Writing Under a Pen Name

Not everyone knows I have a nom de plume, which I do. I started writing under Leila Bryce Sin almost as soon as I started publishing under this name.

My first series was a YA series but I found that I had a little bit of talent at writing racier content and came up with this idea of a race I called Bright Elves. Bright Elves were kind of a take on a succubus who didn’t kill. They raised magic and power through lust and love and all that good stuff.

But, since I was starting out as making my name as a YA author, I was a little worried about the wrong audience picking up something they weren’t expecting from me.

So I decided to publish under Leila Bryce Sin. One of the cool things about writing paranormal erotica was that I didn’t have put out full-length novels every time–a lot of readers of that genre like novellas and short stories. I liked it too because it helped me hone some writing skills. When writing fantasy and world building I tended to get lost in descriptions and narrative, but if your word goal is less than fifty thousand words, you tend to focus on character and plot.

But then I had an idea for a novel. A story set in Las Vegas, one of my favorite places, following an actual succubus who was hiding from the other demons of Hell and working as a bartender at an Irish pub. Billie the Bartender.

I love Billie and her story was pretty well formed in my head when I first set out to write her book. I didn’t realize it was going to be a full-length novel, let alone the trilogy it turned into, but some characters demand more stage time than others.

I got the first novel, Hellfire, and the second novel, Holyfire, written in good time while trying to balance writing under my real name. But the novels I was working on as Shauna Granger definitely took precedence and I realized, as I was starting to hit a creative wall thanks to a massive word count I was building, I didn’t have anything left in the tank to figure out the third and final book.

I’d ended book two with a cliffhanger and the start of a war, I couldn’t not write the ending. But I also couldn’t write it. While I’d given myself a creative outlet for a different audience and type of story, I’d also pushed myself to the limit and couldn’t find it in myself to keep going.

So there was a very long break between publishing Holyfire in April of 2016 and even starting the outline of the final book this past autumn. Honestly, if it wasn’t for NaNo last year, I don’t know if I would have finished writing the book, let alone be ready for it to be live tomorrow. #shamlesspromo

But I did.

So what I can tell you about writing with a pen name is that it gives you a lot of freedom. You can delve into new genres or age categories that you don’t normal wade into. You can try new techniques and voices that don’t lend themselves to your normal milieu. And if those genres are a bit racy and you don’t want friends and family to know it’s your work, they don’t ever have to know! But you need to be careful. As with any creative job, it takes something from you, so if you’re not careful, if you don’t find a balance, you can wear yourself out and burn out before you’re ready.

New Release + Cover Reveal + Giveaway!

This has been one of the busiest weeks of my life! Between the day job and the family and the new release last Monday and the cover reveal for my upcoming release, it’s been just crazy. For the most part, though, it’s good stuff – well, accept for the barfing German Shepherd yesterday – so I can’t really complain.

Or at least I try not to.

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At any rate, I’m going to start with some info about the anthology that released last Monday. My story is called Change of Heart, and it’s a female/trans-female love story.

The germ of the idea for Change of Heart came from a scholarly article I read about Dr. James Barry, a 19th century British military surgeon. He was incredibly gifted, accomplished, and known for being rude, and after he died, the serving-woman who prepared his body discovered he was a woman.

His story has been claimed by feminists, and more recently by students of trans history. It’s impossible to know how Dr. Barry viewed himself – as a highly intelligent woman who did what was necessary to practice medicine at a time when women were forbidden to do so, or as a man who happened to have a different biology. Either way, Dr. Barry fascinates me. There are very few records of trans people from before the 1970s, and I wanted to explore how it might have been to live with that kind of secret. We’d agreed to set all our stories in New Orleans, and since few US cities have a more colorful history, I basically just picked a year and went with it. I hope I captured something of the time and place, and I hope you enjoy my sweet and spicy little story.

 

Change of Heart teaser1

 

Here’s the blurb…

Momma says a body reaps what they sow, and Clarabelle’s planted the seeds of trouble. The year is 1933, and not much else is growing in the Oklahoma dirt. Clarabelle’s gone and fallen in love with her best friend, so she figures it’s time to go out and see the world.

If she’s lucky, she’ll find the kind of girl who’ll kiss her back.

Clarabelle heads for New Orleans, and that’s where she meets Vaughn. Now, Vaughn’s as pretty as can be, but she’s hiding something. When she gets jumped by a pair of hoodlums, Clarabelle comes to her rescue and accidentally discovers her secret. She has to decide whether Vaughn is really the kind of girl for her, and though Clarabelle started out a dirt-farming Okie, Vaughn teaches her just what it means to be a lady.

I’ve read a few of the stories in the anthology, and they’re all pretty good. Some paranormal, some contemporary, with a range of heat from relatively sweet (like mine!) to whips & belts of the BDSM variety. If you’re interested in checking the anthology out, here’s some links…

Amazon US| Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo

 

And now…

Irene Preston and I have been sitting on our hands for the last few weeks.

Sitting. On. Our. Hands.

Because we’ve had the cover for Vespers and we weren’t allowed to show it off till after the cover reveal. But now it’s revealed and HERE IT IS!!!

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Choosing a favorite cover from amongst my books is sorta like choosing a favorite child, but…

No it’s not. This is my favorite cover so far. It’s pretty damned perfect in capturing the vibe of the story, and I might have a bit of a crush on Hooded Dude. Here’s a bit more information about Vespers

Thaddeus Dupont has had over eighty years to forget…

The vampire spends his nights chanting the Liturgy of the Hours and ruthlessly disciplines those unnatural urges he’s vowed never again to indulge. He is at the command of the White Monks, who summon him at will to destroy demons. In return, the monks provide for his sustenance and promise the return of his immortal soul.

Sarasija Mishra’s most compelling job qualification might be his type O blood…

The 22-year-old college grad just moved across the country to work for some recluse he can’t even find on the internet. Sounds sketchy, but the salary is awesome and he can’t afford to be picky. On arrival he discovers a few details his contract neglected to mention, like the alligator-infested swamp, the demon attacks, and the nature of his employer’s “special diet”. A smart guy would leave, but after one look into Dupont’s mesmerizing eyes, Sarasija can’t seem to walk away. Too bad his boss expected “Sara” to be a girl.

Falling in love is hard at any age…

The vampire can’t fight his hungers forever, especially since Sara’s brought him light, laughter and a very masculine heat. After yielding to temptation, Thaddeus must make a choice. Killing demons may save his soul, but keeping the faith will cost him his heart.

Working with Irene on this story has been a fantastic experience. You may be thinking I’m just blowing smoke to promote a book, but truly, tossing the words back and forth and learning how another writer works was tremendously satisfying.

And FUN!

We’ve got Vespers at a reduced preorder price of $0.99, so if you’re interested, click on over…

Amazon     –     Barnes and Noble     –      ARe     –      iBooks     –     Kobo

 

Giveaway

And finally, I promised you a giveaway, so here it is. For the chance to win a $25 gift card PLUS 7 (seven!) paranormal romances by authors like Alexis Hall, Claire Cray, and Jax Garren. Click HERE to get to my website where you’ll find the rafflecopter thingy to enter. The books in the prize package are SO COOL.

So that’s what’s going on in my life? What’s up with you? 🙂 I promise next post won’t be quite so me-me-me-me-me. It’s just been an exciting week.

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Why yes, this *is* the dog who was barfing. He’s much better now, thank goodness!

Let’s Talk Ink

4700093127_a81b957cd8_bI don’t mean ink on paper. I mean ink on skin…tattoos. They are hot right now. I think it’s funny how many heroes have tattoos, but I don’t find a lot of heroines with tattoos. At least not as many as I’d like.

Why do I bring this up? Because I love tattoos. I have lots of them, and I’m getting a full “sleeve” this weekend on my calf. So I’ve been thinking, why aren’t there more heroines with tattoos? Is it because tatted up women still aren’t as mainstream as men? Since I write a lot of romance, I wonder if it’s because the ideal heroine is still very clean cut, not the bad girl of romance. We love the bad guys, but not so much the girls.

Even in paranormal, where I think there are more women with tattoos, I 4391428993_b701849253_odon’t think they are as prominent as they could be. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe not.
What are your thoughts on women with tattoos? Do you read about them? Would it bother you if the heroine was inked from head to toe?

Curiosity killed the cat and all that. Just for fun, share your ink in the comments if you want.

Here’s one of mine!

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Before I leave…Authors After Dark (August 12-16th) has opened up more spots for authors. If you want to go to a conference with multiple genres to read and authors to meet that’s a whole lot of fun this is a great opportunity. Readers…I highly recommend it! Authors…same goes! Check out more here.

Genre Crossover

I would like to do an informal poll this week. It’s regarding genre crossing. I’ve come across a few authors who can write both paranormal/urban fantasy and contemporary quite well. But recently, I found an author who can not only write both well, she’s managed to fully develop two series, one a contemporary and one an urban fantasy, in the same world. The characters from both series intermingle, are even related to each other in some cases. This, to me, is quite impressive.

At first I chose not to read the new series, the urban fantasy, because I was so unsure of how it would work. Now, I’m glad I did and can’t wait to read more. It takes talent to be able to meld both fantasy and contemporary into the same world and make it believable for the reader. As an author who loves to write both, I think seeing this in reality is a major win.

So my informal poll…what are your thoughts on crossing genres in the same world? Would you read the books or would you shy away from one or the other?

By the way…if you want to check out the series I’m talking about…the author is Candace Blevins. I will tell you, her contemporary series is very heavy in BDSM and the books are intense. The paranormal series isn’t quite as intense, but still very hot!

New Release: The Dreams and Nightmares Anthology

Eight erotic stories. From paranormal to contemporary.
Purchase: Amazon

Dreams and nightmares are like twilight; that misty place between fantasy and reality.

When your mind takes you on an adventure you didn’t sign up for and you become someone or something else, it can be delectable, terrifying, or both.

Dreaming of that sexy bad boy who seems out of reach? Be careful what you wish for, sometimes dreams really do come true. If you have the time, we have the past life to seduce you. Whether your fantasy is a lustful mermaid, an irresistible incubus, a vampiric predator, or an insatiable ghost hold on tight. You are on the most erotic ride of your life.

When your desires blend so thoroughly with the truth that you don’t know the difference, that’s when romance is but a dream.

Excerpt from my story, Plaisir

Griffyn raised his hands, ready to wrap his fingers around the back of the guy’s neck and yank him forward until their lips came together. Tate cocked his head to the side; he raised an eyebrow and gave a pointed glance at Griffyn’s open hands.

He released a sigh and dropped his arms to his sides. What would he say? “Hey, man, I’m bisexual and really want to fuck you right now.” The result of that confession would end in a brawl. One hell of a way to start the semi-vacation.

“What’s going on, Griffyn? Gotta admit, you’re freaking me out a little.”

Tate licked his lower lip, his tongue circled the ring in the corner—one half of his snake bite piercing. Griffyn’s cock thickened, hardened against his zipper. Shit. Why does Tate have to be so damn sexy?

He ran his hand down his face. “I’m bisexual.” Well, that wasn’t exactly what he’d meant to say, and judging by the wide-eyed look Tate wore, the other man hadn’t expected it either.

“And?”

“And…fuck. I want you, Tate.”

Might as well go all in now. If he rejects me, then I’ll head to the club on my own. “Wanted you for a while, but didn’t know how to tell you.”

“That’s why you asked me to come out here. You had this planned.” Tate left him at the bar and found his way to one of the double beds where he sat down on the edge of the mattress.

“No.” Yes. “I mean, kind of. Some of it was planned. The club at least.” And more. But Griffyn was afraid he was digging a hole to deep to climb out of. Now that he’d spilled the beans, so to speak, he tried to back off some.

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Living Up to Expectations

Last December I released WORLD OF ASH, my NA paranormal post-apocalyptic novel. It was the first time I’d ever written a book in this genre (not paranormal, that’s ma bread and butter). The age range was familiar to me because the end of my Elemental series the characters were all 18-19 years old, but post-apocalyptic was totally new for me.

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The book was very challenging to write for more than one reason. First, I attempted to write this book in more of a Sci-Fi vein without magic or supernatural creatures. My readers have heard me say that, after accomplishing this, upon my read-through, I hated the book. I just didn’t enjoy it at all. I am not a Sci-Fi nerd. I enjoy watching Sci-Fi far more than reading it. And really I prefer my Sci-Fi along the lines of Doctor Who – with a mix of fantasy.

So I knew I had to revamp the whole book. After a massive overhaul, research into rare plague bearers of Norwegian myths, and changing the whole damn thing from past to present tense, I had a much better book. It’s a dark horse in my catalogue of books, but it is by far my most well-received book.

And that’s kind of terrifying.

When I was first starting out with my plucky YA paranormal series, I was wide-eyed and a bit naïve. I did my research into the biz, made sure I did things professionally and smart, but, mostly, I kept my head down and wrote and polished and published and hoped for the best. I built a readership and enjoyed my work. And, while each release brought with it a new wave of butterflies and mild panic, I had no trouble writing the next book. Not so with this new world.

WORLD OF ASH has set me up for a whole new world of feels. As I sat down to start working on the outline for book two and sat down to start putting words to screen, I realized I was kind of terrified. In my first series I had a pretty good balance of love, hate and somewhere in between with my readers (luckily there wasn’t a lot of a hate, just enough to let me know that I was comfortably in the middle of “not pleasing everyone,” which is what you expect). But so far, WOA hasn’t had any hate or even any, “Eh… it was okay.” People are excited to read the next. They have a lot of questions and feels. I’ve had writers volunteer to beta read the second book who didn’t for the first because they became fans after reading WOA.

This is a lot of pressure that I didn’t expect.

Merida, Brave, exasperated

Like I said before, WOA is my dark horse. I’m not gonna lie and tell you it’s my best seller, because it’s not, but it seems to be the best received.

So I find myself asking HOW DO I LIVE UP TO THESE EXPECTATIONS?

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I don’t. Plain and simple. I need to go back to my old way of thinking, just put my head down and write the best book I can. Often I find myself thinking about the book and thinking I’m not doing a very good job. That I’ll send it to my betas and they’ll rip it apart and the new volunteers will cringe, wondering why they offered to read. But you know what? Every writer has those doubts. Whether it’s their first sequel, or their thirtieth.

So, how am I dealing with it? I just am because I’m a writer and I want to continue to be a writer and to do that, I have to keep writing. I will just allow myself to have my doubts and my worries, so long as I keep writing. My editor and betas are supposed to help me make the book better, so if they hate it, they can help me build it up to the level it needs to be to live up to the precedent that WOA set.

I’ll drink my coffee, add to my soundtrack, build the outline, and somehow find the end of the book and hopefully people will love it as much as the first book. Hopefully.

(Hopefully this is what my betas and my readership will say when I’m done.)

(And then there will be wine.)

Bon Voyage!

New Orleans
Is it possible to have a crush on a city?

By the time you read this, I’ll be in New Orleans. It’ll be my first visit, and one I’ve been looking forward to my whole life – or at least since I read The Vampire Lestat. While we’re there, I want to walk along Bourbon St and see Marie Laveau’s grave and eat bignet’s and drink chicory coffee.

Wow! Travel cliché much?

Seriously, though, I told my daughter yesterday to expect me to move slowly so I’d have a chance to absorb as many of the sights, sounds, and smells as I could. So I’d have time to talk to the person serving my coffee, to memorize their accent (unless of course they’re a college student from Brooklyn, which could also be cool, but in a different way). And so I’d have time to learn by heart the place I fall in love with a little harder every time I read about it.

I’m not 100% sure, but I think my first literary exposure to New Orleans did come from Ann Rice. (And yes, going past her house is definitely on the to-do list.) The city is almost another character in Lestat and in Interview With A Vampire, and it’s an even stronger presence Feast Of All Saints, her novel about the gens de couleur libre, or free people of color, a class of black and mixed race people who carved out their own cultural place between the white upperclass and slaves. The city in that story is gorgeous and mysterious and vicious, a perfect fantasy to fall in love with. (Apparently it was made into a movie in 2001…might have to check that out…)

Another of my favorite series set in a similar version of New Orleans are the Benjamin January books by Barbara Hambly. The first, A Free Man Of Color, tells the story of a physician and music teacher whose skin color makes him particularly vulnerable to a murder charge because the document declaring him a free man is as fragile as the paper it’s printed on. The mystery is well-constructed and the period details are amazing. I almost want to go back in time and live in that Creole world.

Almost.

A more recent – and tremendously fun – New Orleans appearance happens in Definitely Dead, book six (I think) in Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire mysteries. Sookie’s cousin Hadley is killed (and that’s in the blurb so not a spoiler) and Sookie inherits her estate, which turns out to be more than she expects. New Orleans is hot and sexy and so is Quinn, the were-tiger who’s along for the ride. This is one of my favorite Sookie books. Hmm…might have to bring my copy along to read on the airplane.

And I can’t forget one of the best books of any type describing Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Royal Street by Suzanne Johnson begins a couple days before Katrina hits, and gives you an insider’s view of the storm and the people who survived it. The paranormal elements are fun (especially the very crushable take on Jean Lafitte!) but the real story is the city and her resilience. Royal Street is the first in the Sentinels of New Orleans series, definitely in the auto-buy section of my bookshelf.

So even if you’re not lucky enough to have a midwinter trip to The Big Easy planned, put some Kermit Ruffins or Harry Connick, Jr on your stereo and crack open one of the books on my list and have your own little vacation. And if you have a favorite New Orleans book that I should take a look at, leave a recommendation in the comments. Or tell me about a city you’ve got a crush on…

Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Liv