing their belongings or trousseau.  In this blog, I speak of the legend that inspired my paranormal romance series.

The Legend

 museum pic of CG casket

In response to a request  for wives from Louisiana’s French settlers, the French authorities, with the aid of the Ursuline nuns, hand-picked marriageable young women from convents and orphanages. Approximately 500 young women were ‘dispatched’ to Louisiana, including New Orleans. The superstitious locals dubbed them as Casket or Coffin Girls and spread tales of vampire arrivals. It was said that the coffin-shaped boxes of trousseau were found to be empty when opened. The Ursuline sisters stored the caskets on the third floor of the convent and sealed the windows and doors, which led to the belief that this was done to prevent sunlight from killing or maiming the vampires hidden therein.  Other allegations were that the girls themselves were vampires due to their pale complexions and sickly appearance.

lg-embarkment-of-the-casket-girls-1250

Logic could explain much of that – the grueling journey across the Atlantic, that they would not have been able to afford the 18th century version of Louis Vuitton suitcases and that the third floor windows were sealed by standard issue hurricane shutters of the time.  The motives for the rumors were perhaps due to jealousy because these young women were admired for their French origins and virtue, or it could possibly have been due to discontent regarding the administration of the French, colonial rule?

Ursuline_Convent_New_Orleans_1733

My Novel Inspiration

When I began researching vampire legends, I knew I wanted to write a paranormal series centered on strong women. I wanted to create heroines that were the equals of their male counterparts, that were powerful and confident – survivors rather than victims. The casket-carrying girls provided me with inspiration for my own tales and I employed artistic license to ponder what their lives could have been like.

In Supernatural Seduction, Sophie provided an opportunity for my speculations:

“When she had been introduced to her fiancé, Pierre, his kind brown eyes had welcomed her, although his manner had been all business. He was one of many gentlemen of French descent who had visited the Ursuline convent to peruse the available wives. The act was humiliating. Some gentlemen openly leered at them and Sophie felt that the only thing stopping them from ‘testing the goods’ was the presence of the nuns. Others were like Pierre – all business and a few, too few, were shy.” (From Supernatural Seduction, Book 2 of the Coffin Girls Series)

“The nuns had subjected them all to ‘checks’ of their virtue, a demeaning physical examination that Sophie would rather forget. Sophie had therefore braved crossing the Atlantic and squared her shoulders against any angst she might feel. Being a secret empath and with the buckets of trepidation being felt from the other girls all around her, forced ignorance was survival tactic.” (From Supernatural Seduction, Book 2 of the Coffin Girls Series)

In Coffin Girls, book one, Anais, the witch-vampire leader of the Coffin Girls, describes her relationship with her husband:

“I met my husband when I was brought to Papillion Plantation. It had another name and another life within it then. It was the time of slavery, racism and prosperity for the plantation owner – before the wars of North versus South. Disease was rife in New Orleans – not just the fever but the disease of arrogance. My husband suffered from that. And I’ve come to realize that it was the root of his insanity.” At Conall’s lifted brow, she explained, “To me, racism and slavery isn’t normal and neither is rape and torture. He was guilty of all of that.” (From Coffin Girls, Elegantly Undead, Book 1 of the Coffin Girls Series)

Coffin Girls is always priced at 99 cents on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Smashwords. Supernatural Seduction is priced at 99 cents until the end of the release event tomorrow and is also available on all ebook websites and in print. You’re welcome to join the Facebook release event for fun games hosted by Release Day Diva, swag and ebook prizes (18 years and older only).

Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/583662281684227

Coffin Girls

Coffin Girls New Final Cover

A sexy, female vampire with secrets.

A sinfully-handsome witch prince on a mission.

A formidable Vampire Council with something to hide.

A vampire descendent from the original Coffin Girls, Anais runs a successful event and wedding planning business from her majestic New Orleans plantation house. To the Vampire Council, she is seen as an exemplary hostess and household head of a misfit bunch of vampires.
When Yves, her maker and head of the Vampire Council requests her assistance in hosting the mysterious, yet dashing Prince of Witches, Conall, she has no option but to accept. But Anais is the keeper of secrets; secrets that can kill. Protective of her family’s undiscovered uniqueness, Anais is guarded, yet intrigued by the enigmatic witch prince.
Conall and Anais are drawn together when confronted with fatal encounters and an unimaginable destiny… if she’s willing to accept it and fight.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Coffin-Girls-Elegantly-Undead-ebook/dp/B008N0GWVA

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Coffin-Girls-Elegantly-Undead-ebook/dp/B008N0GWVA

Barnes & Noble:

 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/coffin-girls-elegantly-undead-aneesa-price/1112407366

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/205913

Supernatural Seduction

 Supernatural Seduction - CG2 - Final Cover

Witch-vampire, Sophie, has the power to feel and influence others’ emotions. With the establishment of the Coffin Girls as warriors for the Goddess that kick supernatural ass, the effects of her empath abilities threaten to harm her. Sylvain, the mischievous and seductive fae prince and Coffin Girls ally, offers her the assistance of the fae to hone her powers. Sophie is drawn to Sylvain, which unnerves her as her hope for love has only ever led to devastation. The two of them must face the demons of their past, unknown enemies and new evil to find true happiness at last.

“Once again Aneesa Price succeeds in transporting us to this magical world full of romance, action, & excitement! I am a true Aneesa Price addict…constantly needing more, more, more!” ~ Jeni’s Bookshelf & Reviews

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Supernatural-Seduction-Coffin-Series-ebook/dp/B00E1LF496

Barnes & Noble: http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.barnesandnoble.com%2Fw%2Fsupernatural-seduction-aneesa-price%2F1116227626%3Fean%3D2940045151405&h=2AQGmssU7

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/338802

 

Related articles:

The Mystery in Our Midst by Jim Serra, http://kplcblogs.typepad.com/kplcgm/2007/09/they-walk-among.html

Casket (Casquette) Girls from Geni.com, http://www.geni.com/projects/Casket-Casquette-Girls/436

Casquette girl from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casquette_girl

Casket Girls of New Orleans: Founding Matriarchs or Vampire Smugglers? by Liz Genest, http://www.gonola.com/2011/08/09/casket-girls-of-new-orleans-founding-matriarchs-or-vampire-smugglers.html

An Interview with NY Times Bestseller Heather Killough-Walden

Every indie writer dreams of being on the NY Times Bestseller list and one indie writer did just that and then landed a publishing contract with one of the publishing houses. What I found intriguing is that despite her success, Heather Killough-Walden chooses to be an indie writer.

In this blog, I share a brief interview with her and my review of her NY Times Bestselling Big Bad Wolf compilation.

The Book Compilation ‘That Made It’ 

BBW

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005HMGY0G

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wolf-Romance-Compilation-Bundle-ebook/dp/B005HMGY0G

Blurb

Enjoy Heather Killough-Walden’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Big Bad Wolf series, now combined in one tome of sexual tension, romantic suspense and dark paranormal bliss….

“I was strictly a vampire girl until I came across this pack of big bad Alphas — Killough-Walden has converted me! Sexy, daring, and action-packed from start to finish. Warning: if you have a faint heart, do not read this.” – Dianna Hardy, paranormal romance author of The Witching Pen.

“Heather Killough-Walden happens to write books so brilliant, I’m a fan! (I was the minute I started reading Hell Bent.) There aren’t many I’d give my crown to, but this lady is totally worthy of my adoration!” – Poppet Author, paranormal romance author of Dusan.

“Hold on tight as these big bad wolves take you on a paranormal romance ride you won’t soon forget!” – Christine M. Butler, paranormal romance author of Moonlit Dreams

1. The Heat, Book One:

Lily St. Claire is a simple Southern girl who has no idea what she is in for when she decides to move back to her home town in Louisiana after a decade of being away. But between the two very different alpha werewolves who instantly begin fighting to claim her as their mate and the serial killer who has her in his sites, she’s about to find out.

2. The Strip, Book Two: (warning, contains graphic violence)

Green-eyed Malcolm Cole is a cursed werewolf, an alpha in the most powerful sense who has given up hope for any kind of happiness or peace in his life.

Until he catches wind of Claire.

Claire St.James, Charlie among friends, is an amazing young woman with an incredibly special gift. Cole recognizes this at once and swears on the spot to claim Charlie as his mate.

Of course, he isn’t the only one with such plans. Charlie is too precious to let go without a fight, and one of the most powerful alphas in the world has already staked a claim, whether Charlie – or Cole – like it or not.

3. The Spell, Book Three:

Dannai, aka the Healer, has begun dreaming of werewolves. She’d always been able to hide the fact that she was a dormant, using her magic to shield her promising scent from the alphas she’s been forced to work with. But now that they’ve invaded her dreams, her world has been turned upside down. For, though every dormant dreams of her intended mate – Dannai is dreaming of two wolves, not one. And neither one of them is good news. One is a notorious killer. The other is Lucas Caige.

Lucas Caige is a man with a haunting past. A warlock took his brother from him fifty years ago and he’s spent his life outrunning that dark magic. But fate has a way of throwing sand in your gears, and just when Caige thought he could forever leave behind the magic that brought pain to his life, his path crosses that of the Healer. Dannai unwittingly casts her spell over him the moment he lays eyes on her. She’s stunning, she’s kind, and everything about her wreaks havoc on his senses. She’s also magic incarnate.

But if Dannai thinks that’s going to stop him from doing everything in his power to make her his mate, the little witch has another thing coming.

4. The Hunt, Book Four:

Byron Caige has been a prisoner for the last fifty years of his supernaturally long life. Just when he gives up hope of ever knowing freedom again, he is unwittingly rescued by the very same woman who only wants to see him dead. Katherine Dare – Kat – is smart, fast, strong and beautiful – but unfortunately she’s a Hunter, and she’s convinced that Byron murdered her father twenty years ago.

She’s also Byron’s dormant.

As war breaks out amongst the otherworldly of Earth and threatens the existence of entire races, Kat is faced with a terrible decision. Should she give up her cause and believe Caige when he professes his innocence? Or should she fight him and possibly avenge her father’s taken life – even while she forfeits her own?

Also catch a tantalizing sneak peak at Heather’s upcoming paranormal series, The Lost Angels, 2011.

My Review

This is undoubtedly the best werewolf series I’ve ever read and I’ve read many! Although the compilation is around 4000 pages, it got me so hooked into it that I read it in 2 days after work. Yes, I hardly slept.
The compilation consists of all four books in the series – The Heat, The Strip, The Spell and The Hunt. Each story tells of a unique woman with magickal or shifter capabilities and their romance with handsome and dangerous, previously ‘hard to get’ shifters. Yes, that is a fairly standard plot. But the beauty of the compilation is not in the plot but in the telling of the tale and the world Killough-Walden created around them. It contains many elements that I look for in a paranormal read – magick, intriguing secondary and peripheral characters and the right combination of fantasy and realism so that a reader is allowed to truly escape into the book while being able to relate to the characters’ vulnerabilities.
The compilation is not so much a revelation in that it has a new angle to werewolves. I personally found that it stuck to a lot of the tried and tested literary myths concerning these shifters. Reading this was a helluva ride and I won’t forget it. In fact I haven’t forgotten it although I read this compilation months ago.
On a different note, I appreciate what this compilation represents. I admit that when I picked it up I was curious as to what standard of writing obtained Killough-Walden the NY Bestseller status with this series. I was prepared to enjoy it but I wasn’t prepared to be sucked into it so thoroughly. It is undoubtedly a must-read for any werewolf fans. I don’t think you can truly say that you’re a fan of paranormal romance without at least sampling this series. After having read this, I believe that Killough-Walden has earned the accolades that she’s achieved. And as an indie writer, I take umbrage in that and just like this compilation ‘kicks proverbial’, it reinforces the belief in me that indie writers are on their way to making a significant difference in the literary world.
Review of Big Bad Wolf by Aneesa Price
Author of The Coffin Girls Series and Reviewer at http://www.sugaryspicyreads.com

heather killough walden

An Interview With Heather Killough-Walden

Aneesa: I’m in awe of you as a writer, as I’m sure are many. What put you on the writer’s path?

Heather: It’s a gift (and as Monk would say, “and a curse”) that I was born with. So, I guess… I really had no choice in the matter. I’m a writer. The liquid in my veins is composed of white blood cells, red blood cells, and words.

Aneesa: What did it feel like when you found out that you were a NY Times bestseller?

Heather: It was anti-climactic. Looking back on it now, I recognize that my mistake was signing on with a print publisher who ran me ragged and was just basically… not a good match. I was so emotionally wrought by the time the NYT listing came about, I could not even summon a “yay.” I’d made it on my own, with a kindle book I published myself, and I couldn’t even congratulate myself. My health was failing due to massive amounts of stress, and at this point my editors had made me hate my job. I realize now, in the hindsight I am afforded, that if I’d been on my own at the time rather than under a “Bix Six”‘s thumb, I would have been ecstatic. I probably would have turned cartwheels.

Aneesa: I know you published work through a traditional publisher, what do you love about indie publishing? What are your pet peeves?

Heather: I love most things about indie publishing – the freedom to write what I want, title what I want, edit what I want, price how I want, cover image how I want, and release when I want. It’s a lot of work. We do everything that a print publisher is supposed to do (but doesn’t do because they no longer do marketing for you – you even have to do that on your own now, so what’s the point?), but it’s worth it to have this autonomy. Especially when you’re smarter at selling books than the print publisher is. My pet peeves about indie publishing are only related to the eBook aspect of it. I abhor the mentality that an eBook is not a book and that it only becomes literature when it is printed on a dead tree. Come on, people. Time to wake up, shave your beard, and realize you’ve been asleep since the dark ages.

Aneesa: I absolutely LOVE your ‘King Series’ and I read BBW obsessively until I finished it. BBW still remains the best shifter series I’ve read. As much as I love the ‘Kings’, are their plans for further BBW shifter tales?

Heather: No. No. No. And again – No.

Aneesa: When you’re not writing and promoting your work, what do you like to do?

Heather: When I’m not writing or promoting my work…. When I’m not writing or promoting my work…. Um, hmm. Sorry. I seem to be malfunctioning or something. I don’t seem to be able to comprehend the scenario. Not writing…. Not promoting…. Herm. Nope. I’m trying to imagine it, but it’s not working. Error.

Author Biography

Heather Killough-Walden is a California native currently living in Texas with her husband and child. She is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling e-book author of the Big Bad Wolf series and the October Trilogy. Heather’s educational background includes religious studies, archaeology, and law. She has traveled all over the world but hopes to one day live in a town with a world-class hockey team. (Let’s go, Pens!) Visit Heather’s Web site at http://www.killough-walden.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter. Also, be sure to keep in touch with her and other fans through her Facebook page and Twitter (killoughwalden)!

The Best Kind of Book Promo ‘Swag’

I am most definitely not a saint! I’m a regular mom, wife, writer and woman. Like many indies, I have become intimate with swag – for events, promotion and because it is just so awesome! Yesterday, I watched something on TV that led to some serious introspection and so I decided that instead of doing a monthly swag giveaway for my fan club, I’d do something for charity. It took about an hour of internet searching and a couple of phone calls to find a few worthy causes. Some wanted donations and I did that but I did not only want to donate. I wanted for my girls and I to take the time to get what was needed and deliver it in person. I have many reasons – it’s a religious month of charity, in South Africa we celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday by ‘giving back’ (it was his 95th birthday yesterday), and I wanted my girls to learn some valuable lessons. I do my bit for charity – I donate money or ebooks, share and promote Facebook Charity Events and give away things I no longer need to others who do. But, I no longer get actively involved in charity work – not since I attended university. It was time to change that.

And so, I went on a journey of self-discovery that I believe I’m so much better for. Indie writers often speak of ‘Indie Karma’ but when we do; we refer to helping each other out or supporting the newest, big cause. The causes indie writers support have been worthy and we’ve done fantastic work in raising money. Today I found that ‘Indie Karma’ has a place in my backyard too!

Shopping for Charity

Shopping for Charity

And so I found myself rushing out of the house because I was running late – I just had to hit publish on KDP first. Fortunately, I managed to shop with my two kids in tow and get a store assistant to push the additional shopping cart to my car. Then came crunch time and I was so nervous, my hands were clammy. After getting lost a few times, I navigated the car down a steep, muddy hill. The building was as expected – clean, sparse and in need of a fresh coat of paint. The girls I met were not what I expected. I’d been nervous to meet them but I pushed on because I wanted my daughters to experience the joy of giving and to see how fortunate they were. I’d known the basics – they were all young, teen runaways who had been raped. It’s weird, even having counseled rape victims and with my background in psychology, I was nervous. I didn’t want to inadvertently upset these girls or come across as some condescending jackass donating with smugness. Goodness knows, I’m no ‘Daddy Warbucks’. So, I did what came naturally – I focused on logistics and getting the goods from the car to the house.

The house was tiny. They’d converted what was the original lounge into a communal bedroom. In it were six beds and a single, tiny cupboard. Of course, I realized as soon as I noted it, that runaways don’t travel with suitcases. The place was spotless but furnished with the very basic of necessities. There was no TV, no computer, no posters (those who have teenagers know how strange that is – no Bieber, no 1D adorning the walls – the only décor I could detect were three ratty teddy bears perched against a threadbare pillow on one of the beds. Awkwardness began to engulf me. I felt sorry for them. Here I was, a happily married woman with a holiday house and kids that attend a private school and get almost everything they want. The girls at the shelter have so little; my heart aches to think of it. The harsh reality is that they ran away because those who should have taken care of them hurt them instead.

Glancing at my kids to make sure they were behaving, I followed the troop of girls to the kitchen. If the room was sparsely furnished, the kitchen was even more so. The most notable thing in the kitchen was a baker’s tray of bread. It was filled with packets of what looked like bread that was day’s old, as though a number of people drop the leftover bits off at the house.

It’s not that easy to act casually when these images are thrown at you. You’re supposed to feel shock and empathy. But I couldn’t show my hosts these emotions – it would be tacky and unkind. Once again, I took refuge in managing logistics. It was easy to unpack the goods and hand it out but I was ever cognizant of doing so with humility. I think I managed to do that though because I watched their reactions closely and they remained friendly. Once that task was complete, I was again awkward. These things don’t come with manuals, so what the heck was I supposed to do next? It seemed as though they were waiting for me to say something. I decided to go with my gut.  I found myself thanking them for the opportunity to allow me to give them food, toiletries and some treats. I was honest and told them that I did it because I needed to – because I could; and because my kids needed to know how lucky they were. I nearly cried doing this because here I was giving them basics like toothbrushes and they seemed so grateful. Afterwards, I was ready for a quick escape. My humanity, thankfully, didn’t allow it, and so I turned back and began speaking to the girls, joking with them. I started to relax around them. I no longer saw them as rape victims but as a group of young, giggling girls with the spirit to survive. My daughters were chattering comfortably with them, completely unaffected by the issues I had had because children have so much less baggage and fears to color their interactions. I wanted to teach my daughters a lesson and to give back to the girls at the shelter and ended up learning more and receiving the most. In that instant, it became less about me and my insecurities and need to teach my daughters, and more about them. I got to know a bit about who they are and connected with them. If I hadn’t, I would indeed have been nothing more than a smug donor of goods. Oh, the irony!

In the end, we had a great time and we’re going back this Sunday. My girls have decided to raid their ample toy closet and have made up parcels for the girls. I’m going to buy cake, ice-cream, sodas and a huge bucket of KFC so my kids can play with the girls at the shelter. And, this time, I can’t wait!

Thanks to the members of my fan club for agreeing to my idea of ‘charity instead of swag’. I’ve discovered that charity is the best swag ever!

child abuse portrait

For the Love of Romance, Leave Us to Our Fabulous Sex Lives!

couple kissing in shower

Have you read a good romance lately? Did you recommend it to a friend or colleague only to have them say, “I don’t read such things” or “I read crime novels or autobiographies”? Of course, they say it with an immense sense of superiority as though they’re more present in the ‘real world’ and that there is something wrong with someone for enjoying a good ‘happy ever after’. It makes me want to regress to being a teenager, roll my eyes and reply, “whatever”. But I don’t. Until recently, I’ve smiled and nodded and changed the subject. On Facebook, I generally ignore the comments or provide a diplomatic response.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot, I’m neither referring to individuals who genuinely don’t have an interest in romance (much as some people prefer tea to coffee) nor those who prefer other genres and will only pick up a romance occasionally and if a friend coerces them to. I’m also not referring to people who don’t believe in romance. I respect that we all have pasts and can understand that some experiences don’t lend themselves to creating much belief in love. I am referring to the ‘heart haters’ – those individuals who believe that they have the right to judge the romance reader and writer.

The suppositions made by them are that romance readers are sadly disillusioned or are overcompensating for a lack of sex, love and / or dating in their lives. I even came across an article that refuted a statement that women who read romance novels “can become dangerously unbalanced”. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/claim-romantic-novels-unbalance-readers) In the same article, a crime writer is cited as stating, “”My plea to romance writers: please stop writing. You are destroying marriages, the fabric of society, and the entire cosmos”. Really? Judge much? Okay here, I think regression is appropriate and an eye roll is absolutely deserving and maybe a good shaking or two. The irony is that the statement made by this crime-writer is soaked with the very melodrama us romance writers and readers are often attributed with. (And I think he is just jealous because romance novels sell more than any other genre.)

Thankfully, there are enough people out there who have the kutzpah, the tenacity, to challenge the fabricators of such dribble. I found another interesting article on the demographics of romance readers (http://www.lifescript.com/life/timeout/chill/romance_novels_who_reads_them_who_buys_them.aspx) and quite a few more on how romance can spice up one’s sex life, most notably, Teach Me Tonight (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html).

So here are the judgmental assumptions made about romance readers, facts I’ve found and of course, my take on things:

Assumption – Romance readers are sad and alone.

Fact – The majority of romance readers are married or in a committed relationship.

My take – I know many romance writers, being one myself, and even more romance readers. Most of them are not only in relationships but also in happy, supportive relationships. Who knows… maybe the hope and positive outcomes inherent within romance novels creates a mind-set more open to love and overcoming the challenges relationships present. Now I have what I refer to as a ‘gatvol’ stage. The direct translation of that Afrikaans word is ‘ass-full’ (LOL) and means, “I’ve had enough’. I’ve reached that stage where I no longer can ignore the disdain from others when mentioning romance and so I’ve begun asking them about their own relationships. I’ve found that those who don’t read romance novels have mostly been hurt in the past, are divorced or generally don’t believe in love. Essentially, a romance is about the belief that the human spirit can and will overcome the difficulties life presents it with and that this is only strengthened by love. I personally find it sad that others have lost that hope.

Myth – Romance readers are old and unattractive.

Fact – The age of romance readers ranges between 25 and 54. Romance readers are not predisposed to look a certain way.

My take – Most of my readers fall within that age range although there are a few older and younger too. As to whether or not we are an attractive bunch? Well, I beg to differ. We are all shapes, sizes, colors, and features. Given that most of us are married or in committed relationships, someone obviously found us attractive enough to ‘put a ring on it’.

Myth – Reading romances creates unrealistic expectations of sex

Fact – “Most of the study participants (75.5%) reported that reading romance novels has had an impact on their sex lives. This occurred in several ways, including making participants more likely to engage in sexual activity and by making them more likely to try new sexual activities.” (http://teachmetonight.blogspot.com/2010/01/sex-lives-of-romance-readers.html)

My take – Many readers I know have reported an especially hot experience between the sheets after reading a romance novel. As a writer, I know that many of my colleagues and I feel particularly frisky after writing a sex scene and our partners certainly do not complain when we expend that energy in the bedroom. We also *clears throat* do extensive research for our novels. Does that sound like we have unfulfilled sexual relationships? Moreover, the fact that we don’t complain obviously means that our expectations were met. I’ve even heard of many women who use what they’ve read in romance novels in the bedroom. If it is legal and consensual then surely that’s okay? What puzzles me is why on earth folk want to know what goes on in the bedroom of romance readers? Are they projecting? In other words, are the ‘heart haters’ actually the ones who are unhappy with their sex lives? Are they threatened? I know what I think… I’ll let you make up your own mind about that.

The fact that I found most interesting was that romance readers use the novels as a means of relaxation and escapism from life’s daily stress. The last time I checked, that is one the primary reasons why most people read. I know that I treat myself after every deadline to a long bath and a good romance novel. In fact, that is precisely why I read and write romance – I want to enable others to escape into the worlds I create and have a moment of bliss, shed a tear or two in commiseration and to feel happy that all turned out okay at the end. So my plea to all heart haters is to give it a try and if you insist on ridiculing us, then leave us to our fabulous sex lives! Now I’m off to think dirty thoughts, write them and then…

Body chocolate.

Does Bling Bring the Swagger to Book Sales?

Facebook, Twitter and every social network are inundated with ‘ebook and swag giveaways’. They started off with more affordable prizes such as bookmarks and postcards then progressed to bling in the form of necklaces, jeweled bookmarks and bracelets. Now the recent trend seems to be the amazing prize of a Kindle or Nook giveaway – with the Kindle Fire being the biggest draw card.

I resisted going the swag route – not because I’m adverse to it but simply because as a new indie writer, just starting out with absolutely no budget, every ebook I gave away ate into my personal bank account. So, you can imagine that swag seemed like a dream.

To Swag or Not to Swag?

I first gave into the lure of getting my own swag when I observed the huge interest it drew and to be honest, my sales went from looking hugely promising to despondently dwindling. Another thing happened – I got a bit of disposable income, which meant that I could carve out some of that for swag. The thing with being an indie is that you cannot discount that indie writers mostly have day jobs, family responsibilities and thus also financial responsibilities with the majority of their income coming from outside of the sales of their books. But, because I was worried about my sales and I needed to create some form of hype around my work, I bit the bullet.

 Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

Custom-made Coffin Girls Swag through Vistaprint

What Swag To Choose?

The first thing I do before embarking on any venture related to indie writing is Google. Google is the most informative and amazing resource any writer has access to and Google gave me information on swag. My search led me to a blog by Curiosity Quills. What resonated the most was that the swag being given away should be functional as well as decorative and promotional. And even better, Curiosity Quills provided the website address of an international printing company called Vistaprint (www.vistaprint.co.uk).

I then spent hours poring over the contents of a variety of websites and settled on Vistaprint, who was affordable even with taking shipping into consideration. Having said that – if any indie writers are reading this blog and mosey over to Vistaprint or any other site – note that affordable is a relative term because what I paid still made me grimace.

In the end I settled for calendars, notebooks, postcards, tote bags, etc. The great thing is that you can build an online portfolio and order as little or as much as you want whenever you want to. So, I may not have a stock room full of swag – I have a small box – but I do have access to an on-site, personal portfolio for future use.

The Price of Swag?

Buying swag is one thing, shipping the swag from the vendor to your home is another. But the hidden cost that is not always taken into consideration pertains to shipping. Do not discount this because the indie writing and social literary networks are internationally spread and when you do a giveaway, what you send will be weighed and measured by your postal service or couriers.

Some authors are limiting giveaways to their home country. I can respect and understand why but what bothers me about this is that the literary community is an international one and by limiting a giveaway to a country, you exclude many from participating.

So now, I basically sit with a box of swag in the cupboard while I save money towards the shipping! (LOL – I’ve got to laugh at the irony of the situation.)

Has it Worked?

I’ve only recently started giving away the swag. Has it helped sales? Absolutely not (*grinning again*). But what it has done, which is why I’m a swag believer, is assist me in promoting me as a writer. The number of Author Page likes for Aneesa Price – Sugary, Spicy Reads has increased, so have the number of friend requests I receive and I’ve also been experiencing renewed interests from reviewers to host my work on their blogs and to provide me with honest reviews.

So, yes – it does work. I believe that Swag fits into the category of ‘short term (financial) pain for long term (sales and promotional) gain’.

The Future of Swag?

At the moment it seems to be flooding the literary social networks and to be honest, there’s a feeling of ‘you snooze, you lose’ if you don’t get onto the swag bandwagon. So my recommendation to other indie authors is to get out there and do the swag thing (but save up first – do not put yourself personally out of pocket).

What will swag look like in future and will I reap the benefits in the form of reader reach? Well I don’t know the answer right now but I’ll be watching.

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Swag made by a friend and street team member

Bookmarks

Bookmarks

Is Erotica Literary Porn?

If a book contains sex scenes does it make it erotica?

hot couple 2

To me, the answer is no.

I write romance and recently, also erotica. With my first book I purposefully kept any descriptions of sex scenes mostly suggestive, however, with my second book, the sex scenes were more explicitly described. I did not describe body parts and the acts in detail. I did, however, describe the emotions and sensations in tantalizing depth and sex was a major initiator for many events in the book.

My first novel, Finding Promise, was not labeled as erotic. It was labeled as I meant it to be – a sweet, small town contemporary romance for adults. My intention with the second book, Coffin Girls, was not to be erotic either – it was to provide a realistic description of what occurs within adult romance, which in my book (both literally and figuratively speaking) means a description of sex. I purposefully curbed the level of detail provided. However, I was surprised (neither pleasantly or unpleasantly) when I received feedback that the book was in fact erotic. This confounded me.

I’m a firm believer that whatever the reader feels is their reality and thus true for them and so I accepted that to some, the book may seem to be erotic. This acceptance was shaken when most of the feedback I received was that Coffin Girls definitely fit into the erotic paranormal romance category. I then sat back and thought – very long, extremely hard (no pun intended *grin*).

What I was struggling with is that I had indeed read erotic literature long before the hype around “Fifty Shades of Grey” arose and as early back as when I was a university student. Back then I devoured the colorful descriptions writers such as Anais Nin and Henry Miller gave to carnal endeavors. To me, that was erotic. These classically acclaimed writers, to my mind, celebrated sex through the mastery of their words.

At this point, it may shed clarity to share my philosophy on sex in literature and other entertainment media. To me, sex is a natural activity that occurs between consenting adults and a very important one. As a romance advocate I cannot imagine a happily ever after for a couple who do not enjoy sleeping together. This is one of the many reasons I do not enjoy YA (Young Adult) reads. They seem to leave something to be desired due to the nature of the genre – like the proverbial ‘coffee without caffeine’.

I was baffled. Here I thought I was being very conservative with Coffin Girls and yet, the general consensus seemed to label it as “erotic with a bit of fang”. I then embarked on a journey to try and figure out if it indeed was erotic and if my definition of erotic was accurate or more akin to literary porn.

A series of events occurred. I read and reviewed a few newly released indie books labeled as erotic. I found that they weren’t actually erotic in my book and that Coffin Girls was indeed more explicit than they were. As I was outnumbered, I had to concede defeat. Next, I read explicit erotic short stories and here found that they made Coffin Girls look like a Disney production, which was more aligned to my original thinking. So, still in a state of confusion, I pulled out the old erotic classics and re-read them and reeled back in shock. They weren’t explicit in nature but what they were, were terribly illegal. A strong word but I cannot find any other to describe the grotesque acts I re-read in those books. Shocked and disappointed in writers I had previously looked up to, I then decided to read their journals. And that clinched it for me.

What I found in reading Anais Nin’s journal in particular was that she hated what she wrote.  The erotic works she created were commissioned by a benefactor that had no desire to read ‘poetry’. They wanted cold, hard, despicable acts of sex with an undercurrent of darkness and sometimes violence. Anais (also the name of the main character in Coffin Girls – and yes, I named her after the famous writer) experienced an enormous amount of dissonance but had been compelled to write those stories because she needed to earn money. She, in short, felt as though she was prostituting her art.

This was a revelation for me and it was is what led me to realize that what separates erotica, as a masterful literary art-form from literary porn is the story and the conscience within the work. If a book contains sex that discriminates and violates unless it is part of a story then it is porn. However, if sex is part of the story, adds richness and depth to the story and is not the story in itself, then, it is erotica. Erotica does not exploit its characters, instead the act of sex provides insight into how they think, feel and behave. It is not an attempt to fulfill a reader’s more promiscuous desires but to provide the reader with a full experience of the character’s hearts and minds. Erotica is then to me, a further development of adult romance. Sex is not implied, it is celebrated along with the other emotions and behaviors that characters possess.

And so I’ve discovered that I do indeed write erotica because my definition of it has matured.