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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Interview with Laura Kaye

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Laura Kaye, whose newest erotic romance, Just Gotta Say, was released the end of September. She also has a new book scheduled to come out in February from Harlequin Nocturne Craving, In the Service of the King.

Laura has been a writer her entire life. She's a historian by training and says, "Writing is the language of history."

She's published two books and lots of articles in her field.

As far as fiction, however, even though she avidly wrote fiction as a teenager, she didn't rediscover her passion for stories until a few years ago.

"Weird but true story: I had a minor head injury on July 4, 2008, went through several weeks of severe migraine-type headaches, but once I started feeling better in August, I was overcome with the desire to write," she explained. "I began plotting out one story, got about 20 pages written, when the story for Forever Freed slammed into my head fully formed and demanded my attention. I had the first draft of that novel, 50,000 words longer than the published version (which stands at 95K) before November. And the ideas, along with the compulsion to write, have been nonstop ever since."

Laura told me there is definitely a difference between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.

"Erotic romance, which I write, must combine prominent romantic emotional connection with the erotic elements," she explained. "Erotic romance is primarily romantic storytelling where the sex and eroticism are central to the plot. In erotica, the sex and eroticism are the primarily focus and romantic elements aren’t required. Erotica tells a story but doesn’t require a happy ending or even a happy-for-now ending. I would argue most erotica is written to arouse women, while most pornography is written or filmed to arouse men. (It’s interesting, for example, that Ellora’s Cave is coming out with a special Erotica for Men line, which illustrates my point.) I would argue that most pornography cares little about relationships or storytelling, which is why the filmed versions usually lack dialogue and the written versions often do little to develop characters. So, while all three have as a fundamental purpose arousing the reader or viewer, they’re quite different in terms of emotional components and storytelling function."

If Laura is not aroused by what she's writing, she assumes readers won't be either.

"I think writing erotic is one of those times when, as the writer, you have to feel it; you have to believe in it in order to convey with full force to the reader. Key to truly feeling it is writing what arouses you—and that means putting yourself out there a good bit. Of course, readers will never know if what you’re writing is the result of 'academic research' or actual experience, but I think emotional honesty on the part of the writer is key to selling erotic storytelling."

She approaches research for her books in a couple of different ways. She first thinks it's important to read in the genres you write in, admitting that she's learned a lot from other writers about how to approach storytelling and characterization. She's not much of a plotter, so unless the story she's writing requires world building that has to be thought out ahead of time, she tends to stop and do the research whenever she comes to something in the manuscript she needs to know. She also reads a lot of erotic romance and erotica.

"I also read and watch some porn," she said, "totally for research purposes, y’all, seriously—right, you DO believe me, don’t you???—and find it enhances my ability to visualize and choreograph sex scenes as I’m writing them."

"Is there a boundary between porn and erotic romance that you personally would never cross?" I wondered.

"This is a really interesting question. If it’s asking about specific acts, the answer is no. I’m a very open-minded person and, as long as it’s consensual, there’s not much I would rule out as a boundary I’d refuse to cross. I think just about anything or any type of coupling can be made erotic and arousing if done right," she said. "However, I’m not really interested in writing straight porn that lacks emotional connection, characterization, and plot. And, to tangent just a bit, I think erotic or erotic romance writers do ourselves a disservice if we personally characterize this type of writing as porn or 'smut' or 'lemons' because, as I said before, there is a truly substantive difference."

Laura didn't necessarily start out to write erotica; she set out to write engaging stories about compelling characters—who just happen to have a lot of hot sex.

She laughed and said, "I don’t see myself primarily as an erotic writer, though what I write is erotic, even if it’s listed as paranormal romance or contemporary romance. Only my ménage a quatres story Just Gotta Say, which has been released by Decadent Publishing, was intentionally an erotic romance from conception."

"If you could entertain a character from a book," I asked, "who would it be and what would the evening be like?"

"I’m gonna stick with erotic and romance here in choosing…and my guest for the evening would be Zsadist from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I am totally in love with this tortured, bad ass, bad boy, leathered, inked, scarred vampire warrior. Phew! With Zsadist, who knows what the evening would be like? I’d imagine a bit awkward at first, since he’s not the most social adept guy, and even a little dangerous, since he’s got something of an anger-management problem, but I’d be hoping and praying the night would end along the lines of the twenty-four-hour needing session he had with Bella. (Oh, right, in my little fantasy session, she doesn’t exist…!) If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you need to go check out Lover Awakened. Nuff said."

Finally, I asked, "What advice do you give authors wanting to write erotica?"

"First, read widely in the genre. Second, write what arouses you and what you know, at least to start. Third, figure out what your stance on word usage is—erotic romance and erotica generally avoid the squicky euphemisms we all love to make fun of! Fourth, never feel you have to write about a practice or fetish that turns you off, because likely you won’t sell it to the reader if you do. Fifth, know that there are readers for every erotic act or fetish, so there’s an audience for whatever it is that DOES turn you on."

You can keep up with Laura on her blog,

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Changeling Press

A Very Changeling Christmas -- Ghosts of Christmas Past!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Very Changeling Christmas treats -- here are a few of my favorites from Christmas Past:

Hot Toddy: Vampire Christmas by Angela Knight

Amelia wakes up with a bow around her neck -- bound and naked under a vampire's Christmas tree!

12 Nights of Christmas: Batteries Not Included by Lexxie Couper

When a sex-bot goes in search of the ultimate orgasm the city isn’t safe. Because if she experiences a multiple orgasm she will detonate –- and take a large chunk of the city with her. Only one person can stop her, and Dr. Black’s computer isn’t playing ball. At all.

Christmas is a time for miracles. Just hope that Santa’s on his way.

Stocking Stuffers: Christmas Cookie by Elizabeth Jewell

Everybody has their Christmas traditions -- even vampires. Every year, Brandt brings Glynna a boy toy for her entertainment. This year it’s Erik, a hot little morsel of a man who just might let Brandt play, too.

Christmas Cookies: Yule Wolf by Kate Hill

The last of his kind, Fenris has spent centuries on the outskirts of modern society -- a werewolf alone and longing for companionship. Finding a wounded mortal in his lair is a temptation he cannot resist, but the man is near death. Saving him means they will be bound forever.

Gingersnaps: Canine Cop by B.J. McCall

Tas Rivers is working undercover as a canine cop to capture the culprits killing rare, endangered white wolves. Tas can handle the job, but living with her sexy human partner is getting to be more than she can endure.

Holiday Howlz: Her Feral Pack by Ruth D. Kerce

Ever since Janie Merlot mated with two shapeshifting wolves, she hasn't been the same.

Sugarplum: Bitsy's Christmas Demon by Cynthia Sax

Sex with a Christmas fairy tops this powerful demon's wish list.

White Hot Christmas And all our Christmas Stories now available at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest --
Week 3 releases TODAY!

White Hot Christmas Week 3:

White Hot Christmas: Santa's Claws by Stephanie Burke
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Santa's making a list, checking it twice, and keeping all the other holidays in check. But when an upstart Valentine's Day out for revenge infects one of Santa's precious Think Tank Elves with a true soul mate, the claws come out. Now he's going to see to it that his Elf and the naughty human to whom he's bound have a very Merry Khristmas... or else.

Santa's going to ensure his Elf and the human he's bound to have a Merry Khristmas... or else.

White Hot Christmas: Christmas Stalkings by Cassidy McKay
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

What's a Christmas Elf to do when he wants to sex up the North Pole a bit? Make adult toys, of course!

When Henry's Elven magic goes awry, Santa's workshop will never be the same!

White Hot Christmas: Emmy's Wish by Ayla Ruse
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Dear Santa,

Every year you tell all the Workshop Elves to write down one wish they'd like you to grant, as their Christmas present. Every year you bring amazement and joy to all us little Elves. In fact, this is one of the perks I've loved about being a Workshop Elf.

During the past couple of years, though, it seems that something's happened to disrupt our communications. I've not received my wish yet. I don't know if my request isn't getting to you, or if my wish is unclear, but this is the third year I'm making the same request:

Santa, I want a BIG, real live man as my present. The first year I left the time open-ended. Last year I asked to have him a month. This year, because having him around for a long time seems to be an issue, I'm willing to negotiate to have him only one day -- preferably Christmas Day.

Thanks, Santa. And if my wish can't be granted this year, I'll drop by sometime, because you're going to have to spell it out for me why this wish isn't working.

Your ever faithful worker ~ Emmy.

P.S. In case you aren't sure what I mean, I want a BIG male with BIG, um, male parts. Bigger than our local Workshop Elves, at least.

White Hot Christmas: Stripping Christmas by Zenobia Renquist
Urban Fantasy, Interracial/MultiCultural, Magic, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Alex thought she was going to a job. Instead she ends up marrying the heir to the title of Santa Claus. The vows have been said and cannot be taken back, even if Alex isn't the ideal bride Kris was hoping for to re-energize the powers of the House of Kringle. But Alex is about to teach him that being a little naughty -- or a lot -- can go a long way.

Alex is firmly on the naughty list, and she wants Santa to join her.

All 12 White Hot Christmas now available at

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest is here!
White Hot Christmas Week 2:

White Hot Christmas: Holiday Paws by Selena Illyria
Paranormal, Interracial/MultiCultural, Werewolves, BBW, Christmas

One sexy young werewolf is intent on giving his mate a special holiday surprise.

After dealing with the flu and missing her flight to spend the holidays with her family, Nessa thought she'd be alone for Christmas. When her mate Ben shows up at her door with the intention of giving her a holiday she won't soon forget, she knows this Christmas will definitely be the best yet.

White Hot Christmas: Santa's Treat by Camille Anthony
Paranormal, Interracial/MultiCultural, Shapeshifters, Christmas

Santa's been a little disenchanted with his job lately. Mrs. Claus ran off with Rudolph, who kept putting his nose where it didn't belong -- all Santa's reindeer are shifters. What? You didn't think he’d keep a herd of fat lazy deer around all year, eating their heads off, when he only needed them one night a year?

Anyway, the Mrs. ran off with Santa's ex-best friend, so he's been alone for a while now. So you can see why the idea of a special treat got his juices running. He thinks Plum's giving him a treat, but he read the note wrong. Plum's been a very good girl, and he's supposed to give her a special treat. But that's OK, because the special treat Plum wants this year is Santa!

White Hot Christmas: Stranded by S. (Sean) Michael
Guilty Pleasures (Contemporary), BDSM, Ménage, Bisexual and More, Christmas

Stranded in Vegas was not how Gretchen had planned to spend her Christmas, but that's exactly what's happened to her and hubby Russ. Just when she thinks it couldn't get worse, a stranger trips over their luggage and sends its contents flying. It turns out their stranger, Dave, is in Vegas for the holiday and he has a suite he's willing to share.

Can this threesome turn a Christmas disaster into a Christmas delight?

White Hot Christmas: The Other Klaus by Dawn Montgomery
Paranormal, Magic, Christmas

Luke Klaus has a problem. Christmas will be canceled if he can't get Destiny, Texas, back on the Holiday Cheer Map. A Christmas wish is all that stands between him and a perfect record. His target is packed with killer curves and a heart of gold that's been broken one too many times. Lucky for Luke, mixing a little business with pleasure might be just what the holiday doctor ordered.

Noella Davis is tired. Too many years as Destiny's cheer coordinator has left her drained and disillusioned. Is it a coincidence that brings her face-to-face with her old crush, or does the man in black leather have his own agenda? Either way, she'll have her cake and eat it too even if she has to tie him to the bed. Maybe her Christmas wishes will come true...

This really is a case for The Other Klaus.

Available now at

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Changeling Press

Changeling’s White Hot Christmas / Free Books for a Year contest is here!
White Hot Christmas Week 1:

White Hot Christmas: Holiday Moon by B.J. McCall
Erotic Romance, Paranormal, Werewolves, Christmas, Men and Women in Uniform

When these two come together the rules of engagement no longer apply.

Operation Holiday Moon sends Sgt. Sezri Adar and her werewolf team deep into enemy territory. Wounded, Sezri orders her wolves to leave her behind. On her own, she must avoid capture and make it to the secondary pickup point.

Being the only human on the team has presented special challenges for Major Calix Klatt, especially when his second-in-command is the sexiest female he's ever encountered. She's brave and beautiful, but a relationship with Sezri would destroy any cred he's built with the werewolves.

When Sezri is MIA, Calix's duty is to wait out the holiday and hopes she survives. But the heart doesn't always listen to the head and putting his career on the line is the least of his fears.

White Hot Christmas: Clothing Optional by Cynthia Sax
Urban Fantasy, Christmas, Elves, Dragons & Magical Creatures

Every Christmas, an ancient demon stalks and murders fairies. Until this killer is apprehended, each fairy is assigned a demon protector. Otho volunteers to protect Prism, the most uptight fairy on the face of the planet.

Or so he thinks...

When Otho arrives at Prism's house three hours early and spots his blue-haired fairy streaking down the street completely nude, he realizes his perfect fairy is only perfect for him.

Unfortunately, he is not the only demon with eyes on her bare buttocks.

'Tis the season for running naked in the snow!

White Hot Christmas: Her Feral Destiny by Ruth D. Kerce
Paranormal, Ménage, Werewolves, Christmas

Seduced by wolves -- twice! -- Janie can't forget Sawyer, Dall, and Cavan. During the Christmas holiday, she returns to Minnesota to finally solve the mystery behind the sexy wolf-men.

Sawyer, Dall, and Cavan are thrilled to see Janie again and give her an erotic welcome-back like only they can. But now, they must protect her from the danger she's put herself in by returning.

Sex, a government cover-up, and a fate nobody imagines awaits them all. Janie doesn't fear the future though, for she's found her place in the pack and will never leave again.

White Hot Christmas: Wrapped Around by Megan Slayer
Paranormal, BDSM, Magic, Christmas, M/M

Christmas is the time to celebrate -- with candy, shiny paper, and lots of white-hot sex.

Luc loves his role fronting the band Glow. He loves the adoration of the fans, the energy in the crowd… but it's Christmas. No one likes a Christmas alone.

Taygan's free spirit resists taming -- except when it comes to Luc. Luc's one hundred percent human. Taygan is all air elemental. He needs his space and freedom, but he'll do whatever it takes to make Luc happy, including giving up his space and freedom to make Luc's holiday one he'll never forget -- complete with the real Santa, peppermint candy, and lots of hot sex.

Available now at

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Spotlight: Changeling Press

You’ve probably seen the promo -- “Win Free Books For A Year -- Our A Very Changeling 8th Annual Christmas Contest just got bigger and better than ever!”
So why do we run a Christmas give-away? We started our very first Christmas, looking for a way to give something back. Yes, we could have done chocolate or teas or even day spas, but it seemed like our readers would love what we love -- Christmas stories! We asked authors to come up with a Christmas short story for a series we called Hot Toddies. Many of these stories became part of our first paperback anthology, A Changeling For All Seasons, which is now available in our ebook collection, as well.

Since that first Christmas in 2004, we’ve kept up with the tradition, offering a dozen (some times a bakers’ dozen!) Christmas stories every year and a chance to win free books for a year. Each year has a theme -- Hot Toddies, 12 Nights of Christmas, Stocking Stuffers, Christmas Cookies, Gingersnaps, Holiday Howlz, and Sugarplums, as well as this year’s White Hot Christmas. You can see all the Christmases past and present (OK, BAD pun!) at under Christmas!

Last year we introduced a new twist, thanks to Tony, our Web Guru. Winners may now pick whatever books they wish each month, rather than being limited to the new releases. For 2011 the choices seem to have been pretty evenly split, between the new releases and our collections. This year there are more prizes than ever.

White Hot Christmas Is Here!

Win Free Books For A Year -- Our A Very Changeling 8th Annual Christmas Contest just got bigger and better than ever!

Eight readers will win Free Books For A Year:

One book a month (Four winners, 12 books each)
Two books a month (Two winners, 24 books each)
Two books a week (Two winners, 104 books each!)
Plus -- 12 Chances to Win Changeling Gift Certificates!

Our Twelve Days of Christmas winners will receive Changeling Gift Certificates for $5, $10, and $25 -- one random winner for each White Hot Christmas title on release day!

The best part -- all you have to do to enter is buy any White Hot Christmas title at during the month of December! Buy any White Hot Christmas story and you're automatically entered to win. Every purchase of a White Hot Christmas story counts as a contest entry.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Interview with Natasha Blackthorne

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Natasha Blackthorne, whose latest book Grey's Lady, Book One in the Carte Blanche series is available from Total-e-Bound. The sequel, White Lace and Promises, is scheduled to be published on December 26.

Grey's Lady is an erotic fairy tale set in Philadelphia in 1812—a very different Cinderella story.

Seeking sexual excitement and conquest, poor but beautiful Beth seduces wealthy merchant prince Grey Sexton, only to find herself the pursued as he seeks to own her body and soul.

Flouting the moral standards of Jeffersonian America, temptress Beth McConnell lets no man touch her heart. Her motto is love them once and leave them burning.

But when she boldly seduces Grey Sexton, a self-controlled merchant prince from New York, she finds herself too fascinated by his ice-over-fire nature to stay away. His possessive determination to own her, body and soul, threatens to expose her secret erotic life to public shame.

But Beth will only surrender her love to a man she can trust. And Grey's materialistic approach to relationships leaves her little reason to believe he can ever give her what she truly needs.

For these two cynical yet lonely people, can deep sexual intimacy work a miracle and lead to the opening of their hearts?
I, also, asked her to tell us a little bit about the sequel.

Beth and Grey’s passionate battle of wills continues...

New York Merchant Prince Grey Sexton loves the audacious, spirited young temptress who seduced him in a Philadelphia bookseller’s and made passionate love to him in his carriage. Her fiery nature broke through his cold self-protection. But in a time of war and trade disruption, he cannot allow himself to be distracted. He vows to put business above all else in his life, including his bride.

Shocked and hurt by Grey's distance, Beth wonders whether he truly returns the burning love she feels for him. Beth demands that Grey prove he can truly change once and for all or else she will not start a family with him. But will the dark, sensual secrets she yet keeps repel this arrogant, self-controlled gentleman she has married?
When Natasha first learned to write in school, she had the urge to put her daydreams down in words and pictures in a little spiral notebook—stories about cat people and such.

"This did not go over well with the adults around me at the time so I started out having complex daydreams in my head that continued for weeks and months and then years," she said. "Then as an adult I would write to record the stories because I had to; I just had this drive that I had to. I had to do it or go insane. But I really didn’t see it going anywhere. It was just for me, my private world. And one day it was no longer enough to just write for myself. I was driven by something inside myself to write something that I could present for publication. It wasn’t a choice or a decision; it was something I just had to do."

It was at this point Natasha learned she had a lot to learn about the whole art and craft of writing.

"I applied myself to its study and at that point I can say I became a Writer with a capital W," she explained. "I am very grateful also to my critique partners. They were so patient with me and taught me so much. In the spring of this year I began to feel that the time had come to submit something and so I made my first submissions: Grey’s Lady and Waltz of Seduction."

"How do you do your research for your books?" I wondered.

"I read voraciously, not just erotic romance but everything. I used to go to the library in college intending to get some real work done and end up wandering around the bookshelves reading and letting my mind attend to whatever interested it the most that day. I adore reading social history, especially history of relations between the sexes and same-sex relations. Usually I get my better ideas when I am wandering around the world of books just for fun rather than when I am purposely looking for information. I also read books and articles specifically about sex and sexual practices but this is also something I have always done for enjoyment. I love studying people and their relationships with each other whether it is through history, sociology or psychology."

Pornography centers on physical sensation while erotica is more sensual and emotional—sometimes even poetic, Natasha told me. Erotic romance, on the other hand, focuses on a developed story line with love scenes rich in physical sensation, emotions, and ends with a HEA or a HFN.

"I strive to convey deep emotions and sensuality and to be true to what those particular characters feel and think and do in that specific moment," she said, about writing her own work.

"What are the biggest public misconceptions about erotica?" I wondered.

"That it is nothing but the most extreme sex told in the most salacious way. That is simply porn but for women. And the worse one of all is that it is easy to write and anyone who applies even half an effort can do it."

Sexual things don't easily embarrass Natasha, and she told me she's never written anything that embarrassed her—unless it was badly written.

"As long as no one gets hurt and everyone is old enough and has given their consent I don’t think sex is something to be ashamed of," she explained. "So if a sexual scene of mine embarrassed me it must be because I have rendered it badly. In that case I would work on it until I wasn’t embarrassed any longer."

Finally, I asked Natasha what advice she would give to writers who wanted to write erotica.

"Read as much of what is out there as you can, the good, the bad and the in-between. Analyze what you read," she said. "Work with critique partners and study all you can about writing craft but always respect your own processes."

You can keep up with Natasha on her blog,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Friday: Interview with Kaenar Langford

This is part of a series looking back at the first five interviews we did on Whipped Cream. This interview originally appeared on our site on July 8, 2008.

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Kaenar Langford. Kaenar was born in Ireland, but now makes her home in rural Ontario. Living in the country, though, doesn’t stop her from travelling the world in her mind and books. She told me that her family has gotten used to seeing the back of her head as she sits at the computer, transported to wherever the story takes her. I asked her what her family thought about her choice of genres. “My immediate family—my husband and two sons—know exactly what I write and are very proud of me. My parents and sister thing I write romance novels,” she said. “Well, I do—sort of. They’re delighted with my success, not sure about the romance genre and would never understand my need to write erotica. I solve the problem by not telling them.”

Her friends and colleagues are, though, she said, “secretly delighted” with her new adventure into writing erotic romance. I asked her what she has found some of the biggest public misconceptions about erotica to be.

“Two things really annoy me about how people view erotica,” she said. “I get so peeved when people complain that erotica is just sex without a plot. No storyline. They obviously haven’t read many of the stories that are out there, or they would know differently. Erotic stories are just as intricately crafted and planned as any other genre of the literature. Most erotic novels have well developed plots and strong characters, and to suit the preference of most readers, a happy ending.

“The other thing that drives me nuts is when people tell me that ‘those stories’ are written according to a predetermined formula the publisher has given them. I don’t know about other publishers but Ellora’s Cave and Total-E-Bound, the two I write for, have no magic formula that their authors follow. Each story is painstakingly handcrafted according to the particular writer’s style. It certainly would be easier to just plug in some sort of predesigned format, but that’s not how it happens.”

Kaenar told me when she started writing her book, she thought she was writing a nice contemporary novel with some naughty scenes. “Something totally different appeared on my computer screen,” she shared with me. “I’m not quite sure how that happened.”

I asked her how her writing career evolved. “I attended a workshop on ‘How to Write a Romance Novel.’ About twenty minutes before the end of class, the instructor read us some introductory paragraphs to a few romance novels and asked us to write one. I was floored. No way could I do that,” she said. “I put my pen to paper and began to write. With the presenter’s encouragement, I went home and saved the paragraph on my computer so I wouldn’t lose it. I wrote and wrote for five months, spending every spare minute on the manuscript. I submitted it to three publishers and got back three nice rejections. I then sent it to Ellora’s Cave and, after taking three weeks to make suggested changes, I resubmitted and was offered a contract.

“That original paragraph from the workshop still stands at the beginning of the book, exactly as I first penned it. I was delighted to see it on the Ellora’s Cave blog, Redlines and Deadlines, March 27. My editor had submitted it for the blog entitled “That first line of a submission that hooked one of our editors so hard s/he requested the full and then contracted the book. It was number four on the list.”

I asked her to share that first line with us. From Lucifer’s Angel: He had that look about him—those worn jeans, the white t-shirt stretched across his wide chest, the black boots, the leather jacket.

Kaenar didn’t start another book until Lucifer’s Angel had been accepted by Ellora’s Cave. “I guess I wanted to see if the book was good enough to get published,” she said, “and the contract from them was the go-ahead to get back to writing. I found the second acceptance to be almost more meaningful, in that it seemed to justify the title of ‘author’ and the acceptance of the first book.”

Some other facts you may or may not know about Kaenar: her favorite food is pizza. “I could eat it every day,” she told me. “Thin crust, lots of cheese and vegetarian toppings. Pesto, olives, spinach, feta cheese. Food of the gods.”

She also prefers Coke over Pepsi, even though she doesn’t drink either very often and is not sure if she could tell them apart in a blind taste-test.

She has one incident from her life that, if it hasn’t made it into one of her books yet, should. I’ll let her tell you about it.

“Years ago, I was with a group of exchange students as a teacher chaperone. We were spending the day at a friend’s cottage—another teacher. Everybody was swimming and waterskiing and having a great time. I wanted to get out of the water so my friend grabbed my hands and started to draw me up into his boat. Unfortunately, the bathing suit I was wearing tied around the neck, so as he pulled me up, the force of the water rolled the top of my bathing suit down. Since he was holding my hands to haul me in, there was nothing I could do. When I landed in the boat, my suit had peeled its way down to my waist. Luckily the kids were all busy and didn’t notice, but my friend and I just killed ourselves laughing. I’m sure my blush went from forehead to crotch. It was really embarrassing.”

Finally, I asked Kaenar what one piece of advice she would give to new writers. “Don’t give up,” she said. “If you submit and it comes back, get someone else to read and critique the manuscript for you. Not a family member—they’ll love it no matter what. Keep writing, read what’s popular or what you like and try to figure out what puts that book there for you or for other readers. Go to workshops and conferences. Spending the money helps you get in touch with other writers or publishers.”

You can read more about Kaenar and her works at her website,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Thursday: Interview with Amelia June

This is part of a series looking back at the first five interviews we did on Whipped Cream. This interview originally appeared on our site on July 1, 2008.

Whipped Cream is excited to welcome Amelia June, author of steamy erotic stories and novels who never uses words like “flower” or “manhood.” Her first story, “The Scary Ghost,” was self-published when she was five and she’s never looked back.

She finds herself outnumbered in the desert southwest, though, where she lives with seven—yes, seven—male creatures including two children, one husband, and an array of critters. She’s a self-confessed eavesdropper, fiber-aholic (but not the whole wheat kind; the yarn kind), and she gets weekly pedicures from her husband.

I asked her, as an erotic fiction author, what some of her favorites are. “I’m a big fan of erotica that is more than sex scenes strung together with a loose part,” she said. “I'm a huge Megan Hart fan. Lauren Dane's Witch's Knot series is a wonderful one as well. I also absolutely love Jacqueline Carey's books, and while you can't call them ‘erotic fiction,’ they are some of the most sensual, well written books I've ever experienced. And they're super hot, too.”

Amelia told me she had wanted to write erotic stories since high school. “I didn’t set out to write romance,” she said. “As it is, my stories skirt the boundary between romance and other genres--science fiction, or fantasy, or thriller, etc. But I discovered that I really enjoy a love story (or two, hee hee). So I guess I came to erotic romance backwards--I came from the erotica side of things.”

We discussed the difference between porn and erotic romance and Amelia made the point, “Stories written to turn someone on are just that, and I don't think erotic romance is all that different.” Personally, she doesn’t have a problem with porn. “The reason I enjoy writing erotic romance,” she told me, “is that I can take erotic scenes and add them to a greater context of story. I know many romance readers have expectations of their stories--the HEA and various other conventions of the genre that make the story enjoyable to them. But for me, the difference between written "porn" and erotic romance is pretty slim when you get right down to it. What I try to do is incorporate the sexuality in a larger context, so that fans of erotica and fans of romance both get what they're looking for.”

I asked Amelia how her writing path evolved. “I would say my path is still evolving, probably always will,” she replied. “But how I got from there to here is summed up in one word—NaNoWriMo. Is that a word?” Her first novel, Triple X, was written during National Novel Writing Month in 2005 and was an Eppie 2008 finalist. She told me, “I wanted to write a menage story, because I loved reading them and I find them uber hot. I also wanted to write about a subject that was important to me. I never really considered pursuing epublishing until I read a few epublished novels and thought maybe I would have a market for my work after all. I love epublishing, I love the freedom it gives me to explore concepts and ideas that traditional publishing might not be open to at this time. Plus, my writing skills have been honed and shaped since then as well, each story I write gets better in terms of skill.” She added, laughing, “I mean, I hope so anyway.”

Amelia has had many books published so I asked her what advice she would give to new authors. “In the immortal words of Dory the fish,” she said, “Just keep swimming. Writing is a hard, hard process and that is before you even attempt publication. So just keep going.”

Just for fun, I asked her, “If you had to pierce a body part, what would you pierce and why?” She answered, “Apart from the three ear holes and nose piercing I already have? Probably my eyebrow, because I really think that is a hot piercing. I love it on pretty much every face type. Piercing is a very painful, if brief, process, but I discovered that the endorphine rush you get from the experience is quite erotic (and I'm not much of a pain person, usually!). As for the look of piercings, I think a pierced-up person gives an air of ‘off the beaten path’ that is hot. Plus, you know they can take a lot of pain.” Imagine an evil laugh here. :-)

And, she shared with me that her dad can tie a cherry stem with her tongue. Then she said, “Ew. Why do I know that?”

You can see more about her books and her fiberholicism on her blog. She told me she learned to crochet as a stress reliever and “I became completely hooked.” She also added, “I absolutely love the patterns that are out there these days--knitting and crocheting are not just for nanas anymore (until I am one, anyhow). Knitting is something I'm still learning, but hand me a hook and some yarn and I'm happy for hours. You can see some of my projects on my blog, because I like to torture readers with my other hobbies as well as my excerpts and general rambling!”

You can read more about Amelia and her works at her website,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wednesday: Interview with Elizabeth Amber

This is part of a series looking back at the first five interviews we did on Whipped Cream. This interview originally appeared on our site on June 24, 2008.

Whipped Cream is very excited to have Elizabeth Amber with us. Elizabeth is an art historian and museum junkie and her studies of urns, frescoes, and other Greco-Roman artifacts embellished with satyrs celebrating the annual grape harvest inspired her series, The Lords of Satyr.

Discussing the difference between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography, Elizabeth told me, “Each form is valid and will always find readers. Pornography typically focuses more on titillation than on story structure or characters’ emotions.” She sees the scale (from cool to hot) like this: sweet romance, romance, erotic romance, erotica, porn. She also admits she likes them all, plus many subgenres.

She said, “I think it’s great that authors are able to mix and mingle genres these days. My Lords of Satyr series in erotic historical paranormal romance. Five years ago, I don’t think I could’ve sold a mixed bag like that.”

Elizabeth also told me that she likes erotic romance with good characterization and plot and great sexual tension. Some authors she enjoys are “Lora Leigh, Elizabeth Hoyt, Lisa Valdez, Megan Hart, Jaid Black, Kate Douglas, Kresley Cole, J Ward, Shayla Black, Gena Showalter, and many more!” She feels it’s important, though, for an erotic author to read outside the genre as well. “I read a lot of nonfiction and many other subgenres of romance,” she told me.

It’s important to realize that erotic romance isn’t just sex though, she told me. “All the other elements of good storytelling must be there as well: good characterization, plot, voice, pacing, and a healthy dose of sexual tension. My Kensington editor told me she pulled my first novel out of the slush because she responded to my voice.”

The main thing to remember if a writer wants to write erotica, though, is to write what she herself feels intriguing. “If you go with your instincts,” Elizabeth said, “you’ll write something real, and readers will likely respond. As in actual sex, if you’re faking it, your partner (the reader) will know.”

She also cautioned about worrying about what other people (including your mom) will think of you when they read your work. “If you go down that road, you’ll self-censor your way to blandness,” she told me.

Elizabeth admits there are a lot of gray areas when you’re writing sex, but she doesn’t find out-and-out cruelty in a book sexy. She said, though, “I think that almost any topic can make a great, sexy book, if the author cares about it and takes the time to make the characters and situations believable and dramatic.

“In my second novel, Raine The Lords of Satyr, the heroine is a hermaphrodite, something I hadn’t seen another erotic author write about. After I read about how hermaphrodites were treated in the 1800s, I immediately got a story idea I was driven to write. In the 1800s, some of these individuals earned their livings by traveling to medical establishments where they were questioned and examined. I immediately imagined a character like that as sympathetic and I wanted my hermaphrodite heroine to accept herself and to find a lover who accepted her as well.

“That’s the great part about being a writer. You can create happy endings for deserving characters. (And spectacularly awful endings for evil characters.)”

For fun, I asked Elizabeth a few personal questions. When I asked her to share with us her most embarrassing moment, her response was, “Ack! You want me to tell you that?” And in true author fashion, she left a lot of the details up to the readers’ imaginations when she said, “Okay, it had to do with first grade--me all decked out in my spiffy Brownie uniform at school, and having to pee, but being too shy to ask permission. That’s all I’m saying.”

Her favorite food is chocolate in a heart-shaped box, with cookies being a close second. “What do I eat more often than either of those?” she asked. “Salad.” Joined no doubt by a Diet Pepsi, because she informed me she can definitely taste the difference between Pepsi and Coke. “I have a friend who’s a Coke-aholic,” she said, hastening to add, “(the drink, not the powder). Her perception is that all the restaurants and machines offer Pepsi, not Coke. I see it just the opposite.”

She also shared with me a couple of interesting habits she has. “I saw an Oprah show once about weird habits,” she told me. “Two of the weird habits her audience members had were habits I have: 1) I obsessively arrange my money in my wallet from small denominations to large. 2) If I pass someone I think will be stinky, I hold my breath until they’re gone.

“I had never really thought about the fact that I do these things until I heard others on Oprah say they do them. Now, I occasionally ask friends if they do these things. Some think it’s crazy and others are like, yeah, I do it, too.”

Finally, I wanted to know who would play her in a movie if Hollywood ever did the story of her life. “I’m a Sex and the City fan,” she said. “I like to think I’m Carrie, but I think Miranda would play me. I work too hard and too much, and I don’t always get the guy.”

You can read more about Elizabeth and her works at her website,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tuesday: Interview with Mary Winter

This is part of a series looking back at the first five interviews we did on Whipped Cream. This interview originally appeared on our site on June 17, 2008.

Whipped Cream is excited to welcome Mary Winter, author of the upcoming Good Medicine.

Mary commutes between her dream home near the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri and her residence in Iowa. She lives with a menagerie of animals including an opinionated horse and a cat who was a dog in past life. When not writing spicy tales of erotic romance, she enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy, spending time with her horse, and enjoying the outdoors. Lucky for her, her partner (hero) shares these same passions, and usually both of them can be found in their respective dens writing.

I asked Mary how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography. “Having written all three,” she said, “I can say that per-word porn pays far better than erotica. Seriously, erotic romance, obviously has the romance at the heart of the story. Erotica is a sexuality explicit story that still, at its heart, is written because it’s a good story. It just may not be a romance, or the romance may not be the main focus. Porn is just sex. There may be the loose structure of a plot holding it together, but you’re writing it and reading it for the sex.”

When she’s writing her own fiction, she knows it’s good if it arouses her and if she has an emotional connection with the characters. She wants to know she can imagine herself in the hero or heroine’s place. She told me, “If there isn’t that connection, then something isn’t right.”

When she’s researching her books, she told me that sometimes she’ll ask her partner or friends who might be of a different orientation than she is. If her research is fact finding and world-building, she’s more apt to look it up online. But she did tell me “Sometimes I’ll say ‘hey, want to try this?’”

Her partner doesn’t mind her writing erotic romance, but I asked her about the rest of her family. “My mom thinks it’s wonderful that I’m living my dream, and she reads all of my work (in print),” Mary said. “My grandma tried to read it, but confessed it was a bit too much for her, but she is very supportive as well. The rest of my family is very happy for me too and some of them do read my work.”

Mary started out writing romance. “I just happened to fall into the erotic romance sub-genre,” she said, then added, with a laugh, “which amuses my mom greatly, considering that I had started reading Silhouette Desires when I was twelve, and I was a bookwormish, geeky teen and young adult.”

I asked Mary if there was a line between porn and erotic romance she wouldn’t cross. She told me she’s written both. As a matter of fact, her first paying sale of erotic fiction was a story she wrote for Men’s magazine. It was a m/m story, but she doesn’t remember the name of it any longer. “Now, I probably won’t write porn,” she said, “because my muse is moving in different directions and I’m doing just fine with my erotic romance, but I think I have to take each project on a case-by-case basis.”

I also asked Mary about piercings. Did she have any and what about them was sexy. “I have pierced ears. I’ve always said if I lost weight I’d pierce my belly-button just to show it off,” she said. “I think it signifies that you have the self-confidence to do what you want and walk to the beat of your own drummer. Plus, a little sparkle in certain places never hurts.”

Finally, I asked Mary who would play her if Hollywood ever made a story about her life. She said, “Hopefully someone with the grace and beauty of Kiera Knightly and built more like Queen Latifah.”

You can read more about Mary and her works at her website.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday: Interview with Michelle Cary

This is part of a series looking back at the first five interviews we did on Whipped Cream. This interview originally appeared on our site on June 10, 2008.

Whipped Cream is very excited to welcome Michelle Cary to the inaugural issue of this newest segment of The Long and the Short of It.

Michelle was actually raised in small town Illinois, but now lives in New Jersey with her, as she puts it, “extremely supportive albeit somewhat neglected husband” and their two children. She told me that her husband has only recently read any of her work. “He’s never been a reader,” she said, “and I’ve never pushed the topic, but he did tell me he thought it was very good.” As a matter of fact, he can be credited with the start of her writing career. “I was watching an episode of the ‘Deadliest Catch’ one night and had a story idea,” she told me. “It wouldn’t go away and my husband suggested I write it down. 75k later and I had a novel. It was horrible, but it was the start of everything I do today.”

She told me she had quit her job when her young daughter developed kidney problems. Then, when she was in preschool and the older child was in school, Michelle found she had a lot of extra time on her hands. She decided to try her hand at creating fictional worlds through words and it gave her an entirely new perspective on the world. She’s all about the HEA, and every day gives her new ways to create the perfect happily ever after.

Her fellow author and critique partner Amanda Young got Michelle involved in Samhain’s Midsummer Night’s Steam series, even though Michelle had started writing straight contemporary romance. “Before I knew it,” she said, “I had an erotic romance published.”

Along with her erotic romance, she writes romantic suspense. “It’s challenging,” she told me, “in the fact that I have to make the story suspenseful without giving away the ‘who did it’ too soon.”

She’s trying to hold her uncles off reading any of her work until the romantic suspense gets published. She told me, “[They] enjoy teasing me about [writing erotic romance], but I know they’re all extremely proud of my accomplishments. They want to read my work, but being from the ‘Bible belt’ I feel a little odd about them reading my erotic stuff.”

I asked Michelle what she did when she wasn’t writing. “I’d love to say something really creative here, but honesty prevails,” she said. “Usually, if I’m not writing, or promoting, I’m doing house work. With two kids and a husband to take care of there’s always laundry or dishes or a couple dozen other chores that need to be done around the house.” And, I have it on good authority, she makes a mean chocolate chip cookie. In fact, that’s her favorite food. She admits, though, to not being such a great brownie baker. Actually, she said, “I can’t bake a brownie to save my life.” Her least favorite food? “Sushi,” she told me. “My husband loves it, but I just can’t bring myself to put raw fish in my mouth.”

One of my favorite questions to ask people is if they can tell the difference between Pepsi and Coke. Michelle’s response—“ Absolutely. Pepsi is sweet where Coke has that kick you in the ass bite.”

Michelle has one piece of advice for new writers just starting out. “Don’t let your ego get in the way,” she said. “There are lots of great writers out there willing to give good advice to newbies. Don’t be too proud to listen to what they have to say.”

You can read more about Michelle and her works at

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Author Interview with Madison J. Edwards

Whipped Cream is pleased to welcome Madison J. Edwards, whose latest book According to Plan is available from Turquoise Morning Press.

According to Plan didn't actually start out to be an erotic book, however. The first draft was called "Shelby's Legacy." The plot revolved around a trapped Scottish laird who'd been cursed into a mirror and was waiting to be released by Shelby (a whole generational curse thing). Madison introduced the character of Tank as a diversion, because (in her original plan), Shelby was supposed to ultimately end up with Liam.

"As soon as Tank was brought into the story, he told me almost immediately Shelby was his, and Liam could go suck rocks," she explained. "In fact, I was writing a brief vignette with Shelby in the shower and before I could stop him Tank slipped in, and – well – the rest is history. Poor Liam, he got tossed pretty quick, although an editor at Wild Rose Press told me he deserves his own story, he was such a saucy character. After that, I found my niche was erotic writing. I’ve tried to write a sweetheart romance, take it to the bedroom door and no further, but I keep peeking in through the keyhole, and of course I have to write what I see..."

I asked her how she distinguished between erotica, erotic romance, and pornography.

"The line at times may be fine, but to me erotica is heavy on the physical, sexual relationship. At times the story may be drive by sex alone and the sex scenes, which are graphic, no euphemisms for body parts and functions. Nothing is left to your imagination.

"Erotic romance is first and foremost a romance and the main characters have a strong physical relationship. The sexual scenes can be graphic, but romance drives the story.

"Pornography is straight sex. Usually little or no plot as those who want to watch, read, or look at pornography don’t care if there is a story."

Erotic authors Madison enjoy are Lila DiPasqua, Delilah Devlin, and Cherise Sinclair. Lila was the first author who showed her how the man in the story feels.

"As a woman I can only guess what ‘he’ thinks, but Lila has the uncanny ability to get inside the man’s head, and it was like a light bulb went on for me," Madison told me. "Delilah has the best character driven stories with a whole lot of naughty written in them. Even though her characters seem over the top, they are believable. You feel like you’re a fly on the wall, watching everything unfold in front of you. Cherise Sinclair, without a doubt, writes the most riveting stories centered around the BDSM scene but without the ‘ick’ factor. Her characters are natural, and once again, you feel like they could be your next door neighbour."

"Is there a boundary between porn and erotic romance you would never cross?" I wondered.

"Yes, although sometimes the boundary becomes a fuzzy line. For example, I would never write about forced sex, gang bang scenes, but in a story I’m working on right now, the heroine was a sex slave at a remote compound for two years before escaping. I’m trying to write these two years in a tasteful way (?), in order for the reader to know why she reacts the way she does. It’s difficult, as you have to ask yourself, how far do you take it. She was unwilling, and forced, but it made her who she is later in the story.

"I couldn’t write about one night stands, as that is something I would never do, nor would I entertain the thought. And that’s my personal thing. If it floats your boat, then go ahead. Now, I may write about a young girl who got rip roaring drunk, wakes up in a bed in Las Vegas, and finds herself married ... oh wait!... I am."

"What food do you consider best for eating off another person?" I asked.

"Honey and candy sparkles come to mind... and in my book, According to Plan, Tank eats whipped cream off several areas of Shelby’s body, starting with her nipples and moves south in a leisurely fashion.

"I toyed with one of my heroines laid out on the dining table, covered in lettuce because the hero stated he wanted to eat healthy. Then Sex in the City 2 came out, the one where Samantha laid out a sushi spread *wink, wink*. I knew right then no one would believe I had the idea first."

"What is your favorite food?" I continued.

"Homemade potato salad, with egg. Yum. Now I’m hungry – thanks."

"Least favorite?"

"The list is long and varied, but head cheese comes to mind. Cow’s tongue, pig hooves, Haggis (ugh) and liver. Thanks. I’m not hungry anymore."

Madison's favorite letter? "Scarlet??" she said, then added, "Seriously, the letter S. All curvy and saucy, and looks great as a monogram."

I also asked her about her strangest habit, and she admitted she had one, but she doesn't want to lose it because it drives her husband "crackers." She jiggles her legs under the table.

He had to travel a lot with his job, so when Madison's not writing, she tries to spend as much time as possible with him. They have the family over for dinners and love going to friends to play cards. When he's away, and she's not writing, she can normally be found on the social networking web.

Finally, I asked Madison, "What advice do you give authors wanting to write erotica?"

"First and foremost – have no fear. If his cock is throbbing, then that’s what you write. If you can’t, then erotica is NOT for you.

"Second – crawl inside your character’s skin. Become them and show your readers what they’re thinking, feeling, desiring. We want to smell the sweat, feel her skin prickle into gooseflesh as the feather light touch of his hand follows the curve of her breast.

"Third – be prepared for some people who won’t know how to act around you anymore. I have a co-worker who turns a dull red whenever he’s around me. He actually fidgets, and beats a hasty retreat as soon as politely possible."

You can keep up with Madison on her blog,

Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Inspired by Archaeology

I can’t believe it! My last day is here so soon. And just when I was getting used to the place. I hope you’ve enjoyed visiting with me as much as I’ve enjoyed chatting with you. Keep sending me photos. I love seeing your projects and your own interpretations of my recipe.

For my final piece today, I’d like to talk to you about archaeology. I sometimes think in another life I would have liked to have been an archaeologist. But that’s the great thing about being a writer. This week I can be medieval lady living in a big stone tower, and next week I can dig up the tower looking for artifacts from the medieval lady who once lived there. But what the average reader doesn’t know, and most writers don’t realize, is that if it weren’t for archaeology we couldn’t have the understanding of the past that enables us to appreciate historical novels.

Almost daily I read articles about something newly discovered somewhere in the world. Just when you think every inch of the planet has been excavated, explored and trodden upon, a lowly digger in a bog somewhere in the Irish midlands uncovers a book touted as the Irish Dead Sea Scrolls. Now called the Faddan Mor Psalter, radiocarbon dating estimates the psalter was written sometime in 800 AD on sheets of velum {animal skins}. A couple years into preservation and investigation, scientists discovered Egyptian papyrus in the folds of the leather cover! That leads to the question of how Egyptian papyrus got into an Irish religious book.

Irish bogs have also given up human remains dating back millennia. Bogs are incredible at preservation, as with the psalter. Bog bodies are no different. Facial features, hair, nails and garments are usually still very distinguishable and offer us a glimpse into that person’s life and of the times.

Clonycavan Man was discovered in an Irish bog too. Evidence suggests he was placed there as part of a ritual about 2300 years ago. Radiocarbon dating suggests he was about twenty years of age, and he was probably killing in the summer months, a time when crops were harvested. Tests on his hair show his diet at the time was vegetarian, which is was typical back then as meat was consumed mainly in winter months.

Feature-wise, he had a fine beard and wore a Mohawk hair style which had been treated with a resin made of oil and pine resin to make the hair stand up, possibly to make him look taller. Incredibly, in those times hair resin had only been seen around Northern Spain in the Galicia region {Spain’s Celtic region}. This simple hair ‘gel’ gives rise to the notion that Ireland traded within Europe well before Romans had any influence. This also indicates that the man was probably fairly wealthy, as he could afford imported hair products.

Most recently one of the most unusual finds in all Irish archaeology was discovered in a forgotten graveyard in the north Irish midlands. This is a typical religious graveyard where people were buried by loved ones in an east-west fashion. Gravesites are all parallel to one another and there’s nothing remarkable about the place other than the site contains an estimated 3000 burials. Yes, 3000! And a graveyard of this size, used from approximately 700-1400 AD, to disappear so thoroughly is also unusual. More so were two graves excavated just this past September—two had stones wedged in their mouths!

Similar remains have been found in burial sites in other parts of Europe, rumors running rampant about zombies and vampires, and that the stones were wedged in their mouths to prevent the person from chewing their way out of their coffins or shrouds, or depriving them of feeding on subterranean creatures to keep them alive until they could dig their way to the surface and find humans to feed upon. Ireland has a long and interesting past. It’s a country where spirits, fairies and Leprechauns are part of the culture, fantastical as they are. But there really hasn’t been a history of vampirism until recently when old stories have been unearthed, so to speak, and now these unusual burials. It makes one wonder if such stories are what really gave Bram Stoker his inspiration for Dracula.

It’s not only bogs and burial grounds being excavated. Thanks to modern road works, ancient settlements and long lost castles have been unearthed, the artifacts of which give us a glimpse into the past—

A settlement at Wood Quay in Dublin City dates back to Viking times and is the largest ever discovered in Ireland. This excavation lasted nearly ten years and resulted in thousands of finds, each telling us how the people lived back then, what they ate and how they dressed. Postholes indicate where homes were and how large. Paths and roads indicated routes in and out of the settlement. And the most important were middens, or refuse heaps, which revealed items people of the time deemed unwanted—food scraps, broken household items, bones, etc.

Carrickmines Castle was the largest medieval settlement of those surrounding Dublin City. It formed part of the perimeter of a region known as The Pale, an area completely under English government. The term ‘pale’ comes from the Latin ‘palus’ meaning a stake to support a fence or indicate a perimeter or boundary. This gave us the term ‘beyond the pale,’ meaning anything outside the boundary. Within the Pale were laws and government. Beyond the Pale was unrest and lawlessness. Carrickmines Castle was eventually destroyed in the 17th century and buried by Mother Nature. Its location forgotten until road works unearthed it.

And let’s not forget the famous Shinrone Gown which was also unearthed in an Irish bog. It dates back to the 17th century and is the best preserved garment every discovered. Until its discovery, we could only rely on paintings from the past to see how people dressed so long ago. And those paintings were generally all of wealthy merchants and their families, not of the poor or peasant classes.

And hoards of goods are still being found around the country—

In County Waterford few years ago, a hoard of coins and gold were discovered in a cave estimated around 800 years old.

During street works in Cork City, small medieval cottages were discovered, and inside one of them a small jar filled with dirt. It was set aside until it was knocked over and out spilled handfuls of coins. Makes me wonder what happened to make a person leave their home and forget so much money. I can understand hiding it in a cave and hoping to return for it later. Loads of hoards of money and gold have been found in bogs, too. But to leave a jar in a wall niche and walk away?

It’s the past that draws us to reading and writing stories set in historical times. And the more our tastes develop and mature, we demand stories be as accurate as possible. We don’t have to get into an excavation site alongside archaeologist though because the internet gives us a fly on the wall view of just about anything we care to research.

There’s no denying the upsurge in the demand for historicals. Just look at TV programming these days with series such as The Tudors, The Borgias and to some degree Game of Thrones. And we’re seeing an upsurge in historical novels, too—Elizabeth Chadwick, Bernard Cornwell, Edward Rutherford, Sharon Kay Penman, Phillippa Gregory, etc.

I could go on, and probably would if I thought I could get away with it. My point here is that without archaeology, we wouldn’t have an appreciation of the past. Because of archaeology, every historical book we read and every historical show we watch puts history in the palms of our hands and it allows us to participate in history rather than just speculate. And for me, every interesting tidbit I read lights a creative fire in my head and inspires me to write.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my ramblings on archaeology . . . and the rest of it over the week. I’ve really enjoyed spending this time with you and hope I’ve given you a peak into the life of a writer when she’s away from the keyboard.

I’ll leave you with this, as the holidays are upon us. Have a wonderful season. Knit some. Eat some. Explore some. And read lots!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Thursday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Ghost of a Story

{Note: Today’s post is a little longer because there’s lots of information and photos. No recipes or patterns, but hopefully something to add to your ‘must see’ list if you decide to visit Ireland.}

Wow! This week is just whizzing by. I’m glad you’re here beside me. I’ll need the company today because I’m going to talk about castles, castle hunting . . . and ghosts!

Specifically, I’m going to talk about Irish castles because I live in Ireland and have been to a lot of them. I’m lazy by nature, but if you show me a castle on a map then tell me there’s no car access, I’ll walk to it . . . and probably get there before you! I especially love the abandoned ruins. I like the ones turned into tourist attractions and overpriced hotels, but the ruins are like stepping back in time. There are no modern conveniences like lighting, plumbing and heating. Heck, most don’t even have a roof, windows or doors! But armed with a flashlight and a camera, I’ll poke around for hours.

Ireland is not just noted for castles, but also for her haunted castles—such as D’Aubin’s Castle in Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. It was built in the 13th century by a Norman knight called Reginald D’Aubin. This small keep practically beside Carrickfergus Castle, which was actually a military barracks. A tunnel was constructed in subsequent years, which allowed people to go between the keep and the barracks in inclement weather. The keep remained in the D’Aubin family for centuries and eventually the old Norman name was Anglicized as Dobbin.

By the 17th century, the keep was owned by Hugh Dobbin and his wife Elizabeth, who was also known as Maud. Hugh was the commander at the barracks and would often be away on campaign. Loneliness got the better of Elizabeth and she fell in love with a knight from the barracks known as Buttoncap. Elizabeth used the tunnel while her husband was away to see her lover who could not leave his post. One day Hugh returned early from campaign hoping to surprise his wife. He was the one surprised! Discovering her infidelity, he killed both Elizabeth and Buttoncap!

Today, Elizabeth’s ghost haunts the hotel in her search for her lover. She only shows herself to men, often waking them at night by stroking their cheeks lovingly. Buttoncap haunts the barracks, sometimes being seen on the battlements searching across the road to the keep for Elizabeth. Modern street-works discovered the previously lost tunnel during pipe-laying, but it has now been recorded on Ordnance Survey maps.

Dobbins castle was renovated and turned into a small hotel in 1946. The original medieval kitchen can still be seen today in the lobby of the hotel, and in the back where the restaurant is now was once the walled garden. Architectural features are retained in the walls. Here’s the URL for the hotel if you ever make it to Ireland and want to stay in a haunted castle—

Okay, Dobbins is not a ruin, but you have to admit, it’s pretty cool.

How about Charles Fort near Kinsale in South Cork? Charles Fort was built in the 1670s on designs created by King Charles II. A similar fort was constructed years earlier on the opposite side of the harbor entrance and called James’ Fort, named after King James I. These forts were built to protect Kinsale Harbour from French and Spanish fleets—Kinsale having suffered tremendously in 1601 when region was assaulted by the Spanish during the Siege of Kinsale.

What’s remarkable about Charles Fort is its star shape, the walls of which measure six meters in thickness—approximately twenty feet!

As a military barracks, the fort has some interesting history, but nothing more interesting than the tale of the White Lady.

Wilful {a popular name in the 17th century} Warrender was the daughter of the governor. Motherless, she was raised by her over-protective father, and when he was stationed at Charles Fort, he brought Wilful with him. At 17, Wilful fell in love with an officer named Sir Trevor Ashurt {tell me that’s not a name straight out of a Regency novel!}. Her father approved of her choice of husband and threw them a lavish wedding and reception in the fort, no expense spared.

At twilight, before turning in for the evening, the newlyweds took a stroll along the ramparts looking out to sea and the sunset over the ocean. True to her name, Wilful saw some flowers growing in the grass outside the fort at the foundations and wanted them. A nearby sentry offered to get them for her, but the groom would need to stand in for him and guard his post. The men exchanged jackets and hats and the sentry left to fetch the flowers. So that Wilful didn’t have to suffer the chilly evening air, Sir Trevor sent her back to their quarters to wait for him. The sentry took his time and Sir Trevor fell asleep at his post.

Some time later, the commander, making his last rounds before turning in, spotted the sleeping sentry. When it appeared the sentry ignored the commander's summons, the commander promptly drew his pistol and shot the sentry dead.

It’s unclear who told Wilful of her husband’s death, but it’s said she ran from her quarters in her white night dress to her husband’s side and was so distraught that her father had killed him, she flung herself over the battlements. Stricken with uncontrollable grief, the commander took his own life later that night.

The commander and Sir Trevor seem to have peace in their deaths, but Wilful has been seen many times at the fort, still in her white night dress. They say she was Wilful in life and remains willful in death as, while the fort still operated as a barracks, she has been blamed for many accidents—a barracks doctor was pushed down a flight of stairs, ranking officers have been harried, and on more than one occasion, children of officer’s wives who lived within the barrack’s walls have had mishaps . . . all claiming they saw a lady in a white dress either before or just after their accidents. One tale says she tried to take the life of a small boy while he slept, perhaps to have the child she was never able to, as when she died she was still a virgin.

Wilful is now simply known as the White Lady, and her legend lives on in Kinsale today, She is still occasionally spotted standing at the ramparts where she and her husband once stood watching the sunset on their wedding night.

White Lady Of Kinsale from LB Frames on Vimeo.

There are several similar tales of love gone wrong and the spirits of lovers left behind, searching each other out for all eternity. But how about something a little darker?

Leap Castle is today Ireland’s most haunted castle. Its name in Irish is Leim ui Bhanain, which translates to Leap of the O’Bannon’s. The O’Bannon’s were the secondary chieftains under the O’Carroll clan. As the legend goes, two brothers contested the chieftainship of the O’Bannon clan. To settle the argument, they had to display a feat of strength and bravery; they both agreed jumping off the rocky promontory where they wanted to build their castle was a good idea! The survivor had the right to be clan chief and build his castle. Thus began a bloody and tumultuous history at Leap Castle, which, by the way, is pronounced Lep.

Another interesting piece of history says the site had been used by Druids for initiation ceremonies centuries before the castle was built. Perhaps this is where the O’Bannon brothers got their idea!

Around 1900, the Darby’s occupied Leap Castle. Mildred Darby was a practitioner of the arts, shall we say, holding séances and reciting incantations. Around that time, two things happened. The first was the discovery of an oubliette—a dungeon or ‘place of forgetting.’ At the bottom of the oubliette were the skeletal remains of several people. So many in fact, that it took three cartloads to haul away the bones—about 150 bodies!

Around this same time, a spirit known as The Elemental made his presence known. Some think it was the discovery of the bodies, others say it was Mildred’s meddling in things she knew nothing about. Whatever it was, for decades this spirit has been seen regularly {in the shape of a decomposing corpse} walking the halls, right up the castle’s destruction in 1922 during the Irish War for Independence. The castle remained ruins until 1974 when it was bought and restored, and the Elemental became active again. Ghost Hunters, Jason and Grant, came over recently with their crew and had experiences of their own. Admittedly skeptics, they were suitably freaked out. That says something, doesn’t it?

Well, there’s a taste of haunted Irish castles. Every castle has a ghost and a tale to tell. If only there was enough time to explore them all firsthand!

If you want to read about other castles in Ireland, I’ve published some travel articles that include Irish castles. You can find them online at Just click on attractions.

I hope you enjoyed this peak into some of Ireland’s most haunted castles. On a similar theme, tomorrow I’ll be talking about another of my passions—archaeology! But this one has a twist, one I’m sure the lover in you all will appreciate!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wednesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

A Garden of Inspiration

Happy Hump Day! And thanks for joining me again. By now you should have a warm neck and have your senses stimulated. I hope it’s all good in your house today!

If you liked my recipe yesterday, maybe you want to grow some vegetables of your own to cook, but maybe you don’t have a lot of room in your garden. Why not grow them in your house? Really! My office is at the front of the house and has a big window that gets a decent amount of sun. I say ‘decent’ because it rains a lot here! But it still gets a lot of light which is what vegetables need.

We’ve been in our current house two years now. Last year I thought it would be fun to try tomatoes again. I’d tried them years ago, but they never did well. Not enough light. Water wasn’t the problem, as the pot was on my kitchen sill just behind the sink. But my office gets a lot of sun, which tomatoes love. A friend grows them in her enclosed front porch in grow bags so I thought why not in a proper pot of dirt?

So I got a pot, filled it with dirt and put in a couple seedlings. They went all kinds of crazy, but I didn’t get a lot of tomatoes out of them. Head in hand, I talked to my friend, Chris, who’s a gardener extraordinaire, and learned a few things for next time.

Next time was this year. I grabbed the same pot filled it with fresh dirt and put in a couple seedlings. This year for fun, I thought I’d try yellow tomatoes—Golden Sunrises. How’s that for inspiring? Just the name reminds me of the old bodice ripper romances with the hero holding onto the heroine with the heaving bosom against a . . . well . . . golden sunrise. I also planted a Roma tomato because they’re one of the most flavorful tomatoes to cook with.

As it turns out, the lessons I learned from last year, and the great and friendly advice, came in handy. My vines this year have been wildly producing loads of little yellow fruits. {yes, tomatoes are fruits, folks!}

And here it is, the end of November, and the plant is still a triffid.

What lessons did I learn? Pretty simple, actually. Pinch the suckers—they grow between the leaf and stem. Water—a lot. Fertilize—regularly.

I also learned that tomatoes require fertilization, which is where bees come in. But being indoors, how was I going to make this happen? Easy! I got a little {and clean} paint brush and went around dabbing all the flowers. Kinda tedious, but necessary. And with all the fruit that came on in subsequent weeks, the fruits of my labor resulted in . . . well . . . fruit. The odd part is the Golden Sunrise pretty much took over. I only got two . . . count ‘em . . . two Romas. But how cool was it to see them growing in an irregular red shape against the round yellow ones?! And they were tasty. I used them and a bunch of the yellow ones in the recipe from yesterday.

So what do I do with all my homegrown tomatoes? Loads of things—Frittata, Quiche, Salsa, my aforementioned simmered veg, and my husband likes them in his sandwiches and salad. Hmm . . . maybe I should be thinking Fried Green Tomatoes some day.

How about a recipe for homemade salsa?

2 medium ripe tomatoes, deseeded, skinned and rough chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 medium garlic clove, finely diced
1/2 small jalapeno pepper, deseeded and finely diced {can use Ortega roasted chilies, about 1 tbsp or to taste}
cilantro, a small bunch, finely chop the leafy parts, discard the stems
splash lime juice
salt and pepper to taste

Add all of your ingredients to a bowl as you cut them. Mix well with a spoon, adding a small splash of lime juice. Grab your favorite tortilla chip to taste for flavor, adding salt and pepper to taste, or more lime, cilantro or chilies. Salsa is subjective, so just add whatever extra flavors you want until it's perfect for you.

This recipe is very easy to double or even quadruple if you’re feeling hungry or having friends around. It goes great as an accompaniment to a frittata or quiche, on pretty much anything Mexican, and if you have any ripe avocados, add the salsa to the mashed avocado for a FABulous guacamole.

Good lord! I’m craving Mexican food now. LOL

So you may be asking, how does gardening inspire my work? Gardening, like any hobby, is relaxing and therapeutic. Maybe it’s the communing with nature thing—I enjoy getting my hands in the soil and imagining how a medieval healer would have grown her herbs and kept her garden. Maybe it’s sometimes I grow the food I eat and I wonder how the taste of foods have changed over the centuries. And maybe it’s that all my plants fill the office with fresh oxygen—really, there are a lot of plants in my office!

Whatever it is, I find having plants around me makes me happy. And a happy writer is a prolific writer.

Thanks for hanging out with me again today. We’re getting to be great pals, aren’t we?

Drop me a note in comments and let me know if you grow produce in your house, and if so, what is it and how did you cook with it? Do you have a recipe you’d like to share?

I’m sure I don’t have to mention there are prizes this week! So come back again tomorrow. I’ll be talking about yet another of my passions—Castle hunting!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tuesday Spotlight: Scarlett Valentine

Cooking Up A Storm

Hey! Welcome back. I hope you enjoyed the pattern yesterday. Did anyone cast-on? If so, email me a picture and some details. What kind of yarn did you use? Who’s the scarf for? Comments? Photos! Remember, there could be a spot prize in it for you.
Not into knitting? Maybe today’s topic is more up your cutting board. Today I’m talking about one of my other passions—cooking.

When did I first realize I liked to cook? Probably the instant I realized I liked to eat and if I wanted to keep eating I needed to learn to cook! Vicious circle.

One of my first memories of ‘cooking’ was when I was five, maybe six. Mom would make these great pecan cinnamon rolls very early in the morning. She’d set them out to rise then spend a couple hours helping Dad pack up the van for a camping trip. We were always ready to go just about the time the rolls had risen properly for baking. Mom would wrap them in thick layers of tinfoil and give them to dad who would then wire them to the engine block. True story! I swear it. {crossing heart} The heat from the motor cooked the rolls while we drove. We’d have milk chilling in the cooler, and when we got about an hour out of town, we’d pull over at a rest spot. Mom would get out the paper plates and plastic forks and Dad would get out the oven mitts and wire cutters. Then we’d sit down to homemade, freshly cooked, gooey pecan cinnamon rolls and cold milk. Oh man, those were the days! I’m drooling just thinking about those rolls. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a little tug on my heart with nostalgia.

Through my formative years, I remember all kinds of foods I loved. Today, those same foods bring back the same nostalgia those pecan cinnamon rolls do—chocolate chip cookies, taco feasts, pumpkin pies . . . even going fishing with my dad, bringing home our catch, preparing the fish and serving it up for dinner. Yes, I’ve gutted my fair share of fish. Not for the squeamish, but it was real ‘farm to fork’ eating. Really, the way it should be.

When I made the big step to get my own place, suddenly gone were Mom’s fabulous dinners and Dad’s barbeque. I had to learn to cook! I can’t begin to list the different dishes I’ve made or tried to recreate from Mom’s repertoire {really, who can match Mom’s cooking?}, but with time and practice, I’ve actually created a couple things that have become my own signature dishes. One of which I’ll share with you. Get your bib on. I’ll wait!

First let me say, on their own, I’m not keen about any of these ingredients. Some I tolerate. Generally speaking, they wouldn’t be first on my grocery list for a stand-alone dish. Some of you may think the same thing when you read the recipe. But if you trust me on nothing else, try this dish. I bet if you don’t love it, you’ll at least like it a whole lot. So here it is—

Simmered Vegetables with Poached Chicken and Potato Skin Croutons


Olive oil
2 big onions {I like white, but yellow are more flavorful}
2 yellow bell peppers
2 zucchini {or courgettes if you’re in the EU}
1 small eggplant {or aubergine if you’re in the EU}
2-3 big cloves garlic
2 Tbsp dried mixed herbs
2 chicken stock cubes {I prefer Knorr’s stock pots/gelatin based stock}
2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1 can of chopped tomatoes {or about a half pound of prepared fresh, deseeded tomatoes}
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 large prebaked Russet potato skins, or other large potato with a thick skin

Get out a big pan with a lid and let’s get cooking!

Going down the ingredients list, put the pan on medium-high heat to warm and drizzle in some olive oil. You can be generous because it’s good for you, just don’t put too much that you end up shallow frying your vegetables.

While your pan is heating, rough chop the onions and peppers and toss them into the pan. Give them a little stir to coat them in oil so they cook evenly. While those are sautéing, rough chop the zucchini and eggplant then toss them in the pan too, mixing well.

Rough chop your fresh garlic. Add more if you like garlic, less if you don’t, but garlic is good for you too, so whack it in. Then add in the chopped tomatoes, mixed herbs, stock pots/cubes and paprika, mixing well.

While the pan is coming up to simmer, chop the chicken breasts into big chunks and scatter on top of the veg. Press them down into the veg so their surrounded but not totally covered. Cover the pan and turn down the heat so it simmers slowly. Give it about 45 minutes to an hour on low. Check occasionally to be sure enough liquid is developing from the vegetables as they cook down.

About 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve up, prepare your potato skins.
Pour some olive oil into another pan, enough to shallow fry them. Alternatively, if you’re bold and have a deep fat fryer, use that.

The potato skins should be from prebaked and gutted potatoes. Chop the skins into big chunks roughly the size of the veg when you chopped them.

Fry the skins until they’re crispy. Cook in batches to ensure crispiness. As you pull them out of the oil, drain them on paper towels. Use a little sea salt to flavor, or a mix of salt and paprika.

Dish up the veg and chicken, and top with your potato skin croutons.

Eat with a big spoon!

Note: This is a dish you can prepare ahead of time, perhaps a day, and reheat. I like to make a huge batch and portion out two servings per container {one for myself and one for himself} and freeze. When I want to use one, I either defrost it in a pan on low heat until it simmers, or put it in the microwave. In the time it takes to do either, you can make the croutons.

So, how does cooking inspire my writing? Well, food can be very sensual. It awakens all of your senses—flavors on your taste buds, scents fill your nostrils, the color contrast in the pan can entice, the texture of the meat and veg in your mouth and its warmth is so comforting, and you just can’t help but groan with pleasure as the flavors envelop you.

Some believe certain fruits and vegetables have aphrodisiac qualities. For example, zucchinis, and to a degree eggplant, are phallus shaped. Tomatoes are known as ‘love apples’ and contain high doses of lycopene which is a known libido-enhancer.
Peppers, including bell peppers, onions and garlic turn up the body’s heat, sending blood to ALL the organs. And chicken is a great source of protein and releases nutrients slowly into the body, meaning you can go . . . all . . . night!

So what’s not to love about this dish? Have a bowl and crank up your libido!

I hope you enjoy this recipe. I’d love to hear comments back from readers. Let me know if you tried it and liked it {or didn’t}, and any additions or substitutions you might make if you make it again.

Thanks again for hanging out with me today. Remember there will be prizes this week {a spot prize and a grand prize at the end}, so join me tomorrow when I’ll be chatting about another one of my passions—Gardening. Get on your gloves and find a sunny room in your house, as I bring outdoor gardening inside!

~ Scarlett
“What’s a little bondage between friends?”
Available now – Awakening, book one of The ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter series